Eisenhower Executive Office Building
Pennsylvania Avenue and 17th Street, NW
Dear Ms. Wright:
In its meeting of 21 July, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed the concept submission for the proposed security screening facility and accessible entrance on the north side of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at Pennsylvania Avenue and 17th Street, NW. Acknowledging the necessity to complete the proposal expeditiously, the Commission approved the concept and delegated the review of the final design submission to the staff.
The Commission members expressed support for the overall configuration of elements—paired ramps leading to a new facility beneath the historic north entrance plaza—as a reasonable design approach to accommodate this new program element while avoiding excessive negative impact on the existing building's historic architecture. They also supported the concept of manipulating the profile of the ground plane to avoid the undignified experience of descending into a trench, as well as a treatment that is differentiated from the existing historic style. However, they raised a general concern about the character of the proposed elements in relation to the historic architecture, recommending that the treatment be developed to provide a gracious experience of entering into the building's lower level.
In their discussion, the Commission members observed that the issue of how the new architecture interacts with the old is generally unresolved: for example, the transformation of the masonry terrace into a bridge appearing to float above planes of glass, and the interruption of the historic pattern of balusters by unarticulated granite walls. To address this issue, they suggested consideration of other treatments of the screening area walls to convey the visual plausibility of bearing the weight of the plaza in a manner respectful of the historic architecture. Noting that full visibility into the screening facility may not be programmatically desirable, they also questioned the extent of glass enclosing the new facility. For the landscape, the Commission members recommended the retention—to the extent possible given the magnitude of the intervention— of the existing contours of the north lawns and their existing mature magnolia trees.
The Commission encouraged the design team to find a strong and graceful solution in the design details that successfully accommodates this modern insertion into the fabric of the National Historic Landmark property. As delegated, the staff is available to assist you in the development, review, and approval of the final design.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Mina Wright, Director
Office of Planning and Design Quality
U.S. General Services Administration
301 7th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20407–0001
cc: James Timberlake, KieranTimberlake