2700 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE
Dear Ms. Wright:
In its meeting of 21 July, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept submission for a new addition to the west end of the historic Center Building, part of the adaptive reuse of the St. Elizabeths West Campus as the headquarters for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Expressing reservations about the proposed design, the Commission did not take an action and requested a new concept submission.
The Commission members recognized the high importance of this addition to the National Historic Landmark St. Elizabeths campus as a primary staff entrance, and they acknowledged the challenge of designing an addition to a structure as powerful as the iconic Gothic Revival Center Building. Although they supported the general location of the addition, they commented that the proposed building appears timid and undistinguished; they encouraged the design team to meet the high architectural aspirations conveyed in the presentation and to bring more character to the new building’s expression. They questioned the underlying logic of the design, observing that the proposal’s transition from nondescript masonry cladding to the bland glass entrance block detracts from its potential strength, and that the stepped volumes of the new building are a weak reference to the Center Building’s distinctive and complex massing. They suggested instead treating the new structure as a deliberate terminus to the Center Building, designing it with a more independent and emphatic character. They supported the proposal to develop the landscape in the pastoral spirit of the historic campus to anchor the building within its larger context.
The Commission looks forward to the submission of a new concept design for this important site. As always, the staff is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Mina Wright, Director
Office of Planning & Design Quality
General Services Administration, National Capital Region
301 7th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20407-0001
cc: Todd Symonds, Goody Clancy HDR
Elliot Rhodeside, Rhodeside & Harwell