801 Mount Vernon Place, NW (Mount Vernon Square at Massachusetts and New York Avenues)
Dear Mr. O'Dell:
In its meeting of 21 November, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept proposal for the rehabilitation of and addition to the historic Carnegie Library at Mount Vernon Square for several institutional and tourist-related organizations. The Commission approved the proposal, commending the design for its sensitive approach in adapting the landmark Beaux-Arts library building for continued public use.
The Commission members acknowledged the challenge of integrating the large and complex program, which includes a new facility for the International Spy Museum, as well as a visitor center and continued occupancy by the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. They expressed appreciation for the decision to incorporate the new functions in wings and underground spaces, leaving the fabric of the historic building largely intact. However, they identified several issues of concern as the design is developed, particularly the expressiveness of the addition in relation to the former library and the scale and articulation of the connecting piece extending across the rear elevation. They questioned the decision to rely only on glass as a cladding material, suggesting that the transparency may contrast too strongly with the existing masonry library building. They requested further information about the design of the proposed glass walls, and suggested studying the elevations to anticipate the visibility of the walls, furnishings, and merchandise within the interior spaces.
In their discussion of the site design, the Commission members emphasized encouraging the experience of approaching the building toward its historic south entrance. As the landscape plan is developed, they recommended careful attention to small changes in the topography to facilitate walking across the site. They also suggested studying the formal geometry of the south landscape, possibly to simplify the figural gestures created by the two ovals bisected by the long arcing path, as a setting for the ornate civic building.
The Commission looks forward to further review of this project. As always, the staff is available to assist you with development of the design.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Gregory A. O'Dell, President & CEO
801 Mount Vernon Place, NW
Washington, DC 20001
cc: Dan Kelley, MGA
Skip Graffam, Olin
Peter Earnest, International Spy Museum