CFA 21/OCT/10-6


Main Headquarters Building
23rd and C streets, NW
United States

U.S. Department of State
Main Headquarters Building
Perimeter security barriers and streetscapes. Reaffirm concept for overall plan
Review Type
Overall concept


Dear Mr. Sanders:

In its meeting of 21 October, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed and reaffirmed its previous approval of an overall concept plan for perimeter security barriers and streetscape alterations for the Department of State headquarters in the Harry S Truman Building located in the block bound by 23rd, 21st, D, and C Streets, NW. The Commission agreed that the previous multi-phased plan, whose 2004 approval had expired in 2008, was fundamentally the same as the current submission and that the minor differences between the plans are improvements. In the same meeting, the Commission also reviewed the proposed final design for phases 1A and 1B, which begin the implementation of the building security and landscape plan for the C and D Street frontages. The Commission did not approve the plans, raising concerns regarding the design of the D Street entrance pavilion and the appearance of several proposed security barrier elements, and requested that the project team return with a revised submission.

Noting the heaviness of the roof on the D Street entrance pavilion, the Commission members questioned the value of including a green roof on this structure, which had the detrimental effect of making the roof structure thicker and appear heavier than necessary—and contrary to the floating character associated with many of the building's historic canopies. They recommended that the pavilion roof be refined to create a thinner appearance—possibly by eliminating the green roof, lowering the roof parapet, introducing a stepped section in the roof, or reconfiguring the angle and profile of the eave. They noted that the environmental benefit of this application would be minimal due to its small scale and is therefore more symbolic than practical, and is likely to be seen by very few people.

In contrast, the Commission criticized the use of black-and-yellow striped delta-type barriers at vehicular check points as a typical treatment, as they are far more visible and representative of this country's image than a small green roof. Noting the unsightly and repellent character of these barriers, the Commission members suggested that either operable bollards or another type of lift barrier, similar to the one installed at the National Gallery of Art, be considered so as to minimize their intrusive and defensive appearance. In their review of the other details of the perimeter landscape design, the Commission members recommended that the pavers in the narrow horizontal surface between the street curbs and the outer edge of the perimeter barriers be changed from the proposed granite to concrete, which would be more appropriate and similar to the adjacent sidewalks. They also recommended that bollards shown in tree boxes and lawns be set within masonry, rather than emerging directly from the landscape.

The Commission looks forward to resolving these architectural and landscape details for Phases 1A and 1B in consideration of how the physical design of Department of State facilities—in Washington and abroad—presents an image of the United States to the world. As always, the staff is available to assist you with the next submission.


/s/Thomas E. Luebke, AIA

Robert H. Sanders
Chief, Special Projects Division
United States Department of State
Washington, DC 20520

cc: Enrique Bellini, KCCT
Faye B. Harwell, Rhodeside & Harwell