Nassif Building (U.S. Department of Transportation Headquarters)
400 7th Street, SW
Dear Mr. Jaroch:
In its meeting of 19 April, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed the final design for the streetscape and renovation of the Nassif Building at 400 7th Street, SW (case number SL 07-054). The Commission approved the landscape design alternative without perimeter security with several recommendations but took no action on the proposed redesign of the building skin.
The Commission members supported that the general landscape strategy, particularly in the proposed groupings of larger planting areas; they recommended the use of continuous planting boxes to facilitate survival of the trees. They expressed a strong desire to save the existing mature trees and, if possible, to consolidate them on one side of the property. The Commission noted that the insertion of perimeter security elements in the proposed landscape would result in unpleasant conditions, such as free-standing walls, that intensify the separation of the building from the site; they expressed concern that the varying treatment on each side of the building could be better integrated and suggested the elements proposed for D Street as the least objectionable. The Commission members acknowledged the progress that has been made in the difficult design problem but requested additional study of the perimeter security alternative, suggesting that further consultation with the Commission staff to develop a plan that is less intrusive in public space.
Regarding the modifications to the design of the curtainwall, the Commission members stated their strong preference for the sophistication and delicacy of the previously approved design, commenting that the revised facades would give the building a dated appearance. Given the importance of the building skin’s design on the success of the whole project, they said it was a serious error of judgment to make such a change. Furthermore, the Commission expressed its extreme displeasure that the revision to the skin was presented as aesthetically motivated, rather than acknowledging initially that the changes were due to concerns of fabrication, scheduling, and cost. Because of the advanced state of the curtainwall procurement process, the Commission made no formal recommendation on the revised facade design.
The Commission looks forward to seeing further submissions of this project with sufficient time for the consideration of its recommendations. As ever, the Commission staff is available to provide guidance regarding forthcoming project submissions.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Timothy D. Jaroch, Senior Vice President
David Nassif Company
195 Worcester Street, Suite 301
Wellesley Hills, MA 02481-5556
cc: David J. Varner, SmithGroup