655 15th Street, NW
Dear Ms. Shelby:
In its meeting of 17 July, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept design for the proposed replacement of building facades at the Metropolitan Square, located at 655 15th Street, NW (case number SL 14-133). The Commission expressed support for the project and approved the concept, offering the following comments and recommendations for the development of the design.
The Commission members acknowledged the importance of this property in the history of preservation in Washington, including the controversy involving the historic Rhodes Tavern, demolished for the construction of this building three decades ago, as well as the incorporation of other historic facades into that project. In general, they supported the proposal to replace the heavy precast skin of the 1980s construction with a lighter enclosure system; however, they recommended that a more subtle and complex approach be used to integrate the proposed glassy skins with the historic and existing facades. Specifically, they commented that the two–story expression of floors on the G and 14th Street elevations would suggest a large scale and industrial character that may be incompatible with the context of existing commercial buildings; they recommended a more refined treatment of these facades, such as with increased emphasis on the secondary spandrels currently proposed as fritted glass. Furthermore, they identified the areas where the glass skin of the upper building volume extends downward between masonry facades—resulting in the juxtaposition of elaborate architectural profiles against either featureless glass or diagonal metal panels—as unacceptably awkward. They strongly recommended the development of an alternative design for these areas, such as with horizontal expression or other materials, to create a more nuanced transition from the sculptural richness of the stone elements to the minimalist glass plane behind.
In their support for the proposal, the Commission members anticipate the development of these exterior details to create a more responsive relationship between old and new; they requested an interim design review before the project is submitted for permit review. The Commission encourages the project team to continue to consult with the staff which, as always, is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
2200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 200–W
Washington, DC 20037
cc: Jeff Barber, Gensler
Andi Adams, Goulston & Storrs