1331 Maryland Avenue, SW
Dear Mr. Grigg:
In its meeting of 19 February, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept design for a new 15-story residential building at The Portals, located at 1331 Maryland Avenue, SW (case number SL 15-050). Confirming the concerns expressed at the previous review of the proposal in January 2015 regarding the height of the building, the Commission did not take an action on the concept submission and recommended that the height of the building be lowered.
Citing their observations from an inspection of the site and context, the Commission members found that the proposed height—approximately forty feet above any nearby buildings—would be incongruous with the buildings that define the public spaces along the city's monumental core, particularly as seen from the west and southwest. For this prominent gateway site, they recommended lowering the height significantly—from two to four stories—to reduce the mass of the proposed building in order to be compatible with the context and avoid an inappropriate intrusion on the skyline. They also noted the monumental gateway or portal that would be created by the proposed building and the existing Mandarin Oriental Hotel, framing the view toward the U.S. Capitol along Maryland Avenue; in support of this framed view, they recommended that the height at the southwestern portion of the new building should match the height of the existing hotel. Otherwise expressing support for the development of the design as presented, they clarified that the design issue is not about the articulation of the top of the building, but rather that the central bulk of the building mass should be reduced in height.
The Commission looks forward to the review of a revised design that contributes to an appropriate background for the city's monumental landscape. As always, the staff is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
1280 Maryland Avenue, SW, Suite 280
Washington, DC 20007
cc: Paul Whalen, Robert A.M. Stern Architects