280 12th Street, SW
Dear Mr. Mehrabi:
In its public meeting of 18 June conducted by videoconference, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a second concept submission for a new hotel, proposed to be located at 280 12th Street, SW (case number SL 20-153). The Commission did not take an action, providing the following comments and recommendations for the development of the design.
The Commission members expressed appreciation for the responsiveness to their previous comments, citing the lowering of the building’s height by two stories, the change to a masonry exterior material more consistent with the architectural context, and the revised site design. However, they continued to express significant concerns about the height and design of the proposed hotel, which would be located on a highly prominent private development site broadly visible from the National Mall, deserving of a design of the highest quality. They commented that the proposed building continues to appear too tall in this context, and they recommended further reduction in its overall height, such as is established by the adjacent Department of Agriculture South Building. Along with the height reduction, they recommended that the building be further articulated in order to diminish the appearance of its height by such techniques as registering a datum or cornice lower than the building’s full height, possibly stepping the facades back above this line, sloping the upper story walls, or other manipulations of the volume.
Regarding the design of the facades, the Commission members noted that the south elevation shows an oddly irregular spacing and widths of bays and pilasters, and they recommended that this rhythm be consistent around the building, as proposed for the upper stories of the north facade. Within this consistent rhythm, they suggested that the design of the northwest corner could be articulated to acknowledge its visual connection with the National Mall, similar to how the south facade incorporates additional glazing to express the hotel’s entrance and public areas. They found the proposed cornice to be excessively heavy and oppressive, contributing to the perception of the building’s height; this element should be redesigned in accordance with the comments above. Finally, they questioned the proposed cladding material— a thin limestone veneer adhered to an aluminum backing panel—as insufficiently durable and difficult to detail convincingly to appear as substantial masonry.
For the design of the site, the Commission members expressed appreciation for the development of a small, semi-public park on the north portion of the site in lieu of the previously shown parking area. They commented that a precise and subtle configuration of planted and constructed elements will be required to make this a successful, welcoming space; they recommended that the proposed trees be grouped in an evenly spaced bosque, apart from the hedges, with a small glade at the center to accommodate the proposed fountain.
The Commission looks forward to further review of this prominent project. Please consult on the development of the design with the staff, which as always is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Pacific Star Capital
Santa Monica, CA 90404
cc: Bahram Kamali, BBGM
Shane Dettman, Holland & Knight
Elizabeth Miller, National Capital Planning Commission