280 12th Street, SW
Dear Mr. Mehrabi:
In its public meeting of 16 July conducted by videoconference, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a third concept submission for a new hotel, on a vacant site at 280 12th Street, SW (case number SL 20-169). The Commission did not take an action, providing the following comments and recommendations for the development of the design.
The Commission members again emphasized the prominence of the site and its role in forming part of the architectural frame of the National Mall, and they noted that the proposed 11-story hotel will be one of the first development projects within the Southwest Ecodistrict area—giving it special importance as a precedent for future development. They continued to express concern that the quality of the design proposed for the hotel, even as a background building, is not commensurate with this important location; they advised that the location, height, and visibility of the proposed hotel demand the highest-quality design, using a distinguished architecture that draws from the examples of the public buildings nearby and from notable hotel buildings in the city.
In their discussion, the Commission members continued to express concern about the apparent height of the building, observing that the site’s location at the far northwest corner of the Southwest Ecodistrict area, openly visible from the National Mall, should result in the hotel being transitional in height between these two areas. In order to reduce its apparent height, they again recommended further modulation of the facades and top of the building: for example, extending regulating lines from adjacent buildings as belt courses or cornices; differentiating the articulation and material of the upper part from the floors below; and finding ways to make the building’s irregular plan and resulting form to be an advantage in the design rather than an odd condition. They continued to question the proposed cladding material—a thin, panelized stone veneer rainscreen system—noting that this material cannot provide the appearance of a dimensional masonry building, as the context and proposed character for the building would seem to demand.
For the site design, the Commission members commended the design revisions to make the park more welcoming to the public, particularly the consistent tree canopy. They requested further study of the proposed small areas of lawn, which would be hard to maintain in the heat of a Washington summer; they recommended consideration of groundcover, gravel, or cobbles instead in these locations.
The Commission looks forward to further review of this prominent project, and urges the applicant to consult actively with the staff in the development of the design prior to submitting it for review. They also requested that documentation of the previously presented designs be included in future submissions, in comparison with updated views of any revised proposal. As always, the staff is available to assist you in the development of the design and the preparation of the next submission.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Pacific Star Capital
Santa Monica, CA 90404
cc: Bahram Kamali, BBGM
David Lesiuk, LD7 Studio Landscape Architecture and Planning
Shane Dettman, Holland & Knight
Elizabeth Miller, National Capital Planning Commission