Dear Mr. Almurr:
In its public meeting of 15 July conducted by videoconference, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept submission for a three-story addition to the east side of the Chancery Annex of the United Arab Emirates at 2400–2406 Massachusetts Avenue, NW (case number SL 21-152). The Commission approved the concept with the following comments and recommendations for the development of the design.
The Commission members expressed general support for the proposal to extend the style and materials of the existing Beaux-Arts Chancery Annex, designed by Nathan C. Wyeth in 1911, to the proposed addition, with a recessed modern glass link between the two masonry building volumes. In their discussion, they observed that the Massachusetts Avenue streetscape in this area presents an architectural character of differentiation within an overall impression of harmony, although they supported deriving the design of the addition directly from the Wyeth building. However, they cautioned that the project’s success depends on the architect to develop a nuanced design that has stylistic integrity and the correct architectural details, in order to ensure the successful craftsmanship of the construction and avoid the appearance of architectural pastiche.
In general, the Commission members recommended the refinement of scale, proportions, alignments, and details throughout to produce a design of the highest quality, suggesting that some differentiation may be appropriate for the chancery annex addition. For example, they recommended further study of the proposed mansard-like mechanical screen, noting its odd appearance on the narrow addition; they also recommended consideration of adding a window or blind opening to the north facade at the first floor to balance the appearance of the building’s northeast corner. At the portico roof, they recommended aligning the entablature with the belt course as in the Wyeth building, and either eliminating the railing or adding a door at the second floor. For the glazed link, they recommended that the facade be designed in a very spare and austere modern style, rather than as a standard glass curtainwall. They also suggested that the proposed gate be designed in wrought iron, providing the opportunity for a focal element that recalls Emirati design precedents.
The Commission looks forward to further review of the project when it is forwarded as a permit submission. As always, the staff is available to assist you in the development of the design.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Ahmad Khalifa Almurr
Head of Support Services
Embassy of the United Arab Emirates
3522 International Court, NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20008
cc: Addison Nottingham, ACG Architects
Carolyn Brown, The Brown Law Firm
David Maloney, D.C. Historic Preservation Office
Peter May, National Park Service