The meeting was convened in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, at 9:07 a.m.
Hon. Earl A. Powell, Chairman
Hon. Philip Freelon
Hon. Alex Krieger
Hon. Elizabeth Meyer
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
A. Approval of the minutes of the 19 June meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the June meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Meyer.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 18 September, 16 October, and 20 November 2014. He noted that no meeting is scheduled during August.
C. Proposed 2015 schedule of meetings and submission deadlines for the Commission and Old Georgetown Board. Mr. Luebke presented the proposed schedule of meetings and submission deadlines for calendar year 2015. The Commission meeting dates would typically be the third Thursday of each month except August and November, with the submission deadline on the first Thursday; the Old Georgetown Board meetings would be on the first Thursday. The schedule for January 2015 has been adjusted due to the New Year's Day holiday. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted the 2015 schedule.
Mr. Luebke noted that landscape architect Mia Lehrer has now been officially appointed as a member of the Commission for a four−year term; her anticipated appointment was announced at the June meeting. He said that she would begin attending Commission meetings in the fall, and her appointment will soon be publicized on the Commission's website; he also noted that Richard Williams would begin service on the Old Georgetown Board in September, pursuant to the Commission's confirmation of his appointment in June.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Direct Submission Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that the only change to the draft appendix is the finalization of the date of the drawings for rehabilitation of the Stanton Elementary School; the submission now responds to the concerns of the Commission staff and the D.C. Historic Preservation Office. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the revised Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead−Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler said that the only change to the draft appendix is the addition of two cases: demolition of a structure to accommodate construction of the Museum of the Bible (case number SL 14−145) and two additional flagpoles at the Pan American Health Organization (SL 14−146). Chairman Powell noted the numerous flagpoles already present at this building; Ms. Batcheler estimated that approximately thirty−five flagpoles exist, and the additional two are to be installed prior to the upcoming visit of foreign heads of state. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martínez reported several changes to the draft appendix. Four projects were removed at the request of the applicants; he anticipated that they would be resubmitted for review in September. The listings for two projects have been updated to note the receipt of supplemental drawings. Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 17/JUL/14−1, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Center, West Potomac Park. New underground visitor education center. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 17/APR/2014−1.) Mr. Luebke introduced a revised concept design for an approach and entrance to the Vietnam Veterans Education Center at the Wall, to be located at Constitution Avenue and 23rd Street, NW; the proposal is submitted by the National Park Service on behalf of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. He said that the Commission did not take an action when the project was last presented in April 2014; while acknowledging the constraints of the context, the Commission had noted the similarity of the proposed entrance to the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and requested further options. He said that the project team is returning with several alternatives for a revised entrance configuration to improve the project's compatibility with the larger context of West Potomac Park. He asked Doug Jacobs of the National Park Service to begin the presentation; Mr. Jacobs introduced Thomas Wong of Ennead Architects and landscape architect Ken Haines of Hargreaves Associates to present the design.
Mr. Wong noted that the concept had been reviewed by the Commission numerous times beginning in 2005; it has also been reviewed by the National Park Service, the National Capital Planning Commission, the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission, and the D.C. Historic Preservation Office. He summarized the design and its evolution through the review process. The education center would be an underground structure, reached by a gently sloping ramp leading to an entrance approximately one story below the sidewalk along Henry Bacon Drive; a small courtyard would allow air and light into the structure and would accommodate technical requirements for the building. The original concept of 2007 had aligned the approach ramps with the edges of the site. In 2009, a slight raise in grade was proposed, which allowed a reduction in the length of the ramps between the sidewalk and entrance. This concept design included linear skylights in the landscape, placed parallel to the exhibition cases in the structure below. In the 2012 presentation, the following changes were shown: the skylights had been replaced with several small pyramidal skylights; ramps and stairs were reconceived as curving landscape forms instead of linear elements; and a portion of the courtyard was covered with a planted roof. As seen in the April 2014 presentation, the building has been designed along radiating lines extended from the center point of the Lincoln Memorial, similar to the western wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial itself; the skylights have been eliminated, replaced by a single skylight above the entrance; benches have been reconfigured to face away from the sidewalk; and the walks have been adjusted to address emergency egress requirements. He said that in April 2014, the Commission still had concerns about the similarity of the design to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, as well as the tight geometric figure created by the elliptical ramp and mound within the entrance landscape.
Mr. Wong said that the current submission includes alternatives for the entrance area that would address the Commission's past concerns while minimizing impact to the configuration of the building, which has received support; he also encouraged further consideration of the previously submitted concept for the entrance area. He described several issues that were considered in developing the alternatives: flood protection, by maintaining a sufficient perimeter grade to avoid ponding in the entrance area; the desirability of universal access with a single entry point from which people at the sidewalk can descend either the stairs or the ramp; and providing two exit routes from the building to the sidewalk that have sufficient separation in case of emergency. He also noted that the existing elm trees—a contributing feature of the Lincoln Memorial grounds—need to be protected. Exit lighting would be integrated within benches around the walk; these benches, along with bollards at the sidewalk entrance, would also offer protection from errant vehicles approaching the building entrance.
Mr. Wong and Mr. Haines presented the alternatives, including four new options ("A" through "D") and a fifth option for a slight modification of the April 2014 proposal. Mr. Haines said that in Option A, named the "Arc," the descending walk has been shaped to resemble the long, gently curving form of the walk behind the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This option maintains the length of the walk and provides two entrances from the Henry Bacon Drive sidewalk, one to the north near the intersection with Constitution Avenue, and the other to the south near the existing refreshment kiosk. The design relates to the geometries of Constitution Gardens while requiring less manipulation of the site's topography; however, it lacks universal access because it has two entrance points, and the second entrance would require removal of some mature trees. This option would also require flood control to the north because the elevation would fall below the necessary grade for flood protection.
Mr. Haines said that option, B, named "Switchback," minimizes changes to the topography and relates to radial lines centering on the Lincoln Memorial by configuring the ramp as a tight switchback walk. Its linear geometry would not be related to the curving forms of Constitution Gardens. Mr. Wong said that this option technically meets the design criteria, but a retaining wall would be needed to address the grade changes.
Mr. Haines said that Option C, named "Sidewalk Engagement," relates to the geometries of Constitution Gardens as in Option A; its curving access walk would adjoin the sidewalk along Henry Bacon Drive in the same way as the curving walk in Constitution Gardens relates to the sidewalk on the opposite side of the road. Mr. Wong added that Option C is better than Option B from the standpoint of universal access, but it still has two separate entry points and would require removal of some perimeter trees. Mr. Haines said that this option relates to the landscape geometries of Constitution Gardens but would extend across more of the site than the concept submitted in April 2014, with comparable manipulation of the topography.
Mr. Haines said that Option D, the "Semi−Ellipse," would have a single point of access. Its reverse curve would not touch the sidewalk and its location would not require the removal of large trees. Mr. Wong added that this option is a truncated ellipse that has a sweeping movement into the building; it requires a slight modification of the building's entrance design. Mr. Krieger asked why the skylight at the entrance would be removed with Options C and D. Mr. Wong responded that the previous design had a retaining wall at this location, with visitors entering a portal into an exterior vestibule with the skylight above; in Option D, this area would be open to the sky and the retaining wall would be eliminated.
Mr. Wong said that exploration of these options had led the project team to recognize the advantages of the solution presented in April 2014, resulting in a fifth option—"Reconsidered Design"—that incorporates ideas from the other options into a modification of the April proposal. This option presents the ramp as a complex curving shape rather than a pure ellipse; the east−west retaining wall is replaced with a sloping lawn; and the landscape is pulled back, making the facade slightly more visible and allowing for removal of the portal, exterior vestibule, and skylight. The building entrance is on axis with the site stair, and the north−south retaining wall is extended.
Mr. Powell and Mr. Krieger agreed that the presented options are responsive to the Commission's comments. Mr. Krieger said that he is impressed by the creative ways of trying to solve the problem, adding that any of these options might work. From the viewpoint of a pedestrian on the sidewalk, he said that Option A would have the least impact and was initially his preference. But after hearing about the issues of universal access and potential flooding, he supports the fifth option that modifies the current proposal, the "Reconsidered Design." He also expressed regret that the linear skylights had been eliminated early in the review process, commenting that they would have added to the experience of the underground building without detracting from the context. Mr. Freelon commented that Option A could be interpreted as providing universal access by considering the sidewalk in conjunction with the descending walk, and he supported this option as the simplest gesture in the landscape. Mr. Wong said that he agrees, but the National Park Service's compliance officer did not support this interpretation.
Ms. Meyer thanked the project team for the careful exploration of alternatives. She said that she also had been leaning toward Option A as the simplest solution but now appreciates the issues concerning universal access and flooding. She expressed concern that the National Park Service's process addresses individual issues like a shopping list instead of looking at their overall impact on the site, observing that an aggregation of elements can have a different effect than three or six separate items. She said she supports the Reconsidered Design because it would remove the problematic retaining wall and outdoor vestibule from the entrance area; she said that this option would be the most minimal approach that satisfies the design criteria.
Chairman Powell thanked the project team and agreed with the consensus of the Commission to support the fifth option, after initially supporting Option A. Upon a second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the "Reconsidered Design" modification to the previously approved concept for the project. Mr. Luebke said that the major design issues have now been addressed, and the project would be submitted again as a final design to address details and additional topics such as lighting, signage, and inscriptions. Chairman Powell said that the remainder of the design process could be coordinated with the staff; although not delegating approval to the staff, the final design submission could be provided to the Commission without necessarily requiring a further presentation. Mr. Luebke said that the next steps would be coordinated through staff consultation with the project team.
2. CFA 17/JUL/14−2, Franklin Park (Reservation 9), bound by 13th, 14th, I, and K Streets, NW. Rehabilitation of park. Concept. (Previous: CFA 15/JAN/04−10.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the submission from the National Park Service of a concept design for improvements to Franklin Park, a city block of almost five acres bounded by 13th, 14th, I, and K Streets, NW. Because of a spring on the site, Congress designated this square in 1819 as the source of water for the White House and other federal buildings; it was acquired as a public park in 1832. He said that the National Park Service is working with the Downtown Business Improvement District and the D.C. Office of Planning to develop a rehabilitation plan for this deteriorated site; an earlier plan was reviewed by the Commission in 2004. He asked Doug Jacobs and Bob Vogel of the National Park Service to begin the presentation.
Mr. Vogel, superintendent of the National Mall&Memorial Parks, said that the National Park Service is working with communities to revitalize some of the downtown parks. Franklin Park has many visitors during lunchtime on weekdays but otherwise is primarily used by homeless people. The project's goal is to increase use of the park throughout the day and make it attractive for families with children. He introduced landscape architect Hallie Boyce of OLIN to present the project.
Ms. Boyce summarized the history of Franklin Park; the 2004 Cultural Landscape Inventory defined its periods of significance as 1791 (the year of the L'Enfant Plan) and 1867 to 1936. The first landscape plan for the block, produced in 1866, recalled the work of American landscape designer Andrew Jackson Downing in its layered landscape, curvilinear walks, and numerous trees, but the park today follows a plan from 1936. Character−defining features include the Commodore Barry Monument on the west side facing 14th Street, and the central fountain near the location of the historic spring. Topographically the park is a tipped plane, sloping from a high point at the northeast corner to a low point at the southwest. Major views and vistas are to the north and south along the central axis. Broad lawns are symmetrically disposed and some trees predate 1936. She noted that the park is a major transportation hub: an entrance to the McPherson Square Metro station is located immediately to the southwest, and many people cross the park to the station; bus stops are located on all sides, with service from 32 bus lines; and two DC Bikeshare stations are situated within a block. She added that the project team has studied the ground−floor occupation of buildings surrounding the park to understand the presence of retail and restaurant space.
Ms. Boyce said that many features of the park are in poor repair—particularly the fountain, which has to be drained weekly for maintenance; its fixtures are not fully operable and the stone coping is failing. Social trails have been worn in the lawns by people walking diagonally through the park, and heavy foot traffic causes compaction of the soil around trees, leading to erosion and a large rodent population burrowing among the roots. The pavements need repair, and the small historic benches require annual maintenance. A study prepared by an arborist concluded that the trees range from fair to very poor health, and seventeen trees need to be removed immediately. She said that the project allows for improving the age distribution of trees in the park to support a healthy tree canopy in the future.
Ms. Boyce described the project's goals: to activate the park; to engage with the community by drawing people to it; and to create better connections with available transportation modes. The site's history would be interpreted, especially the story of the spring, and sustainable systems would be used. The park would be managed through a public−private partnership. She said that the public's primary requests are seasonal plantings to provide visual interest throughout the year and a children's play area; other goals identified by the public are maintaining the open lawns and making water in the fountain interactive. Areas would be provided for festivals and other events. She described three goals for redesign of the central plaza: balancing sun and shade, creating occupiable edges, and allowing for easy diagonal movement. She presented sun/shade studies that compare existing conditions on the site with projected conditions under different design options. Moveable seating would be provided on the plaza and along its edge, and seating around the fountain would also encourage people to linger.
Ms. Boyce said that the design process initially focused on the center of the park to restore the central plaza and fountain. Other features would include a children's play area to be located in an open, mostly level area on the east side of the plaza, and wider walks to accommodate events. She presented options to develop either the north or south edge of the park with a café and a terrace that would provide an additional hard surface for events; to expand the play area into two sites, for younger and for older children; and to introduce a diagonal walk to accommodate the dominant movement across the site connecting to the Metro station at the southwest.
Ms. Boyce said that a National Park Service workshop helped to clarify the options, resulting in a design with a café and plaza along I Street; she indicated two alternative locations for this area. Seasonal plantings of hardy native perennials and low shrubs would reinforce the central plaza and define park entrances. Curvilinear walks would be retained but slightly recconfigured to accommodate diagonal movement across the slope. Bicycle racks would be placed along the perimeter, and bus stops would be redesigned. Many of the trees would be retained, and more would be planted along the streets to encourage people to enter the park. The major focus of interpretation would be the spring, and the play area would reference the larger landscape of the Potomac watershed using topography, stone, and wood. She said that ZGF Architects would design the new pavilion as a light, transparent structure that acts as a glowing lantern in the evening. The fountain is envisioned as a more vibrant and engaging element that would be visible from the streets; she presented the study of successful examples, including the sculpture gallery fountain at the National Gallery of Art. The fountain's low coping would be raised so that people could sit along the edge and touch the water; one option would place jets in the surrounding pavement that would project water into the basin.
Chairman Powell described the project as exciting and conveyed the Commission's appreciation for the presentation. Mr. Freelon agreed that the proposal is promising and asked for a further description of the play area equipment; Ms. Boyce said that the concept has not yet been developed beyond the general intent of evoking the natural environment.
Ms. Meyer said that the project is an exciting proposal for a tired park. She supported the latest version of the design as a clever alternative because it would accommodate the desired diagonal circulation without introducing a diagonal geometry, and she envisioned that this version could be programmed well. She cautioned that the play structure would have a strong visual and programmatic impact, and it should be designed so that it does not appear incongruous with the park as a whole. She noted her past work with OLIN on the rehabilitation of Bryant Park in New York, where they had faced the difficulty of balancing the park's renewal with the rights of the urban homeless; she stressed the need to ensure dignity and a welcoming character in Franklin Park for people of all means. Ms. Boyce anticipated that the organizations involved in the park will continue to be sensitive to the needs of the homeless population.
Mr. Krieger commented that the proposal is a beautiful concept that is being approached wisely, and said that he looks forward to reviewing such details as the pavilion, paving materials, and fountain coping. He asked about the setting of the trees; Ms. Boyce responded that all would be located in soil rather than paving. Mr. Krieger observed that an interpretive program often attempts to illustrate an entire history, but he suggested focusing interpretation near the fountain and emphasizing the location of the historic spring.
Mr. Powell observed that the Franklin Park fountain is too small for ice skating, but asked whether it would function somehow during the winter; Ms. Boyce said that options will be considered to provide activities throughout the year. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the concept with the comments provided.
C. Department of the Army
Mr. Lindstrom introduced the two concept submissions for Arlington National Cemetery: reconfiguration of the queuing area for funeral processions, in the vicinity of the Administration Building; and a Tomb of Remembrance marking an underground vault for partial cremated remains of unidentified or unclaimed military personnel. He asked Col. Joe Simonelli to begin the presentation. Col. Simonelli said that he represents the cemetery's superintendent and executive director; he noted the cemetery's 150−year history and its special character, and he urged the Commission to focus on the experience of the families of the veterans interred at the cemetery.
1. CFA 17/JUL/14−3, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, King and Halsey Drives, Section 54. Funeral Procession Queuing Area. Concept. Col. Simonelli provided additional background information to introduce the funeral procession project. He said that thirty services are held at the cemetery daily—as many as six per hour—and the funeral experience is not as dignified and respectful as it could be. The backlog of requests has resulted in an average five−week wait for scheduling in−ground burials. He said that an additional priority is meeting the needs of the cemetery employees.
Col. Simonelli described examples of the demands for funeral queuing, such as a recent service for someone who died on active duty that included 150 vehicles. He noted the difficulty of directing people accurately to one of several simultaneous services, occasionally resulting in errors; he emphasized that the proposed project would address this problem, and he urged the Commission to support the proposal in order to improve the experience of the funerals. He introduced planner Gregg Schwieterman of HNTB to present the design.
Mr. Schwieterman provided an overview of the project site south of the cemetery's main entrance along Memorial Drive; he indicated the historic hemicycle that terminates the drive, now serving as the Women In Military Service For America (WIMSA) Memorial. He noted that the cemetery receives thirty million visitors annually, and a part of the tourist experience is in the vicinity of the project site: he indicated the nearby visitor parking garage to the east, the welcome center and administration building to the northeast, and the bus loading area to the northwest for visitors who tour the cemetery by bus. The project site contains the existing parking lot for people attending funerals and for staff; this area is defined by berms and hedges. He said that this parking lot currently has only 135 spaces, and when it reaches capacity—a frequent occurrence—the funeral attendees are directed to park along adjacent cemetery roads. Cemetery representatives direct people to available parking, and they have the additional challenge of organizing the queues of vehicles for simultaneous funerals; he described the situation as "managed chaos." The start of the driving route for funeral processions can include finding the correct cemetery representative, negotiating a difficult traffic circle, and driving alongside the overflow of parked cars; an added difficulty is the presence of pedestrians in this area.
Mr. Schwieterman described the goals for the proposed improvements: maintaining dignity for funerals; providing safe access, particularly for the numerous attendees with limited mobility; organizing the queues as people first park rather than assembling the processions from vehicles scattered through the parking lot; an intuitive layout that reduces the stress of the experience; increased parking capacity, including a funeral parking area that is separate from parking for staff and contractors; and careful treatment of stormwater in the site design.
Mr. Schwieterman presented the proposed site design strategy, with three principal parking areas. The north parking lot would provide enhanced accessibility for wounded veterans and elderly visitors, as well as several spaces required for access to the WIMSA Memorial and for the cemetery volunteers. The south parking lot would be used exclusively for queuing of funeral processions, using an angled rather than in−line layout to encourage orderly formation of the processions. The proposed parking lot to the southeast would be used for cemetery staff, contractors, and official vehicles. He emphasized that parking for contractors is becoming increasingly scarce as temporary lots are replaced by the ongoing development of the cemetery, and flexible parking near the administration building is needed for some contractors or for officials attending meetings.
Chairman Powell offered general support that the proposal would address the cemetery's current problems. Ms. Meyer supported the goal of a dignified funeral experience, but she questioned whether the proposed layout would result in conflicting routes between vehicles departing for a funeral procession and vehicles arriving for another funeral; she indicated the dual−purpose lanes between the rows of diagonal parking stalls. Mr. Schwieterman responded that the concurrent departures of processions would avoid this problem; Ms. Meyer reiterated that the routes might become mixed in the proposed layout. She asked if an alternative location has been considered for the proposed staff parking area, shown to the east of Halsey Drive. Col. Simonelli responded that the proposed location is an area not suitable for burials, and the siting is therefore consistent with a goal of maximizing burial space at the cemetery; the location is also within walking distance of the administration building, avoiding the problem of providing shuttle transportation for staff.
Mr. Krieger offered overall support for the project. He suggested further study of the proposed staff parking location, observing that it would place a large number of cars on an area that is currently a pleasant lawn serving as a buffer to the nearby parking garage. He recommended developing the design of this area to avoid the appearance of multiple contiguous parking areas. Col. Simonelli responded that the proposed layout is best for the cemetery, and visual buffering between visitor and staff areas is a normal part of the cemetery's design to assure a dignified funeral experience. Ms. Meyer emphasized that the appearance of Halsey Drive is an important part of this funeral experience, and the design of its edge is critically important. She recommended more trees or a hedge on the east side so that the first stage of a funeral procession—moving east from the queuing area onto Halsey Drive—would not have a direct view into a parking lot full of contractors' vehicles with advertising. She said that this parking lot would ideally be located elsewhere; but if no other location is available, it should be designed with complete visual separation from the funeral procession areas, perhaps using a surrounding hedge to suggest that the area could be a hidden garden room.
Mr. Freelon said that he had no additional comments. Mr. Luebke said that the staff shares the Commission's concern with the adjacency of the staff and funeral parking areas, and the resulting loss of the existing green buffer. He noted the apparent consensus of the Commission to accept the proposed location while recommending a stronger landscape treatment; Col. Simonelli said that the intention is to provide a landscape edge consistent with Ms. Meyer's suggestion. Mr. Krieger said that some refinement of the site design may be possible in all of the parking areas, such as moving the staff and visitor parking closer to King Drive in order to allow for adequate buffer space at its outer edges.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the concept proposal subject to the comments provided.
2. CFA 17/JUL/14−4, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, Patton Drive, Section 70. Tomb of Remembrance, new ossuary. Concept. Tom Tingle of Guernsey Tingle Architects presented the Tomb of Remembrance proposal. He described the purpose of the tomb: a resting place for unidentified or unclaimed commingled cremated remains of armed services personnel. He said that commingled remains are rare but can sometimes result from tragic events; this tomb, or else burial at sea, would be the options for treating such remains. The proposed tomb would be the first to serve this purpose at Arlington National Cemetery.
Mr. Tingle described the design criteria that evolved from the technical requirements and a design charrette. The tomb should be simple and solemn, with an understated design. It contains three functional components: a 2,000−gallon underground vault serving as the ossuary, which would not be seen; a shaft for conveying remains into the vault; and a secured opening on top of the shaft for placement of the remains. He added that this tomb would follow the character of other memorials at the cemetery, to be designed as a sacred place that is respectful of the context; but unlike most tombs, this one would be in continuous use and would not mark a particular event or life. Based on the past frequency of handling such remains, he estimated that the proposed tomb could remain in use for hundreds of years. He said that ceremonies at the tomb would not involve families because the remains are unidentified; placement of remains would likely occur outside of the cemetery's public hours, with the ceremony attendance limited to a chaplain and one or two cemetery representatives. The tomb could also serve as a place of public reflection that is visited by small groups.
Mr. Tingle noted several additional design requirements: pedestrian access, including access for disabled visitors; seating in conjunction with a space for reflection and remembrance; shade for visitors; and ease of maintenance. He said that the tomb is not intended as a focal point, and its design should respect the cemetery's overall theme of equality; the individual grave markers should be the primary design element in distant views of the area. He indicated the proposed location near the eastern edge of the cemetery, southeast of the funeral procession queuing area discussed in the previous agenda item. He indicated the site's proximity to the existing columbarium wall on the east side of the cemetery, as well as the immediately adjacent area designated for future in−ground remains; he emphasized the harsh character of the existing context that will be improved as traditional headstones are introduced to the landscape. He indicated the existing roads and trees in the site vicinity as the area is prepared for future graves. He described the site as relatively flat at the crest of a modest slope up from Patton Drive to the west and the niche wall to the east, which has a slate walk extending along its face. The nearby plantings along the niche wall include a rain garden.
Mr. Tingle presented the proposed site plan and materials. An eight−foot−wide granite walk would connect Patton Drive and the niche wall's walk; the alignment of the proposed walk would bend slightly at the Tomb of Remembrance, providing a design relationship with the curve of Patton Drive and a pilaster of the niche wall. A simple bench and low wall of granite would mark the tomb site; the shaft and cap would be set in marble between them. He indicated the proposed shade trees to the south, an ornamental flowering tree, and low shrubbery and ground cover to the north. He noted that the width of the walk would be sufficient for access by maintenance vehicles such as snow removal equipment. He presented the various materials and stone finishes of the proposed design. He described the design of the shaft as a cylindrical adaptation of the cemetery's traditional headstones, with a similar width and marble finish and a curved cap that relates to the segmented arch at the top of the headstones. He said that the detailing and mechanics of the cap are still being studied, with consideration of security, durability, and operability for centuries. He added that the polished granite wall on the north could include an inscription; no decision has been made, but cemetery officials wanted the option to include this feature, and the proposed wall would allow for a future inscription that is integrated with the design.
Ms. Meyer asked about the frequency of adding remains to the ossuary. Mr. Tingle responded that this process would be new for the cemetery, and the tentative estimate is two to three times per month. Mr. Freelon asked for clarification of how the design elements relate to the below−grade vault, including the procedure for adding remains. Mr. Tingle responded that the details of the vault are still being studied, with the goal of a long−lasting waterproof container. The current design envisions a cylindrical container with an eight−foot diameter, extending down approximately twelve to thirteen feet; the cylinder would be located beneath the center of the tomb's surface design. The operation of the cap may involve its complete removal or a turning motion that would reveal an opening on the side of the shaft. He confirmed that the ceremonies for placement of remains would not be open to visitors; he described the anticipated ceremonies as private and solemn. He added that the unusual nature of this tomb, not found elsewhere in the U.S., would make this a special place that could attract visits by veterans or other members of the public. Mr. Freelon asked if the setting of the tomb could be expanded if the number of visitors is larger than anticipated. Mr. Tingle responded that the intention is not to consider this tomb as a major tourist stop in the cemetery; it would be a smaller, quieter, more solemn location for people touring the cemetery. He likened it to other special cemetery features set among areas of headstones, such as the 9/11 memorial that does not even include a walkway and is not intended to accommodate large crowds.
Mr. Krieger observed that the design has to address many issues such as those raised by Mr. Freelon. He cited the contrasting intentions to have this tomb resemble a typical headstone and yet to make it a special place; the result is the appearance of a single gravesite for a special person—perhaps for a general—that has been embellished with a bench and landscaping. He suggested developing a greater clarity in how the design reveals the purpose of this tomb. He also cited the potential relationship between the below−grade vault, tentatively planned as cylindrical, and the proposed circular area of paving that is defined by the low wall and bench; he suggested clarifying whether the above−grade elements are intended to express the presence of the vault, or are unrelated. He added that the proposed groundcover would have the effect of separating this tomb from the single headstones nearby, while the preferable effect may be to avoid such separation. He emphasized that these design subtleties require further attention and a clear idea of the intended effect.
Ms. Meyer agreed that the presented design concept has some ambiguity and encouraged developing the design more firmly in either of the contrasting directions. The slender white column of the access shaft suggests an intention not to reveal the existence of the large vault below, which is the actual sacred place of burial; another strategy might be to mark the eight−foot diameter of the vault with a white marble circle in the pavement, a potentially straightforward and powerful way to express the special purpose of this tomb. She observed that the vault's diameter matches the width of the walk, and the proposed bench would therefore be outside this circle, perhaps in conjunction with an additional special marker instead of the proposed low wall. She recalled the precedent of ossuaries in Italy, but these are located in small cemeteries and the remains are periodically moved elsewhere. She commented that the use of white marble for the shaft and cap may be problematic: the marble may become damaged or dirty when the internment mechanism is used several times monthly for many decades. She likened this assembly to a bollard and suggested treating it as a pragmatic rather than honorific design element; a marble ring in the paving could instead serve as the tomb's special marker. She summarized her view that the proposal is very moving but could become more powerful after stepping back from the design process to reconsider the expression of this tomb's unusual purpose. She added that the low shrubbery could be eliminated from the design, with emphasis instead on large shade trees that are appropriately located to give protection from the summer sunlight.
Mr. Krieger agreed with these comments; he said that the shrubs are an ambiguous element that may not add much to the design. He emphasized that this tomb is for collective burial, not for one person, and therefore it should not have the appearance of a single grave marker; he said that the symbolism of basing the design on a typical grave marker is troubling. He supported a different use of marble for this non−singular tomb, such as the circle in the paving as suggested by Ms. Meyer. He acknowledged the difficult design issues for the project.
Chairman Powell supported the comments provided and suggested a revised concept submission that responds to these concerns; Mr. Krieger and Ms. Meyer agreed. Mr. Luebke noted that the proposed location has not raised any concerns. Chairman Powell clarified that the consensus of the Commission is to support the overall idea of the project while questioning the details; he said that the Commission could treat this as an approval of the concept, with the comments to be taken into consideration as part of developing the final design. Mr. Krieger confirmed that the overall concept—a modest place along this walk at this location—is acceptable, while the specific elements require further consideration in order to express this tomb as a location for collective rather than single burial. He said that these issues could be described as important details that need to be resolved and developed. Mr. Luebke suggested that the Commission could provide a general concept approval; upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted this action.
D. Smithsonian Institution
Mr. Luebke said that Mr. Freelon is recused from discussion of the two Smithsonian submissions. Noting that Mr. Freelon's work for the Smithsonian is not directly related to the submitted projects, he said Mr. Freelon may remain present during these agenda items and observe without commenting.
1. CFA 17/JUL/14−5, National Air and Space Museum (several locations). Facilities Master Plan. Information presentation. Mr. Lindstrom introduced an information presentation on the master plan for the facilities of the National Air and Space Museum (NASM), noting that no action is required. He said that the master plan encompasses three sites: the main museum building on the National Mall; the Udvar−Hazy museum complex at Dulles Airport in Chantilly, Virginia; and the Garber facility in Suitland, Maryland. He asked Ann Trowbridge of the Smithsonian to begin the presentation.
Ms. Trowbridge said that the master plan has been completed and the Smithsonian has begun a study for the first major project to be based on the plan: the repair and replacement of the building envelope and the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system for the Mall building. She said that this building—one of the most popular museums in the world, with over seven million visitors each year—is one of the largest Mall museum buildings and includes both exhibition and office space. At the non−public Garber facility, twenty buildings within the Smithsonian's larger Suitland complex contain NASM workspace and collections storage; she said that the eventual goal is to move the Garber activities to the Udvar−Hazy Center, where the overall site would be named the Dulles Collection Center.
Ms. Trowbridge noted that the Mall building was completed in 1976 for the Bicentennial, and it relates to the National Gallery of Art West Building across the Mall to the north through its massing, central entrance location, and facade of Tennessee Pink marble. Since the initial construction, several projects have been undertaken to update the structure, including the replacement of skylights and glazing—completed in 2001 and predating current standards—and repairing failed joints in the stone cladding. Most mechanical systems are original and need replacing; some exhibits need to be updated and the north and south vestibules would be enlarged. She said that the key projects are the restoration of the building envelope, which forms one side of the mechanical plenum; restoration of the terraces, which form part of the roof of the underground parking garage; and ensuring that the building conforms to the new D.C. stormwater code, which requires retention of stormwater on site. She listed other revitalization projects planned over the next twenty years, including a new entrance wing and an addition at the east end to replace the glazed cafeteria. She said that work on the building envelope will require removal of stone and glass from the exterior; since this will entail removal of one wall of the plenum, many artifacts will need to be protected—either by construction of a plywood box around the museum with its own mechanical system, or by removal to the Udvar−Hazy museum. She described the landscape design envisioned in the master plan: originally, plantings were used to highlight the building's architectural lines, but overgrown plantings now obscure views from the galleries; the new design would emphasize the structure's scale and transparency to the Mall and would reflect museum themes such as survival under difficult conditions. She introduced Larry Barr of Quinn Evans Architects to present the building envelope study.
Mr. Barr said that Quinn Evans was hired to conduct two studies: a sustainability plan, primarily concerning the mechanical systems but also examining stormwater management and the environmental conditions of the building; and a study of the building envelope, examining its stone cladding, curtainwalls, and skylights. When both studies are completed, they will be included in a feasibility study that will examine costs and suggest procedures. He said that the Mall building faces two significant problems: the significant deterioration of the cladding, and the overloading and incipient failure of the HVAC system resulting from the very high number of visitors. He added that the performance of the building envelope will affect plans for the mechanical systems, and noted that recent work on the stone cladding of the National Gallery East Building helped call attention to the stone problems at the National Air and Space Museum. While the building's skin has lasted for 40 years, he said that the goal is to develop a new skin that will last even longer. From an environmental perspective, the building has not performed as anticipated: condensation from the skylights produces moisture inside the building, and one goal is to improve control of the interior humidity. Other issues include an Executive Order to reduce greenhouse gases by 32 percent; to achieve an environmental rating of LEED Gold, required of any Smithsonian project over $5 million; and to meet energy conservation and earthquake resistance standards.
Mr. Barr said that the building envelope was constructed of 1¼−inch−thick slabs of Tennessee Pink marble backed by an inch of urethane foam, built on a grid system that encloses four to six feet of a return−air plenum; there is no backup wall and little insulation, and the skin presents a series of problems. Little can be done with the existing panels as many are severely warped, and the joints between them are too large to seal to prevent leaks. The system of stone attachment and spacers was either not installed correctly or has failed, so stone panels rest directly on top of each other. Each panel was surveyed by the same structural engineering team that surveyed the East Building of the National Gallery; testing revealed that most wall panels cannot be saved and some may not last much longer. Because there is no way to reuse the stone in its current configuration, alternative uses are being considered such as in a honeycomb formation or ground up into a new surface. He added that no more Tennessee Pink stone is available from the original quarry. Many cladding options have been explored, ranging from replacing the stone to choosing a cladding that reflects the scientific advancements of the space program; however, a modern material may conflict with the aesthetics of the Mall buildings.
Mr. Barr said that the three most important strategies to increase energy efficiency will be shading of the skylights; adjustment of environmental conditions such as seasonal change in the temperature; and setting humidification at a range instead of a precise number. The source of utilities—including the General Services Administration steam supply—may also be changed. To attain LEED Gold status, energy will have to be generated on site; solar energy is being considered because the building's roof and south elevation are in full sun.
Ms. Meyer and Mr. Krieger expressed surprise at the complexity of the problem with the cladding of the Mall building. Mr. Powell asked about alternatives to the marble. Mr. Barr responded that the building's structural system will not support stone any thicker than 1½ inches, and a new installation of marble would therefore be problematic even if the original type of stone were available. Granite slabs could work, but would not match the Tennessee Pink stone as the granular pattern of the granite becomes pronounced when wet. He noted that the building's architect, Gyo Obata of HOK, had wanted to clad the museum in precast concrete but was convinced by the Commission to use the Tennessee Pink marble to relate to the National Gallery.
Mr. Krieger noted that the presentation had referred to the possibility of using a material other than stone, which he found interesting relative to the purpose of the National Air and Space Museum; he asked how this issue would be pursued. Mr. Barr said that his firm had been asked to look at other materials; the conclusion is that a material other than stone would not be appropriate on the sides facing the Mall, but the south facade presents an opportunity to use a different material and make a statement about the importance of sustainability. He added that no solution is yet proposed. Mr. Krieger said that he would support the approach of using an innovative material on the south facade. Ms. Meyer agreed and cited the book Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo (2011), by architect Nicholas de Monchaux, which recounts how the first version of the Apollo spacesuit, resembling a preconceived image of what a spacesuit might be, did not work; ultimately the spacesuit had many layers, each performing a different function. She emphasized the importance of finding the right solution and commented that the building's compatibility with the Mall setting also results from massing and architectural qualities other than the facade material.
Ms. Meyer and Mr. Krieger expressed support for the master plan; Chairman Powell congratulated the project team on this initiative. Mr. Luebke said that many projects resulting from the master plan would be submitted in future years, and the biggest issue would likely be an expansion on the east side of the Mall building. Ms. Meyer commented that the awareness of future plans is helpful to the Commission. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
2. CFA 17/JUL/14−6, National Zoological Park, 3001 Connecticut Avenue, NW–Lower zoo entrance. Reconfigure the lower zoo entrance and adjacent traffic circle. Concept. (Previous: CFA 21/JAN/10− 3.) Mr. Luebke noted that Mr. Freelon remains in recusal from taking action on the Smithsonian Institution projects, but he is permitted to observe the discussion without commenting. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal for reconfiguration of the National Zoo's lower entrance, which provides access from the Rock Creek valley and neighborhoods to the east. He asked Ann Trowbridge of the Smithsonian Institution to begin the presentation.
Ms. Trowbridge said that the project was anticipated in the current master plan for the zoo, which received the Commission's support in July 2008. She summarized the zoo's 125−year history and design evolution. Its original plan by Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., placed the small animal collection at the center of a naturalistic park, which was set more broadly within the larger scenic landscape of the Rock Creek valley with steep topography and forested slopes. The zoo's animal collection has subsequently expanded, along with parking facilities. Traffic management has become an increasing concern, and the zoo's lower entrance has been identified as a place of congestion and confusion; the proposal will address these issues and improve the aesthetics of the area. She introduced architect Hal Davis and landscape architect Deb Mitchell, both of SmithGroupJJR, to present the design.
Mr. Davis provided an overview of the context and existing conditions, including the recently installed perimeter fence and entrance gates, the Olmsted Walk leading west within the zoo, a vehicular and pedestrian bridge on the east, North Road leading north to zoo parking, and its continuation on the south to additional zoo parking and service areas. The proposal includes reconfiguration of the T−shaped road intersection east of the entrance gate, along with redesign of the zoo area to the west of the entrance including replacement of the bandshell and information kiosk as well as relocation of the glockenspiel tower. He indicated the unsightly kiosk and adjacent facilities—a stroller corral and four exterior vending machines—that would be incorporated into a proposed structure.
Mr. Davis summarized the recent planning for improvements to this area. The 2008 master plan envisioned a traffic oval along North Road to the north of the entrance, located between two access roads extending to the east, and called for elimination of the public parking to the south. SmithGroupJJR subsequently prepared a precinct plan for the lower zoo area in 2009, which shifted the traffic oval to be centered on the zoo's pedestrian entrance and the eastern terminus of the Olmsted Walk; this location would also connect the oval directly to the southern access bridge extending east across Rock Creek, and the southern parking area would remain. He said that the 2009 plan resolved some grading issues that would have been problematic as shown in the 2008 master plan, and the current submission is a further development of the 2009 plan.
Mr. Davis described the proposed solutions for the lower entrance. The kiosk, bandshell, and related facilities within the zoo would be combined into a new structure. East of the entrance gate, the traffic oval would address the problematic existing circulation pattern, which can be especially congested in the summer and on weekends. A bus drop−off area would be introduced, and sufficient turning space would be provided for emergency vehicles and delivery trucks; the proposal would also result in improved and simplified pedestrian circulation routes. The entrance gate would be set within an expanded pedestrian plaza with additional landscaping. He summarized the improved flow of vehicles and pedestrians in the proposed reconfiguration.
Ms. Mitchell presented the proposed paving patterns for the project. Two patterns would be used in the traffic oval, which she said is an important organizing element of the concept for the entrance area. Most of the oval, in the areas intended for regular traffic use, would be paved in concrete with a herringbone block pattern. The southeastern portion of the oval, which is intended to accommodate turning by large vehicles, would have a concrete cobblestone paving pattern; the distinct texture would discourage routine use of this area by cars. A third concrete block pattern would be used around the information kiosk structure; its color would match the stone used for the kiosk. The fourth paving would match the Olmsted Walk, extending it into the enlarged entrance plaza and along the west edge of the traffic oval to define the primary pedestrian circulation route.
Ms. Mitchell said that the many existing trees have been evaluated for their condition and their importance within the design context. She indicated important trees to be protected, others to be transplanted, and the location for new trees, shrubs, and gardens. The intention is to provide shade, seasonal interest, and a welcoming appearance as people arrive at the zoo entrance. The proposal includes at least twenty new shade trees and twenty ornamental trees, as proposed by the zoo's horticultural staff. She presented a table and images of the proposed plantings.
Mr. Davis continued with the proposed structure that would consolidate the bandshell, information kiosk, vending machines, and roofed storage space for strollers. A canopy roof would curve above the performance area, supported on four columns; the underside of the roof would be wood. The roof at the storage and information area would be lower with a related curved form; an overhang on the south would provide shade for the information booth and a small seating area. The stone for the walls would be similar to other stone used at the zoo. He said that consideration was given to energy performance for the materials and design; only the interior of the information booth would be conditioned space. The design also includes a paved area where catering trucks can park when events are held at the bandshell or nearby. He presented more detailed images of the proposed materials and illustrated their use elsewhere at the zoo.
Mr. Davis concluded by describing the proposed relocation of the glockenspiel tower. It would be placed at the zoo entrance from the north parking area, approximately halfway along the Olmsted Walk and adjacent to a restaurant and restroom area. He said that the proposed location currently lacks a strong identity; this entrance is used by many visitors, especially schoolchildren arriving by bus, and the glockenspiel would serve as a gathering point for groups at its new location. Mr. Luebke noted that the sculptor Felix de Weldon, a former Commission member, was involved in the design of the glockenspiel. Mr. Davis said that the glockenspiel originally included moving sculptures of animals; the mechanism no longer works but may be restored if a donor is found. He added that the tower's clock is functioning. Mr. Krieger asked if the glockenspiel tower would be made taller at its new location. Mr. Davis said that its height would not change, but the space beneath it—currently open to pedestrians, resulting in a muddy condition—would become a planted area protected by a railing and curb; Mr. Krieger supported this modification.
Chairman Powell said that the proposal for the glockenspiel seems straightforward, and the Commission members could focus their discussion on the design of the entrance intersection and kiosk structure. Mr. Krieger questioned the extent of pavement in the traffic oval; Mr. Davis confirmed that the wide area is needed to accommodate the turning pattern of bus traffic. Mr. Krieger said that vehicle lanes at the perimeter of the oval could accommodate this traffic, and a larger central area of the space could be landscaped—the traditional form of a traffic oval as seen often in Washington. He said that the result would be simpler vehicular circulation and less paving. Mr. Davis responded that the circulation pattern was developed by the traffic consultant, bringing north−south traffic through the center of the oval rather than curving along the perimeter. He said that the additional pavement to accommodate the turns of larger vehicles could perhaps be reduced in size, and the extent of the landscaped island could be increased. Mr. Krieger reiterated the concern that the overall configuration is inappropriate; the lane locations seem odd, apparently the result of traffic engineering rather than overall aesthetics. He said that the extended pavement at the southeast would seem strange unless a bus is parked on it, and the landscaped area could instead be greatly enlarged. Mr. Luebke said that the staff has conveyed the same concern with this paved area, which he estimated as occupying nearly an acre; the proposal would add a wide turning apron and through−lane to the existing configuration, and a better solution may be possible. Mr. Krieger summarized his concern that the proposal includes extensive pavement.
Ms. Meyer agreed that the proposed paved area is very large; she said that the oval shape now appears to be a residual element from the earlier design studies, while the transportation planning has an unrelated logic. The separate circulation patterns of looping and through−traffic should instead be integrated. She supported the proposed alignment of the oval with the eastern terminus of the Olmsted Walk; however, she said that the presented design is aesthetically problematic, presenting a large expanse of paving when seen by people entering from the east side of the site. She also said that many cars would end up driving on the rougher−textured surface at the southeast area of the oval, perhaps creating a dangerous condition; Mr. Krieger agreed. Ms. Meyer recommended that the entire central area of the oval space be landscaped, serving to slow vehicles—a desired result at this pedestrian−intensive location that should not be designed to accommodate fast−moving vehicles. Mr. Powell agreed with these comments, expressing support for the overall planning while encouraging more landscaped area. Mr. Davis offered to study this issue further. Mr. Krieger asked if the pedestrian crosswalks would be paved differently or simply striped; Mr. Davis said that they would have a different material.
Mr. Luebke noted that the staff worked with the design team on the kiosk and bandshell structure to develop a modest architectural language that is not strongly historicist. Mr. Powell supported the proposed design, particularly the use of stone; he said that revision of the traffic oval should be the priority in developing the project. Mr. Krieger asked why the two roofs on the structure are treated differently. Mr. Davis responded that much of the lower roof is actually enclosing space, and is therefore relatively flat; however, the details of the soffits, fascia, and trim are matched to unify the two roofs. He added that the different materials are intended to respond to the environmental performance needs of each roof; Mr. Krieger acknowledged the reasoning for the differing treatments. Ms. Meyer asked why the structure is oriented at an angle to the Olmsted Walk; Mr. Davis responded that the angle provides a space for a waiting area off of the Olmsted Walk while allowing the vending and information areas to be widely visible to visitors. He said that the small areas away from the Olmsted Walk would be useful as families deal with strollers.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the concept submission subject to consideration of expanding the central island in the traffic oval; Mr. Krieger emphasized the goal of achieving a traditional form for the oval.
E. U.S. Department of State
CFA 17/JUL/14−7, Intelsat Global Service Corporation Headquarters, International Center, 4000 Connecticut Avenue, NW. Alterations to the northeast building entrance and plaza. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposed modifications to an office building that was originally built as the headquarters for Intelsat; the location is within the International Chancery Center that is operated by the U.S. Department of State. The building's new owner intends to position the building for multiple office tenancy, and the proposed modifications would support this new plan. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission has specific review authority related to the International Center, as well as general authority to review projects on government sites, notwithstanding the private ownership of the building. Ms. Batcheler introduced Michael Considine of CB Richard Ellis, the owner's representative.
Mr. Considine confirmed that the building is held on a long−term lease from the Department of State. He said that the building was designed for a single occupant, and for the past thirty years Intelsat has been its primary user. Intelsat has recently relocated to Tysons Corner in Virginia, and the new owner has attempted to lease the building to a single tenant but has not yet succeeded; the intention is therefore to renovate the building to accommodate either one or multiple tenants. He said that multiple tenancy raises considerable issues with the building design; the submission addresses the exterior issues which involve converting the northeast Connecticut Avenue entrance to become the building's primary entrance. He indicated the existing primary entrance on the west along International Drive, and a third entrance to the southeast facing Tilden Street. The northeast entrance is proposed as the primary entrance due to its visual prominence along Connecticut Avenue and its proximity to the Van Ness Metro station on the north. He described the entrance's current design as unsuccessful, while the proposal would provide a strong identity for the building. He said that the remainder of the exterior and site would be altered only minimally, such as replacing exterior doors at the other two entrances and adding some new paths in the park area to the east of the building.
Mr. Considine introduced additional members of the design team for the presentation: architects John O'Dowd and Adriana Zarrillo of VOA Associates, and landscape architects Jeff Lee and Ben Tauber of Lee and Associates. Mr. Krieger asked about the planned interior renovations. Mr. Considine confirmed that these are extensive although not part of the submission. Components include renovation of the five atriums and the west lobby; conversion of a space above the conference center; and extensive upgrades to the mechanical systems. He said that the building is in very good condition, but the systems need replacement. Mr. Freelon asked about the building size; Mr. Considine responded that has a gross area of 1.1 million square feet, with 655,000 rentable square feet; he noted the relatively large percentage of unrentable space, primarily due to the atriums. He added that the building includes extensive below−grade space, with three separate parking garages.
Mr. O'Dowd described the four major principles for the project. First is the land form, based on the expansive site with many mature trees. Second is the geometric order of the building's modular elements that follow the site's topography. Third is the juxtaposition of the building's orthogonal organization with the organic character of the site. And the fourth is revitalization—not only of the building, but also at the northeast entrance plaza which can become a park−like amenity for the building's users and the neighborhood.
Mr. Lee acknowledged the assistance of the staff in developing the design, noting the positive results of the peer review and collaboration process. He described the site context, which includes valley parks to the south and northeast as well as several campuses—the diplomatic campus of the International Center to the west, the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) to the north, and Howard University Law School to the east. He said that he is participating with a neighborhood group that is studying the Connecticut Avenue retail corridor in this area; the goal is to develop a vision plan for activating this retail area. He noted the context's prevailing architectural character from the 1960s and 1970s, which is gradually being changed through projects such as the UDC student center. He described the terrain in the area, with a hilltop to the west within the International Center that slopes steeply to the south and gradually to the east; the Intelsat building follows this terrain with terraced pods and atriums, constrained by the plateaus of bedrock on the site. He summarized the building's architectural form: prominent cylindrical stair towers establish a rigorous geometry, while the building meets the site in a more naturalistic manner.
Mr. Lee said that one purpose of the northeast plaza is to connect Van Ness Street to the extensive park area on the southeast. The park is public, but the surrounding fence discourages people from using the space; the proposed work would give the park a more open character and would accommodate a pedestrian loop. He also indicated the extensive brick−paved area of the existing northeast entrance plaza, in contrast to the very limited paving at the building's other two entrances. He said that water is a theme of the building's atriums and is therefore proposed as a feature of the northeast plaza. He described the site constraints for the existing entrance configuration: the distance from the building doors to the curb is 150 feet, and the vertical drop is over 20 feet. The slope of the existing plaza does not meet modern accessibility standards; stormwater from the plaza flows toward the public sidewalk, and the intercepting trench drain is frequently clogged which leads to problems with freezing. The proposal would create a flatter landform in this area, addressing the problems of slope and water flow. The design would also create a landscaped setting for the stair towers, as seen at the building's two other entrances; shrubs and understory plantings would be added to the forest cover to enhance the context, with the plaza having the character of an urban garden.
Mr. Lee presented the proposed site section; the plaza would be placed halfway along the rise from the street to the building entrance, and the areas on each side of the plaza would accommodate a rise of approximately eight feet. A pair of radial stairs would rise from the sidewalk—one at Connecticut Avenue, and the other at Van Ness Street—to the plaza, framing a lawn and water basin with public art. A single set of steps would rise from the plaza to the building entrance, aligned with the interior diagonal axis. He added that the water would provide an acoustical buffer from the noise of the busy streets, and it would also evoke the character of rock springs. Benches would be added to encourage public use of the open space. Mr. Krieger asked about two vaults framing the upper stair; Mr. Considine said that they are for mechanical and service rooms.
Mr. Lee presented the proposed building sign that would be placed in the lawn, replacing the Intelsat signage on the building facade. The sign text would be simply "4000" to give the building's address on Connecticut Avenue. Limited lighting is proposed for each of the stairs and the basin to supplement the existing ambient street lighting. The paving of dark gray flame−finish granite is intended to suggest the stone terraces on the site, giving the effect of the building as a spaceship that has landed in the forest. A much darker polished granite, almost black, would be used for the water features. The upper stair would be treated as part of the building's architecture, suggesting an access stair beneath a spaceship; the material would be gray granite that relates to the terrazzo of the building's interior. The trails on the site would use a Flexi−Pave porous paving product.
Mr. Lee presented the planting plan, emphasizing the effort to save existing trees; in order to protect their roots, new plants would be more limited in the areas with forest cover. A transitional zone would have flowering and mid−canopy trees along with hardy shrubs. Ground cover and perennials would be closer to the plaza, establishing the garden character of this area. Stormwater management is also a factor in the plant selection; he also noted that sixty percent of the existing hardscape plaza would be eliminated. He presented images of the proposed plants, emphasizing the seasonal colors and textures; he acknowledged that the rendering, prepared by others, combines the different seasonal effects into a single image. He noted that the building dates from the architectural era informed by the energy crises of the 1970s, and it is notable for the early use of green roofs; these features would be retained with new plantings to provide a more coordinated appearance. He also indicated the retail space along the east facade, which will become more easily accessible with the proposed plaza design.
Ms. Zarrillo presented the architectural background for the project. She said that the building resulted from a design competition that was won by Australian architect John Andrews, in a high−tech style that combines geometry with an understanding of the site. She indicated the building configuration of linked "pods" that surround atriums; the office space is within the pods, and the egress stairs are expressed as disengaged columnar towers. The entire building rests on a tiered plinth with concrete abutments which were originally covered by pools of water. She noted that the building was constructed in two phases. The Tilden Street entrance, part of the second phase, was designed with a lower grade for the atrium floor to align more closely with the site topography, but the first−phase Connecticut Avenue entrance does not use this solution for the challenging grade and instead relies on a monumental exterior stair. She described this stair as an interesting feature but not suitable for the primary entrance that is now envisioned at this location. An additional problem is that the entrance doors are set far back from the top of the stair, where they are not readily visible. She said that the proposed site terracing at this entrance would relate to the diagonal geometry and stepped atrium levels that are part of the building architecture.
Ms. Zarrillo presented the proposed enhancements at the Connecticut Avenue entrance facade; the purpose is to make the entrance more easily visible to pedestrians, especially those arriving from the Metro station. A portal structure would frame the doors; a canopy above would provide weather protection, and the tall glass facade above the doors would be embellished with mullion caps and vertical fins. She indicated the existing curtainwall and interior space frame that would remain, and clarified that the proposed mullion caps would simply be applied to the existing mullions. She said that the proposed architectural materials are intended to complement the existing materials, which would be difficult to replicate; she indicated the proposed dark metal and back−lit glass. She presented a night view of the proposal, illustrating the well−lit plaza as a round−the−clock community amenity, and concluded by emphasizing the intended welcoming character of the entrance as a recognizable front door.
Mr. Krieger offered overall support for the concept proposal, commenting that the creation of a terrace at the middle of the slope would be an effective way to invite public use and establish a park−like character; he also supported the resulting division of the steps into upper and lower sets. He said that while the ideas are strong, the renderings suggest an overly fussy design—perhaps resulting from the conflation of different seasonal effects of the landscape. He commented that the facade alterations may be more complex than necessary; he supported the proposed mullion caps and canopy but said that the overall emphasis on the portal may not need to be so pronounced. He added that he was able to visit this building recently, and he agrees with the proposal's premises that the existing northeast entrance is inadequate, the extent of paving is excessive, and the climb up the monumental stair to the doors is formidable.
Mr. Freelon expanded on the suggestion for simplification. He said that the proposal includes four or five design gestures to emphasize the entrance, while simply using two or three gestures could be a more powerful solution; the overlap of design elements in the proposal results in excessive complexity. He said that this issue is relatively minor, and he emphasized his support for the overall proposal and particularly for the landscape design. Mr. Krieger reiterated that the entrance's complexity merits further attention; he described the building's character as "exuberant minimalism" but questioned the proposed combination of white and black elements in multiple layers. Mr. Freelon agreed, noting that the architecture is already rich and complex, and reiterated that the entrance should be emphasized with a small number of simple design elements. Mr. Krieger observed that the mullion covers and canopy, rather than the doors themselves, would be the entrance elements that are most visible from the street; he said that a simpler treatment of the doors might therefore be appropriate.
Ms. Meyer recalled that the presentation began with an emphasis on hierarchy, juxtaposition, geometric order, and the organization of the building and landscape, but some of these issues are somewhat lost in the proposed design. She supported the removal of the existing plaza and stairs, agreeing that they are not successful, but questioned the radial configuration of the proposed entrance walks. She indicated how the building's geometry of pods and octagonal corners is juxtaposed with the site topography, commenting that the introduction of a new radial geometry would have the effect of blurring this juxtaposition. She recommended exploration of eliminating the radials from the design in order to follow the existing design logic more closely. The result might be one rather than two sets of stairs reaching the sidewalk; a single central alignment might bring the stair to the site's corner, while the proposal brings one stair to a distant location along Connecticut Avenue. She summarized her overall support for the scale, section, and character of the proposal, while encouraging reconsideration of the radial geometry in keeping with the stated design goals.
Mr. Powell said that the proposal is impressive; he encouraged simplification of the design, in keeping with the Commission's frequent guidance, as well as exploration of Ms. Meyer's suggestion. Mr. Krieger also encouraged further geometric exploration but said that the proposed placement of the walks could be advantageous, providing access from each street edge. A different geometry might result in asymmetry or a return of the single monumental approach along the centerline of the entrance doors, but he said that the slight contrast of the radial configuration with the prevailing geometry might be acceptable. He suggested that further consideration of the walks should include an appreciation that addressing both street edges is appropriate even at the expense of geometric perfection. Mr. Freelon added that the two paths help in traversing the grade, observing that the geometry may not be readily perceptible when experienced at eye level although the issue is apparent in the plan drawing.
Mr. Lee responded that a solution could be found to address these comments. He said that most people would use the walk to Van Ness Street, which provides a more direct connection with the Metro station to the north; this walk could be given greater width to emphasize its more important role, and the walk to Connecticut Avenue could be reduced in width or placed on a different alignment that deemphasizes the symmetry of the composition.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to support the overall proposal. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the concept design with consideration of the suggestions provided; the response would be presented to the Commission at the next review.
F. District of Columbia Department of Transportation
CFA 17/JUL/14−8, Klingle Valley Multi−use Trail, Closed segment of Klingle Road from Cortland Place to Porter Street, NW. Construct a multi−use trail and stream restoration. Final. (Previous: CFA 19/JUN/14−3.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the final design for a multi−use trail along the closed segment of Klingle Road, NW, between the Woodley Park neighborhood on the west and Rock Creek Park on the east. She summarized the previous review in June 2014, when the Commission members generally supported the project goals presented but took no action on the concept design, expressing concern about the urban character of the proposed woodland trail and requesting a more complete submission. She asked Paul Hoffman of the D.C. Department of Transportation to begin the presentation; Mr. Hoffman introduced John Malinowski, manager of the project team from the multidisciplinary design firm Stantec, to present the design.
Mr. Malinowski presented a series of paired images to compare photographs of existing conditions with rendered views of the proposed design. Areas at the two trailheads and at intervals along the trail would include benches, trash receptacles, and landscaping. Light posts would be spaced at fifty− to sixty−foot intervals. Landscaping would include the reestablishment of groundcover along the trail and plantings to control erosion. Stream restoration is designed to protect the streambed from 100−year floods. Most trees would be retained; new trees have been selected to blend with the existing woodland species. A new retaining wall would be added where Klingle Creek flows out of a 36−inch storm drain, with large, imbricated rip−rap on one side to protect an area damaged by erosion. A riffle grade and step pools would be built in the stream, and an overflow facility would be installed to allow excess water to drain out through new culverts. At the east end, the trail would change from porous to regular pavement and the vehicular portion of Klingle Road would be repaved; an eight−foot−wide trail in this area would connect the Klingle Valley trail to trails in Rock Creek Park.
Mr. Malinowski said that the specifications for the proposed light post and the black metal bench had been made following comment from community meetings. The preferred light post option would cast light on the trail only, with no spillover into woodland. A standard metal trash receptacle was selected to match the bench. The preferred option for the fence is wood, although a split−rail fence was rejected as inappropriate. A metal fence proposed for installation near the west trailhead is similar to the fence used around the Tregaron property. He added that the National Park Service will design wayfinding signs.
Ms. Meyer recalled her request from the previous review for an understanding of how the site furnishings together would create a suitable character rather than merely being presented with a set of unrelated elements. She said that she still questions if there is any rationale for their selection other than that each was the preference of community groups, which she characterized as a weak explanation that calls into question the purposefulness of the design. She asked why a metal bench is proposed, when metal is not a very comfortable material. Landscape architect Kathleen Dahill of Stantec responded that a metal bench was chosen for durability; she cited the concern about vandalism of wooden benches in this somewhat secluded setting, along with concern about the need for frequent routine maintenance. Ms. Meyer then questioned the selection of a wooden fence, which could also be vandalized. Mr. Hoffman responded that the fence is a safety feature along the slope, and it would be replaced if damaged; but if benches are vandalized repeatedly, eventually the D.C. Department of Transportation would stop replacing them.
Mr. Krieger observed that the design team has tried to control the material palette somewhat—and the selected bench, trash receptacle, and light post are all part of a family. He said that the exception is the wooden fence, and the contrast between the fence and the other elements can be jarring when they are located near each other. But he noted that the fence would extend through the forest for the length of the trail—a major feature that is more appropriate in wood than in metal—and it would only occasionally be near the clusters of metal elements; he therefore concluded that the choice of wood for the fence might not be a problem. He said that he would to support the proposal, emphasizing that it would be an improvement over the current condition.
Mr. Powell and Ms. Meyer agreed that the design has improved since the previous review. Ms. Meyer observed that the sections and photographs have been helpful, making clear that the design team has visited the site and understands how the scale of furnishings will relate to the scale of the setting. However, she said that the images also indicate that the limited palette of elements is not being sensitively located. She cited a rendering of the west trailhead that shows a trash can set directly in front of a bench, and she encouraged greater awareness of the task as designing a small public space where the inviting bench should be the first thing seen. She commented that this rendering also depicts a small strip of grass that looks like a feature alongside a suburban sidewalk, an odd design choice if there is a concern about maintenance. She emphasized that this project will be an aggregation of small things that should be designed very well so that they add up to up to an excellent ensemble.
Ms. Meyer expressed concern about an illustration depicting shrubs beneath trees, commenting that digging near the roots of large trees to plant shrubs might harm the trees. She said that if the intention is to create the minor insertion of a simple and elegant path through a forest setting—rather than a road project or suburban landscape—then the trees closest to the path should not be killed in the belief that shrubs would make the woods appear more natural. She encouraged the use of plantings to replenish the forest, such as by adding flowering and understory trees related to the existing species composition. Ms. Dahill responded that the rendering is misleading and should have shown only groundcover beneath the trees with an outer ring of small shrubs; Ms. Meyer said that such an inaccurate rendering is not appropriate for a presentation to the Commission.
Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the proposed final design including the palette of metal furniture with the wood fence. Ms. Meyer voted against the motion, commenting that she is not convinced the project shows the necessary care. Mr. Luebke said that the staff would review the final permit drawings to ensure that the design responds to the Commission's comments; he asked the project team to meet with the staff before completing the design documentation.
G. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead−Luce Act
SL 14−133, Metropolitan Square, 655 15th Street, NW. Office building. New building facades. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced a concept proposal for replacement of the modern facades on portions of Metropolitan Square, a twelve−story office building occupying most of the block bounded by F, G, 14th, and 15th Streets, NW. The 1986 project by David Childs of Skidmore, Owings&Merrill incorporates the historic facades of the Metropolitan Bank Building and the Keith−Albee Theater. She asked architectural historian Andi Adams of Goulston&Storrs to begin the presentation.
Ms. Adams provided an overview of the project's history to accompany the drawings and photographs of the existing conditions. In the 1970s, this block was an important D.C. historic preservation case. Three landmark buildings occupied the site along 15th Street, facing the U.S. Treasury Building: the Keith−Albee Theater at the north corner, also extending for much of the block's G Street frontage, from the early 20th century; the mid−block Metropolitan Bank Building, also early 20th century; and the small Rhodes Tavern structure, ca. 1800, at the F Street corner. Under D.C. preservation law at that time, demolition could be postponed for six months, allowing time for negotiations to save buildings; despite widespread support for the preservation of these three structures, raze permits were granted, followed by extensive litigation and negotiations. The Joint Committee on Landmarks and the Commission of Fine Arts recommended reinforcing the scale and general appearance of 15th Street to support the landmark Treasury Building; in response, the 15th Street facades of the two Beaux−Arts buildings were retained—along with the westernmost five bays of the theater's G Street frontage—while Rhodes Tavern was demolished. The new facades at the demolished Rhodes Tavern site, encompassing the southernmost 15th Street frontage and four bays along F Street, were designed in a post−modern Beaux−Arts style to reflect the scale and rhythm of the historic theater and bank; a modern design vocabulary was used for the remaining new facades along F, G, and 14th Streets, and throughout the new upper floors that were set back from the street frontages. The new massing also provided single−bay setbacks at several locations where the modern facades abut the traditional−style facades. She said that the Commission of Fine Arts approved the Metropolitan Square project in December 1977; the D.C. government approved it in February 1980, under a new preservation law, by designating it as a project of special merit. [The demolition of Rhodes Tavern occurred in 1983, and the project was completed in 1986.] She added that Metropolitan Square abuts another early 20th century building, originally the Garfinckel's department store, which occupies the southeast portion of the block; this building is not part of the Metropolitan Square project.
Ms. Adams said that the intention of the current proposal is to replace the heavy late−modern−style facades of the 1980s construction, which now appear dated; the major components of the earlier preservation effort would be retained, aside from replacement of windows and other minor updates. She introduced architect Jeff Barber of Gensler to present the proposal.
Mr. Barber said that Metropolitan Square would be reclad in its current massing configuration; the new facades would be lighter and more respectful of the historic context than the highly articulated 1980s design. The single−bay setbacks would have a simpler glass facade to improve the transition between traditional and modern styles. Another transitional device at the G Street setback bay would be a metal border along the edge of the historic Keith−Albee Theater facade; the border would rise vertically and then angle back on a diagonal at the theater's mansard roof to follow the historic building's profile. A similar border would be used on the F Street setback bay between the modern−style mid−block facade and the traditionally styled corner portion of the building.
Mr. Barber said that the proposed facades would regularize the overall window configuration while retaining depth in the facade. Existing recesses at the third− and tenth−floor levels would be filled in, providing a small amount of additional rentable space. The long G Street facade would have a more vertical, open expression through flattening of the windows and removal of the precast concrete at each floor, while the elevation would still express base, body, and top. Alternating floors would have flat or recessed spandrels of darker and lighter color, resulting in a repeating two−story expression and a woven appearance that would be somewhat dominated by the verticals of precast concrete. He indicated how portions of the proposed facades would be adjusted to align with the horizontal courses, roofline, and windows of the adjoining Garfinckel's facade.
Mr. Barber described said that the upper three floors that are set back from 15th Street would be clad in pewter−colored metal panels to relate to the lower parts of the building. All windows would be replaced in−kind for improved energy performance. The four entrances into the building would be retained with minor modifications, such as new stainless steel entrance doors to be consistent with new interior materials.
Mr. Freelon described the proposal as a strong concept but said that he has concerns about its execution. He asked why the design uses a two−story expression of the office floors, commenting that this would make the building resemble a warehouse. Mr. Barber responded that the appearance of a warehouse is not intended, but the scale of a warehouse's large, generous openings is appropriate; he said that when each floor was defined, the composition became too repetitive for a long facade such as on G Street. Mr. Freelon also commented that the transition between the new glass facade and the historic theater building is too abrupt; he asked if the transitional metal border could be narrower and follow the profile of the historic building more closely. Mr. Barber responded that the simpler approach of using a single line is intended to be less disruptive. Mr. Freelon observed that the border is not a single line because it bends to follow the mansard roof; given the indecisive character of the proposal, he reiterated the advice to provide a more deliberate treatment for the end of the historic profile.
Mr. Krieger supported these concerns. He agreed that the two−story expression would make the building resemble a warehouse, and he observed that other facades in the block express each story. He said that the new cladding appears to be trying to dominate the historic elevations, adding that the visual effect will depend on the detailing of the spandrels which are rendered in varying ways on the presentation drawings. He questioned the overall detailing, calling the building's expression both too stark and too equivocal. He commented that the verticality appears exaggerated, particularly in the rendering, and emphasized the issue of material details and color. Mr. Barber responded that when the horizontals become more apparent, they begin to break down the scale. Mr. Krieger encouraged further consideration of how to achieve both vertical and horizontal readings. Mr. Luebke noted that the staff had supported modulation across the facade, such as through wider piers, but the project team has simplified the design. Mr. Krieger said that the issue is less about adjusting the verticals and more about the prominence or subtlety of the horizontal spandrels.
Concerning the second issue raised by Mr. Freelon—how the detailing of the new facade would meet the historic theater building—Mr. Krieger commented that the design is poor, although most people would not notice this recessed area. He said that the seam would be even more ragged if the metal border were to follow every movement of the historic profile, but he suggested exploration of extending portions of the precast facade and window pattern into this bay. Mr. Barber responded that this approach was studied but it confused the distinction between old and new facades. Mr. Krieger said that he likes the confusion, observing that historic buildings that have been added to over time will show such confusion. He advised letting the lack of resolution remain evident as an expression of the predicament in adding modern construction to a historic building. He summarized that such confusion may be preferable to the awkwardness of the proposed design.
Ms. Meyer said that she would like to frame this issue in a larger context. She expressed appreciation for the preservation history outlined in the presentation, commenting that the project team understands the logic of the original project and has successfully analyzed the past solution to identify some of its problems. She said that the Commission members are suggesting the potential for some kind of subtlety between total contrast or total simulation: a way to use a different logic, in certain places, that might be more complex—but less awkward—than juxtaposition. Mr. Krieger commented that the goal could be to achieve complexity without resulting in confusion. Mr. Freelon suggested drawing up numerous iterations of the elevation to fully explore different solutions.
Ms. Meyer suggested approving the concept subject to the comments provided. Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission's support for the planning of the building and the general character of the proposed skin; he noted that no comments were provided about the F Street entrance, which the staff considers to be insufficiently resolved. He offered to work with the project team on preparing an additional submission that would be presented to the Commission, adding that the project still needs approval from the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the concept with the comments provided.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:26 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA