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 10:03 a.m.
Hon. Earl A. Powell, Chairman
Hon. Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Vice Chairman
Hon. Philip Freelon
Hon. Liza Gilbert
Hon. Alex Krieger
Hon. Mia Lehrer
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
A. Administration of oath of office to Liza Gilbert. Mr. Luebke introduced Liza Gilbert, ASLA, who was appointed to the Commission on 10 October, and administered the oath of office to her. He summarized Ms. Gilbert’s professional experience as a landscape designer with several firms in New York, Boston, and Rome. She also serves as a board member of the Dumbarton Oaks Park Conservancy, a public-private partnership that works with the National Park Service to restore a portion of the iconic Dumbarton Oaks landscape in Georgetown, and previously served on the board of Dancing in the Streets, a New York-based performing arts organization. She holds degrees from Barnard College and Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. He noted that her appointment brings the Commission to its full membership of seven.
B. Approval of the minutes of the 18 September meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the September meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger. Mr. Luebke noted that the minutes would be posted on the Commission’s website, which is currently under revision with an anticipated launch date in mid-November.
C. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 20 November 2014, 22 January 2015, and 19 February 2015. He noted that no meeting is scheduled during December, and the January meeting will be on the fourth rather than third Thursday to avoid a conflict earlier in January of the New Year’s Day holiday with the submission deadline and the Old Georgetown Board meeting.
D. Report on the approval of objects proposed for acquisition by the Freer Gallery of Art. Mr. Luebke reported Chairman Powell’s approval, earlier in the morning, of two Japanese decorative screens being considered for purchase by the Smithsonian Institution for the Freer Gallery’s permanent collection. The screens were painted by 19th-century artist Ikeda Koson; Chairman Powell emphasized their beauty.
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 – Government Submission Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that no changes were made to the draft appendix. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the Government Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler said that one project was removed from the appendix and will be listed in a future month, and one item was added for a partial demolition that is consistent with a project that was previously approved. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised appendix. (See agenda item II.F for an additional Shipstead-Luce Act submission.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martinez reported that the only changes to the draft appendix are the dates for receipt of supplemental materials. Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider the submission for 2501 M Street, NW.
F. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
SL 15-009, 2501 M Street, NW, Mixed-use office/residential building. Replacement building facades for conversion to all residential use. Concept. (Previous: SL 14-142.) Mr. Luebke said that the Commission may wish to act on this project without a presentation; the proposed facade replacement supersedes a previously approved design due to a change in program from mixed use to an entirely residential building. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission approved the concept submission.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B.
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 16/OCT/14-1, Dwight D. Eisenhower National Memorial. Intersection of Maryland and Independence Avenues, between 4th and 6th Streets, SW. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 20/FEB/14- 2.) Mr. Luebke introduced the revised concept for the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Memorial, submitted by the National Park Service on behalf of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission. He summarized the Commission’s recent reviews of the project. In July 2013, the Commission approved the concept with comments to continue developing the site design and other elements. In November 2013, the Commission reaffirmed its general support and provided additional recommendations, particularly to clarify the relationship between the landscape and the formal commemorative elements. The concept was reviewed again in February 2014, when Commission members stressed the importance of the Maryland Avenue axis through the site and recommended further development of the memorial landscape, including the use of more trees to reinforce the idea of a memorial within a grove-like park; the Commission supported the idea of Maryland Avenue as an open diagonal greensward framed by a denser planting of trees.
Mr. Luebke said that the current submission does not address comments from the February 2014 review; instead, this revised concept submission results from actions taken by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) over the last six months. In April 2014, NCPC disapproved the Eisenhower Memorial concept design as inconsistent with three of the seven design guidelines adopted as part of NCPC’S original site approval; most of the objections concerned the intrusion of the memorial’s columns and stainless steel tapestries into street rights-of-way. The project team has explored revisions to conform to the NCPC guidelines, and earlier this month NCPC granted preliminary approval for a revised concept that eliminates the two tapestries at the east and west sides of the site, leaving two single columns to define the site’s northeast and northwest corners along with the longer tapestry and row of columns at the south. The revised concept is being presented for the Commission’s approval in order to be in concordance with the NCPC action before further design development is pursued. If approved, he said that a further submission is anticipated in November 2014 to address the comprehensive design, including the landscape and sculptures.
Mr. Luebke noted that several people in the audience have asked to address the Commission. He asked Peter May from the National Park Service to begin the presentation; Mr. May introduced architect Craig Webb of Gehry Partners to present the revised design.
Mr. Webb said after working with NCPC to satisfy the concerns about the design guidelines, the project team believes that this revised design has the integrity and excellence appropriate to a memorial for Dwight D. Eisenhower. He summarized the features of the concept previously approved by the Commission of Fine Arts in February 2014: the central memorial core would contain two sculptural representations of Eisenhower, as general and as president, set within a memorial park framed by three stainless-steel tapestries. However, NCPC had objected to the intrusion of memorial elements into the volume of space along Independence Avenue on the north, as defined by the street wall formed by the Federal Aviation Administration building to the west and the Wilbur Cohen Building to the east. NCPC had also raised concerns about the extent of intrusion into the viewshed along the Maryland Avenue alignment; in the previous design, the side tapestries and supporting columns framed the view of the U.S. Capitol along this alignment, but the width of this framed view had been a concern. In the revised concept, the side tapestries have been eliminated and a single freestanding column remains on each side; the two columns would be located to the south of the Independence Avenue street wall, resolving a major concern for NCPC. He said that the concept for Maryland Avenue has included an open central portion, comparable to a cartway, within the wider 160-foot right-of-way. With the removal of the west tapestry, the northwest column would now be located outside this right-of-way; the northeast column would define the edge of the cartway zone within the right-of-way, matching the cartway width established by the westernmost column supporting the south tapestry. As a result, the unobstructed width along the Maryland Avenue alignment would be 135 feet, compared to the previous width of 92 feet. He said that NCPC has found this dimension to be acceptable for framing the view of the Capitol.
Mr. Webb said that the inclusion of the northwest and northeast columns was discussed extensively with NCPC; the design team has argued that they are needed to define the memorial park, which is critical to unifying the entire site in conjunction with the south tapestry. Mr. Krieger asked if the two freestanding columns would be larger than those supporting the remaining tapestry; Mr. Webb responded that all columns would be the same size and material—a ten-foot diameter with a concrete core clad in limestone. He added that the columns in earlier versions were larger, and their size was decreased to the minimum needed to support the structural load of the tapestry.
Mr. Webb said that the diagonal approach walks have been slightly altered so that both freestanding columns would rise from paved surfaces. Also, because eliminating the east tapestry reduced screening of the small information building along 4th Street, the revised concept includes additional canopy and understory trees around the building. Other than these changes, he said that the south tapestry and the memorial core remain the same.
Mr. Webb provided additional details on the Maryland Avenue alignment. He said that trees would frame the viewshed to the Capitol, giving the effect of street trees along a 60-foot-wide cartway. The proportion of the visual frame has been important to NCPC staff: their interpretation of the L’Enfant Plan is that horizontal proportions are more appropriate than vertical, and the new design results in a ratio of 1 to 1.6, closer to the traditional proportion of the golden section. He said the design team believes that, in contrast to Pennsylvania Avenue, the viewshed on the Maryland Avenue alignment is defined in varying asymmetric ways by the volumes of the flanking buildings rather than by a uniform street wall; many building facades are not parallel to the axis, which is framed instead by the corners of buildings that move in and out of the view in perspective. The design goal has been to create an overall balance and to frame the view of the Capitol, and NCPC has agreed with this approach.
Mr. Webb said that the idea of a layering of spaces is fundamental to the design concept, with a procession from an urban streetscape through a series of spaces to arrive at the memorial core. He presented an analysis of the processional space at the Lincoln Memorial—the national memorial with arguably the greatest emotional impact—that has guided development of the Eisenhower Memorial. A person visiting the Lincoln Memorial follows a powerful progression from space to space, moving from a busy urban street through a landscape separating the memorial precinct from the city, onto a plaza and up a stairway before entering the memorial space, where the statue of Lincoln occupies the center of the temple. He said that the intention is to create a spatial progression of comparable power and clarity at the Eisenhower memorial. The primary pedestrian entry to the site would be from either of the two northern corners; from there, a visitor would follow diagonal walks, passing through a series of thresholds beneath the trees to reach the memorial core, where the sculptures of Eisenhower as general and president would be located. A paved plane of limestone would emphasize the special nature of the memorial core, surrounded by the park space of the memorial grove, framed by the rectangular volume created by the tapestry and the two columns, and within an urban room framed by surrounding buildings. He noted the significance of these particular buildings—relating to aviation, education, and human services—in Eisenhower’s presidential legacy.
Mr. Webb concluded by describing another special feature that was discussed with NCPC: a paving stone that would be set on the centerline of the Maryland Avenue corridor, marking a vantage point for viewing the Capitol from the center of the street space. This stone would also mark the transition as a visitor moves onto the memorial plane of limestone.
Chairman Powell recognized the members of the public who asked to address the Commission. Washington architect Arthur Cotton Moore said that the L’Enfant and McMillan Plans defined two main roadways for Washington, Pennsylvania Avenue and Maryland Avenue; both were established as 160 feet wide, a dimension that has been respected for over two centuries. He said that the proposed memorial design disregards these plans, and it would desecrate the historic plans of Washington as well as Eisenhower’s memory. He commented on the irony that the Commission of Fine Arts, which grew out of the McMillan Commission, would support a design that violates the width of Maryland Avenue.
Chairman Powell recognized Justin Shubow, speaking on behalf of the National Civic Art Society. Mr. Shubow said that the most important features of the revised design are the two huge vestigial freestanding columns, unadorned works of engineering that would be eighty feet tall and ten feet wide. He said they will likely be the largest freestanding columns in the world [sic]. He commented that as visitors approach the memorial from the east or the west along Independence Avenue, they will see the northeastern column by itself, with little to indicate the presence of the memorial; the column may appear to be part of a demolished structure or a highway viaduct being constructed, or perhaps a smokestack. He said that the column with blank surfaces would be meaningless and overwhelming, incapable of serving as a gateway for the memorial. A freestanding column would appear larger than one supporting a structure; when brightly lit at night, it would become even more prominent in contrast to its dark surroundings; and its size would threaten the visual prominence of both the Capitol and the Washington Monument as seen from within the memorial park. He said that the two freestanding columns along with the south tapestry and columns would outline a rectilinear box evoking a mid-century superblock building, such as the Department of Education—a building which, he said, Frank Gehry himself had suggested was a mistake. Calling the revised design a “work of deconstructed brutalism,” Mr. Shubow asked the Commission to require elimination of the two freestanding columns.
Chairman Powell recognized Don Hawkins, representing the Committee of 100 on the Federal City. Mr. Hawkins said that the Committee of 100 supports the removal of the two side tapestries, which he called a step in the right direction of abandoning the project, but his organization remains opposed to the overall concept. He said that the two remaining columns are meaningless and lack interest in shape or material, and they would be visible in views of the Washington Monument from this area.
Chairman Powell recognized Victoria Tidwell, deputy director of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission. She acknowledged that the memorial approval process involves many stakeholders holding many different opinions. She thanked Frank Gehry and Gehry Partners, along with the staffs of the review commissions and the National Park Service, for their efforts.
Mr. Luebke noted that written testimony from Judy Scott Feldman of the National Coalition to Save Our Mall has also been provided to Commission members, expressing that organization’s opposition to the design and its request for a memorable sculpture instead.
Mr. Krieger opened the Commission’s discussion by calling the concept substantially improved. He said that eliminating the side tapestries was a brilliant move, noting that people would have had to walk beneath them to reach the memorial core. He observed that their removal emphasizes the remaining south tapestry’s role as a poetic backdrop to the sculptures and enables the two flanking buildings to function as sides to the memorial space. He said that the greater unobstructed width along the Maryland Avenue alignment makes this corridor better than it ever had been, since the roadway had never really been equivalent to Pennsylvania Avenue except on paper. He noted that unlike Pennsylvania Avenue, Maryland Avenue has never had a terminus at its western end. He said that he still has questions about the specifics of the design, but these could be addressed in the next submission. He said that the two freestanding columns are important to the design, and reiterated that the concept has improved.
Mr. Freelon agreed that the design had improved. He said that the Commission needs more detailed information about the appearance of the columns—how they will be experienced by a visitor and how they will work with the scale of the landscape. He recalled that the Commission has suggested the site might be too large to function as a memorial, and commented that the columns will reinforce this size. Ms. Lehrer expressed appreciation for the thoughtful presentation; she requested more clarity about the landscape design, particularly the placement and selection of trees.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted that she had been on the Commission when the original concept design was presented, and she has watched it go through many changes. She said that during this long process, she has tried to keep a clear picture of the design in mind. She recalled that when she first saw the concept design, she understood the difficulty of establishing a sense of place on such a large site. In the first iteration, columns surrounded the site; she said that the project team has responded well to the discussion of this approach, including in today’s presentation, and the design has evolved to the point where it is now stronger as a backdrop to the garden. She said that the freestanding columns have become objects rather than columns enclosing space; she finds that they are not necessary to the design and recommended further reconsideration of removing them.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk encouraged further study of the appropriate visual terminus for the diagonal walks leading to the sculptures; she suggested considering whether views along the walks should focus on the end of the nearer block or the front of the more distant block. She observed that once a visitor reaches the memorial core, the focus will be on the tapestry to the south. She added that it is appropriate for projects such as this to take a long time and to involve much participation and discussion.
Mr. Powell recalled that the Commission’s consensus from the earliest reviews of this project has been that the memorial precinct should be strongly defined, commenting that the issue is not the two freestanding columns themselves but their design. He supported the revision to move them into an improved alignment with the Maryland Avenue corridor, and he agreed with Mr. Krieger that the project has come a long way.
Ms. Gilbert suggested that the next presentation include a visualization of how the visitor’s progression through the memorial would appear from eye level. She added that the description of the pedestrian’s experience of the Lincoln Memorial was powerful.
Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised concept for the memorial, with the expectation that the next presentation will include much more detail about the landscape, the walks, and the sculpture.
C. District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities
CFA 16/OCT/14-2, Legacy Memorial Park. A portion of Fort Circle Park, Reservation 497, between Fort Slocum Park and Fort Totten Park, 5720 New Hampshire Avenue, NE (corner of New Hampshire and South Dakota Avenues). New memorial to honor the victims of the 2009 Metrorail Red Line accident. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 18/SEP/14-4.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the revised concept for the Legacy Memorial Park, formerly named Metro Memorial Park; he noted that previous review of this project in September 2014, when the Commission had provided several comments including the recommendation to add a second point of access. He asked architects Julian Hunt and Monling Lee of Hunt Laudi Studio to present the revised concept.
Mr. Hunt summarized the inspiration of the design as a memorial to victims of an industrial accident, drawing on the 1844 painting by J.M.W. Turner, Rain, Steam, and Speed—The Great Western Railway, and James Frazer’s 1890 study on the origin of myth, The Golden Bough. The design also relates to the site’s location within the string of parkland acquired for the historic, uncompleted Fort Drive connecting Civil War fort sites, now part of the Fort Circle Parks system. He indicated the site’s relationship to two local features: a church located on a rise immediately across South Dakota Avenue from the site, and the Blair Road community garden immediately to the west at the dead-end of South Dakota Avenue. To the east is the busy arterial of New Hampshire Avenue, which rises alongside the memorial site to cross the nearby railroad tracks on a viaduct; a guardrail and swale are between New Hampshire Avenue and the project site.
Mr. Hunt described the memorial’s three main elements: nine stone sculptures set on three mounds; a curved commemorative wall; and a grove of trees. Existing woodland would remain at the rear of the site, and a planted bioretention area in front of the woodland would serve as a transitional zone. Because of concerns that have been raised about safety within the park, the commemorative wall has been lowered, and some of the previously proposed trees have been eliminated. The park entrance would be located along South Dakota Avenue, away from the high-volume traffic of New Hampshire Avenue, and would be aligned with the porch of the nearby church; the wide entrance plaza would serve as an area for public gatherings. He indicated the streetscape design along South Dakota Avenue, which was recently added to the project scope; the street trees and streetlights would be consistent with nearby roads.
Mr. Hunt described the park’s fundamental concept as a sacred grove. Sycamores were chosen as the predominant species because they grow very large, have distinctive muscular white trunks, and their branches can be grafted together through the technique of inosculation, symbolizing the idea that the accident victims are now connected. The grove would include an existing mature pin oak, and the sycamores would be arranged to guide movement through the park. The three mounds would be planted with a mix of fescue turf that would create a soft appearance and would not require mowing. The berm behind the commemorative wall, along the intersection of New Hampshire and South Dakota Avenues, would be planted with lavender to create a color field signaling the presence of a special space; golden barberry would be planted at the top of the berm.
Ms. Lee presented the commemorative sculptures, the memorial wall, and the lighting. The nine sculptures designed by Barbara Liotta, dedicated to the nine people killed in the accident, would be grouped on the three landscape mounds: four on the largest mound, near the entrance; two on the smallest mound; and three on the remaining mound. She noted that the Commission had approved the design of the sculptures at the previous meeting. The sculptures, made of stacked granite blocks, would rest on bases of brushed stainless steel for protection from landscape maintenance equipment. Each base would be surrounded by integrated linear LED fixtures providing soft ambient light to emphasize the form of the sculpture. As requested by the families, each sculpture would be inscribed with the full name of one of the victims; the locations of the names would be varied to avoid having the sculptures resemble gravestones.
Ms. Lee said that the 180-foot-long memorial wall would rise from grade at each end to a height of six feet at the center. Commemorative text written by victims’ family members would be sandblasted at the center of the smooth concrete wall, with four-inch-high letters arranged in three lines of text, and the names of the three authors would be inscribed in half-inch-high letters beneath. A reveal in the base would have an LED fixture to light the inscription. Creeping fig would be planted at the ends of the wall to soften its appearance. She said that the height of the berm has been reduced and the Japanese maple trees eliminated to increase visibility and to allow the back of the wall to rise to a height of 42 inches above the berm to prevent falls.
Ms. Lee said that the elements of the lighting plan have been kept simple in deference to the commemorative elements. Additional lighting would be provided by three small in-ground uplights at the entrance sign and by two double-head cobra lights along the street edges to match the existing streetlight at the corner. She concluded by emphasizing that the park is intended as both a commemorative place and as a community park, and she presented diagrams of how the park could accommodate different events of various sizes such as musical performances, a farmers market, church socials, or commemorative gatherings.
Mr. Freelon questioned whether brushed stainless steel is an appropriate material for the entrance sign to this bucolic park. Ms. Lee responded that brushed stainless steel would also be used for the sculpture bases, and the intention is to avoid introducing other materials. She added that the sign is designed for a park of modest scale; it would have laser-cut letters and would be mounted on a green screen planted with creeping fig, which would be visible through the lettering. As the sign turns the corner of the green screen, its height would drop from 7.5 to 3.5 feet. Ms. Gilbert asked for further information about the mounds; Ms. Lee responded that the three mounds would vary in size, their 33-percent grade is the maximum allowable for a walkable turf surface, and their height would range from three to four feet.
Ms. Lehrer commented that the presentation was thorough and had described an attractive memorial space and plaza; she asked about the derivation of the paving pattern. Ms. Lee said that it is based on the geometry of the three mounds, the site, the surrounding streets, and the plots of the community gardens; the intended result is a field effect that would encourage visitor movement through the park. She added that the pattern would alternate between two colors of concrete pavers, rather than the permeable paving concept that was originally proposed. Ms. Lehrer commented that the paving pattern may be too complex and distracting for the park’s small size, and she suggested consideration of a single paving material rather than a mosaic effect. Mr. Krieger observed that the material samples show less contrast between the dark and light pavers than suggested by the paving plan; he added that one paving field points to the center of the inscription, which appears odd.
Mr. Krieger commented that both the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission have suggested the need for another access point at the northeast along New Hampshire Avenue, and he strongly recommended adding this access so that visitors to the park would not feel unsafe. Ms. Lee responded with several reasons for the decision not to add a second entrance: existing conditions at the northeast corner are difficult, with a guardrail and a four-foot drop in grade between the park boundary and the sidewalk; arriving pedestrians would have to be directed back to the main entrance; and the new entrance might have to be a sloped walk for barrier-free access, which would extend around the corner and would be highly visible, undercutting the primacy of the main entrance. Mr. Krieger said the solution could be a subtle opening that would not rival the major entrance; he added that a secondary access route could probably have steps and would therefore not have to be lengthy and prominent. Ms. Plater-Zyberk supported the addition of a second access point, commenting that its location may not need to be at the northeast corner of the site.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the memorial wall is still too high and would conceal the park space; she recommended lowering the wall further. She also questioned the proposal for double-head cobra streetlights, which are typically used on highways and would be inappropriate for a neighborhood park; if overhead lighting is needed, she recommended selecting a fixture suitable for the scale of the park on a twelve- or fourteen-foot-high pole. Ms. Lee responded that the National Capital Planning Commission had recommended additional lighting to improve safety along the street; Ms. Plater-Zyberk clarified that she was not objecting to street lights but to the proposed type of lights. She added that replacing the existing cobra head light with a better fixture would be better than repeating it; Mr. Krieger agreed.
Mr. Luebke observed that the concept is fairly well developed, and the Commission may wish to delegate further review to the staff. Mr. Krieger emphasized that provision of a second exit is an important concern. Mr. Luebke said that the staff could work with the project team to ensure that the Commission’s recommendations are addressed. Chairman Powell said that this would be the most efficient procedure; he moved approval of the revised concept with the comments provided, and with review of the final design delegated to the staff. Upon a second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission adopted this action.
D. District of Columbia Department of Transportation
CFA 16/OCT/14-3, Oregon Avenue, NW (from Military Road to Western Avenue). Reconstruction and improvement to 1.7-mile segment of roadway. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposed reconstruction of Oregon Avenue to address the historic road’s environmental and traffic safety deficiencies. Oregon Avenue extends along the western edge of Rock Creek Park, and the project would include a sidewalk, retaining walls, bioretention swales, and signs. She asked landscape architect Oliver Boehm of Volkert, Inc., and Wayne Wilson of the D.C. Department of Transportation to present the design.
Mr. Boehm described the context with Rock Creek Park to the east and a mixture of single-family homes and institutions to the west, including St. John’s College High School and the Knollwood Military Retirement Residence. Most of Oregon Avenue does not currently have a sidewalk; the proposal includes a continuous sidewalk on the west side and no sidewalk along the park. An existing culvert would be replaced with a small bridge over a stream. The existing cartway width ranges from 22 to 35 feet, with rolling topography and four intersections with stop signs. He said that speeding vehicles are a problem on this road, resulting in dangerous conditions for pedestrians; the project would improve sightlines and safety for all users. Stormwater management is also a concern: most of the runoff is directed into Rock Creek Park, resulting in problems with erosion and stream water quality. The project would address this issue through low-impact development techniques, including bioswales and permeable pavement. Additional goals include preserving the rustic character of Oregon Avenue, retaining mature trees, and respecting the residential community; the project will involve some disturbance to residential lawns, driveways, and fences. He emphasized the intention to design Oregon Avenue as a continuous corridor with a comprehensive response to these issues.
Mr. Boehm summarized the design process. The D.C. Department of Transportation completed an environmental assessment two years ago, including four options ranging from no action to a wider road that would include a bicycle lane. Based on opposition to a wider road, the current proposal would provide a narrower road along with a sidewalk. North of Nebraska Avenue, a planting strip would be provided between the sidewalk and cartway; between Military Road and Nebraska Avenue, where the right-of-way is narrower, the sidewalk would abut the curb. He noted that the project would require acquiring only one piece of land to accommodate the proposed sidewalk.
Mr. Boehm noted the extensive community engagement during the design process, and he summarized the consultation with the public, numerous local government agencies, and the National Park Service. The consensus was to maintain the rustic character, save as many trees as possible, improve pedestrian safety, and address stormwater management. He noted that some people have opposed a sidewalk because it is perceived as giving the road an urban character. He said that discussions with St. John’s have resulted in an improvement to the design in this narrow portion of the right-of-way: the sidewalk will be allowed to encroach on the school property, allowing for an adjustment to the cartway alignment that would eliminate the need for a significant extent of retaining walls along Rock Creek Park, and also the need to remove trees in this area.
Mr. Boehm said that the width of the sidewalk has been extensively debated. The community preference is for a width of three to five feet, while the design team proposes five to six feet in order to provide more meaningful accessibility in accordance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. He said that the next public meeting would include a presentation on why a minimum five-foot width is required. Another continuing community concern is lighting; he described the existing lighting as viable but not ideal, and some people do not want to change it. He concluded with a series of photographs illustrating the existing conditions along the length of Oregon Avenue.
Ms. Gilbert asked why the bicycle lanes included in an earlier alternative are not part of the current proposal; she said that the result may be that bicyclists would use the new sidewalk. Mr. Wilson of the D.C. Department of Transportation responded that the construction of bicycle lanes near St. John’s would be difficult due to the narrow right-of-way and steep topography; high retaining walls and land acquisition would be required, as well as removal of many trees. He emphasized the goal of minimizing negative impacts on the park.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked for further information about the proposed lighting poles and lamps. Mr. Boehm confirmed that the existing poles alternate between the two sides of the street, and this configuration would generally be retained; the creation of a sidewalk would affect some lightpole locations. The proposal is for LED lamps to replace the existing high-pressure sodium; additional lighting may be added if needed. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested using fixtures with a more rural character instead of keeping the existing cobra-style fixtures. Mr. Wilson responded that the alternative of teardrop-style fixtures would tend to spread light, which is undesirable alongside houses and the park; the proposed cobra fixtures are more effective in directing light down to the roadway. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that these are not the only two choices of fixtures; she emphasized that the cobra design tends to encourage speeding because it is widely associated with highway lighting. She acknowledged that a teardrop fixture could be perceived as an urban element, and she suggested looking at other design options. More broadly, she recommended that all of the streetscape details be considered carefully for their contribution to the desired street character and driver behavior; she cited the finish of retaining walls and the design of the small bridge, which could be an opportunity to embellish the neighborhood. She questioned the intended use of standard concrete for the sidewalks, suggesting consideration of another material such as asphalt. Mr. Wilson said that numerous materials were studied for the sidewalks; the current options include exposed-aggregate concrete, which would be brown instead of the standard gray color, or a pervious rubberized pavement with crushed stone embedded on the surface. He added that the facing of the retaining walls is being coordinated with the National Park Service and with another nearby street project, and the goal is a design that is in keeping with the context including the park.
Ms. Lehrer supported the advice to avoid the appearance of adding urban elements to a rural area. She also noted that bicycle usage is a reality that should be considered, in keeping with nationwide trends; wider sidewalks could accommodate bicyclists, while the proposed sidewalk width might instead encourage bicyclists to use the road. She encouraged providing a safe alternative for accommodating bicyclists. Mr. Wilson responded that Rock Creek Park contains trails that can accommodate bicycles and pedestrians, paralleling much of the Oregon Avenue corridor. Mr. Krieger commented that the park trail would likely be a more pleasant route for bicyclists to use, as long as it provides similar connections to the overall road system. He nonetheless questioned why the eleven-foot-wide margin along the curb would apparently be divided into a five-foot grass strip and a six-foot sidewalk, observing that ample room is available for wider paving to accommodate a bicycle lane; he added that the proposed design may result in maintenance problems from overuse of the planted strip. Mr. Wilson responded that the strip would serve as a stormwater retention area to meet current regulatory requirements; it would also serve as a buffer between cars and pedestrians for improved safety. He said that accommodating bicyclists on a wider sidewalk could introduce conflicts between bicyclists and pedestrians, and also increase the risk to sidewalk users from cars jumping the curb.
Ms. Gilbert commented that maintenance-free planting could be used instead of grass, consistent with the woodland setting. Mr. Wilson said that the planting is being coordinated with several agencies, and the goal is not to increase water flow into the park; near St. John’s, the design may include step pools. He added that much of the neighborhood runoff flows onto Oregon Avenue, exacerbating the difficulty of managing stormwater; permeable pavement is planned for nearby higher streets to reduce runoff before it reaches Oregon Avenue. He said that the planting strip would mostly be maintained by neighborhood groups, and the design is being developed in consultation with them
Ms. Lehrer commented that the 1.7-mile length of this project is significant; she expressed appreciation for the mapping of the corridor in the presentation. She encouraged extending the consideration of stormwater to its management after being collected within the project area, perhaps involving systems beyond the scope of this project. She said that signage should be considered as part of the project design, perhaps serving to inform people about the neighborhood and the park. She emphasized that a range of bicyclists should be considered, not just recreational bikers, and she encouraged further consultation with the National Park Service if the park is relied on as an alternative route.
Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the concept submission with the comments provided. Mr. Krieger added that the illustrated paving pattern stamped with leaves is questionable; Mr. Boehm responded that this design was not satisfactory to the community, and a simpler sidewalk design will be used. Ms. Plater-Zyberk confirmed that the Commission members agree with the community in opposing the illustrated pattern.
E. District of Columbia Department of General Services
CFA 16/OCT/14-4, Washington Latin Public Charter School (former Rudolph Elementary School), 5200 2nd Street, NW. Gymnasium addition (Phase II). Concept. (Previous: CFA 18/OCT/12-4 and CFA 21/FEB/13-j.) (Also submitted under case number SL 15-007.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposed revision to a portion of the school renovation project that was reviewed by the Commission in October 2012. The Commission had approved the concept and delegated further review to the staff; subsequently, the staff had approved the final design for the project’s first phase—renovation of the historic school and removal of a later addition—which has now been completed. The second phase, encompassing construction of a new gymnasium, is now submitted with a substantially different design than was previously reviewed, and the staff has decided to bring the new proposal to the Commission. He asked architect Erika Lehman of Perkins Eastman to present the design.
Ms. Lehman said that the design is intended to retain the principles of the earlier proposal while addressing funding concerns that have arisen subsequently. She provided an overview of the context and site, within walking distance of the Fort Totten Metro station which is used by many of the students. She described the intended historic design for the school; only the southern portion of the 1930s Colonial Revival design was built, but it established a strong east front and east-west axis through the site. A functionalist 1960s addition remains to the north and begins to define a courtyard on the west; a one-story addition has recently been removed; and a small library wing has recently been added, which emphasizes the complex’s east-west axis and a focus to the west. The charter school has been using the renovated building for a year as a consolidated middle and high school. The proposed gymnasium addition would extend the building toward the west, and modern materials are proposed to reflect the successive phases of the building with a third distinct architectural style.
Ms. Lehman described the design features of the gymnasium, noting that the overall siting and layout of the addition are similar to the previous proposal. The window muntins would reinforce the horizontal lines established in the existing 1960s building, while the addition also responds to the slope of the site. The south facade of the gymnasium would serve as a backdrop to the school’s courtyard space, a central forum that draws on the classical tradition of educational settings. Another outdoor courtyard, to be used for outdoor learning, would be defined by the gymnasium and its connecting corridor. The gymnasium would be a two-story volume as previously proposed; the adjacent support space is now proposed as a one-story rather than two-story volume. In addition to recreational activities, the gymnasium would accommodate student assembly events. She indicated the vestibule area that would also serve as a warm-up space, emphasizing the effort to accommodate programmatic needs efficiently. The addition would connect to the basement level of the 1960s building, making use of its egress stair and two isolated classrooms.
Ms. Lehman presented the proposed elevations, emphasizing the long views toward the building across the playing field on the west. She indicated the differences between the current and previous facade proposals; a modern style is still proposed, but with changes due to budget constraints and functional considerations such as reducing the amount of glass near the basketball court. The facades would primarily be metal panels over a structure of laminated wood; several groups of windows would provide interior daylight. Color accents in red would relate the design to the overall school. Corrugated metal panels would provide accents around the window, and “LATIN” would be written in large letters on the south facade as a backdrop to the forum; a sculpture could be added to this area in the future. Mechanical equipment above the one-story support space would be screened from Ingraham Street. She concluded with an interior view and renderings from the playing field, noting that the site fence is omitted from the drawings.
Mr. Freelon commented that the quality of the previous proposal appears to have been lost in the current submission. He acknowledged the budget constraints and the problem with extensive glazing, but he said that the previous design had an appropriate degree of architectural character while the new design is too boxy and plain. He suggested finding a design treatment that would soften the starkness of the design. Mr. Krieger agreed, commenting that the current proposal merely looks cheaper than the previous concept. He said that several of the design changes are not necessarily problematic—reducing the extent of glass, using primarily metal panels, and featuring the word “LATIN” on the south facade—but the one-story support space seems especially weak, including the mechanical penthouse that is insufficiently concealed.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk said she supported the design approach of creating a third distinct architectural vocabulary within this school complex. She suggested consideration of additional windows to improve both the exterior and interior, commenting that extensive natural light is useful in a gymnasium, whereas the proposed single tall window might result in glare. She accepted the treatment of the support space as a white one-story volume with a red screening wall above; but she suggested that the street frontage be enlivened with some windows, even small ones, to show that this volume is an inhabited space rather than storage. She added that even bathrooms in this area could benefit from some natural light; windows would therefore benefit the interior as well as the streetscape, serving to connect the inside and outside.
Mr. Krieger commented that vertical windows can be particularly problematic in a gymnasium; he suggested using clerestory windows and considering the solar orientation, with glazing on the north being less prone to glare. He supported a more creative approach that would increase the interior daylight and improve the exterior character; he noted the intended importance of the gymnasium as a backdrop for outdoor school events as well as an interior gathering space. He added that windows near the basketball court should be feasible for the typical recreational activity of a high school gymnasium, and curtains could be provided if desired. Mr. Freelon emphasized that additional fenestration would provide an opportunity for improved articulation of the exterior, perhaps with shading structures that could soften the crude character of the facades. Ms. Lehman reiterated the budget constraint; Mr. Krieger said that this is apparent in the design.
Chairman Powell noted the consensus of the Commission to encourage refinement of the design; he suggested delegating further review to the staff. Mr. Krieger said that the Commission could see the project again, unless the construction schedule is very tight; Ms. Lehman responded that the schedule calls for completing this addition in the next year. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission approved the concept with the strong recommendation to modify the fenestration to improve the interior lighting and exterior appearance, with further review delegated to the staff. Mr. Luebke noted the Commission’s clear desire for modification of the design; he said that if the next submission is not responsive, the staff would place the project on the Commission’s agenda.
F. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
SL 15-009, 2501 M Street, NW, Mixed-use office/residential building. Replacement building facades for conversion to all residential use. Concept. (Previous: SL 14-142.) The submission was approved earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
G. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
Mr. Simon introduced April Stafford of the U.S. Mint to present alternative designs for two Congressional Gold Medals with bronze duplicates, noting that the two medals are separately authorized although both are related to military aviation history. He provided samples of the bronze duplicates for past Congressional Gold Medals. Mr. Krieger asked which versions would be available for sale. Mr. Simon responded that typically one gold medal is struck and awarded to a person or organization in accordance with the authorizing legislation, and bronze duplicates are struck for sale to the public; gold medals are not available for sale. The two gold medals currently submitted would be presented to the Smithsonian Institution and to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
1. CFA 16/OCT/14-5, Congressional Gold Medals honoring the American Fighter Aces. Designs for gold medal and duplicates in bronze. Final. Ms. Stafford summarized the authorizing legislation to honor American fighter aces—military pilots who are credited with destroying five or more enemy aircraft in aerial combat—in recognition of their contributions throughout the history of aviation warfare. She said that fewer than 1,500 of the nation’s 60,000 fighter pilots have qualified as fighter aces, encompassing service in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
Ms. Stafford noted that the design alternatives have already been reviewed by the Mint’s Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC), as well as by the American Fighter Aces Association which is the Mint’s liaison organization for this medal. She presented the designs preferred by these groups from among the six obverse and eight reverse alternatives that were submitted. Obverse #1 is a preference of the liaison; obverse #2 is a preference of both the liaison and CCAC. Reverse #1 is the liaison’s preference; reverse #7 is recommended by the CCAC. Mr. Krieger asked about the size of the medal; Ms. Stafford confirmed that it would have a three-inch diameter, matching the medals provided for the Commission’s inspection; the level of relief would also be similar, depending on the design chosen. Mr. Krieger commented that one of the samples contains an impressive level of detail; Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed.
Mr. Krieger suggested pairing an obverse that emphasizes the pilots with reverse #1 that emphasizes the airplanes. Ms. Plater-Zyberk observed that some combinations would result in redundant inscriptions that would need to be revised; Mr. Luebke added that the Commission may wish to address the multiplicity of typefaces in some combinations. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested obverse #2 with reconsideration of the inscriptions; she recommended adjusting the composition to avoid having the left edge of the ace symbol touching a pilot’s chin. She added that the borderless composition would pair well with reverse #7, but this would result in duplication of the ace symbol. Mr. Krieger said that the border on one of the sample past medals creates an elegant composition with smaller lettering. Ms. Plater-Zyberk observed that this sample medal has a border on both sides, and she recommended a consistent treatment in selecting an obverse and reverse; Mr. Krieger agreed.
Mr. Freelon supported obverse #1, noting that it is preferred by the liaison. Ms. Stafford clarified that obverses #1 and #2 were both supported by the liaison, which she explained is a person identified by the Mint in consultation with the legislative sponsors; the liaison provides subject-matter expertise throughout the design development process. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested combining obverse #2 with reverse #1 to avoid duplication of the ace symbol. Ms. Stafford noted that the liaison did not select obverse #7 due to its lack of depiction of airplanes or pilots; Mr. Krieger and Mr. Powell emphasized that airplanes should be part of the medal’s design. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the American airplanes on the reverse would be sufficient, and the depiction of an enemy airplane on obverse #1 is not needed; therefore obverse #2 is preferable. She suggested a general criterion that images not be duplicated on the obverse and reverse. Mr. Krieger said that the depiction of the pilots is more recognizable in obverse #1 due to the four portraits showing more of the flight uniforms. Mr. Freelon agreed, and he suggested resolving the comments by recommending the introduction of a border on obverse #1 that would encompass smaller lettering of “American Fighter Aces,” adding that the typography could be refined further by the designers. Ms. Gilbert commented that the combination of obverse #1 and reverse #1 would result in a dynamic medal design due to the strong diagonals and active scenes on each side. Ms. Plater-Zyberk observed that obverse #1 gives importance to the enemy airplane.
Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon with second by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission recommended obverse #1 and reverse #1 with coordinated typography. Mr. Krieger reiterated that smaller lettering can result in an improved design with emphasis on the figural elements, as seen in one of the sample medals; Mr. Freelon agreed.
2. CFA 16/OCT/14-6, Congressional Gold Medals honoring the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders. Designs for gold medal and duplicates in bronze. Final. Ms. Stafford summarized the authorizing legislation for a gold medal to honor collectively the crew members of the Doolittle raid in April 1942, the first U.S. air strike on Japan during World War II. The sixteen airplanes had a total of eighty crew members, of whom four are now living; the group became known as the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders.
Ms. Stafford noted that the submission comprises fifteen obverse and nine reverse alternatives; she presented the selected designs that were preferred by the Mint’s Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) and by the liaison who has consulted with the surviving crew members. She said that obverse #2 is recommended by the CCAC, but the liaison has commented that the aircraft carrier is depicted without a superstructure which is not consistent with the design of American carriers; the CCAC has agreed that this design, if selected, could be modified to include the ship’s superstructure. She also presented obverse #3, preferred by the liaison because it best conveys the essence of this risky mission including the rough weather conditions as the airplanes were launched. For the reverse she presented alternative #4, preferred by the liaison, and alternative #8, which is the CCAC preference. She noted that reverse #4 includes references to the patches of the four squadrons that participated in the raid, as well as the group’s motto “Toujours Au Danger”; the liaison cited these elements as important to the veterans. Reverse #8 includes a view of airplanes flying in formation with a map below of the coastline around Tokyo; the CCAC preference was based on the graphic strength of this design, while the liaison commented that the planes actually went to multiple targets and did not fly in formation as depicted.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk observed that “Bombardment” is misspelled on reverse #4 in the submission materials; Ms. Stafford responded that this has recently been corrected. Ms. Plater-Zyberk supported the preferences of the liaison—obverse #3 and reverse #4—and suggested that the typefaces be coordinated, as with the medal previously reviewed. The other Commission members agreed. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission recommended obverse #3 and reverse #4 with coordinated typography.
Ms. Lehrer recalled from the September 2014 meeting that the Commission had asked for several revised designs in the First Spouse series, such as a new reverse design on the theme of the arts for the coin honoring Jacqueline Kennedy; she asked if revised designs would be submitted for Commission review. Ms. Stafford responded that the CCAC, which met after the Commission of Fine Arts review, agreed with the Commission that the Jacqueline Kennedy reverse symbolizing the arts was an unsatisfactory design. She said that the Mint staff assembles the comments from the Commission, the CCAC, and when applicable any advisory committees or liaisons, and forwards the information to the Secretary of the Treasury for a final decision on the design. She confirmed that the recommendations of the Commission and CCAC were included for the First Spouse series and said that no response has yet been provided by the Secretary of the Treasury. Mr. Freelon and Mr. Krieger acknowledged that the Commission’s role is advisory. Ms. Stafford offered to inform the Commission of the selection that is made by the Secretary of the Treasury.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:04 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA