The first part of the meeting (for agenda item I.A) was convened in the auditorium of the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, at 9:10 a.m.
The remainder of the meeting was convened in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum, Suite 312.
Hon. Earl A. Powell, Chairman
Hon. Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Vice Chairman
Hon. Philip Freelon
Hon. Liza Gilbert
Hon. Alex Krieger
Hon. Mia Lehrer
Hon. Elizabeth Meyer
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
I. Submissions and Reviews
A. National Park Service
CFA 20/NOV/14-1, Dwight D. Eisenhower National Memorial. Intersection of Maryland and Independence Avenues, between 4th and 6th Streets, SW. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 16/OCT/14-1) Mr. Luebke introduced the revised concept submission for the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Memorial. He said that due to the large size of the presentation materials and the many members of the public in attendance, the first part of the meeting has been moved from the Commission's regular public meeting room to the auditorium of the National Building Museum, and the agenda sequence has been adjusted to consider this item first; the administrative items are listed afterward on the agenda, followed by the remaining project submissions.
Mr. Luebke summarized the previous reviews of the memorial, submitted by the National Park Service on behalf of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission. A concept design was approved by the Commission in July 2013, and again in October 2014. The current submission is for an interim design-development review, including details of the proposed sculpture, the fabrication of the tapestry, and the overall landscape design; the final design submission will include additional design elements such as signs and lighting. He noted that the Commission is asked to provide comments on the submission, and no action is required.
Mr. Luebke asked Peter May of the National Park Service and Brig. Gen. (ret.) Carl Reddel, executive director of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, to begin the presentation. Mr. Reddel emphasized that the memorial design is an artistic expression of Eisenhower's legacy as a general and U.S. President. He introduced architect Craig Webb of Gehry Partners, who introduced several other members of the project team: historian Lou Galambos of Johns Hopkins University, sculptor Sergey Eylanbekov, architect and artist Tomas Osinski for the tapestry, and landscape architect Roger Courtenay of AECOM.
Mr. Webb presented the overall concept, beginning with a design analysis of the Lincoln Memorial that he said has served as an inspiration for the Eisenhower Memorial in its handling of the processional approach and its moving use of sculpture and inscriptions. He said that architect Frank Gehry has conceived of tapestry at the Eisenhower Memorial as a means to define an urban space; theater director Robert Wilson, part of the project team, has shaped the narrative of Eisenhower's legacy using depictions of the Kansas landscape of his childhood as a metaphor for his character and values. The single remaining tapestry in the revised concept would depict an abstracted Midwestern landscape in a layered space that is framed by buildings and defined at the north by two freestanding columns. These two columns would be treated as strong, simple forms; he presented images of sculptural embellishments that are being considered for placement near these columns. The primary material of the columns, paving, and perhaps the sculptural bas-reliefs behind the bronze sculpture groups would be an ochre-colored limestone.
Mr. Galambos discussed the images chosen as inspiration for the two sculpture groups. The figure of General Eisenhower is based on a photograph of the general addressing paratroopers of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division before the invasion of Normandy. The depiction of President Eisenhower in the Oval Office with members of his cabinet is also derived from a photograph and is intended to portray a leader balancing domestic needs with national security. Mr. Eylanbekov described these bronze sculptures as works combining realism and abstraction with roughly textured surfaces that suggest life and movement.
Mr. Osinski said that the tapestry also would balance realism and abstraction. The central concept guiding the tapestry image is that Eisenhower's character, formed in his youth, is embodied in the Kansas landscape. A simulation of a representative landscape—meant to appear at once vast and inviting—has been created from a montage of different manipulated images. He described the innovative computer process developed to manufacture the welded stainless steel tapestry; he also discussed the challenge of achieving the desired visual effect, a combination of the linearity of an Albrecht Dürer woodcut with the softness of a painting by J.M.W. Turner. The tapestry would be made of several hundred panels, each three by fifteen feet; some fabrication work would be done by hand. Major challenges include achieving a gradation of tonal value in a tapestry composed of steel, and ensuring that the image would be legible in changing outdoor light conditions against the backdrop of the Department of Education building. He noted that viewers would see the tapestry only partially and from different angles rather than in its entirety.
Mr. Courtenay described the changes that have been made to focus the landscape design in response to the Commission's comments. The landscape's character is meant to recall remnant woodland and the informal groupings of trees typical of Midwestern farms. The site grading would be essentially flat, with a slight rise toward the memorial's core area; plantings would include trees, grasses, and herbaceous species, most native to both Kansas and the mid-Atlantic region. Trees would generally be placed forty feet apart. The Maryland Avenue alignment would be planted with turf comprising the mix of grasses developed by the National Park Service for the National Mall lawn panels; turf beneath the trees would be taller and more informal. Native canopy trees would form the framework of the landscape in a somewhat loose arrangement intended to focus views along the diagonal walks towards the memorial's core. At the promenade along the Department of Education building, a line of American elms would form an open canopy behind the tapestry. He emphasized the intention in the memorial landscape, continuing through the tapestry image, to relate the views of the sky and ground in order to evoke the Kansas landscape and provide balance to the visual experience of the memorial.
The Commission members inspected the models, drawings, and material samples, asking questions about the submission. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked for further information about panel seams and night lighting for the tapestry. Mr. Webb responded that the tapestry's panels would be connected to a cable net stretched between the supporting columns; LED lighting would be installed at the bottom of the tapestries; resulting in the brightest lighting at the bottom of the tapestry. Mr. Freelon asked about the dimensions and materials of the cylindrical columns. Mr. Webb responded that the column diameter has been reduced from eleven feet to ten feet, which is the smallest dimension that accommodate the structural load; the columns would have concrete cores clad in one- by two-foot limestone panels. Noting Eisenhower's role in desegregating the Army, Mr. Freelon asked about the portrayal of different ethnicities among the servicemen comprising the sculptural group facing General Eisenhower; Mr. Eylanbekov responded that this would be studied after the composition is worked out.
Chairman Powell invited comments from members of the public in the audience. Patricia Moore, on behalf of architect Arthur Cotton Moore, asked why Mr. Gehry is being allowed to violate the L'Enfant and McMillan Plans. Justin Shubow of the National Civic Art Society criticized the central sculptural figure as inappropriate in portraying Eisenhower as an adolescent, describing the sculpture as a clichéd and sentimental depiction that would lack any sense of Eisenhower's ambition and strength. In addition, he observed that the seated statue's position on a low wall would—inappropriately—allow people to touch it and pose with it for photos.
Ms. Lehrer commented that the Eisenhower Memorial is an extraordinary project, describing it as abstract and inventive as well as deeply traditional, and she said that the tapestry effectively would effectively portray the American landscape. She added that the memorial promises to be a successful landscape at multiple scales and for a range of people, including visitors and office workers, but she cautioned that this will depend on shade and the ground plane. She asked for further information about the design of the ground plane and the density of the grove; Mr. Courtenay responded that the grove would be planted with no discernible order except along the street edges. He said that the intention is to obtain trees of different ages and sizes; the selection of individual trees will help determine their final placement, but the goal is a strongly defined grove with openings cut through for views. Ms. Gilbert asked for further information on the tall grasses and consideration of treating the ground plane as a real meadow. Mr. Courtenay responded that a meadow was considered, but it would not be effective on the limited site of 2.5 acres; he noted an earlier design with drainage swales that would be reminiscent of the Kansas prairie, but the swales would inhibit people from walking freely through the landscape. He said that the less-groomed turf would be a mix of tall and creeping fescues with a height of six to eight inches, subject to the future management practices of the National Park Service.
Mr. Krieger agreed with Ms. Lehrer that the Eisenhower Memorial will be extraordinary because of its complexity. He commented that the opportunity for visitors to touch the statue of the young Eisenhower is an advantage of the design, not a drawback. He observed that the depicted height of the proposed podium varies in the presentation materials and asked if railings might be necessary to keep people from climbing on them. He also asked if Eisenhower's stern appearance in the two statuary groups is intended, observing that he appears to have a more friendly disposition in the source photographs. He commented that the bas-relief depiction of the Oval Office behind the presidential group resembles draperies against a flat wall, and he suggested that the relief should be more sculptural to convey the room's shape.
Observing that the framing elements between the tapestry's panels would affect its overall appearance, Mr. Krieger recommended preparing a mockup of a portion of the tapestry with its framing for the Commission's review. He said that the visibility of the supporting columns behind the tapestry could detract from the continuity of its image, and he recommended adjusting the tapestry's composed landscape image so that denser portions would be located to obscure the columns. He commented favorably on the removal of the two tapestries on the sides of the site, and he encouraged using the presented sculptural embellishments at the base of the two freestanding columns. He expressed appreciation for the more thorough description of the landscape in the presentation. He suggested eliminating the proposed gap in the street trees along Independence Avenue, intended to allow more distant views to the memorial's core, and instead recommended maintaining a continuous line of trees to support the streetscape, with gaps only in the line of trees along the inner edge of the sidewalk. He concluded by requesting care in ensuring that the selected quotations are accurate.
Ms. Meyer observed that this was the first presentation she had seen of the Eisenhower Memorial that conveys the relationship among the site elements, particularly of their textural qualities, and the first in which the description corresponds to the design. She commented that the treatment of the sculptures and the tapestry could suggest how to mediate between specificity and abstraction in the landscape, which she finds too literal in its use of typical Midwestern tree species. She noted on the similarity between the montage process used in designing the tapestry and 19th-century discussions of landscape art as the intensification rather than replication of a particular landscape, and she recommended developing a more convincing abstraction of the Kansas landscape.
Ms. Meyer said that the form of the grove would be more powerful if some of the trees were more tightly spaced and if the irregular gaps along Independence Avenue were eliminated, commenting that the trees would be sufficiently limbed up to allow views beneath their canopy. She added that the open vistas along the Maryland Avenue axis and the diagonal approaches will inevitably reduce the grove's coherence, and further openings would therefore not be desirable. She supported the intention to select trees of different sizes and ages, commenting that this would have a significant positive effect on the quality of the space; she recommended modeling the selected trees more precisely to explore the relationship between the structure of the living trees and of the trees depicted in the tapestry.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk joined in recommending that the gaps in street trees for views from Independence Avenue should be eliminated, which would allow the Maryland Avenue corridor and the two entrance walks to be as prominent as possible. She also recommended replacing the proposed large elms behind the tapestry with less conspicuous understory trees. She suggested that the bas-relief panels behind the sculpture groups be very simple. She also commented that eliminating the two freestanding columns would not detract from the strength of the composition.
Chairman Powell expressed the Commission's appreciation for the comprehensive presentation and the interesting development of the design. Mr. Luebke noted the Commission's request for a mockup of the tapestry mounting system; Mr. Krieger added that the presentation models should also be enhanced to depict how the grid would affect the appearance of the tapestry. Ms. Lehrer suggested that large black-and-white elevations of the planting proposal would help the Commission to understand the structure of the trees. Mr. Freelon asked for renderings depicting the pattern of the column cladding and how a column would appear to a person standing next to it.
Mr. Luebke summarized that the Commission has requested more information about the tapestries, the sculptures, and the central elements, including the bas-reliefs. He noted the Commission's continuing recommendation that inscriptions should be as close to original texts as possible, adding that the submission of inscriptions should include information on their typography and location. He suggested that for the proposal to move toward final approval, future submissions should present individual pieces such as: the central sculptural elements with inscriptions; the tapestries and the monumental columns; and the landscape including lighting, signage, and perimeter security. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
(Following a recess, the Commission reconvened in Suite 312 at 11:42 a.m. for the remainder of the meeting.)
A. Approval of the minutes of the 16 October meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the October meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 22 January 2015, 19 February 2015, and 19 March 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.
C. Report on the launch of the new CFA website: www.CFA.gov. Mr. Luebke reported that the Commission's redesigned website began operating the previous day. The goals of the redesign have been: to improve information on public meetings; to facilitate access to records; to provide better public communication through social media connections and a blog; and to add thematic and historic information about the work of the Commission. He noted the extensive contributions by Ms. Raposa and Ms. Batcheler of the Commission staff. He provided a demonstration of the new website, noting that it already includes a photograph of the Commission members that was taken earlier in the day. Mr. Krieger offered congratulations to the staff.
Mr. Luebke reported that Susan Harris, the reporter present at the meeting table for preparation of the transcript, would conclude her fifteen years of service to the Commission following today's meeting. He expressed appreciation for her longstanding efforts.
III. Submissions and Reviews (continued)
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider the submission for Lafayette Elementary School.
I. D.C. Department of General Services
CFA 20/NOV/14-9, Lafayette Elementary School, 5715 Broad Branch Road, NW. Building modernization and addition. Concept. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission may wish to act on this project without a presentation; the staff does not have major concerns with the proposal, but it does not meet the criteria for inclusion on the Consent Calendar. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the concept submission; the Commission also delegated review of the final design to the staff. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented on the excellence of the design as documented in the submission booklet, suggesting that it could serve as an example for other applicants of a successful contemporary addition to an historic building; Mr. Powell and Mr. Krieger agreed. Mr. Krieger also requested that the staff look carefully at the scale of the project's exterior amphitheater, which may require further design study.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item III.B.
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 Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that three projects were added to the draft appendix—two D.C. school alterations and a Fort McNair temporary fire station—with favorable recommendations. The listing for the solar-powered identification signs at the St. Elizabeths East Campus was also updated to reference a supplemental concept submission; the recommendation remains favorable. He said that the design now responds to the staff request to unify the solar panel and pylon into a single form, and he requested that the Commission delegate review of the final design for this project to the staff. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler said that the recommendation for proposed antennas at the Willard Hotel was changed to be favorable based on design revisions (case number SL 15-019); she said that supplemental materials are still anticipated for this project and for an additional project (SL 15-014), and she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations after receipt of these materials. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised appendix. (See agenda items III.G.1 and III.G.2 for additional Shipstead-Luce Act submissions.)
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. The Commission approved the revised appendix. Mr. Martinez noted that the Old Georgetown Board would meet in early December as regularly scheduled, and its recommendations would be circulated to the Commission members for timely action in advance of a formal adoption at the Commission's next meeting in January.
C. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
CFA 20/NOV/14-2, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F Street, NW. Expansion project. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 18/SEP/14-3) Mr. Luebke introduced a revised concept for the proposed southward expansion of the Kennedy Center. He summarized the previous reviews, beginning in January 2014 when the Commission recommended further development of the landscape. A revised submission was presented in September 2014, and the Commission advised conceiving of the project as a unified landscape with the adjacent Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway and the Potomac River, giving this relationship the same level of attention as other elements within the site. He noted that Chairman Powell, an ex officio member of the Kennedy Center's Board of Trustees, has recused himself from voting on the project. Mr. Luebke asked Deborah Rutter, president of the Kennedy Center, to begin the presentation.
Ms. Rutter said that the design process has led to a better understanding of how the new interior and exterior spaces could be used for expanded programming. She introduced Chris McVoy of Steven Holl Architects and Jeff Valentino of Hollander Design Landscape Architects to present the design.
Mr. McVoy and Mr. Valentino described changes made to the landscape design since the September presentation, referring to a new model that clarifies the site's topography. Mr. McVoy said that the design comprises a series of gardens and pavilions creating new public spaces and connecting the existing building to its surroundings, including the parkway and the walk along the river. In certain areas the landscape would be lifted up to allow views into the new underground spaces.
Mr. McVoy said that the landscape would descend from the Kennedy Center's south terrace down a stepped lawn to the intermediate level of the south lawn, situated approximately fifteen feet above the parkway—high enough to buffer the gardens from traffic noise and views of the traffic. A walk would lead from the foyer of the Kennedy Center over the terrace to the proposed "Glissando Pavilion" and to the pedestrian bridge over the parkway to the "River Pavilion"; a canopy sheltering the walk would create a horizontal plane framing views of the landscape and river. The pedestrian bridge—hinged to accommodate the vertical movement of the River Pavilion floating on the tidal river—would be framed in steel to allow for a thin structural profile for the eighty-foot span, rather than using concrete as originally designed; the steel structure would be painted white, and the pedestrian deck would be mahogany. Guardrails placed along steep areas would consist of bead-blasted stainless-steel stanchions supporting spring-tensioned cables to avoid the need for a top rail, resulting in a visually minimal design.
Mr. McVoy said that the site of the proposed landscape is currently used for parking and is separated from the parkway by a screen of trees and a narrow, sloping strip of land. The project would add new trees to the existing line of trees to the north. The parking garage entrance has been designed to merge into the landscape through the use of berms and a wall that separates the entrance and exit lanes. Ventilation of the belowground areas along the driveway into the garage would be placed behind new perforated concrete walls and incorporated within some existing vertical features.
Mr. McVoy discussed details of the different landscape areas. Native redbud trees, which flower in early spring, are now proposed instead of Magnolia soulangeana. The grove of 35 gingko trees at the south end of the lawn would grow from a ground plane of stabilized decomposed granite. The south lawn, planted with switch grass, would slope down toward the river to the west; switch grass would also be planted around walks separating the south lawn from the entry area on the east. The reflecting pool on the south lawn has been designed to merge visually with the river by omitting coping on the west edge and allowing the water level to rise almost to the bluestone coping on the other sides; sloped sides would accommodate the expansion of freezing water, and the pool could therefore remain filled during the winter. Black river rock lining the bottom of the pool would enhance its reflectivity.
Mr. McVoy said that the exterior of the pavilions would be a dense titanium concrete, formed in a single pour to avoid the need for joints; they would resemble monolithic sculptural blocks, with a fine horizontal grain imparted by the formwork of wood slats. Most of the glazing would be a translucent white, etched for a matte surface; approximately ten percent would be transparent. Pavilion interiors would be lit with a slightly warmer color temperature than exterior lighting, and he said that the combined effect of glazing and lighting should make the pavilions appear to glow at night.
Ms. Meyer questioned Mr. McVoy's characterization of the 60-percent slope below the south lawn as "gentle"; she said that this is actually very steep and would need to be stabilized. She suggested using a low retaining wall to address some of the slope, so that the remaining incline could have an angle of less than 33 percent. Mr. Valentino responded that the slope would be gentle at the north end and become increasingly steep toward the south, where it would be stabilized with an earth retention system.
Mr. Freelon asked for clarification of the transition between the roof and wall on the pavilions. Mr. McVoy responded that the roofs, which would be visible from some locations, were originally planned to be vegetated. However, since they would be too small to provide much environmental benefit, they have been redesigned as planes sheathed in a white waterproofing membrane that would terminate at the top of the walls in a bead-blasted stainless-steel plate, leaving only a thin edge visible from below.
Ms. Lehrer observed that while the triangular shapes of the site plan seem to have been derived from the proposed buildings, the hardscape does not appear to follow the same logic; she added that these shapes would not function well where the slopes come to a point. Mr. McVoy responded that the landscape is designed to reflect the geometry of the glissando motif, and to support the idea of fusing architecture and landscape; in three areas the pavilions curve down into the ground, or the landscape curves up the walls of the buildings, and these areas would be defined by Cor-Ten steel edging and planted with sedum.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the project has developed significantly since the September presentation. She said that the connection of the covered walk with the main building appears unresolved and could be better integrated. She reiterated the Commission's previous suggestion to go beyond adding a few trees at the edge of the site along the parkway, and instead to design the entire length of this section of parkway on both sides so that it appears to be part of a comprehensive scheme rather than the incidental landscape of the Kennedy Center alone. Mr. Krieger agreed, urging the Kennedy Center and the National Park Service to collaborate in improving the parkway. Ms. Lehrer supported the recommendation to think inclusively about the parkway, citing the nationwide focus on riverways and the importance of weaving different sites together.
Ms. Lehrer commented that the gingko grove, intended as a quiet seating area, would be located next to a busy highway; she recommended raising the barrier wall to buffer the grove from traffic noise and exhaust. Ms. Gilbert suggested further consideration of the busy juncture of the bicycle path with the walk to the River Pavilion; Mr. McVoy responded that the bicycle path would be widened at this point, and the extent of widening could be studied further. Ms. Gilbert observed that the pavilions would work well in conjunction with nighttime lighting displays such as the recent Northern Lights installation.
Mr. Krieger described the Kennedy Center expansion as an extraordinary project that would ultimately depend on the fine detailing of joints between materials. Observing that such joints are not visible at the scale used for the models and drawings, he recommended that the project team provide clearer depictions of some of these detailing issues.
Ms. Meyer commented that, in general, the project has generally been well developed. She reiterated her concern that the sixty-percent slope would be difficult to stabilize. She noted the thin white line that appears in the design as a roof, ramp, or lintel, and she suggested extending this feature as a means of handling the joints between planes and materials, and to provide visual continuity for the public face of the landscape along the parkway. She said that this device could also solve such technical problems as the need for a higher traffic barrier beside the gingko grove. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the intermittent use of railings might be visually disruptive, and she suggested repeating some design details to help in descending the slope along the parkway while hiding the railing above the garage entrance.
Chairman Powell commented that the Commission strongly supported the revised concept. Mr. Luebke said that a vote is not needed, and the project is moving toward a final design submission. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
D. National Park Service (continued)
Mr. Simon introduced two site selection studies for memorials that have been authorized by federal law; he noted that the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission has reviewed these studies and came to a general consensus on recommended sites. While these leading sites have been listed on the agenda, they are not formally proposed at this stage of the process; the Commission of Fine Arts is welcome to provide comments on any of the sites in the studies, or to suggest other sites, or to comment more generally on the selection process. He asked Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation.
Mr. May said that these site selection studies are currently in a public comment period, during which the National Park Service is seeking comments about the suitability of sites. He said that the National Park Service is considering modifications to the traditional sequence of site and then design consideration in order to improve the efficiency of the process, which involves reviews by the Commission of Fine Arts, the National Capital Planning Commission, and the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission, as well as environmental and historic preservation review. The modified process would include providing design information in conjunction with a future submission requesting approval of a site.
1. CFA 20/NOV/14-3, Brigadier General Francis Marion Memorial. Site selection. Proposed location in Marion Park, NPS Reservation #18, intersection of South Carolina Avenue, 5th and E Streets, SE. Final. Mr. Simon noted that this study considers sites in the residential neighborhood of Capitol Hill, and some neighborhood residents have asked to address the Commission. Mr. May asked John McCabe of the Francis Marion Memorial Project, the sponsoring foundation, to introduce the presentation.
Mr. McCabe said that General Francis Marion is considered South Carolina's greatest Revolutionary War hero. During the war's most difficult period, when the American cause seemed lost, most of the fighting was carried out by militia groups in the Carolinas, and Marion was the most prominent leader of these partisans. Mr. McCabe asked Mary Kay Lanzillotta of Hartman-Cox Architects to present the site selection study.
Ms. Lanzillotta said that the intention is to select a modestly sized site with a connection to Francis Marion; the memorial is envisioned as a small sculpture, possibly with seating around it, and it could be located within a portion of a park. She described six potential sites along South Carolina Avenue that have been considered in the study. Two sites are in Garfield Park, which is under the jurisdiction of the D.C. government. Another potential location is Marion Park, a small national park between 4th and 6th Streets, SE; it was named for Francis Marion in 1887. She described Marion Park and its context in greater detail: walks subdivide the park into three areas, including a western section with a small playground and a central area located on the axis of 5th Street, SE. This axis continues north to Stanton Park and its equestrian statue of Major General Nathanael Greene, commander of the southern army in the Revolutionary War. Historically, 5th Street had extended through the park; after the park was enclosed in the 1880s, a large urn was located on the 5th Street alignment in the center of the park, and the park was redesigned again in the 1960s. The study also includes three small and somewhat undeveloped D.C. parks: at the intersection of South Carolina and Pennsylvania Avenues near the Eastern Market Metro entrance, where a redeveloped park is currently being planned; at South Carolina Avenue and C Street; and at the intersection of Massachusetts, Independence, and South Carolina Avenues. She said that other sites were suggested during the public scoping process, including Folger Park and Seward Square; Seward Square is located on Pennsylvania Avenue to the north on the 5th Street axis.
Mr. Freelon commented that locating the Marion Memorial in Marion Park would be appropriate, especially with the axial connection to Stanton Park and the Nathanael Greene statue. He observed that the path system dividing Marion Park into three areas would allow for various siting options. Mr. Krieger agreed that the combination of name and location makes sense, especially for a relatively modest memorial. Ms. Gilbert observed that nearby Lincoln Park has a similar layout, with a playground, an open area, and statues, and it functions well. Ms. Lanzillotta agreed, adding that Washington has other examples of commemorative works within federal parks accommodating multiple uses.
Chairman Powell recognized Kim Nead, a resident of the Marion Park area. Ms. Nead commented that the narrow, congested streets of this residential neighborhood would be difficult for tour buses to negotiate; an additional constraint is that the park is not well maintained. She also noted that many freed slaves moved to the neighborhood after the Civil War, and a church next to the park had been funded by freed slaves and designed by an African American architect. She said that siting a memorial to Francis Marion—who had owned hundreds of slaves—would therefore be insensitive at this location.
Ms. Meyer acknowledged the importance of the neighborhood concerns and expressed appreciation for the information about the area's history. She said that the policy direction in recent years has been to decentralize memorial locations, reducing pressure on Washington's monumental core, and this can result in such tensions because people may not think of their neighborhood park as a memorial setting. She said that a site along South Carolina Avenue would be appropriate because it would reinforce a principle of the L'Enfant Plan—to relate the culture and history of an individual state to the avenue that bears its name—and she therefore supported locating the memorial on South Carolina Avenue. She agreed with Ms. Nead that maintenance is important, and she recommended linking the memorial funding with money for park improvements. Mr. Powell also supported the importance of maintenance. Ms. Meyer added that this Memorial will likely not attract a large number of visitors.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk observed that all of the studied sites have potential but she suggested eliminating the two in Garfield Park and those at busier locations, such as along Pennsylvania Avenue, because they would be more suitable for larger commemorative works. She said that she is sensitive to the neighborhood concerns, but the Marion Park site has many favorable attributes including its relationship to the Nathanael Greene statue; she said that cities rarely offer the opportunity to make such narrative connections. She supported the suggestion to link the memorial's construction funds with improved park maintenance. Ms. Lehrer suggested that plans for larger parks should consider the opportunity for adding memorials and for tying memorial funding to park renovation.
Chairman Powell summarized that the Commission's comments would be provided to the National Park Service. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
2. CFA 20/NOV/14-4, Peace Corps Memorial. Site selection. Proposed location in NPS Reservation #727, intersection of Louisiana Avenue, 1st and C Streets, NW. Final. Mr. May said that this site selection study is comparable to the previous presentation on siting a memorial to Francis Marion. He introduced architect Roger Lewis of the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation to discuss the potential sites.
Mr. Lewis said that the rationale for the memorial is described in the foundation's submission materials that have been provided to the Commission; he noted the intention for this memorial to be of interest to visitors from abroad as well as to Americans. He said that the study focuses on four locations, including three designated in the Memorials and Museums Master Plan published by the National Capital Planning Commission in 2001. The first location (part of master plan site #46) is a flat area of approximately one acre located at Pennsylvania Avenue and M Street, NW, in a mostly residential neighborhood at the eastern threshold to Georgetown. He noted that this site may be larger than needed for the small memorial that is envisioned. The next two locations (part of master plan site #44) comprise a pair of small triangular parks along Pennsylvania Avenue between 18th and 19th Streets, NW. The parks are surrounded by large office buildings, including the headquarters of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He said that both sites would require extensive work to make them suitable for this memorial; the northern reservation, dedicated to broadcaster Edward R. Murrow, is the location for a planned public art project reviewed by the Commission in June 2014. The last location is a small triangular park at Louisiana Avenue and 1st and C Streets, NW (master plan site #25), across from the northern part of the U.S. Capitol Grounds and the Senator Robert A. Taft Carillon. Mr. Lewis said that his group finds this small site of less than 9,000 square feet to be an appropriate size and in the best location for the planned memorial.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk expressed support for the consideration of smaller sites. Mr. Krieger commented that the best memorial to the Peace Corps is that it continues to serve people throughout the world; he said he is not convinced that the Peace Corps needs a commemorative work. If a memorial is created, he suggested that the foundation should follow the logic in the previous agenda item of placing the memorial to Francis Marion on South Carolina Avenue—which for the Peace Corps might suggest a location near an airport or train station. Mr. Lewis clarified that the project is not intended to be a memorial to the federal agency but instead would commemorate the 1961 founding of the Peace Corps; it would honor the meaning of this event within American history and the fundamental American ideals and values embodied in the Peace Corps. He added that the memorial would not concern travel, nor would it memorialize President John F. Kennedy or Peace Corps volunteers; he also noted that the Peace Corps has no connection to the World Bank. Mr. Krieger suggested that a suitable commemoration might be adding an inscription to the Peace Monument (formerly known as the Navy Monument) at Pennsylvania Avenue and First Street, NW. Mr. Lewis responded that the small size of the Louisiana Avenue site means that the Peace Corps memorial would have to draw importance through its connection to other nearby national memorials, serving to add a new topic—beyond wars and military heroes—to the American story told by these memorials. He noted that the memorial design would be selected through an open national competition in 2015, and the foundation has no preconceived idea about an appropriate design.
Ms. Meyer commented the foundation should consider Mr. Krieger's suggestion about the Peace Monument. She observed that a network of sites exists in that area, extending from the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, at 2nd Street and Washington Avenue, SW, to the Grant Memorial at the foot of Capitol Hill, a memorial which remains one of the most graphic depictions of the horror of war. She urged Mr. Lewis and the foundation to think of the proposal in a narrative relationship to a string of memorials, not just as a small site near important institutions. Mr. Lewis responded that such a connection is intended, and he noted that the memorial to Japanese American patriotism in World War II is near the Louisiana Avenue site being considered.
Chairman Powell agreed in supporting the Louisiana Avenue site and expressed appreciation for the presentation. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
E. Department of State
CFA 20/NOV/14-5, Harry S. Truman Building, Main Headquarters, 23rd and C streets, NW. Perimeter security barriers and streetscapes. Revised concept for overall plan. (Previous: CFA 21/OCT/10-6, overall concept.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the revised proposal for site improvements at the Department of State headquarters building. He noted the numerous past submissions, with previous approvals in 2004 and 2010 that have subsequently expired. The current request is to renew the concept approval, and the submission includes recent revisions to the design and phasing schedule. He asked engineer and project manager David Grossweiler of the Department of State to begin the presentation.
Mr. Grossweiler described the historic development of the building and the current program. The initial phase, known as the Old War Building, was built in the late 1930s at the corner of 21st and D Streets; the State Department greatly extended the building in the late 1950s to encompass 2.5 million square feet, filling the enlarged site between 21st, 23rd, C, and D Streets. The design challenge over the past decade has been how to update the building to address modern issues. The perimeter security project is intended to provide adequate protection for the State Department while providing a streetscape that is respectful of the local residents and visitors. He noted that this building was identified by the Department of Justice as having the highest level of vulnerability in a study of security needs for federal facilities; factors in this study included the number of federal employees on the site, the functions taking place there, and the symbolism associated with the building. He added that, among State's approximately forty facilities in the Washington area, only the headquarters building and Blair House have been given this highest classification of security needs.
Mr. Grossweiler said that the concept design that was approved in 2010 would have resulted in impacts on pedestrian and vehicular circulation as well as on street parking. Over the past four years, federal and D.C. officials have been working toward an agreement on how to minimize or compensate for these impacts, with the goal of a design that addresses community needs while providing adequate security. The current submission includes the result of these recent efforts. Improvements include the introduction of low-impact design features to address stormwater runoff, and a revised location for a delivery truck inspection area along the D Street edge of the site rather than along 21st Street; he noted that this revision requires the completion of pending coordination with the National Park Service for a drive that would cross a small park reservation. He said that the current proposal provides an improved long-term design for both 21st and 23rd Streets, including a more consistent treatment of the view south on 23rd Street toward the Lincoln Memorial. He introduced architect Enrique Bellini of Karn Charuhas Chapman & Twohey and landscape architect Faye Harwell of Rhodeside & Harwell to present the design proposal in greater detail.
Mr. Bellini described the existing conditions and the proposed concept for the site. He indicated the existing truck inspection infrastructure on the east side of 21st Street and the proposed site for relocating this facility to the north side of the building, in an area that has been occupied by construction trailers for approximately fifteen years. The proposed treatment of 21st Street would be consistent with typical D.C. streetscapes, and a dropoff area would be provided along the curb in front of the Diplomacy Center. He also indicated the existing temporary guardbooth at 22nd and C Streets, which obstructs the vista north on 22nd Street to one of the main building entrances; the proposal would eliminate this guardbooth and would use retractable bollards that would be less visually intrusive. Existing parking along C Street would be eliminated, and vehicular barriers within the 23rd Street cartway would be removed. The design at 23rd and D Streets has been revised with improved aesthetics and pedestrian safety, providing a small park for people approaching from the Foggy Bottom Metro station. An existing highway ramp on the building's north side would be slightly realigned to improve the relationship with the proposed truck inspection facility. He summarized the location of security barriers, the extensive landscaping, the improved alignment of curbs, and the design for permanent guardbooths. He noted that the curbline and landscaping of C Street would relate to the street's design to the east at the Federal Reserve buildings.
Mr. Bellini said that the previous seven-phase construction schedule has now been compressed into two phases. Most of the proposals would be implemented in the first phase, anticipated to begin in 2016; several of the entrance pavilions and canopies would be in the second phase. He emphasized the consistent design character of the building's existing entrance canopies, including a granite base and stainless steel columns; the proposed guardbooths would have a related design character. He noted that the D Street entrance pavilion, part of the first phase, has been revised to eliminate the previously proposed green roof as recommended by the Commission; the revised canopy profile would match the dimension of existing canopies, and the overall height of the pavilion has been adjusted in proportion to a two-bay increase in its length.
Ms. Harwell presented further details of the proposed landscape. She summarized the goals of providing perimeter security, conforming to D.C. streetscape and transportation requirements, and enhancing the public realm by creating meaningful public spaces. The design approach includes varied placement of streetscape elements and an overall emphasis on long, elegant, and simple proportions. She said that the small parks are generally placed near building entrances; benches are intended to have an inviting character; plantings are selected for resilience and easy maintenance; and the varied position of vehicular barriers, which responds to the security requirements, is intended to have a rational appearance. She added that the design emphasizes the experience of pedestrians, but the appearance from vehicles is also important—particularly along 23rd Street, which has a relatively high volume of traffic. The proposal incorporates low-impact development strategies, which are intended to be integrated into the overall streetscape design rather than become obvious or dominant elements; these include bioretention in open areas, at tree planters, and beneath sidewalks. The D.C. government has requested that the site design accommodate stormwater from the street as well as from the sidewalk; the calculation for the extent of bioretention areas will be finalized after the project's hardscape area is determined. She indicated the cellular structural soil system that is proposed beneath the sidewalk, a design that was successfully used recently at the Supreme Court site. She emphasized that the predominant design character would be plantings rather than other types of low-impact design infrastructure; the selection of plantings will be a challenging task, particularly because the D.C. government's plant palette for low-impact design does not match the list that was approved by the U.S. General Services Administration.
Ms. Harwell described the design elements at each edge of the building. She indicated the position of bollards; some would be freestanding for ease of pedestrian passage, and others would be linked by horizontal rails to discourage people from walking across adjacent planters. She described the bollard design as simple, highly crafted, and having beautiful finishes; they would be set on hardscape surfaces rather than within planters. Barrier walls would be used to provide plentiful seating, primarily near building entrances. Consideration was given to views toward nearby parks and statues. The entrance to the Diplomacy Center along 21st Street would be flanked by bosques of flowering trees, and an existing flagpole would remain at the center of the entrance plaza. She said that street trees would be spaced in accordance with D.C. government standards; the infrastructure provided should allow the trees to reach a height of sixty feet or more. She indicated the design treatment at the street intersections, where the bollard alignment would be pulled away from the corners to provide open pedestrian circulation. Much of the C Street frontage would not require barriers due to the controlled access at 21st and 23rd Streets, resulting in a park-like character in this area. She confirmed that vehicular delta barriers rather than bollards would be placed across each end of C Street. She indicated the small adjustments that have been made to the design in response to existing grade conditions, and the use of light-colored paving that is consistent with the original design for the building entrances. Existing materials such as the granite coping would be saved where possible; additional granite would be selected to match the original.
Ms. Harwell presented additional site details. The bollard height would be slightly lower for bollards located near the street curb. The connecting rails would be simple rectangular extrusions; the connection detail has not yet been designed, but careful attention is being given to all such details that people will see at close proximity. The barrier walls would be taller than the minimum standard in order to accommodate the varying grade, and lighting fixtures would be located beneath the benches. Other streetscape furnishings include lightpoles and bicycle racks; along 23rd Street, the benches and planters would serve to screen the bicycle racks from the street views. She concluded by presenting material samples and discussing the proposed material colors, noting that the indoor and outdoor appearance can be very different. Several colors of stone would be used, relating to the limestone and granite of the existing building and the guidance of the D.C. government for a compatible streetscape design. The bollards would be gray with a medium tone and sheen; she said that black would be too heavy, and the exact selection of the finish is still being considered.
Mr. Luebke emphasized the diligence of the design team in responding to the complex program, multiple review agencies, and changing government standards during the lengthy design process. He cited examples of evolving D.C. requirements for public space and traffic lanes, as well as ongoing coordination with the Federal Reserve streetscape project across 21st Street. The revised phasing plan has also affected the current submission, which provides an overall consolidated plan for the streetscape and perimeter security while leaving the detailed design of the entrance pavilions for a future submission.
Ms. Meyer asked about the employee population; Mr. Grossweiler responded that 5,200 people work in the headquarters building. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the proposal is very advanced for a concept submission. Ms. Harwell responded that the design process is now at the stage of carefully studying the details; the major outstanding topics are the connection details and plant selections. Ms. Lehrer expressed appreciation for the thorough presentation and commented that the proposal is comprehensive while appearing to be effortless. She said that the security elements are an unfortunate necessity in the project, and the design integrates them successfully into the streetscape; she said that the proposal works well, even with the complexity of the edge conditions. She summarized her overall support for the design.
Mr. Krieger asked about the purpose of the horizontal rails between some of the bollards; Ms. Harwell confirmed that they are not part of the vehicular barrier system but serve as a visual cue to discourage pedestrians from walking through the planters, which will have a lower grade and will often be wet. She added that the location of the rails also responds to the D.C. government's requirements for pedestrian circulation between the curb and sidewalk, resulting in a rhythmic pattern for the rail placement. Mr. Krieger commented that the combination of rails and bollards is an aesthetically awkward part of the proposal; the connection of the rectangular bars to the face of the circular bollards will result in a detailing problem. He therefore recommended that the rails be eliminated from the design, while emphasizing his overall support for the thoughtful project. Ms. Harwell responded that an alternative was considered to connect the rails along the middle of the bollard alignment, but the detailing was unsatisfactory, and this issue remains unresolved.
Ms. Meyer agreed with Ms. Lehrer that the project has an apparent effortless simplicity that likely results from extensive design effort. She suggested addressing Mr. Krieger's concern by using taller plants as a deterrent to pedestrians rather than relying on metal rails between the bollards; she encouraged developing a solution that would allow for removing the rails from the design. She noted that the Commission has seen multiple projects involving stormwater management and perimeter security within wide sidewalk areas; this proposal is notable for creating credible public spaces that reflect careful thought about how people will use them. She said that the design of the seating appears comfortable in some places but not in others; she recommended further study of the details, such as the seat width and the angle of the back wall, to ensure that all of the seating will be comfortable to use.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk recalled the previous review of this project and expressed support for the development of the design, including the responsiveness to the previous comment on using a consistently thin proportion for the roofs of the entrance pavilions. She emphasized the formal urban setting of this streetscape and said that the plantings at the bioretention areas should not result in a rural design character; as an example, she said that the taller plantings suggested by Ms. Meyer could be treated as a hedge rather than as naturalistic grasses.
Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the concept submission. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that further review could be delegated to the staff; Ms. Meyer instead requested the opportunity for further review by the Commission to evaluate design details and plant selections.
(Chairman Powell departed at this point, and Vice Chairman Plater-Zyberk presided for the remainder of the meeting.)
F. Department of the Navy
CFA 20/NOV/14-6, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB), MacDill Boulevard and South Capitol Street, SW. Installation of approximately 50 acres of carport-, ground-, and roof-mounted photovoltaic panels at various locations. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal for an extensive installation of solar panels at the Anacostia-Bolling base along the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. He noted that the project is at an early stage, before the Navy has advertised for a contract, and the Commission's response is sought on the general concept for the project. The numeric target for energy generation would result in fifty acres of solar panels; slightly more than half would be ground-mounted. He asked Tara Meadows, a natural resources specialist with the U.S. Navy, to present the proposal.
Ms. Meadows said that the project results from the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the subsequent goals for renewable energy that were established by the Department of Defense. The Secretary of the Navy has now set a goal of generating one gigawatt of power from renewable energy sources on or near Navy installations by 2020; the Navy is also undertaking a program to coordinate with local commercial utility companies in constructing renewable energy infrastructure on Navy property. This program resulted in an initial study of potential Navy sites for solar power generation, including several in the Washington region; the Anacostia-Bolling base and another at the Patuxent River are now being pursued as the first stage of implementing the program. The current intention is to generate power to be consumed on site in order to reduce the Navy's dependence on commercial power sources.
Ms. Meadows presented plans of the intended locations for solar panels, noting that the north and south parts of the base have separate utility systems due to the history of the site as two separate military bases; the goal is to generate five megawatts of electricity for each of these utility systems. She indicated the different types of locations being considered—including building rooftops, carport structures within surface parking lots, and ground-mounted panels—totalling approximately 35 acres on the north side and 15 acres on the south side. She said that each proposed site was evaluated for space availability and is still being studied for such factors as economic feasibility. Mr. Krieger asked if the entirety of the colored areas on the plans would need to be covered with solar arrays; Ms. Meadows responded that only a portion of these areas would be used, and the extent of the colored areas—particularly on the north side—would be more than sufficient to meet the intended target for electricity production.
Ms. Meadows presented images of typical photovoltaic panels that would be used at each type of location, along with generalized views of how the panels might appear in the proposed locations. She emphasized that specific designs have not yet been developed. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if the angle of the panels would be consistent throughout the base; Ms. Meadows responded that the angle is determined by the site's latitude, although the rooftop panels may be set at a lower angle than the ground-mounted panels. Mr. Freelon clarified that an optimal range of angles would typically be defined, and the exact position could vary within this range.
Ms. Meadows indicated several features of special interest in the views of potential sites. A rooftop array is being considered for Building 168, a World War II photographic laboratory that is considered historically significant. An adjacent parking lot along South Capitol Street is depicted with an array of carport solar panels; she acknowledged the staff's previous concern with views along this gateway route into central Washington, particularly in the vicinity of the Douglass Bridge to the north. She presented several photo simulations of the solar panels in this area from distant viewpoints—Hains Point, Buzzard Point, and mid-span on the Douglass Bridge—and indicated the visibility of rooftop arrays and two large areas of ground-mounted panels.
Ms. Lehrer questioned the project's limited focus on photovoltaic arrays, suggesting that the project could benefit from an expert on solar power who could advise on newer technologies. She also commented that the project could potentially be integrated well into the Anacostia-Bolling context but the intended design-build procurement process may not produce an aesthetically successful result, and a poor design would be prominently visible. She emphasized that the project should have good design and up-to-date technology, perhaps integrating the energy infrastructure with planting, topographic changes, and a well-designed structural system.
Ms. Gilbert asked for clarification of the current use of the areas proposed for ground-mounted arrays. Ms. Meadows responded that these areas are parkland within the base, primarily grass-covered; they include playing fields and tennis courts. She noted that another large area of athletic fields is located elsewhere on the base, and the fields designated for solar arrays are less frequently used.
Mr. Krieger commended the Navy for undertaking this project. He said that within an important viewshed such as along South Capitol Street, a surface parking lot with solar panels above would look better than a parking lot without the panels. He cited an example at Boston's Logan Airport, where solar arrays have been installed above the upper levels of several large parking garages; despite initial public skepticism when they were proposed, the result is beautiful and people now choose to drive to the roof in order to park and walk beneath the panels. He suggested obtaining photographs of the Logan Airport arrays, which demonstrate that large-scale installations can be especially attractive. He emphasized the importance of good design while encouraging implementation of this project, adding that visual screening of the panels would not be desirable.
Mr. Freelon commented that photovoltaic technology is typically not cost-effective and he questioned whether the budget for the project has been adequately considered. Ms. Meadows said that she does not have cost information available, but the Anacostia-Bolling base was identified as having favorable economics as part of a broader study of Navy sites. Ms. Meyer said that this project may be intended as a prototype for a nationwide program; this purpose would justify further investment in obtaining a good design that could then be used economically in other locations, rather than trying to save money in the near term through a design-build contracting process. She cited several design issues that are worth careful study, such as how the solar panels relate to an existing roof or park or parking lot, and how they could define a path. She emphasized the benefit of having a design team whose incentive is to develop the best design ideas that could be used here and elsewhere.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the photographs of existing solar panel arrays demonstrate that they can be designed with or without thoughtful care. She suggested that the Navy's request for proposals could include design criteria that establish the importance of this issue, such as calling for an appealing and replicable prototype. She added that the design process should include consideration of the area beneath the panels that are installed on open space: if the existing grass will not survive, the area may be paved which could result in additional environmental concerns that should be addressed in the design. Ms. Lehrer said that design-build contracts for public projects are sometimes awarded through a competition in which several project teams are paid to develop an initial design idea within an overall project budget. She emphasized that in the absence of a special emphasis on design in the contracting process, the incentive is for efficient and profitable construction. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that the project's civic presence be a design criterion, and she cited the history of utilitarian building and structures being celebrated through special designs. She said that the design evaluation could include recognition that the existing setting, such as surface parking lots, already has a civic presence along the South Capitol Street gateway that could be improved; this project provides the opportunity for such improvement.
(Ms. Lehrer departed the meeting at this point.)
Mr. Krieger emphasized his support for good design, but he said that the goal should be to celebrate the solar panels rather than to screen or hide them. He observed that the carport configuration of solar panels would provide welcome shade for the cars below, regardless of the design details; Ms. Plater-Zyberk added that the evaluation of the design may be different if the area beneath is simply unused pavement. Mr. Krieger encouraged establishment of general design criteria and selection of a good project team while emphasizing his overall support for implementing the project.
Mr. Luebke suggested an action on the concept submission; Mr. Krieger and Ms. Meyer responded that the submission has not yet been developed to the stage of a concept design. Mr. Krieger suggested a consensus that the Commission supports the general idea of the proposal and looks forward to review of a more detailed concept. Ms. Plater-Zyberk added that the Commission should see a more site-specific proposal for each of the potential sites that is selected. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
G. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs — Shipstead-Luce Act
1. SL 15-028, The Portals, 1399 Maryland Avenue, SW. New 15-story residential building. Concept. Mr. Luebke introduced the proposed 440-unit residential building at the western end of The Portals, a complex of buildings that frames Maryland Avenue between 12th and 14th Streets, SW. He said that this former railroad freight yard was initially approved in 1987 as a six-building mixed-use development of approximately three million square feet. Four buildings have been completed—a hotel and three office buildings—as well as the infrastructure of constructing Maryland Avenue above the remaining active railroad line. The two unbuilt sites, currently used as surface parking lots, are in the northwest portion of the overall development area; the ground plane is approximately 45 feet below the elevated deck of Maryland Avenue. The site of the current residential proposal—previously planned for an office building—has frontage on 14th Street as well as on Maryland Avenue, and the location is prominently visible from vehicles entering central Washington on the busy 14th Street Bridge complex at the transition from the freeway to city streets. He noted that a building on this site would also be highly visible from other important locations such as the Jefferson Memorial, the Tidal Basin, and the west bank of the Potomac River.
Mr. Luebke said that the previously approved development plan for The Portals established a height limit of 90 feet above the elevated deck of Maryland Avenue, which would typically result in nine stories for residential or hotel use. The project is now controlled by D.C. zoning regulations, which allow a maximum height of 130 feet; a residential building at this height could rise approximately four stories above the other buildings of The Portals. He noted that in 2001 the Commission had rejected a proposed eleven-story 110-foot-tall building for this site, characterizing the proposal as a behemoth that would be out of scale with the context; the current proposal would be two stories taller than the previously rejected project. He added that the building would also extend below Maryland Avenue to the ground plane, and its full height of 176 feet would be visible from some vantage points. He described the height of the current proposal in comparison to several nearby buildings: 40 feet higher than the Mandarin Oriental Hotel within The Portals; 26 feet higher than the adjacent office building; 55 feet higher than the Bureau of Engraving and Printing; and double the height of the Liberty Loan Building across 14th Street. He added that the staff has raised these concerns with the project team during consultation meetings, with particular emphasis on the visual sensitivity of this entry point to central Washington; the submission responds to some of the staff concerns including simplification of the architectural language. He introduced Paul Whalen of Robert A.M. Stern Architects to present the design.
Mr. Whalen provided a description of the context. The triangular site is bounded by 14th Street, Maryland Avenue, and a future diagonal pedestrian plaza within the Portals that would separate this residential project from the one remaining development site to the northeast, providing a walkway to 14th Street. He described the formal landscape character of the Mall to the north and the transition to the informal character of the Tidal Basin and riverfront to the west and south. The highway and railroad infrastructure are also prominent parts of the context; U.S. Route 1 bends to join 14th Street adjacent to the project site as high-speed traffic enters the city grid, and a heavy traffic volume also exits the city through this gateway. He said that the building design needs to address the variety of different scales in the area, including the urban blocks of the L'Enfant city as well as the larger-scale highway and railroad and the extensive nearby parkland that goes beyond the historic scale of the Mall.
Mr. Whalen presented the design response to the context. The project's west and southeast facades would be prominently visible from the highway approach, with the west facade being particularly important as a visual introduction to the existing urban context of government buildings along 14th Street. The west facade is therefore designed to relate to the architectural character and facade heights of these existing buildings. Immediately south of the project, the curving railroad makes the transition between open-air tracks and a tunnel beneath Maryland Avenue; this condition will remain, even as other portions of exposed tracks to the east may be enclosed by future projects for reestablishing the continuity of Maryland Avenue. The southeast facade responds to this more open and large-scale context with curving forms and extensive plantings, a gesture that is intended to symbolize the place where the open landscape meets the city. The curved form is generated by carving away from the overall massing of the building, which relates to the more traditional form of the nearby federal buildings; he described the federal buildings as having beautiful, simple detailing that exemplifies the public perception of Washington architecture. He also noted the design's relationship to more modern buildings in the wider context: the Hirshhorn Museum, with a sculptural form at the edge of an open landscape; and the L'Enfant Plaza complex, with an iconic presence that is also part of the city fabric. He said that the proposed design also relates to the other buildings of The Portals, which have large-scale design gestures such as a rooftop arch or a unifying mansard roof.
Mr. Whalen provided further details of the site conditions and the proposed design. The complicated grades to the south—with the elevated cul-de-sac of Maryland Avenue, the exposed railroad tracks 34 feet below, and the adjacent ascending grade of the highway rising from 14th Street—are addressed by extending a landscaped terrace along the southeast facade at the level of Maryland Avenue. The landscaping would extend up to a roof terrace above the building's base and then to the curved balconies of the apartments and onto the building's roof. The three upper floors of the building would be recessed from the overall massing and would have a lighter architectural character, which he likened to an attic or mansard element; these curving upper floors would form a distinct contrast to the traditional massing of the building, particularly when seen from the west and north. He indicated that the traditional massing would have a clear bottom, middle and top as well as vertical facade elements that would relate to the existing architecture of 14th Street. The curved northwest corner of the building is intended to relate to the cylindrical entrance projection of the Holocaust Memorial Museum to the north along 14th Street; he also cited other Washington precedents such as the curved apex of the Federal Trade Commission building in the Federal Triangle. He presented several perspective views of the proposal, describing it as a bold building that is in a bold location where such a design approach makes sense.
Mr. Whalen described the building's height as an appropriate gesture to mark a distinct termination of the city fabric at the edge of the open landscape to the south and west; he said that the urban form would resemble other cities where taller buildings are located at the edge of a large park or waterfront. The landscape details at Maryland Avenue would highlight the dramatic transition between the L'Enfant city and the broad open landscape. He noted that the building's northeast facade would have very limited visibility from streets, and the lower two-thirds of this facade would generally be obscured by other buildings. The design intention for this facade emphasizes the experience of pedestrians walking along the adjacent plaza, with interesting textures and a pattern of landscaped balconies above. The upper floors would be visible from a distance and would emphasize plantings and the complex form and shadows of the curving balconies. He said that the lower street-level area to the north is used for service and is not typically used by pedestrians; trees would be planted along the other street frontages where pedestrians are more likely to be present. He presented elevations with comparisons of the proposed building's height to other nearby buildings in The Portals and at L'Enfant Plaza; he noted that the existing U.S. Postal Service headquarters at L'Enfant Plaza is slightly higher than the proposed building. Mr. Luebke asked for clarification of the depicted height of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel; Mr. Whalen responded that the hotel's occupied height is 90 feet, measured from the elevated circle of Maryland Avenue, and the hotel's large mansard roof rises more than two stories further.
Mr. Whalen presented more distant perspective views from Reagan National Airport and the Potomac River bridges to illustrate the proposal in the context of the D.C. skyline; he indicated the Old Post Office tower and the U.S. Capitol dome in the background. He characterized the proposed building as supporting a relatively balanced skyline for the city, while also providing an emphatic edge at the transition between the relatively tall buildings to the east, lower buildings to the west and north, and the open landscape to the south. He indicated the rendering of the extensive plantings rising along the facades, which he said have the effect of reducing the building's visibility in the distant views; the site appears to be part of the landscape, with light reflecting off certain portions of the facades. He described the proposed design as a calm and elegant background to the nearby parks; the presence of the adjacent highway would only be apparent when the building is seen from a closer vantage point. He concluded with a perspective rendering of the most prominent view of the building when approaching 14th Street from the bridge and highway; he emphasized that the proposed building would serve as an introduction to the classicism of central Washington toward the west and north, and as a landscape gesture toward Maryland Avenue to the southeast.
Mr. Luebke said that the height of the proposal is a significant issue for this project. He noted that the issue arises because the earlier buildings of The Portals were governed by a master plan that was adopted through an extensive public process; this plan is no longer in effect, resulting in a greater height limit allowed by D.C. zoning regulations for the current proposal. Regardless of these changes, he said that the Shipstead-Luce Act continues to require review by the Commission due to the federal interest in the appearance of this project at the edge of Washington's monumental core. Vice Chairman Plater-Zyberk asked for clarification of why the master plan is no longer applicable. Steve Grigg of Republic Properties Corporation, the developer of The Portals, responded that the overall development was regulated by an urban renewal plan when the D.C. government awarded his firm the development rights in 1985. The urban renewal plan has subsequently expired, and the property is now subject to D.C. zoning. He noted that the regulatory stance toward height has evolved in recent years—including changes to the previous 90-foot limit within The Portals—and the city's decision to measure the height from the elevated cul-de-sac of Maryland Avenue is consistent with other similar conditions such as at L'Enfant Plaza. He emphasized that the existing buildings at The Portals include decorative arches at the roofline, one of which rises seven feet above the 130-foot height limit of the proposed residential building. He also noted that a 160-foot-wide easement has been protected within the Portals for the extension of Maryland Avenue, which may soon be connected to other projects that would restore Maryland Avenue above the rail tracks to the east and provide an improved connection to the Eisenhower Memorial site. He summarized that the development of The Portals has evolved over time, along with changing attitudes toward the use of the site and the architecture of the buildings.
Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission may comment on the project's height regardless of the maximum allowed by D.C. zoning, and in 2001 the Commission had opposed a proposal for a 110-foot-high building for this site. He asked for clarification of the numerous height notations on the presentation drawings. Mr. Grigg responded that the notations indicate the number of feet above the D.C. datum level, which relates to sea level; all of the height notations are therefore comparable regardless of the varying ground plane and the measuring point for regulatory compliance, and the relationship of the proposal to the overall D.C. skyline is more readily evaluated with this notation system. He also confirmed that the noted heights typically refer to the top of the highest occupied level, without including mechanical penthouses or architectural embellishments at the roofline.
Ms. Meyer commented that the height issues, while important, are secondary to more general issues of urban design and the federal interest. She described the context as a precinct of buildings that forms a threshold between the Potomac River and the Mall; very few of the buildings in this precinct are privately owned, and none are residential. In introducing a private residential building to this context, she said that it should be as mute and invisible as possible. However, she said that the proposed massing is fussy and draws far too much attention to itself. She suggested that the design approach should be a simple building at an important corner of this precinct, rather than a complex hybrid of architecture and park design. She said that treating the site as a transition is a misreading of Washington's form; the city's larger landscape scale encompasses extensive groups of buildings and the overall monumental core. She discouraged the intention to be bold and iconic as inappropriate for a residential building, and said that curves should not be used to symbolize the landscape. She acknowledged that the site has ended up in private-sector ownership and therefore can be developed with a private building, and she emphasized that the site benefits from its extraordinary views to the memorials and waterfront. She summarized her guidance that the design goal should be to create a good, unobtrusive neighbor rather than to engage in architectural "gymnastics."
Mr. Freelon observed that the presentation had initially emphasized the design goal of a bold statement, while the concluding comments referred to the building as an elegant and gentle design. Mr. Whalen clarified that the elegance referred to the building's appearance from a greater distance, as seen in several of the concluding perspective views; he agreed that the building would not be characterized this way when seen in close proximity. Mr. Freelon commented that the conflict of these intentions is apparent in the design: the undulating form of the upper stories does not appear to be combined well with the more rectilinear traditional form of the rest of the building, resulting in an incongruous design. He recommended that the proposal be developed with a more harmonious blend of styles so that a sense of elegance is apparent from close as well as distant views. Mr. Whalen asked if the conceptual treatment of some of the facades as landscape-like is problematic for the Commission; Mr. Freelon said that it could be acceptable if the design's two architectural concepts could come together more successfully.
Mr. Krieger commented that the more distant perspective views in the presentation are not persuasive because they merely show that the project would be less visible from farther viewpoints. He said that the closer views illustrate the project's boldness, which is a subjective quality that some might characterize as "kitsch." He said that the building's height may not necessarily be a problem, but the proposed design makes the top three floors very conspicuous in rising above the nearby buildings, with the resulting visual impression that the building is calling undue attention to its extra height. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that the design is "flagrant;" Mr. Krieger agreed, adding that the design of the upper floors appears to be insulting the shorter neighbors. He also criticized the design of the more orthogonal portion of the design that emphasizes a base, middle, and top; he commented that in classical design these parts should have a relationship with each other, but the relationship is not apparent in this proposal. He described the overall design as too conspicuous, with an unsuccessful combination of different architectural languages; he said that the building might even be better if the scalloped balconies were instead used throughout the design so that they would become a background feature. He added that some of the renderings appear cartoonish because they overemphasize the shadows below the curved balconies. He recalled that the head of the architecture firm, Robert Stern, has often criticized modern architecture as having too many gestures and not enough ideas—a problem that may be inherent in this design.
Mr. Krieger supported the comments of other Commission members that a fundamental issue for this project is whether it should resemble other Washington buildings in the context or should distinguish itself from them; this issue is particularly important at this prominent gateway location in the city. He observed that the proposed design attempts to take both sides on this issue, with an ineffective result, and a better approach may be to choose just one position. He said that either response could be acceptable, although the prominence of the location suggests that a strong design gesture would not be necessary; people will certainly be aware of the building even if it is not trying so hard to be noticeable. He summarized his dissatisfaction with the current design approach, recommending a simpler concept while emphasizing that height is not the primary issue for him.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the intention is apparently to wallpaper the building with landscape, which is not possible to achieve: while the green roof could be managed as an entirety, the plantings on individual balconies would be subject to the separate choices of the residents. She suggested more focus on creation of a public park at the base of the building, perhaps extending into the building lobby, rather than attempting to mask the facades with landscaping. She characterized the proposal as a jungle growing across the building, which might be conceivable in a more tropical climate but not in Washington. Mr. Whalen clarified that the renderings depict plantings on only some of the balconies, and the design does not rely on uniform plantings for all of the apartment balconies. He added that more extensive landscaping is illustrated on the balconies of upper floors, where the more expensive apartments might be associated with more substantial landscaping investment by the residents. He confirmed that a consistent landscape treatment among the balconies could not be assured.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that an analogy has been implied between curved architectural forms and the landscape; however, this relationship is questionable. She suggested that the rationale for the design is to address the building's large scale by giving the appearance of at least two volumes—a more orthogonal portion, and one that emphasizes curves. Mr. Whalen confirmed that this goal is part of the design intent. Ms. Plater-Zyberk observed that this design approach is usually developed through vertically expressed volumes—as in the precedents shown in the presentation—rather than through horizontal layering of the different design vocabularies as in the current proposal. She said that an orthogonal volume beside a more curved volume could be a concept worth exploring; but the proposed design simply appears to stack buildings on a podium. She concluded that this architecture firm should be well-versed in designing the appropriate pieces for a more effective grouping of architectural volumes, but the current proposal is surprising. Mr. Krieger agreed, commenting that parts of the design are surprisingly weak in comparison to the usual quality of the firm's work; the design appears flat and unintegrated. He added that many buildings transform toward their top portions, but the transformation in this design is excessive. Mr. Whalen responded that juxtaposition is the design intent; Mr. Krieger confirmed that the Commission does not support the resulting design. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the design appears to be borrowing from the design vocabulary of the Watergate complex; Mr. Krieger said that Miami Beach architecture may be a precedent. He said that an apartment building with extensive balconies can be an effective design approach, both for the building's exterior appearance and for the enjoyment of the residents. But the proposed combination of styles is unsuccessful, and a more consistent approach is needed: the curved form throughout, or a more conservative orthogonal approach that may be somewhat dull but more appropriate in this context.
Vice Chairman Plater-Zyberk noted the consensus that the submitted concept design should not go forward, and the Commission could provide comments without voting on the proposal. Mr. Whalen summarized the overall guidance to create a well-designed background building, although some comments supported using curves throughout the building. Mr. Freelon and Ms. Plater-Zyberk added that a combination of architectural styles might be successful if articulated more carefully; Mr. Whalen said that this approach might not be pursued for the current project. Mr. Krieger commented that background buildings can have a contemporary architectural style, and the Commission is not pushing the design team toward a classical style; the issue is to achieve a background building rather than a more assertive design. Ms. Meyer commented that "all height is not the same," and the design could be developed in a manner that is more deferential to the larger context rather than appearing to push the limits of the allowable building envelope. She emphasized that this project should not try to look like the most important building in the area.
The discussion concluded without a formal action.
2. SL 14-151, 1444 Taylor Street, NW. Single-family residence. Third-story and rear addition to convert structure to a multi-family residence. Final. (Previous: CFA 18 September 2014.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the submission for alterations to convert an existing house to a multi-family residence. She noted that the Commission had reviewed the project in September and deferred action at that time to allow the applicant to develop a revised design. She summarized the setting of the modernist row house adjacent to Piney Branch Parkway, a part of Rock Creek Park. The previous proposal to add a third story and enlarge the overall footprint has been significantly modified since the September review. She noted that the Commission members have received written comments from neighbors and from Rickey Williams, the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) representative whose district includes this location; she said that Mr. Williams and numerous neighbors are present and have asked to address the Commission. She added that the staff has contacted National Park Service officials who manage Rock Creek Park; their primary concern is the exterior materials of the project. Vice Chairman Plater-Zyberk noted that two presentations remain on the agenda and the Commission may soon lose a quorum. Mr. Luebke suggested that the Commission hear the architect's presentation and respond to it, while relying on the ANC representative and the written comments to convey the neighborhood concerns. Ms. Batcheler asked architect James Foster of Arcadia Design to present the proposal.
Mr. Foster noted that his firm became involved in the project after the September review and was not involved in the previous design, although information about that design is included in the current submission for comparison. He said that he has surveyed the existing conditions more carefully than was done previously; the drawings now more accurately convey such details as the cantilevered roofs and recessed spandrel on the front facade, and the height of the adjacent house is also dimensioned more accurately. He added that the previously submitted renderings had exaggerated the height of the proposed addition. He presented a rendering of the new design, which he said would rise 7.5 feet above the top of the existing parapet on the front facade. He indicated the relationship of the proposed third-story window and spandrel to the features of the existing facade below. The projecting cornice across the front would be only six feet above the existing facade, serving to reduce the apparent height of the addition; he said that this would be particularly effective because the sidewalk level is more than a full story below the main entrance, resulting in a low viewing angle of the facade. The third-floor addition would also be set back nearly three feet from the existing front facade. Toward the rear of the property, the design now includes a transitional "hyphen" bay with tall glass doors and small balconies with metal railings, providing visual differentiation between the existing house and the full-height rear addition. He indicated the large windows in the rear addition, achieved by placing the apartments' living rooms in this area of the plan rather than toward the center as previously proposed; the existing house with smaller windows would be used for bedrooms and bathrooms. The existing motif of roof cantilevers and recessed spandrels would be used on the long side facade overlooking the park. The third-floor addition above the existing house would have a rhythmic series of window openings to give the effect of an attic story above the side facade.
Mr. Foster presented additional details of the current design. The new exterior materials would include tongue-and-groove cedar siding, painted or stained a dark charcoal gray, and stucco with a smooth finish; he said that masonry was studied but seemed too heavy along the park facade, while the proposed materials would have a lighter character and are consistent with mid-20th-century modern architecture. The existing service door below the front porch would be treated less prominently than in the previous design; it would provide access to a utility meter room, and no meters would be visible on the front facade. The entrance to the lower-level apartment would be along the side facade, with an access walk through the eight-foot-wide side yard. Air conditioning condensers in this side yard would be screened by low wood fences. The previously proposed roof deck has been removed from the design, eliminating the need for an exterior stair to the roof; the exterior stair has also been removed from the proposed rear balconies, and the depth of the balcony projection is now shown as seven feet rather than the previous proposal of ten feet. The balconies would also be set back two feet from each side of the building, and the support columns would be recessed to achieve a lighter design character. He concluded with several perspective views of the proposal, emphasizing the extensive use of glass for the facades along the park and the relationship of the project to the row of houses stepping up the hill.
Mr. Foster noted the context photographs that are included with the submission. He confirmed that a portion of the rear yard's side wall would function as a retaining wall, which is typical of the houses on this block due to the topography; only a small portion would serve as a privacy wall alongside the adjacent house's rear yard. He added that the side facade along this adjacent rear yard would match the existing exterior brick up to the level of the first-floor ceiling, and stucco would be used above to avoid an excessively massive appearance. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the site's relationship to the topography in the park; Mr. Foster indicated the level edge of the site and the relatively steep slope of the park. He said that the proposed construction would be eight feet from the property line, and changes to existing grades would be modest, so additional retaining walls would not be needed. He noted that the rear addition would extend 28.5 feet beyond the existing rear facade, and the depth of the rear yard would be fifty feet between the balconies and the rear alley. He added that the overall lot coverage would be approximately thirty percent, while the maximum allowed by zoning is sixty percent.
Mr. Freelon asked if the proposal would block any windows of the adjacent house; Mr. Foster responded that the existing and adjacent house are the same size, and no neighboring windows would be blocked. Ms. Gilbert asked about the rear yard structures shown in the context plan; Mr. Foster confirmed that many of the houses on the block have garages of varying sizes along the rear alley, but this house and the adjacent house do not have garages. He added that many other houses on the block are approximately eight or nine feet deeper and have rear extensions that vary from one to three stories; they are also taller and are located on higher terrain. Mr. Luebke noted that the existing rear grade is above the floor level of the planned basement apartment and would need to be excavated. Mr. Foster confirmed that the grade rises approximately seven feet toward the rear of the site, but he said that only a small depth of excavation would be needed around the proposed rear addition; the terracing of the rear yard would be pushed slightly further toward the rear of the site, and a level area of substantial size would remain. Parking at the rear of the site would remain, and ample space would be available for landscaping.
Mr. Luebke said that the new design responds to previous concerns raised with the project. He acknowledged the concerns of the neighbors, who have requested deferral to allow time for further design consultation; he said that D.C. government officials have encouraged this further consultation. Vice Chairman Plater-Zyberk observed that some of the issues relate more broadly to D.C. zoning and are not part of the Commission's review, which focuses on the proposal's impact on the adjacent federal land. She suggested that the Commission's review should occur after these other issues are resolved.
Vice Chairman Plater-Zyberk recognized Rickey Williams, the ANC member for district 4C-04 which includes the project site. Mr. Williams acknowledged the assistance of Mr. Luebke and Ms. Batcheler in discussing the project and facilitating public awareness of it. He noted the neighborhood's experience in recent years with other "pop-up" buildings on nearby blocks of Shepherd Street and Buchanan Street. He said that the ANC has considered this issue at length and adopted a resolution that pop-ups should not be allowed as a matter-of-right development under D.C. regulations; specifically, the resolution requests that a proposed conversion of a single-family home to more than two residential units should be referred to the ANC for review. The ANC considered taking a position on the facade treatment of such projects, but the decision was that aesthetic issues could be addressed through the ANC's review process with the involvement of the neighbors. He said that the ANC is not necessarily opposed to pop-ups, and the ANC has voted to support some residential additions; these projects had the support of the neighbors.
Mr. Williams said that he does not support the proposal for 1444 Taylor Street, as described in the letters that he has submitted to the Commission. He noted that the Commission of Fine Arts had previously requested a reduced footprint, a hydrology study, and further study of the massing; but he said that the only change is to reduce the footprint by removing the rear exterior stairs, which were no longer needed when the roof deck was omitted from the project. He said that the proposed design would not resemble any building in the immediate vicinity; the context is single-family homes made of a single exterior material. He said that a neighbor could comment further on the issue of the house's mid-20th-century architectural character. He added that the neighbors are concerned that the proposed rear exterior materials of stucco and wood could deteriorate more quickly than the existing brick, which has been in place for approximately sixty to seventy years. An additional concern is that the developer may revert to cheaper materials after the Commission's approval, resulting in a long-term blight in the neighborhood. He said that nearly all the neighbors are in opposition to the project.
Mr. Williams said that the subsequent to the previous review, the intention had been for the developer to consult with the neighbors; a meeting did occur, but he characterized it as a presentation of the design rather than a consultation meeting. He said that his group has contacted Mayor-elect Bowser and Congresswoman Norton, who support further discussion with the neighborhood. He noted that the long-time residents of the houses to the east would lose their view of the park due to the size of the proposed rear addition, which he said would be a disturbing result. He cited some promising correspondence between the developer and a neighbor that some sort of compromise may be possible, perhaps by reducing the depth of the large rear addition. He also noted that the project would be more prominent during winter when views of it are less obscured by foliage, and from a distance people would perceive a condominium building at the end of a row of single-family houses; he said that a condominium building would be more appropriate along 14th Street but not at this end of the block.
Mr. Luebke noted the numerous comment letters from the neighbors and the need to reserve time for the remainder of the meeting agenda. Vice Chairman Plater-Zyberk acknowledged the clear statement of concerns by Mr. Williams and summarized the two different sets of issues with the proposal: the impact on the park and the impact on the neighborhood. She also commented that the project has improved substantially with the new architect; she described it as a skillful design that could be a positive contribution to the neighborhood, which was not clear in the previous submission. Concerning the question of the size of the expansion, she noted that the Commission does not evaluate zoning compliance and relies on other regulatory agencies to review this issue. She noted her own experience with writing zoning codes and acknowledged that neighbors may not appreciate the potential impact of regulations until a project emerges that is surprisingly larger than people had anticipated. She suggested that the Commission defer action so that these local regulatory issues can be discussed and resolved separately before the Commission evaluates the aesthetics of the design.
Mr. Luebke said that the opportunity remains for fruitful discussion between the developer and the neighbors, and the staff could work with D.C. government agencies to support further consultation. He noted that the applicant has requested final approval for the building permit, but the submission is not yet fully developed, and the project is instead being treated as a concept submission. In order to simplify the complex procedure, he suggested that the applicant request a deferral rather than receive an unfavorable recommendation on the permit request; ample time should be available for consultation between the developer and the community prior to the Commission's next meeting in January. Mr. Williams supported a deferral.
Mr. Foster noted that a deferral would further extend the lengthy permit application review for this project, although the Commission's involvement began late in the process. He added that the project has already been approved for compliance with D.C. zoning, and he reiterated that the project would resemble other modernist houses in the neighborhood. He also noted that the developer has submitted eighteen letters of support from neighbors, although none of these supporters is present. He said that further deferral would be punitive to his client, the developer, who has gone through all required processes and undertaken revisions to improve the proposal. Observing that the neighbors' concerns primarily involve the project's scale, he expressed reluctance to consider further reduction of the size when the project is already designed to use only half of the allowable lot occupancy.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the issues include materials as well as scale, and she reiterated her support for further consultation with the community. Mr. Krieger acknowledged Mr. Foster's response but said that the process is not always fair; he emphasized that the design is greatly improved from the previous submission, and it now appears to complement the neighborhood reasonably well. He also acknowledged that some neighbors would lose views from their properties, but these views are not a protected right. He noted the significant impasse between the developer and neighbors, and he supported taking time for further consultation despite the impact on the project schedule. Mr. Foster asked if the applicant could insist on a vote; Mr. Luebke responded that this would not be appropriate for a concept review, and he noted the numerous people in the audience who would want to address the Commission prior to a formal action. Mr. Krieger said that the support of eighteen other neighbors is interesting additional information; Mr. Luebke said that this assertion cannot be verified because the staff has received follow-up correspondence that some neighbors have withdrawn their earlier support. Mr. Krieger summarized the consensus to recommend further consultation to achieve a compromise on the outstanding issues.
Mr. Foster asked if further review could be delegated to the staff in order to expedite the process, possibly resolving the outstanding issues and receiving approval before January. Mr. Luebke said that this would be possible, but even with delegated authority, the staff could choose instead to place the project on the Commission's agenda. Mr. Krieger suggested that the project could be approved in January at both the concept and final stages if the submission is satisfactory. Mr. Luebke confirmed this possibility, and he offered the assistance of the staff in facilitating discussion between the project team and the community. He acknowledged the presence of the community members in the audience and reiterated the time constraints of the lengthy meeting agenda, noting that the neighbors' written comments are part of the Commission's record.
Mr. Luebke said that the applicant would need to initiate a request for deferral; Mr. Foster confirmed that he would arrange this with his client. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
H. D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development / Hoffman-Madison Waterfront, LLC
1. CFA 20/NOV/14-7, Southwest Waterfront Development public spaces, amenities, and landscapes associated with Parcels 1, 2, 3b, 4, and 5, District Pier, Transit Pier, Market Pier, 7th Street Park, the Mews, Yacht Club Plaza, and Maine Avenue, SW. Final. (Previous: CFA 20/MAR/14-2.)
2. CFA 20/NOV/14-8, Southwest Waterfront Development. Waterfront Park, Water Street and M Place, SW. Final. (Previous: CFA 20/MAR/14-3.)
Mr. Lindstrom introduced the final design submission for two components of The Wharf, an extensive development project along the Southwest Waterfront: the public spaces associated with the first phase of development toward the northwest end of the project, and the Waterfront Park at the southeast end. He noted the separate agenda listings but said that these projects would be presented together as part of the same overall development. He asked Shawn Seaman of Hoffman-Madison Waterfront, the developer of The Wharf, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Seaman noted that numerous submissions for The Wharf have been reviewed by the Commission beginning in 2010, including previous reviews of the components now being submitted as final designs. The overall project encompasses approximately 25 acres on the land side, extending from the fish market to Ft. McNair, and it is being undertaken jointly with the D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. He said that utility work is already underway, which will be followed by construction of the below-grade parking garage and then the public parks, open spaces, and piers. He noted that Perkins Eastman has been the lead design firm for these public spaces, and individual parks are being designed by Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, Lee and Associates, Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, and Michael van Valkenburgh Associates. He said that the design responds to the Commission's comments from the previous review in March 2014, which included all of the components of the current submission. He introduced architect Hilary Bertsch of Perkins Eastman / EE&K to present the overall public spaces, including the Waterfront Park, and landscape architect Michael Vergason to present the 7th Street Park.
Ms. Bertsch described the design response to the comments provided by the Commission in the previous review. She said that the Commission had requested a more continuous design character along the wharf. The poles for lighting and utilities are now more regularly spaced at sixty-foot intervals, with a few exceptions at piers and plazas; she noted that this is similar to the approximately seventy-foot spacing of streetlights proposed along Maine Avenue. The spacing of trees along the wharf has also become more and continuous; a previously proposed performance stage at the waterfront end of Jazz Alley had interrupted the row of trees, and this stage has now been removed to provide continuity along the water's edge. Similarly, the wood surface of the Transit Pier would no longer extend across the wharf; instead, the typical wharf paving stones would continue between the Transit Pier and Parcel 2. She indicated the modification to the paving pattern in response to the Commission's previous comments, following further study of precedents elsewhere; the different stone paving types to differentiate the wharf's parallel zones are now all a similar gray color, and the combination of materials at the steps has been modified to improve the visibility of the tread edges.
Ms. Bertsch presented the proposed modifications to the project's gates and arches. She said that the Commission had questioned whether the use of wood for the Market Pier gate would be compatible with other design elements of the project. After further study and comparison with the utility poles at the wharf and District Pier, the Market Pier gate has been revised to use metal with an infill mesh pattern. For the lights across Jazz Alley, the support poles along the face of adjacent buildings have been eliminated; the design of the arched Jazz Alley sign has also been adjusted slightly to better express the structure of the arch.
Ms. Bertsch said that the Commission had criticized the generic design character of the fountain at Blair Alley, located at the center of a roundabout located between Parcel 2 and a temporary parking lot. The fountain design has now been revised to relate to the surrounding paving materials, with benches made of wood that is also used along the wharf. The fountain would also have a theatrical quality intended to relate to the music hall that is planned for Parcel 2. She also presented a simplified design for the fountain in the Waterfront Park; the steps within the fountain would be fewer and would have a more regular size and character. The previously proposed wood has also been changed to stone, providing a simpler palette of materials.
Ms. Bertsch presented additional drawings to clarify the streetscape design along Maine Avenue, as requested by the Commission. She indicated the pedestrian zone, a zone for trees and plantings related to stormwater management as well as for cafe tables, and a ten-foot-wide bicycle path.
Mr. Vergason presented the design of the 7th Street Park, extending between Maine Avenue and the waterfront where a pier would extend into Washington Channel; the park is envisioned as a residential green. He said that in the previous review, the Commission had questioned the logic of the paths across this green. He described the three purposes of the paths: to encourage use of the green, to provide paths along desire lines, and to suggest a formal coherence between the park and the nearby pier. He indicated likely destination points such as the hotel entrance; the relationship of the curved paths to the curve of the pier; and the repetition of the curve to create a sense of coherence through the area. He said that a fourth path has been eliminated from the design because it did not support the overall logic, and he said that the design now has an improved, simplified appearance. He presented diagrams and renderings to illustrate the modified design.
Vice Chairman Plater-Zyberk invited comments from the Commission members. Mr. Krieger expressed overall support for the changes, commenting that they respond to the Commission's comments, improve the design, and could also reduce the construction cost. He particularly supported the improved continuity of materials, and he suggested continued effort at simplification. He discouraged a design approach of determining all of the uses and activities during the initial design, and instead suggested that features could be added after the development has been in use; he said that this approach would allow for taking advantage of opportunities that would be more beneficial for the actual users of the project. He added that the rendering of the revised design for the Market Pier gate appears more complicated than in the previous design. Ms. Plater-Zyberk supported the change to metal for this gate, while supporting further simplification of the design.
Mr. Freelon complimented the project team on its responsiveness to the Commission's previous comments; he said that the design has improved, and he supported its approval. Ms. Plater-Zyberk observed that the poles along the wharf and Maine Avenue are generally aligned, but a few poles deviate from the alignment; she acknowledged that these deviations occur for good reasons, but she said that they would be distracting to people looking along the length of the wharf or avenue, and these poles would appear to be mistakes. She recommended achieving a consistent alignment, such as by adjusting the spacing of the poles in order to avoid any conflicts with other site conditions.
Ms. Gilbert characterized the metal water pipes in the Blair Alley fountain as an overly complex design that could block views of the Washington Channel. She recommended a simpler, less programmed design such as water spouts coming out of the ground; she encouraged a fountain that children could run through and that would allow open views to the river. She suggested that the fountain with water pipes could be located somewhere else in the project. Ms. Bertsch responded that two other parks in The Wharf include fountains that people can run through. Ms. Plater-Zyberk described the proposed Blair Alley fountain—using vertical pipes to allude to music—as a cliché; Ms. Gilbert agreed. Mr. Seaman said that the design is inspired by a fountain at a science center in Ontario that acts as a musical instrument; the proposed Blair Alley fountain is intended to be more restrained but related to the concept of music associated with the neighboring performance space, as well as the concept of water emerging from the ground. The intention is also to provide a different kind of feature than the interactive fountain at the 7th Street Park. Mr. Krieger expressed support for the Blair Alley fountain as proposed.
Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation for the presentation and the effort to simplify the design, which she said is still very rich in its vocabulary and textures. She supported Ms. Gilbert's comment that seeing the Washington Channel is important; the opportunity to be at the waterfront should be the primary draw of the project, and the power of the water allows for the simplification of the design. Mr. Krieger agreed.
Mr. Luebke said that the Commission could choose to approve the final design while asking the staff to review further documentation of the project, which would provide the opportunity to ensure a response to the Commission's concerns regarding pole alignments, the Market Pier gate, and the Blair Alley fountain. The fountain could also be excluded from the approval, and a revised design could be submitted for further review by the Commission or the staff. Vice Chairman Plater-Zyberk noted that the Commission often gives careful attention to public art in less prominent locations around Washington, and the important site of this fountain suggests the need for thorough review. Ms. Meyer agreed, supporting approval of the final design except for the fountain, which should be revised and submitted for further review by the Commission. Mr. Luebke agreed that delegating review to the staff would not be appropriate when the Commission has not established specific design guidance for the desired revisions; Vice Chairman Plater-Zyberk and Ms. Meyer confirmed that the fountain's design remains an open question. Upon a second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted the action recommended by Ms. Meyer: approval of the final design with further review of the documentation delegated to the staff to ensure a response to the Commission's comments, and excepting the design of the Blair Alley fountain which should be revised and resubmitted for Commission review.
I. District of Columbia Department of General Services
CFA 20/NOV/14-9, Lafayette Elementary School, 5715 Broad Branch Road, NW. Building modernization and addition. Concept. The submission was approved with comments earlier in the meeting without a presentation, preceding agenda item III.B.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 5:55 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA