The meeting was convened in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, at 10:07 a.m.
Hon. Earl A. Powell, Chairman
Hon. Philip Freelon
Hon. Liza Gilbert
Hon. Alex Krieger
Hon. Elizabeth Meyer
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
A. Approval of the minutes of the 22 January meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the January meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the minutes.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 19 March, 16 April, and 21 May 2015.
C. Report on the pre-meeting site inspections. Mr. Luebke reported the Commission's inspection earlier in the morning of several sites in southwest Washington, including consideration of the potential visual impact of the proposed building at The Portals. Chairman Powell suggested discussing the inspection in conjunction with the review of this submission. (See agenda item II.C.1.)
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that the only changes to the draft appendix are a spelling correction and a clarification that the Hyde-Addison Elementary School submission is at the concept stage. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the revised Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported that one recommendation has been revised to be favorable based on further consultation with the applicant, pending the receipt of supplemental materials (case number SL 15-054); the recommendation for an additional project is also contingent on supplemental materials (SL 15-065). She added that the revised appendix also includes minor wording changes and the dates for supplemental materials that have been received. Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon with second by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission approved the revised appendix. (See agenda items II.C.1, II.C.2, and II.C.3 for additional Shipstead-Luce Act submissions.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martinez reported that the recommendations for four projects are subject to review of mockups, further revisions, and anticipated supplemental materials (case numbers OG 15-088, 15-098, 15-104, and 15-105). The revised appendix also includes the dates for supplemental materials that have been received to bring projects into conformance with the Old Georgetown Board's recommendations. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 19/FEB/15-1, Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial. Intersection of Maryland and Independence Avenues, between 4th and 6th Streets, SW. Revised concept (inscriptions and lighting). (Previous: CFA 20/NOV/14-1.) Mr. Luebke introduced the submission from the National Park Service and the Eisenhower Memorial Commission for the proposed inscriptions and lighting design at the planned Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial. He said that this is part of a series of submissions for memorial elements that follow the more comprehensive review and concept approval of the design in October 2014. He noted that the inscriptions had been selected by a committee of scholars and included excerpted texts believed to best embody the ideals of Eisenhower in his leadership roles as general and president. He asked Peter May, Associate Regional Director of the National Park Service's National Capital Region, to begin the presentation; Mr. May introduced architect Craig Webb of Gehry Partners.
Mr. Webb summarized the topics of forthcoming submissions for the memorial. A submission in March will include the refinement of the landscape; a submission in April will include the security elements, the design of the visitor contact building, and details of the bas relief panels; and a May submission will address the memorial's tapestry.
Mr. Webb presented the lighting design concept, which he said is based on the hierarchy of the L'Enfant Plan. He described the lighting of the U.S. Capitol and the major memorials at the top of the hierarchy; prominence is also given to the intersections of major avenues, and to the avenues as corridors of light connecting the major intersections; and other buildings and features have subsidiary roles. He said that the design goal is to fit this memorial within the hierarchy, while lighting its elements so that they will be clearly visible at night.
Mr. Webb described the proposed lighting of specific elements. The tapestry would be lit by LED fixtures set in stainless steel channels placed along the entire length of the bottom of the tapestry's frame. Brighter light at the bottom would gradually fade towards the top of the tapestry, where the area depicting sky has a more open, less reflective weave. Mr. Krieger observed that in the rendering the tapestry appears more brightly lit in the center; Mr. Webb said that the intention is for the lighting to be consistent across the tapestry.
Mr. Webb said that the sculptural ensembles would be lit from one side to cast light and shade across the figures, enhancing their three-dimensional quality. The bas-reliefs would be lit from the bottom to emphasize their role as backdrops to the figures. For legibility, the text panels would be lit from above by pole-mounted lights; the two light poles would be hidden within the tree canopy. He said that lighting for the walks would be provided by fixtures mounted beneath benches, and this light would be focused on the ground plane to create an environment that feels safe for visitors. The lit ground plane would contrast with the darker tree canopy; a small amount of uplighting provided by ground-mounted LED lights would also accentuate some understory trees. He said that the contrast between the dark tree canopy and the brightly lit Capitol would intensify the perception of the Capitol along the Maryland Avenue axis. Mr. Krieger asked if the memorial's two freestanding columns would be lit; Mr. Webb responded that they would not be lit because they are within the view toward the Capitol, and they would receive sufficient ambient lighting from streetlights and surrounding buildings.
Mr. Krieger and Mr. Freelon questioned the completeness of the renderings and plans, emphasizing the importance of documenting the location and daytime appearance of all lighting fixtures and light poles. Mr. Krieger expressed support for the overall lighting proposal. Ms. Meyer agreed, but she questioned whether the understory trees need to be lit; she said that this lighting could be distracting and suggested that a more effective approach would be to let all trees remain dark. Mr. Webb responded that the intent is to provide a sense of safety and to avoid the impression of dark corridors by creating a volume of light on the approach paths. He said that the rendering might exaggerate the proposed amount of understory lighting, adding that the lighting would be adjusted on site after it is installed. Mr. Krieger agreed that a smaller amount of uplighting may be less distracting.
Mr. Webb asked historian Louis Galambos, an advisor to the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, to present the selection of texts for the memorial. Mr. Galambos described the challenge of choosing quotations which accurately capture the values and accomplishments of Eisenhower as general and president. A committee of scholars has determined that two speeches are essential: the Guildhall address and the first inaugural address. The Guildhall address, delivered in London at the end of World War II, is considered General Eisenhower's major public statement about the price paid for victory in war. President Eisenhower's first inaugural address, delivered in 1953, was chosen for its clear statement of Eisenhower's primary aim of seeking peace and prosperity for Americans during the Cold War. The proposed presidential inscriptions also include several excerpts from Eisenhower's farewell address of 1961, a speech well known for its warning about the influence of the "military-industrial complex" and its emphasis on the need for a strong military to defend the democratic system; the speech was modeled on George Washington's farewell address. Two short quotations have been selected for the lintel blocks above the bas-relief panels: General Eisenhower's D-Day message of 1944 declaring the landing of Allied forces in France, and a passage from President Eisenhower's second inaugural address in 1957 on the need to build peace with justice.
Stonecarver Nicholas Benson of the John Stevens Shop presented the proposed lettering and layout of the inscriptions. Mr. Benson said that the primary goal for the inscribed text is to convey the appropriate message legibly, and secondarily to achieve an aesthetically pleasing appearance. The inscriptions would be carved on the lintels and rear panels of the two central elements, and the title of the memorial would be carved on the overlook wall to the rear of the memorial core. The text from the Guildhall address would be carved in two large symmetrical blocks of text placed side-by-side behind the sculpture group depicting General Eisenhower. Behind the block with the presidential group, the texts from Eisenhower's first inaugural speech and his farewell speech would also be arranged symmetrically in two panels.
Mr. Benson said that he has designed a new typeface specifically for the Eisenhower Memorial, based on a form which can be traced back to Imperial Roman lettering; he cited the inscription on Trajan's Column as a precedent. Revived in the Renaissance, this lettering was adapted for typefaces appearing on Beaux-Arts and later monumental buildings throughout Washington, including the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial.
Ms. Meyer asked about the relationship of the size of the font, the scale of the composition, and the viewing distance; she observed that, in comparison to the Lincoln Memorial, the inscriptions at the Eisenhower Memorial would be nearer to ground level and would be seen from within a smaller area and from a closer distance. Mr. Benson responded that he designs lettering on a case-by-case basis, considering the architectural context and the viewing distance to determine a pleasing height for the letters. For the Eisenhower Memorial, he said that the letters would be V-cut at 80 degrees. The lettering on the central inscriptions would be 2.75 inches high, and the lintel inscriptions would have five-inch-high letters in two lines. The title of the memorial would be carved in thirty-inch-high letters, and attribution text would be two inches high. He said that the large inscriptions as a whole would be perceived as forming a coherent fabric of densely packed text, and the proposed height will be sufficiently monumental at this scale. He emphasized the importance of having a letter form with a monumental presence; the V-cut in the stone would also lend depth and gravitas, conveying that the structure is permanent.
Ms. Gilbert emphasized that context is key in attribution, and these inscriptions require further context information. For example, she said that visitors need to know the location of the Guildhall, and that Eisenhower delivered the D-Day address by radio, because in the future these words will be the most authentic component of the memorial to situate a visitor within this period of history. She cautioned that presenting the text as standing alone presumes that people are knowledgeable about the historic context. Mr. Benson responded that large lines of attribution diminish the overall appearance of an inscribed panel; Mr. Krieger said that this does not address Ms. Gilbert's concern with conveying critical information. Mr. Webb added that a smartphone application would give information about each inscription.
Mr. Krieger commented that the use of ellipses in the text appears confusing and inconsistent: three widely separated excerpts have been taken from the Guildhall address, while in the farewell address, scattered sentences have been selected from the long speech. Mr. Benson said that the ellipses are being used consistently; Mr. Krieger said that this is not clear in the rendering. Ms. Meyer commented on the difference between a passage from which a single sentence has been removed and an inscription formed from five different sentences taken from a much longer text, which may require a different graphic marker than an ellipsis; Mr. Krieger agreed.
Mr. Freelon observed that each inscribed text is justified on both sides, and he suggested that the text might be more readable if it is only justified on the left. He commented that the panels appear to be designed more for the visual effect of the text panel than to facilitate reading the actual words. Mr. Benson disagreed, responding that on the contrary the texts would be easy to read and would flow seamlessly, without any ambiguity. He said that large gaps or spaces within a block of text would draw undue attention and would break up the unified fabric of the text.
Mr. May commented that the National Park Service is concerned about the inscriptions because of past controversies and the potentially garbled meaning that can result from joining several separate thoughts together as if they are from one speech. As an example, he said that the panel with the farewell address should clearly convey that it is presenting samples from a speech, rather than a condensed version of the entire text. He said that the National Park Service would be discussing this issue further with the design team. Ms. Meyer expressed that appreciation for this concern; she cited the recent controversy over a poorly paraphrased inscription on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and also the quotations on the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, which she said reflect the era of the memorial's design in the 1980s and 1990s more than the years of FDR's presidency. For the Eisenhower Memorial, she said that the farewell address, with its reference to the military-industrial complex, seems out of context. While she acknowledged the elegance of a solid block of text, she said that the meaning and historical accuracy of quotations are also important; she emphasized that when quotations are to be carved in stone on a memorial, their associations and connotations are critical. Mr. Krieger and Mr. Powell agreed and summarized that the Commission wants to ensure that the quotations are considered as thoughtfully as possible before the stones are inscribed. Mr. May said that the National Park Service also would like to present the quotations appropriately. Mr. Powell added that the proposed panels are handsome compositions.
Ms. Meyer acknowledged Mr. Webb's summary of the upcoming presentations of the memorial elements. She recalled that the Commission had previously reviewed the tapestry mockup and had requested further information on how the tapestry would be attached to the supporting columns. She added that the Commission should also be given information on how the tapestry attachments would appear with the proposed lighting, and she said that final approval of the lighting would likely be contingent on this. Mr. Krieger observed that the supporting columns appear too prominent in some renderings of the tapestry; he recommended reducing their prominence, either through lighting adjustments or through manipulation of the density and opacity of the tapestry's landscape image. He welcomed the opportunity to review the tapestry details, preferably before the May submission.
Mr. Luebke asked the Commission members what other details they would like to see presented again, such as the typeface. Mr. Powell said that he is satisfied with the typeface; he asked if the letters would have a dark infill. Mr. Benson responded that letters without infill can be difficult to read after rain or in certain diffuse lighting conditions, and an infill may therefore be used; however, he acknowledged that this can be a maintenance problem. He said that the design team is considering the infill treatment developed for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, which has been durable. Chairman Powell commented that infill can be problematic and said that the Commission should review the proposal. Ms. Meyer noted that the Commission members had visited the Disabled Veterans Memorial before the meeting, and the darker infill used for its inscriptions is not very elegant; Chairman Powell added that the dark infill on the facade lettering at the Newseum is also problematic. Ms. Meyer reiterated that the Commission should review a further submission depicting the proposed lighting and the relationship between light poles and other elements.
Chairman Powell conveyed the Commission's appreciation for the presentation and said that the Commission looks forward to the future submissions. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
2. CFA 19/FEB/15-2, Meridian Hill Park, 16th and W Streets, NW. Park restoration and new access ramp to Lower Plaza. Concept. Mr. Luebke introduced a concept proposal for the fifth phase of a comprehensive rehabilitation of Meridian Hill Park, a National Historic Landmark on 16th Street, NW, at the Florida Avenue escarpment. He said that the park's historic significance includes the extensive exposed aggregate concrete work dating from the late 1910s to 1920s by John J. Earley, an innovative concrete designer. He summarized the earlier phases of rehabilitation with repairs to portions of the Earley concrete, rehabilitation of plantings, and restoration of the fountains. The currently submitted phase focuses on the lower plaza, which includes a reflecting pool and the President James Buchanan Memorial, and encompasses concrete repair, overall restoration, and the installation of barrier-free access to the plaza. He asked Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation; Mr. May introduced Michael Mills of Mills + Schnoering Architects (MSA).
Mr. Mills said that the park's original designer was George Burnap, a National Park Service landscape architect; he noted that after the Commission of Fine Arts approved Burnap's design in 1914, Commission members traveled to Europe with Burnap to study precedents. Construction of the park began in 1915. Mr. Mills introduced architect Anne Weber of MSA and landscape architect Patricia O'Donnell of Heritage Landscapes to present the design.
Ms. Weber described the context for the lower plaza. The reflecting pool is located at the base of the Great Cascade, a stepped water feature that descends along the centerline of the southern half of the park. She said that the park's existing condition is poor; tree growth has caused deterioration of the concrete and other pavements, and overgrown trees make the plaza dark. Some walks formerly paved with cobblestones have degraded into dirt paths. Perforated drainage grilles, which replaced the original bronze drainage grates, are blocked with silt.
Ms. O'Donnell said that Meridian Hill Park resulted from the McMillan Plan, and land was set aside for the park in 1910. The design is the work of three important landscape architects, with George Burnap succeeded by Horace Peaslee and Ferruccio Vitale [who served as a member of the Commission of Fine Arts from 1927 to 1932]. Lower grades at W Street along the south boundary rise steeply to the north along 16th Street; erosion down this slope has altered the grades. The park's stairs accommodate the significant elevation change with deep treads and shallow risers. A Cultural Landscape Report prepared in the late 1990s outlined the intent to preserve and restore the park. The current proposal is to restore the plaza—important as the primary place to view the cascade—and to create a barrier-free entrance from 16th Street into the lower plaza, along with replanting and other repairs.
Ms. O'Donnell said that the planting areas define zones around the entrance, the reflecting pool, and the Buchanan Memorial. Originally, a formal framing of shrubs separated the entry sequence from the pool and the memorial. In front of the recessed semicircular walls on each side of the existing entrance, the boxwood plantings have grown high enough to block views of the balustrades surmounting these walls, and some boxwoods have been replaced by white marble setts.
Ms. O'Donnell indicated two groups of four trees—one at the pool and the other at the memorial—which were historically sycamore (Platanus) but were later assumed to be elms [which were routinely replaced with similarly-shaped Zelkovas in the later 20th century for disease resistance]; the current proposal is to replace the Zelkovas with the originally specified sycamore trees, whose upright and open form will allow more light into the park. The planting boxes for the trees, currently too small and confining, would be redesigned to allow sufficient soil volume for healthy growth. The drainage system would be replaced; because this installation would disrupt the paving, the design team is exploring techniques for restoring and salvaging some of the original large, thick paving panels for the new pavement. Original lighting fixtures would be replaced with LED fixtures set in the original cavities to light the ground plane.
Ms. Weber described the proposal for a new entrance to the plaza. She noted that the historic design includes pedestrian entrances from the street to all three of the park's main levels—the upper terrace, the middle of the slope, and the lower terrace—but the lower level is the only area that has not yet been provided with a barrier-free entrance. She said that the preferred option is a new sloped walk beginning at the park's 16th Street perimeter wall through a new opening that would be created to the north of the historic entrance; the higher grade along 16th Street at this point allows a shallower slope to ascend to the first level, the park's cross-axis. A second short sloped walk would lead from this area to the level of the reflecting pool. The park's original retaining wall near this route would be extended to adjust the grades to meet the 16th Street sidewalk. She described other options explored by the design team—such as placing ramps alongside the original entrance stairway, up the center of the stairway, and at various other points—but some of these options would require steeper ramps, necessitating handrails or high retaining walls, or would encroach on existing walks. She emphasized that the preferred option would have little impact on the historic fabric and would allow rehabilitation of the original entrance. She noted that the park's historic boundary wall by Earley has a total length of 3,500 feet, and the proposed new opening would be only five feet wide. She added that the side wall along the new walk would be kept to a height of approximately one foot.
Ms. O'Donnell concluded by presenting the proposed replanting. Around the historic "sandbox" features—half-circles of decorative paving—formal plantings would be installed; these sandboxes were historically surrounded by tall massed plantings, but lower plantings are now recommended for urban parks to allow visibility. She said that low-maintenance plants were selected through consultation with the National Park Service: the cherry laurel cultivar "Otto Luyken," also called skip laurel; replacement boxwood shrubs, which will be maintained at a lower height to allow the balustrades to be visible; southern wax myrtle; and common red cedar.
Ms. Gilbert asked for further information about the proposed paving, which is described in the submission materials as having a slightly different color to distinguish it from the old paving. Ms. O'Donnell responded that past rehabilitation has resulted in several pavement colors on the lower level. She said that Earley constructed his walls and other vertical elements with a local gold-colored aggregate, and for the ground plane he used deep red and black aggregates. The proposal is to use an aggregate that is less exposed than the original, extending no more than a quarter of an inch above the matrix for improved accessibility. A smaller aggregate size is also proposed, and it would be set in a matrix of concrete that would be slightly less golden in color than the original to create a subtle distinction.
Ms. Gilbert asked if the replacement plane trees would be limbed up to allow views of the Buchanan Memorial. Ms. O'Donnell said that they would, and specifications call for a cultivar used as a street tree—probably 'Columbia,' which has been planted successfully on the U.S. Capitol Grounds and also at the Trenton Bath House in New Jersey, designed by Louis Kahn and recently restored by Heritage Landscapes. Ms. Gilbert asked about the proposed bollards with lights. Ms. Weber responded that the existing light poles would remain, but additional lighting would be needed for the new walk; the fixture has not been chosen but it would probably be low. Ms. Gilbert recommended avoiding the use of lighting bollards, such as by integrating new lighting into the retaining wall. Ms. Weber said that fixtures may be incorporated into the new retaining wall, perhaps in combination with new, low fixtures.
Ms. Meyer described the proposal as an excellent project for an unusual park, which historically had included extensive use of an innovative construction technology. She said that while the park's original design appears to evoke a particular historical style, it is actually a collage of eclectic classical elements. She expressed appreciation for the care that the National Park Service is bringing to the project.
Ms. Meyer commented that the proposed new entrance route would cross a secondary access walk that has special design significance: this walk is aligned with the Washington Monument, while nearby 16th Street is aligned with the White House. She said that any alteration of this walk's alignment would have some effect on this feature. She added that the proposed access point for the new entrance route is clearly the best location; she said that she had been concerned that the proposed five-foot-wide opening would be too narrow relative to the eight-foot height of the existing wall, but now understands it is not a retaining wall, and a person passing through it at this point will remain at grade. For the proposed materials, Ms. Meyer suggested using a simpler pavement to provide a distinction from the original paving, perhaps using concrete without aggregate because aggregate is so characteristic of Earley's work. She commented that the 'Otto Luyken' cherry laurel is typical of commercial projects and is therefore not an appropriate plant material for a national park in Washington. Ms. O'Donnell responded that the National Park Service only has enough staff to perform simple maintenance in Meridian Hill Park three times yearly, and the plants therefore need to be durable and able to retain a formal shape within this maintenance schedule. She also agreed to reconsider the specification of plant materials.
Mr. Krieger acknowledged the deftness and sensitivity of the proposed new entrance walk; however, he said, that John Earley would have been able to accommodate barrier-free access with exuberance. While accepting the proposed solution as appropriate, he expressed regret that the new entrance walk has to be slid in rather than treated expressively.
Chairman Powell congratulated the design team for developing a sensitive solution. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the concept contingent on consideration of the Commission's comments about subtlety in materials and new lighting, and further consideration of changes to the plant palette; the Commission delegated final review and approval to the staff.
3. CFA 19/FEB/15-3, C&O Canal National Historic Park, C&O Canal at the 34th Street pedestrian bridge. New dock. Final. (Previous: CFA 22/JAN/15-j.) (Reviewed by Old Georgetown Board: 5 February 2015.) Mr. Luebke introduced the third project submitted by the National Park Service, the final design for a new dock in Georgetown along the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal, within the C&O Canal National Historic Park. The proposed dock, east of 34th Street and near an existing pedestrian bridge, would provide improved access to the canal for canoers and kayakers. The project has been reviewed twice by the Commission's Old Georgetown Board (OGB), which has provided the Commission a recommendation for approval. He said that the staff supports the project but requests guidance from the Commission on the appropriateness and configuration of the combined planter-bench elements proposed at the edge of the canal's towpath. The OGB had suggested reconfiguring the benches without planters to allow an unimpeded view along the canal; the staff is concerned that the planters would require constant maintenance and would introduce an unprecedented and decorative character within the historic industrial waterfront landscape. He asked Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation.
Mr. May said that this project is a joint effort between the National Park Service and the Georgetown Business Improvement District (BID), which has been working with the park staff to make significant improvements to the one-mile segment of the canal that runs through Georgetown. He noted that most of the initiatives involve programming or restoration that would not come to the Commission. He introduced Maggie Downing of the BID and designer Scott Walzak of MakeDC to present the project.
Ms. Downing said that the BID has created a non-profit fundraising entity, Georgetown Heritage, which will supply funds for restoration projects and other improvements along the canal. The proposed dock, located in a deteriorated area behind 3333 Water Street, is a pilot project. She noted that the canal's bicentennial will occur in 2028, and its 50th anniversary as a national park is in 2021.
Mr. Walzak described the proposed dock as eight feet wide and slightly more than 100 feet long, with a ramp and steps to provide access from the towpath. An existing stair leads up to the towpath from the Key Bridge Boathouse; people renting canoes and kayaks at the boathouse would be able to carry them to this dock. He said that the four proposed benches would be placed between the towpath and the dock to avoid impeding on the towpath; the benches would also function as a staging area for boaters to place their equipment while they prepare their boats. The hard surface of the towpath would be extended to the edge of the bulkhead, and the design therefore provides for adding greenery to this space by including planters behind the benches. The benches and planters would be built of concrete formed in wood-slat formwork for a rough industrial texture, with ipe wood as the seating surface.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the planters are a gratuitous element of the design: additional greenery will not be necessary in the context of the surrounding trees, water, and views along the canal, and the proposed planters and benches would block the views. She suggested a simpler treatment, such as a long block of wood for sitting along the embankment. Alternatively, she asked if the benches could be located on the other side of the towpath; Mr. Walzak and Ms. Downing responded that benches there would infringe on private property and block views of the canal from the adjacent building at 3333 Water Street.
Ms. Meyer commended the general improvement provided by the dock, and she encouraged more care of the canal which she said has deteriorated over the last few decades. She agreed with Ms. Gilbert that the planters are unnecessary, adding that the proposed six-inch-wide planter boxes would be too small to sustain plants unless constant maintenance is provided. She supported eliminating the planters and providing a simple continuous seat, adding that a bench may not even be necessary.
Mr. Krieger observed that the difference in elevation between the bulkhead and the dock is a reasonable seating height, and the embankment itself could therefore be used for seating; Ms. Meyer agreed. Mr. Krieger added that the bulkhead would also provide a sufficient surface for boaters to use while preparing their equipment; he said that the proposal would add elements that may impede rather than enhance the flexibility of this area. Mr. Walzak responded that such solutions had been considered, but the concern was that the dock space would be insufficient if people occupy it while preparing their equipment. Ms. Meyer responded that the proposed dock width would provide sufficient space for all of this boating-related activity; Mr. Krieger added that the length is also ample.
Ms. Gilbert asked what other projects are under consideration for the canal. Ms. Downing responded that several ideas addressing the condition of the towpath and its bridges, lighting, and safety are outlined in "Georgetown 2028," a recently publicized fifteen-year vision plan; she added that a master plan for this segment of the canal will soon be prepared.
Chairman Powell expressed overall support for the project. He noted the topography and asked for clarification of how people could transport kayaks and canoes to the proposed dock. Mr. Walzak responded that a turnaround for cars is located to the east at the end of 33rd Street, in addition to the stair on the west that leads to the boathouse along the Potomac River.
Ms. Meyer offered a motion that the Commission adopt the OGB's recommendation for approval, contingent on removal of the planter-bench elements from the proposal. She added that the scale of the remainder of the proposal is suited to the scale and character of the C&O Canal, and she emphasized the importance of simplicity in the design because additional projects for canal improvements will soon follow. Mr. May said that removal of these elements would be acceptable to the National Park Service. Upon a second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted Ms. Meyer's motion.
C. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
1. SL 15-074, The Portals, 1331 Maryland Avenue, SW. New 15-story residential building. Concept. (Previous: SL 15-050, 22 January 2015.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept submission for a new residential building within The Portals, a complex of buildings that frames the western end of Maryland Avenue between 12th and 14th Streets, SW. She said that when the project was reviewed the previous month, the Commission did not take an action but requested additional information about the height and design of the penthouse, and recommended modifications to the landscape design. She noted that the Commission members visited the site before today's meeting. She introduced Paul Whalen of Robert A.M. Stern Architects, who presented the design.
Mr. Whalen said that the building will be the second-to-last project in the Portals complex. The design intent is to reinforce the street wall of 14th Street, to define Maryland Circle and Maryland Avenue's visual extension over the railroad tracks, and to connect with the future North Plaza pedestrian passage between Maryland Circle and 14th Street.
Mr. Whalen presented a series of elevations along with distant views from key vantage points, including the 14th Street bridge complex and Arlington Memorial Bridge; these drawings provided comparisons of the previously presented concept—which did not yet include the design of the penthouse—with the current submission that includes the penthouse proposal. He said that the penthouse would have a green roof except for the area needed for ventilation of the mechanical equipment. A perimeter walk punctuated by a series of planters would circle the entire roof. The penthouse would have two different heights corresponding to two different uses, with a required one-to-one setback from the edge of the building. The penthouse for the mechanical equipment, located on the longest bar of the building, would have a height of 18.5 feet above the main roof of the building; the penthouse volumes containing residential amenities, such as a common room, would have a roof height of 14.5 feet. The floors of the two amenity areas have been raised two feet above the building roof to fit mechanical equipment beneath them, and one terrace has been raised four feet above the building roof—the maximum allowed for a raised roof terrace—to allow for a shallow pool beneath. The penthouse facades would have large punched openings to provide scale and to continue the fenestration vocabulary of the main building; openings around the mechanical penthouse would be covered by grilles. He introduced landscape architect Jeff Lee to present the principles and revisions in the site design.
Mr. Lee said that the proposed landscape along 14th Street includes stormwater management features, consistent with the D.C. government's requirement for low-impact development strategies. The site connects to Maryland Circle with a terraced landscape that will extend along the viewshed of the Maryland Avenue right-of-way; this area, which was previously designed as two separate landscape treatments, is now presented as a unified zone. He said that the landscape of the south-facing courtyard has not yet been designed. The buffer area along the railroad line was previously proposed with a combination of industrial and cultivated landscapes; following the Commission's recommendation to simplify its treatment, this area has been redesigned as a bioretention zone planted with indigenous water-loving native species, including the thornless honey locust, the only tree species in the plant palette.
Secretary Luebke and Mr. Whalen summarized the previous Commission reviews. The first concept design combined two disparate architectural treatments, and it was rejected by the Commission for its awkwardness. The second design, with a more classical character, was found by the Commission to be more acceptable, but the renderings did not include the penthouse, preventing an adequate evaluation of the proposed height. The current proposal is similar to the second submission, with minor refinement of the facades and with the inclusion of the penthouse design.
Mr. Freelon opened the discussion by observing that previously the proposed building had seemed too large, and the inclusion of the penthouse only exaggerates the building's bulk and height, especially when seen from a distance. Mr. Whalen responded that the additional height with the penthouse now shown would be more noticeable from a distance; from close up, the penthouse would not always be visible because of the required setback.
Mr. Krieger observed that the morning's tour had included a view of the site from West Potomac Park, a view that is also illustrated in the presentation booklet. While noting that he is probably less concerned than other Commission members about the height, he said that the proposed building would be too large when seen from the monumental landscape, among other places. He questioned why this particular building should be so much taller than any other building in the immediate vicinity. He emphasized that the issue is not the penthouse, which would be insignificant from most views, but that the entire building seen from these important locations would be too massive, too high, and too dominant. He recommended removing several floors from the main building block rather than eliminating the penthouse. Mr. Freelon suggested that another approach may be to group smaller masses in the front and larger masses in the rear, rather than the opposite that has been presented.
Ms. Meyer commented that the site visit had been informative for all of the Commission members. She cited an illustration in the presentation booklet that she said had clarified issues for her about the role of The Portals within Washington's urban design: it is intended to form an actual portal, with the proposed residential building and the existing Mandarin Oriental Hotel serving to frame the view of the U.S. Capitol along Maryland Avenue. However, she said that the two buildings would be too dissimilar in height and massing to function together as a frame. She added that when the Commission members visited the Tidal Basin, they had considered the effect if the residential building were built forty feet higher than the Mandarin Oriental Hotel as proposed, and its relation to the Capitol dome and to the Lincoln Memorial: it then became clear that the proposed building needs to be two to four stories lower. She clarified that the concern involves the massing of the entire building—it is too tall to contribute to the portal that frames a view of the Capitol, and it would also have a detrimental impact on views from the Tidal Basin and the monumental landscape.
Ms. Meyer commented that the use of two different systems for measuring building heights in the presentation materials—shown both from street level per zoning regulations and from sea level—had been confusing for the Commission's deliberations. Mr. Whalen responded that forty feet is the correct height difference between the proposed residential building and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Ms. Meyer replied that she understood this, but the height measurements used should have been clearly documented in the drawings.
Mr. Krieger reiterated that both the building's height and breadth are the problem. He commented that stepping down the primary facade plane, as suggested by Mr. Whalen, would be a move in the right direction but may not be sufficient. If this building is to be part of a frame for the view of the Capitol, then having it be taller than its companion building would be wrong within the design traditions of the national capital. He added that this height difference would not matter in most cities, but it is not appropriate in Washington at this location. Ms. Gilbert agreed, saying that the imposition of the higher building here would be "astonishing."
Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's consensus that the design should be refined to address the problem of excessive scale and height. Ms. Meyer added that the landscape work is developing well; the big issue is getting the height right. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
2. SL 15-075, 800 Maine Avenue, SW. Southwest Waterfront Development (The Wharf), Parcel 3a. New office building. Final. (Previous: SL 12-104, 21 June 2012.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposal for an office building at The Wharf, an extensive development project along the Southwest Waterfront, noting that the final design submission responds to the Commission's recommendations from the concept review of June 2012. She added that the Commission members had seen the site earlier in the day during the site inspections. She asked Shawn Seaman of Hoffman-Madison Waterfront, the developer of The Wharf, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Seaman summarized the numerous submissions in recent years for The Wharf, including the design of the public spaces and parks as well as the proposed buildings. The submitted office building is part of the first phase of development, which totals approximately 1.7 million square feet. He said that the final design for another component, the Capital Yacht Club building, was approved on the Shipstead-Luce Act appendix earlier in the meeting, and the final designs of the remaining first-phase buildings will be submitted in the coming months. He introduced architect Douglas Campbell of Perkins Eastman DC to present the design.
Mr. Campbell described the location of the site within the overall development, along Maine Avenue at approximately the center of The Wharf's first phase. He noted that the planned nearby buildings are shown in the presentation drawings as background information, based on prior reviews and approvals. He summarized the design guidelines that have been developed for storefronts at The Wharf, as previously presented; he said that the submitted drawings have been clarified to distinguish between the currently proposed construction and the future storefronts that would be created by retail tenants after further design review. He said that the overall massing and plan of the building remain as previously presented in the concept submission. He indicated the site's relationship to the adjacent planned InterContinental Hotel and the location of the loading dock between the two buildings, away from Maine Avenue. He also indicated the large Metrorail ventilation shaft that would be incorporated into the building; the shaft would be extended upward to exhaust vertically along the proposed Maine Avenue facade. He noted that this shaft was used by Metrorail passengers as an emergency egress in January when the train tunnel filled with smoke.
Mr. Campbell presented the recent refinements to the design. The tone of the brick and mullions has been studied and the depiction in the renderings is more accurate. The penthouse design has been revised to include glazing for office space at the northwest end, with views toward the city's monumental core, if occupiable space becomes allowable within the penthouse under D.C. zoning. The relationship of brick and metal on the facade has been simplified at the base of the building, in response to the Commission's previous comment. The entrance canopy to the office building has been refined to be more distinct from the retail canopies, and the retail canopy has been eliminated from the southeast facade because the retail use along this frontage is not intended to spread outward from the building. The location of columns has been adjusted so that the fourth-floor terrace will be unobstructed. The design of the Metro ventilation grille has also been simplified to eliminate a contrasting angle in the previously submitted design. He concluded by presenting several perspective renderings of the retail areas and the lobby entrance, emphasizing the lighter character of the entrance canopy.
Mr. Freelon expressed appreciation for the responsiveness to the Commission's previous comments, particularly the simplification achieved by extending the upper-story materials down to the base of the building, but he continued to question the brick color in the renderings. Mr. Campbell provided a sample of the proposed brick, which he said has the accurate intended color; Mr. Freelon said that the color of this sample is preferable to the salmon color conveyed in the renderings.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the final design submission. While noting that he had not participated in the previous reviews, Mr. Krieger commented that the building appears unattractive, and he abstained from the vote. Mr. Luebke noted that final documentation of the project should be coordinated with the staff, and he conveyed the staff's appreciation for the design team's cooperation in resolving the issues that arose during the review process.
Chairman Powell recused himself from participation in the next agenda item, noting the recent close relationship between the Corcoran and the National Gallery of Art.
3. SL 15-068, Corcoran Gallery (George Washington University), 500 17th Street, NW. Banner signs. Final. Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposed installation of exterior banners on the northeast corner of the Corcoran Gallery, a National Historic Landmark building. She noted that the banners currently exist but were installed without the Commission's review; the proposal is for approval of the location for the banners, which would display information about the institution and art exhibits. She introduced Anne Adams, an architectural historian with the law firm Goulston & Storrs, and Sarah Baldassaro of George Washington University to present the proposal.
Ms. Adams said that George Washington University has recently acquired the building, which formerly housed the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Corcoran School of Art and Design. She presented photographs of the existing condition and said that future banners would be hung from the existing hardware on the building. She indicated the gallery entrance from 17th Street and the entrance to the school's classrooms from New York Avenue; these entrances and uses would continue in the future. She also presented photographs of banners promoting exhibits at other Washington locations, including several Smithsonian museums, the National Gallery of Art, and the National Archives; she emphasized that banners have become a standard means of advertising exhibits and museums. She described the typical installation mechanism using a rope and pulley system, consistent with the existing infrastructure at the Corcoran. She said that future banners would be temporary to announce an exhibit or event; they would be made of vinyl mesh. She indicated the planned locations for the banners, emphasizing that they would not obstruct the building's architectural features and would have no physical effect on the building. The configuration of the banners may vary; she presented photographic simulations with two tall upper banners, each 16.5 feet high and 9.5 feet wide, and two square lower banners with sides measuring 9.5 feet.
Ms. Baldassaro said that one purpose of the banners would be to convey to the public the institutions that are newly responsible for activities in the building, the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University. The banners would identify temporary exhibits along with these sponsoring institutions. She emphasized the importance of using the banners to provide information to the public during the current transition in the building's operation.
Mr. Luebke described the issues for the Commission's consideration. Because the existing installation of banners was never reviewed by the Commission, the proposal can be treated as an initial submission; nonetheless, the potential issue of damaging the building is less relevant because the hardware for hanging the banners is already in place. An additional concern is with the appearance; he acknowledged the existing examples of banners that were shown but said that they were likely not reviewed by the Commission. He acknowledged the importance of conveying information to the public but said that the proposed banners may function more as identification signs for the building; sign regulations for the Shipstead-Luce Act area establish limits on the size and lettering of identification signs. Ms. Batcheler noted that the building has lettering that serves as identification signage; alteration of this lettering, which will identify the new institutions operating the building, is included on the Shipstead-Luce Act appendix that the Commission approved earlier in the meeting. Ms. Adams said that the lettering on the building is useful only at very close proximity, while the banners would provide greater visibility to attract the public to the building.
Ms. Batcheler said that the limit on identification signs in the Shipstead-Luce Act area is 25 square feet per business owner for each street frontage; the proposed banners would clearly exceed this limit. Mr. Luebke added that the Commission routinely approves temporary banners for exhibitions; the limit applies to building identification signage. Ms. Meyer noted that the two lower banners would be 9.5-foot squares, each totaling approximately 90 square feet. Ms. Batcheler confirmed that this area would exceed the 25-square-foot limit if the square banners were used entirely as identification signs; as presented in the photographic simulations, the identification information could be limited to only a portion of these banners, with the remainder used to publicize temporary exhibits. Mr. Luebke noted that the lettering on the building is also counted toward the 25-square-foot limit on identification signage for each street frontage. Ms. Batcheler summarized that the purpose of the sign regulations is to minimize the commercial presence within areas of special federal interest covered by the Shipstead-Luce Act.
Mr. Krieger asked for clarification of the concern with size and content; Mr. Luebke confirmed that the Commission, consistent with its precedent and regulations, could approve the banners at the size shown, but not with a substantial area on the banners that identifies "George Washington University" or "National Gallery of Art." He said that the staff could coordinate further with the applicant on the details of these limitations. Ms. Batcheler added that the D.C. historic preservation staff similarly does not support banners with substantial identification information, but would accept allowing the current size of banners if they are used to describe exhibits. Ms. Meyer asked if the banners would be used to announce activities elsewhere at George Washington University; Ms. Batcheler confirmed that the allowable content would be limited to publicizing activities within this building. Mr. Krieger noted that one of the presented simulations includes a small area of text identifying the university. Mr. Luebke said that this may fall within the 25-square-foot limit and would therefore be acceptable; he suggested that a Commission approval should include a reference to compliance with the regulations.
Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the proposed location for banners, subject to consistency with the sign regulations for the Shipstead-Luce Act area. Ms. Meyer clarified that the motion would allow for relatively small text on the banners that would identify George Washington University or the National Gallery of Art, which would be helpful information as the building's use is in transition; Ms. Adams said that this flexibility will be helpful. Chairman Powell did not participate in the vote.
D. D.C. Department of General Services / D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation
1. CFA 19/FEB/15-4, Kalorama Park, 1875 Columbia Road, NW. Rehabilitate park plaza, install drainage system, and other minor improvements. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposed rehabilitation of Kalorama Park. He said that this neighborhood park is within a historic district although the park design itself is not considered historic; an archaeological site is also located within the park. He cited the numerous written comments received from local residents, both for and against the proposal, and said that some may wish to address the Commission. He asked Shahrokh Ghahramani, the project manager from the D.C. Department of General Services, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Ghahramani said that the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation undertook an erosion control project at the park in 2009, but the work was not successful; community members documented construction debris in the soil. The current proposal includes soil remediation, erosion control, and reconstruction of the park's plaza with a permeable paving system. He emphasized the numerous community meetings and public comments that have shaped the design, as well as the effort to avoid disturbance of the archaeological site located beneath the plaza. He introduced Patrick La Vay, a civil engineer with Macris, Hendricks & Glascock, to present the design.
Mr. La Vay presented a plan of the soil remediation areas, to be implemented in two phases. The problematic debris from 2009 includes large stones, fragments of brick and concrete, and possibly asphalt; no hazardous materials have been identified, but the project would replace this debris with a more suitable fill material and topsoil. The large existing Norway maple tree—considered to be an invasive species—would be removed, which he said will improve the soil condition beneath its canopy. The existing oval field would be aerated and re-seeded; additional topsoil may also be provided. He noted the goal of reducing the concentrated flow of water toward the 19th Street entrance stair to the park, which currently results in wet and icy conditions; the overall design from 2009 to direct the park's drainage would be retained, with additional or modified erosion control measures. The bermed bioswale constructed in 2009 would be reshaped with a gentler slope to avoid problems with grass mowing. An existing highway-type inlet would be modified to be less intrusive, and slot drains along the park walks would reduce stormwater runoff. He said that the paved plaza is a major contributor to the park's runoff; the proposed permeable paving would address this problem, a solution that was chosen instead of creating adjacent bioretention areas that would reduce the park's usable open space. Tree preservation has been an ongoing project in recent years, including lightning protection and aeration at the trees' root zones. He indicated the park's two playgrounds, which may be reconstructed in a future project. He presented photographs of the existing picnic tables and benches that can be reached only by walking through worn areas of grass. He introduced landscape architect Vic Bryant of Macris, Hendricks & Glascock to continue the design presentation.
Ms. Bryant described the existing conditions of the park's plaza, walks, and recreation center building. She characterized the existing plaza as a large expanse of concrete; she indicated the flanking walks and the corner landscape islands that have lost most of their original hawthorn trees. She emphasized the erosion problem at several of the poorly sited benches and picnic tables; the proposed design would place these amenities on paved surfaces. An existing trench drain has been poorly maintained and is often clogged, and a large willow tree has outgrown its small planting area. She said that the extensive privet hedges have mostly aged to a lopsided appearance with vegetation concentrated at the top; these plantings would be replaced, and she emphasized that lower plants would allow for improved visibility into the playground. She added that the plaza is a very underused portion of the park, while the benches and playgrounds are popular.
Ms. Bryant described the 1947 design for the park, which she said has a neoclassical character that was conveyed in beautiful landscape drawings; she noted the support of some neighborhood residents for this design. However, she said that only portions of the 1947 design were implemented—primarily the concrete paving, but not many of the details that would convey the character of a Renaissance-style landscape. She indicated the recreation center, playgrounds, and large oak tree that would remain in the vicinity of the plaza.
Ms. Bryant presented the proposed reconstruction of the plaza, with the goal of creating an area that is as well used as other parts of the park; she noted that several design alternatives have been developed to address the varied needs of neighborhood residents. The adjacent playgrounds would be reoriented toward the plaza, improving its attractiveness for parents who are watching their children. The central plaza area, currently aligned with the facade of the recreation center, would be more generously framed by expanded planting beds. The existing walk on the east side of the plaza would be eliminated to accommodate the larger planting area; the walk on the west side would be given a curved alignment to turn views away from an area of trash cans and toward the existing basketball court. Neighborhood residents cited the benefit of the hilltop vista and sunset views from the existing benches; she said that the proposed benches would be similarly sited. The proposed pervious pavement would reduce runoff from the plaza; a bioretention area with appropriate plants would also be provided. A prominent but unattractive corner of the recreation center would be given a green screen to improve its appearance. The alignment of the plaza with the recreation center facade would be loosely retained, but with reduced emphasis on the door. The lightpoles and water fountains would remain, the existing picnic benches would be relocated onto the plaza, and the benches would be refurbished to improve their appearance while retaining their Victorian character. The chain-link fence around the playground would be replaced with a more decorative ornamental fence. She said that cars are sometimes brought into the park and onto the plaza through the Columbia Road entrance; a removable bollard would be installed to prevent unauthorized vehicular access. She presented the two sizes of permeable pavers that would be used, with a color comparable to the existing exposed-aggregate concrete; the smaller pavers would relate to the brick accents that exist elsewhere in the park. She noted that another paving option is permeable concrete, but that surface would be too rough for the plaza setting.
Ms. Bryant concluded with a drawing that compares existing and proposed green space; she said that the total area is approximately the same but is repositioned. She also noted that an archaeological consultant would be involved during the demolition and reconstruction of the plaza.
Chairman Powell recognized several members of the public who asked to address the Commission. Kathryn Kross provided comments as president of the Fund for Kalorama Park and on behalf of the Parents of Kalorama Park; she noted that other members of the parents group have provided written statements to the Commission. She said that both groups fully support the D.C. government's proposal for the park renovation. She described the June 2013 report of the Fund for Kalorama Park detailing the site's runoff and erosion issues; the D.C. government responded quickly with short-term measures, and the current proposal is a longer-term response. She said that some neighborhood residents are opposing the project because it does not follow the 1947 plan for the park; but she emphasized that many features of this plan were not built or have subsequently been changed. She cited examples of the terrace, water feature, promenade, and shuffleboard courts that are not part of the existing park; she also said that the existing hedges within the park do not appear to be part of the 1947 plan. She said that the park should be considered as a mosaic of ongoing changes rather than as a "snapshot from 1947." She listed several modern design techniques that would not have been considered in 1947: permeable paving, open sightlines into playgrounds, trash containers, and avoidance of rat-attracting water features. She said that the underuse of the plaza, in comparison to the heavy use of other park areas, is evidence that the plaza area needs to be redesigned. She described the affected area as encompassing less than one-twentieth of the park, and she emphasized that the proposed footprint and functions are comparable to the existing conditions: six trees would be removed, and seven added; tall hedges would be removed, and low bushes added; benches and fencing would be improved; more shade would be provided; and the project would mitigate the park's runoff and erosion problem. She said that the disagreement within the community involves aesthetics; the proposed design includes compromises that respond to the concerns of opponents, and the majority of people see the project as an improvement. She said that opponents have raised concerns with procedure and with historic preservation issues, but these objections have been refuted; she added that the project has support from the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission and from the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board. She concluded by emphasizing her support for the proposal and for the D.C. government's process, with encouragement to implement the project as soon as possible.
Chairman Powell recognized neighborhood resident Sandra Reischel. Ms. Reischel said that she has been a volunteer at the park for the past twenty years, and continues to learn from the beauty of its design. She emphasized the importance of the 1947 design and said that some of the proposed changes would ruin the plaza area and the overall design of the park. She said that the 1947 design was produced by the National Park Service, the nation's best park designers. The site was originally wooded with a sloping topography. The lawn area of the park had been the site of a plantation house, and the planting of oak trees at the lawn has now resulted in a beautifully defined open space that is well used. The park design takes advantage of the topography to provide good views that encompass the stately early-20th-century buildings along Columbia Road. She said that two-thirds of the park is sloped, with some trees dating from the 19th century according to arborists. She indicated a portion of the park with a naturalistic English-style landscape adjacent to the more formal lawn area. She observed that the specific activity spaces were grouped along the perimeter of the park, apparently to preserve a more natural character toward the center. The rectangular activity spaces are surrounded by the privet hedges to emphasize the geometry and alignment of these areas. She said that the existing rectangular plaza is part of this design pattern, relating to a series of interlocking rectangular shapes that includes the recreation center. She described the entry experience from Columbia Road, beginning with the more formal area and then progressing to the larger open space; she said that the effect is of an area much larger than the park's three acres. She emphasized that the park's beauty results from the contrast of the various areas, while the design also accommodates a variety of recreational activities.
Ms. Reischel said that she and other neighbors opposing the project would prefer choosing another solution to the problem of stormwater runoff, instead of tearing out the park's existing features. She said that the plaza had originally been a popular meeting area or "front porch" of the park, serving as a distribution point to its activity areas, until its character was reduced by the loss of adjacent trees. She cited the privet hedges and walks as important features to retain; the proposal to eliminate one walk and realign one to a curve would diminish the concept of interlocking rectangles in this area of the park, contrasting with the curving character of other areas. She emphasized that the overall system of the design, along with the original materials, would be destroyed by the proposed work.
Chairman Powell recognized Dennis James, president of the Kalorama Citizens Association. Mr. James provided copies of his written comments and of the report from the D.C. Historic Preservation Office. He said that archaeological remains may be located under several areas of the park, including the plaza which has not been disturbed since its initial construction; the piping and containment for the proposed stormwater management would result in extensive new disturbance. He also said that the plaza is traversed by trucks for such needs as trash collection and landscape maintenance; the weight of these vehicles would likely damage the proposed permeable paving system, which rests on crushed stone. He said that the paving system also requires regular vacuuming to maintain the permeability, but the D.C. government is unlikely to sustain this level of maintenance, as evidenced by the current condition of the park. Additional materials in the park such as sand, soil, grass clippings, leaves, and mulch may also be blown onto the plaza where they would interfere with the permeability. He said that the appearance of the proposed pavers would be inconsistent with the exposed-aggregate concrete that is seen elsewhere in the park, and the pavers would not relate to any other design elements of the historic neighborhood. He said that no alternatives have been presented that would avoid destruction of the plaza.
Mr. James emphasized that the proposed plaza design lacks symmetry, an important feature of the existing balanced design for the park. He said that the proposal for a curved path is inappropriate and results in awkward placement of the tree boxes and benches, and it would harm the park's overall symmetry by altering the edge of the playground area. He described the proposed placement of site furniture as haphazard, and he said that the plaza's more formal character would not be consistent with the picnic tables; he suggested that the tables be placed in areas of the park that have grass and shade. He said that the design appears to be driven entirely by functional needs, such as the intention to install permeable paving. He added that the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB), while endorsing the concept design, had discussed simplification of the proposed plaza design including a comment urging less change to the existing design. He noted that HPRB's review was constrained because the park is not considered a contributing element of the historic district, although the neighborhood residents had thought that the park had historic protection.
Chairman Powell acknowledged the varying opinions of the neighborhood residents and the lengthy public process that the D.C. government has undertaken in developing the concept design submission. Ms. Gilbert expressed surprise that the submission does not include a stormwater management plan for a project that is addressing such significant stormwater issues. She said that installing a concrete flume would not be a good solution, and she questioned whether the design results from an overall comprehensive approach to this topic. Mr. La Vay responded that the presentation anticipated a discussion focused on the plaza design instead of the engineering issues; he offered to present additional information on the engineering of the stormwater management.
Ms. Meyer commented that some concerns involve the site grading, which is related to the stormwater issue. She said that the presentation suggested a series of individual responses to local conditions of erosion and drainage, with insufficient consideration of alternatives; and the stormwater management would rely on recharging groundwater from the relatively high elevation of the plaza. She cited the comment in the presentation that a rain garden was rejected because the neighborhood residents want to maximize the amount of lawn space; she said that a rain garden could instead be developed between the plaza and a nearby berm, allowing for the existing plaza to remain in place. She said that such compromises could avert the contentiousness among neighborhood residents. She emphasized that alternatives would result from the design consultant having a clear understanding of stormwater, filtration, and erosion issues across the entire site instead of developing a series of individual solutions. She observed that one of the proposed solutions is a slot drain, which is subject to the same maintenance problems that have been experienced with the existing trench drain. She described the proposal as a design for failure, and she expressed reluctance to evaluate the landscape design due to the inadequate underlying technical design. Mr. La Vay responded that the engineering has been developed with a comprehensive design approach, and he offered to explain the technical drawings that were omitted from the submission materials; Ms. Meyer suggested that these be provided to the Commission for a future concept review.
Mr. La Vay described the three swales that were created in 2009 to address the park's stormwater management. Ms. Meyer observed that these swales are not shown on the grading plan; Mr. La Vay responded that the relatively low swales are not readily apparent at the scale of contour intervals on the plan. Ms. Meyer suggested using a more appropriate interval for the contours. Mr. La Vay indicated the large trees and extensive root zones that are protected by these swales. He said that pervious paving was suggested at the start of the current design process, but it is an expensive solution and the park's soil may have poor capacity for infiltration. The early design exploration therefore included bioretention facilities and further use of swales to protect the important trees, but the community response was unfavorable due to the loss of recreation space. The design team then explored pervious paving, including soil testing. He said that the technical solution does not rely on all stormwater filtering into the ground, but instead captures some water in a drain system that would slowly release the water into the municipal stormwater system. He said that the rain garden location suggested by Ms. Meyer was not considered; he offered to study it further, subject to the limitation of protecting the existing tree roots. He added that the proposed slot drain is actually a redundant measure, and the other stormwater management features should be sufficient; the slot drain would be only a final step in capturing runoff from the walk, which would not be substantial due to the improved interception of runoff from the plaza. He acknowledged that the slot drain could become clogged, but he said that its relatively steep slope results in a water velocity that makes clogging less likely than with the existing flat trench drain.
Ms. Meyer supported the analysis of the park's formal design that was presented by Ms. Reischel; she emphasized that the power of the design results from the contrast of the rectilinear elements with the sweep of trees. She said that the proposed off-center plaza design would no longer have an elegant relationship to the recreation center's facade, and the curve of the proposed walk would be superfluous. She criticized the fussiness of the proposed design and said that it is not a significant improvement on the original design. She said that the problem with the existing plaza may be a lack of shade; the design goal should be to introduce a bosque of trees with sufficient soil improvements to provide a healthy canopy, instead of proposing to repave the plaza. She said that a new geometric solution would not address the park's shortcomings and would instead diminish the existing park, which she described as having an elegant design although it has had insufficient maintenance. She suggested another concept submission that more coherently addresses the stormwater issues, conveys a stronger sense of the microclimate, and more effectively attracts people to use the plaza area.
Ms. Bryant agreed that shade for the plaza is a problem. She said that the design process included a shade study—not included in the submitted drawings—that shows that a significant amount of shade would be provided with the proposed design, compared to what is currently provided by a single willow oak tree. She said that the more significant problem is the lack of anything for people to do in the plaza; she described it as a large formal space with only a small bench at each corner, and most people simply walk through it on the way to other areas of the park. She said that the off-center siting of the proposed plaza is a response to the critical root zone of a nearby tree; the design goal of more plantings results in the need for more soil volume, which could harm the existing tree's roots if the plaza were to remain in its current location. She emphasized that the initial design studies with an on-center plaza demonstrated the problem of either harming the tree or giving up amenities such as the benches that provide a good view. An earlier design included boulders for children's play, contributing to the plaza as a more engaging space, but due to some neighborhood resistance the design has instead shifted more toward the existing formal character that does not seem to meet the needs of the public. She said that the formal quality is apparent in the plan drawings but not comprehensible for people occupying the space, resulting in people's general lack of interest in spending time at the plaza. She said that some of these design issues continue to be explored.
Ms. Meyer observed that the proposal would expend considerable resources to tear up the existing plaza and reconstruct it a few feet to the east, resulting in an approximately equal amount of paved area and only minimal benefit. She said that the presentation referred to a goal of improving the connection between the plaza and playground areas, which could be achieved more simply by adding a walk with shaded benches adjacent to the playground. She said that the design process has apparently resulted in a poor compromise instead of an improved project. She reiterated that the technical issues have not been documented adequately, and the extensive proposed work does not appear to produce a substantially improved result. She summarized her reluctance to approve the concept submission. She suggested further consultation between the project team and the neighborhood residents to consider alternatives, such as eliminating the plaza entirely and providing a path with beautiful views, or programming the plaza more extensively to justify its presence.
Chairman Powell recognized neighborhood resident Kathryn Kross to provide a response. Ms. Kross emphasized that a design should be evaluated on how it is used, in addition to its aesthetics. She said that one reason she formed a neighborhood group was to improve the area of the park that was known as the "concrete lagoon." She emphasized that the park's formal design qualities look attractive in plan but result in an area that is rarely used. She said that residents' avoidance of the plaza constitutes a lack of public support for the existing design, with hundreds of people recently asking the D.C. government to do something new with this area. She said that the design initially presented to the community was more bold and creative, with a more interesting program than currently proposed; the design was subsequently modified in response to the neighborhood residents who have opposed substantial change, an outcome that she accepts as part of the public design process. She expressed frustration that the project would now be halted after the lengthy process and prevailing public support.
Ms. Meyer asked what new features would attract residents to use the plaza, noting that a change in paving is a major part of the current proposal. Ms. Kross said that one problem is the reluctance of parents to remain in the plaza due to poor sightlines toward the playgrounds where their children want to be; the desired change would be a more holistic combination of the plaza and playground spaces. Ms. Meyer asked if this issue is limited to the condition of the privet hedge; Ms. Kross responded that the problem extends to the overall integration of these spaces. Ms. Meyer observed that the separation of spaces is still shown in the proposed design; Ms. Kross said that the sense of integration would become more apparent in the ground-level experience. She added that the existing dead spaces could potentially attract crime, and some homeless people live in the park during the summer. She reiterated her support as a neighborhood resident for a holistic user-based approach to the park design, which she said has been achieved in the proposal.
Mr. Krieger said that the proposal appears to embody the undesirable outcome that sometimes results from disagreement: a solution that combines the worst of both viewpoints rather than a positive result from either viewpoint. He described the proposed design as having little advantage over simply removing the existing overgrown hedges. He suggested establishing a clear priority on either a symmetrical design or more intense public use of the plaza; Ms. Meyer agreed. Mr. Krieger emphasized that the currently proposed design is unsatisfactory. He declined to comment on the technical aspects of the proposal but said that additional information would be helpful for the next review. He summarized his concern that the consensus-building process has resulted in the wrong consensus, and he recommended clarifying the objectives and then reconsidering the design.
Ms. Gilbert requested that the next submission include a plan that shows all of the park's existing trees, including their size, so that the Commission members can better understand the site conditions. She noted the apparent lack of interest in presenting information on the remainder of the park beyond the relatively small area of the plaza and playgrounds; she suggested that further study of the park in its entirety might provide inspiration for how to address the plaza design. Mr. Freelon agreed that further analysis of the entire park would be helpful as the design is reconsidered. He suggested studying issues such as pedestrian flow and the usage of each area.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus not to take an action, with a request for further study including the design objectives, technical issues, and an analysis of the entire park. He emphasized the beauty of the 1947 plan and commented that the proposed design appears awkward, which could be addressed as the design process continues. Mr. Krieger said that the reconsideration of the design might result in abandonment of the 1947 design approach, rather than moving the design back to this classical geometry; Ms. Meyer agreed, and Chairman Powell said that this question is consistent with his summary of the Commission's response. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
2. CFA 19/FEB/15-5, Friendship Recreation Center (Turtle Park), 4500 Van Ness Street, NW. New recreation center and playground. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the concept proposal to replace the recreation center and reconfigure the playground in the northeast portion of Turtle Park at 45th and Van Ness Streets, NW. He asked architect Bruce Hobby of Fanning Howey to present the proposal.
Mr. Hobby described the existing park, which serves the neighborhood with a tot lot, tennis courts, basketball courts, baseball fields, and a very small recreation center of approximately 500 to 600 square feet. The proposal includes providing a larger recreation center of approximately 5,100 square feet; renovating the tot lot; creating a play area for older children; and creating a splash park where children can enjoy contact with water. The project area encompasses 1.7 acres of the 3.6-acre park; the remaining area includes baseball fields that are not being altered. He said that the design is still evolving, and the Commission's review is being requested at an early phase.
Mr. Hobby presented photographs of the one-story recreation center from the early 1960s that would be demolished. The proposed recreation center would be in the same area, taking advantage of the view across the baseball fields and proximity to the tot lot. He described the new building's entrance hall as a galleria that would accommodate artwork and community gatherings while also providing circulation to activity rooms and the larger community room. The program also includes an office, indoor and outdoor storage, a warming kitchen, and public restrooms. He said that one of the activity rooms would be used by children for crafts, which could then be displayed in the galleria. He said that a neighborhood group developed the initial plan and elevations, and the current design retains the neighborhood's concept including a bright, airy character for the galleria and a variety of building materials; although some of the suggested materials would be uneconomical, the current proposal includes a durable wood-like material, masonry for the crafts room, and steel for the roof. He concluded with several views of the proposed building and photographs of the existing context.
Ms. Meyer noted that only the building elevation toward the playground and park was presented; she asked for the street elevation. Mr. Hobby responded that it has been prepared but is not included in the presentation. Mr. Freelon said that the submitted drawings are difficult to evaluate: room names are illegible and lines are blurred, in addition to the incomplete set of elevations. He added that the edge of the projecting roof appears unrealistically thin in comparison to the structure that would be necessary for the proposed spans. Mr. Hobby responded that the roof design has been studied conceptually; as construction documents are developed, the roof would likely need to become thicker. He emphasized that the initial goal has been to maintain the design concept that was developed by the neighborhood group. Mr. Freelon questioned the viability of this approach to the project. Mr. Krieger asked for clarification of what the neighborhood group has requested; Mr. Hobby responded that their concept included an angled roof, a rounded shape for the crafts room, a galleria, and extensive glazing, although not the specific distribution of materials or roof thickness. He confirmed that the neighborhood process preceded his firm's involvement in the project. Mr. Krieger asked if the neighborhood contribution was provided as written goals or as sketches; Mr. Hobby responded that drawings from the neighborhood group were presented to his firm, although these images are not included in the presentation. Mr. Krieger characterized the process as "a little mysterious."
Mr. Luebke noted the apparent consensus that the submission is not adequately documented for the Commission to consider a concept approval; he added that the discussion has not yet addressed the proposed site development. Mr. Krieger said that the general site concept is acceptable—creating two play areas with a building between them. Mr. Freelon declined to offer a further evaluation of the submission, commenting that it is insufficient compared to the typical concept submissions that are reviewed by the Commission. Ms. Meyer suggested developing a drawing that shows both the building plan and site plan, in order to convey the relationship between interior and exterior, instead of simply showing the roof plan on the site drawing. Mr. Krieger agreed that a more detailed and legible submission is needed for the Commission's evaluation. Ms. Gilbert suggested a drawing that shows the proposed building in relation to the existing site plan; she described the park's current character of being broadly open, while the proposal appears to pack much of the program into a small area.
Chairman Powell suggested that the project team consult further with the staff in developing a new submission. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:04 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA