The meeting was convened in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, at 9:09 a.m.
Hon. Earl A. Powell, Chairman
Hon. Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Vice Chairman
Hon. Philip Freelon
Hon. Liza Gilbert
Hon. Alex Krieger
Hon. Mia Lehrer
Hon. Elizabeth Meyer
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
A. Approval of the minutes of the 19 February meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the February meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the minutes.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 16 April, 21 May, and 18 June 2015.
C. Report on the President's announced intent to appoint Edward D. Dunson Jr., AIA to the Commission of Fine Arts. Mr. Luebke reported that President Obama has recently announced that he intends to appoint Edward Dunson to a four-year term as a member of the Commission. He summarized Mr. Dunson's work as a practicing architect in Washington, chairman of the architecture department at Howard University, and a past president of the D.C. Preservation League.
Mr. Luebke noted that this appointment would end the service on the Commission of Vice Chairman Plater-Zyberk, who has been a member for almost seven years. He expressed appreciation for her leadership, expertise, and dedication to the Commission's work.
Chairman Powell reported that the American Institute of Architects has given Mr. Luebke the Thomas Jefferson Award, a high honor for service in public architecture. He extended the congratulations of the Commission.
Mr. Luebke noted that two projects publicized on the draft agenda—both located at The Yards, a development area at the Southeast Federal Center—have been withdrawn by the General Services Administration to allow time for resolution of zoning issues.
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 no changes have been made to the draft appendix. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission approved the Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported that the recommendation for a restaurant's sidewalk seating area along Pennsylvania Avenue has been modified based on design revisions (case number SL 15-084); the favorable recommendation is now contingent on the selection of light fixtures, and she requested authorization to finalize the recommendation upon resolution of this issue. She added that the revised appendix also includes minor changes for the dates of supplemental materials that have been received. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised appendix. (See agenda items II.E.1 and II.E.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 notation of dates of supplemental drawings that have been received. The supplemental landscape drawings remain outstanding for one project (case number OG 15-091), and he requested authorization to finalize this recommendation when satisfactory drawings are received.
Mr. Luebke noted a recent request by neighbors for reconsideration of the favorable concept recommendation for additions to a mixed-use building at 1513 Wisconsin Avenue, NW (OG 14-321). He said that the recommendation was provided by the Commission's Old Georgetown Board at its meeting of 6 March, which was delayed by one day from the originally scheduled meeting date due to the weather-related government closure on 5 March. He said that the scheduling change was publicized in advance, and comments were provided at the rescheduled meeting that conveyed the concerns of the neighbors and the Advisory Neighborhood Commission. Noting the statutory timeframe for providing a response to the D.C. government, he said that deferring action on the project would not be feasible unless requested by the applicant, who declined to agree to a deferral. He added that the project has been reviewed twice by the Board, with ample consideration of the issues raised by the neighbors, and the current concept-level submission would be followed by further review; the neighbors could also ask their Advisory Neighborhood Commission to request further consideration of their concerns by the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board. Because there is no procedural error, the staff has included the Board's recommendation on the Old Georgetown Act appendix; the Commission may choose to remove this project or adopt the appendix as drafted.
Chairman Powell encouraged further discussion of the issues through the avenues available, noting that the Commission is constrained by the process to continue with the timely review. He recognized Stephen Lintner, a neighbor of this project, adding that his comment letter has been distributed to the Commission members. Mr. Lintner asked to state the neighbors' concerns for the record. He said that the rear of his home at 3201 P Street adjoins the area of the proposed modification at 1315 Wisconsin Avenue, and he represents the concerns shared by his neighbors on the block; he added that the Advisory Neighborhood Commission and the Citizens Association of Georgetown have also expressed concerns with the proposal. He summarized the requests in his letter: that the Commission not provide concept approval today for the proposed expansion, and that the Commission refer the proposal back to the Old Georgetown Board so that the residents and neighborhood groups have an opportunity to convey their concerns. He said that the short notice of rescheduling the Board's meeting from 5 March to 6 March was inadequate for neighborhood participation, resulting in a process that did not provide for sufficient public consultation. He said that a more transparent review process would be beneficial. He cited the numerous letters that have been sent by individuals and groups expressing reservations about the project.
Mr. Luebke noted that the other letters were provided to the Old Georgetown Board, which also heard comments from the Advisory Neighborhood Commission and a neighbor of the project. He said that the next review of this project is anticipated at the Board's April meeting. While acknowledging the value of providing an open forum on the project, he emphasized the time constraint for providing a response to the D.C. government. Mr. Lintner requested a written description of follow-up procedures that are available to the public; Mr. Luebke offered to provide this. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
B. National Park Service
CFA 19/MAR/15-1, Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial. Intersection of Maryland and Independence Avenues, between 4th and 6th Streets, SW. Revised concept (planting plan, signs, and perimeter security). (Previous: CFA 19/FEB/15- 1.) Mr. Luebke introduced the proposal for planting, signs, and perimeter security for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial, to be located at the intersection of Maryland and Independence Avenues, SW, submitted by the National Park Service on behalf of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission. He said that some of these elements are being presented to the Commission in detail for the first time following a less comprehensive presentation in November 2014; the Commission's previous concerns with the landscape design included the closing of gaps in the street trees, the densification of the tree canopy, and the development of the ground plane. He asked Peter May, associate regional director for the National Park Service, to begin the presentation. Mr. May introduced architect Craig Webb of Gehry Partners to present the design.
Mr. Webb said that the design has been developed in response to the Commission's comments and ongoing consultation with the National Park Service; it has been further developed in recent weeks, subsequent to the submission of the project booklets for distribution to Commission members, and the plan being presented therefore differs from the plan in the booklets. He said that the current plan strengthens the street edge through the addition of more street trees along Independence Avenue, planted in a more regular spacing and closing the gaps that had been intended to allow views into the memorial's core. The landscape toward the central portion of the memorial has also been altered to appear more naturalistic: some trees are more tightly grouped, creating openings in the canopy that would allow sunlight to reach the turf and would provide an appealing effect of sunlit glades. He asked landscape architect Roger Courtenay of AECOM to continue the presentation of the landscape design.
Mr. Courtenay described the landscape composition, which has been organized in three zones. The outer zone—comprising the street trees on three sides and the promenade in front of the Lyndon B. Johnson Building, the headquarters of the Department of Education, on the south—provides the setting for the memorial park. An area within this ring, referred to as the memorial precinct, extends along the sides and includes the two entrance plazas; its robust tree planting will provide much shade. The third zone is the memorial core, comprising the area demarcated by the tapestry and the two free-standing columns; it encompasses the approach walks and the Maryland Avenue cartway, extending on the north to the inner edge of the sidewalk.
Mr. Courtenay said that tree species have been chosen for their vigorous growth habit, and because they are native to Kansas and native or appropriate to the Washington region. Street trees would be spaced thirty to forty feet apart and would include shingle oaks, red oaks, and swamp white oaks. Six other species would be planted within the park, principally burr oak, London plane tree, and hackberry, along with several specimens of the street tree species. He said that the London plane tree has a visually exfoliating bark with colors similar to the tones of the steel tapestry, and it recalls the trees planted at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas; it was selected in place of the native sycamore because it is a sycamore hybrid that is hardier in an urban environment. The burr oak would only be used within the core area. Several scarlet oaks would be planted near the plane trees. He said that the fine foliage and branching pattern of hackberries would provide a contrast with the more robust trees. Because of its medium height and the visual interest of its fine texture and exfoliating bark, river birch is proposed for a row of planters in the shaded promenade in front of the Department of Education building, an area which participates in the larger memorial composition.
Mr. Courtenay said that the living trees and the images of trees in the tapestry have been conceived as conveying a related set of ideas: growth characteristics and the textures of foliage and bark were studied in relation to the density and texture of the woven tapestry. The design includes 78 canopy and 30 understory trees, with perhaps a few larger trees planted as sentinels along the approach walks and near the information center. He said that the intention is to balance the number of trees with the need to provide access to turf areas, and to ensure that enough trees are planted to create a substantial presence from the start. The park would be shadier at its entrances and openings, with the groves gradually becoming more open and loosely arranged. The two approach walks would pass through a series of shaded and open spaces as they proceed toward the shaded memorial core. The Maryland Avenue corridor would be emphasized with more naturalistic plantings than previously presented, with three or four tree species instead of only one; they would be planted in a looser configuration along its sides. He said that this change would reinforce the view to the Capitol and would also differentiate the avenue's alignment from the perimeter streets. The lawn along the Maryland Avenue alignment would be crowned and defined by a curb on each side. This shorter, more groomed turf would contrast with the adjacent lawn areas beneath the trees, which would be planted with a taller fescue shady mix— similar to that recently developed for the National Mall—maintained at a height of six to eight inches. The plantings at the entrance plazas would include mixes of shade-tolerant perennials.
Mr. Webb described the proposed perimeter security, which is being provided to create a secure buffer for the Department of Education building rather than for the memorial itself. The protection would primarily rely on the use of walls, including the overlook wall, the planter walls, and the two seating terraces at the northwest. He noted that the National Capital Planning Commission had requested reducing the number of bollards because they are undignified; as a result, most bollards within the memorial core have been eliminated, except for a small number behind the tapestry and on the stairways at the ends of the promenade. In the center of the stairways on either side of the memorial overlook—which projects from the center of the promenade—the initial proposal for bollards has been replaced by sloped stone balustrade walls that would support handrails.
Mr. Webb asked Laura Gunther of ESI Design to present the signage plan. Ms. Gunther said that the project would relatively few signs; most would be wayfinding signs around the site's perimeter, including a pylon and a map sign using a design developed several years ago for the National Mall. The pylons would present regulatory and other information; the map would orient visitors to the surroundings. The proposal also includes standard National Park Service signs near the information center, as well as standard General Services Administration signs to identify the Department of Education building. The most prominent sign, located near the information building, will be a tactile map developed especially for the memorial to help visually impaired. This would be a bronze map with varied levels of relief to designate different site textures; it would include text to present the two themes of the memorial, Eisenhower as president and as a military leader.
Ms. Lehrer expressed appreciation for the development of the memorial landscape. She said that the description of how the landscape is organized has made her more comfortable with the design. She said that the placement of trees had initially seemed random and problematic, but Mr. Courtenay has provided a compelling explanation. She commented favorably on his comparison of the weaving in the tapestry to the leaf and bark textures of the trees. Although the team had made great progress, she recommended developing site sections to convey a better sense of the experience of the space.
Ms. Meyer agreed that the concept has become stronger. However, she said the design team has not yet demonstrated that it will work but instead expects the Commission members to project a design from details of trees. She commented that while the layered relation of the tree canopy to the tapestry could make an important contribution to the memorial, this must be demonstrated more fully through careful documentation with elevations, sections, and perhaps a model.
Ms. Meyer noted that the presentation on signs had included a reference to signs that would prohibit food on the site, which conflicts with her understanding that this would be a city park as well as a memorial; she questioned whether such a prohibition could be enforced. Mr. May responded that the National Park Service has not finalized a decision on what activities would be allowed in the park; he said that items such as soft drinks can cause maintenance problems, but people would probably be allowed to have lunch on the steps or the overlook. He said that the greater concern is with controlling activities in the memorial core, which is intended as a contemplative space.
Mr. Krieger thanked the design team for reinforcing the corridor of Independence Avenue with street trees, as the Commission had requested; he asked whether a few more trees would also be added to reinforce the Maryland Avenue alignment. Mr. Courtenay responded that the intention is to balance the need to recognize this significant alignment with the need to shape the memorial space through the tree canopy and the patterns of light and shade on the undulating ground plane. He said that this corridor is designed to be more naturalistic, not a rigid route lined by regular rows of trees. Mr. Krieger commented that the spatial experience of the Maryland Avenue corridor might be too similar to that of the two approach walks, perhaps because of the spacing of the trees, and he recommended differentiating them more; Ms. Meyer agreed. Mr. Webb emphasized the importance of providing views of the memorial from the city; although the gaps in trees toward Independence Avenue have been closed in deference to the Commission's request, the design is still intended to keep view corridors open within the memorial itself. He said that a continuous row of trees along the south side of the Maryland Avenue corridor would entirely block views into the memorial core. Ms. Meyer disagreed with this reasoning, observing that people can see beneath the tree canopy on the Mall where the trees are similarly spaced and limbed up. Mr. Webb responded that other presidential memorials in Washington have broad, open views from important urban spaces, and he did not agree that the Eisenhower Memorial should be completely contained within the tree canopy; he said that the current proposal is nonetheless an effort to accommodate the wishes of the Commission. Mr. Krieger acknowledged the concern and said that he has therefore shifted the discussion to a differentiation of the quality of the space along the walks in comparison to the historic Maryland Avenue alignment. He added that the memorial design includes a huge tapestry and ninety-foot-high columns, and it is therefore unlikely—even if people could not see beneath the tree canopy—that anyone would be unaware that this is a memorial to Eisenhower.
Ms. Lehrer said that the quality of the associated spaces along the Maryland Avenue cartway, such as the presence of shade, will be important to its legibility; the Commission therefore needs to understand the quality of these spaces, and she said that the memorial landscape deserves as much study as the scale and texture of the tapestries. She emphasized the importance of developing informative drawings that convey the character of tree groupings. Mr. Krieger, reiterating his comment from prior reviews, said that he is still surprised by how visible the columns are behind the tapestry, which may have an inappropriate appearance; he emphasized that the Commission needs to see an analysis of the density of trees depicted in the tapestry relative to the supporting columns. Mr. Webb said that this documentation will be provided.
Mr. Freelon asked why the tactile sign would not be located inside the information building. Mr. Webb responded that the interior would be too small. Mr. May added that the building would be a small visitor contact station, containing a small bookshop, restrooms, and shelter for a park ranger, and would not be a typical larger National Park Service visitor center with room for displays. He said that the intention is for the memorial to speak for itself; the public will have access to the memorial at all times, and the sign should be accessible at night when the building is closed. Mr. Krieger observed that the sign would be located beneath a tree, and he asked if falling leaves or other debris would be problematic. Mr. May responded that the National Park Service is even more concerned about sap and other plant fluids, which tend to create maintenance problems, and the location will be studied further.
Ms. Gilbert asked for clarification of the scale of the tactile sign; Ms. Gunther responded that the two side panels would each be less than two feet wide, and the sign is appropriately sized for a visually impaired person to use. Mr. Luebke observed that the top of the sign would be difficult to reach for a person seated in a wheelchair; Mr. Krieger added that the design appears to be a high, solid block, and he asked if a person in a wheelchair would have trouble moving close enough to reach its surface. Ms. Plater-Zyberk observed that the treatment of the sign as a solid block makes it appear to belong to the formal language of the memorial; she recommended differentiating its form and attaching the sign to the building, which might allow enough space beneath it for a wheelchair. Mr. Freelon supported this recommendation.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted the difficulty of visualizing the rendered plans in three dimensions. She asked about the relationship of the several species of proposed street trees on Independence Avenue and 4th and 6th Streets to the other street trees along and across these roadways. Mr. Courtenay responded that the relationship varies; as an example, he said that the red oak on Independence Avenue is used on both sides. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that street trees would relate more to the streets than to the memorial, and she emphasized the importance of using street trees to reinforce the street's character—especially on relatively narrow 4th and 6th Streets. She asked why the narrower shingle oaks on 4th Street would be spaced more widely than the red oaks on Independence Avenue; Mr. Courtenay responded that this accommodates the location of bus stops and lighting fixtures on 4th Street. Ms. Plater-Zyberk questioned this explanation and recommended reinforcing 4th Street with additional trees.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk discouraged the choice of river birches to place along the promenade platform behind the tapestry. She noted that an important concept of the memorial is the relation of the density of real trees to the density of the trees portrayed on the tapestry, and the trees seen behind or below the tapestry will be particularly important for this concept; she suggested using a variety of trees or plantings here instead. Mr. Courtenay responded that birches had been chosen because it made sense in the broad, shaded corridor between the Department of Education building and the tapestry to use a single, small tree species to create a space with a uniform character. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the additional images being requested by the Commission will be helpful in evaluating whether this is the right selection.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the rendering of leafless tree silhouettes is valuable; she recommended preparation of a site section showing tree silhouettes generally to understand winter texture and seasonal character. She added that the current landscape plan seems to present an allée combined with groups of trees, instead of forming a grove that was previously described as the desired effect.
Ms. Meyer observed that the drawings depict the memorial's landscape at maturity, but landscape projects typically include drawings depicting differences over time such as at installation, at ten years, and at maturity. She requested that the Commission see drawings of the landscape's appearance when it is installed for assurance that it will be a dignified and appropriate memorial from the beginning, rather than an uninviting place with too few trees and too much sun that no one would want to visit for decades. She said that such renderings, in addition to helping the Commission feel confident about the design, would also encourage the designers to think about how the landscape will change over the decades.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk expressed concern about the use of balustraded rails as a security measure on the promenade stairs. While the Commission is sensitive to the desire to avoid bollards on this site, she suggested that designing the stairs with a simple bollard would be more suited to the memorial's spare and elegant architecture than the proposed heavy walls. Ms. Meyer and Mr. Krieger agreed. Mr. Luebke said the staff position is that the minimal security barrier is best—the smallest round barrier that pedestrians can move past without calling attention to itself as a barrier. Mr. Webb said that the barrier had been designed in this way but was rejected by the National Capital Planning Commission. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that bollards could be located at the top and bottom of the stairs and support railings, so that they would appear to be part of a simple post-and-rail system. Ms. Meyer commented that these barrier walls are different from any other element of the project and would be located near more important walls; they therefore do not fit with the character of the memorial. Chairman Powell suggested that the staff coordinate this issue in consultation with the National Capital Planning Commission.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus that the design concept is moving in a positive direction, although more thorough documentation is needed, and he reiterated the Commission's appreciation for the responsiveness to the previous comments. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
C. D.C. Department of General Services / D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation
CFA 19/MAR/15-2, Kalorama Park, 1875 Columbia Road, NW. Rehabilitate park plaza, install drainage system, and other minor improvements. Concept. (Previous: CFA 19/FEB/15-4.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept design for the rehabilitation of Kalorama Park. She noted that the Commission took no action during the previous review in February 2015 because of questions concerning the character of the proposed design for the plaza and its relation to the historic design for the park; the Commission members had also raised technical questions about the proposed stormwater management system. She said that the staff has subsequently met with the project team and spoken with members of the community in an attempt to develop a design that respects the historic concept, accommodates many community uses, and improves stormwater management. Mr. Luebke noted that the project has generated extensive public interest, with dozens of letters both for and against the proposal as well as petitions bearing hundreds of signatures. He said that some people in the audience may want to address the Commission; noting the lengthy agenda for the day, he asked that public comments be concise and focus on design issues. Ms. Batcheler then asked project manager Shahrokh Ghahramani of the D.C. Department of General Services to begin the presentation; Mr. Ghahramani introduced civil engineer Patrick La Vay and landscape architect Vic Bryant of Macris, Hendricks & Glascock to present the design.
Mr. La Vay provided an overview of the technical issues relating to the drainage and erosion problems in the park, and he described the planned two-phase remediation effort as presented to the Commission in February. The plaza and the adjacent playgrounds would be rebuilt, and new sidewalks and drainage structures would be constructed throughout the park. Most large trees would be saved; trees near the plaza would be replaced after the plaza's reconstruction. Soil remediation, including aeration and the replacement of topsoil, would increase the viability of lawn areas; existing berms in bioretention areas would be softened in profile.
Ms. Bryant presented the revised proposal for rehabilitating the plaza, following further study of the original 1947 design for the park. She said that the designer from 1947, listed as "L. Bartlett" on the National Park Service plan, could not be identified further. She acknowledged that some members of the community feel strongly that the 1947 design should be respected, but she emphasized that much of it had never been implemented, apart from the general layout of the major park elements. Features that were never installed include a grand lawn with a terraced slope and a stairway, a promenade along 19th Street, and a fountain on the approach to the plaza. She also noted that the existing recreation structure is a more enclosed building than the shelter depicted on the historic plan.
Ms. Bryant described the current design as more formal than the previous submission; the proposed layout acknowledges the existing axis extending lengthwise through the plaza from the center of the recreation building to a flagpole at the south end. The renovated entrance to the plaza from Columbia Road would be framed by 18-inch-high side walls, similar to others in the park; the entrance design would help to articulate the space and would recall the unbuilt architectural elements of the 1947 plan. The plaza would be paved with porous concrete pavers. Paired planting beds in a symmetrical arrangement within the plaza would have thornless honey locust trees forming an allée that frames the axis between the recreation center and the lawn. The tree beds would be large enough to allow the new trees to grow and would incorporate engineered soil structures to further encourage growth. Low plantings around the plaza would include a compact holly, and a low ornamental fence would discourage people from walking across the slope, minimizing erosion. Hedges would continue to be located around the perimeter of the two playground areas; plantings would be kept low, no more than two to three feet high, and would require minimal maintenance. Other perimeter beds would have softer perennial plantings, including areas of colorful perennials. Clematis would be planted on the proposed green wall at the recreation building.
Ms. Bryant said that the three existing benches would be moved from the lawn onto the plaza but would still face outward with a view of the park. The width between these benches and the plaza's edge would be sufficient for people to walk by. The two existing picnic tables would also be moved from the lawn onto the plaza. In the center of the plaza, benches would be placed facing each other to allow groups of people to converse more easily. A multi-level bench would be created along the east side of the planter facing the playground; children would be able to climb on this structure, and it would provide seating at different heights. She said that the large and small planting beds would delineate a formal area or patio outside of the recreation center, as requested by the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation.
Observing that the landscape plan does not include a graphic notation of scale, Ms. Meyer asked for clarification of the plaza's dimensions. Ms. Bryant responded that the proposed plaza is eighty by one hundred feet; the walks would be approximately ten feet wide and would remain in the same location, repaved with pervious pavers laid in a running bond, similar to those used for downtown Washington sidewalks. The new entrance walk would be paved with ashlar stone.
Ms. Bryant noted the community's concern about the safety of the children's playground areas on the east side of the plaza. She said that sightlines into the tot lot and the playground for older children have been opened to establish visual connections, with landscaping restricted to the ends. In place of the tall hedges, an ornamental fence would surround the playgrounds, allowing parents to see their children. More hardscape area would be provided for playing ball or jumping rope. The children's garden proposed at the south end of the plaza would be comprised of plant materials with inviting textures or fragrances for children to explore.
Ms. Meyer observed that the presentation described details rather than defining a design intent; she asked the designers how the revised proposal addresses the community's concerns. Ms. Bryant responded that the original purpose of the project was to control stormwater and soil erosion in Kalorama Park. This was first approached from an engineering perspective; but when the plaza's design was identified as the main problem, the decision was made to focus on rehabilitating the plaza. She said the plaza is a large, deteriorated concrete pad that is not much used by the community, mostly serving as a shortcut through the park rather than a destination. Most of the stormwater is flowing downhill across the lawn, and much of it does not infiltrate into the soil. Turf maintenance practices also cause water to flow down walks to the downhill areas. The proposed landscaping around the plaza is designed to support soil stabilization and allow water to percolate into the soil.
Ms. Bryant said that the project team has also reconsidered how the plaza is being used, discussing the issue with the community and conducting an on-line survey of community needs for the park. She said that people are generally falling into two groups: people who support the proposal due to its emphasis on safety for children's play, and people who want to retain the historic plan. Ms. Meyer asked how the revised proposal accommodates the desire to make the plaza usable; Ms. Bryant responded that the design creates spaces for a variety of activities and for both passive and active recreation. She said that the plaza would be divided into three areas, with a central section to maintain access, a more private area on the west, and a more active space on the east.
Chairman Powell recognized several members of the public who asked to address the Commission. Marney Cheek, representing Parents for Kalorama Park, said that her group has obtained approximately 450 signatures on a petition supporting the D.C. government's efforts to rehabilitate the park. Ms. Cheek noted that the government has renovated thirty other neighborhood parks, and her organization would be pleased to have the same benefit. She expressed appreciation for the Commission's commitment to achieve a cohesive park design. She said that her organization had been satisfied with the original design; a community contingent had criticized it, and changes were made in response. She identified two critical design issues identified by the Parents for Kalorama Park: maintaining open sightlines into the playgrounds and improving the deteriorated plaza. She said that her organization believes the new design will solve both problems successfully—providing open space, permeable paving, and safe areas for children to play. She noted that many of the community's families live in apartment buildings and use the park at all times of year, and they want this design to move forward so it can be ready by summer. She thanked the Commission and the D.C. government for their efforts, and requested that the Commission delegate final review to the staff to expedite the process.
The next speaker was Cynthia Pols, a neighborhood resident who expressed concern that the process is moving too quickly. Ms. Pols said that many of the Commission's comments have not been incorporated into the revised concept, and she asked the Commission members to give clear direction to the D.C. government to study the park's hydrology and drainage more thoroughly because the critical issue is the extensive erosion caused by runoff. She commented that the design had been improved but still has flaws, such as the loss of a large central space in the plaza for community events. She said that lack of maintenance is the reason that the plaza is not much used. She emphasized the necessity of knowing whether the permeable pavement will work and whether new trees in the plaza area will be able to survive.
Nick Woodfield, another parent from the neighborhood, argued that the city is not acting in haste, but rather that the design is the result of a thorough consultation process. Mr. Woodfield said that opponents are trying to delay the process with an aesthetic argument. As the parent of young children, he said that he finds the playground unsafe and lacking clear sightlines; he emphasized the importance of children being able to use their neighborhood park. Since the D.C. government has funds available, he said that rehabilitation of the park should proceed.
Denis James, president of the Kalorama Citizens Association, then addressed the Commission. Mr. James said that the people opposing the plan were not consulted by the D.C. Department of General Services during the latest round of revisions, and his organization had not met with the Commission's staff, although they have submitted testimony written comments. He questioned the proposal to install below-grade drainage pipes, due to insufficient information on how this will affect trees or how the water will be contained and routed; he said that the design should be altered to avoid laying pipes beneath the playgrounds. He said that the revised design for the plaza is cluttered and would not have usable space, while other elements proposed for the plaza could be problematic, such as the use of an ornamental fence instead of a hedge between the plaza and the playground. He objected to such features as the multilevel stone bench, the children's garden, and the proposal to move the picnic tables to an exposed position on the plaza. He said that the proposal would not significantly improve the plaza's existing conditions, and that improvements should include repairing the existing trench drain, retaining the original planters, and planting appropriate trees in the four corner planters. He called the proposed design fussy compared to the park plan from the 1940s, with its clear composition of play areas framing the plaza and an open landscape with curvilinear paths.
Next to speak was Ted Guthrie, the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission representative for the district including Kalorama Park. Mr. Guthrie commented that the proposed ornamental plants would require a sustained maintenance; noting that most of the park's existing problems are due to the lack of proper maintenance, he questioned the ability of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation to maintain the new design. He added that during the park's 2009 rehabilitation, dozens of viburnum shrubs were planted along the terrace and all have since died.
The final speaker was Kathryn Kross, president of the Fund for Kalorama Park. Ms. Kross said that her organization installed a small garden at the park's entrance and it has been successfully cared for by the community, demonstrating that the community has the ability to maintain new plantings in the park. She also commented that the current design has been much improved, which she attributed to the Commission's guidance.
Chairman Powell asked the Commission members for their comments. Mr. Freelon said that the revisions respond well to the Commission's previous comments, and the project has improved considerably. He said that the design should proceed so the park can soon be used by the neighborhood; Chairman Powell agreed and supported the goal of moving the design forward.
Mr. Krieger suggested that people on both sides of the issue should recognize that their disagreement is not large. He observed that opponents fear the new design will be worse than the two previous efforts at rehabilitation, which were only marginally successful. However, he said that the design team for the current proposal has good intentions and has thought carefully about the problems: the plaza obviously needs to be redesigned, and it will be better than before. He agreed about the importance of maintenance and said that the parents are also correct about the importance of making this a better space for children. He expressed surprise at the intense devotion to the plaza's existing design; he noted that it is not of national significance, and it would not be destroyed but made more usable. He recommended clarifying the number of trees that would be damaged by the work; he observed that the designers could reassure the community by clearly communicating such information. He concluded that the revised design is an improvement.
Ms. Lehrer said that the purview of the Commission of Fine Arts is considering the qualities of designed spaces; she deferred to the project team for addressing the technical aspects of drainage. She said that park maintenance nationwide is now often being performed by community groups due to the limited capacity of municipal workforces, which sometimes can offer guidance to the citizens. She observed that working together to maintain the park could bring the citizens of Kalorama together.
Ms. Gilbert observed that the plaza, the garden's central entrance space, has only one canopy tree remaining, and the proposed design with a new array of trees would provide shade and defined edges. She observed that if the plaza were left open, with its wide walks and large paved area, it would likely be used for parking; she said that she has personally seen cars parked there. She noted that the design proposes using a hedge of low hollies, but these appear to merge into the perennials rather than the two planting areas remaining distinct. She recommended using vigorous plants instead of perennials as edge material, observing that the perimeter is eroded in part because no fence is present to prevent people and dogs from walking freely through these areas, and such issues must be addressed to protect the plantings.
Ms. Meyer agreed with the comments of the other Commission members, emphasizing that the design has become much clearer and will result in an excellent space for the community. She commented that it should be understood that designs begin with concept approval and then evolve over time, and before final approval it is necessary for the client and consultants to show how the design will work. She said that the community's technical concerns regarding hydrology are legitimate, but these are not issues which need to be resolved in a conceptual design. She agreed with Ms. Gilbert that the planting plan raises some concerns about maintenance; she observed that this is a relatively small space in a public park, not a public garden, and the proposed array of plants does not add up to an elegant room. She said that other opportunities may be available later for special plantings and gardens, but the first goal is to create a clear structure for this space through the use of robust shrubs, with perhaps a few areas planted for seasonal color and texture. She summarized that the project team has to create a successful plan and then work with the community to manage it. Ms. Lehrer added that some of the new technologies for urban trees, such as the structural soil system included in the proposal, have been successful in creating drainage for trees in heavily used spaces.
Mr. Krieger offered a motion to approve the concept; Chairman Powell also suggested delegating review of the final design to the staff. Upon a second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission adopted this action. Chairman Powell thanked the D.C. government staff for developing a responsive and thoughtful project.
D. D.C. Department of Transportation / Southwest Business Improvement District
CFA 19/MAR/15-3, Francis Case Bridge, I-395 over the Washington Channel and Maine Avenue, SW. Accent lighting. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 22/JAN/15- 8.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal from the Southwest Business Improvement District (BID) to add decorative lighting to the Case Bridge, which is managed by the D.C. Department of Transportation. He said that the current submission responds to the Commission's comments provided at the initial concept review in January 2015. He asked Steve Moore of the Southwest BID to begin the presentation.
Mr. Moore described the location of the bridge, extending from Ohio Drive to 12th Street, SW, and carrying highway traffic over Maine Avenue and the Washington Channel. He said that the presentation would emphasize changes to the design as well as additional views requested by the Commission. He introduced lighting designer Hervé Orgeas of Citelum to present the proposal.
Mr. Orgeas described the closer study of other Washington-area bridges in response to the Commission's previous comments. The Woodrow Wilson Bridge is lit without dynamic changes in color. The Frederick Douglass Bridge has a complex lighting design that emphasizes its design features, although he said that the lighting has not been designed correctly. He indicated the location of the four views of the Case Bridge included in the previous presentation. As requested by the Commission, additional views have now been added from the Jefferson Memorial and the Tidal Basin; he presented winter daytime and nighttime photographs from these locations, noting that the Case Bridge is not directly visible beyond the trees in these views. Nonetheless, he said the current proposal responds to the Commission's concern by omitting the line of blue light that was previously proposed along the northwest edge of the bridge deck. The current proposal also omits the uplighting of the lower side of the deck. The remaining elements of the proposal include the linear blue light along the southeast edge of the deck and the downlighting of the bridge's stone-clad piers, which has been refined with greater lighting intensity and improved distribution of light to accentuate the piers. He presented a series of photographic simulations of nighttime views comparing the previous and current proposals. He provided a plan and elevation showing the proposed fixture locations, noting the reduced number of fixtures in the current design.
Ms. Lehrer expressed appreciation for the response to the Commission's previous recommendations, particularly the consideration of views from the memorials at the Tidal Basin, and she supported the overall design. She commented that the simulations may not accurately predict the aesthetic effect, particularly in relation to ambient lighting conditions, and she asked if the intensity of the light would be adjustable. Mr. Orgeas responded that the pier lighting would be adjustable; the linear blue light is intended to have a fixed intensity, but an adjustable design could be used instead if requested by the Commission. Ms. Lehrer emphasized the importance of being able to control the lighting intensity in response to future conditions.
Mr. Krieger agreed in supporting the proposal and acknowledged the responsiveness of the design revisions. He expressed surprise at the darkness of the lower side of the bridge deck as depicted in the renderings, questioning whether this depiction is accurate; he said that the blackness of this area as seen in the renderings would be problematic, because the entirety of the bridge structure should be perceptible in conjunction with the dramatic lighting. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that reflected light would likely reach the deck; she said that the problem may be excessive contrast between the lit and unlit areas. She suggested a more subtle approach to the lighting intensity, adding that even subtle lighting will cause the bridge to be noticed, but strong lighting would give people a negative impression. She suggested further consideration of the lighting hierarchy in the monumental core: strongest lighting for features such as the Lincoln Memorial, then less lighting of other buildings, and an even more subtle approach to landscape features such as this bridge. Mr. Krieger agreed that reduced intensity of the pier lighting could address the perceptual problem of the deck being too dark. Mr. Moore of the Southwest BID agreed, noting that the problem may be with the rendering technique. Mr. Freelon said that light would likely reflect onto the deck from the stone piers; Ms. Meyer added that light would also reflect off the water surface. Mr. Freelon said that the result would be a softer effect than is apparent in the renderings.
Mr. Luebke said that the Commission could request a mockup to evaluate the best lighting level and address the concerns that have been raised. Chairman Powell agreed that a mockup would be beneficial and the further review could be delegated to the staff; he summarized the consensus to approve the revised concept submission with these recommendations. Upon a second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission adopted this action.
E. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
1. SL 15-090, 900 Water Street, SW. Southwest Waterfront Development, Parcel 2. New residential and theater building. Final. (Previous: SL 12-103, 19 July 2012.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the final design proposal for a residential and theater building at The Wharf, an extensive development project along the Southwest Waterfront. She noted that the Commission approved the concept for the building in July 2012 with recommendations for further development of the design, particularly concerning the building entrances and the retail storefronts. She asked Shawn Seaman of Hoffman-Madison Waterfront, the developer of The Wharf, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Seaman said that this submission is the second of a series of final design submissions for buildings at The Wharf; an office building across the street from this building was approved a month ago, and others will be submitted in the coming months. The current proposal for Parcel 2 is a twelve-story-high building with 501 apartments and a sixty-foot-tall music hall, which can accommodate 6,000 people or a seating configuration for 1,200 people. He described the building configuration with the music hall at the center, framed by two residential towers; the first floor would have extensive retail space. He added that the building is adjacent to the District Pier to the southeast, a major public space of the development that would lead from Maine Avenue to a pier projecting 450 feet into the Washington Channel; he noted that these public space elements of The Wharf were approved by the Commission in November 2014. He introduced architect Douglas Campbell of Perkins Eastman DC to present the design.
Mr. Campbell described the location of Parcel 2 toward the northwest end of The Wharf; he indicated the development parcel for a future office building to the northwest and the existing fish market beyond, and the Banneker Overlook to the north across Maine Avenue. He said that the retail space for this building has been coordinated with the overall retail planning for The Wharf, including storefront design guidelines. The submission includes representative sketches to illustrate the possible character of the storefronts, but their design will be developed by the future retail tenants and will be submitted separately for Commission review. He presented an aerial perspective rendering of the building, indicating the north-south slot between the residential towers above the fifth floor to maintain the open view corridor extending south from 10th Street, SW, and the Banneker Overlook as established earlier in the lengthy design review process.
Mr. Campbell described the ground-floor spaces, including two residential lobbies, the music hall and lobby, loading dock, and perimeter retail space. At the sixth floor, a roof deck above the music hall would serve as a courtyard with amenities for the apartment residents, including a swimming pool and garden plots. He said that the penthouse level has been revised from the approved concept design to consolidate the mechanical equipment into a smaller area, allowing for the introduction of a common-area recreation room for residents that was not previously included in the penthouse.
Mr. Campbell presented comparisons of the previous and current elevations, which he said have been developed further in response to the comments provided. He indicated the development of the music hall entrance as a more traditional theater marquee, eliminating the previously presented supergraphics. The depiction of the retail tenant facade areas has been clarified. He noted that some of the facade revisions result from further study of the interior mechanical equipment requirements. The gridded design vocabulary of the retail facades would also be used around portions of the elevated courtyard to define the residential amenity spaces. He said that some of the courtyard spaces have been repositioned for safety, with the dog-walking area moved toward the center and the residents' garden plots moved toward the edge. He concluded with additional perspective views of the various canopy and facade treatments at the ground floor; he said that special lighting would be provided below the music hall's marquee.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked for clarification of the northwest facade treatment. Mr. Campbell indicated the proximity of this facade to the future office building to the northwest; the serrated cantilevered side of the proposed building would improve the view to the waterfront from apartments along this facade. Ms. Gilbert asked about the unclear detailing at the apartment windows; Mr. Campbell responded that some apartments would have shallow "Juliet" balconies with operable doors and metal railings. To avoid an overly busy design character in the facades, these are proposed instead of larger projecting balconies. He confirmed that their placement is scattered around the building, and is not consistent at each floor.
Mr. Freelon asked for a summary of the Commission's previous comments. Mr. Luebke read the excerpt for Parcel 2 from the concept review in July 2012, supporting the clarity and restraint of the exterior design while requesting refinement of the theater entrance and marquee, detailing of the building's base, and signage at the retail canopies. He added that the current submission appears to address these issues. Mr. Freelon commented that the changes in the facade designs are relatively minor; Mr. Campbell responded that the more significant changes had occurred prior to the July 2012 review, and the refinement since then has been to the detailing, particularly at the first floor. Ms. Lehrer said that this background information on the previous reviews is helpful for the newer Commission members.
Ms. Lehrer asked for further information about the green roofs depicted in the renderings. Mr. Campbell responded that the overall commitment for The Wharf is for approximately half of the roof surface to be planted. Ms. Lehrer asked if people would be able to use the green roofs of this building; Mr. Campbell said that the green roofs above the apartment towers and penthouse areas would not be available for use, but the elevated courtyard space between the towers would be accessible to residents. He confirmed that maintenance of the landscaping would be provided, and ladders would be included to reach the uppermost roofs. Ms. Lehrer asked about the building's relationship to the fish market; Mr. Campbell indicated the proximity with the intervening future office building between them. He said that improvements to the fish market are under consideration, including restoration of a small historic building that is currently covered with numerous electrical panels. Beyond the fish market, he indicated the location of the Case Bridge, which is proposed to have decorative lighting that was reviewed earlier on the agenda; he said that the lighting would form an interesting backdrop to The Wharf, helping to define the larger scale of the development's public space.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted her involvement throughout the long review process and said that the project has developed significantly. However, she said that the legibility of the various facade treatments remains problematic. She observed that different facade colors are apparently intended to correspond to the different building functions—residential, theater, and retail—but the correspondence is inconsistent. She emphasized that this mixed-use building will be experienced within the very active visual environment of The Wharf, and a clear consistency would be very helpful so that people can understand the different uses to avoid confusion. She cited the examples of the music hall's large loading dock, which is designed to look like part of the beige residential tower, and the use of the dark gray cladding for retail on some of the apartment facades. She suggested further refinement to eliminate such arbitrary differences, emphasizing that the priority should be on clarity for users because the design already has enough variety. Mr. Campbell responded that the intent is to emphasize two rather than three design vocabularies for the building, with an overall perception of the building as a single composition. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that this intent is not legible, and the effect is a mismatch of uses with design vocabularies. She reiterated the recommendation to continue the ongoing process of clarification of the building's design, adding that the music hall marquee has improved due to its calmer design.
Mr. Krieger supported the multiple uses and the organization of the building's plan, as well as the overall redevelopment concept for The Wharf, but he agreed that the design of the facades is overly complicated. He criticized the excessive effort to create an active appearance—with multiple colors, grids, scales, and materials—along the riverfront that will itself be a complex and active environment. He said that the intent is difficult to understand, and the result appears commercial and uninteresting. He reiterated his comment from the previous month's review of a nearby building at The Wharf: the designers are trying too hard to make the buildings interesting, and the result is unsuccessful. Ms. Plater-Zyberk added that the buildings are being designed as isolated objects, with insufficient consideration of the overall ensemble of waterfront buildings.
Mr. Campbell said that he disagrees with the criticism and offered to explain the design intent further; Ms. Plater-Zyberk and Mr. Krieger emphasized that the architect's role should be to improve the design. Mr. Campbell said that the buildings being developed simultaneously to the southeast along the waterfront include a glazed box on Parcel 5 and a red brick building with dark black grids on Parcel 4; the design goal of the current proposal for Parcel 2 is to provide some visual variety. Ms. Plater-Zyberk reiterated that the variety is provided successfully by the differences among the buildings, and the individual building itself does not need a variety of design approaches. She emphasized that all of the buildings will work together, forming a piece of the city, and this building itself should be simplified with consistency among its design elements. Mr. Krieger expressed support for this advice.
Ms. Meyer questioned the treatment of the ground plane as depicted in the perspective views of the music hall entrance; she said that the ramp and feathered steps adjacent to the building appear complicated and confusing, and she suggested closer study of this threshold area as the design documents are completed. She said that a low retaining wall with occasional breaks for steps may be preferable to the continuous steps within the sloping ground plane. Mr. Campbell responded that the grade change results from coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to establish the minimum elevation of the building's ground-floor level above the floodplain; he said that some of the resulting complexity could be reduced slightly, but much of it is unavoidable. Ms. Plater-Zyberk recalled that the Commission had provided similar comments on other grade changes along the waterfront public space, including criticism of a profusion of stairs and feathering planes that look good in plan drawings but would be confusing and hazardous to pedestrians. She said that pedestrians should not have to focus their attention continually on the ground plane.
Mr. Seaman responded that the treatment of site grade changes was revised several times in response to comments during reviews of the overall public space and master plan for The Wharf. He noted that the project must accommodate a substantial grade change between the District Pier area and the fish market. Ms. Meyer clarified her concerns with the depicted treatment: exterior stairs typically have relatively deep treads, while the illustrated steps appear compressed; the ramp is squeezed into a short run, resulting in a steepness that requires awkward small railings, while a more generous slope without railings may be feasible; and the area's treatment does not appear compatible with the human scale and the broad scale of the waterfront. She suggested that the ground plane be designed with as much care as the nearby building entrances and canopies. Mr. Seaman acknowledged that the scale of the steps is not depicted accurately in the computer-generated perspective views. Mr. Campbell said that the site design for the public space was part of a previous review, and the current presentation does not include a detailed site section.
Mr. Krieger observed that his earlier concerns, shared by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, are consistent with those of Ms. Meyer: the care given to design issues is uneven at the varying scales of experiencing the building, and the result looks ordinary.
Chairman Powell noted the applicant's request for approval of the final design. Mr. Luebke said that another building at The Wharf—a residential building on Parcel 11 at the southeastern end of the development—had a similar situation of specific concerns arising in the Commission's review of the final design, and these were subsequently resolved through staff consultation resulting in design adjustments. He said that the refinement of the site stairs and ramps associated with the current submission could similarly be addressed through further coordination with the staff, while the concerns with the organization of facade elements may be more complex. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested delegating all of the further review to the staff, with overall guidance for consistency in associating the building's architectural language with the various uses to improve the legibility of the design. Upon a second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the submission with the delegation to the staff to address the comments provided on more careful design of the facades and the ground plane. Mr. Krieger abstained from the vote.
Mr. Luebke noted that additional submissions for projects at The Wharf are anticipated in the coming months. Chairman Powell acknowledged the difficulty of the lengthy review process for this development as the Commission's membership periodically changes; he suggested that the next presentation for The Wharf include a brief overview of the overall development for the benefit of newer Commission members.
2. SL 15-088, The Portals V, 1331 Maryland Avenue, SW. New 13-story residential building. Concept. (Previous: SL 15-074, 19 February 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, SW. She said that when the project was reviewed in February 2015, the Commission recommended that the height be reduced by two to four stories and emphasized the role of this building in framing one side of the view along Maryland Avenue to the U.S. Capitol. She said that the current design is two stories lower, and the presentation includes additional renderings to illustrate the view along Maryland Avenue. The notation system for building heights has also been clarified to relate to the elevated circle at the end of Maryland Avenue for easier comparison. She asked Steve Grigg of Republic Properties Corporation, the developer of The Portals, to begin the presentation. Mr. Grigg introduced architects Robert Stern and Paul Whalen of Robert A.M. Stern Architects to present the design.
Mr. Stern said that the current submission addresses the Commission's previous comments as conveyed to his associate, Mr. Whalen, in the past reviews. He presented an overview of the site and context, indicating the Jefferson Memorial to the southwest, the triangular site, the Maryland Avenue circle adjacent to the east, the extended alignment of Maryland Avenue to the south, and the future office building site to the north. He noted the prominent visibility of the site as people approach central Washington from Virginia on the 14th Street bridge complex.
Mr. Stern presented a series of comparisons illustrating the current proposal and the design that was reviewed in February. He indicated the two-story reduction in height—from 130 feet to approximately 110 feet above the Maryland Avenue circle—and the improved relationship of the building to the nearby Mandarin Oriental Hotel and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing annex. He said that the symmetrical facade composition along 14th Street is punctuated by a series of vertical elements that give visual interest, a syncopated rhythm, and a sense of organization for the program. He indicated the setbacks at the corners of the upper stories, providing landscaped terraces and an interesting profile for the massing. He said that the proportions have been adjusted for the building's base, noting the complex topography of the context with varying street levels. He said that the primary parapet of the proposed building is aligned to within 4.5 feet of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel's primary roofline, and the corner setbacks provide an additional massing relationship of the proposed building to the hotel and to other buildings in the vicinity. He described the organization of the south facade with a pavilion to the west and a recessed landscaped courtyard at the center; a landscaped wall would descend along the drop-off from the elevated height of the Maryland Avenue circle to the ground level below, serving to further reinforce the northwest side of the Maryland Avenue alignment. He added that the north facade has been carefully composed, although the future office building nearby will prevent the facade from being perceived easily in its entirety. He said that the grade change of the future pedestrian walk along the north facade, connecting the Maryland Avenue circle with 14th Street, would be a dramatic and exciting feature within the relatively flat topography of central Washington. He presented the narrow elevation facing the Maryland Avenue circle as it would be seen alongside the vista extending southwest to the Jefferson Memorial, the Tidal Basin, and into Virginia.
Mr. Stern presented updates to several previously presented views of the project from more distant locations, including the Potomac River bridges, the opposite bank of the river, and Reagan National Airport. He indicated the comparison of the previous massing and the lower height of the current proposal. He also presented two new views that were requested by the staff: looking northeast toward the Capitol from the Tidal Basin along the Maryland Avenue alignment, and looking southwest along this alignment from the eastern part of The Portals. He emphasized that the current design works well with the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in framing these views, serving to fulfill the overall intention of the master plan for The Portals. He concluded by acknowledging that the effort to respond to the Commission's recommendations has benefitted the project and the city.
Mr. Luebke thanked the design team for the improved documentation of the current submission, which has made the design issues easier to understand. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked how the proposal relates to changes in the city's height regulations that have been discussed by the Commission in recent years. Mr. Luebke clarified that these regulatory changes, including new rules for penthouses, have not yet been finalized by the D.C. government. Mr. Grigg confirmed that the project is designed to comply with the existing regulations of long standing. He added that any anticipated increase in the regulatory allowance for penthouse structures would not affect this design, which adequately provides for mechanical equipment, rooftop landscaping, and a swimming pool within the existing limits. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the Commission could therefore focus on design issues rather than regulatory compliance; Mr. Luebke clarified that the height issue previously raised by the Commission with this project was informed by aesthetics rather than zoning regulation.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk recalled that the initial submission for this building in November 2014 had a very different appearance, and she expressed appreciation for the subsequent refinement of the design—particularly for the treatment of the upper stories, which she said will look even more interesting than drawn due to the interplay of light and shadow on the setbacks. She questioned the two-story groupings of some balconies and windows on the upper stories, commenting that they appear successful in the elevation drawings but may have a heavy Brutalist character when seen three-dimensionally; she cited the treatment of the south elevation as seen in the perspective view from the Maryland Avenue circle. She said that other multistory groupings of elements in the design appear to be more successful, and she urged further study to achieve a lighter character. She also commented that the articulation of the building's base within the overall facade composition is less successful along 14th Street than on the other sides of the building. She suggested a more explicit articulation in addition to the four projecting balconies located several stories above the 14th Street sidewalk. She added that this concern extends around the corner from 14th Street to the south facade. Mr. Whalen responded that some of the articulation of the base in the previous design was removed in the current submission because the reduced building height made the middle portion of the composition appear "stumpy"; the proposed solution is to reduce the articulated height of the base portion of the building. He offered to add further articulation that would define an intermediate scale for the organization of the facades. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the north facade is more successful with a strongly articulated base and a vertical emphasis, even with the reduced height of the building; she reiterated that the articulation and proportions on other facades could be improved. She emphasized that the base of the building deserves to be as fully developed as the top. Mr. Whalen said that these design details will be developed further as the project moves forward from the current concept stage.
Mr. Krieger expressed overall support for the proposal, particularly with the elimination of two stories which he said makes a major difference. He said that the resulting design demonstrates that removing another story is not necessary. For the further development of the design, he recommended more careful consideration of the interplay between vertical and horizontal emphasis in the facades, commenting that their organization does not yet seem well conceived. He observed that the building does not have a traditional classical order, nor is it proportioned as a New York "wedding cake" building. He said that the lack of clarity in the verticals and horizontals is most evident in the perspective views along the Maryland Avenue alignment. He added that these views also illustrate the intention to establish a gateway framed by the proposed building and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, and this gateway could be strengthened by additional gestures such as an alignment of corbelling to relate the buildings. Mr. Stern offered to strengthen the existing horizontal elements of the design, which are already intended to relate to the hotel and to the composition of facade setbacks. Mr. Krieger observed that the building will be large and potentially oppressive, and further refinement of the articulation and proportions would be helpful.
Mr. Krieger recommended strengthening the design of the penthouse so that it is a contributing component of the design rather than having the character of an element that shouldn't be seen. He acknowledged that the penthouse's setback from the primary facade planes would hide it from nearby ground-level views but noted that it would be visible from a distance. He contrasted the design approach with the very prominent roof and penthouse treatment of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Mr. Stern responded that the hotel's mansard-style roof could be associated with Paris in the late 19th century, while the proposed building draws its inspiration from the style of the 1930s. Mr. Krieger said that regardless of the stylistic inspiration and the required setback, the penthouse could still be treated with a flourish rather than being unrelated to the composition of the building; Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that an Art Deco profile might be appropriate. Mr. Krieger added that an interesting penthouse might overcome any concern about the visibility of the building's height when seen from a distance; he summarized his comment as suggesting a different interpretation of the role of the penthouse in the design.
Ms. Meyer commented that the two-story height reduction has had an important effect on the design, although it has resulted in the proportioning problems with the reduced massing as identified in the comments of the other Commission members. She said that the comparison of views from the airport terminal clearly demonstrates the benefit of the height reduction: the previous massing would have significantly interrupted the perception of the topographic bowl to the northeast of central Washington, while the reduced height leaves the ridge line much more perceptible. She emphasized the importance of the view from the airport for the public and of the topographic bowl as a familiar orienting feature of the city—examples of the multiple scales and broad landscape issues that must be considered in evaluating the design, beyond even the scale of the L'Enfant city. While further height reduction would also be beneficial, she emphasized that the two-story reduction has been an improvement, and she said that further refinement of the penthouse profile could have an additional effect on the perception of the ridge line. She said that the greater attention to the view from the Tidal Basin has also resulted in an improved design.
Chairman Powell agreed that the design is much improved. Mr. Luebke summarized that the largest remaining issue is to develop a secondary level of proportion and detailing. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested treating the facade as a "plaid" and studying the work of Thomas Schumacher, the late architect and professor at the University of Maryland, on the layering of facades. She said that reveals may be more effective than thicker elements in developing the sense of profile and detail. Mr. Whalen responded that the intent is for an abstract design, with shifting window patterns rather than broad, bold design gestures. Ms. Plater-Zyberk emphasized that a shadow can be a very effective design element. Mr. Krieger reiterated his comment that the proportions and the choice of vertical and horizontal elements should be studied further.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the concept submission with the comments provided. Mr. Powell summarized that the development of the details will be critical for the design.
F. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
Mr. Simon introduced the four submissions from the U.S. Mint for various programs of coins and medals, noting that none involve coinage that would be in general circulation. He said that examples of comparable medal duplicates and collector coin sets are being circulated for the Commission's inspection. He asked April Stafford of the Mint to present the alternative designs. Ms. Stafford said that the alternatives for each of the programs were reviewed by the Mint's Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) earlier in the month, and the CCAC preferences will be noted in the presentations.
1. CFA 19/MAR/15-4, Congressional Gold Medal to honor the Monuments Men of World War II. Designs for a gold medal and bronze duplicates. Final. Ms. Stafford summarized the authorizing legislation for a single gold medal that will collectively honor the members of the military who worked for the preservation and restitution of monuments, works of art, and artifacts of cultural importance during World War II and immediately afterward. Bronze duplicates of the medal will be available for sale to the public; an example of a recent three-inch-diameter bronze duplicate medal was circulated to the Commission members. She said that while the legislation does not require specific inscriptions, the recommended phrases include "Monuments Men" and "Act of Congress 2014."
Ms. Stafford presented the twelve alternative obverse designs and nine alternative reverse designs. She noted the CCAC preference for obverse #6, depicting soldiers lifting significant historic artworks within a cave or mine; this design is also the preference of the Monuments Men Foundation, which is the Mint's designated liaison for this medal. For the reverse, the CCAC recommendation is to use obverse alternative #11 depicting a Renaissance portrait superimposed on a spiral motif derived from the golden ratio, the traditional reference for beauty and balance in art and architecture. The liaison foundation's recommendation is reverse #8, featuring a quotation from General Eisenhower superimposed on a background list of the names of historic artists whose work was recovered by the Monuments Men. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked for clarification of reverse alternative #8-A; Ms. Stafford responded that it matches reverse #8 with the addition of a "V" graphic that refers to victory and also serves to separate areas of the medal's design.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk and Ms. Meyer commented that obverse #6 and obverse #11, the CCAC recommended pairing, would be a poor combination. Mr. Powell commented that obverse #6 appears to be a weak version of the famed Iwo Jima flag-raising photograph from World War II; Ms. Stafford said that the artist has intentionally suggested this reference. Mr. Powell added that the artworks in obverse #6 are unrecognizable; Mr. Krieger said that the scene could easily be misinterpreted as depicting a missile.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested pairing obverse #11 with reverse #8, both of which were recommended by other groups as reverse designs. Ms. Meyer suggested consideration of obverse #7, which has the same theme as obverse #6 in depicting soldiers rescuing artworks but does not use the problematic compositional reference to the Iwo Jima flag-raising. Mr. Powell said that obverse #7 is more satisfactory, observing that the artworks are more legible than in obverse #6. Ms. Meyer therefore suggested obverse #7 instead of obverse #11, which she said may not be comprehensible to a general audience that is unfamiliar with the relationship of the golden ratio to art and architectural history. Mr. Krieger suggested obverse #12 due it its straightforward text describing the importance of the Monuments Men; Mr. Freelon noted that obverse #12 also includes images of historic artworks at the periphery. Mr. Powell supported using the quote from General Eisenhower, as seen in reverse #8; Mr. Krieger said that the text in both obverse #12 and reverse #8 would provide useful commentaries on the Monuments Men.
Mr. Powell observed that some of the background names in reverse #8 are repeated across the face of the medal; Ms. Plater-Zyberk recommended against this repetition. Mr. Luebke asked how the list of names was generated; Ms. Stafford said that the list was supplied by the Mint's liaison. Mr. Powell asked why the ancient author Sophocles appears on a list of artists. Ms. Stafford responded that the Monuments Men rescued a wide range of cultural items, including historic literature as well as artworks. Mr. Powell reiterated that the names should not be repeated on the medal.
Mr. Freelon summarized the consensus of the Commission to recommend obverse #7 and, for the reverse, obverse #12; he said that this pairing would provide an appropriate combination of artwork images and text. Ms. Meyer and Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted that this pairing would use the text "Monuments Men" twice but would not include the phrase "Act of Congress 2014"; they recommended revising the text to correct these problems. Ms. Gilbert suggested adjusting the text placement on obverse #7 to avoid the overlap of the last letter with the urn being carried by a soldier. Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted this recommendation.
Ms. Meyer asked if the recommended pairing would be technically feasible to strike, noting that this issue had arisen in a recent review of a Mint submission. Ms. Stafford responded that the production constraint had involved a high-relief design for a small coin; the production process for this medal allows greater flexibility. Don Everhart, the Mint's lead sculptor-engraver, confirmed that any manufacturing issues with the recommended pairing could be resolved; Ms. Stafford and Mr. Everhart added that the depth of relief in some parts of the medal could be adjusted if necessary.
2. CFA 19/MAR/15-5, Congressional Gold Medals to honor the Native American code talkers of World War I and World War II. Designs for a gold medal (with silver and bronze duplicates) for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Final. (Previous: CFA 18/SEP/14-a.) Mr. Simon noted that recent medals in this continuing series have been placed on the Commission's consent calendar due to the similar design issues that were addressed by the Commission in earlier reviews. The current submission has a slightly different design approach and is therefore included for presentation. Ms. Stafford summarized the authorizing legislation from 2008 for a gold medal, along with silver and bronze duplicates, for each Native American tribe that is identified as having members who served as code talkers in World War I or World War II. She said that no specific inscriptions are required; the consistent design approach for the series is to include "Code Talkers," the tribe name, and perhaps a phrase in the tribe's language on the obverse; and the phrase "Act of Congress 2008" and the applicable war name on the reverse.
Ms. Stafford presented the two obverse and two reverse alternatives for the medal honoring the Rosebud Sioux tribe of South Dakota. She said that the preferences of the Mint's tribal liaison match the CCAC preferences: obverse #1 and reverse #2. She described the depiction on obverse #1 with twin profile portraits of a World War II code talker in military uniform alongside a warrior in traditional dress; eagle feathers are included along the lower edge of the composition. Reverse #1 depicts the tribal seal of the Rosebud Sioux.
Ms. Lehrer asked about the delay from the 2008 authorizing legislation. Greg Weinman, an attorney with the Mint, responded that designs are developed as the tribes are identified; the series now includes nearly thirty medals, and four more are anticipated. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked why the feathers are positioned in a downward direction; Betty Birdsong of the Mint said that this orientation was specifically requested by the Mint's tribal liaison. Mr. Luebke noted that the double portrait on the obverse alternatives for this medal is an improvement on the typical designs that have been submitted in this series. He observed that the heads of the figures overlap with the native-language text at the top of obverse #1, a condition that the Commission often finds unsatisfactory; Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the configuration is acceptable for this medal. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell, the Commission supported the CCAC and liaison preferences for obverse #1 and reverse #1.
3. CFA 19/MAR/15-6, 2016 Presidential One Dollar Coin Program. Obverse designs for the Ronald Reagan coin. Final. (Previous: CFA 20/MAR/14-8.) Ms. Stafford summarized the authorizing legislation from 2005 for a series of one-dollar coins honoring the U.S. presidents. The program typically includes four coins per year in chronological sequence, with living former presidents excluded; designs for Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford were presented in March 2014 for minting in 2016, and the current submission would add Ronald Reagan to the series. The obverse is required to include the portrait and name of the president with additional standard text; the reverse, depicting the Statue of Liberty, is unchanged throughout the series.
Ms. Stafford presented eight alternative portraits of Reagan for the obverse design, noting the CCAC preference for alternative #1. Ms. Plater-Zyberk supported the CCAC preference; Mr. Krieger agreed. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the smile in the portrait is unusual for this series; Ms. Stafford said that other presidents have been depicted with this expression, but it is unusually strong in this portrait of Reagan. Mr. Krieger said that this is a fitting depiction.
Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission supported the CCAC preference for alternative #1. Mr. Krieger asked if this coin would be used by the public; Ms. Stafford responded that it will be valid as legal tender, but currently the coins in this series are sold only in numismatic sets and would not be found in circulation.
4. CFA 19/MAR/15-7, 2016 Mark Twain Commemorative Coin Program. Designs for a gold five-dollar and a silver one-dollar coin. Final. Ms. Stafford summarized the authorizing legislation for a limited quantity of gold and silver coins to commemorate author Mark Twain. She noted the sample provided to the Commission members of a recent silver commemorative coin in its presentation case. She said that surcharges on the sale of the coins would support house museums related to Twain in Missouri and Connecticut as well as two universities in California and New York having special programs associated with Twain's work. She described the requirement that the coin designs be emblematic of Twain's life and legacy while including standard coinage inscriptions.
Ms. Stafford presented sixteen obverse alternatives and twelve reverse alternatives for the gold coin. She noted the CCAC preferences for obverse #1 featuring a portrait of Twain and reverse #5 depicting a steamboat. Ms. Plater-Zyberk supported obverse #1; Mr. Powell agreed. Mr. Krieger questioned the "ornery" expression in this portrait and suggested obverse #3. For the reverse, Mr. Powell and Mr. Krieger supported the CCAC preference for alternative #5. Ms. Plater-Zyberk recommended deleting the circular frame within the design because the obverse would not have this border. She also suggested consideration of a reverse design featuring a raft scene from Huckleberry Finn, such as reverse #2. Mr. Freelon did not support the raft scene, commenting that the depiction of the characters is unclear. He observed that reverse #8 features a more realistic riverboat depiction than reverse #5; Ms. Meyer and Ms. Lehrer agreed that the drawing for reverse #8 is superior. Mr. Powell added that reverse #8 does not have the problematic circular frame, allowing the riverboat's smoke plume to reach the edge of the coin.
Mr. Luebke noted that obverse #1 does not include Twain's name. Ms. Stafford responded that the gold coin will be very small, and the name of the subject is sometimes not included on such coins. Mr. Powell said that Twain's portrait will be recognizable to the general public. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested adding Twain's signature, which is used in obverse alternative #3; Mr. Krieger said that the signature is one reason for his preference for obverse #3. Don Everhart of the Mint suggested that the signature could be included below the minting year in obverse #1; Mr. Powell supported this suggestion. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger, the Commission recommended obverse #1 with the added signature and reverse #8 for the gold coin.
Ms. Stafford presented seventeen obverse alternatives and fourteen reverse alternatives for the silver coin. She noted the CCAC preference for obverse #1 featuring a portrait of Twain and a background silhouette of a raft scene from Huckleberry Finn, and obverse #11 to be used as the reverse design with adjustments for the required inscriptions. Mr. Powell observed that obverse #1 does not include Twain's name, a concern already raised by the Commission with the gold coin; Mr. Freelon suggested adding it to either the obverse or reverse. Ms. Gilbert suggested consideration of obverse #14, which she described as a beautiful design; Mr. Freelon and Mr. Powell agreed.
Ms. Stafford provided a description of the design for obverse #11, the CCAC preference for the reverse, which features an assortment of characters from Twain's work. Mr. Freelon and Mr. Powell said that it is an overly complicated design. Ms. Stafford indicated the sample provided of a silver commemorative coin, which is larger than the gold coin. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the whimsical images of Twain's characters—including a frog and a knight—would be a fitting tribute to him and would be unlike any other coin designs. Mr. Powell and Mr. Krieger agreed. Ms. Lehrer suggested reverse #14 as a superior composition with the same theme of Twain's characters; Ms. Meyer did not support reverse #14. Ms. Gilbert suggested reverse #6-A, depicting a river scene; Mr. Powell said that the steamboat in the background is poorly depicted, and Ms. Meyer agreed that this image appears to be computer-generated. Mr. Powell suggested returning to the theme of a composite of Twain's characters for the reverse. Ms. Meyer supported obverse #11 as a satisfactory design.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus to recommend obverse alternative #14 and, for the reverse, obverse alternative #11. Upon a second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission adopted this action.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:46 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA