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 9:13 a.m.
Hon. Earl A. Powell, Chairman
Hon. Philip Freelon, Vice Chairman
Hon. Edward Dunson
Hon. Liza Gilbert
Hon. Alex Krieger
Hon. Mia Lehrer
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
A. Administration of oath of office to Edward D. Dunson Jr., AIA. Mr. Luebke introduced Edward Dunson, who was appointed by President Obama on 8 April to a four-year term on the Commission, and administered the oath of office to him. He summarized Mr. Dunson's work as a practicing architect in Washington for many decades, chairman of the architecture department at Howard University, past president of the D.C. Preservation League, and ten-year member of the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board.
B. Recognition of the service of Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, 2008 to 2015. Mr. Luebke reported that Mr. Dunson replaces Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, who has served on the Commission since 2008 and as Vice Chairman since 2011. He said that a letter from the Chairman has been prepared conveying the Commission's appreciation for her service; he noted her strong advocacy for the quality of public space.
Mr. Luebke noted the vacancy for the position of Vice Chairman. Upon a motion by Chairman Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission elected Mr. Freelon as the Vice Chairman.
C. Approval of the minutes of the 19 March meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the March meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the minutes.
D. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 21 May, 18 June, and 16 July 2015.
E. Report on position announcements for hiring new staff (posted on www.USAJOBS.gov). Mr. Luebke reported that a staff position is currently available for either an architect or architectural historian to assist with Old Georgetown cases. The announcement for the position can be obtained through the federal government's USAJOBS website. He noted the large number of projects—nearly 400 annually—that the Commission receives in the Georgetown historic district.
F. Report on the 2015 National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs Grant Program. Mr. Luebke reported on the federal grants program administered by the Commission to support Washington-based arts organizations. The application deadline for the 2015 program was on 1 March, and the staff is in the process of evaluating the eligibility of the applicant organizations. After approval by a review panel, which includes Chairman Powell, the grant amounts will be determined by formula and then distributed to the recipients. He anticipated that the process will be completed by June.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Luebke noted that the first two projects on the consent calendar are temporary security installations at the White House complex, including upgrades to the perimeter fence and to vehicular entrances (case numbers CFA 16/APR/15-a and 15-b). These submissions are related to an information presentation later on the agenda that will address the development of a permanent comprehensive security design for the White House complex (agenda item II.B.2). Noting the public interest in this topic, he suggested deferring the vote on these two projects and considering them in conjunction with the information presentation; Chairman Powell supported this revision. Mr. Luebke also noted that the consent calendar includes a streetscape submission from the National Gallery of Art, where Chairman Powell serves as director, and he should therefore recuse himself from involvement with this consent calendar item (case number CFA 16/APR/14-c). Mr. Lindstrom added that the wording of the recommendation for this National Gallery project has been adjusted to require coordination with other agencies having jurisdiction over the streetscape area; he said that this is the only change that has been made to the draft appendix.
Mr. Lindstrom suggested separate votes for portions of the consent calendar. Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the recommendation for the National Gallery of Art submission, with Chairman Powell not participating. The Commission then approved the remainder of the Government Submissions Consent Calendar, with the exception of the first two cases which were deferred for consideration in conjunction with agenda item II.B.2.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported two substantial changes to the draft appendix. One project has been removed to allow time for further consultation (case number SL 15-092), and she anticipated that it will be listed in a future appendix. One recommendation for a restaurant's sidewalk seating area along Pennsylvania Avenue (SL 15-102) requires review by multiple agencies, which has not yet been completed, 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. The Commission approved the revised appendix. (See agenda items II.F.1 and II.F.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 drawings remain outstanding for one project (case number OG 15-017), and he requested authorization to finalize this recommendation when satisfactory drawings are received. Chairman Powell supported this delegation, and the Commission approved the revised appendix.
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 16/APR/15-1, Dwight D. Eisenhower National Memorial. Intersection of Maryland and Independence Avenues, between 4th and 6th Streets, SW. Revised concept (landscape planting plan, pole lighting, bas-relief sculptures, and inscriptions). (Previous: CFA 19/MAR/15-1.) Mr. Luebke introduced the presentation of developments to the concept design for Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial, submitted by the National Park Service on behalf of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission. He said that the presentation includes: revised designs for the landscape, the lighting plan, the bas-relief sculptures, and the layout of inscriptions; responses to the Commission's comments from earlier reviews to develop the planting plan by defining edges, the diagonal walks, and the Maryland Avenue corridor; more information about the relation of the trees to the site; and models and other exhibits, including the proposed layout of the inscriptions for the backs of the bas-relief wall panels. He asked Glenn DeMarr of the National Park Service to begin the presentation. Mr. DeMarr introduced several members of the design team: architect Craig Webb of Gehry Partners, landscape architect Roger Courtenay of AECOM, sculptor Sergey Eylanbekov, and stonecarver Nicholas Benson.
Mr. Webb said changes have been made to enhance the idea that the memorial grove would recreate a natural landscape evocative of the Midwest and of Eisenhower's Kansas childhood. He referred to the precedent of Central Park, designed by Olmsted and Vaux with the goal of creating an image of nature rather than an actual natural landscape. He described the revisions made in response to previous comments. The line of street trees along Independence Avenue has been adjusted to close the two gaps that were previously proposed. The overall number of trees for the site has been decreased to improve the viability of the turf, based on discussions with the National Park Service about turf maintenance. The Maryland Avenue corridor has been further differentiated from the two approach walks nearby; the corridor would be planted with closely mown turf in contrast to the looser turf beneath the trees to the sides. He presented images of campus landscapes to depict the desired character: a closely mown allée at Princeton University; the tree canopy within the open space of Harvard Yard; and the Lawn at the University of Virginia, showing that an effective tree canopy can be composed of different species of varied height and structure.
Mr. Webb described how the site would be layered to create an architectural procession from the city streets to the memorial core. He said that the strengthened line of street trees would participate in the larger composition of the streetscape, serving as a threshold to the site. The understory tree canopy would form small-scale spaces as "stepping stones" that would invite visitors to move gradually into the memorial core. He emphasized the importance of retaining openings among the trees near the Maryland Avenue axis, revealing views of the sculptural ensembles, of the full height of the tapestry, and of the sky above—which he said is vital to the memorial's evocation of the Midwestern landscape. Trees would enclose the approach walks, including their terminal vistas. The walks would be more closely defined by trees than the Maryland Avenue corridor, which would be relatively open to provide an unobstructed view of the Capitol; its ground plane of turf would help to differentiate its spatial character from that of the paved approach walks.
Mr. Courtenay described the changes to the landscape plan in more detail. He presented a diagram illustrating revisions to the tree planting plan; while the variety of species has not changed significantly, about a quarter of the previously planned trees have been eliminated and the positions of others have been slightly shifted. The result is a looser planting pattern, with trees spaced from 20 to 45 feet apart. The approach walks would be more strongly articulated: arriving at the northwest or northeast corner of the site, a visitor would enter a shady plaza before proceeding down the walk through dappled shade; the sense of enclosure would increase slightly before opening up at the memorial core. Sun and shade have been studied to ensure sufficient solar access for healthy turf, and the understory trees around the open areas have been shifted to direct views to the memorial core.
Mr. Courtenay addressed the Commission's previous recommendation to coordinate the street trees with those in the neighborhood. He said that the adjacent streets are currently planted with a diversity of species: willow oak on 4th and 6th Streets, and primarily Zelkova along Independence Avenue, with elms and some red oaks adjacent. The spacing of street trees would range from 35 to 50 feet depending on site conditions; the closer spacing is proposed on Independence Avenue, using red oaks.
Mr. Courtenay said that bur oak would be planted only within the area demarcated by the columns, and a group of bur oaks and London plane trees would be planted near the center of the memorial. He presented a diagram showing the projected tree growth over time, illustrating a forty- to fifty-foot canopy reached after approximately thirty years of growth. Over decades the trees may be thinned out, but the goal is to maintain the character and structure of the landscape even with such changes. He emphasized that trees would be layered through the landscape. River birch trees would be installed in planters along the low, wide promenade in front of the Department of Education building; the spacing of the planters would be based on the position of other structures in this area, and the birches would be visible as an animating feature behind and below the tapestry's textural surface.
Mr. Webb presented the lighting plan, describing the locations and types of proposed fixtures. The lighting would be focused on the ground plane rather than on the tree canopy, enhancing the contrast of the Capitol dome. Street lighting on twenty-foot-high poles would be placed around the memorial's perimeter; twenty-foot-high poles would also be set among the trees along the Maryland Avenue axis and the two approach walks. Uplighting has been eliminated from the ground plane because of maintenance concerns; instead, LED lighting beneath the benches would spill across paving surfaces and the ground plane. The memorial core would be lit by focused lamps mounted on four thirty-foot-high poles, high enough to keep the poles out of sightlines and to avoid glare in people's eyes. The smaller poles would have small LED fixtures, chosen for lower energy use and long lamp life; fixtures for the memorial core lighting would be either metal halide or LED. Fixtures in glass-covered troughs at the bottom of the sculptural panels would cast raking light across the bas-reliefs, similar to the effect at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Stairways on the promenade would have LED fixtures set beneath the handrails. He added that the lighting of the tapestry will be presented to the Commission in May 2015.
For the sculptural elements of the memorial, Mr. Webb noted that the Eisenhower Memorial Commission has asked for a sculpture of an African American to be included among the presidential advisors depicted surrounding the statue of President Eisenhower; this change will be presented at a later meeting. Mr. Eylanbekov then presented the proposed sculptures that represent Eisenhower as general and as president; the bronze figural groups are focused on the figure of Eisenhower. Stone panels carved in bas-relief would act as backdrops to the groups and emphasize the theme of each composition. On the presidential side, the relief depicts a large map of the world, symbolizing Eisenhower as a post-war leader and representing the international scope of his presidency; the sculpture is inspired by the famous Yousuf Karsh photograph of Eisenhower posing with his hand on a globe. Mr. Eylanbekov said that the map will be a compelling image: the oceans surrounding the continents would be carved with a rougher surface than the continents, which would have the same texture as the enframing border. He confirmed that the bas-reliefs would be monochromatic, and the only tonal difference would be provided by the texture. Mr. Krieger asked if the frame around the map would be expressed; Mr. Eylanbekov responded that it could be finished as a frame or it could be carved more roughly, and he said that the carving of the map would actually be shallower than is depicted.
Mr. Eylanbekov presented the sculptural representation of Eisenhower as a general. The background would depict D-Day and the Normandy landing, including several landing craft and a tank carrier in the ocean; the carving would create a vibrant ocean surface and imply its vastness. Mr. Krieger commented that this image appears more subtle than the map, and he asked if the intent is for the world map to recede as much as the understated depiction of the landing craft or to remain very visible. Mr. Eylanbekov responded that he intends both backgrounds to be subtle; Mr. Krieger and Chairman Powell supported this intention. Mr. Webb added that the map panel would frame the freestanding figures as an interior scene, while the D-Day panel illustrates a broad outdoor view.
Mr. Benson described the proposed layout and technique for the inscriptions. He provided a sample of the intended infill for the letters, which he described as both subtle and durable; he said that the same product was used on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. He added that the infilled letters would remain legible even when wet.
Mr. Benson presented a revised layout of Eisenhower's Guildhall Address, noting that he has narrowed the space between the two blocks of text to convey that they form a single quotation. He said that "London" has been added to the attribution of this quotation, as requested by the Commission. He then presented a revised layout for Eisenhower's First Inaugural speech and Farewell Address. Each would be depicted on a separate panel, broader than in previous versions to accommodate more content from the two speeches. He indicated the previous layout with relatively small spaces between sections of the Farewell Address, noting the concern of the Commission and others that the spacing would not provide a large enough visual break to convey that a large amount of text had been removed between the sections. He then illustrated a revised proposal using an enlarged space between sections of text, with a typographic symbol to indicate more clearly than an ellipsis that text has been omitted. He said that the proposed symbol is composed of four points arranged in a diamond, adding that the visual weight of the four-point symbol is similar to the weight of the character strokes. Mr. Krieger asked for clarification of why the normal convention of an ellipsis is not used; Mr. Benson responded that the Eisenhower Memorial Commission has encouraged using larger spaces to demarcate more clearly the separate passages.
For the Guildhall Address, Mr. Freelon asked for clarification of how the text is broken between the two panels; Mr. Benson confirmed that the first panel ends with a sentence that continues on the second panel, and he said that people would need to understand that the sentence continues across the panels. He contrasted this with the current composition of the First Inaugural speech and Farewell Address, which he said clearly differentiates between the two speeches. Mr. Freelon observed that the different end positions of the two text blocks help to distinguish the two quotations. Mr. Benson added his opinion that the attributions for each speech should be inscribed as separate lines the same distance apart after the final line of each block of text.
Ms. Gilbert questioned whether the inserted diamond symbol would appear merely decorative because it is not a standard typographic marking. Mr. Luebke clarified that the text selections have two different kinds of omissions: brief jumps within a sentence or paragraph, or larger shifts to combine passages from different parts of a longer speech. Correspondingly, two different notations are used—the ellipsis for shorter breaks, and the diamond symbol for larger separations. He said that the staff has consulted extensively on this issue and considers the proposal to be a reasonable solution. Mr. Krieger commented that the proposed solution is not an obvious one but might be the best; Ms. Gilbert agreed. Mr. Krieger asked if different spacing widths were studied for each side of the symbol; Mr. Benson responded that he has carefully adjusted the borders to allow the different layouts of text to fit and to flow smoothly. He said that the space around the dingbats should be large enough to be immediately recognizable, but not so large that it creates a gaping hole within the fabric of the overall inscription. He added that he believes the character height needs to be of monumental scale in order to be visible within the context of the architectural elements.
The Commission then inspected the models. Mr. Webb said that the plinths for the statue groups would range in height from eighteen inches to two feet on the sloping ground. Mr. Freelon asked what age of tree growth is represented in the models; Mr. Courtenay responded that they are depicted at approximately thirty years old. Mr. Krieger asked whether a larger tree could be planted; Mr. Courtenay said that the intended selection already includes a variety of sizes; he added that street trees by regulation are a maximum four- to six-inch caliper at the time of installation. Mr. May said that the National Park Service prefers not to plant trees larger than a five-inch caliper because of a lower success rate. Mr. Courtenay said that trees require a year or more to revive and continue growing after transplantation. He said that the tree planting in the memorial core would range from six to twelve inches, and perhaps even a few larger specimens. He said that even the smaller trees would have canopies 20 to 25 feet high and 20 feet wide, beginning six to eight feet above the ground.
Ms. Lehrer observed that the sections and models appear to show trees that have been limbed up, with an evenly aligned bottom to the canopy. Mr. Courtenay said that this treatment would depend on the actual trees; those selected from a nursery would already have canopies at that height or could be trimmed before being transplanted. He clarified that the intended treatment is to remove the trees' lower branches, and over time to limb them up.
The Commission members discussed the maquettes of the sculptures; Mr. Luebke noted that the designs are essentially as previously presented, but the background bas-relief behind the presidential group—now the world map—had formerly shown the Oval Office with curtained windows. Mr. Webb added that the relief on the ocean within the world map would be 1.5 inches deep, shallower than suggested by the scale model, and the land surfaces of the map would be level with the honed limestone finish of the block so that only the oceans appear to be in relief. Mr. Krieger noted the contrast of the two sculpture groups with the outdoor landing scene and the interior presidential scene; he recommended supporting this distinction by maintaining the subtle suggestion of a window surrounding the map. Ms. Gilbert observed that the depth of the waves appears to increase at one end of the landing scene, which she called a beautiful effect. Mr. Eylanbekov responded that the challenge is to show depth in very low relief; he said that he is still experimenting with the technique, and the scene is intended to catch the light and suggest the vast depth to the horizon.
Mr. Luebke indicated the vertical strip drawings depicting full-size portions of the inscription walls, which would be from ten to fourteen feet high and approximately fourteen feet wide. Ms. Lehrer commented that the text would be easier to read if the distance between the lines were narrower. Mr. Benson responded that the spacing is large enough so the lines can been seen as separate; when the spaces are too tight in a large body of text, he said that the letter height itself is more demanding on the eye, while more space between each line improves the readability.
Mr. Luebke noted the public interest in the project. He summarized a letter received from Neil Flanagan of New York saying that the relief panels are unique and the relation between them and the freestanding sculpture would be similar to an assemblage in visual art or a film montage; the superimposition of seemingly unrelated images would engage viewers as they make connections between the two.
Chairman Powell recognized Justin Shubow, speaking on behalf of the National Civic Art Society. Mr. Shubow said that the extremely shallow bas-reliefs would always be shaded by the lintel blocks and the Department of Education building, and perhaps even most of the memorial core would be in shade for most of the year. Also, he said that the intended imagery would be ruined by visitors climbing on the plinths and standing next to the statues. He described the memorial design as a two-dimensional landscape sandwiched between three-dimensional landscapes, a complex juxtaposition between two volumes and a surface. He said that the presented tapestry image has changed from the image shown in models and renderings, and he urged the Commission not to make any final decision on the living trees until the final location and appearance of trees on the tapestry has been determined. He also expressed concern about the proposed nighttime lighting. He distributed a copy of a rendering from the November 2014 submission depicting the night view up Maryland Avenue to the Capitol dome; from this vantage point, he said that the tapestry would look like a glowing billboard or an outdoor movie screen, dominating the vista and violating the primacy of the Capitol in the city's visual hierarchy. He added that at an historic preservation meeting on the memorial in December 2014, representatives from the National Capital Planning Commission and the D.C. Historic Preservation Office expressed concern about this problem and requested a rendering of the design with the westernmost and easternmost bays of the tapestry removed. He cited the concern that the brightness of the tapestry from the rear would be stronger than shown in the rendering, which does not depict the interior office lights in the Department of Education building behind it; he said that the National Civic Art Society encourages the Commission to request the submission of a rendering that shows this effect.
Noting that no vote is required on the current submission, Chairman Powell asked the Commission members for comments on each topic of the presentation. Ms. Lehrer commended the project team for advancing the landscape component; she said that the design has become beautiful, thoughtful, and comprehensive, with consideration of the tree structure and of how visitors would move through the space. She added that the description of the combined effect of the bark, leaf, and tree structure conveys a beautiful image. She observed that few understory trees remain in the design, and she suggested further consideration of how many would be necessary. She concluded that the memorial would be a unique space, fulfilling the intent to create a garden.
Ms. Gilbert expressed appreciation for the elevations and models, which she said are helpful in understanding now how the layered landscape would synchronize with the tapestry image. She supported Ms. Lehrer's comment about the understory trees, noting that redbuds and dogwoods bloom before other trees leaf out, so that planting only a few of these trees might at times appear inadequate on the large site; she suggested consideration of either planting more or eliminating them altogether. She said that the structure of the canopy trees would be elegant, and the dialogue of the living trees with the tapestry appears to be working successfully.
Mr. Krieger agreed with the comments of the other Commission members and supported the landscape revisions presented by Mr. Courtenay. He said that one minor remaining concern relates to Mr. Freelon's question about the time period of the trees shown in the model: while the design responds to the request of the Commission members to contrast the Maryland Avenue corridor with the two approach walks, as illustrated with the thirty-year tree growth, he questioned whether this distinction would be as clear during the memorial's first decade. Mr. Courtenay responded that this condition would not pose a problem on the west side of the site, where Maryland Avenue and the approach walk have different alignments; but on the east, where the alignments would be parallel and close together, additional differentiation may be helpful for the first few years.
Mr. Krieger questioned whether the trees depicted on the tapestry should look so much larger than the real trees. Mr. Webb confirmed that the scene depicted on the tapestry is the actual image from which the final tapestry would be created, and the presentation depicts the expected relationship between the living trees and the tapestry trees. He said that part of the issue of scaling trees to the tapestry has to do with the viewpoint, and that people are viewing the model in parallax from above; he said that the trees on the tapestry are not intended to be completely buried within the canopy of living trees in the foreground. Mr. Krieger observed that the relationship would shift as a visitor moves from the street to the memorial core. Ms. Lehrer emphasized that the models and renderings do not necessarily depict the final height of the mature trees. Mr. Krieger agreed, but he said that for the first thirty years the trees will be much lower than shown, and this must be considered as the design is developed.
Mr. Krieger reiterated his previous concern about the potentially excessive prominence of the supporting columns behind the tapestry when seen from the park. With the proposed tapestry scene, he observed that one column still seems entirely exposed and dominates the view, especially in the nighttime rendering, due largely to the placement of trees within the tapestry image. Mr. Luebke added that the Commission has also previously expressed concern about the character and arrangement of the river birches behind the tapestry. Mr. Krieger said that he would prefer the birches to be in a more regular line, but this may not be possible due to the site conditions along the promenade.
Mr. Luebke noted that some lower-level lighting has been removed from the understory, and the larger overhead lights may be unavoidable. Mr. Krieger commented that he is satisfied with the progress of the lighting design. Chairman Powell asked the Commission members if they are satisfied with the bas-reliefs; Mr. Krieger responded that he supports the description of what is intended. Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission's comments about balancing the level of graphic intensity on the bas-reliefs and about legibility of the text.
Ms. Lehrer asked how technology will be used to provide interpretation for the memorial. Mr. May responded that this will be the first major memorial for which a digital component has been considered from the beginning. Daniel Feil of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission said that a media design firm has been engaged to develop an e-memorial, which will narrate Eisenhower's story through key moments in his life. Visitors will be able to use their own electronic devices to access information; the National Park Service website for the memorial will also have a virtual tour. Ms. Lehrer asked whether any physical object on the site would be needed to contain or transmit the technology; Mr. Feil said the National Park Service has been clear that no screens or kiosks should be present, only a sign telling people how to access the information. Mr. May added that the National Park Service offers cell phone tours and is increasingly developing electronic information resources for memorials.
Mr. Krieger asked how the inscriptions on the rear of the blocks would be lit; Mr. Webb responded that the same trough lighting configuration would be used on the back of the blocks as on the front. Mr. Krieger asked if this would be sufficient to light the top of the inscriptions; Mr. Webb said that the light would be cast to rake across the face of the block, creating a strong contrast between light and shade within the letters. Mr. Krieger requested an image of this effect in the next review. Mr. Benson commented that the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial provides a good example of this type of nightlighting across a similarly high panel.
Mr. Krieger observed that the podiums for the sculptural groups are lower than previously presented, and he asked if the intent is to encourage visitors to climb on them. Mr. Webb responded that the lowest height of eighteen inches should be high enough to discourage people from climbing, and the sculptures should not be so high as to appear oppressive. Mr. Krieger said that this may deserve further consideration, and it may be a management issue.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the column width makes the Guildhall text easy to read, but the other two speeches are set too widely for her eyes to track comfortably from one line to the next; Mr. Krieger agreed. Mr. Luebke clarified that major changes have not been made to the design or scale of the typography; he emphasized that the Commission members should provide comments because these details may not come for review again; the newly presented material includes the use of graphic devices to separate sections of the inscriptions. He summarized that the Commission members expressed a preference for the second layout option for the First Inaugural speech and the Farewell Address, using slightly different formats to make clear that they are two different speeches. He added that one slight modification could be a minor reduction in the scale of typeface, which would allow for a reduced overall width of the text. He asked if the Commission wants to see this again before the final design submission; Chairman Powell said that this would not be necessary. Mr. Krieger asked what would be presented at the review of the final design; Mr. Luebke confirmed that all of the project components would be included, although not in as much detail. He said that the Commission could offer specific guidance on what should be seen again, such as inscription layouts; Chairman Powell and Mr. Krieger said that these would not need to be seen again in detail.
Mr. Luebke summarized the consensus that the Commission is satisfied with the details, punctuation, and typeface for the inscriptions, but has some remaining questions about the panels and the scale, which will be presented again with the final design submission. The discussion concluded without a formal action. Chairman Powell conveyed the Commission's appreciation for the presentation.
2. CFA 16/APR/15-2, President's Park South and the White House Complex, including the Eisenhower and Treasury Buildings, between Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues and 15th and 17th Streets, NW. Process and general schedule for permanent security and visitor experience improvements. Information presentation. Mr. Luebke introduced an information presentation on the process and general schedule for providing permanent perimeter security for the White House complex, provided by the National Park Service (NPS) in cooperation with the United States Secret Service. He said that the study area includes the White House; President's Park South, popularly known as the Ellipse; the Eisenhower Executive Office Building; and the main Treasury Department building. He noted the heightened public interest in security issues at the White House complex due to recent incidents such as people scaling the fence. As part of comprehensive security planning, the National Park Service and the Secret Service are working together to develop a design for permanent improvements to the fence along the Pennsylvania Avenue and E Street frontages; this will be presented to the Commission within the next year, and the current presentation addresses only the broad concept for the study. He said that the project team will also be developing a design for security at President's Park South, and in 2011 a design competition was held for a new secure pedestrian-accessible space on the Ellipse. He added that designs for various security installations for the Eisenhower Executive Office Building along 17th Street have been presented to the Commission in the past few years. He noted that earlier in the day, the Commission deferred acting on two consent calendar projects for temporary security changes at the White House complex, and these submissions can be considered after the information presentation. He asked Peter May of the NPS' National Capital Region to begin the presentation.
Mr. May said that federal agencies have been working on improvements to President's Park South for several years, following the 2011 design competition that was held in conjunction with the National Capital Planning Commission; the competition was won by Rogers Marvel Architects. During the environmental review process with consideration of design alternatives, architect Rob Rogers of Rogers Partners—formerly of Rogers Marvel—was retained to assist in the process. Mr. May introduced several members of the project team: Thomas Dougherty, chief of the security planning and policy office of the Secret Service; Rob Rogers; and Tobin Tracey of the NPS, the assistant director for design and construction for President's Park and the White House.
Mr. Dougherty said that improving and modernizing security operations for the Secret Service and the White House requires partnership and collaboration throughout the federal government, particularly with the Commission of Fine Arts. Mr. Rogers said that security improvements for both President's Park South and the White House fence share the objectives of understanding and improving security considerations while giving primary importance to the visitor experience. A successful solution will require an understanding of the history and culture of the complex; the complicated requirements for vehicular and pedestrian circulation; and the range of special events that occur here.
Mr. Rogers provided an overview of the history of the Ellipse. A circular form was originally proposed in the plan for the Mall developed by Andrew Jackson Downing in 1851; improvements were implemented with an 1877 design that reconciled the geometry of the Ellipse with the adjacent street geography. The later construction of E Street through this area influenced the traffic circulation pattern south and north of the White House. Following street closures in the area, the Pennsylvania Avenue project was undertaken in 2004 to address vehicular and pedestrian circulation north of the White House; E Street remains encumbered by temporary installations that responded to various issues.
Mr. Rogers said that the current project team has reviewed concepts, materials, and security conditions, along with other issues that had arisen through the 2011 competition. The process includes public meetings and environmental and historic preservation review. He said that the project will be submitted to the Commission in the fall of 2015 with several alternatives that have been tested for security and evaluated for their benefits to public space.
Mr. Rogers described the current conditions of President's Park South. Most of the geometry of the historic plans was implemented and remains intact. However, expedient solutions have accrued over time as security conditions have evolved, and layers of temporary security measures have been installed to screen and control vehicles, to manage pedestrians, and to facilitate partial closure during certain events such as the arrival of the President's helicopter; closures are managed with snow fences and other temporary barricades. He noted that President's Park South has numerous public uses, from the national Christmas tree to political demonstrations. The park also functions as part of the D.C. local park system and is the setting for recreational activities. It has a large and varied collection of cultural resources—including the Bulfinch Gatehouses, the Boy Scout Memorial, and landscape features.
Mr. Rogers said the basic premises for any design include official vehicular access on the east and west sides along with emergency management; four basic alternatives are being examined to understand the features of perimeter redesign required for the Ellipse. He said that existing vehicular control includes two layers but these are placed too close together, limiting the capacity for surveillance and response. Surface parking around the Ellipse now requires authorized access, but the alternatives propose a range of parking operations. The alternatives will also address both temporary and permanent control of pedestrian access. Issues include how pedestrian movement will be managed; what permanent screening might look like and the kind of structures required; and how to create a sense of openness and welcome on the Ellipse, as an important public space adjacent to the White House.
Mr. Tracey of the NPS described the project for permanent improvements for the White House fence. The NPS and the Secret Service have been studying the perimeter of the eighteen-acre White House grounds, and they have been coordinating with the General Services Administration and the Treasury Department for potential alterations to the fences at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and the Treasury. The NPS and the Secret Service developed criteria for climb delay and blast resistance, and a wide range of ideas was developed for altering the fence; in December 2014, an architectural and engineering (A/E) firm was hired to assist with the study. Some potential solutions were deemed inappropriate for various reasons, such as being detrimental to the cultural landscape or not meeting the blast requirement; five options were developed, which were then narrowed down to three for discussion with the Commission staff; after further review one approach will be chosen. He said that no single solution would work for the entire area due to the varied conditions around the site, and the final design will combine multiple solutions; an anti-climb feature on top of the fence will be a necessary part of the proposal. The A/E firm will modify the three current proposals and develop cost estimates for a report due at the end of May; the team will return to Commission in the fall with a final proposal. The construction will likely occur in the summer or fall of 2016.
Mr. Luebke provided additional background, noting that Pennsylvania Avenue was closed to vehicular traffic in 1995 and its new streetscape was completed in 2005. Planning has continued for similar work south of the White House, and the fence redesign is now an additional issue.
Mr. Freelon requested that future presentations include a key plan to indicate the orientation of views; noting the numerous temporary installations, he also requested that the submitted views include comparisons of existing and proposed conditions. Mr. May said that the forthcoming submission would provide more information to convey exactly what is being proposed in different locations.
Mr. Krieger expressed surprise at the slow pace of progress since the competition was held four years ago, and disappointment that the Commission is not yet being presented with proposals; he asked whether the Commission would have the opportunity to comment on the alternatives. Mr. May responded that the alternatives for President's Park South and for a permanent barrier on the White House fence would be brought to both the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission for comments in the fall before a final selection is made. He added that many external factors have delayed the process, but the information presentation results from the desire to inform the Commission of the status for these projects. Chairman Powell said that the Commission appreciates the information and looks forward to reviewing the design proposal.
Mr. Luebke then listed the two consent calendar projects that were deferred from earlier in the meeting (agenda item II.A – Appendix I): case number CFA 16/APR/15-a, Final Design for Temporary Security Improvements to the Perimeter Fence, President's Park, for a removable no-climb feature to be bolted onto the existing fence; and CFA 16/APR/15-b, Final Design for Temporary Vehicular Access Controls and Security Screening Facilities at the President's Park Ellipse; Mr. Luebke said that these had been reviewed by the D.C. Historic Preservation Office and the National Capital Planning Commission, and would constitute short-term solutions pending a permanent design. Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon, the Commission adopted the favorable recommendations for these two projects.
C. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 16/APR/15-3, National Zoological Park, 3001 Connecticut Avenue—Bird House. Building renovation, alterations, and additions. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced a concept design for the renovation of the Bird House exhibit facility at the National Zoo. He asked Ann Trowbridge, Associate Director for Planning at the Smithsonian Institution, to begin the presentation.
Ms. Trowbridge said that the Bird House renovation is part of a broader initiative, Experience Migration on Bird Plateau, that has been developed in the past decade in collaboration with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center to share with visitors the breadth of Smithsonian interdisciplinary research on birds and bird habitats worldwide. The project also fits within a larger plan to improve the spaces for Smithsonian collections. She introduced Alyson Steele of Quinn Evans Architects, who is collaborating on this project with Dennis Meyer of The Portico Group.
Ms. Steele said that the National Zoo, established in 1889, was the first major zoo in the world built in a naturalistic setting, and the first American zoo to incorporate current conservation thinking in its exhibitions and planning. The National Zoo is now at the forefront of a movement toward an immersive zoo experience, and an interdisciplinary team has been working to apply this approach at the Bird House. She outlined the project's goals: teaching visitors about the scientific study of migratory birds; providing the best possible animal care; and designing for sustainability.
Ms. Steele described the setting of the Bird House on a 4.4-acre site on top of a plateau that is centrally located within the zoo's campus but isolated by rugged topography. The site was flattened when it was first developed, resulting in a grade change of only three feet across its summit, although structures on the plateau are hidden behind the remaining topography. The only visitor access is from the north, across a pedestrian bridge that spans a ravine and leads to a bluff that is 33 feet higher than the main plateau. The existing Bird House building faces north and its entrance is somewhat hidden by vegetation. A perimeter walk encircles the plateau, passing along a series of outdoor bird yards and a rookery of wild black-crowned night herons that has been migrating to the trees around the Bird House for over 75 years.
Ms. Steele said the original building was designed by Albert Harris, the municipal architect for the District of Columbia. It was built in two phases, in 1927–28 and in 1936, and was rehabilitated in the 1960s and 1970s. She described the earliest National Zoo buildings as picturesque structures set within naturalistic landscapes; however, the Bird House was designed as a formal, symmetrical Beaux-Arts building, with a 130-foot-square plan and a large central aviary under a hipped roof with a central skylight; other skylights allowed in an abundance of natural light. She described the design as displaying the primacy of culture over nature.
Ms. Steele said that the formal entrance was removed from the front of the building in the 1960s, and the hipped roof was replaced with a flat skylight to provide more light for the birds in the building. A large flight cage was also added behind the building, composed of a central steel mast and curving steel ribs, and connected to the Bird House by a footbridge; steep ramps were built in the Bird House to reach a mezzanine level and the bridge to the flight cage. In this period, buildings at the National Zoo were designed to recede into their settings; she described this era as exhibiting the primacy of nature over culture, while now a balance of culture and nature is the goal for animal exhibition and care.
Ms. Steele described the current proposal to return formality to the Bird House by re-emphasizing its symmetry and creating a center focal point for the front elevation. A structure would be built in front of the north facade to house spaces where Smithsonian scientists can educate visitors about the study of birds. This addition would be open at the sides, allowing in light to enliven the spaces. The central skylight over the main building would be replaced by a hipped-roof aviary, which would recapture the original form using the best modern materials and technology to create an optimal bird environment. Other skylights would be added above all bird habitats; glazing would be fritted to discourage birds from hitting the glass. New glazing would rely on a technologically advanced system made of fluorine-based plastic polymer (ethylene tetrafluoroethene, or ETFE) structures, referred to as "pillows," which allow a wide range of light to enter for the health of birds and plants. As a light-weight material, ETFE would also alleviate seismic loading issues.
Ms. Steele said that an accessible route with ramps would be constructed through the building to the flight cage bridge. Original brickwork would be restored and the original clerestory windows uncovered; the large air-handling equipment would be moved from the east side of the roof to the back, next to the service area. She said that the flight cage is in relatively good condition; it will be cleaned, its exhibits will be improved, and new birds will be added to its collection.
Ms. Steele described the proposed changes to the approach route. Where the pedestrian entrance bridge meets the plateau, a direct view of the Bird House would be provided across a new clearing that would be the central feature of the redesigned landscape. Existing trees would be preserved and understory plantings would be added around the clearing's perimeter to create successional areas, the most attractive habitat for songbirds. At the end of the bridge, visitors would walk the route around the clearing by moving off the central axis, affording them oblique views of the Bird House and its addition, as well as of the Rock Creek valley landscape, before entering the building and continuing along ramps to the flight cage. She said that the building's original entrance surround was removed in the 1960s and attached to an interior wall as a decorative element; the proposal is to erect it in front of the Bird House as a freestanding gate that would help to support the new entrance skylight, which will serve to animate this elevation. Elements of the skylight may be used to unify the different elements of the front addition, and the gate would help to blur the distinction between inside and outside.
Ms. Steele said that the project team is working with Rutgers University to find turf options that are sustainable and attractive to birds, and this information will be shared with visitors. Stormwater retention standards will meet those for a 100-year flood, higher than D.C. regulatory requirements. She described how birds are providing inspiration for the addition's design; the materials being considered would convey lightness, and would suggest uplift with forms such as tapered edges that would direct the view toward the sky. Other design ideas include layering and variation of color and texture.
Ms. Steele said the primary material for the addition would likely be overlapping terra cotta shingles. Mr. Krieger asked if the original building would be reclad; Ms. Steele said historic fabric would not be changed but the new architecture would be sympathetic with the old. The original facade would be treated as a simple backdrop for richer material on the addition, although the new structure will be primarily enlivened by light and activity.
Ms. Steele said that the Bird House would have three aviaries for visitors to walk through. The largest would exhibit a shade coffee farm, based on work done by Smithsonian migratory bird scientists in the Costa Rica rainforest, which lies at the southern end of songbird migration routes. Deforestation from the development of coffee plantations is threatening songbird survival, and Smithsonian researchers have proved the viability of producing coffee without pesticides, instead using birds to control insects. The second aviary would contain an exhibit depicting the Delaware Bay, a key location in the annual cycle of shorebird migration. The third aviary would represent the temperate forest breeding ground for songbirds.
Mr. Dunson asked how much of the original building would remain. Ms. Steele responded that it all would remain following the proposed rehabilitation, with the exception of enlarging a few openings for doorways and replacing the central skylight. Mr. Dunson noted that one elevation illustrates a lower-level addition with a slanted roof. Ms. Steele clarified that this is a recently built greenhouse; the only structures that would be removed are a small bus shelter at the entrance and a tiny mesh cage on the west facade. She added that an existing elevator would be replaced.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the Bird House plateau is one of the zoo's most peaceful areas: when people walk over the bridge they leave the zoo behind and enter a landscape devoted to birds. She commended the concept of the spiral route through the site, observing that the design has captured an entire circular experience. However, she observed that the clearing as depicted resembles a plaza, lacking the edge conditions typical of a successional forest. She recommended further study of how to develop such edges, perhaps through a mowing regime or forest management techniques.
Mr. Freelon observed that a person coming over the bridge would get a brief and somewhat oblique view of the new entrance addition before having to continue around the circular pedestrian route; however, he said that creating a symmetrical approach and a frontal view would help to reinforce the building's formality. Mr. Freelon and Mr. Krieger suggested designing a place at the end of the bridge where people could pause to admire the Bird House.
Mr. Krieger agreed that the arrival sequence is beautiful but expressed disappointment in the appearance of the addition, which he said does not live up to its intentions. He said that it looks thin, brittle, and too diminutive in front of the imposing older structure, adding that it does not quite achieve the bird-like quality described, and it lacks a sense of joy. Ms. Steele responded that the design will be developed with an emphasis on natural light, and materials under consideration include terra cotta shingles and a wide array of colors, textures, and finishes. Mr. Krieger further effort to seek ways to capture allusions to birds and flight in the design; he said that some images included in the presentation materials seem particularly evocative of birds in their delicacy, while others suggest larger birds such as condors. He advised the design team to give careful consideration to scale, designing the addition to be either bold enough to hold its own against the original building or delicate enough to evoke a lighter image. Ms. Gilbert suggested working with elements that move, such as louvers or flaps; Mr. Krieger agreed that the design appears overly static.
Ms. Lehrer commented that the architecture should convey a sense of joy and soaring. as was successfully done with the Modernist flight cage. She said that the architectural expression of the front addition seems regressive and perhaps postmodern; but with materials now available, the addition could be expressed in a more contemporary way. She also expressed appreciation for the presentation but suggested that the landscape architect participate in presentations throughout the review process.
Chairman Powell suggested approval of the concept with the comments provided. Mr. Krieger said that an additional concept submission would be helpful to convey the evolution of the design in more detail. The Commission approved the general concept for the proposal, with a request for further development of a revised concept submission.
D. General Services Administration
CFA 16/APR/15-4, Department of Homeland Security Headquarters, St. Elizabeths West Campus. Off-site West Access Road from Gate 4 south to Malcolm X Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE through Shepherd Parkway. Concept. (Previous: CFA 20/OCT/11-o, north segment.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposed access road and highway interchange improvements southwest of the St. Elizabeths West Campus; the project is submitted by the General Services Administration (GSA) on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is establishing its headquarters on the West Campus. She noted that the design for the northern portion of the access road, located within the western boundary of the West Campus, was approved by the Commission in October 2011. The current proposal—anticipated in the master plan for the West Campus that was approved in November 2008—would extend the access road southward to the existing interchange of I-295 and Malcolm X Avenue, SE, along with related improvements to the interchange and extending to nearby roads; the extended access road would pass through Shepherd Parkway, a forested area under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. She summarized the project scope, including new and modified bridges, extensive retaining walls, lighting, signs, utilities, and additional site work. She asked Mina Wright, director of GSA's Office of Planning and Design Quality, to begin the presentation.
Ms. Wright acknowledged the unusual situation of a road construction proposal from GSA; she said that the project is an unwelcome necessity to support the next phase of redevelopment on the West Campus for the DHS headquarters, which has been slowed by funding delays. She noted that the West Campus is a National Historic Landmark, and the planned rehabilitation of its oldest building will be submitted later this year for the Commission's review. She said that the road design results from extensive transportation analysis that continues to be updated. She introduced architect Kelly Davis of ZGF and landscape architect Tim Bracken of Landscape Architecture Bureau to present the design.
Mr. Kelly described the context for the project, indicating the existing road system and the nearby Bolling-Anacostia military installations. He summarized the completed first phase of the West Campus redevelopment, including the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters, a parking garage, and support facilities; this phase encompasses approximately 1.2 million square feet and has been occupied for two years. The second phase will include rehabilitation of the 700-foot-long Center Building, the original nineteenth-century structure of the campus, and the third phase will include renovation and new construction of additional buildings.
Mr. Kelly presented the proposed road alignment, which was previously identified in an amendment to the master plan. Additional topographic information has been obtained, and the alignment has been adjusted slightly. The later stages of the design process will be undertaken by a design-build team, not yet selected, which will submit a final design for the Commission's review. He emphasized the effort to minimize impacts on nearby historic properties and to coordinate the design with the Federal Highway Administration and the National Park Service. He presented a key plan of the project components, including seven bridge structures, elevated ramps, and retaining walls. He said that most of the retaining walls would be built with a post-and-panel system, and the greatest wall height is approximately thirty feet; the precast concrete panels would have a surface texture in accordance with D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) standards, and the color would be selected to be compatible with the West Campus as part of the final design submission. He indicated the multi-use trail that would extend alongside the access road, the planting areas, and the eight-foot-high black vinyl-coated fencing on top of the walls to keep deer away. Black railings for pedestrians would be provided at dropoffs and along the multi-use trail, in accordance with DDOT standards.
Mr. Bracken presented the landscape design, noting the existing character of Shepherd Parkway as a mature hardwood forest on a steep slope. Some of this land would be used for the access road, and the intent is to replace as much of the removed vegetation as possible within the programmatic constraints. The plantings along the access road would be designed as a streetscape, relating to the existing landscape along the nearby streets. Street trees would be spaced every thirty feet, interspersed with some small understory trees, and the sides of the trail would have low grasses and perennials. The woodland zone would be planted more intensely, and non-invasive vines would be placed at the taller portions of the retaining walls. The landscape at the interchange would be designed as a transition between the dense forest of Shepherd Parkway and the open spaces to the west; this area would also include retention pools for bio-filtration.
Mr. Kelly said that the black lightpoles would use a standard DDOT design, with a cutoff to minimize light toward adjacent properties and the sky. The spacing would vary from 120 to 160 feet, with a height of 40 feet along I-295 and 30 feet along the access road and ramps. He said that the road signs would include standard overhead, ground-mounted, and cantilevered signs; the exact location and text will be part of the final design submission. He concluded by presenting a series of existing and proposed views of the project area, indicating the added overpasses and retaining walls within the highway context.
Ms. Gilbert asked for further information about the number of employees and vehicles at the West Campus. Project manager Tom Ennen of GSA responded that approximately 17,000 employees will be assigned to the West Campus, but many will not regularly be present; the actual number of employees working at the site will be approximately 14,000, including the Coast Guard staff that is already in place. Mr. Davis said that the West Campus has 4,900 parking spaces. Mr. Ennen added that much of the West Campus will not be developed; reasons include steep slopes and historic resources such as a small Civil War-era cemetery.
Ms. Lehrer commented that good soil is becoming a scarce commodity and asked why some of the elevated road segments would be placed on soil-filled structures instead of on columns. Mr. Ennen responded that the wall-and-fill system is much less expensive than a column-supported structure; Mr. Davis added that some of the retaining walls would be tied into the soil for structural support. Ms. Gilbert asked about future maintenance of the landscape; Mr. Davis responded that DDOT will be responsible for the road system after construction is completed, and the design is being coordinated with DDOT planting and maintenance requirements.
Mr. Krieger questioned what advice the Commission could offer for this project, and he asked for clarification of the proposed scale of the access road. Mr. Davis responded that it is designed to provide sufficient capacity to avoid traffic impacts on the existing highway system, as established through traffic analysis. Mr. Luebke noted that the road project is an inevitable accompaniment to the large-scale office development of the West Campus; he added that the staff has encouraged mitigation of the project's impacts to the extent possible, and some reconfiguration has been incorporated into the submitted design, but he continued to question the necessity for a wall nearly thirty feet high.
Chairman Powell suggested that the Commission approve the concept submission; Mr. Krieger expressed reluctance but agreed that the proposal is not objectionable. Mr. Luebke asked for additional comments to guide development of the design; Mr. Powell suggested additional trees. Ms. Gilbert agreed that an abundance of trees would be helpful, although she said that visual screening cannot realistically be achieved for the taller retaining walls in the design; Mr. Krieger also encouraged the extensive use of groundcover. Ms. Gilbert suggested widening the planting trench at the base of each retaining wall to support the roots of the proposed vines. The Commission approved the submission with these comments.
E. D.C. Department of General Services
1. CFA 16/APR/15-5, Engine Company 22, 6825 Georgia Avenue, NW. New four-bay firehouse. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal for a new firehouse, submitted by the D.C. Department of General Services on behalf of the D.C. Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services. He said that the site is on the east side of Georgia Avenue near the former Walter Reed hospital campus; it is occupied by a hotel built in the 1960s that had been acquired as part of Walter Reed and will soon be demolished. The project would relocate Engine Company 22 from an undersized historic firehouse approximately ten blocks south. He asked architects Suman Sorg and Edgar Moreno of Sorg Architects to present the design.
Mr. Moreno emphasized the longstanding need to provide a modernized firehouse for the neighborhood. He said that the site was transferred several months ago from the federal government to the D.C. government. The project provides the opportunity for a state-of-the-art facility with a positive presence in the community and an energy-efficient design; an entirely new building is proposed, unlike many recent projects that have been limited to modernizing and expanding existing firehouses due to the scarcity of new sites. He said that the site's modest size—14,000 square feet—poses a challenge for accommodating the program.
Mr. Moreno described the context and proposed building configuration. Single-family homes are located to the east; a six-story apartment building is to the south across an alley; a three-story apartment building is to the north across Butternut Street; and across Georgia Avenue on the west is an entrance to the former Walter Reed campus that is planned for redevelopment. In order to facilitate emergency response and minimize impacts on residential areas, the four truck bays of the firehouse would face Georgia Avenue, requiring relocation of an existing bus stop and adjustment of the traffic signal. The required width of the truck bays would encompass the entire west facade at street level. A driveway ramp along the south edge of the site would descend from Georgia Avenue to the firehouse's below-grade parking level. The firehouse would contain a community meeting room, with pedestrian access along Butternut Street.
Ms. Sorg presented the building design in greater detail. Due to the constrained site, a two-story building is proposed; the first floor would contain the four truck bays, offices, a lounge area and kitchen for the firefighters, the community room, and entrance lobby. The smaller second floor would have a large sleeping area, locker rooms, communications room, and laundry; traditional firehouse poles would connect the second floor to the truck area. She indicated the massing of a taller first-floor area for the truck bays, a lower volume for the eastern portion of the first floor, and a rotated square for the second story above the trucks. She said that the second-story rotation would reduce the project's impact on views from the apartment building to the south, and would provide a stronger presence for the firehouse as people approach the site along Georgia Avenue. She added that the sleeping area is windowless, and the rotation adds visual interest to an otherwise blank volume; the second-story fenestration is primarily limited to a corridor wall on the east. She noted that the proposed massing places the tallest portion of the building toward the higher-density context of Georgia Avenue, with the lowest height toward the residential neighbors on the east; the rotated second floor would also project over the community entrance to provide protection from rain.
Ms. Sorg presented the proposed facades, with glass and metal panels on the more prominent facades and concrete block on portions of the less-visible east and south facades. The second-story facades, along with portions extending to the first story, would feature an abstracted composition of gray, black, yellow, and red that is derived from the image of fire embers. She concluded by presented a model of the proposed building, and she emphasized its appearance to people travelling along Georgia Avenue.
Mr. Freelon questioned the desirability of rotating the building's second floor. He said that this gesture may not improve views from the adjacent apartments as intended, nor create the intended prominence along Georgia Avenue, while it adds complexity to a small, simple building. Ms. Sorg responded that the residents of the apartment building to the south have been very concerned about the impact of the firehouse on their views, and the rotation serves to mitigate this impact; she said that the community has supported the design, based on numerous presentations.
Mr. Krieger said that the rotation is reminiscent of student projects, and it likely results simply from a desire to twist the volume rather than a practical response to preserving residential views. He agreed that the result is a more dynamic form, but he suggested consideration of aligning the second story with the rest of the building. He described the proposed massing as slightly odd and therefore memorable, perhaps unnecessary and costly, and too self-conscious although opinions could vary. He also requested further information on the colorful facade treatment that is proposed. Ms. Sorg responded that the color would be applied to metal panels; monochrome metal panels would be used elsewhere on the facades. She described the ongoing coordination with manufacturers to develop the hanging system to achieve the desired color variety and to regularize the panel sizes for the project. Mr. Krieger said that the colorful panels, like the second-story rotation, could be either beautiful or unsuccessful. He cautioned that the rich blend of facade colors depicted in the renderings may be very difficult to achieve with the metal panel system; he requested that the Commission have the opportunity to see more details of this feature if it goes forward. He also recommended choosing either the rotation or the complex color treatment, commenting that one gesture would be sufficient while the combination of both is unnecessary.
Mr. Dunson asked if the earlier massing studies had included a second story that is aligned rather than rotated; he questioned whether the rotation addresses specific issues such as sightlines or is simply a design statement. Ms. Sorg confirmed that many configurations were studied; one option was to shift the second story to the north, more distant from the six-story apartment building, but the resulting cantilever seemed to be an unnecessary design gesture. She said that the proposed second-story configuration relates well to the structural support locations of the first story. She also reiterated the concern that the largely windowless second story would have an overbearing appearance if the massing is aligned; the rotation serves to break up the overall volume.
Ms. Gilbert asked about the treatment of the roofs, which she said appear prominently on the model. Ms. Sorg responded that a portion of the roof above the truck bays would be designed as a terrace, with access from the second story; other first-story roof areas would be vegetated or would contain mechanical equipment, and the roof above the second story would be vegetated. She added that the planted roofs would contribute to the LEED environmental rating that is being sought for the project.
Ms. Lehrer contrasted the playful character of the proposal to the typically more serious approach to this building type and to Washington architecture. She agreed with Mr. Krieger that the potential budget constraints and the detailing of the metal panels would be critical issues as the design is developed. She said that the configuration of the second story results in usable outdoor space, and the colorful panels would give a different character than simply providing an angled second-story volume. She said that if the presented color treatment is well executed and within budget, the result could be a delightfully surprising project.
Ms. Gilbert agreed that the depicted blend of colors on the metal panels may be difficult to achieve—perhaps requiring a dozen shades, which may be reduced to only three colors after value engineering—and she suggested exploration of emphasizing texture such as perforation, with a more limited use of color. She also supported a further presentation with details and samples of the materials. She observed that the truck bay doors would be bright red, serving to identify the building as a firehouse, and the intensity of proposed colors for the second story may therefore not be necessary to symbolize the function.
Mr. Freelon emphasized the importance of the community's support for the project, and he said that the Commission's comments may simply involve refinement of the design. He said that the plan may benefit from further resolution, such as by reconsidering the unusable angled spaces at some corners and the flow of the spaces.
Chairman Powell described the proposal as a "refreshing" improvement to a standard boxy design for a simple building. He agreed that the community support is an important consideration. .He summarized the consensus to request further information on development of the concept for the facade colors, and he suggested approval of the concept with this request. Mr. Krieger said that the success of the concept is dependent on satisfactory resolution of the facade detailing, including the glass as well as the metal panels; he described the submitted drawings as insufficient to demonstrate the viability of the concept, and he suggested that the Commission review an additional submission before considering approval. He added that massing details also require further study, such as how the second-story volume rests on the first story as a sculptural composition; he cautioned that many such details require great artistry to avoid a crude appearance.
Mr. Freelon agreed that an additional submission is needed before granting approval for the concept. Chairman Powell joined in this consensus, noting the tentative support of the Commission members subject to further information on details and colors; he emphasized that the design appears to be headed in a supportable direction. Ms. Sorg responded that the detailing would be prepared later in the design process, and the initial response may be to provide images of precedent projects that her firm has designed. Mr. Freelon said that the Commission should have the opportunity to inspect physical samples of the materials and to know how the construction would be executed. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
At this point the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider items II.F.1 and II.F.2, and later returned to agenda item II.E.2.
F. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
1. SL 15-103, Southwest Waterfront Development, Parcel 4, 750 Maine Avenue, SW. New twelve-story residential building. Final. (Previous: SL 12-102, 21 June 2012.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the final design proposal for a residential building at The Wharf, an extensive development project along the Southwest Waterfront; this submission continues the series of final designs that have been submitted in recent months for the development parcels in the first phase of The Wharf. She noted that the Commission approved the concept for this building in June 2012 with recommendations for further development of the facades. She asked Shawn Seaman of Hoffman-Madison Waterfront, the developer of The Wharf, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Seaman noted the Commission's request in March 2015 for a brief overview of the waterfront development, particularly for the benefit of newer Commission members. He summarized the separate review processes for the buildings, which are being submitted under the Shipstead-Luce Act jurisdiction, and for the public space and parks at The Wharf, which were submitted as D.C. government projects and were approved in 2014. The first phase extends southwest from the existing fish market to 7th Street and includes approximately two million square feet of development. The public spaces include parks, plazas, piers, and the sixty-foot-wide wharf space along the edge of the Washington Channel; this wharf is designed to attract people to the waterfront and would be shared by pedestrians and vehicles. The network of public spaces defines the building sites that are approximately 200 to 250 feet square, smaller than the typical size of D.C. blocks; the open space pattern is intended to create permeability for pedestrians to move between Maine Avenue and the waterfront. He indicated the building parcels in the first phase: Parcel 1, which does not yet have a developer and therefore has not been submitted for review; Parcel 2, with apartments and a large music hall, which was reviewed in March 2015; Parcel 3a, an office and retail building, which was reviewed in February 2015; Parcel 3b with the Intercontinental Hotel, which will be submitted as a final design in the near future; Parcel 4, currently submitted as a final design; and Parcel 5 with two hotels, previously approved as a concept design. He presented more detailed images of the wharf, indicating the zones of the typical section: a pedestrian promenade with a double row of trees along the water's edge; a shared-use area in the middle that accommodates vehicular drop-off; and an outdoor retail zone along the buildings that could accommodate outdoor cafe tables in conjunction with the adjacent restaurants. Smaller open spaces, called mews or alleys, would provide additional pedestrian connectivity and retail frontage. The Maine Avenue frontage is designed as a more typical D.C. streetscape, and it would include a two-way bicycle lane as well as space for cafe tables and bioretention areas. He noted that the ample accommodation of bicycle through-traffic on Maine Avenue would serve commuters, rather than having fast-moving bicyclists along the waterfront. He presented a site plan showing ground-floor uses, indicating the extensive restaurant and retail space as well as entertainment areas. He said that the project includes detailed guidelines for the design of storefronts, and he presented renderings that depict the intended character; he noted that the storefronts are not included in the building submissions because they will be designed by the future retail tenants. He then introduced Gary Handel of Handel Architects to present the proposed final design for Parcel 4.
Mr. Handel described the context of development parcels and open spaces, noting that Parcel 4 is also prominent as the western visual terminus of I Street, SW. He indicated the proposed massing with a U-shaped volume along Maine Avenue, primarily occupied by rental apartments, and an L-shaped volume facing the waterfront, which would contain condominium apartments. The first two floors would contain extensive retail space along with service areas, a parking ramp, and two separate residential lobbies for the rental and condominium units; the third through tenth floors would have the unusual configuration of back-to-back residential floorplates with rental units to the northeast separated from condominiums to the southwest; the eleventh and twelfth floors would be entirely condominium units; and a setback penthouse level would contain shared residential amenity space, mechanical space, and the upper level of duplex 12th-floor condominiums leading to private roof terraces. The penthouse roof would be vegetated, contributing to the goal of 45 percent green roofs for The Wharf. He said that the base of the building is designed to suggest multiple pavilions, and an outdoor pedestrian passage or mews at the first floor would further break up the massing. He indicated the plaza along the waterfront adjacent to the building, with multiple pedestrian connections intersecting in this area. Access to the service area for retail and residential uses would be along the Mews.
Mr. Handel presented comparisons of the concept elevations from June 2012 with the currently proposed final design, indicating several changes from the approved concept design. The building previously spanned Piazza Mews with two second-floor retail bridge structures; these have now been consolidated. The shared residential amenity rooms and associated outdoor spaces have also been developed further. The residential entrance on Maine Avenue has been shifted toward the middle of the building, resulting in a larger retail area toward the corner and an improved relationship to the overall massing of the building. Some spandrel dimensions have increased to accommodate the requirements of building systems within the walls, but he said that these dimensions are being kept as small as possible. In response to the Commission's previous request for further study of the facade articulation, revisions have been made to the proportions of windows throughout the building, and the pattern of smaller and larger panes has been reversed. Facing the wharf, a wide retail frontage has been further articulated as a three-bay composition, and the canopy above the associated outdoor space is now proposed as a permanent enclosure with access to its roof for second-story outdoor restaurant space, which he said would contribute to the active character of the wharf and would improve the view from the second-story interior space.
Mr. Freelon asked for clarification of the design's development during the review process. Mr. Luebke confirmed that the staff has consulted with the project team, both before and after the most recent Commission review of June 2012, and the current proposal is largely responsive to the guidance provided; the primary concern of the staff is the new proposal to enclose the retail space extending from the facade toward the waterfront in what had been understood to be public open space. Mr. Handel responded that this area is within the dimension identified as the cafe zone along the wharf, and a canopy enclosure was previously envisioned with the same footprint as currently shown; the change is that this canopy is now designed with access to its roof for second-story outdoor table space. He noted that in the previous design, the view from the second-floor restaurant space would have included the unsightly roof of the canopy, while this roof is now proposed as an active space. Mr. Luebke emphasized that the area within the cafe zone had been intended to have the character of open public space. Mr. Seaman said that the cafe zone was always intended to be part of the private building lots, not part of the public realm. Mr. Luebke reiterated that the full sixty-foot width along the waterfront was envisioned as open space, with the various uses in this space contributing to the overall sense of the public realm; he characterized the proposal to occupy one-third of this width with a building as a change to the previous understanding. Mr. Seaman said that the retail space along Maine Avenue could similarly be extended from the building face, using the D.C. process for a public space permit; the difference along the wharf is that the process is simpler because the cafe zone is within the privately owned building lot. He said that the broader design goal is a variety of spatial experiences along the wharf, rather than a standard sixty-foot width for its entire length. He confirmed that comparable enclosed restaurant spaces are planned on Parcel 3 and also on Parcel 1, where the width of the wharf is reduced to fifty feet. Mr. Luebke asked if other retail tenants could similarly enclose an additional twenty-foot depth of open space. Mr. Seaman responded that using this space for restaurant tables has always been encouraged in the planning, but the process for creating additional enclosures may be more complicated; the intent is to show this enclosure as part of the current building design so that it is clearly permissible for the future retail tenant, which is likely to be a restaurant at this location. He clarified that the forty-foot-wide zone closest to the water is held on a 99-year lease, and would then revert to the D.C. government, while the building lots—including the twenty-foot-wide cafe zone—will remain privately owned.
Mr. Freelon recalled his previous concern that the extensive glazing on the south and west facades may result in excessive solar heat gain, and he observed that the amount of glazing appears to be unchanged. Mr. Handel responded that a high-performance glass would be used, noting that glass coatings have continued to evolve in recent years; he said that heat gain would not be a problem with the specified glass.
Mr. Powell asked for further information on the proposed palette of materials and colors. Mr. Handel responded that the base of the building is designed with a variety of elements to give a pedestrian scale rather than a monolithic character. He indicated the brick rough-textured brick that would be used for some of the retail bays facing major open spaces; a smooth-texture brick for the base along Maine Avenue; and a medium-texture brick for other areas of the base. He noted that this palette is unchanged from the concept submission. Mr. Luebke added that the relationship of materials to the building's varied program has been clarified during the consultation process; the emphasis on brick for the base of the building is intended to suggest a larger industrial scale.
Mr. Krieger expressed continuing support for the overall master plan, including the open spaces and the massing of the buildings; he commented that the occasional extension of a retail enclose into the sixty-foot-wide wharf space would not be problematic. He said that the architecture is more problematic, as seen on the building elevations: the design shows too much effort to differentiate the project into having the appearance of multiple separate buildings, but it will nonetheless be perceived as one building. He criticized the multiple colors and textures of brick on the base as a gratuitous design gesture; although the intent is to make the building appear less monumental, the effect is simply of unnecessary effort. He observed that the brick is sometimes used to suggest its load-bearing role—typically just a design convention rather than an actuality in modern construction—while elsewhere the brick is used across long spans with no expression of a lintel. Similarly, the facades appear to have a multiplicity of proportioning systems, and the relationship of masonry to glass is confusing. He acknowledged the effort of the design process but said that the resulting composition has too many fragmentary parts. He recommended a simpler and more elegant design with regulating designs for the entire building rather than a multiplicity of localized conditions. He accepted that the project could go forward, but he suggested further consideration of the facades.
Mr. Powell said that this criticism relates to his inquiry about the material palette, and he suggested simplifying the range of materials within this context. He said that the overall form of the building is not problematic, but a less abrupt color transition between the various parts of the building would be an improvement. Mr. Krieger added that a less abrupt change in proportions would also be helpful. Mr. Powell agreed that these concerns should be considered but do not necessitate withholding approval.
Ms. Gilbert noted that the justification given for the multiplicity of materials was to create a human scale. She observed that the scale is established by many other elements—the pedestrian areas, trees, water, and overall plan for The Wharf—and does not need to be achieved with changes of material within a single building. She supported a simpler building design while relying on the landscape gestures to provide the sense of scale.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to approve the submission with the suggestion to simplify the facades; the Commission adopted this action, with further review delegated to the staff. He added that the Commission members have not objected to the proposed enclosure of the extended retail space, and Ms. Lehrer said that the development may become successful enough to encourage other welcome anomalies in the retail edge along the various pedestrian passages. Mr. Luebke noted that future proposals for building extensions would need to be submitted for the Commission's review.
Chairman Powell and Ms. Lehrer departed the meeting during the discussion of the next agenda item, and Vice Chairman Freelon presided for the remainder of the meeting.
2. SL 15-104, International Spy Museum, L'Enfant Plaza. 420 10th Street, SW. New eleven-story mixed-use building. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposal for a mixed-use building to be located in the center courtyard at L'Enfant Plaza, several blocks from the Southwest Waterfront site of the preceding agenda item. She said that the proposal is submitted by the JBG Companies and would include commercial office space along with a new location for the International Spy Museum. She noted several related presentations that the Commission has seen in recent years: a concept for an office building was reviewed for this site in 2012 and 2013, submitted by the same owner and architecture firm that are presenting the current proposal. The relocation of the International Spy Museum was proposed for the Carnegie Library building in Mount Vernon Square and reviewed in 2013 but is no longer under consideration for that site. In 2013, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) presented a planning study of 10th Street, SW, including a vision for treatment of the L'Enfant Plaza center courtyard on the east side of 10th Street. She also noted the submissions from JBG in recent years for development of an office building and hotel on sites to the southeast and northeast of the center courtyard. She added that this proposal includes a westward projection of the Spy Museum into the public space of 10th Street, SW, which is subject to continuing coordination with the D.C. government. She provided the Commission members with a public comment letter on the project, and she asked Britt Snider of JBG to begin the presentation.
Mr. Snider acknowledged the assistance of the Commission staff in developing the proposal, and he emphasized the unique concept and design composition that is now proposed for L'Enfant Plaza. He said that the presentation would include a comparison of the design with the previously presented proposal for an office building on the site; he noted that the new proposal has less density and more open space, responding to some of the comments provided by the Commission when reviewing the office building. He introduced Milton Maltz, the founder of the International Spy Museum, to continue the presentation.
Mr. Maltz acknowledged the assistance of the Commission in reviewing the previous Spy Museum proposal for Mount Vernon Square. When that proposal did not work out, he learned of the National Capital Planning Commission's Southwest Ecodistrict study and recognized the opportunity to relocate the museum to the Southwest neighborhood. He recalled from his early professional years in Washington that the neighborhood was a less-known part of the city, and he said that the Ecodistrict study provides inspiration for considering Southwest as equal to other areas. He described the museum's current leased space as overcrowded, and the proposed new home will provide an opportunity for expanding the museum. He emphasized the importance of intelligence-gathering as a decisive factor in wars; the Spy Museum is intended to give visitors a serious education on this subject while also providing entertainment, which he said is a wonderful combination. He introduced architect Ivan Harbour of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and landscape architect Michael Vergason to present the design, noting his guidance that the museum building should be interesting, distinctive, and contemporary.
Mr. Harbour said that the new addition of the museum function to the site's previous office program could serve as a catalyst for bringing change to L'Enfant Plaza and 10th Street. He described the site context, with the plaza at the crest of the modern grading of 10th Street. He described the plaza as a notable point along 10th Street, as acknowledged in the Ecodistrict study, although its current character is a windswept open space with little activity. He said that a public attraction such as the Spy Museum is therefore a welcome addition to this site. He noted that the plaza has retail frontage and also serves as a pedestrian route to the nearby L'Enfant Plaza Metro station; this route could be routed through a building on the plaza to connect with Metro via the retail mall below. He also noted the important connection of the site to the Southwest Waterfront, with access further south at the overlook terminus of 10th Street, and the relationship to the Mall and Smithsonian Institution at the northern terminus of 10th Street.
Mr. Harbour described the previous concept proposal of 2013 for 600,000 square feet of office space, intended to add people and activity to the area. The design of that project celebrated the structural system that would mediate between the ideal column grid for modern office construction—30 by 45 feet—and the existing column grid of slightly less than 28 feet beneath the plaza. The brightly colored diagonal structural elements served to add vibrancy to the lower floors of the office building, encouraging activity at the plaza level. He also described the interim improvement by JBG to add an entrance pavilion on the plaza for the retail mall below, bringing in daylight to the lower level and some limited activity to the plaza.
Mr. Harbour noted the inherent public fascination with espionage, from ancient times to modern literature and movies; the museum encompasses the history of the subject in both reality and fiction. He said that the building design provides the opportunity to convey this character through architecture. One design idea is the "black box" that masks the secret activity that is hidden within; the counterbalancing idea is what occurs in plain view of the observer. He described the intersection of these ideas with espionage topics, such as government collection of open data for secret purposes. The proposed design for the museum is therefore based on a counterpoint of public visibility and concealment; he presented a series of diagrams illustrating the development of this concept. The treatment of the plaza level emphasizes continuity of the public realm across the base of the building, and the black box is therefore elevated. The western portion of the building toward 10th Street is also treated as a more public front, with the black box behind to the east. The visitor's route through the museum would be comparable to the current location: groups would ascend an elevator, then descend gradually through the exhibit levels. The design would express the elevator location and would provide open views of the city as the visitors descend, resulting in a sequence of transitions between public visibility and black-box concealment. On top of the museum, a special-event space would provide expansive city views; he emphasized the importance throughout the design of relating the building to the city and Washington's special connection to the world of espionage.
Mr. Harbour said that the proposed building would provide a contrast to the massive, staid office buildings to the north, south, and west; it would provide activity and animation, including retail space associated with the museum. He emphasized the importance of the museum's visibility from the north end of 10th Street at the Smithsonian, noting that 10th Street is envisioned as an important corridor leading south from the Mall to the waterfront. The proposed design therefore extends westward into the street right-of-way with an angular volume that would provide a distinct identity in views along 10th Street; the contrasting character of this public-oriented volume with the black box to the east would be expressed in the museum's exhibit layout. He noted that the grade of 10th Street also gives prominence to the site, but this prominence may become less apparent as redevelopment occurs along the street; the westward projection of the building volume is therefore important for the museum's long-term prominence. He added that the portion of the building projecting beyond the west property line would not have major programmatic elements. He presented perspective renderings of the proposal when viewed along 10th Street within the current context and with potential future buildout along the street as envisioned in the Ecodistrict study. He described two buildings near the Spy Museum's current location at Gallery Place that feature similar projections into street corridors: the Old Patent Office Building from the 19th century, and the recent Sidney Harman Hall theater building on F Street.
Mr. Harbour said that the proposed height would be 130 feet, allowing for the top-floor event space to have the desired panoramic views. However, the 100,000-square-foot program would not ordinarily require a building of this height; the design is therefore configured with varying floorplates, allowing for access to a roof terrace from the upper levels. The resulting angled facade plane along 10th Street would also give a special character to reflected light, and the glazing would be developed to highlight this feature within the 10th Street view corridor. He said that the technology of cold-curved glass is currently being considered for this facade, potentially resulting in rhythmic reflections. He also indicated the approximate alignment of the roof terrace with the ninety-foot height of adjacent buildings, with the upper floors being set back to reach the full height of 130 feet.
Mr. Harbour presented diagrams of the proposal in relation to the surrounding buildings of L'Enfant Plaza, comparing this design to the existing conditions and the previously proposed office building. The eastern part of the plaza would contain two new office buildings, and the pinwheeling group of buildings would define a courtyard and smaller open spaces within the former center courtyard; he indicated the southward orientation that would give ample sunlight. He said that the Spy Museum would be the most dynamic building within the complex, while they would all share a relationship to the new courtyard; the overall composition would enliven the formality of the existing L'Enfant Plaza complex.
Mr. Vergason said that the museum would attract people to the site throughout the week and for extended hours each day, contributing to the vibrancy of the public space. He also pointed out the relationship of the site to the nearby broad southward vista along the Potomac River and to the circulation patterns related to the Metro station and the future redevelopment of The Wharf. The proposed angular shape of the museum would reflect light deep into the site's open space, compensating for the limited amount of direct sunlight that is available. He presented seasonal diagrams of sunlight, indicating the general prevalence of mid-day and mid-afternoon direct light, even capturing a slice of light at the winter solstice. The courtyard would be flanked by allées of trees along the north and south; based on studies of the structure below and the desired soil depth, the tree planters could be set close to the courtyard level. A drive through the site would be shared by vehicles and pedestrians, with a likely predominance of pedestrians. The woven pattern of the proposed paving would intensify in detail at the southwest courtyard space, where a cafe and the primary museum entrance would be located, along with a fountain and a stair descending to the retail mall and Metro access.
Mr. Harbour presented a model and summarized several features of the proposal. The program is approximately one-quarter less than the previous 600,000-square-foot proposal. The design relies on the existing structure below the plaza, which will be reinforced where necessary; an existing government auditorium below the retail mall would remain, affecting the structural layout. He described the proposal as a group of smaller human-scale buildings within the formal context of large buildings, and the open spaces would similarly be at a more human scale. He noted that the design contains some degree of formality in deference to the context, and the intent includes providing an identifiable entrance near 10th Street for access to the Metro station. The proposed office buildings would be characterized by lightness and the sense of being perched above the courtyard, in contrast to the massive earth-bound character of the adjacent existing buildings. The special character of the museum building would result in a contrast of three types of architecture at this location. He indicated how the office buildings, lobbies, and retail spaces would relate to the site's open spaces and to 10th Street. Due to the structural constraints, the buildings would include mezzanines for people to transfer to elevators that reach the upper floors, resulting in a three-dimensional character to the public realm of the building lobbies. He concluded by describing the courtyard space as the focus of the composition and the balance between the formal and dynamic qualities of the site.
Ms. Lehrer expressed appreciation to Mr. Maltz for creating this museum, which is a destination for many international visitors. She described the proposal as an exciting design; Mr. Powell agreed, commending the design team. (Ms. Lehrer and Mr. Powell departed the meeting at this point.) Mr. Freelon said that the process diagrams were very helpful in conveying the design intent, providing welcome insight that the Commission does not often see. He observed that the buildings would be closely spaced, and he asked for clarification of the dimensions. Members of the design team indicated various distances between buildings as 60, 57, 52, and 45 feet; Mr. Freelon said that 45 feet would be tight, while acknowledging that the varying floorplate sizes would allow ample daylight for the plaza level.
Mr. Krieger commented that the two-year delay since the previous proposal has been unexpectedly worthwhile. He said that the bright red columns of the office building proposal had seemed like a substitute for a true public attraction, which would now be provided by the Spy Museum itself. Mr. Harbour noted that the columns are now shown as yellow because of their reduced conceptual importance. Mr. Krieger emphasized his support for the project, including the westward projection beyond the 10th Street property line, which he said is an important feature that conveys a sense of the building spying on the street. He observed that the projection appears exaggerated in some renderings, with perhaps too much of the projection's side wall exposed; he also suggested consideration of extending the black box portion of the museum to be expressed within the projecting volume. He asked for clarification of the courtyard-level retail glazing; Mr. Harbour responded that the glazing would be behind the yellow columns. Mr. Krieger discouraged drawing this much attention to the diagonal columns, which he said is no longer necessary due to the helpful evolution of the program. He suggested deemphasizing the proposed office buildings and their routine restaurant spaces, instead allowing the Spy Museum to be the prominent ground-level attraction. Mr. Harbour said that a solution of shifting the retail walls outward could have the added benefit to JBG of increasing the rentable space.
Mr. Luebke noted the project's welcome program, productive design process, and consistency with the larger planning principles for connecting the Mall and Southwest Waterfront that have been developed by the Commission of Fine Arts and NCPC. He said that the appropriate alignment of facades has been a topic of extensive study during the planning work for 10th Street, and the proposed twelve-foot projection into the right-of-way has been of concern to NCPC. Mr. Krieger reiterated his support for the projection.
Ms. Gilbert supported the proposal for open space at the southwest corner of the site, which she said is the best location for perceiving the attraction of the waterfront. She commented that the future success of 10th Street will depend on attracting people to walk north, south, and downward a level to the retail mall. She said that the proposed design of the outdoor space appears to be welcoming and functional, including a covered area for use during inclement weather. She said that future improvement of the overlook to the south would be helpful. Mr. Dunson joined in supporting the overall concept for the project and encouraged its expeditious development, while noting that some features will need careful review. He said that the strength of the concept may help in overcoming any regulatory obstacles. Mr. Maltz expressed appreciation for the Commission's support and emphasized that he has made the Spy Museum into a non-profit organization as a gift to the nation.
Mr. Luebke noted the presence of an audience member who wishes to address the Commission. Vice Chairman Freelon recognized Erica Litovitz from the law firm Jackson & Campbell, speaking on behalf of L'Enfant Colony, the real estate company that owns the office building on the south side of L'Enfant Plaza. Ms. Litovitz said that L'Enfant Colony holds easement rights and other interests in the complex, and no opportunity has been provided to evaluate the current proposal. Mr. Snider responded that no conflict would arise because the easement rights associated with the south building involve areas outside of the plaza where the proposal would be located. Vice Chairman Freelon asked if JBG could share the submitted design with Ms. Litovitz; Mr. Snider agreed to provide the information.
Vice Chairman Freelon suggested a motion to approve the concept. Mr. Luebke noted the apparent consensus to support the major components of the complex project, but said that a concept approval would typically require more information about materials and other design details with additional documentation. He suggested that the Commission consider a general concept approval of the massing and disposition of the program, with a request for a follow-up submission with a more developed concept. Vice Chairman Freelon supported this response, and the Commission adopted this action upon a second by Mr. Krieger. Mr. Snider asked for clarification of the expectation for the next submission; Mr. Luebke responded that the revised concept submission should include more documentation of such elements as the building enclosure system and the landscape design, while the eventual final submission would include complete permit-level documentation of the design.
At this point, the Commission returned to the remaining project on the agenda.
E. D.C. Department of General Services (continued)
2. CFA 16/APR/15-6, Friendship Recreation Center (Turtle Park). 4500 Van Ness Street, NW. New recreation center and playground. Concept. (Previous: CFA 19/FEB/15-5.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced a submission from the D.C. Department of General Services on behalf of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation for a new recreation center and playground at Friendship Recreation Center, 4500 Van Ness Street, NW—commonly known as "Turtle Park" after the large play sculptures in the form of turtles. He said that when a concept was first presented in February, the Commission determined the design had not been developed to concept level and therefore did not take an action, requesting that the project team return with more information and a full set of plans and elevations. He introduced architect Edwin Schmidt of Fanning/Howey Associates to present the new concept proposal.
Mr. Schmidt said that the previous concept design had been based on a bridging document prepared by another firm, Hughes Group Architects; the bridging document reflected the community's desire to focus on the park, landscape, and experiential children's play, and the initial concept design had featured a large community recreation center. The current proposal has been modified by reducing the size of the recreation center.
Mr. Schmidt described the proposed project area at the northeast corner of the existing park, which includes a recreation center, the turtle sculptures, a large sandbox, a deteriorated splash fountain, and basketball courts. The landscape design would incorporate an existing stand of mature trees at the northeast corner, providing a shaded area for parents to sit near the play area for younger children. This fenced-in playground, for children ages two to four, would be rebuilt on the site of the existing playground; it would be focused on the turtle sculptures and the sandbox, with areas for experiential play conceived as mounded earth. A playground for older children, ages five to twelve, would be built on the site of the current basketball court. A new fountain would be placed between the two playgrounds; in the colder months, it would serve as a plaza with seating. Basketball and tennis courts would be rebuilt, rotated relative to their current position to improve drainage. A single fence would surround these courts, and the new configuration would provide enough room for a full basketball court. The baseball fields occupying the western part of the site would be unchanged; he said that many children attend a summer baseball program at the park, and an area for approximately twenty picnic tables would be created near the recreation center for use by campers.
Mr. Schmidt said that the new building would be located along the east side of the park, as far as possible from the existing trees in order to retain the trees and much of the existing landscape; he also indicated the four-foot grade difference between the adjacent street and the park. He emphasized that the size of the recreation center has been reduced considerably from the previous version at the request of the community, which wants more funds to be allocated for the park and landscaping. The revised building design has a simple floor plan comprising four main elements: a large community room; an administration area with a lobby, kitchen, office, and computer lab; restrooms; and space accommodating an art program for younger students located in a cylindrical tower at the northwest corner of the building. Dumpsters now located next to the park's entrance would be moved next to new off-street handicapped parking.
Mr. Krieger asked for further information about the proposed materials for the building exterior and the site. Mr. Schmidt responded that the rectilinear volume of the building would be covered with cementitious board, grained and colored to resemble wood; this material can be easily cleaned if vandalized. The corner tower would be built of split-face block, and the soffit of its overhanging roof would be constructed of bar joists with a surface covered with aluminum to appear homogeneous. He said that the safety zones in the play areas would have surfaces of engineered wood fiber, and the landscape structures would be created by mounding and vegetation. Flowering shrubs such as azaleas and crape myrtle would be planted along the sidewalks to provide color and attract insects; evergreens would also be planted on both sides of the boundary fence.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the proposal does not look like a landscape design but instead like a diagram packed with features added in response to requests from the community. She indicated several awkward areas: the corner of the basketball court would intrude into the redesigned entrance area, and there is an attempt to hide this with low shrubs; the root systems of the mature oak trees would extend beyond the twenty to thirty feet depicted on the drawings; and plantings are proposed beneath the tree canopies, precluding seating in the shade. She questioned the relationship of the plan to existing conditions, which are not adequately depicted. She also criticized the computer-generated renderings as resembling a lunar landscape; and she said that carefully prepared site sections are needed. She concluded that the presentation materials are troubling because the park is now a beautiful place that should not be ruined with lots of play equipment and a lack of access to shaded areas. She said that the park appears to be too highly programmed, and she recommended reconsidering the need for all of the proposed equipment, questioning how children could be expected to play on banked edges beneath trees.
Mr. Krieger commented that the proposed building belies the name of "Friendship Park" by appearing severe and unwelcoming in its scale and materials, and the concerns may extend beyond the problematic rendering technique. He observed that the roof overhang is probably not necessary because it would only shade the upper part of the tower. He said that the designs for both the landscape and building are unrefined and underdeveloped; Ms. Gilbert agreed.
Mr. Freelon commented that the renderings appear crude; he suggested adding human figures to give scale. He also questioned whether the proposed reorientation of the tennis courts is optimal in relation to the sun angle. He commented that the location of the two playgrounds would place the younger children out of sight from the recreation building, and he suggested instead that the position of the playgrounds be reversed. Mr. Schmidt responded that the younger children could be seen by adults sitting within the fenced area of the playground, which also has a sightline to the older children's play area; he said that the view from the seating is more important than the view from within the building. Mr. Freelon recommended further study of the relationship between the areas for adults and the children's playgrounds. He also observed that the orientation of the building would result in problematic solar heat gain along the glazed west facade that should be addressed in the design; he and Mr. Krieger noted that the south and east sides of the proposed building would be windowless.
Mr. Dunson observed that this plan appears to respond to multiple constituents, but it lacks any priority or hierarchy among its elements; the design should instead accommodate all of the required elements within an integrated whole. He added that the proposal should also show the design in relation to its neighborhood context, with entrances, local topography, movement through the site, and street views all brought into consideration.
Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission had declined to take an action on the first concept because it was not adequately documented; he summarized the apparent consensus that the current concept submission is only marginally documented, and the Commission members are not supporting the design. Mr. Krieger commented that some of the documentation is adequate but the rendering is not, and he said that improved the renderings might lead to a more thoughtful design for both the landscape and building. Mr. Luebke asked if the project team includes a landscape architect; Mr. Schmidt responded that a landscape architect from the staff of Fanning/Howey is working on the project, and Mr. Krieger recommended that this person participate in the presentations. Vice Chairman Freelon summarized the consensus that the Commission would like to see a revised concept submission.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:15 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA