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 9:07 a.m.
Hon. Philip Freelon, Vice Chairman
Hon. Edward Dunson
Hon. Alex Krieger
Hon. Mia Lehrer
Hon. Elizabeth Meyer
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
(Due to the absence of the Chairman, the Vice Chairman presided at the meeting.)
A. Reappointment of Stephen Muse, FAIA, to the Old Georgetown Board. Mr. Luebke asked the Commission to approve the reappointment of Stephen Muse to the Old Georgetown Board for an additional three-year term from September 2015 through July 2018. He noted Mr. Muse's three terms on the Board from 1991 to 2000 and his return to the Board in 2012. He described Mr. Muse's professional work as founding principal of Muse Architects and as an architecture teacher at several universities. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Ms. Lehrer, the Commission approved an additional three-year term for Mr. Muse.
B. Approval of the minutes of the 18 June meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the June meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the minutes.
C. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 17 September, 15 October, and 19 November 2015. He noted that no meeting is scheduled during August.
D. Proposed 2016 schedule of meeting and submission deadlines for the Commission and Old Georgetown Board. Mr. Luebke presented the proposed schedule of meetings and submission deadlines for calendar year 2016. The Commission meeting dates would be the third Thursday of each month except August and December; the Old Georgetown Board meetings would be on the first Thursday. He noted that this schedule would not conflict with major holidays. Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted the 2016 schedule.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that the only change to the draft appendix is in the last case listed, a proposal for sidewalk design from the D.C. Department of Transportation. The recommendation now includes a specific color to be used for the paving around tree boxes, based on supplemental information that was provided. Upon a motion by Mr. Dunson with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the revised Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported several changes to the draft appendix. Two cases were added at the end of the appendix (case numbers SL 15-147 and 15-148). The recommendations for several projects note that further documentation is still anticipated, and she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations upon receipt of satisfactory supplemental materials. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the revised appendix. (See agenda items II.D.1 and II.D.2 for additional Shipstead-Luce Act submissions.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martinez reported that two cases were added to the draft appendix (case numbers OG 15-186 and 15-234) to note that the proposals have now been withdrawn by the applicants. An additional project (OG 15-171) was listed on the draft with a favorable recommendation subject to receipt of supplemental drawings; however, the applicant has not acknowledged the Old Georgetown Board's advice and appears unlikely to comply, so the action has been revised to recommend against the submitted design. Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
B. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
CFA 16/JUL/15-1, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F Street, NW. Expansion project. Final. (Previous: CFA 21/MAY/15-4.) Mr. Luebke introduced the proposed final design for the southern expansion of the Kennedy Center; the project was previously reviewed by the Commission in May 2015, when members expressed support for the continued development of the design with several recommendations for its refinement. He said that the design team has focused on the River Pavilion, recently shifted from the Potomac River to the Kennedy Center's south terrace, and the associated reflecting pool. He suggested that the staff have the opportunity to see more complete construction documents, and he asked the Commission to make any approval conditional upon staff review when the documents are at a 90 percent level. He noted that the project's pedestrian bridge has been revised and is illustrated in the presentation; however, it is not included in the scope of the submission because one end would land on National Park Service property, and coordination is still ongoing. He asked Steven Holl and Garrick Ambrose of Steven Holl Architects to present the design.
Mr. Holl said that his original ideas for the project remain intact: the three pavilions; their fusion with the landscape and the river; creating an instrument of natural light; material innovation; and ecological integration. He said that the River Pavilion would function better at the terrace location than at its originally proposed location in the Potomac River, and this pavilion's defining visual connections would remain; he noted the importance throughout the design process of having three pavilions to shape the space. He said that circulation for bicycles, pedestrians, and utility access have now been resolved; the pedestrian bridge had been widened from eight feet to ten, providing enough room for pedestrians to pass each other, even when walking a bicycle. Mr. Ambrose said that the widening allows the planters on the bridge to remain in the design, serving to bring the terrace landscape down the bridge to the riverfront. Mr. Holl noted that Edward Durrell Stone's initial design for the complex from 1959 had proposed direct access to the river's edge, which this new project would finally provide.
Mr. Holl indicated the River Pavilion's covered entrance; he said that in its new proposed location it would still be oriented to water, with the Potomac River to the west and a reflecting pool to the northeast. He described how the pavilions would descend in height from the original Kennedy Center building, with the River Pavilion being the lowest. He said that the distance between the facade of the River Pavilion and its reflecting pool has been widened to thirteen feet; the bluestone-lined pool would include a fountain with bronze spouts, and the sound of the water would mask the traffic noise of the adjacent Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway. The pool's sloping sides would allow it to hold water throughout the year, reducing maintenance needs; a skylight set within the pool would provide light to underground spaces, even in the winter. He noted that the project includes occupied spaces below the new terrace, and the landscape would be sculpted in order to bring sufficient natural light into every area. He said that the bright white concrete of the walkway canopy would create a delicate line moving across the landscape and would help draw people to the River Pavilion's entrance.
Mr. Holl described the proposed design of the railings, which would be made of stainless steel cable to achieve a simple and delicate appearance; the cables would be installed with springs to remain taut and not require maintenance. Mr. Ambrose added that utilities such as air intake and exhaust would be incorporated within folds in the landscape, appearing as concrete or metal perforated screens that would merge with retaining walls and facades. On the River Pavilion's clerestory windows and its high west-facing glass wall, computer-controlled roller shades would be installed to block daylight when necessary.
Mr. Holl said that moving the River Pavilion to the terrace has made the project more consistent: the pavilion can be built of the same white concrete as the other structures, and the combination of the concrete and the translucent glass will produce a delicate glow, resembling the matte surface of a Japanese shoji screen. Mr. Ambrose said that the dense, uniform concrete would be a mixture of white cement, white sand, white aggregate, titanium dioxide, and slag; it would form a monolithic concrete skin that does not require construction joints because it will use a crack-control technique.
Mr. Holl said that the mahogany benches are based on a type he designed for a chapel in Seattle. Paths would be composed of stabilized decomposed granite; paving stones would be shaped digitally so they can be exactly placed for a more precise paving pattern. He added that the project includes geothermal and other ecological features, and he said that he will meet soon with Edwin Schlossberg (a former member of the Commission of Fine Arts), representing the Kennedy family, to discuss the selection and design of quotations from President Kennedy about water.
Ms. Lehrer expressed appreciation for the widening of the pedestrian bridge; she suggested that the landing may need to be wider where the bridge's access ramp meets the riverfront bicycle route. She observed that the landscape design is now well integrated, with a rich and varied palette, but she cautioned that a careful maintenance program will be necessary to maintain this palette over time. Mr. Holl responded that his firm is collaborating with Edward Hollander on the landscape for this project, and they have collaborated previously on many low-maintenance landscapes.
Mr. Krieger commented that the changed location of the River Pavilion has improved the design because having the three pavilions in proximity will create many more points where they can frame views of the surroundings. He observed that this improvement demonstrates the value of regulation and review. He commented that cyclists may prefer to ride rather than walk their bicycles, even in the still somewhat narrow area between the River Pavilion and the reflecting pool; people would be sitting at cafe tables in this area, and he suggested further consideration of the appropriate width in relation to circulation routes.
Mr. Freelon commented favorably on the evident care taken in detailing the wall sections and in the transitions between different materials and surfaces. He said that this will be a beautiful and refined project.
Ms. Meyer said that the design has been developed well, but she is still concerned that the presentation includes fewer details of the landscape than of the River Pavilion. She commented that construction of the ground plane's microtopography will be critical; the grading plans will have to be prepared carefully so that all elements of the design will work elegantly, such as the folding of the ground plane relative to the ramps, and the air intake and exhaust vents. She expressed concern that the Commission members have not seen these details; she encouraged the staff to consult further with the members if needed during review of construction documents.
Ms. Meyer also expressed concern about some of the proposed materials. Noting that Mr. Hollander works primarily north of Philadelphia, she observed that decomposed granite is seldom used in Washington, partly because of the city's summer climate and the heat absorption of darker versus lighter material. She cautioned against choosing materials for their appearance without consideration of their performance during hot weather. She added that Washington lies slightly south of the range of sugar maples and questioned their selection for the landscape. She summarized that the project presents a rich palette, but she encouraged further consideration of the details before finalizing the design. Mr. Holl assured the Commission that the details would be carefully studied, emphasizing that this is the most important project his firm has ever done.
Mr. Dunson commented that he had previously discussed the need to consider the addition of railings to the landscape and the effect of other details. He said the drawings are beautiful, and he expressed hope that the richness and elegance of the design would be durable. He added that he expects bicyclists and others would respect the contemplative nature of the setting and treat it well.
Mr. Krieger offered a motion to approve of the final design for the expansion of the Kennedy Center with considerable enthusiasm, conditional on the resolution of details, particularly those concerning the landscape, and pending final review of construction drawings by the Commission staff. Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted this action.
C. U.S. Department of Agriculture
CFA 16/JUL/15-2, U.S. National Arboretum, 3501 New York Avenue, NE. National China Garden, new classical Chinese-style garden. Concept. (Previous: CFA 16/JUN/05-1) Mr. Lindstrom introduced a concept submission for the National China Garden, a garden in the classical Chinese style to be located in the U.S. National Arboretum. He said that the project has been under discussion for more than a decade, and the Commission heard an information presentation in 2005. The arboretum will provide the site, infrastructure, and maintenance, while the government of China will donate the buildings, art, and furniture at a cost of approximately $62 million. He asked Dr. Raymond Jordan, the associate director of the National Arboretum, to begin the presentation.
Dr. Jordan said that the National Arboretum, part of the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is the only federally funded arboretum in the nation. While it maintains display gardens, its primary mission is research to support the introduction of superior plants for horticulture and ornament. He said that the China Garden Joint Working Group had been established in 2003; in 2006, the arboretum dedicated a 12-acre site for the garden in the middle of the 446-acre arboretum; in 2007, the Arboretum Master Plan—approved by the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission—supported the creation of the China Garden on this site; and construction was authorized by legislation in 2008. In 2011, the National China Garden Foundation was incorporated as a nonprofit organization to lead fundraising and work with the arboretum to construct and maintain the garden and to provide its cultural programming. Since 2004, he said that more than a dozen working group sessions have been held between the Chinese and American design teams. The landscape architecture firm of Page (formerly Page Southerland Page) was engaged by the foundation in 2013 to begin implementing the Chinese plans. Over the last few years, the project has been affirmed several times as a priority initiative for furthering cultural relations between the two countries and in the U.S.–China Strategic Economic Dialogue. He introduced architect Thomas McCarthy of Page to present the design.
Mr. McCarthy described the site along Holly Springs Road as set within low hills against a backdrop of pine trees; he noted the challenge of meeting accessibility standards within this topography. The garden will embody Chinese garden design concepts, rooted in other Chinese arts and intended to provide insight into the place of people within nature and nature's place within the human world. Natural elements are sculpted and perfected; gardens and rockeries represent the abodes of celestial beings. He listed the three types of classical Chinese garden that are adapted into this project: the walled, urban residential garden; the waterfront or lakeside garden, with views of the sky and reflections in water; and woodland gardens, designed to frame long views. He said that images of such gardens appear in Chinese painting, calligraphy, and wood carvings.
Mr. McCarthy indicated the small artificial lake that would be constructed as the centerpiece of the garden, backed by a small woodland and with sculpture and buildings arranged along the lakefront. Because of the constraints presented by the existing topography, some elements would be smaller than their usual scale. The proposed garden pavilions include the Mountain House of Sliced Stones, the Floating Fragrance Hall, and the five-pavilion terrace—a smaller version of an existing Chinese building. He introduced landscape architect Kurt Parker of Rhodeside & Harwell to present the landscape design.
Mr. Parker said that the entrance route to the twelve-acre site would lead up a stairway past a rock sculpture and through two walled residential-style gardens. The larger garden, whose design is based on a particular historic garden in China, would be planted with bamboo and contain a series of pools and rockeries; a smaller garden to the south would include similar elements. The pedestrian route would lead around the lake through a "cultural corridor," a series of small, open-air pavilions providing views of the lake and landscape, typical of Chinese waterfront gardens. Two structures—the five-pavilion terrace and a white pagoda—would be located within the woodland. Most elements of the China Garden would meet modern standards for barrier-free access, except for one structure within the larger walled garden—called the Touching Cloud Pavilion—that would provide a picturesque feature but would not be accessible to the public because of the steepness of its location. Parking areas would be located at the north and south ends of the site.
Mr. Parker said that the pavilions, constructed with traditional Chinese methods, would contain furniture and artwork and provide spaces for public cultural activities. The Embracing Mountain Pavilion in the larger garden would be a two-story building serving as the main center for activities, including festival events such as music, calligraphy, and teas; a second-floor corridor would offer broad views of the site. As the route continues along the lake, certain areas would be covered to indicate places to pause and view the gardens. Other garden elements include gates, screens, and sculpture. Rockeries will be created of stone mined in China and designed by a traditional Chinese sculptor; such compositions, typically found along the water's edge, are meant to evoke mountains.
Mr. Krieger asked for clarification of the accessibility issue that was described. Mr. McCarthy responded that only maintenance crews would have access to the Touching Cloud Pavilion because the stairway leading to it cannot meet accessibility standards, and the Chinese design team believes that providing a ramp or some other means of access would compromise the design's integrity. Mr. Krieger observed that high wooden thresholds are typically found at entrances to pavilions, and he asked if there is any other way to bring a ramp up to this pavilion. Mr. McCarthy responded that the Chinese design team has studied how ramps might be added to the buildings and has determined that no solution is acceptable for the Touching Cloud Pavilion. Mr. Krieger acknowledged the high threshold at the main entrance and asked if a ramp could lead to another entrance. Mr. McCarthy said that the wooden thresholds in some pavilions would be removable, and it has also been possible to add ramped access to some pavilions without compromising the designs, but this has not been possible for the Touching Cloud Pavilion.
Ms. Meyer commented that understanding the relationship among the plans in the presentation materials is difficult. She asked if all the ramps would be made of earth or if other materials, such as wood and metal, would also be used. Mr. McCarthy said that the ramps would be made of stone and would include hand-laid stone pavers; Mr. Parker added that grades would be flush where possible. Mr. McCarthy noted that Nanmu Hall, meant to represent a building on the ocean, would include paving stones laid in a swirling pattern to suggest ocean currents.
Ms. Lehrer said that topographical plans would be helpful for conveying the intent to balance cut and fill when building the garden. Mr. Parker responded that the lake would require a significant amount of excavation, and its correct depth is still being studied; one challenge in the design is creating enough depth to establish an ecosystem. Mr. Freelon asked the area of the lake; Mr. Parker said it would cover 1.5 acres, and Mr. McCarthy added that it would be partially located in the woods. Mr. Freelon asked if this design is more expansive or compact than the typical Chinese garden. Mr. McCarthy answered that it is a composite: the two residential gardens are scale representations of actual gardens in the city of Yangzhou in Jiangsu Province, while some other structures will be built to fit the site at a smaller scale than is typical. The lake, based on Slender Lake in Suzhou in Jiangsu Province, and the woodland are also much smaller than their models but epitomize the perfection of classical Chinese garden design.
Noting that none of the Commission members present has seen the project before, Ms. Meyer expressed enthusiastic support for the idea; however, she observed that the presentation raises many questions. She said that she is not inclined to approve it because of the need for additional drawings between the scale of building plans and site plans, such as one explaining the impact of the proposed cut and fill on the topography, or comparing the Chinese precedents with the proposed sizes of elements in this design. She noted that the site plan lacks spot elevations and is not labeled consistently with the architectural drawings. She raised concerns about the intention to reduce the scale or to miniaturize the elements, commenting that the quality of this garden will depend on the actual experience, not just the quality of materials. She observed that Chinese pavilions are usually designed to look as though they are floating above the ground, and she expressed concern that these will instead appear embedded in the ground or weighed down by heavy ramps; the use of railings throughout the garden would also be detrimental. She said that she wants to feel confident that the overall site plan works at a concept level, and it will only work if the grading works. She requested that the next submission include site plans for each precinct showing spot elevations and the design of ramps.
Ms. Lehrer expressed strong general support for the project. Noting that research is the major focus of the National Arboretum, she asked if this garden would incorporate horticultural research. Mr. Jordan responded that the arboretum has been collecting plants from throughout Asia, primarily China, for several years; many of these specimens will be integrated into this garden. Ms. Lehrer commented that the arboretum is essentially a museum, and visitors should be informed that lessons learned from displays may not apply to growing conditions in their own gardens. She observed that residential gardens are designed for families, not the public, and she emphasized the importance of ensuring that paths are scaled for the comfort of visitors. She supported the naming of the pavilion; she noted that interpretation will be important but cautioned that too many signs would spoil the garden's appearance, and she suggested consideration of the many possibilities for interpretation offered by new technologies.
Mr. Krieger supported the request for more drawings, especially renderings depicting the site's subtle topography. He said that he had learned the importance of miniaturization from visiting many gardens in China, where ramps and rails are often inserted into ancient Chinese gardens to accommodate the movement of people; he said he did not think it would be unusual to have such non-historic elements within this garden as it will not be a literal reconstruction of an actual historic site.
Mr. Krieger said that he does not expect the concept to change dramatically, and he offered a motion to approve the general concept, subject to the submission of a revised concept design with further documentation as requested. Upon a second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission adopted this action; Ms. Meyer voted against the motion.
D. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
1. SL 15-140, International Spy Museum, L'Enfant Plaza. 420 10th Street, SW. New mixed-use project. Revised concept. (Previous: SL 15-104, 16 April 2015.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the revised concept for a mixed-use pair of buildings to be located in the center courtyard of L'Enfant Plaza on the east side of 10th Street, SW. She said that the Commission previously reviewed the project in April 2015, when it approved the general concept with recommendations for further development; the current revised concept submission includes modifications in response to the Commission's comments as well as additional development of the design. As in the previous version, the western facade of the west building—proposed for the International Spy Museum—would project into the public space of 10th Street, and this feature has been submitted to the D.C. Public Space Committee for review. She noted that the next agenda item is a related presentation on the adjacent streetscape of 10th Street. She asked Britt Snider of the JBG Companies, the developer of the project, to begin the presentation. Mr. Snider introduced Milton Maltz, the founder of the International Spy Museum, and architects Richard Rogers and Chris McAnneny of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners.
Mr. Rogers said that the project would enrich the area by attracting pedestrians and by providing overlapping uses and activities in public and private space. He described 10th Street's role as a connection between the National Mall and the Southwest Waterfront and how this project would bring a smaller, more human scale to the large size of L'Enfant Plaza and the fronting buildings by I.M. Pei.
In considering how to draw people into L'Enfant Plaza, Mr. Rogers compared this project to his design for the Pompidou Center (1977) in Paris, which he noted attracts more visitors than any other building in Europe and more than the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower combined. He attributed this to the Pompidou Center's dual functions as a museum and a library, and also to its public space, which provides a view of the horizontal and vertical movement of people behind the facade. He said that the proposal for the Spy Museum features yellow staircases situated prominently behind a glass facade or "veil" to make the movement of museum visitors visible to people on the plaza and vice versa. As people look down 10th Street, instead of seeing an uninterrupted series of large buildings, they will see the museum building emerging into the public space of the street; as they proceed along the street the layering of the building will be revealed, and then its structure and details. He emphasized that it would be an active building in contrast to the more formal surroundings, and it will act as a magnet for people.
Mr. Rogers said that the redesigned L'Enfant Plaza would include a variety of public spaces. People would be able to enter from various directions and then, within L'Enfant Plaza, they will have the choice of different routes through a system of linked public spaces to reach destinations such as the Spy Museum, the office buildings, and the Metro station. He introduced Michael Vergason of Michael Vergason Landscape Architects to present the proposed redesign of the plaza.
Mr. Vergason said that the design of the ground plane and landscape has been refined to create a continuous, porous public realm that will reinforce pedestrian movements from northeast to southwest. Allées of ginkgo trees would flank the plaza on its north and south sides, creating a contemporary tree planting consistent with what is known of Pei's original conception and landscape architect Dan Kiley's 1968 design: double lines of trees set flush with the ground plane to frame a plaza that is also framed by a drive shared by pedestrians and vehicles. The plaza would be articulated by a single pavement design extending through the entire space, reinforcing its continuity while delineating the structural grid beneath and expressing the movement of people. The surface would be 6- by 24-inch precast pavers laid with offset joints and inlaid with LED lights. A change in the texture of the pavers would reinforce the north–south structural grid; smaller pavers in the vehicular drive along the edges of L'Enfant Plaza would be 6 by 12 inches, and the drive would also be demarcated by a continuous warning strip and a line of thin bollards placed in a syncopated rhythm. A scrim of water would extend from the plaza beneath the porch of the museum. Site furniture, both fixed and moveable, would encourage people to linger on the plaza; planters would add seasonal color and visual interest.
Mr. Rogers said that the project comprises three buildings, the museum and two office buildings behind it; the office buildings would frame a shared lobby and atrium with vertical circulation. The lighter, structurally expressive buildings would contrast with the strong concrete forms of the original plaza buildings; a dialogue would be established between new and existing buildings, different architectural periods, different technologies, and different patterns of movement.
Mr. McAnneny presented the functional expression of the museum's organization, using the concept of servant space versus served space to describe the role of the rear service core, which will act as a backbone to the main building volume. In the current design, the museum's offices and event space are expressed as separate structural volumes that are stacked on top of the roof terrace of the main museum volume. Structural elements would frame the volumes, and stairways would bracket the core; the rear wall of the core would be raised to expose the lobby. Thus upper-level event space, which could also be used for events, would be treated as a recessive element with a simple modulation of fritted glass panels.
Mr. McAnneny said that the veil element suspended in front of the west facade would contain the brightly colored internal stairways and would break down the building's scale, expressing the presence of the gallery volumes behind. The design team had studied configurations of flat, curved, and pleated glass, and considered views to the building from the perspective of people walking along 10th Street. The veil is meant to have a play of light, reflection, refraction, and transparency. The veil would be made up of planes of vertical glass panels arranged in a flat accordion-like pattern—like a pleated curtain—which gives greater strength without requiring vertical fins, and supported laterally with horizontal mullions; the panels would be enclosed at the bottom edge above the entrance and would extend upward at the top past the enclosure of the circulation space.
Mr. Rogers said that the principal facade on 10th Street would essentially be a light, glazed curtain hung from above. Referring to the model, Mr. McAnneny said that the red sloping columns would express the primary structure and support the cantilever of the museum building. The red columns would not extend to the ground but would transfer their loads laterally, leaving the ground area open. Stairs and landings would be hung from a secondary structure, and the veil would be hung partly from a tertiary structure. Mr. McAnneny added that the veil would be enclosed but would use natural ventilation. Behind the veil, the gallery volumes with perforated anodized aluminum louvers would wrap horizontally around the building, providing a lightweight screen and allowing enough transparency to see the interior. He said that when seen from a distance, the museum would read as a large solid box, with views into the interior becoming revealed gradually as people approach on the west and south sides; views on the north and east sides would be more limited. As people walk around the museum, they would begin to discover what is happening inside. Subtle lighting would make the building appear dynamic at night.
Mr. Maltz concluded by thanking the architects and the Commission and its staff for their help in making the Spy Museum possible. He noted that the Spy Museum is a non-profit institution, and he said that its collection includes documents about the establishment of intelligence work in the United States and its role during the Revolutionary War.
Ms. Lehrer expressed great enthusiasm for the presentation and the project, which she said will create an elegant, rich, and varied public space that can be shared by pedestrians and cars. She asked why the red color was chosen for the columns; Mr. Rogers responded that colors play an important role in his designs, and he said that bright red is the obvious choice as a counterpoint to the dominant brown and gray palette of L'Enfant Plaza.
Mr. Krieger characterized the project as extraordinary in its program and imagery. However, he questioned the decision to have the diagonal pattern in the paving run northeast–southwest rather than southward from the direction of the Smithsonian Castle and the Mall, which he said is the more likely route for pedestrians. Mr. Vergason said the approaches from the Mall on the north and the Waterfront on the south are clearly the most important, but this countervailing diagonal pattern would enrich the interior space of the plaza. Mr. Krieger acknowledged this reasoning but encouraged further study of the issue. Noting Mr. Rogers's comparison of this project with the Pompidou Center, he asked if the side walls of the museum building's core could have openings to give a perception of movement up and down the stairways, creating a visual relation between office workers and museum visitors; Mr. Rogers agreed that this area could be more transparent. Mr. Krieger commented that the red columns at the rear of the museum seem to support the building, while those in front seem to hang in space—a difference in function and appearance; he suggested that the red color should be used more rigorously to describe how a structural member transfers its load. Mr. Rogers offered to consider this advice but emphasized the intent to make the ground floor more transparent, as recommended by the Commission in the previous review.
Mr. Freelon commented that the complex layering of the facade is intriguing but might be overly complicated. He supported the use of red for the columns to clarify their role; he suggested further simplification to strengthen the design.
Ms. Meyer said that the Commission members have strongly supported the project. Recalling the Commission's visit the previous month, she compared the proposal to the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), currently under construction on the Mall; she said that the complex structure of the NMAAHC had been clarified through design development. Although the Spy Museum and NMAAHC are very different museums, she said that both buildings involve dense layers of structure and association. She commented that a compelling aspect of the Spy Museum proposal is how the structure and its associations connect with the museum's program on a site that provides an excellent context.
For the design of the public space, Ms. Meyer commented that the project balances the open, accessible treatment of the ground plane with a richness of surface to avoid homogeneity and loss of orientation. She said that having a diagonal grain instead of an orthogonal grid will be important for orientation. She added that the 10th Street promenade will provide the critical link connecting the National Mall and the revitalized Southwest Waterfront, and the Spy Museum will transform this part of the city and encourage the design of other ambitious buildings.
Mr. Dunson expressed appreciation for the detailed models, which he said clarify some complex issues—notably the veil element, which will give the museum a welcome playfulness in contrast with the line of formal facades along 10th Street. Mr. Krieger recommended the use of iron-free glass to maximize the transparency of the veil; Mr. McAnneny responded that the glass would have as little iron as possible, but the facade will be exposed to strong southwest sunlight and would have more reflection than shown in the renderings. Mr. Krieger commented that the red columns would therefore appear differently than in the renderings. Mr. McAnneny said that a frit would probably have to be added to the glass of the veil, graduated from dense at the top to almost clear at the base. Mr. Krieger observed that the relative treatments of transparency, translucency, and opacity would greatly affect the veil's appearance.
Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission's overall satisfaction with the project's general massing and components, with strong support for the general direction of the design. Noting that little had been said about the office buildings, he asked if the Commission members support the design changes and if they would prefer to see the museum and the office buildings as separate presentations in the future. Mr. Krieger responded that his comments involve specific details, and he expressed confidence that the architects would develop the design successfully. Vice Chairman Freelon suggested that the three buildings be kept together for further review since the office buildings are obscured by the museum. Mr. Luebke clarified that the Commission had already approved the general concept, and the current submission is a revised concept that does not require formal action; the next action would be approval of the final design. Mr. Krieger requested the opportunity to review any changes made in response to his comments. Ms. Meyer suggested approving the revised concept for the entire project, while allowing the applicant to decide whether the buildings would be submitted together or separately for future reviews. Mr. Snider of the JBG Companies said that the project will probably be phased and require separate reviews, with the museum to be completed before the office buildings; Mr. Krieger commented that this sequence would be best from the standpoint of improving the public realm. Ms. Meyer supported the approach of submitting the museum's final design separately from the office buildings which would follow later, with the understanding that the ground plane will require further careful study if the larger project is not completed; Mr. Snider acknowledged this concern.
Mr. Krieger emphasized the Commission's support for this outstanding project and encouraged a similar high quality in other designs. Ms. Lehrer added that the clear documentation had allowed substantive discussion by the Commission. Mr. Krieger offered a motion to approve the revised concept with strong support for the projection of the museum building into the 10th Street right-of-way as essential to the character of the building's function and its relation to the context; he added that the Commission is requesting that the next submission address the issues that were discussed. Upon a second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission adopted this action and noted its enthusiasm for the project.
(Comments on the Spy Museum project continued during discussion of the next agenda item.)
2. SL 15-141, L'Enfant Promenade, 10th Street, SW. Public square. Reconstruct plaza and a portion of 10th Street. Information presentation. Ms. Batcheler introduced the information presentation from the JBG Companies on the redesign of the portion of 10th Street, SW, adjacent to the International Spy Museum that was discussed in the previous agenda item. She said that this portion is at the crest of 10th Street, also known as the L'Enfant Promenade, which connects the National Mall and the Southwest Waterfront. She described the redesign as an exploratory initiative that arose from discussions with the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) staff on how the Spy Museum project could relate to the development of 10th Street as part of NCPC's Southwest EcoDistrict Initiative. She noted that the Commission of Fine Arts had reviewed and supported an overall concept for 10th Street, SW, that was presented by NCPC in November 2013. She added that comments from NCPC on the current presentation have been distributed to the Commission members. She asked Suzanne Boggs of JBG to begin the presentation.
Ms. Boggs emphasized that the Spy Museum project provides an opportunity to initiate the more extensive changes along 10th Street, SW, that are envisioned by NCPC. She said that the proposal for the Spy Museum and L'Enfant Plaza, as discussed earlier on the agenda, could be successful as presented; but the opportunity exists to simultaneously improve 10th Street, and particularly the portion adjacent to L'Enfant Plaza. She added that a public-private partnership is being studied to fund and implement the 10th Street improvements. She asked Michael Vergason of Michael Vergason Landscape Architects to present the vision.
Mr. Vergason said that the presentation includes a series of explorations rather than a single design; he invited the Commission's reaction to this early stage of the process. He described the study in relation to the recent planning work by NCPC: 10th Street is the centerpiece of the Southwest Ecodistrict Plan, and L'Enfant Plaza is the centerpiece of 10th Street. The treatment of this area could foster connections through the area, particularly northward to Independence Avenue and the Smithsonian Castle, and southward to the waterfront and the heart of the redevelopment underway at The Wharf. He said that each of these destinations is approximately a five-minute walk from L'Enfant Plaza. The proposal for the Spy Museum would emphasize these connections by providing a cultural destination at the midpoint of this route, and the museum's architectural projection would serve as a visual marker that can be seen from a distance along 10th Street; he added that such intermediate destinations tend to encourage people to move along a route and reduce people's perception of the travel time. He noted that the 2,000-foot length of 10th Street is significantly shorter than the overall length of The Wharf, most of which is being constructed in the next two years, and implementing or at least initiating the desired improvements to 10th Street is therefore feasible and timely.
Mr. Vergason described NCPC's intended sectional dimensions for the 10th Street corridor: the 150-foot-wide space between buildings would be maintained; the median would be widened to become an urban garden promenade; the width for traffic lanes would be reduced; bicycle lanes would be added; and the curbs would be flush with the grade to treat the entire width as a single space. The NCPC vision includes creating a special place in the vicinity of L'Enfant Plaza that has the sense of a clearing among the trees at the high point of the 10th Street corridor. He described this vision as beautiful but difficult to achieve due to significant portions of 10th Street being carried on bridge structures. He said that NCPC envisions reconstructing the bridge segment to the north of L'Enfant Plaza to provide a large cistern and sufficient soil depth to support extensive plantings; water would be stored and recirculated for irrigation, with the goal of a seventy-percent reduction in the consumption of potable water. Within the immediate vicinity of L'Enfant Plaza, he said that such extensive reconstruction would not be necessary; the existing bridge structure supporting this portion of the street would remain.
Mr. Vergason described four key aspects of the current study: topography, scale, solar exposure, and character. The topography has been discussed. The scale would be defined by the segment of 10th Street between the inner faces of L'Enfant Plaza's north and south buildings, encompassing approximately 160 by 330 feet. He indicated the locations and centerlines of the existing buildings—the U.S. Postal Service headquarters to the west, a hotel and office building to the east, and the north and south office buildings framing L'Enfant Plaza—as well as the driveway loop from 10th Street that runs along the edge of L'Enfant Plaza. He said that the column grids of the buildings and bridge structure are related. He noted that the project area is comparable to the space between the two buildings of the National Gallery of Art, with a similar configuration of a street passing through the space; architect I.M. Pei was involved with both the National Gallery and L'Enfant Plaza. He indicated the special treatment of the paving and the flush curb detail at the National Gallery space. He also compared the L'Enfant Plaza scale to a wide portion of the 16th Street Mall in Denver, a collaboration between Pei and landscape architect Laurie Olin; he indicated the simple paving pattern that extends across the street while incorporating traffic lanes, describing the design as quiet and beautiful with a sense of the whole space. He also presented precedents of other projects by Olin, including the use of a major glass pavilion to create a sense of place.
Mr. Vergason described the solar exposure of the portion of 10th Street being studied: it has direct sunlight from mid-morning through mid-day, and then receives shade that is beneficial during summer afternoons. He said that the sunlight exposure is greater than at L'Enfant Plaza and may require additional shade.
Mr. Vergason presented a series of diagrammatic concepts for the space, emphasizing the goal of creating a vibrant, coherent, comfortable, and visually calm place that is appropriate for the public realm of Washington. He said that the design should encourage people to linger and should have the sense of being complete, although it would have transitional areas that relate to future phases of improvements along 10th Street. He described varying spatial strategies of emphasizing the linear path of 10th Street and the rectangular space of L'Enfant Plaza, concluding that the best contemporary approach is a fluid concept for the public realm that combines the different strategies; he observed that this approach is consistent with Pei's original detailing of materials in this area.
Mr. Vergason presented diagrams of how to implement this strategy through design of the space's conceptual ceiling, floor, and inserted elements; the design would give the space a sense of coherence and liveliness. The ceiling could be defined through a large pavilion or paired smaller pavilions aligned with the wide landscaped median of 10th Street that NCPC has envisioned. These pavilions could extend the shade provided along the median while marking the location across from the Spy Museum, although he acknowledged the challenge of creating a design that would be compatible with the complexity of the planned museum building. He added that a more artistic "ceiling" treatment such as sculptural "clouds" could be used instead of pavilions, as seen in recent precedents. He said that paired pavilions could frame a simple water scrim that could be drained to allow use of the space for special events; he noted NCPC's intent to use this location for events and festivals. The "floor" of the space could also be designed as an extension of the carpet-like treatment of L'Enfant Plaza, with articulation of the east-west structural system and the traffic driveways along with a diagonal pattern, suggesting an abstraction of the L'Enfant Plan. Another design approach would be to articulate more strongly the central space and median of 10th Street, possibly extending the ground plane design to a system of steel cables placed in front of the U.S. Postal Service facade; plants growing along the cables could provide a soft green veil that relates to the planned glass facade of the Spy Museum across 10th Street. Additional embellishments could include sculpture; he cited numerous precedents such as abstract columns or a statue of L'Enfant pointing to the continuation of 10th Street, adding that the sculpture could invite close inspection or could serve as a more distant marker for people walking the length of 10th Street. He illustrated potential locations for a sculpture aligned with the 10th Street median at the center or southern end of the space, or placed asymmetrically along the west side of the street. He described how rows of specially designed streetlights or ground-plane lighting could also serve to define the space and the driveways. He concluded by noting that additional furnishings such as planters, seating, and tables would be part of any design.
Ms. Meyer asked if the design for this portion of 10th Street would be coordinated with NCPC to serve as a "kit of parts" for future improvements to the north and south; the question involves whether special design elements, such as the presented streetlights, would eventually define the overall street or would mark this plaza as a different area. Mr. Vergason responded that his design for this portion should anticipate the future improvements along the length of 10th Street, although his involvement in the other portions has not been determined. Diane Sullivan of NCPC responded that a consistent design for the entire street would be desirable, and this effort is currently being coordinated with several D.C. government agencies to establish a team to oversee a street design.
Mr. Krieger supported the idea of extending the L'Enfant Plaza paving pattern to encompass the full width of 10th Street at this location; he acknowledged that this may seem to contradict the goal of emphasizing the continuity of 10th Street, but he said that careful design could successfully convey the appearance of both continuity and differentiation. He said that the pattern with diagonal lines is particularly promising and should be explored further. He discouraged the idea of embellishing the U.S. Postal Service facade, suggesting instead that its quiet existing facade be allowed to balance the "rather spectacular intervention" of the Spy Museum to the east. He also discouraged the placement of a special feature on the east–west centerline of L'Enfant Plaza, which he said will lose significance when this space becomes occupied by buildings. He suggested that the special feature—perhaps a pavilion rather than a sculptural column—could instead be located to relate to the high point of 10th Street or the entrance to the Spy Museum. Mr. Freelon recommended emphasizing the ground-plane treatment rather than creating a ceiling or canopy, which he said would compete visually with the buildings that define the space.
Ms. Meyer commented that the 10th Street area, like many of Washington's open spaces, is designed in the European tradition of Le Nôtre with an emphasis on sequential perspective in relationship to the site plan. She noted the sequential photographs in the presentation, and she suggested further study of how features would appear and disappear as a person moves through the space; she said that this study would be important in understanding whether the site design is competing or compatible with the building facades. She recalled her comments and Mr. Krieger's during the November 2013 review of NCPC's 10th Street concept, discussing how the corridor could include thresholds and a sense of progression, achieving coherence without monotony. She recommended a continuous design treatment between building faces, serving to unify the larger plaza rather than to define a smaller plaza that would seem marginalized. She suggested further study of the siting of features that are depicted in the 10th Street median, perhaps choosing an alignment with the gingko allée or stepping back further; she said that this could be resolved further as the Spy Museum facade is developed. Mr. Vergason confirmed that such adjustments are within the project area, noting that vehicular traffic crossings must be maintained to connect 10th Street with the L'Enfant Plaza driveway. Ms. Meyer added that the artistic precedents from the presentation are interesting, particularly as references to the tree canopies, but she cautioned that excessive complexity may be problematic in this context. She urged further consideration of the corridor's nighttime appearance, noting that The Wharf will be an evening as well as daytime destination that attracts pedestrians southward on 10th Street from the National Mall. Mr. Vergason emphasized the pedestrian connection of The Wharf with the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station to the northeast, as well as with the Mall to the north.
Ms. Lehrer encouraged a broader ground-plane treatment extending to the building faces; she commented that this will require more careful resolution of interruptions to the 10th Street median, and the paving should be used to unify the space. She also encouraged introducing a vertical element as depicted in the presented precedents; she said that using a water feature—while intriguing as a way to add fog or mist in front of the Spy Museum—may be impractical for this multi-use space. She said that a vertical element could somehow relate to the Spy Museum, giving visitors an exterior experience that contrasts with the interior experience of the museum. She expressed appreciation for the study and for the process that was presented.
Mr. Dunson supported the recommendation to treat the plaza as a continuous area extending westward across 10th Street. He said that the grade of 10th Street should be considered further, perhaps siting a vertical element in relation to the high point of the street's profile. He said that a single vertical element may be sufficient to mark the importance of the space, in conjunction with the strong allée of trees extending the length of the corridor. Mr. Vergason responded that 10th Street rises from the Mall to a point slightly north of this plaza, and the grade is essentially flat across the 330-foot expanse of the plaza. He described how this topography would affect the perception of a vertical element at various locations, such as being gradually revealed as a person approaches from the north. Mr. Krieger and Mr. Freelon commented that the site features should have a refined quality, which may be difficult to achieve within a constrained budget.
Vice Chairman Freelon summarized the consensus of the Commission to encourage further development of the ideas that were presented; he said that no Commission action is needed. Ms. Meyer noted the written comments provided by NCPC; she emphasized that the Commission's advice is contrary to NCPC's preference for maintaining the distinct design continuity of 10th Street through the area of the plaza, while being consistent with NCPC's broader goal of encouraging pedestrians to walk along 10th Street. She said that the complexity and westward projection of the Spy Museum facade will serve to attract people, and a distinctive treatment of the plaza in this area would support the importance of this location. She described the Commission's advice as attempting to clarify the contrasting relationship between areas of richness and simple continuity. Mr. Krieger emphasized the distinction between literal continuity of design details and a larger sense of experiential continuity; he noted the general sense of continuity in the existing urban context of L'Enfant Plaza notwithstanding the great variation in the individual components. He reiterated the Commission's support for a special treatment of the larger plaza area, which he said should not be perceived as contradicting the overall sense of continuity for 10th Street. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
E. District of Columbia Public Library
CFA 16/JUL/15-3, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW. Building renovation, alterations and expansion. Concept. (Previous: CFA 22/JAN/15-3.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept design for the renovation and expansion of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library. This four-story International Style building of glass and steel was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in the late 1960s as Washington's central library; the building is a D.C. Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. She noted that the Commission members heard an information presentation on the proposal in January 2015, when they expressed strong support and emphasized the importance of maintaining the spirit of the historic building. She said that the most significant changes to the concept since then are the reconfigured shape of the fifth-floor addition and the detailing of the public stairways in the vertical cores. She asked Richard Reyes-Gavilan, executive director of the D.C. Public Library, to begin the presentation. Mr. Luebke noted that Vice Chairman Freelon has recused himself from the review of this project.
Mr. Reyes-Gavilan thanked the Commission on behalf of the library's board of directors and the D.C. residents who have commented on this significant project. He introduced the project's architectural historian, Emily Eig of EHT Traceries, and lead design architect Francine Houben of Mecanoo to present the project.
Ms. Eig said that Traceries has helped to establish up design guidelines, approved by the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board, which define preservation zones based on significance; Traceries is also developing a historic structure report on the building's physical condition. Ms. Eig said this proposal respects the historic nature of the building consistent with the preservation zones, including the main lobby. She said that the building is in such poor condition that it needs basic work simply to keep functioning; windows in particular are a major problem.
Ms. Houben said that the original library design had placed greater emphasis on books than people, for example, locating book shelving along the glass façades, where they receive the most daylight. Although the first-floor lobby was intended as public space, the design does not encourage easy movement between floors. She observed that ideas about public libraries have changed since this building opened in 1972; today, it is accepted that a library should have public spaces with daylight, and this design proposes areas where people can sit along the window walls. The removal of inner partitions will also allow for a column-free interior space that will allow natural light into more areas of the building.
Ms. Houben discussed a project she had completed in the Netherlands, where a new theater structure was inserted within an empty church building. She said that the idea for this library is similar, comprising adjustments to improve connections between floors while maintaining its spatial horizontality. The proposal would redesign the four stairway cores, emphasizing the theme of a "journey of learning." It would also increase visual connections between the different spaces of the building, allowing people outside to see in and people inside to see other spaces and activities within the building.
Ms. Houben used a small model to demonstrate the proposed treatment of the four cores. The current brick-walled enclosures would be replaced with brick and glass walls enclosing redesigned stairways. The two stairway cores at the front flanking the vestibule are currently used primarily by staff and the two at the rear are for the public, requiring the public to cross diagonally through the library's lobby to move between floors. The proposal is to reverse this pattern, with the two cores at the front to be for public use and the two at the rear reserved mostly for staff. She said that the front cores would be given a more visible and welcoming treatment, with glass replacing some of the brick walls to provide clear sightlines and visibility. When people enter the vestibule they would be able to see what is happening in the different spaces and determine where they need to go; warm colors and transparency would invite people into the cores and down to the lower level. The new stairways would be wide enough for three people to pass, encouraging people to take stairs rather than elevators and fostering social interaction. Elevators, restrooms, and other functional spaces would also be placed in the cores to let the floors be open, treating space in a manner more typical of Mies's architecture.
Ms. Houben said that each brick and CMU wall has been documented to determine the appropriate treatment at each floor, including the best locations for wall openings and bookshelves. Every floor would have a slightly different function, from children's activities to traditional research and reading rooms; the intent is for people to experience the differences between the floors. The lobby would become a more flexible and welcoming space.
Ms. Houben noted that the library is located at a point where the L'Enfant Plan grid has a slight offset, and the corner of 9th and G Streets provides a good vantage point for people to look back into the city. The loading dock at the back of the building would be transformed into a small auditorium space connecting to the lobby through new doors beneath the lobby's large mural of Martin Luther King, Jr., allowing the first floor to be opened up to the adjacent streets. The auditorium could seat up to 200 people, and an outdoor terrace would connect to a cafe. She said that revisions to the street-level landscape are essential for solving the building's problems. Better sightlines would improve public space and use around the building. Two large skylights set within the paving in front of the façade's brick walls and smaller skylights around the building would bring daylight into the lower level.
Ms. Houben said that the concept includes creation of an auditorium on the fourth floor set between two brick cores and connecting with the rooftop level. She observed that it is essential for public buildings to have activities on the top as well as the ground floor to encourage a flow of people through the building. A pavilion with a green roof would be built on the rooftop, set back from the edge so it is not visible from surrounding streets; its design would employ a similar language to the new stairways, a more fluid line than was used in the original building. The design of the rooftop addition would clearly distinguish between Mies's work and new construction; she concluded by emphasizing that the proposed design would not try to replicate Mies's architecture.
Mr. Dunson commented that the presentation was clear and informative, and the proposed changes would improve the building without diminishing its importance as a historic structure. He commented that the most persuasive pairing of images was the existing rooftop compared with the proposed new roof treatment, which conveyed that the proposed changes will bring this building to life. He added that increasing the amount of daylight in the interior will enhance the prismatic quality seen in models of Mies's buildings.
Ms. Meyer agreed that the presentation was excellent and the concept is persuasive. She said the proposed treatment of the roof would retain the monumentality of Mies's work while acknowledging the pavilion's status as a new structure through its rounded corners and trapezoidal shape. She recommended further study of whether the public space on the north side of the site would be wide enough; she questioned if programming it is necessary or simply a distraction from the other public spaces. She commented that the parterres on the roof garden might be too elaborate and suggested they be simplified. Ms. Houben responded that the proposed designs are still schematic, but the balance of green space and hard surface will be essential. Ms. Meyer supported this approach and reiterated her support for the overall sensibility of the design and its proposed changes, particularly the plan to activate the arcade under the loggia.
Mr. Krieger agreed that the proposed design illustrates a good balance between respecting and energizing a Mies building. He commented that the new stairway cores are beautiful but still too enclosed; he recommended opening the cores further so that people on the stairs can clearly see where they are within the library. Ms. Houben agreed; she said that the design team has carefully analyzed activities on each floor in relation to the walls and to desired activities, and as the design progresses the stairwells would continue to be treated as volumes in relation to horizontal spaces.
Ms. Lehrer said that green roofs typically require a railing for the safety of maintenance workers, which could be handled as an extension of the roof edge or as a railing set back from the edge. She commented that the roof design is beautiful, and the image of a floating green plane should be retained. For the streetscape, she suggested planting a continuous tree canopy to replace the existing trees of different sizes. She emphasized the importance of deciding how to treat the pavement around the building, at the entrance, and at the cafe, noting that the existing granite pavement between the sidewalk and the entrance is seamless. Ms. Houben responded that this pavement has many problems; one issue being considered is whether the granite should be limited to the area underneath the building with the rest of the plaza treated as part of the city the city sidewalk. Ms. Meyer observed that G Street had formerly been treated as a pedestrian street, built of beautiful materials but poorly constructed; she said that durable construction and good materials will make more difference to this space than how far the granite extends.
Mr. Krieger observed that in the model, the cores looked more translucent than solid and appear to be emanating light; he suggested they be made to appear this way even though it would mean changing more of the masonry walls to other materials. Ms. Houben responded that having both transparency and visibility will make people feel safe and thus encourage them to move between floors, an essential aspect of this proposal.
Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Ms. Lehrer, the Commission approved the concept with enthusiasm, encouraging the design team to re-energize and therefore preserve Mies's approach as much as possible. Mr. Freelon was recused from the vote.
F. District of Columbia Department of General Services
1. CFA 16/JUL/15-4, Murch Elementary School, 4810 36th Street, NW. Additions and building modernization. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced Michael Quadrino, a program management consultant for the D.C. Department of General Services, to begin the presentation of proposed alterations to Murch Elementary School. Mr. Quadrino described several challenges with this project: the intact historic 1930s school building, which the D.C. Historic Preservation Office wants preserved; the growth in student population beyond the building's capacity, as shown by the presence of a dozen modular trailers on the site; and the control of a portion of the site by the National Park Service as part of the Fort Circle Parks system, which results in some restrictions on the overall site design. He noted the close involvement of the community, which was involved in developing an initial program and design ideas before the current design progress began in recent months. He said that the community members value the historic school and the site's open play space, and the goal is to preserve these amenities while doubling the school's size. He introduced architect Ronnie McGhee of R. McGhee & Associates to present the design.
Mr. McGhee summarized the programmatic needs to provide 60,000 square feet of additional education spaces in conjunction with renovation of the existing 41,000-square-foot building, and to preserve the site's extensive open space that is valued by the community. He said that the existing building has been studied closely and contains many flexible spaces. It is one of the few intact examples of the three-part H-shaped plan that was used for numerous D.C. school buildings; the cupola and other wood details remain on the building. The floor level of the center wing, containing the auditorium, differs by several feet from the floor level of the two flanking classroom wings. He said that the front facade on the east is particularly important to preserve, including the entrance walks, although the school's entrance is no longer on this side of the building. He indicated the auditorium's relatively unadorned west facade along the playground, which can be reached from the streets to the north, south, and west; many parents linger in the playground area after bringing their children to school and at the end of the school day, and he noted the community's strong desire to preserve the relatively open access to this area. He indicated the northwestern portion of the site that is controlled by the National Park Service; this area can be used for the school's recreation needs but not for expansion of the building.
Mr. McGhee presented the proposed site layout, which would extend the school toward the southwest corner of the site. He indicated the numerous access points that would be provided to the site's open space along the north. He noted that removal of the trailers from the site would allow for extensive open space as well as the expansion of the building. He indicated the connections in the site plan to additional park space to the west across Reno Road and to the northeast across Ellicott Street, placing the site within the linear context of the Fort Circle Parks. He presented a series of diagrams illustrating how the proposed expansion is configured in response to zoning setbacks and the historic preservation concern of avoiding new construction above the first-floor level adjacent to the existing school. He said that the height of the addition's various wings is based on the preservation concerns and the surrounding context of mostly two-story buildings, and further stepping of the proposed massing is intended to break down the addition's scale. A south-facing courtyard between two wings of the addition would provide an outdoor play area for the youngest children in the adjacent classrooms; he added that this courtyard configuration is comparable to the relationship among the wings of the historic building.
Mr. McGhee said that the site plan's extensive open space is achieved by placing some parking below grade; due to the sloping topography, the proposed cafeteria at the same level would have exterior exposure at the site's southeast corner, where an outdoor terrace would be provided. On the northern side of the addition, the gymnasium would have direct access to the main playground area; he said that the configuration of the gymnasium and adjacent plaza would allow for indoor and outdoor programming of community events, such as the school's existing summer series of movie showings. He indicated the various play areas and a butterfly garden, as well as the systems of walks that extends throughout the site; he emphasized that the site design would be an amenity to community members, even those not involved with the school.
Mr. McGhee said that the school's internal circulation has been clarified in response to comments from the staffs of the Commission and the Historic Preservation Office. He indicated the grouping of classrooms for various grades, intended to provide flexibility for changing student populations and also to foster interactions among the students. The administration area and principal's office within the historic building would have a view of the adjacent main lobby in the addition; the circulation down to the cafeteria would also pass alongside the administrative offices, assuring daily engagement with most of the students. He emphasized that the main lobby would have entrances from both the north and south, and it could be used a simple pass-through between the open-space areas of the site. He indicated the small green roofs that would be accessible from the second floor level, as well as the cafeteria's landscaped roof that would be accessible from the first floor.
Mr. McGhee presented the proposed elevations, emphasizing that the historic gabled school building would remain the primary architectural feature. The exterior materials of the addition would include brick and stone relating to the historic school, as well as glass and metal at the locations where lobby and corridor spaces have exterior walls; the entire palette of materials has not yet been selected. He indicated the glass-enclosed west end of the addition's circulation spine; the projecting second floor at this location would be a collaborative teaching space that would be visible from Reno Road, the most prominent street bounding the site. He emphasized that the cafeteria is designed to preserve street-level views of the historic school building; the grade then rises westward along Davenport Street to a drop-off area leading to the addition's main entrance. He added that the intended natural materials for the interior finishes, in conjunction with the extensive connections of classroom areas with outdoor spaces and green roofs, is intended to express the pedagogical philosophy of the curriculum. He indicated large existing trees that would remain along the edge of the site, as well as other trees that would be moved. He said that the overall goal of the landscape design is a "school-in-the-park" aesthetic, and additional trees would be planted on the site to create a green margin around the building. He said that more detailed planning of the site amenities will be undertaken in consultation with the community representatives. He indicated site areas for stormwater management that would be visible to the students and could serve as teaching tools. He concluded by noting that the project also includes extensive rehabilitation within the existing building; most of the corridors and significant spaces would be retained, while flexible classroom spaces would be provided. He summarized the intention to make the school and site a resource for the community.
Vice Chairman Freelon expressed appreciation for the presentation. Mr. Dunson asked if the presented colors for exterior materials are intended or have not yet been selected. Mr. McGhee responded that the presented materials reflect the design intent, but the depicted colors are only tentative. As an example, he indicated the stone base—using either real or simulated stone—that would extend around the addition, relating to the historic building's fieldstone base. The brick of the addition may be yellow as depicted, or perhaps a buff color, but the intent is to contrast with the red brick of the existing school so that the different eras of construction will be apparent. Mr. Dunson requested the opportunity to review further development of the proposed materials in a subsequent submission. He asked if the trees to be removed are on the National Park Service property. Mr. McGhee responded that the National Park Service normally requires equal replacement of removed trees; responsibility for maintenance of this site has been transferred to the D.C. government, so the requirement is not applicable, but the design will nonetheless provide approximately the same total caliper width of trees. He said that the location for tree placement will be coordinated further with D.C. agencies and the community, and the siting is somewhat flexible because portions of the site are currently covered by trailers. He emphasized that careful attention will be given to the edges of the site, in conjunction with the existing trees that would remain.
Mr. Freelon questioned the implication from the presentation that the proposed design is the only feasible solution for the addition, as suggested by the subtractive process illustrated in the diagrams of the design generation. He said that if other massing configurations were explored, these studies would be of interest as part of the presentation to the Commission in order to convey more fully the thought process. Mr. McGhee emphasized the constraint of the National Park Service boundary and said that other options included more below-grade construction. Mr. Freelon also questioned the offset of the north and south entrances to the addition's main lobby, which he described as awkward; he suggested aligning these entrances to provide a more direct circulation connection and improved sightlines between the outdoor spaces to the north and south. For the exterior materials, he recommended simplifying the palette; he observed that the proposed massing is complex, and a layering of multiple materials may be excessive. He suggested eliminating the use of precast concrete, relying instead on the proposed use of brick, stone, and metal.
Mr. Krieger commented that the site plan appears to be a reasonable response to the constraints of the project and the preferences of the community. He expressed concern about the materials for the addition, which he said may appear to be merely cheap imitations of the historic school's materials of brick and fieldstone. He said that the color is a lesser concern—matching the red color of the brick may be acceptable—but he recommended assuring that the new construction is commensurate in quality with the historic building. He added that this is difficult to achieve due to likely differences in details such as the coursing and joints of the modern masonry. Mr. McGhee agreed that the quality must be high; he cited his firm's work in recent years on Washington's Hearst School, similarly involving an addition to a historic school of brick and fieldstone. He said that the modern stone product selected for the Hearst School's base was a good match to the historic fieldstone, and his firm has experience with brick coursing in historic contexts. Mr. Krieger observed that the rendered perspectives appear to depict overscaled masonry blocks. Mr. McGhee responded that this is an inaccurate depiction, and the large scale is not intended; Mr. Krieger requested that the renderings be more accurate.
Mr. Krieger questioned the proportions of the addition's south-facing courtyard, suggesting that it be broader and less deep in order to feel less enclosed. He acknowledged the effort to address the scale by reducing the building mass to a single story at the southern corners, but he said that the sense of narrowness would be apparent in the remaining northern portion of this courtyard. Mr. McGhee responded that the courtyard was wider in earlier versions of the design, but it was narrowed in order to provide more green space elsewhere; the usefulness of the remaining courtyard space has been reduced, and the courtyard will require further study to assure that it does not become merely a dead space. Mr. Krieger also agreed with Mr. Freelon's comment that the proposed precast concrete band would introduce an unnecessary additional building material.
Ms. Meyer provided several comments on the intended site concept of a school within a park. She said that parks have a large scale, while gardens and courtyards are smaller. The presented site plan suggests a diverse array of places around the building, which as a result would likely not appear to be set within any unified landscape context; she instead described the presented design as a "school next to a park." She acknowledged the broader context of the Fort Circle Parks but observed that the site design is actually a sequence of gardens and courtyards related to the school; she said that this is an acceptable design approach but it should be described correctly. She recommended a more cohesive and consistent perimeter for the site, with a careful design of street trees and sidewalks, in order to relate the school site to the nearby parks; and she recommended reducing the fussiness and differentiation of the various open space areas within the site. She described the next step as landscape editing, which should include simplification while continuing to accommodate the programmatic needs of the children and parents. Mr. McGhee responded that a consistent edge treatment is already intended; Ms. Meyer said that the drawings do not convey this. Mr. McGhee said that a particular challenge has been the design of the historic east-facing courtyard that originally served as the school's main entrance; the trailers now within that space will be removed, but it will not revert to being an entrance area. It may become a garden or a play area. Ms. Meyer emphasized that each of the specially designed areas within the site design would have its own center and a sense of differentiation from other areas.
Ms. Meyer questioned whether the topography has been addressed accurately; she observed that the proposed cafeteria at the southwest corner appears differently in the perspective and plan drawings, with the perspective inappropriately suggesting a primary entrance and appearing less elegant as a corner treatment. She acknowledged that the problem may be due to the drawing technique, but she recommended that the design hold the corner in a strong way; she cited the consistent and simple design that is conveyed in the plan, rather than the angular projection suggested by the perspective view. Mr. McGhee noted the complication in this area due to the adjacent location for the proposed loading dock, as well as the berm alongside one wall of the cafeteria; the design is intended to provide ample daylight to the cafeteria, and he offered to study this further. He added that the loading dock is appropriately sited away from the student arrival area and across from the loading dock of a nearby apartment building. Ms. Meyer suggested consideration of extending the cafeteria toward the sidewalk. Mr. McGhee responded that the design of this corner relates to the property line and the juxtaposition of the new cafeteria volume with the historic school to the north. Mr. Krieger observed that the projecting building volume at this corner of the site shows the inadequacy of the intended concept of a school within a park; he agreed that further study of this corner is needed, perhaps involving an increase in the scale of the berm to reduce the extent of the exposed wall.
Mr. Freelon commented that the perspective view of this area appears to be incorrect because the cafeteria roof edges are not depicted as parallel to the main volume of the school. He also questioned the use of stone for the soffit above the glass cafeteria facade, while elsewhere the stone is used as a base for brick building volumes; he suggested further study of the use of heavy and light materials. Ms. Meyer commented that the confusing use of the exterior stone may suggest that the overall concept of a stone base below the brick, based on the historic building, may be unnecessary for the new construction. She suggested selecting a new material for the base, or perhaps abandoning the concept of a base altogether. Mr. McGhee responded that the solution may be simply to terminate the stone base without extending it to the cafeteria; Mr. Krieger agreed that the cafeteria condition is anomalous, while the other parts of the addition are more consistent in their configuration. Mr. McGhee offered to consider using brick instead of stone at the cafeteria.
Vice Chairman Freelon summarized that this corner perspective is an important view of the school and could be improved with further study. Mr. McGhee noted that the design allows for the cafeteria to be programmed for public events, with direct access from the sidewalk at this corner. Mr. Krieger asked if students in the cafeteria would have access to the outdoor space or if security issues would arise. Mr. McGhee responded that the entire site may be fenced, although the site is currently open; he said that this question is still under discussion. He added that the use of various spaces and entrances is partially a cultural question of how people use a building; he envisioned that after-school activities might routinely occur in the cafeteria or the media center. Mr. Quadrino clarified that students would not routinely use the cafeteria door for exterior access during the school day.
Mr. Luebke asked for clarification of whether the Commission prefers a matching or contrasting color of brick. Mr. Krieger said that the color contrast could be less than shown in the presentation drawings, although he noted that the color in the drawings was described as only preliminary. He added that red brick can be used successfully for a modern building. Mr. Freelon observed that the addition would differ from the historic school in architectural form and vocabulary, which could be reflected in lighter materials that do not mimic the historic materials. Mr. McGhee responded that the intent is to reference the historic building while creating a contemporary addition, and he offered to continue consideration of a less contrasting color for the brick.
Mr. Krieger noted the range of issues raised by the Commission and suggested not approving the concept. Vice Chairman Freelon confirmed the consensus that the Commission should review an additional concept submission. Mr. Krieger clarified that the next submission should address the issues requiring study, but it does not need to be an entirely new concept. Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission's support for the basic massing, site planning, and general architectural character, with concerns about the materials and articulation of the design. Mr. Krieger and Ms. Meyer noted that the issues are especially focused at the southwest corner and the perimeter landscape. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
(Comments on the Murch Elementary School project continued during discussion of the next agenda item.)
2. CFA 16/JUL/15-5, Mamie D. Lee School, 100 Gallatin Street, NE. Additions and building modernization. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the second school submission on the agenda, the proposed modernization of the Mamie D. Lee School for use by two charter schools and a community health clinic. He asked John Burke of Studio Twenty Seven Architecture to present the design.
Mr. Burke said that the design for this building is less developed than the previous agenda item for the Murch Elementary School, and he noted that both schools are located along the Fort Circle Parks system. He described the context and program for the Mamie D. Lee School. He indicated the large National Park Service area of Fort Totten Park to the east, north, and south, and the residential neighborhood to the west which he characterized as quiet and having a relatively older population. A large community garden within Fort Totten Park is located immediately east of the school site. The Fort Totten Metro station is across the park to the east, served by multiple Metro lines and bus routes; he said that other than special-needs students, most of the people using the school would arrive via this Metro station or bus stops located a block west, north, or northeast of the school. He emphasized that the approach routes from these transit points have been studied carefully as part of the design process, with the need to provide access to the building's three separate facilities for users arriving from multiple directions. Mr. Krieger and Mr. Freelon asked how people arriving at the Metro station would reach the school building; Mr. Burke indicated the park's existing pedestrian path, which is already well used and connects the Metro Station to the Gallatin Street sidewalk along the south edge of the school site. He noted that some of the bus lines converging at the Metro station have other stops that are located closer to the school, as illustrated in the map of approach routes.
Mr. Burke described the existing school building, configured as a two-story building on the west and three one-story wings that surround a courtyard; it was constructed in 1967 and remained in use until June 2015. Although built for special-needs students, he noted that it includes many changes in floor level and would not now be considered an acceptable design. He described the rooms as small and the concrete courtyard as unwelcoming. The topography drops steeply from Fort Totten Drive on the west, and the second floor of the school is connected to the Fort Totten Drive sidewalk by two pedestrian bridges. The existing building is approximately 58,000 square feet, and the proposed program totals 80,000 square feet.
Mr. Burke described the central design concept to create a U-shaped building that would be open toward the parkland on the east and relate to the neighborhood on the west. The existing one-story wings would be demolished, and two new wings—three stories on the north and two stories on the south—would frame the open courtyard in conjunction with extensive renovation of the existing two-story wing on the west. The community health clinic would occupy the second floor of the south wing, which would be prominently visible to people approaching the building; access to the clinic would be from a bridge to the Fort Totten Drive sidewalk or from a first-floor entry along Gallatin Street. The two charter schools would occupy the remainder of the building.
Mr. Burke presented several perspective renderings of the design; he said that the architecture of the new wings would be derived from the 1967 building, which has tan brick and a gable roof. The new wings would use an additional material such as concrete panels, relating to the color of the 1967 building, along with a metal roof. He said that the design would include some extent of green roof, as tentatively illustrated in the drawings; the area will be calculated to meet the D.C. government requirement. The courtyard would include several playground areas, which are carefully programmed for the different age groups of the special-needs students at one of the tenant schools. The other tenant school is for adults, and its program includes classrooms as well as nearby areas for infant care while the adults attend classes; to accommodate the infants more easily, this school would be located entirely on the first floor. He indicated the proposed entrances to each school from both the courtyard and the perimeter of the site; he noted that the adult school has a relationship with the health clinic which would be facilitated by the nearby locations of their entrances. He emphasized that the entrance lobbies for the two schools would provide clear sightlines between the perimeter drop-off areas and the courtyard. He also indicated a community entrance and third-floor community room that would support the goal of engaging with the neighborhood. He acknowledged that school projects often include perimeter fencing of the site, but he said that for this project the intention is to control access only to the courtyard play area; the community would have access to this area on weekends. Mr. Krieger observed that no fence is shown along the courtyard in the perspective view from the north east; Mr. Burke confirmed that at a fence at this location is intended.
Mr. Burke described the proposed vehicular circulation on the site, which would primarily be used by staff and for drop-off of the special-needs students. He indicated the road loop from Gallatin Street on the south and the lengthy queuing area on the north at the special-needs entrances. He concluded by presenting photographs of the study model that was prepared during the design process.
Mr. Krieger asked if a vehicular road encircling the site is necessary. Mr. Burke responded that alternatives were studied but are not feasible; the proposed road segment on the west would be useful for staff parking but has insufficient clearance to accommodate buses below the two pedestrian bridges, and therefore a road to the northern school entrance area must be provided on the east. He said that a reduction in the required parking minimum is being negotiated with the D.C. government, perhaps reducing the total from over ninety to eighty parking spaces.
Ms. Meyer commented that the proposal shows much creativity and elegance in organizing the building for the three uses, but she described the site plan as very unsatisfactory—for example, the queuing area is extensive and is awkwardly placed along parked cars. Mr. Krieger added that the layout results in a lengthy driving distance for a simple drop-off; he observed that reversing the site plan could simplify the circulation.
Mr. Dunson observed that the two pedestrian bridges seem to be important features to the design team and the community. He suggested that the relationship of the two added wings to the bridges and existing building could be clarified to associate distinct architectural volumes with each of the three uses; for example, the west facade could be a symmetrical composition incorporating a hyphen, with a bridge attaching toward each end. He said that such clarification would make the forms of the buildings and bridges more meaningful and ordered. Mr. Freelon agreed that the additions could be treated as bookends to the existing wing. Mr. Burke responded that an alternative could be to eliminate the bridges, which would allow more freedom of architectural expression; Mr. Dunson agreed that this could be explored, and Mr. Freelon said that the additions could come directly to the elevated grade along the Fort Totten Drive sidewalk. Mr. Krieger added that such a balanced composition may be difficult to achieve with the combination of a two-story and three-story addition; he supported the asymmetrical treatment of these additions as a thoughtful response to their different heights, and he suggested continued exploration in response to the numerous comments being provided. Ms. Meyer agreed that the proposed asymmetrical massing may be the best response to the complex program, and she suggested that further effort be devoted to resolving the vehicular circulation and site planning in order to avoid encircling this interesting multi-use building with parked and idling cars.
Mr. Krieger suggested that the dead-end segment of Gallatin Street along the south edge of the site could be used for some of the vehicular needs, thereby reducing the extent of paved road within the school site. Mr. Burke responded that this could be a feasible approach, but coordinating with the D.C. Department of Transportation to close the street would be a lengthy process that would disrupt the project schedule. Ms. Meyer said that the street wouldn't necessarily need to be closed, but it could be used much more effectively. Mr. Burke responded that this was explored earlier in the design process, but the community strongly opposed relying on Gallatin Street due to concern that the queuing would spill out to create hazardous conditions on Fort Totten Drive. Mr. Krieger suggested that this concern could be addressed by making use of the full length of Gallatin Street along the site. He emphasized that such a solution would free up other parts of the site from excessive paving.
Mr. Krieger asked for clarification of the intended materials. Mr. Burke indicated the areas of concrete panels and a storefront system; he noted the opportunity to use color to enliven the building entrances. Mr. Krieger and Mr. Freelon questioned whether the concrete would be used excessively or is incorrectly depicted on the drawings.
Vice Chairman Freelon noted the apparent consensus not to approve the concept; as with the previous agenda item, a new submission should be prepared for the Commission's review. Mr. Burke responded that an additional concept review will be difficult within the project's tight schedule, particularly because the Commission will not meet in August. Vice Chairman Freelon asked if further review of the concept should be delegated to the staff; Mr. Luebke said that this would not be feasible due to the range of unresolved issues. Mr. Burke confirmed the intended schedule of seeking approval of the final design at the September 2015 meeting, with construction to begin immediately afterward for occupancy in August 2016. Mr. Krieger encouraged resolving the issues quickly in order to avoid having to delay occupancy of the building by an entire academic year. Mr. Dunson commented that the Commission's discussion included many ideas for alternative architectural treatments, but the emerging consensus was that the proposed building configuration could be accepted; the Commission could confirm this position, and the next submission could focus on improvements to specific components of the design. Mr. Krieger said that the Commission is not requesting an entirely new concept; the issues include the materials and articulation of the architecture along with the site planning, while the basic configuration could remain as presented. Mr. Dunson supported this guidance.
Ms. Meyer questioned whether the Commission is being inconsistent by demanding more of this project than of others; she recalled that other concept submissions have had less developed landscape designs. She suggested that the Commission's support for the overall massing would meet the typical standard for a concept approval. Mr. Luebke observed that this submission is comparable to the previous agenda item, the concept for Murch Elementary School, which the Commission did not approve; Vice Chairman Freelon agreed that the Commission would be consistent in deciding not to approve this submission for the Mamie D. Lee School. Mr. Krieger said that regardless of how today's review is characterized, the project should be submitted for another review; Ms. Meyer agreed. Mr. Burke said that the critical scheduling issue is when the project is approved as a final design, which Vice Chairman Freelon noted is not under consideration with the current submission. Mr. Luebke said that the project could still be submitted as a final design for the September meeting, although the Commission may decide not to grant approval. Mr. Burke said that this would be an acceptable solution to allow the project to remain on schedule.
Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission's support for the basic massing and general architectural character, with concerns about the materials and articulation of the architecture as well as the site planning. Vice Chairman Freelon clarified that the Commission is not requiring extensive consideration of the more wide-ranging comments about changing the massing of the project. Mr. Luebke offered the assistance of the staff as the next submission is prepared. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider item II.G.
G. District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation
CFA 16/JUL/15-7, Fort Dupont Ice Skating Arena, 3779 Ely Place, SE. Building alterations and additions. Concept. (Previous: CFA 22/JAN/15-6.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced a new concept submission for the Fort Dupont Ice Skating Arena, designed by Sink Combs Dethlefs Architects in collaboration with Quinn Evans Architects. He said that when the previous concept was presented in January 2015, the Commission took no action and requested further study of the site plan. The previous concept was for an all-new two-rink facility to replace the existing one-rink facility; he said that because of budget constraints, the project scope has been revised to include keeping the existing rink and constructing a second rink as an addition. He asked architect Ernest Joyner of Sink Combs Dethlefs to present the concept design.
Mr. Joyner said that the existing arena, owned by the D.C. government and operated by the Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena, provides free and low-cost recreation to the community. The existing building is heavily used—at the end of a hockey game, two or three dozen children are moving between the rink and the locker room—and a second rink is now needed. He noted that ice rinks require a flat surface with a large footprint, and the two rinks need to be at approximately the same level so they can share facilities. The existing rink occupies a 40,000-square-foot footprint on a steep site at the edge of Fort Dupont Park, a large National Park Service property. The context also includes a residential neighborhood of Anacostia, primarily two-story brick garden apartment buildings; a school is located across Ely Place from the arena and two churches are nearby, but there is no adjacent commercial development. He said that the Nationals Baseball Academy is located adjacent to the arena, on the western side of a parking lot that is shared by the two buildings; the arena project must retain as much of the parking lot as possible. He added that the arena's site provides broad views westward over the Anacostia River to the Capitol and Washington Monument in the distance.
Mr. Joyner indicated the main entrance to the existing arena, reached by three flights of exterior stairs rising from the Ely Place sidewalk. An octagonal tower-like structure at the front was a later addition that he described as out of character with the modernist, rectilinear building. He noted that the only barrier-free entrance is through a side door, and the service entrance is in the rear.
Mr. Joyner said that in the previous review, the Commission suggested relocating the main entrance to face the park, which has been studied further. However, the park is densely wooded and overgrown; he presented photographs to illustrate this condition. An additional constraint is the extensive utility support for the arena, such as the ice plant and chiller; placing the entrance along the park would result in siting the service structures along the street where they would block the important views. He said that because of the building's multiple functions and the large size of the two rinks, the best location for the main entrance is toward the center of the complex. For the placement of the rinks, he said that the design team considered side-by-side and end-to-end configurations before determining the best solution would be to elevate the new rink over the parking lot, approximately aligning its level with the existing rink which would remain in its current location. The new entrance would open into a small lower lobby with a stairway and elevator leading up to the main floor and lobby that would provide access to locker rooms, classrooms, restrooms, offices, and both rinks. Mr. Krieger asked if the arena will have two ice resurfacing machines; Mr. Joyner responded that the proposed plan would allow a single resurfacer to have access to both rinks.
Mr. Joyner noted the Commission's previous comment that the new entrance design had been divided into too many different volumes and was too small in scale in comparison with the large volumes of the rinks. He said that the different program elements have now been included within a single volume, which is proposed to have a glazed facade angled between the two rink enclosures to face Ely Place and the distant views. A new metal panel screen wall, screening the existing entrance tower, would mirror the angled shape of an existing metal panel wall; the result would be a pair of walls with a narrow vertical recess between them, generally resembling the spread wings of a butterfly. The new glass-faced lobby would extend beyond the corner of the new screen wall. He said that the walls of the existing rink building are cast-concrete panels; the new rink would be a pre-engineered building sheathed in red metal panels with large areas of glazing on the north and west. In the lobby, open balconies would allow communication between the main and lower levels.
Mr. Joyner introduced Adrienne McCray of Lee and Associates to conclude with a presentation of the landscape design. Ms. McCray described the landscape setting of the apartment complexes on Ely Place as characterized by large open lawns and large trees; the arena's site is similar, with rolling hills, lawns, mature canopy trees, and a variety of understory trees. She said that the revised landscape design emphasizes a more diverse plant palette, including groundcover and seasonal grasses, to create a naturalistic landscape with greater biodiversity. A large plaza near the main entrance would accommodate people coming to use the arena and also provide a community space.
Ms. McCray said that the primary difficulty in providing access to the building is the steep grade of the sidewalk and the site. The entrance would be reached by stairs or ramps, carefully configured to provide a barrier-free route from bus stops along Ely Place and connecting to a crosswalk. Bands of plantings would separate different areas at the entrance, and planted islands in the parking lot would soften its appearance. Site amenities such as picnic tables would be located in open areas, and a bicycle rack would be adjacent to the entrance plaza.
Mr. Luebke noted that Commission member Liza Gilbert, although not present today, had visited the site in February to better understand the topography; he said that she considers the general site strategy of the proposal to be reasonable.
Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation for the additional context information that was presented. She commented that the reconfiguration of the building masses has made the entrance clearer and improved its scale. She said that the design of the entrance ramps is difficult to understand on the overall site plan; she requested preparation of another drawing at an intermediate scale between the sections and the site plan—perhaps an axonometric—for the final design submission. Ms. Meyer noted the relatively large number of people who will be using the entrance plaza and emphasized the importance of ensuring that the dimensions are adequate; she observed that the space appears tight in the plan drawing, although this impression might be the result of the drawing's small scale. Mr. Dunson supported the request for the additional drawing, and Mr. Freelon recommended providing spot elevations.
Mr. Freelon asked for clarification of the materials; Mr. Joyner indicated the areas of concrete and metal panels for the proposed and existing construction, as well as the colors of the metal. He said that the intent is to tie the new building to the existing arena with the screen wall; the break in the glass box would lead into the rink. Mr. Freelon suggested refining and simplifying the design by reducing the types and colors of metal panel; Mr. Joyner agreed that the metal fascia over the entrance could be the same color as the metal of the butterfly walls.
Mr. Krieger expressed surprise that constructing an entire new elevated rink would be cheaper than building two rinks at grade; Mr. Joyner responded that the required excavation of the hill on this sloping site would make an at-grade solution much more expensive.
Mr. Krieger observed that the elevation design presents a false front along Ely Place that appears overly large, exacerbated by its placement on a hill that tends to make the facade look larger than it actually is; he said that the scale of this element appears overwhelming, and he recommended that it be reduced. He added that creating this new wall to mirror the existing wall has still resulted in a break in the street elevation; Mr. Joyner responded that the design results from having to keep the existing octagonal tower behind the proposed wall. Mr. Krieger commented that this butterfly-wall configuration does not help the design; Ms. Lehrer agreed. Mr. Krieger suggested extending the glazed lobby facade to this area in order to make the lobby appear larger from the exterior; Mr. Joyner agreed to consider this revision, noting that it would have the additional advantage of providing windows for an upper elevator landing area. Mr. Krieger recommended that the goal in refining the facades should be to reduce the apparent scale of the large ice rink volumes while placing more emphasis on the entrance lobby, which can be done without actually increasing its interior size.
Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the concept design for the Fort Dupont Ice Skating Arena, subject to the Commission's comments concerning the entrance plaza and facades.
The Commission then returned to agenda item II.F.3.
F. District of Columbia Department of General Services (continued)
3. CFA 16/JUL/15-6, Friendship Recreation Center (Turtle Park). 4500 Van Ness Street, NW. New recreation center and playground. Concept. (Previous: CFA 16/APR/15-6.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced a new concept submission for a recreation center and playground at Friendship Recreation Center, commonly known as "Turtle Park" after the park's large play sculptures in the form of turtles. He said that when a concept was previously presented in April 2015, the Commission requested more information on the intended design of the building and landscape. He asked architect Edwin Schmidt of Fanning/Howey Associates to present the additional documentation and design revisions.
Mr. Schmidt described the project area in the northeast corner of the park, which he said is well used by the community. Features currently on the site include the existing recreation center building, a sandbox in poor condition, a water jet that is no longer functional, the turtle sculptures, and basketball courts; other uses such as playing fields occupy the remainder of the park. The proposal is to renovate this corner of the park, including replacement of the building to provide twice as much interior space. He noted the large existing trees and framed vistas; an arborist has evaluated the trees and identified measures to promote their survival, and the siting of the proposed recreation center has been chosen to avoid impact on the trees and views. He added that an existing utility line also constrains the siting of the recreation center, and he indicated the proposed building location that emerged as a feasible location. He said that the new building would maintain a close relationship with the Van Ness Street edge of the park, and the adjacent site design would suggest a threshold into the park.
Mr. Schmidt said that the program for the site includes a play area for younger children, which would be sited near trees for shade and would accommodate parents nearby; an open area for older children, serving as a transition zone to the baseball fields; and a water feature to replace the defunct water jet. Although the operation of the water would be seasonal, the design is intended to provide an amenity of large-scale benches throughout the year. He indicated the proposed areas of paving on the site plan as well as the sandbox and the significant trees that would remain; a shade structure is also included in response to the community's request, providing a viewing area for the basketball court and serving as a covered stage along the plaza. He noted that the park is closed after dark, but the stage could be used for afternoon concerts or festivals. He presented several sections to illustrate the topography and the site design, including small hills and berms for climbing.
Mr. Schmidt presented the design of the building, which he said is fairly simple and programmatically similar to the existing building. It would provide a community room, a crafts room, administrative and support spaces, and bathrooms with access from both the interior and exterior. The staff areas would be at the center of the plan, with views out to the park. The crafts room has been repositioned slightly, and he indicated the windows that are now provided for the community room. He presented the proposed materials, noting that the intended colors may not be depicted accurately. The emphasis would be on reclaimed and recycled materials; the facade panels would be very durable with both dimensional and color stability. The program is organized architecturally as two rectangular volumes intersecting at an angle: a lower, heavier-looking volume for the offices, bathrooms, and community room; and a taller, extensively glazed volume for the lobby and crafts room. The angle between the volumes would relate the building to the adjacent street pattern and the views across the park.
Mr. Freelon asked for further information on the intersecting roofs of the two volumes. Mr. Schmidt indicated how the sloped roof of the taller volume would be conceptually extended in a sloped canopy at the exterior entrance to the bathrooms; he added that the spaces in the lower volume would have a consistent interior height. He clarified that the construction detailing would simply have a transition of the roof membrane at the intersection of the two roof planes. He said that the use of glass for the major spaces of the building is intended to support the design goal—developed from discussions with the D.C. government and the community—to encourage the park's users to move freely between the indoor and outdoor areas; play areas and sculptures would be associated with the building as well as the park.
Mr. Schmidt concluded with several perspective views of the building and site; he described the effort to scale the park's features for users of varying ages. He indicated the relationship of the proposed plantings and the architecture, and he acknowledged that some details of the design will need further resolution.
Ms. Meyer asked about the size of the site; Mr. Schmidt responded that the portion of the park being renovated in this project is slightly less than two acres. Ms. Meyer said that her concerns include the scale of the design and the quality of the play areas; she asked for further information about the design precedents and theories of play that have been considered in developing the proposal. Mr. Schmidt described the goal of experiential play that allows for "incremental separation," with younger children playing under close adult supervision while older children play more independently. The sandbox, berms, and various play areas are designed to accommodate this spectrum of development. He indicated a looping path that could be used for tricycle riding, partially shielded by a berm so that a child could pass in and out of the sightlines of nearby adults while also exploring an increased distance from them. He clarified that the maximum height of the berm would be thirty inches, allowing a standing adult to see over it. He noted that a looping play route can be very popular with young children, who enjoy taking laps around it. He emphasized that the play features are designed to accommodate children of varying ages and disabilities, noting the sandbox areas that are elevated as well as at ground level. Play areas for older children would foster development of upper body strength, with encouragement of climbing, rolling, and jumping. He said that the design avoids traditional swings because they do not readily accommodate playing in larger groups or teams; groups could more easily form with the climbing or sliding structures that are proposed. He summarized that the separation of play spaces in the design is based on children's development at different ages.
Ms. Meyer acknowledged the explanation but commented that the program may be too ambitious for the modest scale of the site. She said that separate play areas may be a desirable goal, but the separation would be provided by berms only thirty inches high; an adult would perceive the multiple play areas as a single space that has too many elements in it. She suggested simplifying the site plan: while the two larger oval play areas could remain to frame the plaza, the circular water feature and benches at the center of the plaza could be eliminated as an unnecessary part of the design. She also suggested eliminating the gridded pattern from the plaza, observing that it adds yet another design element which does not relate to the oval play areas, nor serve to hold the space together. She said that the building design may also need further study, noting the written comments from community members expressing dissatisfaction with the proposal.
Mr. Krieger supported the design approach of separate play areas for children of different ages, as part of the gradually developing separation of parents and children. He said that the overall site design therefore does not seem problematic and could be further refined. He expressed greater concern with the building design, commenting that the drawings rely excessively on an imaginary line of separation between the two volumes. He questioned whether the design team has fully understood the form of the building, and he suggested constructing a simple model to identify areas of awkwardness in the intersection of the volumes. He added that the potential awkwardness of the architecture may parallel Ms. Meyer's concerns with the site design. He supported the building's program but emphasized the concern with its form and constructability.
Mr. Freelon questioned whether the small projecting roof proposed above the bathroom entrances would be satisfactory; he described it as merely a fragment of the roof that is pasted onto the side of the building. Mr. Krieger commented that the architects may be overly focused on the concept of overlapping geometries; he said that the result appears to be more awkward than interesting. He reiterated the need for a model, noting that a small model for an earlier agenda item had been very successful in quickly conveying a complicated design issue; he said that the model for this recreation center may demonstrate that the design is more complicated than it should be. He said that the perspective views convey a soaring space, but much of the interior would have a flat ceiling; he recommended preparation of a ceiling plan to clarify the design and identify any problems.
Vice Chairman Freelon requested that future presentations include a comparison of the several iterations of the design. Mr. Krieger commented that the building design has progressed well in the use of materials, including the curtainwall and the emphasis on transparency for the lobby; he said the problem is that the concept of overlapping rectangles is not as powerful as the designers imagine. Mr. Luebke noted that the current submission shows significant improvement, such as simplification and rationalization of the design, compared to the two previous submissions.
Mr. Dunson said that the solution for the building design may be to clarify the separation between the roof forms and the spaces below; the drawings suggest a direct relationship, but a more successful approach may be to treat the roof configuration separately and to avoid features such as the small angled canopy projection. Mr. Freelon added that the emphasis on height may be problematic for such a small building; he said that the interior space appears to be disproportionately tall. Mr. Dunson said that an additional problem with the building design is the unresolved overlap of two grids in plan; he said that this should be more carefully studied, as it has been in the overall site design. Mr. Schmidt acknowledged the design concerns while noting that a canopy at the bathroom doors would be a desirable feature; Mr. Krieger agreed.
Ms. Meyer provided additional comments on the site design. She suggested that the water feature be designed as a warm-weather amenity that would not have a strong visual presence during the winter; people could move chairs near the water if desired rather than rely on permanent seating in this area. She recommended a simpler paving pattern that does not appear to be generated by the geometry of the building; a better strategy for the paving would be to emphasize a site concept of three large figures appearing to float within a more neutral surface. She said that the edge areas on the site plan could be designed as long seating areas, not merely as boundaries; the benches would be away from the water and could be detailed to help contain the shredded rubber surface of the play areas, which would support the park's maintenance. She suggested an overall strategy of having every line serve functional purposes, resulting in an overall simplification with emphasis on a few major forms. Mr. Schmidt agreed to work further in clarifying the relationship among the site elements; he also acknowledged that the design includes various features at the request of the community, with further work needed to resolve the detailing and scale of the elements and infrastructure.
Vice Chairman Freelon asked for the Commission's decision on responding to the submission. Ms. Meyer requested an additional concept submission; Mr. Dunson agreed, encouraging further study and simplification of the design. He agreed that the design may include too many elements in a small area. Vice Chairman Freelon said that the next submission should also include further resolution of the building's plan, ceiling, and roofscape, which are not coming together well in the current design; he noted the request for a physical model to address these issues. He summarized the consensus to request another submission at the concept stage. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
H. D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
CFA 16/JUL/15-8, Southwest Waterfront Development, 7th Street Pier. Washington Channel at 7th Street and Maine Avenue, SW. New public pier. Concept. (Previous: CFA 20/MAR/14-2, 7th Street Park.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept proposal for the 7th Street Pier, part of the extensive redevelopment project of The Wharf along Washington's Southwest Waterfront. She said that the Commission had seen the pier's design in conjunction with review of the master plan for The Wharf in January 2012; at that time, the Commission supported the design but cautioned against over-programming the pier with permanent design elements. She noted that the pier is being designed in conjunction with the adjacent 7th Street Park, which was approved as a final design in November 2014. To present the proposal, she introduced Matthew Steenhoek of Hoffman-Madison Waterfront, the developer of The Wharf, and Michael Vergason of Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, the designer of both the 7th Street Pier and 7th Street Park.
Mr. Steenhoek said that the pier would extend the 7th Street Park into the Washington Channel, serving as a terminus for 7th Street which extends almost eight miles through Washington, becoming Georgia Avenue and continuing into Silver Spring, Maryland. The pier is also located at the transition between the first and second phases of development at The Wharf; he noted that the first phase is under construction with the extensive excavation of the site now largely completed. He said that the programming and design of this pier results from consultation with the community and reviews by the Commission of Fine Arts and the D.C. Zoning Commission. He noted that early plans for the waterfront redevelopment had referred to this location as the "Recreation Pier," and its purpose remains as a recreational location where residents and visitors can approach and interact with the water; he described proposed features such as a floating dock for launching kayaks. He anticipated that this pier would become a popular location that is special to many people as they become familiar with it.
Mr. Vergason noted that the schedule for the 7th Street Pier has been shifted from the second to the first phase of the waterfront redevelopment. He described the design intent as a recreational pier in conjunction with the residential green of the 7th Street Park; he said that the design of each is characterized by "supple form." Above the concrete structure, the pier would be constructed of wood, a common material in shipbuilding but unusual for a pier; this material serves to distinguish the 7th Street pier from others along the waterfront. He said that the overall design is a sculptural fluid composition, both horizontally and vertically; he described the pier as having a spine which drops down gently in the middle and then rises again to a high point at the end. One side of the pier would have a fixed elevation with gangways dropping down to a floating pier. He indicated the varying heights along the pier, falling and rising within a total range of six feet. The undulating wood surface would sometimes form seating or stairs. A 27-foot-high shade canopy would be made of a salvaged wood frame with a thin steel canopy; he said that the turned wood columns would refer to the design of the wharf esplanade and also the nearby Arena Stage building. A continuous wood railing along the northwest side of the pier would form a backbone that connects the various features such as the stairs and shade canopy; most of the pier's southeast edge would not have a railing. Other features include a ten-by-twelve-foot retail pavilion, slightly modified in design from the pavilions that are being constructed along the wharf esplanade. A fire pit at the southwestern end of the pier would serve to draw people, particularly in winter; a conical steel structure would provide fuel for the flame, and a stone seating wall would encircle it.
Mr. Vergason indicated the series of light poles that would be located along the pier's northwest edge, with the same design as the light poles of the7th Street Park. Interlaced with the light poles would be five steel arches supporting swings, encouraging people to walk toward the end of the pier where a shade sail would be located. He concluded by indicating the wetlands habitat located alongside the pier, contributing to the pier's intended overall character of intimacy where people can touch and engage with the water.
Ms. Meyer noted the intended relationship between the retail structure and other pavilions at The Wharf; she asked if the larger shade structure would similarly relate to other parts of the waterfront, or if it would be unique to this pier. Mr. Vergason responded that The Wharf includes other canopy structures, but the design of the canopy on the 7th Street Pier is unique: the others have a steel structure rather than the wood that is proposed here to relate to other elements of this pier. Ms. Meyer agreed that the pier would likely attract people with its sensuous form, and she cited comparable examples in Philadelphia and in Melbourne, Australia. She said that the proposed design vocabulary is powerful, but the shade structure or arbor at the foot of the pier appears to be of a different language. She suggested that this structure be related more closely to the pier design, if not to the design of the wharf esplanade. She said that this comment is part of an overall concern that the design should feel like a coherent entity rather than an assemblage of different pieces; the concern extends to the swings and the shade sail. She described the overall form of the pier as slightly billowing, like the water; Mr. Vergason confirmed that this sense of a soft rolling is intended in the design.
Mr. Dunson commented that the problem appears to be the shade sail at the end of the pier: it seems out of character, which may be a problem or a desired attribute. He suggested considering the pier as part of a processional with a distant feature, possibly the sail, to draw people to the end. Mr. Vergason described the sail as primarily providing comfort and protection to people who reach the end of the pier, while also providing a visual punctuation while being relatively quiet. Mr. Dunson said that its attraction will be evident from a distance, with the obvious nautical reference of the sail relating to the passing boats; however, unlike the boats, this sail on the pier will be fixed, and its movement would be limited to some billowing in the wind. Mr. Dunson said that a larger question is the arc of the pier in plan. Mr. Vergason responded that the arc developed primarily from an intention to relate the forms of the pier and the residential green; a second purpose is to give the pier a sense of front and back, with its open front side to the southeast suggesting a focus on downstream views and an intimate cove where people can engage with the water. He summarized that the arc is therefore advantageous for both functional and aesthetic reasons. He added that the arc also establishes a dialog with the Waterfront Park located to the southeast. Mr. Dunson agreed that the connection of the pier to the 7th Street Park is quite strong, although the arc could be even more pronounced; he said that the subtlety of the proposed design suggests a general sense of connectedness without emphasizing the pier itself as an important object. He described the result as quite successful and strong, particularly the combination of the fixed elevation at the southeastern edge and the undulating surface along the northwest, as well as the sense of procession from the 7th Street Park. He supported the use of wood for the project, commenting that this pier would serve as a focal point for the waterfront as intended.
Mr. Krieger noted the dissatisfaction of Commission members with differing elements of the composition, a list that he said could be expanded; he summarized the problem as too many design gestures in one project. He said that the mere form of the pier as a walkway across the water, coupled with the undulating surface, could serve as the main features; the fire pit, sail, swings, and pergolas may be excessive in comparison to the basic objective of getting people to the water. He recommended eliminating at least one element, leaving the selection to Mr. Vergason. While acknowledging the advice, Mr. Vergason responded that the developer is interested in ensuring that the design includes multiple features to draw people who might not otherwise go onto the pier. He said that the goal is not just to create a beautiful thing, but also to provide things for people to discover and engage with and to provide people with comfort as they visit the pier. Mr. Krieger said that many areas of The Wharf are designed to address the problem of attracting people, but this should not be a primary issue for designing the end of this pier. He gave the example of using a pergola to terminate 7th Street, which is reasonable; but the pergola is then bent in a slightly awkward way. He reiterated his advice to reduce the complexity of the design.
Vice Chairman Freelon noted the Commission's frequent emphasis on simplifying and clarifying a design proposal. Mr. Krieger said that the pier will surely be an amazing place. Ms. Meyer said that the emphasis should be on bringing people out onto the water, which is rarely done in Washington; she recommended bringing the client onto the water in a boat to demonstrate its special attraction. Mr. Dunson commented that the light poles should be kept as the design is simplified, since the lights will emphasize the shape of the pier at night; Mr. Vergason reiterated that the design of the lights is a direct connection between the pier and the 7th Street Park. Vice Chairman Freelon and Mr. Krieger summarized the consensus of the Commission to approve the concept with the comments provided, including simplification of the design in some manner.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:45 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA