The meeting was convened in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, at 10:05 a.m.
Members present: Hon. Earl A. Powell, Chairman
Hon. Philip Freelon, Vice Chairman
Hon. Edward Dunson
Hon. Liza Gilbert
Hon. Alex Krieger
Hon. Elizabeth Meyer
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
A. Approval of the minutes of the 17 March meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the March 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.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 19 May, 16 June, and 21 July 2016. He noted that no meeting is scheduled during August.
C. A report on the pre-meeting site inspection. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission members visited the perimeter of the White House complex earlier in the morning, in preparation for the presentation on planned improvements to the fence (agenda item II.B.1). Chairman Powell suggested that comments on the site inspection be provided in conjunction with the presentation.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that no changes have been made to the draft appendix. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported several changes to the draft appendix. Three projects listed on the draft appendix have been withdrawn at the request of the applicants (case numbers SL 16-072, 16-073, and 16-080); the request for SL 16-072 was received earlier in the morning, after printing of the revised appendix that is now being circulated, but the project will be omitted from the final appendix. Other revisions are minor wording changes and notations of the receipt of supplemental materials. Six recommendations are listed as contingent on further consultation or documentation, and she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations after completion of the review process. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the revised appendix. Mr. Luebke noted that the appendix includes a favorable recommendation for an infill project at St. John's Church on Lafayette Square (SL 16-085); the small addition is at an aesthetically sensitive location between two historic buildings, and the Commission action concludes a design consultation process that has been ongoing for six to seven years. (See agenda items II.E.1 and II.E.2 for additional Shipstead-Luce Act submissions.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martinez reported that revisions to the draft appendix include an update to note the receipt of supplemental materials and the removal of one project that has been withdrawn at the request of the applicant (case number OG 16-165). Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 21/APR/16-1, President's Park Fence—White House Grounds. Pennsylvania Avenue and East and West Executive Avenues, NW. Perimeter fence improvements—Phase I. Information presentation. Secretary Luebke introduced an information presentation on the planned replacement of the fence surrounding the White House grounds. He noted that in April 2015, the Commission heard an information presentation providing an overview of the process for developing a design to improve the White House perimeter security and the experience of visitors to this area; at the same meeting, the Commission approved the temporary installation of anti-climb features on the existing fence. The current presentation addresses a planned permanent fence that would meet present-day standards for site security, replacing the existing fence and temporary features. The scope of the design is the perimeter of the 18.5-acre White House grounds; later this year, another proposal will be presented for the redesign of the perimeter fences at the adjacent Treasury Building and Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which together form the White House complex; this subsequent design may also include improvements to security structures at E Street and the Ellipse as part of the wider improvements to President's Park. He emphasized the challenges of the design process in addressing the varying site conditions and many historical periods of construction.
Mr. Luebke noted that the project is being developed by the National Park Service in cooperation with the U.S. Secret Service, and he asked Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation. Mr. May confirmed that the perimeter security improvements for the White House grounds, being presented today, will be the first in a group of related projects that will soon be submitted to the Commission. He introduced Thomas Dougherty of the U.S. Secret Service to continue the presentation.
Mr. Dougherty expressed appreciation for the involvement of the Commission staff in the design consultation process. He emphasized that the White House fence project is a priority of the Secret Service's director and of the Congress. He said that the need for a new permanent fence arises from the inadequacy of the existing fence in meeting modern needs. It was engineered in the 1950s using older technology, and its metal picket portion is only six feet high above a one- to two-foot masonry base. People have demonstrated that it can be scaled, and he noted the difficulty of distinguishing between non-threatening intrusions and more serious threats. He described the overall design goal of making the fence taller and stronger, while being sensitive to the historic context of the White House. He noted that the Secret Service is funding the project's design and construction, which is tentatively scheduled for 2018.
The design was then presented by the team of Michael Mills and Anne Weber, partners at Mills and Schnoering Architects, and preservation landscape architect Patricia O'Donnell of Heritage Landscapes; Mr. Mills noted that the team also includes many additional specialists such as engineers. He said that both the perceived openness and the physical security of the White House and its grounds are a symbol of the nation's freedom and strength. He presented a list of the project's primary goals: to meet the security requirements of the Secret Service; to design the fence as an aesthetic compliment to the historic buildings and overall setting; and to create a beautiful design that maintains the quality of the visitor experience. Additional goals include preserving historic fabric and landscape elements where possible, and establishing a design vocabulary that can encompass the fences of multiple buildings. He noted that the current presentation addresses the White House fence; a future presentation will address the extension of the project to the fences at the Treasury and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. He said that this project is based on research of the architectural and landscape history, as is typically done for a project involving a historic setting, and the presentation includes some images to illustrate the results of this research.
Ms. O'Donnell said that the body of research includes approximately 200 images of the fence and surroundings of this complex of buildings, along with historic plans. A particularly useful resource has been a book on White House gardens, obtained from the White House Historical Society, that describes the evolution of the grounds. When President's Park was established in the early 19th century, Tiber Creek defined the south edge of the grounds; the grounds and perimeter were soon defined further by the partial implementation of a plan by Thomas Jefferson. The modern perimeter of the grounds took shape around 1900, and the design evolution has continued. She presented a design sketch attributed to Jefferson, depicting areas of trees and gardens. An 1833 sketch shows iron gates and a low post-and-chain fence on the north, and a more substantial wall on the south. A further design for the White House grounds was prepared by Alexander Jackson Downing in 1851, including the initial idea for the modern-day Ellipse to the south. A photograph from 1900 shows matching fences along each side of East Executive Avenue, with masonry piers and iron pickets topped by decorative elements of elongated stars. A 1915 photo shows a taller fence with spear-point finials on the pickets, and decorative urns and light fixtures on top of the masonry piers; many of these features remain today. The landscape treatment also evolved: during the 20th century, plantings were removed to open the axial view corridor on the south. She noted the general character of tree cover on the grounds, balancing the desires for privacy and openness.
Mr. Mills said that the current requirement for a taller fence has resulted in a study of comparable fences at public buildings around the world, although the intent is not to replicate any of these. He presented examples of the Royal Palace in Madrid, which is approximately fifteen feet high with a masonry base and iron pickets above; the Palais de la Nation in Brussels, a simpler fence with relatively few climbable features; Buckingham Palace in London, with a fence that is more heavily ornamented; and the fence at Princeton University's Nassau Hall. He also illustrated gates from some of these locations, serving as precedents for treatment of the White House gates. He noted the ornamental feature on some fences of short intermediate pickets toward the bottom, referred to as "dog bars," which could serve as footholds for people trying to climb the fence. He said that the Princeton example is particularly useful for the relative scale of the fence, building, and distance between them; this fence has a 3.5-foot base topped by 11-foot-high iron pickets. These precedents could be adapted for the White House fence, where reuse may be possible for existing light fixtures, masonry, and other elements; the White House fence also has stricter requirements for height, strength, and the avoidance of climbable features.
Ms. Weber presented comparison drawings of the existing fence and a possible design for its replacement on the north side of the White House. Based on the Secret Service requirements, the pickets would have a diameter of 1.75 inches, with a space of 4 inches between them; the structure of the fence would be provided by 4-inch-wide posts spaced at approximately 10-foot intervals. The fence height would be approximately 13 to 14 feet, compared to the existing height of approximately 7 to 8 feet. The top of the fence would have anti-climb features in addition to the spear-tip finials that are similar to the existing treatment; she noted that comparable anti-climb features have recently been installed as a temporary security measure. The masonry piers would be increased in width for aesthetic consistency with the needed height increase; similarly, the masonry base would be slightly increased in height for aesthetic balance. She said that some or all of the existing masonry of the base may be reused; however, the masonry of the piers would not be feasible to reuse, and some of it is in poor condition. She added that the base would serve as a retaining wall in some locations to accommodate the higher grade within the White House grounds. In all cases, the fence would be set on a new concrete foundation and footings.
Ms. Weber described the planned replacement of the vehicular gates to provide greater height and strength. The design would be based on the various existing and historic gates to the White House grounds and adjacent buildings. She noted that some of the gates have straight profiles across the top, while others have profiles that are arched upward or downward. Existing gates are typically slightly higher than the fence; the planned new gates would likely match the new fence height of approximately thirteen feet. She said that the National Park Service has requested standardizing the width of the gates to sixteen feet, which will simplify arrangements for truck access. She added that the security equipment for the gates, including hydraulic arms to open and close them, can result in a massive appearance.
Ms. Weber indicated the large historic light fixtures that could be reused on the new, larger masonry piers. Mr. Luebke asked for more information about the origin of these fixtures. Ms. O'Donnell responded that precise information was not found in the research, but they appear in views beginning in the early 20th century; similarly, the origin of the spear-point details and decorative urns was not precisely determined, but a pattern of symbolism of naturalistic motifs has clearly evolved.
Ms. Weber presented the similar fence design for the south side of the White House; the existing base of large stone blocks would be replaced by a system of stone over a structural concrete core. She indicated the view toward the White House from E Street, with the top of the new fence aligned approximately with the top of the White House; by comparison, the existing view shows the top of the fence at the top of the lower floor of the White House. She noted that there is a requirement for security sensors at the back of the fence. Where the fence is straight, such as on the north, the sensors can be placed a substantial distance apart; but at the curved fence alignment on the south, the sensors would be spaced more closely—approximately thirty feet apart—and would be more noticeable. She said that the intention is to place the sensors on brackets located at the back of major posts so that they will be somewhat hidden from public view; she said that future versions of these components may be smaller. She concluded with an illustration of how the fence would follow the grade in sloping areas; she indicated the planned new pedestrian gates in these areas, requiring less heavy security than the vehicular gates.
Chairman Powell invited comments from the Commission members. Mr. Freelon acknowledged the challenge of the increased security requirements and expressed appreciation for the skillful handling of the enlarged scale; he said that the design appears to be an appropriate response to the technical requirements.
Mr. Krieger agreed that improved security is necessary for the White House. He said that the important change in the new design is not only the height but also the diameter of the metal pickets, which may result in an overall visual impact that is more extreme than what was presented in the photographic simulations. He emphasized that the diameter of the pickets in the presented precedents is an important detail that was not discussed, and the quality of the resulting visual experience is a concern. He also observed the historical progression of increasing fence heights around the White House, including the current proposal that results in a less attractive fence—perhaps leading to unwelcome further height increases in the future. He said that at some point, a different type of perimeter system would become necessary, and he asked if research has been undertaken on other approaches to protecting the perimeter. He concluded by noting that merely enlarging the fence's elements can diminish the sense of delicacy in the original design, while making the fence taller does not address other modern issues such as intrusions by drone aircraft. He questioned whether the expense and careful thought for this project would actually provide a substantial increase in security for the future.
Mr. Dougherty responded that these questions are important, and they relate to other modern-day security measures such as the prohibition of vehicular traffic on adjacent streets; he noted Mr. Krieger's past involvement in studying the street treatment. He acknowledged the "ever-expanding universe of threats," but said that each type must be addressed as it arises. He said that a complete redesign of the White House precinct from a security perspective would result in a very different place, but more realistically the challenge is to make improvements to the elements that are present, such as the inadequate existing fence. He added that the upcoming project for modifications to President's Park South may provide the opportunity for a more comprehensive approach, as encouraged by the staffs of the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission, and the resulting design ideas could be extended to the north side of President's Park. He said that such a comprehensive approach would have to balance the priorities of protecting the President and the executive branch, along with maintaining the precinct as a place of public access and public expression of political views. He summarized that the precinct's improvements are being undertaken in segments so that work can begin soon, with the fence alteration being one of the simplest components; the next phase, involving the Treasury Building and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, will have more difficult challenges. He reiterated his appreciation for the multi-agency cooperation in moving this project forward on a tight schedule, and he observed that comparable secured residences around the world typically have taller and stronger fences than the existing White House fence.
Ms. O'Donnell responded to the question of picket size: most of the historic precedents have pickets with a diameter of three-quarters of an inch. She added that the precedents were chosen for comparable height rather than picket size, and other examples may differ. For instance, the fence at Virginia's Capitol—a project she worked on previously—has very thick pickets of 1.5 inches in diameter, along with spear points and decorated interim posts. She compared these dimensions to the proposed diameter of 1.75 inches for the new White House fence.
Ms. Gilbert observed the presence of historic trees very close to the existing fence, and she asked how these would be affected by construction of the new fence. Ms. O'Donnell said that the guidance from the National Park Service is that the alignment of the new fence should match the existing fence alignment, which has been consistent for a century after varying in earlier years. To minimize damage to the trees near this fence alignment, the goal is to construct the fence's foundation to extend outward from the White House grounds rather than inward toward the trees; the grading would also be detailed to avoid damage to tree roots. She noted the presence of smaller holly trees, typically 25 to 30 feet tall, some of which could be affected by the construction; these could be replanted elsewhere on the grounds. Ms. Gilbert asked if tree limbs near the fence would be removed to improve security; Ms. O'Donnell responded that the risk of tree limbs being used for climbing is lessened by the fence's increased height and anti-climb features at the top. She clarified that the top of the existing fence is at a height comparable to a child on a parent's shoulders, resulting in difficulty for security personnel to quickly distinguish between harmless tourists and threatening situations; with the taller fence, the presence of a person near the top will more obviously be identifiable as a threat. She said that the project therefore does not require extensive pruning of tree limbs above the new fence height, and existing limbs lower than this height are relatively few.
Ms. Meyer acknowledged Mr. Krieger's concerns as well as the security issues for the project. She noted Mr. Mills' reference to the White House grounds as a national symbol of both freedom and strength, and she emphasized that this precinct should not project a culture of fear. She commented that the process of enlarging the scale of the existing elements will eventually reach a point where the existing design language is no longer adequate; Mr. Krieger confirmed that he shares this concern. Ms. Meyer said that the materials may need to be reconsidered; for example, the random-laid stone base was used historically, but it may look silly in conjunction with the taller fence. She described the issue as a tension between the values of historic preservation, strength, and freedom. She expressed appreciation for the effort of the design team to address these difficult issues, while cautioning that the increasing scale may at some point give the appearance of a parody of the historic elements. Mr. Mills agreed that the process involves finding the right balance between the security needs and the aesthetic appropriateness of the design, as the presented design is intended to demonstrate, and he offered to continue working with the Secret Service in addressing the Commission's comments.
Mr. Krieger raised further questions on the design approach, which favors "pretend preservation" over the expression of modern design. He gave the example that if Thomas Jefferson were including security sensors in a fence design, he would not hide this equipment behind historicist elements of the fence, and suggested that the sensors could be nicely designed and plainly visible as important elements, perhaps serving as a deterrent. He emphasized that historical accuracy is not really applicable as a historic preservation concern for this project; the new fence will be different from the one that has long existed, and it could have different characteristics. Ms. Meyer agreed, and Mr. Mills noted that people routinely look past ordinary, contemporary hardware elements such as sprinklers and lighting. He added that the sensor technology will likely change, and the intended bracket mounting for the sensors would be reversible. He also noted that a rejected earlier design would have introduced masonry piers at the south fence to accommodate the sensors, but this design resulted in too much change to the aesthetic sweep of the fence; another rejected design placed the sensors back-to-back on the top of the fence, giving the appearance of "toasters." He added that the presented mounting, although somewhat concealed, would still be visible to the public; the design approach has been to treat the sensors as changeable high-tech attachments to a permanent fence.
Mr. Dunson emphasized the importance of a design that expresses the power and strength of government. He observed that the precedent fences from around the world are artistic works of sculpture in themselves, while the presented design for the White House fence is stripped down and suggests the appearance of a collection of hardware-store elements. He urged a design that is more expressive of the nation's power and strength, as conveyed in aesthetics; the fence should be a piece of sculpture that has the purpose of securing the White House grounds. He noted that the audience for the design includes international as well as American visitors, and everyone should perceive the importance of this location as a seat of international power. He summarized that the presentation raises many questions for further consideration, and the aesthetics should receive as much emphasis as the security. Mr. Mills agreed and said that further embellishment may be possible to elevate the fence to becoming a work of art. He emphasized that the problem with embellishment is that these features could be used as climbing aids, and could even effectively create a ladder that would allow intruders to scale the fence more quickly. To avoid this situation, the embellishments are generally located toward the upper part of the fence, while the lower portion is simply straight pickets.
Mr. Freelon commented that the gate profile that is higher in the center would be preferable to the alternative that is lower in the center, which conveys an unwelcome symbolic sense of receding. Mr. Mills said that any of the alternatives would be satisfactory for security, and the Commission can provide a preference; the intent is that all of the gates would consistently follow the selected design.
Ms. O'Donnell noted that the presented design details are based on existing details, adjusted to a larger scale. She asked if the Commission would encourage expanding the decorative vocabulary, perhaps drawing inspiration from Native American culture or nature. Mr. Dunson supported such exploration, while also recommending respect for the historic vocabulary of the fence. He said that the extent of decorative elements will need careful consideration to be consistent with the overall aesthetic of the fence.
Mr. Luebke observed that the design includes both the decorative elements and the anti-climb features, which are similarly scaled but not decorative in appearance, and that the challenge during the consultation process has been to achieve a harmonious combination of these elements. He cautioned that the presented drawings give the misleading appearance of these elements being combined into a visually heavy horizontal band at the top of the fence; he suggested that future presentations include full-scale drawings or mockups to convey a more accurate sense of the design. He noted the staff's guidance for simplicity, including a preference for the straight-top profile for the new gates. Ms. Gilbert agreed that a full-scale representation would be helpful; she said that the presented precedents convey a sense of the pickets rising above the top rail, while the presented drawings for the White House convey a much heavier appearance at the top.
Mr. Krieger encouraged further creativity in developing embellishment details for the fence that would not facilitate climbing. He observed that the presented drawings for the gates appear to be better detailed in the lower portion, while the fence appears top-heavy. Mr. Mills responded that some of the precedent fences have embellishments at the base that would not be climbing aids, and these can be studied further. Ms. O'Donnell noted that the gates are staffed, and a greater range of ornamental features is therefore feasible; Mr. Mills indicated the inclusion of dog bars on the drawings for the gates. Mr. Krieger encouraged similar attention to the design of the fence, instead of having the pickets simply drop downward into the base.
Ms. Gilbert asked about the intended remounting of the large light fixtures, which may have a strange appearance when placed on the larger piers; she said that even the existing proportions are somewhat odd. Ms. O'Donnell responded that the base of the lights would be less visible when mounted on the higher piers; resulting in a truncated appearance; to address this problem, the height of the base could be increased to lift the lights higher, while retaining the overall integrity of the historic fixtures.
Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's interest in seeing the further progress of this project. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
2. CFA 21/APR/16-2, Arlington Memorial Bridge, George Washington Memorial Park Way. Rehabilitation of the bridge, replacement of the deck and structure of bascule span. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the concept proposal for rehabilitation of Arlington Memorial Bridge, which would include replacement of the bascule span structure, repair of the approach spans, cleaning of the stone veneer and balustrades, and replacement of the concrete deck of the entire bridge. He said that the bridge is in structural decline, and its current rate of corrosion would necessitate closing the bridge to vehicular traffic in 2021. He asked Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation.
Mr. May said that this challenging and urgent project has been in development by the National Park Service for an extended period of time. The iconic and heavily used bridge suffers from maintenance problems and design flaws that have left it structurally unsound. Currently, two of the bridge's lanes are closed and vehicular weight restrictions are in place. He introduced Charles Borders of the National Park Service's Denver Service Center to present the concept design alternatives.
Mr. Borders said that the project's purpose is to restore the structural integrity of the bridge while protecting and preserving its historic character and significant design elements to the extent feasible. The bridge was designed by the firm McKim, Mead & White and was completed in 1932; it includes one steel bascule span and ten concrete approach spans. A three-year analysis of the bridge, undertaken with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), has produced a constructability review, a value analysis, a historic architecture review, a peer documentation and report, a National Register nomination update, a Cultural Landscape Inventory update, and in-depth structural inspections. These documents have formed the basis for the proposed design alternatives for rehabilitation of the bridge.
Mr. Borders described some of the bridge's current problems. Water drainage through the joint between the road deck and the sidewalk has caused rapid deterioration of the steel structure and the four-inch-thick concrete deck, requiring temporary interventions to protect the cantilevered sidewalk. A thorough inspection by the FHWA revealed that in some locations 80 to 100 percent of the steel of the bascule span's trusses has deteriorated; these members are beyond the point of reasonable salvage. Additionally, ten percent of the bridge cannot be visually inspected, and these hidden areas have not received appropriate cleaning and painting. He said that rust has developed between the riveted steel plates of the bascule structure; these areas of rust are inaccessible, preventing a thorough cleaning of the bridge; the steel trunnion posts—structures that support the entire bascule span, including the 300-ton counterweight—are also degraded because of water infiltration and are in urgent need of replacement.
Mr. Borders described the overall scope of work: repair of the bridge piers and foundations, the granite curbs, and the concrete arches of the approach spans; replacement of the sidewalks, bearings, bridge deck, and expansion joints; and replacement of the four trunnion posts. Non-structural elements such as the balustrades would be removed, repaired, and reinstalled; the stone fascia would be repointed, cleaned, and repaired if necessary. He then presented several alternatives for treatment of the bascule span. Alternative 1A would replace this span with concrete beams; he described the appearance from below as concrete boxes with steel elements added to approximate the general character of the underside of the existing bascule span. Alternative 1B would replace the bascule span with variable-depth steel girders, and with additional elements beneath that would more closely replicate the appearance of the existing bascule span, including diagonal bracing. He clarified that these additional elements are aesthetic rather than structural. Alternative 2 would replace the bascule span with a fixed steel truss bridge; he said that this option essentially reconstructs the existing bridge with modern materials and technology. Alternative 3 would rehabilitate the existing bascule span, including removal of lead paint, cleaning, painting, and replacing structurally deficient steel members.
Mr. Borders said that the National Park Service initially favored Alternative 3 because it would retain the most historic fabric and was projected to cost the same as the replacement alternatives based on estimates in 2014 and 2015. However, rehabilitating the existing structure would mean retaining some of the design flaws of the existing bridge that have led to its deterioration, and further study predicted potentially costly change orders as the condition of the existing steel is assessed during the rehabilitation process. In addition, some of the retained steel components would likely need replacement sooner than the anticipated fifty-year durability of the rehabilitated bridge. He said that the National Park Service now prefers Alternative 1B, which replaces the bascule span with variable-depth girders; the non-structural steel elements would approximate the appearance of the existing span, and the design would allow access for proper maintenance. He added that this option has been shaped by staff input from the consulting parties and other groups. He emphasized that the views and ceremonial experience when crossing the bridge would be unaffected; the only change affecting the bridge's appearance would be the steel elements on the underside, and the proposed design would be similar in form and materials to the existing bascule span.
Mr. Borders detailed the bascule span's defining elements that are to be retained in Alternative 1B: the abutments, columns, fascia, railings, light posts, operational rooms, and circular access stairs. He added that the disused equipment in the mechanical room and operator's cabin—including the motor and transmission that drove the gears to open the bascule span—will be kept in place. Visitor access could be provided to the areas under the bascule span that have never been open to the public, and interpretative information can be developed on the bridge's structural design and operation. He noted that the current cost estimate is for the initial cost of Alternative 1B to be $30 million less than Alternative 3, and for a 75-year period the operation and maintenance costs of Alternative 1B would be $40 million less than Alternative 3. Alternative 1B also can be implemented without a full bridge closure, saving an estimated $12 million in travel delays.
Chairman Powell asked how often the bascule span is opened. Mr. Borders clarified that the bridge has not been opened for many decades, and the operator's cabin and related facilities are not in use; the new structure would not be operable. Ms. Gilbert asked for clarification of the timeline and future maintenance for Alternative 1B. Mr. Borders responded that some maintenance work would be performed every 10 years, while major repainting and cleaning would take place every 25 years. Secretary Luebke asked how this schedule differs from the other options. Mr. Borders said that Alternative 3 would have substantial maintenance every 20 years, reiterating that maintenance costs for this option would be higher than for Alternative 1B.
Ms. Meyer emphasized that of all the bridges over the Potomac River, Arlington Memorial Bridge is the most iconic and symbolic, and she urged the National Park Service to begin repairs expeditiously; Chairman Powell agreed. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission may prefer to delegate review of the final technical elements to the staff, and any significant changes to the design could be brought back to the Commission. Upon a motion by Chairman Powell with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the rehabilitation concept as preferred by the National Park Service with alternative 1B for replacement of the bascule span and delegated review of the final design to the staff.
C. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
CFA 21/APR/16-3, Brentwood Yard, 601 T Street, NE, Retaining wall along the Metropolitan Branch Trail, north of New York Avenue. WMATA Art in Transit/NoMa BID/POW! WOW! Brentwood Rail Yard Mural Festival Program. Final. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal to locate a public mural on a retaining wall alongside a portion of the Metropolitan Branch Trail, an existing pedestrian and bicyclist route. The project is submitted by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) under its Art in Transit program, and the mural location is a wall along WMATA'S Brentwood Yard north of New York Avenue, NE. He asked Laurent Odde, manager of Art in Transit, to present the proposal.
Dr. Odde said that WMATA is collaborating on this project with POW! WOW!, an organization that sponsors mural festivals in cities throughout the world, and with the NoMa Business Improvement District (BID) that serves the neighborhood north of Massachusetts Avenue. The proposed location is a 10-foot-high, 900-foot-long concrete retaining wall at the edge of the Brentwood Rail Yard, to the north of the NoMa Metrorail station. The mural would be painted in May 2016 as part of the POW! WOW! festival, and it would be repainted annually as the festival is repeated. He presented photographs of past murals sponsored by POW! WOW! in other locations including Hawaii and Taipei; artists work independently or in groups on the large-scale murals, which helps to foster a sense of community and create economic opportunities. He said that POW! WOW! has already selected several local artists to paint the mural. This year's POW! WOW! festival in Washington is planned to include approximately ten locations; only the mural along the Metropolitan Branch Trail includes WMATA's involvement. He added that this project is part of the larger Art in Transit program, under which murals have been painted along a northern segment of the Metropolitan Branch Trail and a large sculpture has been constructed on the New York Avenue railroad bridge.
Dr. Odde said that the review panel for the artwork would include staff members from the Commission as well as from POW! WOW!, NoMa BID, and WMATA. The panel will review overall concepts for the wall and individual concept designs submitted by the chosen artists. He said that POW! WOW! will fund the installation; ongoing maintenance will be provided by the NoMa BID. He added that the local artists can repair the mural if it deteriorates during the year.
Mr. Luebke clarified that the Commission is being asked only to approve the location for this mural, not to select the artists or the design. Mr. Freelon asked if the artists would work together on a single mural design across the entire 900-foot length of this wall section, or if each artist would be responsible for a separate segment. Galin Brooks of the NoMa BID responded that this has not yet been decided but will be discussed with the artists. Mr. Krieger suggested including the chain-link fence on top of the wall in the project; Mr. Brooks responded that this would not be feasible.
Ms. Meyer expressed enthusiastic support for this large-scale project. While acknowledging the logistical advantages of involving several artists, she commented that the work of a single artist on this very long section of wall would be dramatic. Mr. Brooks responded that the eleven-day span of the festival would not provide enough time for one person to complete such a large work. Ms. Meyer noted that walking the length of the wall would take approximately four minutes, and the mural will therefore be perceived as an experience more than an object; she suggested that the artists should conceive of the painting as a temporal event, not just as a visual work.
Mr. Powell joined in expressing support for the program. Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the proposal.
D. District of Columbia Department of Transportation
CFA 21/APR/16-4, Oregon Avenue, NW (from Military Road to Western Avenue). Reconstruction and improvement of 1.7-mile segment of roadway. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/OCT/14-3.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposed reconstruction of Oregon Avenue to address the historic road's environmental and traffic safety deficiencies. The project includes roadway reconstruction as well as a new continuous sidewalk, retaining walls, planting, signs, streetlights, and accommodation of bicyclists. She noted the Commission's approval of the concept submission in October 2014 with the recommendation to retain the less urban character of this road located along the western edge of Rock Creek Park. She asked landscape architect Oliver Boehm of Volkert, Inc., to present the proposed final design.
Mr. Boehm described the context adjacent to forested Rock Creek Park to the east; the primarily residential neighborhood to the west also includes many mature trees, creating a tree canopy over the road. A challenge for the project is to retain this special character that is valued by the community. The road currently lacks sidewalks and stormwater management infrastructure, and the roadway pavement has deteriorated. The project would address these problems, with the proposed sidewalk to be located on the west side of the road and a new bridge to replace a deteriorating culvert. He noted the neighborhood concern with aesthetics as well as disturbance of the existing landscape, and he emphasized the extensive community outreach in developing the design and communicating the schedule.
Mr. Boehm presented the components of the proposal, some of which have been tested with demonstration projects along the road. The existing lights would be replaced with more energy-efficient LED fixtures. Issues of light trespass and color have been studied carefully in response to the concern of residents and the National Park Service: a demonstration fixture was installed, the neighborhood responded through questionnaires, and a revised design was developed that would be less bright and have a character more consistent with a non-urban context. He added that the existing light poles and overhead wires would remain in place. Stormwater management would be addressed throughout the Oregon Avenue corridor, responding to new D.C. regulations; he said that the project is able to achieve the regulatory target rather than relying on an alternative procedure to set a more limited stormwater goal. The sidewalk would generally be five feet wide, and expanded to six feet along St. John's College High School where more pedestrian use is anticipated. The sidewalk material would generally be exposed-aggregate concrete; in the vicinity of mature trees, a relatively new technique of porous rubber sidewalks would be used. He said that the finish appearance of these two materials would be the same, and a pedestrian would not notice any difference. The project includes retaining walls, initially proposed as 700 to 800 linear feet, but now reduced to 150 feet of wall in conjunction with 440 feet of coping, which is up to 18 inches in height. He said that the facing would be ashlar stone veneer over a concrete core; this treatment is also proposed at the new bridge.
Mr. Boehm said that many of the mature trees on the west side of the road would remain, which has been achieved in part through careful adjustments to the roadway alignment. He said that the D.C. Department of Transportation is developing an innovative program for reforestation of the residential yard space along Oregon Avenue, which is typically part of the public right-of-way although treated as residential landscaping; more than half of the affected residents have expressed interest in participating in this program. The residents would take responsibility for maintenance of the new trees, which would be selected in coordination with the Rock Creek Park Conservancy. He said that bicycle use would be accommodated within the roadway, and signage would alert drivers of the shared use; dedicated bicycle lanes were rejected due to the desire to minimize the overall width of the roadway. Connectivity would also be improved to other bicycle routes on adjacent streets and within Rock Creek Park. An intersection adjacent to St. John's College High School would be improved by the addition of a turn lane, and three crosswalks would be added along the corridor to provide safer pedestrian access to Rock Creek Park.
Mr. Boehm provided additional details of the stormwater management. Low-impact design techniques are used throughout the project, and design details from the D.C. Green Infrastructure Standards have been adapted to the conditions of Oregon Avenue. Some areas of pavement would include bioretention cells, planted with a woodland seed mix based on advice from the National Park Service; other areas would use permeable paving. Invasive species of plants along the roadway edge would be removed. He said that the inadequate existing culvert results in erosion, blockage of fish movement, and occasional flooding that closes the road; the new bridge would address these problems. The 3,000 linear feet of bioretention areas are organized in modules of thirty to ninety feet in order to provide visual interest along the corridor while being simple to construct. Planting selections within the bioretention areas emphasize native plants, low maintenance, tolerance of fluctuating water levels, and moderate height of three to four feet. Railings are proposed between the sidewalk and the bioretention areas in order to protect pedestrians, including many children; the community concern is that the tall grasses may conceal dangerous objects. Tree selections near overhead wires would be shorter types such as redbud; in other areas, taller trees reaching fifty feet would be planted.
Mr. Dunson noted his familiarity with this corridor and emphasized its naturalistic beauty; he said that the park is perceived as extending to the west side of Oregon Avenue. He commented that the project should not detract from the enjoyable character of a country road, and he questioned whether the proposed retaining walls would be aesthetically appropriate. Mr. Boehm described the existing grade conditions that necessitate the most significant area of retaining wall, with a height of eight feet; although the roadway would not be widened in this area, the wall is needed to avoid regrading the elevated residential yard which includes a pond. He said that the apparent height of the wall would be mitigated by a low coping wall and extensive plantings. Mr. Dunson asked about the extent of tree removal. Mr. Boehm responded that this is not diagrammed, but the proposal is to remove sixty trees; although the community was concerned with this large number, the detailed evaluation has shown that four-fifths of these trees are dead or in poor condition, and eight of the trees are an invasive species. He said that the removal is being coordinated with the National Park Service and is consistent with normal management of the landscape. He added that the project would retain 94 percent of the existing trees and would add 250 new trees.
Ms. Gilbert commended the community outreach for the project, and she supported the reforestation program and the removal of invasive species. She said that the project has developed well since the Commission's previous review. She commented that the veneer finish on the proposed bridge appears too flat, and she asked if the facing could be designed with more texture and modeling; she cited the attractive precedents that were illustrated in the presentation, while acknowledging that the craftsmanship of these 1930s-era bridges would be difficult to replicate today. Mr. Boehm offered to study this further; he suggested that the bidding process could include a provision for twenty percent of the project's overall stone surface to have a special texture or additional thickness. Ms. Gilbert and Mr. Krieger supported such a modification, and Secretary Luebke suggested that the specification could be for a cleft-face finish.
Ms. Meyer commended Mr. Boehm for the project's design. She questioned the perceived need for a railing alongside the bioretention areas, noting that a similar safety concern was raised in Portland, Oregon, when green infrastructure was initially placed along sidewalks. She said that the proposed solution is the best available now, as people consider the bioretention areas to be alien elements, but over time people may become more comfortable with the presence of these areas, and the railings could then be removed. Mr. Boehm offered to raise this suggestion during an upcoming community walkthrough of a similar bioretention installation nearby; he agreed that the community's comfort with this feature is an ongoing process. Ms. Meyer suggested that the railings could be designed to allow for future removal.
Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the final design. Mr. Luebke asked about the status of nearby improvements to Broad Branch Road, which has similar design issues. Wayne Wilson of the D.C. Department of Transportation responded that the feasibility of the alternatives for Broad Branch Road is being studied further; the design includes the existing two-lane roadway plus a sidewalk and bicycle lane. He said that an additional issue along Broad Branch Road is the adjacent embassy properties, a situation that requires coordination through the U.S. Department of State for right-of-way acquisition and surveying access. Mr. Luebke noted the Commission's continuing interest in this project due to the ongoing review of several proposed houses along Broad Branch Road.
E. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
1. SL 16-087, International Spy Museum, L'Enfant Plaza. 420 10th Street, SW. New museum building. Final. (Previous: SL 15-140, 16 July 2015 and SL 16-020, superstructure permit, 19 November 2015.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the design by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Michael Vergason Landscape Architects for a new building to house the International Spy Museum. The building would be located within the center courtyard of the L'Enfant Plaza complex on 10th Street, SW; most of the complex is owned by The JBG Companies, which has forwarded the proposal. She noted that this project was part of a larger proposal reviewed in July 2015, when the Commission approved the concept design for the museum building, an adjacent new commercial office building, and a design for the remaining plaza space in the center courtyard. The scope of the current submission includes the museum building, the plaza adjacent to the museum, and the contiguous public space. The eastern portion of the existing plaza and the existing retail entrance pavilion would remain, and a final design for the overall plaza will be submitted for future review. She asked James Gomez of the International Spy Museum to begin the presentation.
Mr. Gomez said that he represents Milton Maltz, the founder of the International Spy Museum, who was not able to attend. The museum would be the Maltz family's largest single philanthropic gift; Mr. Maltz believes strongly in the museum's mission, and also the role it can play in revitalizing 10th Street and strengthening the connection between the National Mall and the Southwest Waterfront. Mr. Gomez introduced architect Ivan Harbour of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners to present the design.
Mr. Harbour summarized the design's primary intent as the expression of the public realm in three dimensions, moving from the street and then up the face of the building. He said that on the front facade, the combination of the pleated glass "veil" and the yellow staircase behind it would form a dynamic part of the streetscape. The three key elements volumes of the building's composition are the black box containing the exhibition space; the smaller contrasting events box on top of the black box; and the core tower at the rear of the building to the east, a recessive piece which binds together the other elements of the composition. He summarized the Commission's previous guidance to increase the transparency of the core tower's east facade and to refine the building's appearance when approached along 10th Street from the Mall and the Waterfront. The design team has subsequently reconsidered the massing and proportions in order to strengthen the design, along with further study of how differences in the texture, reflection, and light absorption of materials would affect the building's appearance. As a result, the events box on top of the building has been reduced in size; the office level beneath the events box has been expanded; and the lobby has been reduced to increase the extent of exterior public space at the plaza level.
Mr. Harbour said that the primary design issue for the core tower is to clarify the visual relationship between the circulation areas and the adjacent plaza space. The core has been reorganized and the staircase moved in order to add glazing to bring light into the stairwell. The core's large facade would be clad in light-absorbing panels with a textured finish that would contrast with the wall's flatness. The proposed material is an industrial metal panel with varied corrugations, and ranging in tone from light to dark; methods of incorporating encoded messages into the surface are under discussion. He noted that eventually a new office building will cover much of the core's east facade.
Mr. Harbour said that the design vocabulary of the core would extend to opaque areas of the ground floor and to the office level between the black box and the events box. The metal panels of the office level's facade would be the darkest of the museum's monotone surfaces; the lightest part would be the white events box, a glass volume combining backpainted shadowbox areas with fritted solar shading, detailed to blur the layering and make the volume appear monolithic. He emphasized the transparency of the ground-level lobby, which would make the black box containing the exhibits appear to float above the plaza. The "veil" on the black box would be composed of thick, vertically pleated panels of clear glass in sixteen-foot-high sheets; the glass facing northwest would be completely clear, while the glass facing southwest would have some fritting that would emphasize the pleated configuration. He said that the events box and the glass veil would be the most reflective surfaces, contrasting with the materials behind them.
Mr. Freelon requested more information about the treatment of the triangular voids in the area behind the pleated veil. Mr. Harbour responded that the vertical veil and the staircase behind it would be set in front of a tilted facade plane, which gives the west facade of the black box a three-dimensional character. This tilted plane would be clad with a system of large horizontal metal louvers in a monotone color, masking behind it the stepping forms of the three levels of museum exhibition space. . The horizontal louvers would be perforated on one plane and solid on the other, and light would be visible through the perforations; the voids behind the louvers may be backlit to emphasize the three-dimensional quality of the space and to impart a slightly mysterious character to these combined components. He said that a full-scale mockup has facilitated experimentation with different lighting to reveal the subtlety and complexity of the materials and enliven the tilted surface. The building would be lit differently at the front than on the sides to reveal its composition, and the lighting could be adjusted to subtly change the appearance of the separate spaces. Lighting would also highlight structural elements; for example, red LEDs on the vertical supports would emphasize their rhythm.
Mr. Harbour discussed the west facade's structural system from which the staircase and veil would hang. The structural elements would be colored red to announce their presence, establish a rhythm, and express a human scale at the ground level; he added that the clearly expressed structural logic would be legible to pedestrians. The limited area of the glass veil would be the outermost surface, braced horizontally with inconspicuous structures that would connect back to the red-colored structural system. The veil's vertical joints would be simple soft joints, with a special detail emphasized in a few places. He said that the goal is an uninterrupted reflective glass surface, with no visible bolts on the exterior, and the angled planes capturing the light.
Mr. Harbour said that an underlying principle of the exhibition spaces is that visitors would ascend by elevator and then descend through the three levels of galleries, making use of the staircase located behind the veil. This staircase would also give visitors access to some spaces without having to go through the galleries, including the temporary exhibition spaces and the movie theater on the second level; the staircase would include spaces for people to gather and possibly for additional temporary exhibitions. He emphasized that the staircase would be an open, active element, in contrast to the experience inside the exhibition galleries; the staircase would be highlighted in yellow to enliven the space and to create a visual relationship between visitor and structure, similar to the use of red for the major structural supports. The detailing of the staircase would be artistic rather than industrial, emphasizing certain features to enable visitors to understand its construction.
Mr. Krieger and Ms. Gilbert asked for further information about the staircase railings. Mr. Harbour responded that they would be stainless steel; and lighting fixtures within the railings would be sufficient to illuminate the staircase. Steel mesh would be used as an infill between vertical metal pickets; mesh was selected instead of glass because it would introduce a different texture, and because an additional layer of glass in this space would create double reflections. While the handrails would be placed at the height required by code, the mesh infill would rise above the handrails for increased safety. As an additional safety consideration, the staircase is designed in several short, staggered runs rather than using a single long flight.
Mr. Harbour presented the design of the lobby, which would be surrounded by clear glazing. Entrances would be highlighted by the use of vestibules in contrasting materials and color, each creating a frame for the pedestrian-scaled interior space. The entrances would have swinging doors; and soffits would be made of the same material and finish as the horizontal louvers on the black box. The vestibules would be subsidiary elements set within the clear glass lobby walls, with the overall emphasis on the floating nature of the black box above.
Mr. Harbour said that the events box, set above the black box and the office level, is the part of the building that has most changed since the last review. Previously, it was divided into four horizontal segments; the current design proposes the use of gradated fritting to make the box appear more monolithic. To maintain this appearance, the handrails around the upper terrace would be set back; he added that the roofs would have an abundance of plantings.
Mr. Vergason concluded with a presentation of the changes to the plaza and its landscaping. He described the principles governing the site design, which are based on the path of the sun, pedestrian circulation, and views. The prevailing circulation moves diagonally across the site from northeast to southwest, a movement that is expressed in the offset pattern of 6" x 12" precast pavers set in running bond, and also in the form and placement of furniture and plantings. Pavers would shift to a diagonal pattern to define the public right-of-way to the west and to relate to the existing asphalt pavers on the vehicular access drive, which would remain in place during the first phase of construction. Spaces between elements have been expanded to permit easier, more fluid circulation across the plaza. Four new streetlights along 10th Street would replace the existing globe streetlights in the same locations; the 44-foot-tall poles would be set 100 feet apart, establishing an intermediate scale within the larger 10th Street corridor width of 150 feet. The intention is to use this type of streetlight for all of 10th Street and to extend the design of the plaza to the west; this goal is being discussed with the D.C. Office of Planning and Department of Transportation.
Mr. Freelon asked if the lighting of the angular voids behind the main stair is intended to accentuate the three exhibition floors; Mr. Harbour responded that the configuration of the tilted wall allows for this possibility. He added that this was one reason for using a pleated facade: lighting can be directed from this facade onto the tilted wall without spilling into the street. He said that the study of the mockup under different lighting conditions had revealed that the darker material works better because it absorbs much of the color and gives a subtle appearance; the decision to light the voids came out of the process of studying the mockup.
Mr. Krieger commended the sophistication of the design. He noted that the presentation included many renderings of nighttime lighting conditions; but the building will typically been seen in daylight, and he expressed concern about some of the color choices in daytime conditions. He observed that one new rendering shows a much darker side wall than a similar image from the previous review; he asked why a darker color is now proposed for the solid panels, and what their appearance would be during the day. Mr. Harbour responded that when the sun shines on the panels, their strong textured finish would be their most noticeable characteristic. Mr. Krieger questioned the great contrast in the color of panels that is apparent in the renderings; Mr. Harbour responded that the computer renderings have skewed their appearance.
Mr. Krieger questioned the decision to make the events box white, appearing so starkly different from the rest of the building; he commented that its cantilever and material make it unnecessarily conspicuous, when the attention presumably should be on the black box containing exhibitions. Mr. Harbour responded that the intention is to make the events box seem to disappear into the sky. Mr. Krieger said that this is not apparent in the renderings; Mr. Harbour agreed and said that on an overcast day, the white box will appear to dissolve into the sky, while on a bright sunny day it will present an almost "Mediterranean" contrast of white and blue. He said that the intent is to differentiate the events box from the black box of exhibitions in order to emphasize their different uses and to draw the eye; the graded monotone of the core tower would also help to highlight the events box. In summary, Mr. Harbour said that the colors of the museum would range from the darkest on the core tower to the lightest on the events box; the contrast in colors is necessary to make clear that the building is composed of these different volumes. Mr. Freelon commented that the black box and the events box would already be different enough in color and in plane, either of which might be enough to differentiate them; he said that cantilevering the events box seems like an excessive design gesture, creating a dark hole beneath with the office windows behind. Mr. Krieger agreed, reiterating that the events box already looks different because of its location, cantilevering, and boxy shape; Mr. Harbour offered to reconsider its exterior treatment.
Ms. Meyer offered several comments on the plaza. Noting that the second of the two intended new buildings would not be built at this time, she said that a relationship will exist between the initial phase and the currently existing elements—particularly the recently built entrance pavilion for the underground shopping area. She observed that the presentation's single drawing of this structure depicts a tight dimension between the pavilion to the east and the back of the proposed museum building. Mr. Harbour said that the overall intent is to create a smaller and more inviting plaza, in part through its enclosure with new buildings. Ms. Meyer clarified that she wants to understand the condition of this area during the interim period, before the rest of the project is completed. Mr. Vergason acknowledged that the dimension is tight; the western face of the pavilion would be unchanged, only five feet from the proposed facade of the museum building. He said the property line dividing the museum from the JBG property to the east may be modified as a separate project to improve these conditions. Suzanne Boggs of JGB added that the presentation did not show the proposed modifications to the glass pavilion; she offered to restudy this narrow area and the pavilion's entrance, possibly widening the space.
Ms. Gilbert recommended consolidating the small planting areas into larger planters, which would provide more soil in which to grow larger plants and would simplify the ground plane. She asked about the potential to extend the proposed streetlights at the museum to the full length of 10th Street. Mr. Vergason confirmed the intention to replace all existing streetlights with these new fixtures; the D.C. Department of Transportation has expressed an interest in this replacement, but no schedule has been set. Mr. Krieger supported this intention.
Mr. Freelon asked if exhibits would be installed on the plaza to extend the museum experience into the public realm, and Mr. Krieger asked if the lobby would contain exhibits. Museum designer Patrick Gallagher of Gallagher & Associates responded that some representative artifacts would be displayed in the glass-enclosed main lobby to establish the story of the Spy Museum at the entrance; the question of what the museum can do on the plaza is still under discussion. He noted the Spy Museum's message that not everything is what it appears to be, and one idea under consideration is incorporating some kind of code or coded imagery on the exterior; Mr. Freelon supported this idea.
Chairman Powell commented that the project is much improved. Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the final submission subject to staff review of further documentation to complete the approval process. Chairman Powell asked when construction would begin; Ms. Boggs responded that construction of the below-grade foundation will start in a week, and the museum is expected to open in March 2018. Mr. Krieger asked about the schedule for the office building behind the museum; Ms. Boggs said that the intent is to have a tenant for this building before it is submitted for final approval.
(Chairman Powell departed at this point, and Vice Chairman Freelon presided for the remainder of the meeting.)
2. SL 16-091, 7981 East Beach Drive, NW. New single-family residence. Concept. (Previous: SL 16-066, March 2016.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept submission for a new single-family residence overlooking Fenwick Branch, a tributary stream of Rock Creek; she noted that the Commission reviewed the initial concept submission in March 2016 but did not approve it. The proposal is for a three-story house facing East Beach Drive, to be built on a new lot subdivided from the rear yard of an existing house facing Poplar Lane. She asked architect and developer Patrick Cooper of Compass Design and Development to present the concept design.
Mr. Cooper said that he has revised the design in response to the Commission's comments at the March review. He summarized the context of Washington's Colonial Village neighborhood, and the site's location obliquely facing the recently rebuilt Kalmia Bridge over Fenwick Branch. The only structures on the site are a treehouse and a wooden boundary fence; these will be removed. To improve the buildability of the new lot, its size may be increased through an additional subdivision from the Poplar Lane property. He presented a site plan depicting the setback lines required by regulation: 15 feet at the front of the lot, 8 feet on each side, and 25 feet at the rear. He indicated the small part of the site that lies within a flood plain, with a related restriction that the basement excavation be no lower than one foot above the base flood elevation. He said that some existing trees that may be damaged during construction would be removed, but the park-like setting would be retained.
Mr. Cooper said that the new concept design is intended to respond to the Commission's previous comments by respecting the radius and the gentle curve of the street frontage. The three-story house has been divided into two primary volumes joined by a narrow recessed hyphen. He indicated the curved walls and the kitchen's curved five-foot projecting bay with the master bedroom terrace on top, sited to take advantage of views to Fenwick Branch. In response to the Commission's previous concern that the basement would be too dark and uninviting, he indicated the added basement-level windows on the front facade, but said that additional fenestration may be infeasible because the presence of rock below grade may limit the extent of the basement excavation. He said that in response to the neighborhood context, the exterior material on all of the facades would be primarily brick, with flat metal panels for contrast; the elongated bricks would have a weathered appearance. He added that the truss structure of the sloped roof would permit construction of an attic.
Mr. Freelon and Mr. Dunson expressed appreciation for the responsiveness to the Commission's previous comments. Mr. Dunson acknowledged the challenge facing Mr. Cooper to tie the house into the larger context of the neighborhood and federal park, pursuant to the Shipstead-Luce Act. He expressed concern that the Commission's suggestion of a curved front facade has diverted attention from the more important issue of how to site this building properly; he and Mr. Freelon agreed that another approach to the design may be needed. Secretary Luebke noted that the staff could work more closely with Mr. Cooper on the concept design based on the Commission's specific guidance.
Ms. Meyer observed that Mr. Cooper has employed curves as a design motif to address the Commission members' concerns; however, the Commission's recommendation was more broadly to find the best facade alignment in relation to the two existing adjacent houses. She commented that the design of the facade has become too complicated for the scale of the public realm, and she suggested that one approach might be a straight alignment that is between the angles of the adjacent houses. She suggested two principles for Mr. Cooper to consider in siting and designing the house, rather than whether it has a straight or curved plan: first, the location of the house should appear proper relative to its neighbors; second, the facade should be designed in relation to the relatively wide scale of the street and parkway, which might result in a simpler design. She observed that the facade of the house to the right was designed as a plane with a large central projection; while not advising Mr. Cooper to design a portico for the new facade, she said that the scale and composition of this neighboring house seems appropriate to the street.
Mr. Dunson observed that the setback requirement for the rear yard may be restricting the house's siting, and he suggested adjusting the rear of the house to allow more freedom in designing the front facade. Ms. Gilbert suggested expanding on the notion of the house as two separate volumes by treating the larger volume as the public face and moving the smaller volume back as a more private area.
Mr. Krieger acknowledged that Mr. Cooper may find the proposed design to be an appropriate solution for the program, but he said that the house as presented still appears too awkward and inelegant for its location. He said that the Commission's suggestion to curve the facade has been taken too literally, and the result is a design that appears skewed at one corner. He added that the Commission's concerns might be easier to convey through sketching than through verbal comments.
Mr. Luebke reiterated that the design issues could be discussed in a working session with the staff and the applicant. Vice Chairman Freelon encouraged further consultation with the staff in developing the concept design. Mr. Krieger suggested preparing a simple three-dimensional physical model to help reveal awkward areas of the design, such as the juncture of the two volumes and their roofs with the central hyphen; Ms. Meyer added that a model should also show the sloping grade. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:47 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA