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 9:14 a.m.
Hon. Earl A. Powell, Chairman
Hon. Edward Dunson
Hon. Liza Gilbert
Hon. Elizabeth Meyer
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
A. Approval of the minutes of the 21 July meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the July meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion 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: 20 October 2016, 17 November 2016, and 19 January 2017. He noted that no meeting is scheduled in December.
C. Introduction of new staff, Jessica Stevenson and Jonathan Mellon. Mr. Luebke introduced Jessica Stevenson and Jonathan Mellon, who joined the staff in August as historic preservation specialists; both of them will be working on Old Georgetown Act submissions. He summarized Ms. Stevenson's recent experience working for the New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission, and Mr. Mellon's work in New York City for the Historic House Trust within the Department of Parks along with earlier experience on the staff of the D.C. Historic Preservation Office. He noted the need for the additional staff resulting from the ever-growing caseload of Old Georgetown Act submissions.
D. Report on the World War I American Veterans Centennial Commemorative Coin Competition. Mr. Luebke noted that three Commission members—Mr. Dunson, Ms. Gilbert, and Ms. Lehrer—participated in the U.S. Mint's design jury on 14 September for the planned World War I commemorative coin, in accordance with the authorizing legislation for this coin program. Ms. Gilbert reported that the meeting was very productive, with a good jury and an interesting opportunity to see the Mint's process. Mr. Dunson emphasized the educational value of the meeting and the passion of the jury members.
Mr. Luebke reported the death the prior week of John Belle, who served on the Commission from 2005 to 2011. Chairman Powell recalled him as a great architect and a valuable member of the Commission. Mr. Luebke noted his involvement throughout his career with many landmark buildings, particularly in New York City.
Mr. Luebke noted the role of Commission member Phil Freelon as the lead architect for the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, which will open to the public on 24 September.
II. Submission 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 the removal of the first project, for a revised layout of bollards at the National Law Enforcement Museum that is currently under construction at Judiciary Square; he said that the applicant has requested a postponement to allow further time for technical coordination with the D.C. Courts. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the revised Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler noted the length and complexity of this month's appendix, with numerous changes to the draft. Several recommendations have been updated to note the receipt of supplemental materials, resulting in some further refinements to the appendix. The contingencies in the draft recommendation for window modifications at a Capitol Hill church have been partially satisfied by the receipt of supplemental materials; the favorable recommendation continues to be contingent on inspection of an on-site mockup (case number SL 16-131). The recommendation for modifications to a house on 22nd Street, NW, has been changed to be favorable, based on supplemental materials and a reduced scope of work (SL 16-151). The recommendation for a house on Missouri Avenue, NW, was similarly changed based on supplemental materials, and with a contingency for further information (SL 16-163). The unfavorable recommendation for a rooftop antenna proposal at the Watergate office building has been revised to support the antennas while continuing to recommend against the proposed screening walls (SL 16-165). The recommendation for modifications to a house on Cathedral Avenue, NW, has been changed to be favorable, based on the reduced scope of work, and with a contingency for further information (SL 16-166). The agenda listing for modifications to a multi-family residential building on Adams Mill Road, NW, has been changed from a permit to a concept submission; the numerous contingencies in the recommendation have therefore been simplified to a request for further consultation with the staff (SL 16-168).
Ms. Batcheler said that many cases are still subject to the receipt of supplemental materials, and she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations when satisfactory materials are received. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martinez reported that among the nearly forty cases on the draft appendix, two were listed with negative recommendations; one of these has subsequently been withdrawn at the request of the applicant to allow for further design work and review by the Old Georgetown Board. Other changes to the draft appendix include notations for the receipt of supplemental drawings that conform to the Board's guidance, along with minor adjustments to the wording of the recommendations. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the revised appendix. (See agenda items II.E.1 and II.E.2 for additional Old Georgetown Act submissions.)
B. National Capital Planning Commission
CFA 15/SEP/16-1, J. Edgar Hoover Building (Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters), 935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW (Squares 378 and 379). Update on the draft of Square Guidelines for the Pennsylvania Avenue Plan. Information presentation. (Previous: CFA 21/JUL/16-1, Information presentation.) Secretary Luebke introduced an information presentation on the revised analysis by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) staff for developing Square Guidelines for the area between 10th, 11th, and E Streets and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, currently occupied by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) headquarters building. The guidelines are part of the plan by the General Services Administration (GSA) to offer the site, comprising Squares 378 and 379, as a private-sector redevelopment opportunity in exchange for a new FBI headquarters facility to be built at another location in the Washington region. He said that the presentation will be an update to the analysis of the site presented to the Commission at its July 2016 meeting. He asked Elizabeth Miller, director of the Physical Planning division of the NCPC, to present the update.
Ms. Miller said that NCPC has requested further analysis from its staff on the potential build-to lines along Pennsylvania Avenue and their affect on building heights within Square 379, the southern portion of the site. She emphasized that the site has significant local and federal interest: it is located at approximately the mid-point of the segment of Pennsylvania Avenue extending between the White House and the U.S. Capitol, and it occupies over six acres, equivalent to three to four city blocks, a large parcel whose redevelopment will have a major influence on the future of downtown Washington. She said that the project team is coordinating with the D.C. government in developing guidelines for Square 378 to ensure that development on it will be integrated with the adjacent downtown area.
Ms. Miller said the square guidelines have been developed with consideration of the historic planning context, from the 1789 L'Enfant Plan to the 1901 McMillan (Senate Park Commission) Plan to the current guiding document, the 1974 Pennsylvania Avenue Plan; none of these were fully implemented, but each of the later plans built on its predecessors. She listed the most influential principles of the L'Enfant Plan as the development of a system of avenues, streets, and open spaces that define the city's scale and its open visual character, link significant public spaces, and establish reciprocal vistas—among the most important of which is the vista along Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol. The 1901 McMillan Plan placed civic buildings in a unified composition within a park-like setting, and it separated rather than integrated land uses. She summarized the key goals of the 1974 Pennsylvania Avenue Plan, created by the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation (PADC): to reinforce the link between the White House and the Capitol; to bridge between the monumental core and the downtown area; and to stimulate street life along the avenue. She added that the 1974 plan diverges from the McMillan Plan in its focus on a diversity of land uses and on integrated mixed uses to foster economic life and expand the city's tax base.
Ms. Miller discussed the specific dimensions outlined for Pennsylvania Avenue in each of the plans. The L'Enfant Plan called for a 160-foot-wide right-of-way, which was to be developed as an 80-foot-wide carriageway and a 40-foot-wide sidewalk on each side, with each sidewalk to be planted with a double row of trees. A plan for the avenue by Thomas Jefferson, implemented for a short time, redistributed the cartways, walkways, and tree plantings within the 160-foot-wide corridor. At the time of the McMillan Plan, the cartway was 107 feet wide; the McMillan Plan called for setting back the building line for what would eventually be the Federal Triangle on the south to give an overall right-of-way of approximately 180 feet. In the 1974 Pennsylvania Avenue Plan, the cartway was widened and shifted slightly northward to accommodate a second row of trees on the south, and the plan called for most future buildings on the north side of the avenue to be set farther back, resulting in an overall visual balance of the view corridor even with taller buildings on the north side. Planning for the avenue continues today with the new Pennsylvania Avenue Initiative, a multi-agency effort to explore how to improve the avenue's economic vitality and the public realm; she said that decisions made on redevelopment of the FBI site may influence future decisions concerning the rest of the avenue. She added that the Pennsylvania Avenue Initiative could consider altering the width of the cartway, which may now be wider than needed for traffic because the closing of E Street to the west has changed circulation patterns in this area; changes to the cartway width might influence the determination of a build-to line along the avenue.
Ms. Miller said that PADC did not develop square guidelines for this site because the FBI building was already under construction in the early 1970s, when PADC was preparing its plan. She anticipated that the new guidelines will provide more background information than was usual for PADC's square guidelines. She summarized the broad goals that will be included in the guidelines: the site should contribute to Pennsylvania Avenue, an exceptionally important destination, both nationally and locally; it should improve connections with downtown; it should improve the public realm with the highest quality of urban design; and it should have should have contemporary development while remaining sensitive to its historic context.
Ms. Miller described the proposal to re-establish D Street through the site, breaking up the massive block formed by Squares 378 and 379 into the original block L'Enfant Plan block pattern. She said that NCPC commented favorably on this approach at its June 2016 meeting. The original right-of-way width of 70 feet from the L'Enfant Plan would be restored, potentially accommodating two vehicular lanes in each direction, although the street would more likely have only one vehicular lane in each direction plus a lane for parking or loading, along with sidewalks on both sides. She noted that the opening of this segment of D Street would re-establish a visual link with Judiciary Square, site of the original City Hall, creating a symbolic link between the federal and local governments.
Ms. Miller said that building heights to the north, on Square 378, would be allowed to reach 160 feet; this requires careful coordination with the requirements of the 1910 federal Height of Buildings Act for this special height allowance along the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue, and additional coordination with the 1974 Plan. She said that Square 378 is intended to have mixed-use, high-density development, and an allowable height of 160 feet is an important consideration. She noted that the NCPC supported using the historic street right-of-way lines as the build-to lines for Square 378, eliminating the FBI building's setbacks on the east, west, and north, while asking for additional analysis of the optimal south build-to line for Square 379.
Ms. Miller described the issues involved in developing the build-to line and height guidance for new development on Square 379, particularly in relation to the Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk. She noted that the existing public space along this block of the avenue encompasses a total curb-to-building sidewalk width of approximately 80 feet, including 27 feet within the avenue's right-of-way and a 53-foot setback of the FBI building from the historic property line. She summarized the comments from the Commission of Fine Arts, at its July 2016 meeting, that maintaining the 75-foot-wide sidewalk along Pennsylvania Avenue is very important, while acknowledging that a walk this wide may not be conducive to the desired civic environment. She said that NCPC has been analyzing the potential for moving the build-to line southward from the present 53-foot setback from the avenue's right-of-way line, resulting in corresponding reductions in the sidewalk width; in order to maintain the visual balance of the avenue's view corridor, a southward shift in the build-to line may necessitate reducing the allowable height along the avenue frontage.
Ms. Miller said that the analysis of build-to lines has included review of several documents: the L'Enfant Plan; the 1974 Plan; the Comprehensive Plan for the city, including local and federal elements; and the Cultural Landscape Inventory (CLI) developed by the National Park Service, which discusses the significance of the streetscape and landscape as contributing to the Pennsylvania Avenue Historic District. While the CLI is not a National Register nomination, it includes documentation that could be used for Determination of Eligibility to the National Register. She presented a diagram of open spaces along Pennsylvania Avenue, indicating how this series of spaces creates a rhythm and is linked by a linear streetscape that frames the vista of the Capitol. She said that one possibility in the redevelopment process is to create a public space reservation at the intersection of D and 10th Streets and Pennsylvania Avenue, although this idea is now being reconsidered. She described the former configuration of D Street passing through the FBI site to intersect Pennsylvania Avenue to the west, creating a small, oddly shaped reservation at the angle of the intersection. The PADC had eliminated this reservation as part of a regularization of the avenue's alignment and circulation pattern.
Ms. Miller presented a diagram of existing build-to lines along the avenue: at some locations, buildings stand 50 feet back from the property line, creating a sidewalk 75 to 80 feet wide; some buildings, mostly along the south side, stand 20 feet from the property line, resulting in a public space 50 to 55 feet wide; and some buildings are located directly along the property line, which for the most part are historic structures and related buildings on the north side of the avenue. As diagrammed, the resulting sidewalk widths range from approximately 25 to 75 feet wide. She presented another diagram indicating the various tree canopies, from one row of trees—usually where historic buildings are preserved—to two rows, and then to three rows of trees in front of the FBI site. The trees are arranged in a staggered configuration, typically spaced 20 feet on center north-to-south, and 30 feet east-to-west. She noted that the tree pits, approximately six feet in diameter, reduce the usable width of the sidewalk space, leaving as little as 14 feet in front of some buildings along the avenue. She observed that the more generous public space in front of the FBI building, with three rows of trees and a total sidewalk width of approximately 80 feet, is almost never fully used and therefore creates the perception of this space being desolate, even with the benefit of the broad tree canopy that creates a grand, even unique sense of place. She said that the large sidewalks can accommodate special events but emphasized the need to enliven the space through programming. In the adjacent block with a similar setback, a restaurant has outdoor seating that extends out approximately 30 feet into the wide public space, but she observed that outdoor cafés almost form barriers to pedestrians, forcing people to walk along their edge.
Ms. Miller said that the NCPC staff has been asked to look at a range of setbacks between the property line and the build-to line, in ten-foot increments between zero and 30. The primary difference between a zero and 20-foot setback from the property line is that a 20-foot line would allow two rows of trees to be planted instead of just one, and could accommodate a wider range of outdoor activity. A 20-foot setback allows a generous area from the curb to the first line of trees, with a clear space of 14 feet for walking and 20 feet between trees. A 20-foot setback also results in an activity zone of 14 to 20 feet along the building's edge. She illustrated the public space of comparable width on the south side of the avenue, where the Federal Triangle building facades are approximately 52 feet from the curb, and she illustrated the similar spatial condition at the Willard Hotel's frontage on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue at 14th Street.
Ms. Miller noted that aligning the build-to line with the property line, with zero setback, would be consistent with the L'Enfant Plan. She said that the desire is often expressed to return the city to the L'Enfant Plan; however, on Pennsylvania Avenue, construction of the Federal Triangle on the south side has created different circumstances, and balancing the historic L'Enfant Plan with the currently governing PADC Plan remains a struggle. With no setback of the build-to line, the opportunity for a second row of trees would be lost, and the single row of trees would leave a 14-foot sidewalk width that would provide no room for activities other than pedestrian circulation. She illustrated the example of the historic Evening Star Building at 11th Street, where the trees are set in from the curb, almost to the center of the sidewalk, creating an awkward zone with little room for walking. She added that a three-foot-wide zone for cafés would leave room for only a line of a single table, each with a couple of chairs.
Ms. Miller presented a comparative diagram of building heights along the avenue. The FBI building's south facade is approximately 108 feet high; 1001 Pennsylvania Avenue rises to 114 feet and then steps back to 160 feet; and Market Square rises to 100 feet and steps back to approximately 135 feet. Other building heights on the avenue's north side are typically 100 to 115 feet, stepping back to 135 feet and then to the maximum height of 160 feet; a relatively consistent alignment of upper-story step-backs was established in the PADC Plan. On the south, the heights of buildings in Federal Triangle range from 100 to 115 feet and then step up to approximately 125 feet. She illustrated the avenue's cross-section, indicating the PADC Plan's establishment of setbacks and building heights to create a proportional relationship between Federal Triangle to the south and the redevelopment on the avenue's north side; she described the result as an intentional framing of the view with the buildings generally rising to define a 45-degree alignment from the center of the avenue, on both the north and south sides.
Ms. Miller noted that the FBI building is lower than the other buildings on the north and set farther back; she described its design as not fulfilling the potential of the site, insufficiently contributing to the building wall along the avenue and the framing of the vista to the Capitol. She also cited the importance of the street trees in framing this vista. She presented diagrams illustrating where the PADC Plan's established upper-floor step-back dimensions would fall on Square 379, depending on the selected setback from the property line for the primary facade. The computer-drawn simulations included a building height of 115 feet along the avenue with step-back heights of up to 160 feet, and simulations of lower heights with the step back rising to 135 feet. The various massing options for the FBI site were illustrated from three vantage points: at Freedom Plaza near 14th Street, at the Old Post Office near 12th Street, and at the National Archives near 7th Street. She observed that a 115-foot-high building on the FBI site with a 140-foot-high stepped-back massing would not be visible from Freedom Plaza. From the Old Post Office, a 135-foot-high building at the property line with a stepped back massing rising to 160 feet would begin to intrude on the avenue's vista. Looking from the National Archives, a 115-foot-high building set 20 feet back with a stepped-back massing rising to 140 feet, and capped at 160 feet, would begin to be visible.
Ms. Miller said that because of the immense length of this block's frontage along Pennsylvania Avenue—approximately 540 feet—a new building here could appear to have a primarily horizontal character, depending on its height; the square guidelines would address how to break up that perception of extreme length. She added that the long facade treatment along D Street would also have to be considered.
Ms. Miller noted that the wedge-shaped developable footprint of Square 379, defined by the re-establishment of D Street, would be tightly constrained if the existing Pennsylvania Avenue setback is maintained; she said that the resulting site area of 31,000 square feet would nonetheless be developable. A lesser setback of 20 feet from the property line would result in a site area of 46,000 square feet; if the building is allowed to extend to the property line, the site area would be 57,000 square feet. For comparison, she presented views of other downtown Washington buildings on similar wedge-shaped sites, including recent construction along Massachusetts and New York Avenues, NW.
Chairman Powell expressed appreciation for the informative presentation. He invited public testimony and recognized Jo-Ann Neuhaus. Ms. Neuhaus said that she is speaking on her own behalf and as executive director of the Penn Quarter Neighborhood Association. She cited her earlier experience as an employee of the PADC for 20 years, and her familiarity with the two earlier plans for Pennsylvania Avenue developed by the two presidential commissions that preceded the PADC—the President's Council on Pennsylvania Avenue and the President's Temporary Commission on Pennsylvania Avenue. She described the legacy of architect John Woodbridge, the first executive director of the PADC, and of J. Carter Brown [CFA chairman, 1971–2002], a member of the PADC; she recalled learning from both of them that the best urban spaces instill a feeling of uplift even if a person is not aware how this quality is achieved. She said that the presented analysis of the FBI site wrongly concludes that the existing wide sidewalk on this block is too deep to be an asset. She cited the greater breadth of the sidewalks along areas of the Champs-Élysées in Paris and The Mall in London, active and energized spaces that are occasional venues for civic celebrations. She noted John Woodbridge's belief that this broad sidewalk on Pennsylvania Avenue would in fact be critical to the Capitol vista. She quoted from the report of the Temporary Commission: "(T)he Avenue is more than the sum of its separate developmental activities. Important as they are, they are but steps to realizing the plan for the Avenue as a whole." She cited other key design features of the avenue's north side to achieve a balance with the Federal Triangle buildings on the south side: the uniform build-to line and broad sidewalks, the consistent primary facade height, the step-back requirements for the upper floors, and the tree canopy that helps to unify the entire avenue.
Ms. Neuhaus said that if new development along the FBI site's enormous frontage were allowed to come forward of the prevailing 50-foot setback from the property line, the development would create an entirely different environment along the avenue, very different than merely leaving the relatively few historic buildings at the property line. She said that a building of this length set on the property line or only 20 feet back would undoubtedly intrude into the vista. She urged the Commission members to make clear that the setback on Pennsylvania Avenue is a critical element in the creation of a strong vista and that new buildings which do not respect the overall pattern—including this generous building setback—are not appropriate. She said that the uniform building height and build-to line were not new proposals of the PADC but had been recommended in the 1964 report of the President's Council and the 1967 report of the Temporary Commission; the FBI building and another nearby building at 12th Street were designed to conform to this earlier setback guidance. She emphasized that the uniform height of masonry buildings on both sides of the avenue creates the sense of enclosure and balance that is critical to the vista, and this effect requires that a large proportion of buildings fronting on the avenue conform to the established height restrictions; she added that the required height stepbacks result in the taller structures not being visible. She also emphasized the importance of maintaining the established setback from the property; she said that in the past, even new additions to existing buildings have been set back to maintain this balance. She said that a 160-foot-tall building that extends the length of the FBI site, whether located at the property line or set back a few feet, would destroy over 50 years of planning and construction that emphasizes this vista. She added that the tree canopy does as much to frame the vista as the building cornices and lampposts. Noting the innovative role of the plan cited in recent NPS documentation, she said that the vista and its tree canopy may someday be designated as historic landmarks.
Ms. Neuhaus dismissed as a "red herring" the concern that the generous width of the sidewalk makes this section of Pennsylvania Avenue boring. She acknowledged that the sidewalks have fewer activities, such as sidewalk cafes, than were envisioned in the 1974 Pennsylvania Avenue Plan, and now the tenants of adjoining buildings do no generate sufficient activity. But she said that the depth of the setback is not preventing activity, and in fact it provides space and more opportunities for activity. She said that if a trust organization were established for Pennsylvania Avenue, as exists for the National Mall, then a sidewalk of this width could have enough activity, and the vista could be protected for future generations.
Chairman Powell thanked Ms. Neuhaus for her testimony. He asked Ms. Miller for more specific information on the project's timeframe. Ms. Miller responded that GSA expects to select the developer and site for the new FBI building by early 2017. She said that the site selection will influence the timeframe because some sites can be developed more quickly for the new FBI headquarters; she anticipated approximately eight to ten years before the FBI's Pennsylvania Avenue site is redeveloped.
Ms. Meyer noted that she had not been present at the previous presentation but had sent written comments. She said that while she appreciates the thoughtfulness of the analysis, she is concerned that the overload of data suggests the possibility of obfuscation. She recommended the development of a graphic matrix to show the hypothetical cross-sections of the avenue and buildings in relation to key benchmarks such as the curb line, the property line, and the build-to line. She cited difficulty even for the Commission members—a visually literate audience—in comparing images spaced far apart in the presentation materials; she questioned whether any member of the public could make such comparisons or follow the presentation. She therefore encouraged the NCPC team to develop more helpful graphics.
Ms. Meyer said that her conclusions are helped by the historic context provided by Ms. Neuhaus's comments; she also noted her own familiarity with the earlier reports on Pennsylvania Avenue. She agreed with Ms. Neuhaus that the width of the Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk along the FBI site should remain as it is, and that any new building should be built with the same setback as the existing FBI headquarters, with the avenue's visual width established by the street trees in the landscape design by Dan Kiley being continued. She emphasized that the FBI site is part of a several-block frontage on the avenue that largely follows the PADC alignments, except where historic buildings are located, and the building parameters should remain as they are.
Ms. Meyer said that the wide sidewalk in front of the FBI Building had been intended to accommodate many types of events, including grandstands for presidential inaugural parades, as well as everyday activities that the FBI did not ultimately support. She said an important aspect of Pennsylvania Avenue is that it serves as an everyday space, while on certain special occasions it becomes an "incredible space." She stressed the importance of having public spaces along the avenue that can support an ebb and flow of activity, and that can be both everyday and monumental; she said the failure to achieve the desired character along this frontage is not a reason to abandon the setback or choose a meaningless intermediate setback dimension that would confuse the design coherence of the area. She commented that the narrow sidewalk with no facade setback at the historic Evening Star building cannot be the rule for all of Pennsylvania Avenue, and the deep setback of the FBI building site has significance as part of the Pennsylvania Avenue plan; she said that choosing any setback distance in between these two dimensions would be merely a developer's logic—an effort to expand the square footage on a site that is extraordinary as it is currently defined. She said that Ms. Miller had illustrated some good examples showing how a smaller wedge-shaped building could be built on this site, adding that the benefit of a smaller building is that it would also leave more space on the west side for public events. She emphasized that much of the discussion of the guidelines seems to be driven by a developer's logic and the desire to maximize monetary value, and not about the character of the avenue. She encouraged NCPC to understand the 1974 PADC plan as a historic document, and to understand the intentions behind the plan as well.
Ms. Meyer commented that the block is historically significant and probably eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places for Dan Kiley's landscape work, for the master plan, and for the site furniture, which includes site furnishings designed by the landscape firm of Sasaki with landscape architect Richard Burck. She emphasized the significance of these elements although some have been replaced by pieces designed in an inappropriate generic "Victorian" style.
Ms. Gilbert said that in addition to the building height, the guidelines should address open space and an analysis of the health of the street trees with guidance on how the trees can be kept alive. Mr. Dunson commended Ms. Neuhaus for her compelling testimony, and also commended the exhaustive presentation from NCPC; he said that the graphics make clear that Pennsylvania Avenue is one of the only special streets in the nation's capital. He noted that the McMillan Plan had established the character of the avenue's south side, which suggests to him that the south side should determine the appearance of the north side; he emphasized that the most important quality of Pennsylvania Avenue should be its civic presence. He said that the re-establishment of D Street, to restore the L'Enfant Plan, is the only thing hampering the development of the north side to appear like the south. He expressed support for the continuation of the treatment of the north side as it is, building to the lesser of the proposed primary facade heights no matter what build-to line is selected, so that the north will reflect the south side and frame the vista instead of intruding into it.
Mr. Powell supported Ms. Meyer's comment that these guidelines present an opportunity to make Pennsylvania Avenue a greater street. He said that the more space given to the trees and activating the space, the greater the benefit to the city. He also expressed support for Mr. Dunson's endorsement of lower building heights, commenting that bigger would not be better on this site. He supported the desire to maintain as much sidewalk area as possible on the site, and to use the building—whatever its use—to activate the sidewalk; he said that this wide space could be made exciting even when it is not being used during inaugural parades. He commended the NCPC team for the thorough analysis but supported Ms. Meyer's request for a graphic matrix.
Secretary Luebke said that a letter summarizing the Commission's comments will be sent to NCPC. Chairman Powell reiterated the Commission's appreciation for the presentation of a project that will be important for the city. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
C. American Battle Monuments Commission
CFA 15/SEP/16-2, National War Memorial Park, Wellington, New Zealand. New United States Memorial. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 18/FEB/16-1.) Mr. Luebke introduced the revised concept design for a new United States Memorial to be located within the National War Memorial Park in Wellington, New Zealand. He summarized the review of the initial concept design in February 2016: the Commission members gave the project a general approval while requesting further development; they expressed support for the concept of a tabular memorial in a small site, but questioned the adaptation of the initial competition design to a different parcel within the park; and they recommended simplifying the components to create a more uniform composition, possibly reversing the configuration of the nested elements. He acknowledged the presence of Harry Robinson, executive architect of the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) and former chairman of the Commission of Fine Arts, and he asked Michael Conley of the ABMC to begin the presentation. Mr. Conley introduced architect Monica Ponce de Leon to present the design.
Ms. Ponce de Leon said that the design team has considered what it means for the U.S. to create a war memorial in another country. She cited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as a turning point in the conceptualization of commemorative works, inspiring a shift from the memorial as an object for admiration to a surface onto which citizens can project ideas, such as history, sadness, or aspiration. She said that another important influence for this design is the role of text in the history of American memorials; the inclusion of a text has been an important element of this design from its inception. She added that the Commission's previous comments have helped to advance the design.
Ms. Ponce de Leon described the memorial's context. The site is one of several new memorial locations within the National War Memorial Park in Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand. The newly developed park is situated between a dense area of the city and an area of gardens containing New Zealand's National War Memorial. Visually dominating the park is the War Memorial Carillon, an early 1930s tower that commemorates the soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC); in front of the tower is a plaza where ceremonies are held annually on Anzac Day, April 25, a national day of commemoration for Australians and New Zealanders who served in wars and other conflicts. Within the new park area, the only memorial now is the Australian Memorial to World War II; the U.S. Memorial will probably be the second. She said that she has collaborated with the park's designer, landscape architect Megan Wraight of Wraight + Associates, to ensure that the U.S. Memorial fits within the planned larger group of memorials.
Ms. Ponce de Leon indicated a main roadway that is depressed beneath the southern edge of the park; she said that because Wellington is a small city, the other streets around the park have a relatively small amount of traffic. Along the northern edge of the highway cut, the main pedestrian circulation spine provides access to each national memorial via stairs, with a shortcut between every two sites; at the center, the park rises southward to the ceremonial plaza that bridges over the sunken highway. A service corridor runs on the rear or north side of the park, placed slightly below the main grade; landscape plantings and a change in section serve as a buffer between the service corridor and the rest of the park. She said that retaining walls play an important role in the park's design: they delineate edges, including those of the individual memorial sites, and they incorporate benches that provide seating for viewing events on the plaza. The Memorial Park Alliance, which administers the area, has requested that all of the existing concrete retaining walls be maintained; she said that the design of the U.S. Memorial works within these constraints. She added that trees have been planted across the park to delineate space rather than provide dense shade.
Ms. Ponce de Leon indicated the line of individual national memorial sites extending east and west from the north edge of the plaza. The original intent was to locate international memorials along the western part of this line, with the eastern part reserved for future New Zealand Memorials. This arrangement has been changed subsequent to the design competition, and the location of the U.S. Memorial has been moved from the west to a smaller site on the east, adjacent to the central plaza. She described her effort to adapt the original memorial design for the smaller site; the change resulted in little space for landscape and did not allow room for an internal path wide enough to turn a wheelchair. She had also intended to install a secondary path so that visitors could walk entirely around the memorial, but she decided instead to work with the existing perimeter paths to better integrate the revised design with the larger design of the park. Another adaptation made for the new site was the reorientation of the tablet at the center of the memorial; she indicated the commercial buildings located less than forty feet north of the line of memorials, and the reorientation of the tablet avoids having visitors face these buildings while they read the tablet's text. Instead, the new orientation of the tablet results in the carillon tower to the south being the backdrop. She noted her initial proposal to eliminate the new site's existing stairs to gain more area for programming, but said that she was persuaded by the U.S. ambassador to New Zealand to maintain the stairs.
Ms. Ponce de Leon summarized the design of the U.S. Memorial as a central tablet set on a low earthen mound within a shaped ground plane; the landscape design spirals around this tablet. The public circulation spine on the south side provides access and will join the U.S. Memorial to the larger circulation network linking the individual commemorative sites. A visitor approaching along the circulation spine from east or west would have to walk around the mound in order to discover the tablet and to see it from the desired vantage point, where the incised text on the tablet would become legible. She added that the design responds to the configuration of the existing retaining walls.
Ms. Ponce de Leon said that the surface of the stone tablet—reminiscent of a printed page—would be sculpted to evoke the ocean that both separates and unites New Zealand and the United States. The proposed inscription on the tablet is a quotation from a radio address to the citizens of New Zealand, delivered by the U.S. Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox on the observance of Anzac Day in 1943: "Together in our strength, we shall keep the ocean Pacific! As we are comrades in battle, so we shall be partners in victory. I salute the lands of the Anzacs as our companions in the peace that will follow, comrades and partners, as an example to all the world of what can be accomplished by a fraternity of free men." The text, selected in consultation with the Library of Congress, was chosen because it concerns the common sacrifice of the two nations and aspires to a peaceful future. She said that she has worked with the ABMC in detailing the inscription for the tablet, determining appropriate line breaks and emphasizing particular words with bolder incising to clarify meaning. She said that a full-scale mockup was prepared to determine the appropriate size for the letters. The tablet would be tilted to ensure that the inscription can only be read anamorphically—that is, when seen from one certain position. The mound would conceal the tilted tablet when viewed from the back and sides; it would be revealed as a visitor walks around the mound. She added that the appearance of the inscription would also change with the light.
Ms. Ponce de Leon presented a sample of the granite proposed for the tablet, noting that it is an American granite often used in American memorials; it would be fabricated in the U.S. and then shipped to New Zealand. She added that drainage had been carefully studied, and the mound and the shaped ground plane would be engineered to prevent erosion. Plantings would use the palette of native plants developed for the site.
Ms. Meyer asked for clarification of the lettering on the sample. Ms. Ponce de Leon responded that the sample shows the proposed material but not the intended lettering, which would be in Palatino font with a letter height ranging from 1.5 to 3.5 inches. Ms. Meyer asked about the scale of the site and mound; Ms. Ponce de Leon responded that the site is approximately forty by seventy feet, and the mound would rise to slightly over waist height.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the structure and appearance of the mound are difficult to understand; she observed that the renderings make the tablet appear as if it were placed on paper or some material other than earth. She asked for more information on the proposed topography, emphasizing that the design of the mound needs to marry the earth and the tablet. Ms. Ponce de Leon described the geometry as simple. The mound would appear to be emerging from the earth but still slightly covered by the earth at each end, making it appear bigger without being more intrusive on the site. The sloping side of the mound supporting the tablet would intersect with another slope, and a drainage channel would be placed where the two descending slopes meet. The surfaces of the shaped planes would be planted with grass. She said that the geometry of the mound itself would not be a pure geometry or an organic shape, but would be intimately related to the tablet and adapted to the clear geometries of the site. She emphasized that the design would work within the language of the park, which does not employ organic shapes, and the mound would engage with the existing path. She said that because the ground planes would be planted with grasses, the mound will have a soft appearance, whereas if the surface plane were stone, the mound would look severe, like a pyramid. She referred to the writings of the influential architect Adolf Loos, who wrote that a mound in the forest evokes a primeval monument; based on this, she concluded that a slight deformation of the earth would imply funerary associations without monumentality. She said that the form of the mound would give solemnity and subtlety to the design without the use of monumental forms, such as the totemic columns of the nearby Australian memorial.
Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation for the revisions and for the clarity provided by Ms. Ponce de Leon's explanation. She said that in the previous presentation of the project without Ms. Ponce de Leon present, the design of the ground plane and the memorial's relation to the paths had been difficult to understand. She commented favorably on the design's subtlety and its use of the existing circulation to avoid creating redundant paths. She added that documentation of slopes and spot elevations, as well as a simple model, would have been helpful for the Commission's review. She commented that the combination of funereal and memorial connotations in the form of the mound would be very powerful, and she encouraged precise shaping of the mound to convey these associations. She also recommended careful study of the varying edge between the slab and the earth.
Ms. Gilbert suggested adding some words such as "Radio Address" to the attribution text, in order to convey more clearly the provenance of the quotation; Ms. Ponce de Leon agreed. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the revised concept for the U.S. Memorial at the National War Memorial Park in Wellington, New Zealand, with the comments provided.
D. Federal Reserve System
CFA 15/SEP/16-3, William McChesney Martin, Jr. Building, 20th and C Streets, NW. Additions and alterations for visitor screening and conference center. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 16/JUN/16-4.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the design revisions to the submission of June 2016, when the Commission supported the design approach for a conference center and visitor screening facility at the Federal Reserve's Martin Building. He said that the current submission responds to the Commission's concerns, which primarily involved the screening facility along C Street. He asked architect Shalom Baranes of Shalom Baranes Associates to present the revised concept.
Mr. Baranes summarized the context of a full-block triangular site between 20th, 21st, and C Streets and Virginia Avenue, NW. The scope of the proposal is to add one-story conference pavilions to the east and west sides of the existing building, along with an entrance pavilion on the south side to accommodate visitor screening requirements. He indicated the diagram of a previously approved design for this program from 2013, by a different architect, and the new design that the Commission supported in June 2016; a notable change was to reduce substantially the length of the proposed entrance pavilion along C Street. He noted the Commission's dissatisfaction with the canted, glazed roof and south wall of the entrance pavilion as presented in June 2016. In response, this pavilion is now proposed as a rectilinear volume that uses a design vocabulary similar to the proposed east and west pavilions. The entrance pavilion would be detailed as a tripartite composition, with glazed volumes flanking the central entrance bay. The low granite walls within the C Street landscape would be extended and turned upward to form end features to terminate the entrance pavilion's south facade at the east and west. Much of the extensive glass on the south facade would be fritted to provide solar protection; the central bay would use bronze for the entrance and canopy, along with clear glass. He emphasized that the entrance pavilion would be separate from the existing building, placed forward from the existing podium to allow entrance directly from the C Street sidewalk. He presented an interior perspective, showing the arrival sequence of descending a half-level to reach the security screening area; the windows would provide views of the older Federal Reserve building on the south side of C Street. He concluded with a perspective view of the proposed east pavilion for conferences, which he said has not changed since the June 2016 presentation.
Chairman Powell expressed appreciation for the responsiveness to the Commission's previous comments, and he offered support for the proposal. Ms. Gilbert asked for clarification of the planters along C Street. Mr. Baranes responded that the planters are existing; only the plantings within them would be new. Mr. Dunson commented that the additions are appropriate, with the appearance of always having been there. He described the proposed design vocabulary as modern, serving its purpose without being obtrusive. Ms. Meyer agreed, commenting that the extension of the planter walls to wrap the ends of the entrance pavilion is a clever design solution. She described this pavilion as a small reinterpretation of the large existing building, and she commended Mr. Baranes on the design revisions. Ms. Gilbert cited the feature of being able to see the existing architecture through the glass of the entrance pavilion, and she summarized the proposal as "light on its feet." Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the revised concept design.
E. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Old Georgetown Act
1. OG 16-325, 3000 M Street, NW. New mixed-use building (commercial/hotel). Concept. Ms. Barsoum introduced the proposal for extensive alterations and reconstruction of the building complex at 3000 M Street, NW. The project was initially reviewed by the Old Georgetown Board in 2014 as a proposal for alterations. The scope of work has subsequently expanded to more fully reconstruct the complex, and the project is therefore on the agenda for presentation to the Commission. She said that the Board has most recently reviewed the project earlier in the month, and the design being presented today has been updated to respond to the Board's recommendations. She asked architect Shalom Baranes of Shalom Baranes Associates to present the design.
Mr. Baranes provided an overview of the context and existing conditions. The site is on the southwest corner of 30th and M Streets, with the topography sloping downward on the south toward the C&O Canal. The context includes a mix of larger buildings and smaller-scale townhouses that have commercial uses. Immediately to the south is an open space controlled by the National Park Service; Mr. Luebke clarified that this space is a lawn that has served as a staging area for canal boats and is generally open for public pedestrian access. Mr. Baranes described the two existing buildings on the site: a two-story building along M Street, and a taller tower to the south. The complex was designed for hotel and retail use; an L-shaped driveway provides hotel guest access from M Street, passing south through a ramped opening in the two-story building to a drop-off area between the buildings, and continuing eastward to 30th Street. He described the existing complex as non-contributing within the historic district.
Mr. Baranes described the proposal to demolish the two-story building and replace it with a new retail building of approximately the same scale. The taller building to the south would be re-clad and would return to use as a hotel; he said that the new hotel facades would be an improvement on the existing grid of small "postage-stamp-like" windows. The driveway area between the existing buildings would be filled in with new construction rising one story; the new central bay created where the driveway now exits onto 30th Street would be recessed to provide a stronger visual separation between the two primary building masses. He indicated the existing loading dock area at the south end of the 30th Street frontage; this use would remain, with new cladding and some infill of the southern wings of the hotel building. The proposed exterior materials are slate and several types of brick.
Mr. Baranes described the design of the retail space in more detail, emphasizing the flexibility to accommodate different mixes of store sizes and the change of tenants over time. Most of the retail entrances would be along M Street, where each of the six bays is designed with a recess to accommodate doors; the drawings currently show four entrances, and additional doors could be placed in the remaining bays if needed. He indicated the detail of masonry that continues to the ground if a recess does not contain a door, and he acknowledged that the configuration of retail entrances will change over time. The floors above and below the street level would also be retail space, providing a total of three floors of retail with generous ceiling heights. The westernmost retail entrance would be more prominent and would lead to a small lobby with elevator and stair access to the upper and lower floors; he said that this configuration could be suitable for a large restaurant occupying the entire upper floor. He indicated the spandrel band within each bay that could accommodate retail signage. He summarized that the modular design of the retail building can be adapted to a range of small, large, and multi-floor tenants.
Mr. Baranes presented the proposed plans and elevations, indicating the hotel lobby entrance along 30th Street. The detailing on the east and south facades of the taller hotel building would provide a visual grouping of three floors toward the top, two floors at the middle, and a tall base. A change of materials at the hotel's northeast corner would provide the appearance of a corner tower without a change in massing. The south facade along the park space would be slate with a slightly more rusticated finish than used elsewhere in the complex. The hotel's existing penthouse would be modified to allow guest access to a lounge room and roof terrace; a safety railing along the terrace would not be highly visible from the street level. He described the combination of red and darker bricks, sometimes set within a slate frame, and the details of granite and sandstone.
Ms. Meyer noted that the report of the Old Georgetown Board, provided to the Commission members, recommends "greater solidity and hierarchy" along the M Street facade, and she questioned whether hierarchy would be desirable along a facade with a changing combination of future retail tenants. Mr. Baranes said that the Board had raised these issues over the course of the review process; the issue of solidity related to a perception of too much glass in earlier designs for the facade. He said that the retail bays have been redesigned throughout the review process, including during the current month after the Board's most recent comments, and the presented design is intended to respond to the Board's concerns. He indicated the current proposal for masonry at those bay recesses that do not contain retail entrances. Ms. Meyer expressed strong support for the current proposal.
Secretary Luebke clarified that the presented design for the M Street facade is slightly different from the version shown to the Board; he added that the number of bays has also increased during the review process. He said that the Board's primary concern has been how the scale and appearance of the retail frontage would relate to the context within the heart of the Georgetown historic district and retail area. The Board has most recently endorsed the concept while continuing to encourage further attention to the scale. He said that the Commission may choose to adopt or alter the Board's recommendation on the concept, and the Board will continue to be involved in further review of the project.
Mr. Powell commented that the proposed design is a substantial improvement compared to the existing conditions. Mr. Dunson commented that the exterior design appears to fit the rhythm and character of the street, although the entirety is difficult to see from the drawings. He supported the modern design character of the proposal, noting that an attempt to imitate the historic district's character would be inappropriate, and the building instead expresses its own time while conveying the principles of the context. He said that the extent of glass shown in the presentation is reasonable, providing an abstraction of M Street's rhythm of retail stores. Ms. Meyer agreed, reiterating her support for the design.
Chairman Powell suggested a consensus to approve the concept design and adopt the Old Georgetown Board's report. Ms. Meyer suggested adding that the presented design addresses the issues of solidity and hierarchy that the Board had identified. Chairman Powell agreed that the current design responds satisfactorily to the Board's recommendation; Mr. Luebke noted that the date of receipt for the drawings, after the Board's most recent meeting, would help in clarifying the record of revisions. Mr. Baranes asked if the Commission's adoption of the Board report would require further modifications to the design; Ms. Meyer clarified that the Commission's intention is to support the design as presented. Chairman Powell agreed, offering encouragement for implementation of the project. He restated the proposed action to approve the project, adopt the Board report, and note that the design responds to the Board's concerns; upon a second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission adopted this action.
2. OG 16-110, 3800 Reservoir Road, NW. New hospital building and site work. Concept. Mr. Martinez introduced the concept design submitted by Georgetown University for a new building at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. He noted that the Commission's Old Georgetown Board (OGB) has reviewed the project several times, and the current presentation combines the elements of the various iterations that have been supported by the OGB, along with limited further modifications in response to the OGB's most recent guidance; the OGB report has been distributed to the Commission members. He asked architect Shalom Baranes of Shalom Baranes Associates to present the design.
Mr. Baranes said that the site, located on Reservoir Road, comprises the north end of the Georgetown University campus and includes the medical campus that contains, with the hospital, the medical school, and a portion of the nursing school; these buildings surround an L-shaped parking lot that will be used as the site for the new building. He noted that the project also encompasses the rebuilding of nearby campus roads and modifications to an adjoining soccer field, but these are not part of the current presentation. He indicated the current configuration of campus buildings along Reservoir Road, roughly aligned to form a wall of buildings that mark the edge of the street with a deep setback; in front of this setback, two multi-level parking garages are inserted into bermed hills.
Mr. Baranes described that the existing hospital as a connected series of buildings that were constructed over time, resulted in a confused arrangement of buildings and grounds. This area of the campus also includes a chaotic transportation network that includes ambulances, cars, trucks, and also a helipad for helicopters arriving at the hospital. He said that this project provides the opportunity to order and improve this area of the university's campus. He indicated the configuration of the hospital with a series of wings extending to the east and west from the main hospital building toward the central parking lot; these wings define several three-sided courtyards, some located at grade and some located above low-rise infill structures. One courtyard accommodates all loading and service functions; in the proposed building, all such functions will be placed below grade. He noted that the appearance of this area is cluttered, and finding the entrances to the different hospital buildings is difficult.
Mr. Baranes described the proposal for the large new hospital building. It would be constructed in a north-south alignment along the west side of the parking lot, connecting to the ends of the existing hospital wings; this arrangement would create a new, long, formal facade along a newly improved open space connecting Reservoir Road on the north to the center of the university's campus on the south. In addition to regularizing the composition of this part of the campus, the proposed building configuration would provide greater flexibility for the hospital program. He said that the new building will be almost 600 feet long and 96 feet wide, which he noted is a relatively narrow configuration for a hospital; the building would widen at the southern end, furthest from Reservoir Road, where the emergency department and helipad will be located. He said that the narrow building would define two major open spaces: a green yard along Reservoir Road that would indicate the entrance to the medical campus and would also serve as one of three major entrances to Georgetown University; and a linear, north-south green corridor along the new building's east side, providing a new focus for this area of the university campus.
Mr. Baranes said that vehicular circulation would primarily occur at the north end of the new building, including a circular vehicular court near Reservoir Road; trucks would be able to turn into this area and enter a ramp leading beneath the open space to a new below-grade service area. In addition, a narrow vehicular passage along the new building's facade would lead south to the emergency department. A long arcade set within the volume of the building's ground floor would parallel the new north-south open space. The hospital would be located on the west side of this space; the other sides would be bordered by existing low-rise university buildings, which Mr. Baranes noted are almost certain to be altered over time. He said that the three-level underground parking garage would extend under the open space toward the existing buildings to the east.
Mr. Baranes presented the exterior design of the new building, which would have a narrow north elevation facing Reservoir Road. The long east facade would be subdivided into three segments. The northern segment would relate in scale and dimensions to an existing building, St. Mary's Hall, to form a portal to the new north-south open space. Beyond this, the east facade would be subdivided into two more subtly articulated parts relating to the scale of the open space. He summarized the building's massing as a major masonry volume with punched windows, extending from north to south, with two other volumes layered on the front: a three-story glass volume, and a second volume that he described as a veil. A curtainwall is proposed that would be covered with 10- to 12-inch-deep terra cotta fins, oriented in different directions to create both depth and differing visual effects—from transparent to solid—as seen by a person moving along the facade. He indicated the new building's large mechanical penthouse to house the extensive mechanical systems required for a hospital.
Mr. Baranes said that the programming of the building is relatively simple: the three parking levels and the loading area would be below grade; at grade would be the main level, including the emergency department at the south, main entrance and lobby in the center, and another lobby on the level below for people arriving by car; then two floors of operating rooms and three floors of patient rooms above. He said that the most recent change requested by the OGB was to change the proposed fritting on the east facade from white to another color; he presented a drawing with a new proposal to use a shade of terra cotta. He said that the project team would be returning to the OGB for review of further revisions intended to unify the composition of the stair tower and its penthouse with the rest of the facade.
Mr. Baranes then asked landscape architect Rick Parisi of M. Paul Friedberg and Partners to present the landscape plan, which has been coordinated with the master plan prepared by DumontJanks, the university's landscape architects. He noted that the landscape design has purposely not been developed as fully as the architecture, so that the building design will guide the landscape design.
Mr. Parisi said that the goal of the landscape design is to create a continuous green space in the center of this campus area, above the underground garage, fulfilling a major goal of the master plan to create a significant northern entry to the campus. He said that this lawn area would have four components relating to the entrance and the openings between the buildings: the green itself; a continuous canopy of trees set against the six-story hospital building; several small paved plazas; and three interruptions comprising the garage exit and two ventilation openings. He noted that grades have proved to be a challenge, with a ten-foot grade change from Reservoir Road to the site and a slope across the site of approximately seven percent. The desired separation of the pedestrian entry into the site from the vehicular entry has been challenging due to the site grades and the need for a barrier-free route; he presented two design options for the area along Reservoir Road.
Mr. Parisi indicated that much of Reservoir Road is lined with ornamental cherry trees, and the proposal is to continue the line of cherry trees along the north-south open space, although shade trees are also being considered. He said that the next presentation would include a more developed landscape design. Mr. Luebke added that the submitted design for the landscape development has not yet been presented to the OGB.
Ms. Gilbert asked if ambulances would have faster access by arriving beneath the new building instead of at its south end. Mr. Baranes responded that this hospital receives only five to six ambulances each day, and a different ambulance route passed could interfere with lobby access or truck traffic.
Ms. Meyer noted her long familiarity with this area and acknowledged the chaos of its many parking lots; she said that she is impressed that the design of this area could now be resolved. She expressed support for the proposed massing of the new building, as well as the proposed treatment of pedestrian circulation and the connection of the hospital campus with the main university campus, commenting that the proposal will work well. She noted the careful attention to avoid many conflicts in the plan and asked why the proposed pedestrian walk would nonetheless be designed to conflict with the traffic lane at the Reservoir Road entrance to the campus; she observed that this configuration could be an accident waiting to happen, and she encouraged elimination of this conflict. Mr. Baranes responded that this has been the most controversial and challenging part of the project, involving examination of dozens of different ramp configurations and locations. Ms. Meyer clarified that she is questioning the location of the pedestrian walk, not the ramp, and the design of the walk can easily be changed. Mr. Baranes said that the site drawing does not show that existing crosswalks would be removed and new crosswalks would be created at two new locations to discourage conflicts between pedestrians and vehicles, adding that most pedestrians coming to this entrance into the campus approach from the east, not the west, so the east entrance will be much more heavily used than the walk that conflicts with the vehicular ramp. Ms. Meyer emphasized that the problematic walk has only graphic logic at this point and should simply be eliminated; Mr. Baranes agreed to consider this.
Ms. Gilbert recommended planting canopy trees instead of cherry trees to provide shade in this sunny area; the other Commission members agreed. Mr. Dunson commented that this proposal is the right solution: the new building would unify the series of disparate existing buildings, and the proposed greensward in front would create a campus. He agreed that the landscape design will be the key to the project's success, making the area welcoming as well as functional. He observed that placing the building perpendicular to Reservoir Road mitigates its large scale.
Ms. Meyer supported Mr. Dunson's comments. She observed that the canopy of the long rows of trees parallel to the new building would extend, conceptually, the ceiling of the arcade; she said that this relationship would foster the campus experience, allowing the long, tall building to work on an urban scale, while the trees would provide an experiential scale for pedestrians. She observed that this is another reason to use canopy trees rather than ornamental cherry trees.
Mr. Luebke asked about the feasibility of planting canopy trees above the underground parking garage. Mr. Parisi responded that the intention is to have a soil depth of at least four feet, sufficient to support large and healthy trees. Mr. Dunson supported the inclusion of adequate soil depth, observing that the campus is surrounded by areas with many trees; only the medical area of the campus lacks this attribute; he said that the addition of trees will further help unify the new campus with its surroundings. Ms. Gilbert commented that in addition to the benefits for pedestrians, the trees would also be beneficial and uplifting for hospital patients looking outside from their rooms; Mr. Dunson agreed.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to support the concept design and to include more trees in the next submission; he described the proposed design for the new hospital and campus as a very good solution. Mr. Luebke noted that this guidance is consistent with the OGB's recommendation for further development of the landscape design. Chairman Powell restated the proposed action to approve the project and adopt the Board report with the comments provided; upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted this action.
Chairman Powell departed during the lunch break, resulting in the loss of a quorum. In the absence of the Vice Chairman, Ms. Meyer presided for the remainder of the meeting. Mr. Luebke noted that the actions taken without a quorum would be treated as recommendations subject to confirmation at the Commission's next meeting.
F. National Park Service
CFA 15/SEP/16-4, Arlington House (The Robert E. Lee Memorial / Custis-Lee Mansion), Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. Restoration and rehabilitation of house and grounds. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal to restore and rehabilitate Arlington House and its grounds, located within Arlington National Cemetery. He asked Doug Jacobs, Associate Regional Director for Lands, Resources and Planning for the National Capital Region of the National Park Service (NPS), to begin the presentation.
Mr. Jacobs said that the NPS has received a generous financial gift from philanthropist David Rubenstein for this project, which also includes improvements to accessibility and interpretation, and the preservation of historic objects in the building's collection. He said that much of the work involves replacement in kind, while the presentation will focus on proposed design changes to the property. He introduced landscape architect Charles Neer of WRT to present the design.
Mr. Neer said that although Arlington House is located in Arlington National Cemetery, it is under the separate management of the National Park Service. The early-19th-century mansion is situated on the crest of a steep slope and faces east toward the monumental core of Washington, providing dramatic views of the city. He described the challenges facing the site, which include poorly organized arrival, orientation, and pedestrian circulation. Visitors now arrive from three different directions: from a tram stop on Sherman Drive, to the west; from the cemetery through the Arlington House flower garden, to the southwest; and from the gravesite of President John F. Kennedy, located down the slope to the east. Because of inadequate interpretive and wayfinding signage, crowds waiting for house tours tend to gather in front of the entrance facade. Other difficulties include the location of the bookstore and the inaccessibility of many areas of the grounds.
Mr. Neer said that circulation would be reoriented to first bring visitors into the work yard area behind Arlington House. Tours of the house would begin outside the conservatory at the southwest corner before entering the house and eventually exiting through the front portico. Key features of the new site plan include: reemphasizing the north-south axis behind the house between the kitchen garden to the north and the flower garden to the south; moving the bookstore out of a historic building; improving accessibility for the tram stop; and designating Lee Drive to the southeast as the main vehicular and emergency access road. He said that the paving would be replaced to improve accessibility. The existing material includes loose gravel, which migrates into planting beds in the flower garden and gets tracked into the house; the proposed new paving includes a porous bonded aggregate material in a color similar to that of the gravel.
Mr. Neer indicated the current entrance to the flower garden, including a narrow stairway that does not meet accessibility standards; the view of the house from this stair is obstructed by tree branches. The proposal is to replace this with an eight-foot-wide stairway and a nearby accessible path that would lead to a new orientation area. The trees would be limbed up to open views. The existing post-and-chain fence surrounding the flower garden is located on cemetery property, directly behind graves; it would be replaced with a three-foot-high white picket fence, its design based on a fence visible in a historic photograph dating from 1860. Another accessible path would be added from the tram stop on Sherman Drive, where trees would also be limbed up to open views.
Mr. Neer described the work yard behind Arlington House: three buildings are located here, including a pair of historic slave quarters structures situated at the north and south ends of the yard. The rear work yard has been used for service activities and entrance to the grounds. These uses would continue, but the yard would no longer be accessible for vehicles; instead, a pull-off area would be built along Sherman Drive for maintenance vehicles. The nearby tram waiting area would have benches and signage interpreting the adjacent historic woodland known as Arlington Woods. From this area, which would include a new pedestrian crossing of Sherman Drive, a walk and small stair would ascend to the work yard, where the site's main interpretive and orientation elements would be located. These would include three types of sign: vertical signs; in-ground area maps etched into the pavement; and raised pedestal signs, some incorporating three-dimensional models of the site.
Mr. Neer said that because of the steep grades, which often exceed ten percent, the work yard has severe erosion problems, and loose gravel washes from the yard down the service drive to Sherman Drive. Barrier-free access is not available for the south slave quarters, and numerous social trails run behind this building to the tram stop. The proposal is to replace the existing social trails with plantings; to create a U-shaped configuration of bonded aggregate paving in the yard to make the buildings accessible; and to regrade the work yard to the rear with the exception of the area surrounding an existing historic cedar tree. Along the rear of the work yard, where it meets a field with a grade of approximately five percent, a concrete edge would be built to help prevent migration of loose gravel.
Mr. Neer said that the proposed changes at the front of Arlington House include extending the paved area by an additional ten feet to accommodate crowds; existing planters would be moved to allow vehicular access. Lawn areas on both sides of the house would be extended to better frame the building. An accessible path would be built from the conservatory to the front of the house, and two new stairways would be added to Custis Walk and to the viewing terrace.
Mr. Neer described the existing conditions north of the house, a non-historic area where the kitchen garden, comfort station, and potting shed are located; this area is accessed from three separate entrances. The relatively flat grade here creates problems with drainage and ponding in the garden and along the path, and the existing vegetation is not appropriate for the period of significance. The rehabilitation proposal would relocate the bookstore from one of the slave quarters buildings into a new addition to the comfort station. The north-south axis would be emphasized as the only entrance into this area, and the other two paths would be removed. The kitchen garden would be enlarged, regraded, and enclosed by extending hedges and installing a fence with a gate that would remain permanently open. Fruit trees may be planted, as they were historically.
John Gregg, an architect with GWWO, Inc., described the proposals for barrier-free access to Arlington House. Tours of the mansion would begin at the conservatory area at the southwest. Within the conservatory, a ramp would be built to provide access to the main floor of the house; the conservatory's exterior would not be altered except for door hardware. At the front portico, the existing temporary ramp would be replaced with a more permanent ramp that would be compatible with the historic structure in color and materials. Along with this ramp, a non-reflective glass partition would be added to the entrance facade, and the existing wood entrance doors would remain in place behind this partition.
Mr. Gregg provided additional information on the proposal to relocate the bookstore into an addition at the comfort station in the non-historic area north of the house. He described the comfort station as similar in color and materials to the adjacent potting shed and also to a nearby structure in the cemetery. The proposed masonry addition housing the bookstore would be painted white or another light color.
Ms. Gilbert asked for further description of the proposed wayfinding plan. Stephen Pisani, project manager with the NPS, responded that a new site entry would be located at the reconfigured tram stop, with a new wayside sign describing the flower garden. Visitors would be directed to walk past the south slave quarters building to an orientation area with an in-ground map showing the historic layout of the Arlington plantation, a tactile table with a map, and a wayside sign giving directions around the site. Another entrance sign would be located at the second primary entrance, and about a dozen wayside signs are proposed, including two at the Arlington Cemetery Metrorail station. Ms. Gilbert commented that the rehabilitation and signage plans would create clarity and improve pedestrian movement around the site. She expressed appreciation for the project team's comprehensive study of how visitors should move through the site. Mr. Dunson agreed that the new plans would clarify movement and enhance understanding of Arlington House and its grounds.
Ms. Meyer agreed in supporting the project while raising some additional questions. She asked for further discussion of how the new entrance ramp in the portico of Arlington House would relate to the front door. She commented that the design appears constrained and the proposed ramp looks flimsy and temporary, while the treatment of the conservatory entrance looks much better. Mr. Gregg responded that the new ramp would negotiate the eight-inch height difference between the level of the portico and the main floor of Arlington House. The ramp is designed to be unobtrusive, occupying a small footprint and with minimal handrails. Ms. Meyer clarified her concern that the ramp seems narrow, and she questioned whether it could accommodate a turning wheelchair when other people are entering. Mr. Gregg said that this door would primarily be used only as an exit, which allows the ramp to be smaller. Ms. Meyer asked about the proposed design character of the ramp along the front of the house; Mr. Gregg responded that the NPS had determined that other constructed options would have more impact on the site than a ramp. He said that the ramp is designed to be a clearly modern element attached to Arlington House; it would be small and simple in design, and its color would be chosen to blend in with the historic mansion's facade. Ms. Meyer supported the intention to treat the ramp as a modern element, noting that the purpose of much of the proposed work is to accommodate visitor use and make the site accessible, not to restore it to an historic appearance. She said that the ramp should clearly be a contemporary, removable addition, and therefore attempting to camouflage it by painting it a similar color as the house would only be a confusing and unsuccessful attempt to make the ramp invisible. She recommended treating this ramp more frankly as a new element; Mr. Gregg agreed to consider this.
Ms. Meyer questioned the bonded aggregate material selected for the new paving; she asked if this material would truly be durable and wheelchair-accessible. Mr. Neer responded that the proposed paving is both durable and accessible; he described it as a resin-bonded aggregate that uses epoxy on top of a flexible cell system, which adds strength. The material can be patched and fixed, and it is strong enough to support small maintenance vehicles and emergency vehicles. It has been successfully used in northern states, where it withstands the effects of freeze-thaw cycles and snow. He added that historically, this area was always paved with stone fines and gravel, and the proposal therefore avoids historically inappropriate materials such as a porous paver or brick. He said that the new material would match the historic surface in color, scale, and size, and the bonding would prevent the aggregate from being scattered; steel edging would help to define pedestrian routes. Ms. Meyer said that the successful use of this material in other parks is helpful information. She recommended adding a third material as a coping piece to separate the two types of paving—the existing gravel and the new bonded aggregate—to assist in keeping excess gravel from the walking surfaces. She recalled that the new walks on the National Mall have had such problems in spite of the new paving, drains, and granite coping around the lawn panels.
Ms. Gilbert said that this structure should not look similar to a burial structure in Arlington National Cemetery; she recommended treating the comfort station and bookstore building as more of a garden structure, with plants grown on its columns and trellis—not as the stark white building seen in the renderings. Ms. Meyer agreed that this would be a more appropriate treatment for a background building in a garden. Mr. Gregg responded that appropriate plantings are already under discussion.
Ms. Gilbert offered a motion to approve the concept design for the restoration and rehabilitation of Arlington House and its grounds with the comments provided. Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted this action, subject to confirmation by a quorum.
G. D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
1. CFA 15/SEP/16-5, Southwest Waterfront Development, 7th Street Pier. Washington Channel at 7th Street and Maine Avenue, SW. New public pier. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/JUL/15-8.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposed final design for the 7th Street Pier at the Southwest Waterfront development area known as The Wharf, submitted by the D.C. government on behalf of the area's private-sector development company, Hoffman-Madison Waterfront. She noted that the pier is associated with the adjacent 7th Street Park, and both are designed by Michael Vergason Landscape Architects. She said that the Commission had approved the final design for the 7th Street Park in November 2014, along with other components of the public space at The Wharf; the pier design was subsequently reviewed as a concept in July 2015, with the Commission recommending simplification. She asked Matthew Steenhoek of Hoffman-Madison Waterfront to begin the presentation.
Mr. Steenhoek said that this pier has been envisioned as part of The Wharf throughout the development's long planning and design process. He characterized the Commission's comments from July 2015 as a request to simplify the design, along with further consideration of the pergola's shape and materials in relation to the overall pier design. He said that some past comments were critical of an awning which has now been removed from the proposal. He noted that D.C. zoning review of the proposal has now been completed, resulting in some additional modifications to the pier design to address comments concerning accessibility, safety, materials, water access, and the role of the pier. He said that after approval of the final design, construction of the pier could begin early in 2017 for completion at the same time as other parks and public spaces at The Wharf, including the 7th Street Park.
Mr. Steenhoek presented an overall plan of The Wharf to show the pier's context, indicating the pier's location near the center of the development. He noted that the phasing diagram had initially identified the pier as part of the project's second phase, but its scheduling has subsequently been moved up to include the pier in the first phase, which is currently under construction. He introduced landscape architect Michael Vergason to present the design.
Mr. Vergason said that the presentation would focus on changes from the previously presented design, while the project booklets include much information that was included in the concept submission. He said that the design revisions are intended to balance the Commission's previous comments with the client's strong commitment to ensuring the vitality and successful programming of this pier, both at its land-side connection to the waterfront promenade and at its other end in Washington Channel. One revision has been to eliminate the sail-like shade structure at the end of the pier; another is to redesign the shade structure at the pier's intersection with the promenade; a third revision is including additional benches along the length of the pier; and a fourth is to modify the architecture of the kiosk located beneath the remaining shade structure. He presented a series of previous and current drawings to illustrate these changes, noting that the submission includes versions of the perspective drawings with and without people in the scenes.
Mr. Vergason said that the remaining shade structure is similar in plan to the concept submission, but its character has changed substantially; he described the current roof design as reflecting the softly curved shape of the pier and having a lighter, more lyrical feel that relates to the boat masts of the marina. The material of this structure is now proposed to be painted steel, resulting in much thinner columns than in the previous design using wood. The kiosk sheltered by this shade structure is now designed with a butterfly-profile roof, relating to the design of the nearby Capital Yacht Club building. The kiosk has also been lengthened to accommodate a utility closet that supports the utilities along the entire pier, resulting in a blind wall instead of glass at the kiosk's southeastern end. He indicated the additional benches proposed along the inner edge of the pier's curved shape; these were recommended by the D.C. Zoning Commission as a safety enhancement to demarcate the edge of the pier in the absence of a guardrail. He said that this solution preserves the design principle of encouraging people to come close to the water along this low edge. He contrasted this treatment with the outer edge of the pier, where a safety railing is included due to the higher elevation of the outer edge above the water; he presented the revised design for the railing, intended to respond better to the curved plan of the pier edge.
Mr. Vergason described the features at the end of the pier. A kayak rental area would include a floating dock. A fire feature at the belvedere terminus remains as part of the proposal, and its design has been refined. A gas-fueled flame would burn within a sculptural assembly of steel rods, set on a steel base encircled by a precast concrete seat. He said that the assembly includes multiple safety features and protects people from having contact with the flame. He concluded by emphasizing the intention of an ensemble composition for the 7th Street Pier and 7th Street Park, which are now both scheduled for completion in the first phase of construction at The Wharf.
Ms. Gilbert asked why a fire feature is being placed on a wood pier. Mr. Vergason responded that the combination is intended to be interesting and somewhat unexpected, although it is becoming more common: contemporary roof gardens often include fires along with wood decking. He added that the reason for including the fire is to encourage people to walk to the end of the pier and linger there comfortably, particularly in the evening and during winter. He said that the fire would probably not be lit during hot summer days, but would be an attraction at other times.
Ms. Gilbert described the curved pier as a beautiful sculptural form but commented that the fire feature at its terminus looks out of scale for its setting and slightly suburban in character. She suggested consideration of a more dramatic sculpture, designed for the site. She also questioned whether the safety and tamper-proofing features at the fire could ever be sufficient at this open, public location. Mr. Vergason expressed confidence that the safety issue has been addressed in the design; he said that the assembly of steel rods surrounding the flame serves as a safety barrier to prevent people from reaching in, while also serving as a sculptural form. He acknowledged that the use of a flame feature is not unique but emphasized that it would be "fun." He added that the source of the flame would be at multiple outlets along a vertical rod at the center of the assembly, producing a tall flame that reaches skyward; he contrasted this to typical burners that produce a more horizontally oriented flame. The flame would also have a glittering quality because it would be seen through the assembly of rods, resulting in changing perceptions of the flame as a person moves along the pier.
Ms. Gilbert commented that an alternative winter attraction on the pier could be a view of ice in the water below—perhaps more interesting than the fire. She suggested placing a hole in the pier so that people could look down to the winter ice; Mr. Vergason responded that the belvedere would already provide expansive views of the water surface. Mr. Dunson added that Washington winters are usually not cold enough to result in ice, while the warmth of the fire would be attractive. He asked if the fire feature is being custom-designed for this site; Mr. Vergason responded that it is being designed and engineered by a specialist company that he described as the best in the nation, with a successful history for such projects. Mr. Dunson asked whether the broad bench around the fire would become hot, possibly causing burns when people touch it. Mr. Vergason said that the bench is designed with a thermal break, and its moderate warmth would be comparable to a typical hearth; it would be elevated above the pier to avoid direct contact with the wood decking. He added that visitors could choose to sit closer or farther from the flame, and on the upwind or downwind side of the bench, depending on the weather and people's preference for comfort. He said that the combination of the fire's warmth and a gentle breeze would be an enjoyable experience.
Mr. Dunson offered overall support for the revisions to the design, commenting that the current design has a clean and light character. He expressed appreciation for the responsiveness to the Commission's previous comments, along with some regret at losing the stronger character of the earlier design.
Ms. Meyer commented that the revised design for the shade structure is a significant improvement, fitting in well with the larger landscape setting. She suggested careful study of the position of the concession kiosk located beneath the shade structure, in relation to summer sun angles; she said that a slight adjustment of even a foot could result in improved shade for the person working in this kiosk. She supported the addition of benches along the south edge of the pier as a substitute for railings, resulting in a more cohesive character. For the bench surrounding the fire feature, she suggested consideration of a more oval shape instead of circular, in order to allow people to choose among bench positions closer or further from the flame, and resulting in a varying depth for the bench. Mr. Vergason acknowledged that such details could serve as unifying elements across the broader design context to establish a sense of place. He clarified that the bench around the fire feature is already designed with an oval plan, although this is not clearly conveyed in the drawings. He said that the depth of the bench varies from eight to twelve feet; he offered to study the dimensions further to ensure that people have an appropriate range of choices for sitting near the flame. Ms. Meyer added that people may instead choose to enjoy lying down along this bench; Mr. Vergason confirmed that it is large enough for people to lie on, particularly at the broader portions.
Ms. Gilbert said that the fire feature itself needs to be a very lyrical element, which could be achieved with a more irregular form, possibly lozenge-shaped, to echo the form of the end of the pier. Ms. Gilbert cited the work of sculptor Patrick Dougherty as a possible inspiration for improving the fire feature; she emphasized that it should be a work of sculpture and not have the appearance of being selected from a catalog. She added that it could be shaped to express a sense of movement from the wind blowing across it.
Mr. Dunson asked for clarification of the convergence of varying surfaces and grades at the landside end of the pier; he suggested ensuring ample space for people to occupy and move through the area. Mr. Vergason acknowledged the complexity of the design in this area, involving ramped and stepped surfaces along with the overhead shade structure and the desired proportions of benches. He said that modification to the plan of this area would be possible but complicated, potentially causing some slopes to become steeper and resulting in some awkward intersection angles nearby. Mr. Dunson emphasized that the design's strength is the elegance of the pier's overall length, and it should not appear truncated or stubby due to the treatment of the landside end. He added that the concern may simply be due to the perspective rendering, and the adequacy of the design may be more apparent when studied in model form. Mr. Vergason responded that this area was studied extensively through digital modeling due to the complexity of the intersecting surfaces.
Mr. Dunson offered additional comments on the fire feature as the pier's celebratory terminus. He said that its proposed configuration would allow its enjoyment by only a small number of people on the encircling bench; he suggested instead that the slopes of the pier surfaces be configured to provide an amphitheater setting for the fire, allowing people to enjoy horizontal or downward views of it while sitting at a greater distance. He said that the current design treats the fire feature as simply an object that's placed at the end of the pier. Mr. Vergason responded that the belvedere setting for the fire feature is one of the few places along the pier's central spine that is relatively flat, formed from a resolution of the various slopes of the pier decking. The fire feature is sited toward the landside end of the belvedere to make it slightly closer for people approaching it; the fire feature is envisioned as a punctuation for the general area at the end of the pier, not as the pier's actual terminus. The remaining flat space of the belvedere, extending to the end of the pier, is intended as a programmable area that could accommodate gatherings or events such as dance.
Ms. Meyer summarized the consensus of the Commission to support the final design while offering suggestions for minor revisions. She acknowledged the responsiveness of the submission to the Commission's previous comments. Upon a motion by Mr. Dunson with second by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission approved the final design with the comments provided, subject to confirmation by a quorum.
2. CFA 15/SEP/16-6, McMillan Community Center, North Capitol Street and Channing Street, NW. New community and recreation center. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept submission for a new park and 17,500-square-foot community center building on the southern portion of the 25-acre decommissioned McMillan Sand Filtration Site at Channing and North Capitol Streets, NW. She noted that the proposal is a part of a larger redevelopment of the site. She asked Gilles Stucker of the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (ODMPED) to begin the presentation.
Mr. Stucker summarized the history of the 72-acre water treatment facility, which is composed of the McMillan Sand Filtration Site, along with the nearby McMillan Reservoir and a pumping station. The McMillan Reservoir was constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1902, and the slow sand water filtration plant was built several years later. He described the water filtration system: unfiltered water flowed into a system of unreinforced concrete underground vaults, which run west to east; water would then pass through beds filled with sand to be filtered, and was then collected and distributed to customers in Washington. Two service courts near the middle of the site contained above-ground cylindrical sand bins and rectangular regulator buildings: sand was washed in the sand bins before it was returned to the filtration beds, and the regulator buildings housed pumps that moved water through the sand beds. He said that this system filtered drinking water for Washington until around 1980, when it was abandoned and replaced by a more modern treatment system. In 1991, the overall property was designated the McMillan Park Reservoir Historic Landmark and listed in the D.C. Inventory of Historical Sites; in 2013 it was listed as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mr. Stucker said that the 25-acre sand filtration portion of the larger 72-acre facility— bounded by Michigan Avenue, Channing Street, North Capitol Street, and First Street, NW—was sold to the District of Columbia in 1987 for redevelopment; the federal government retains the remainder of the facility through the Army Corps of Engineers. In the current proposal, the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, D.C. Department of General Services, and ODMPED would construct, operate, and maintain the park and community center on the southern portion of the 25-acre site. He said that conceptual plans to develop the property have been approved by several local entities—including the D.C. Zoning Commission, the Mayor's Agent, the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board, and the Council of the District of Columbia—and by the National Capital Planning Commission. He noted that the project team presented an earlier concept design to the Commission of Fine Arts staff in April 2016. He introduced architects Stephen Penhoet and Tim Bertschinger of Perkins Eastman DC to present the design.
Mr. Penhoet described the major facilities and neighborhoods adjacent to the development site: a large medical campus to the north that includes the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Children's National Medical Center; McMillan Reservoir to the west; the Bloomingdale neighborhood to the south; and Glenwood Cemetery and the Stronghold neighborhood to the east. He described the proposed private development for the entire 25-acre site: to the north of the park and community center portion of site, the planning includes townhouses, apartment buildings, medical office buildings, and retail stores, along with underground parking. He said that the south service court forms the northern edge of the park and recreation center site; townhouses would be to the north, and the service court would be programmed to function as a public amenity featuring elements connected to the history of the site.
Mr. Penhoet said that pedestrians would primarily approach the proposed park and community center from North Capitol Street; they would walk toward a plaza by passing through a portal formed by a bridge carrying a proposed Olmsted Walk—a pedestrian path that would be built along the top of the berms that encircle much of the 25-acre site. The plaza would also be accessible from a ramp leading down from the south service court, and from a ramp leading down from Olmsted Walk. Adjacent to the community and recreation center and plaza would be an amphitheater, playground, and two large lawns; below ground, one of the water filtration cells would be preserved and stabilized, and it would be visible to visitors through glass portals.
Mr. Bertschinger narrated a brief flyover animation of the entire proposed development. He indicated the various datum elevations of the proposed park sections: the plinth lawn would be at a datum elevation of 170 feet, which is its historical condition; the service courts would be at an elevation of 165 feet; and the entrance plaza would be at an elevation of 155 feet, corresponding to the adjacent grade of North Capitol Street. He also indicated the bioretention area between the entrance plaza and the service court, which he said is intended to recall the water filtration history of the site.
Mr. Bertschinger described the proposed design of the community and recreation center. He said that the shape of the building is influenced by the site's planar surfaces and simple geometric service buildings. The building's facade would be composed of a white, painted metal grid interspersed with glass panes; high-performance concrete panels would be used at the base of the exterior walls and on the parapet above the large brise-soleil. He said that the curtainwall and brise-soleil are intended to provide a light and transparent contrast to the heavy and solid forms of the historical service buildings and hidden vaults. The brise-soleil would also provide shade and define the exterior public realm for pedestrians, while reducing the building's heating and cooling loads.
Mr. Bertschinger summarized the program of the proposed community and recreation center. The building's first floor, or plaza level, would house a swimming pool—the main function of the building—along with locker rooms and a fitness room; the pool room would be a generous, double-height space visible from the plaza. He added that the pool would also connect the building to the site's historical association with water. The second floor would be at the same elevation as the south service court. The northern entrance for this floor would be reached by a ramp that was originally used to access the filtration cells, while existing walls along the service court would continue to retain the five-foot grade differential between the court and plinth. Program areas on the second floor would include a flexible community room and support spaces. From the second-floor entrance, visitors could descend to the first floor using stairs or a ramp—intended to reference the historic ramp—or reach a second-floor bridge extending from the south facade to the rest of the park. He emphasized that the building mediates the change in grade between the plinth, service court, and plaza levels, and its apparent height would be shorter when viewed from the park areas to the west.
Mr. Penhoet presented additional details of the site design, noting that it is intended to respect and interpret the history of the site, particularly the concept of filtration and the contrast between the pedestrian scale and the site's industrial scale. He said that the design extends the filtration concept to certain aspects of the program, including visitor circulation and the framing of views. The entrance portal created by the Olmsted Walk bridge, to be built of concrete and steel, is intended to be a visual and material reference to the vaulted underground filtration cells, and the preserved cell would be visible from this area. The bridge's shape is also intended to be a counterpoint to the angular earthen berms that enclose the site. He said that the entrance plaza and amphitheater areas would be paved with granite; large granite pavers would define the intended gathering places, while smaller ones would define the major pedestrian thoroughfares. Cast stone benches, also intended to convey an industrial character, would be placed throughout the plaza and amphitheater areas.
Mr. Penhoet then described the proposed planting plan for the plaza. He said that the tree species, which include sweetbay magnolia and black gum, are native plants believed to have existed on the site before it was developed for industrial use, and have low maintenance and water requirements. These trees could be appropriately trimmed to allow for views across the plaza into the site. The colorful perennials and vines proposed for the plaza, including blue wood aster and spotted beebalm, would stabilize the surrounding berms and be maintained at a height of 2.5 feet. The bioretention garden at the plaza's northern edge would be composed of various plants suited for a boggy environment, including little bluestem and swamp milkweed, attracting butterflies and other insects; he added that bioretention plantings would be used throughout the entire site.
Mr. Penhoet presented plans for the proposed amphitheater, which is built into the southeast corner of the surrounding berms and faces north. The tree and ground plantings, along with the cast stone benches, would shape intimate spaces and create shade for visitor comfort; a stepped seating area and seat walls would accommodate small and large groups for a range of events. The ramp descending from Olmsted Walk at the amphitheater's southern edge would lead to a set of stairs along the amphitheater's west side, and to the seating area. He noted that the preserved filtration cell, which forms the western boundary of this area, would only be stabilized in the current proposal; future programming has not been decided.
Mr. Penhoet then described the proposed playground, which is designed by the Dutch firm Carve. It would be located to the west of the community center on several elevations—recalling the historical decent into the underground cells—and would incorporate ramps, stepped seating, benches, and different types of play structures; the form of the "play silos" and sandpits would recall the historic sand bins and underground sand filtration beds. He said that groves of trees, surfaced with crushed stone, would provide shade; the tree species would include northern catalpa and scarlet oak.
Mr. Penhoet provided an overview of Olmsted Walk, which is named after the landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. [CFA member, 1910–18], a principal designer of the historic facility and park. He said that the walk would be lined on each side with hawthorn trees, which were specified by Olmsted in his original design for the park's promenades. The plantings on the surrounding berms would include blue grama grass and creeping lilyturf to provide visual interest and promote soil retention.
Mr. Penhoet concluded by noting that a historic fountain, designed by the architect Charles Platt [CFA member, 1916–21] and originally sited near the reservoir, would be placed at the southwest corner of the site overlooking First and Channing Streets, with views to the reservoir; the fountain is currently in storage at Fort Washington in Maryland. When placed in its new location, the fountain would be accessed from the walk and park, as well as by stairs leading up from the street corner.
Mr. Dunson asked how much of the site is controlled by the District of Columbia, and if the existing land elevations would be maintained. Mr. Stucker responded that the District owns the entire 25-acre site, but that it will eventually dispose of the portion of the site that is planned for private-sector development. He added that the historic elements retained across the site would continue to be owned by the D.C. government, and he confirmed that the current land elevations would be maintained. Mr. Dunson also asked for clarification regarding which underground cells would be retained. Mr. Stucker said that of the twenty existing cells, cell 28 and cell 14 would be retained; cell 28 would be included in the proposed design of the park as presented, while cell 14, which can handle approximately three million gallons of water, would be maintained as a part of DC Water's combined stormwater and sewer system. The remaining eighteen cells would be demolished.
Mr. Dunson expressed support for the proposed design, while regretting that more of the underground cells would not be retained. He observed that by retaining the existing berms, the design for the park serves as a buffer between the surrounding neighborhoods and the new residential and commercial development. He also commented favorably on the proposal for the community center building, describing its pavilion-like design as appropriate for its park setting.
Ms. Meyer asked if the other governmental bodies that reviewed the proposed design have accepted the amount of historic structures that would be retained; she added that a diagram indicating these retained elements would be helpful for future presentations. Mr. Stucker confirmed that the agencies listed in the presentation have approved the plan to retain some of the historic structures.
Ms. Gilbert asked if the proposed hawthorn trees would be planted along the northern portions of Olmsted Walk in the area that would be privately developed. Mr. Stucker confirmed that the trees would extend through this area, adding that the agreement for the site's planned unit development ensures that the entire parcel, despite different owners, would be operated and maintained according to one master plan.
Ms. Meyer expressed enthusiasm for the long-awaited reuse of the site, and she supported the plan to preserve a meaningful number of the existing sand bins and underground filtration cells. She suggested that the design team study further the conceptual underpinning of the proposed design and its references to the physical aspects of the existing site, observing that the site is a thick surface with mysterious, hidden workings, not just a flat plane with simple geometries above and below. She said that the conceptual power of the site lies in the contrast between its visible and hidden elements, and she suggested that this idea could help the designers refine the junctures between the proposed building and its surrounding landscape, especially its "brute underbelly."
Ms. Meyer questioned the design of the proposed concrete and steel bridge that spans the entrance to the park from North Capitol Street, observing that the abutments appear unresolved; she recommended careful detailing to ensure that this prominent portal into the site is elegant and powerful. She also expressed support for the proposed bioretention area, recommending that an innovative stormwater management system be employed across the entire site as a modern reinterpretation of its historical use. She suggested that instead of planting native species thought to have existed on the site before its industrial development, this disturbed site could support a "novel ecology" of regional plants adaptive to tough urban conditions and non-invasive exotic plants more suitable for its constructed soil profile and Washington's contemporary climate. Mr. Stucker noted that the site's history would be interpreted for the public; Ms. Meyer said that her recommendation concerns the technical performance of the site, not the didactic interpretation of its history. She added that the design's logic of mixing new and old architectural elements could be extended to the landscape design.
Ms. Gilbert expressed support for the design's treatment of contrasting scales and the concept of filtration, suggesting that the scale of the proposed bioretention area could be expanded to encompass the entire entrance portal, thereby filtering people through plantings into the site. Mr. Penhoet said that the concept for the plaza originally included a large open pond, which was reduced to a scrim of water in later iterations and was eventually omitted from the current design for a variety of reasons, including security and maintenance concerns. Mr. Stucker added that as a result of removing this water feature, the design has been revised to enlarge the plaza and shift the amphitheater to face north, allowing for the restoration and public visibility of the underground filtration cell in this area.
Ms. Gilbert asked what alternatives would be considered if the proposed bridge is too costly to construct. Mr. Penhoet responded that the bridge is a priority for the D.C. government and is a part of community agreements; its construction is also specified in documents currently being distributed to design-build teams interested in bidding on the project. He also agreed that the design of the bridge's abutments and proportions could be refined.
Ms. Meyer offered a motion to approve the concept with the suggestions provided. Upon a second by Ms. Gilbert and Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted this action, subject to confirmation by a quorum at the next meeting.
H. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
CFA 15/SEP/16-7, American Eagle Platinum Proof Coin Program for 2018, 2019, and 2020. Three obverse designs and a single reverse design for three coins. Final. (Previous: CFA 17/MAR/16-a, 2017 issue.) Mr. Simon introduced the design alternatives for a three-year series of platinum coins, which are non-circulating coins produced for investment in platinum. He provided a sample from the Mint of a recent platinum coin, noting its elaborate packaging. He asked April Stafford of the Mint to present the design alternatives.
Ms. Stafford summarized the past issues in the American Eagle program of platinum proof coins, distributing printed images of the past designs. From the program's inception in 1997, each annual coin design has shared a common obverse featuring the head of the Statue of Liberty. The reverse designs have been based on several thematic series: Vistas of Liberty (1998–2002), Foundations of Democracy (2006–2008), the Preamble to the Constitution (2009–2014), and Torches of Liberty (2015–2016). For the program's 20th anniversary in 2017, the coin will repeat the original obverse and reverse designs used in 1997. The current submission is for a three-year series for 2018 through 2020, with themes drawn from a phrase in the Declaration of Independence: "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." As a change from the program's earlier years, the three themes would be conveyed in annually changing obverse designs, and a single reverse design would be chosen for all three coins.
Ms. Stafford said that the Mint has asked artists to develop proposals for all three obverses in the series, with the goal of developing designs that are successful in representing each theme and that also work together as a series to give expression to the nation's core principles; the artists were also given the option of including a single reverse design that would depict an eagle. The presentation is therefore organized as separate sets, each by a single artist, and each containing a series of three obverse designs, with a reverse design included in most of the sets. She presented ten sets of design alternatives, some with minor variations. In addition to the six reverse designs included with some of the artists' sets, she presented four additional reverse designs that could be used with any of the obverse groupings.
Ms. Meyer suggested that the discussion could be framed by each Commission member listing the sets that seem most supportable. Ms. Gilbert expressed a preference for Sets #3 and #4; Mr. Dunson supported Sets #2, 3, 4, 6, and 10. Ms. Meyer offered support for Sets #3 and 10, and she suggested further discussion of the five sets identified by the Commission members.
Mr. Dunson cited the simplicity of the designs in Set #2, juxtaposing straightforward design elements with fragments of the American flag that could be perceived as a single flag when the three coins are arranged in a triangle. Ms. Meyer said that the concept for Set #3, using different features of the Statue of Liberty to represent the three themes, is particularly clear and results in a set that is both intellectually and graphically strong. Mr. Dunson and Ms. Gilbert agreed, and Ms. Meyer noted that all three Commission members selected this set for discussion. Ms. Gilbert commented that Set #4 makes good use of female allegorical figures to represent the three themes, successfully combining a classical and modern design character; she noted that the women's clothing also appears appropriate. Mr. Dunson agreed, commenting that this set is the best of those featuring female allegorical figures.
Mr. Dunson cited the sense of whimsy conveyed in Set #6, featuring a different use of allegorical figures. Ms. Gilbert agreed, but she likened the female figures to the film actress Hedy Lamarr; Ms. Meyer suggested dropping this set from further consideration. Ms. Meyer described Set #10, featuring three variations on the Statue of Liberty's torch, as simple and graphically strong; Mr. Dunson described the designs as iconic. Ms. Gilbert commented that the progression in intensity of the torch's flame would be difficult to appreciate unless someone is studying the three coins in close comparison; Ms. Meyer agreed, commenting that this design feature may be too subtle.
Ms. Meyer offered the general comment that many of the presented designs for the 2020 coin, using the theme "Pursuit of Happiness," provide a depiction of happiness itself; she said that this reflects a misunderstanding of the promise of the Declaration of Independence, which is the pursuit—rather than an actual guarantee—of happiness. Ms. Stafford acknowledged this concern and said that Mint officials have been discussing the distinction.
Mr. Dunson reiterated his support for Set #2, commenting that the mostly abstract designs have an appealing planar quality. Ms. Gilbert said that the problem with this set is the coin obverse for 2020, featuring silhouettes of people with arms in the air to convey happiness; Ms. Meyer said that she rejected this set due to the obverse design of the 2020 coin. Ms. Stafford noted that the Commission is welcome to recommend individual designs instead of entire sets; she added that the Mint could consider submitting additional design alternatives for a particular problematic coin in a set, and the timeline for further designs would be especially feasible for the later coins in the three-year series.
Ms. Meyer commented that a strength of Set #2 is the larger image of the flag that results from grouping the three coins in a triangle; she described this feature as clever and unprecedented in the numismatic designs that she has reviewed while serving on the Commission. She offered support for Set #2 conditional on a replacement for the 2020 obverse design; Ms. Gilbert and Mr. Dunson agreed. Ms. Meyer noted the consensus to support Set #3 as presented. She suggested eliminating Set #4 from consideration; she acknowledged that it is the best of the submissions within the classical, allegorical genre, but concluded that it is not sufficiently strong to merit a recommendation. She asked if Ms. Gilbert would join in supporting Set #10; Ms. Gilbert said that the power of the Set #10 designs is the simplicity and similarity of the torch images, allowing for a close focus on the differing words of the theme for each year. She added that the three designs in this set could be enhanced in the engraving process to convey satisfactorily the varied depictions of the torch's flame and the background.
Ms. Meyer summarized the consensus to recommend three sets for the Mint's further consideration. Mr. Dunson suggested the Commission's order of preference: Set #3 as first choice; Set #2 as second choice subject to a new design for the 2020 coin; and Set #10 as third choice. Ms. Meyer asked if a ranked list of recommendations would be useful to the Mint; Ms. Stafford welcomed this guidance, adding that the design alternatives and the Commission's response will be considered by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee.
Ms. Stafford noted that a reverse design is included in Sets #2 and #3 but not in Set #10; she asked if the Commission has further recommendations on the reverse design. Mr. Luebke added that the Commission may decide to accept the reverses proposed in Sets #2 and #3, while choosing a reverse to recommend for Set #10, or may recommend a different reverse for any of the sets. Ms. Gilbert offered support for reverses #11, 12, and 14. Mr. Dunson and Ms. Meyer supported the reverse in Set #1, featuring a stylized, contemporary depiction of an eagle in flight. Mr. Dunson also supported the reverse in Set #9, depicting an eagle with outstretched wings as it lands on a branch. Ms. Meyer expressed a preference for reverse #9. Ms. Gilbert agreed that reverse #9 would be better in combination with the obverses in Set #10, commenting that the stylized eagle design of reverse #1 would not be compatible with the obverse torch designs in Set #10. She added that the composition of reverse #9, with the eagle landing toward the right side of the coin, corresponds well with the obverse compositions in Set #10 that place the torch toward the left side. Ms. Meyer summarized the consensus to recommend reverse #9, along with the reverses in Sets #2 and #3. She also expressed appreciation for the sample platinum coin provided by the Mint, commenting on its extraordinary and beautiful packaging.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:31 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA