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 9:11 a.m.
Hon. Earl A. Powell, Chairman
Hon. Edward Dunson
Hon. Liza Gilbert
Hon. Alex Krieger
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
A. Approval of the minutes of the 15 September meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the September meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 17 November 2016, 19 January 2017, and 16 February 2017. He noted that no meeting is scheduled in December.
C. Confirmation of the recommendations from the September 2016 meeting after the loss of a quorum. Mr. Luebke said that a formal action is needed concerning four submissions reviewed the previous month without a quorum. He noted that the members present had made recommendations which were conveyed in letters sent to the applicants and distributed to the Commission. He listed the projects requiring action:
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.
CFA 15/SEP/16-5, Southwest Waterfront Development, 7th Street Pier. Washington Channel at 7th Street and Maine Avenue, SW. New public pier. Final.
CFA 15/SEP/16-6, McMillan Community Center, North Capitol Street and Channing Street, NW. New community and recreation center. Concept.
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.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission confirmed the September recommendations for these projects.
D. Report on the approval of objects proposed for acquisition by the Freer Gallery of Art. Mr. Luebke reported the Chairman's approval earlier in the morning of multiple artworks proposed for acquisition by the Smithsonian Institution as part of the permanent collection of the Freer Gallery of Art. The works, all from Japan, have been donated or bequeathed to the museum by Washington-area collectors: two stoneware bowls from the 12th and 17th centuries; a stoneware jar from the early 17th century; a stoneware vat from the 18th-19th century; and a group of twenty ornamental combs and seventeen hairpins from the 19th and 20th centuries. He noted that the Chairman's approval was the only required action, and no confirming vote is required. He added that a viewing of the artworks by the Commission members was not feasible due to the current renovation work at the Freer. Mr. Dunson asked when the renovation will be completed; Ms. Gilbert and Mr. Luebke said that the museum is due to reopen in early 2017.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that no changes have been made to the draft appendix. Mr. Luebke noted the large number of antenna proposals included in the appendix. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported several changes to the draft appendix. The first listed project has been newly added to the appendix (case number SL 16-138), following further staff consultation after its original submission in July. Another project has been removed from the appendix to allow for review in a future month (SL 16-178). The recommendations for two projects (SL 16-175 and 16-176) have been changed to be favorable based on supplemental materials that have been provided or are anticipated. Other changes are limited to minor wording adjustments. Six favorable recommendations are subject to the anticipated receipt of further supplemental materials, and she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations when the materials are received. Chairman Powell observed that the Shipstead-Luce Act appendix is shorter than usual; Ms. Batcheler responded that this results from the postponement of some submitted projects. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martinez reported that the only revisions to the draft appendix are to note the receipt of supplemental materials for several cases to conform to the recommendations of the Commission's Old Georgetown Board. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised appendix. Mr. Luebke noted that the total number of Old Georgetown reviews for the recently ended fiscal year is in excess of 400, resulting in a high workload for the staff and Board.
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider items II.D.2, II.F, II.G.1, and II.G.2. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission may wish to act on these submissions without presentations, noting that they do not meet the requirements for inclusion on the Consent Calendar.
D. General Services Administration
2. CFA 20/OCT/16-5, Department of Homeland Security Headquarters, St. Elizabeths West Campus and Shepherd Parkway. New Off-Site West Access Road and improvements to the I-295/Malcolm X Avenue Interchange. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/APR/15-4.) Mr. Luebke said that the final design submission responds to the comments provided by the Commission at the concept review. Mr. Krieger suggested that the Commission, instead of simply approving this submission, should express its reservations concerning the surface treatment of the retaining walls; he acknowledged the necessity of constructing these walls but said that a more elegant and durable facing material should be used. Mr. Powell supported this recommendation; he encouraged the project team to overcome any budgetary impediments to achieving this improvement. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the submission with this recommendation.
F. District of Columbia Commission of the Arts and Humanities
CFA 20/OCT/16-7, K Street medians at the Washington Circle underpass, K Street between 21st and 22nd Streets, NW. Public art installation by Catherine Widgery. Concept. Mr. Luebke asked if the Commission prefers to act on this project without a presentation. Chairman Powell and Ms. Gilbert recommended leaving this project on the agenda with the scheduled presentation, and no action was taken pending the presentation later in the day.
G. District of Columbia Department of General Services
1. CFA 20/OCT/16-8, Orr Elementary School, 2200 Minnesota Avenue, SE. New replacement school building. Concept. Mr. Krieger suggested supporting the proposal on the basis of the submission materials that were circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting. The Commission adopted this action.
2. CFA 20/OCT/16-9, Murch Elementary School, 4810 36th Street, NW. Additions and building modernization. Final. (Previous: CFA 21/JUL/16-7.) Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission has reviewed this project previously. Ms. Gilbert observed that the design has changed only slightly from the revised concept submission, which the Commission had supported. Upon a motion by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the final design submission.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B.
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 20/OCT/16-1, National World War I Memorial. Pershing Park, Pennsylvania Avenue, between 14th and 15th Streets, NW. Concept. (Previous: CFA 19/NOV/15-1, Information Presentation.) Mr. Luebke introduced the concept design submission for a National World War I Memorial, authorized by Congress for a location in Pershing Park on Pennsylvania Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets, NW. The proposal, submitted by the National Park Service on behalf of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, would honor the service of the U.S. armed forces in World War I by redeveloping and enhancing Pershing Park with new landscaping, sculpture, and commemorative elements. He summarized the Commission's previous comments from the information presentation in November 2015 on the winners of the first stage of the design competition: the Commission members had supported the idea of enhancing the existing park but criticized the proposal to treat it as an isolated space within the memorial context of Pennsylvania Avenue; they also objected to the characterization of the park as a failed design.
Mr. Luebke said that the interagency consultation meetings on the site's preservation have resulted in an evolution of the design that retains more of the original design by landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg. The Centennial Commission has now selected a winning design, titled The Weight of Sacrifice, by Chicago architect Joseph Weishaar. The most important new element would be the addition of a long bas-relief sculpture on the west side of the park's internal plaza. He noted that letters in support of the proposed design have been received from two congressmen. He added that Commission member Elizabeth Meyer, who was not able to attend today's meeting, has provided written comments. He asked Peter May of the National Park Service, the Associate Regional Director for Lands and Planning of the National Capital Region, to begin the presentation.
Mr. May said that the design team has responded to the Commission's comments from the information presentation, as well as to comments received during consultations and the historic preservation review process. He described the goal of integrating the best features of the winning design with the existing design of Pershing Park. He introduced Edwin Fountain, vice chairman of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, to continue the presentation.
Mr. Fountain said that the Centennial Commission was chartered by Congress to develop suitable commemoration of the war's centennial, and the Commission asked Congress to authorize a national memorial in Washington that would meet three goals: it would be similar in weight and dignity to the three memorials on the Mall commemorating the other major 20th-century wars; it would convey the nature and scale of American sacrifice in World War I; and it would convey the significance of World War I on the U.S. and the world as a whole.
Mr. Fountain said that a memorial at Pershing Park would differ from the Mall memorials by also serving as a park. The site, currently a historically significant park with a memorial element, would be transformed into a site that is primarily a memorial within an urban park. He described the two-stage competition process and the historic preservation review, resulting in the competition jury's unanimous recommendation of this design, both for its own merits and for possessing the greatest potential to preserve key elements of the existing Pershing Park design. He mentioned that a Determination of Eligibility for listing of Pershing Park on the National Register of Historic Places has been prepared. He said that today's presentation would focus on the overall park design; the proposed sculptural element will be submitted later. He introduced Phoebe Lickwar of FORGE Landscape Architecture to present the design.
Ms. Lickwar said that the design team has tried to balance three objectives: expanding the commemorative identity of Pershing Park to serve as a National World War I Memorial; respecting the legacy of the design by M. Paul Friedberg and architect Wallace K. Harrison; and rehabilitating the park to meet contemporary needs of accessibility, safety, and sustainability.
Ms. Lickwar described the site as the junction between the monumental core to the south and west and the downtown area to the north and east. She noted that Pennsylvania Avenue—which splits to run along both the north and south sides of the park—forms the symbolic and physical connection between the White House and the Capitol; the proposed memorial is expected to help revitalize the avenue's public realm. She summarized the history of the site, noting that in the 1960s, under the District's beautification program spearheaded by Lady Bird Johnson, the flat site had been planted with flowering bulbs and annuals. In 1974, the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation proposed the site's redesign as a ceremonial streetscape. Soon after the park was completed in 1981, its planting was redesigned by the landscape architecture firm Oehme, van Sweden; some of this planting remains. In 2006, several of the park's deteriorated public facilities were closed, including the concessions kiosk and the central water feature and ice rink.
Ms. Lickwar said that the project team has identified significant features to enhance, among them the central water feature and the Pershing memorial, as well as accessibility visibility into the site. The concept proposes retaining the water feature as a public oasis. She said that stairs and platforms make access to the park's central space relatively difficult, with barrier-free access only at the northwest corner and at mid-block along Pennsylvania Avenue on the north. While the surrounding high berms provide a sense of quiet enclosure to the park's interior, she said that they block views and would be lowered slightly.
Ms. Lickwar described the Pershing memorial, which is a contributing element within the Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site. Two walls and a statue of Gen. John J. Pershing define the precinct, which is a memorial to Pershing and the American Expeditionary Force rather than to the overall service of Americans in World War I. She said that the proposed design would improve the memorial's integration with the site, and also increase the legibility of the inscriptions on the memorial's walls.
Ms. Lickwar described the competition-winning design, acknowledging concerns that it did not adequately address the historic landscape design. She said that it featured an elevated plaza where the pool basin currently exists; a commemorative wall in bas relief was proposed on the walls of the raised plaza. The berms at the site perimeter were proposed to be lowered on their inside edges to increase visibility into the park. The revised scheme proposes "maintaining" the existing character-defining features of the park, including the park's spatial organization, berms, and the circular seating alcoves along the elevated walk at the west. Access would be improved by creating the new entrance through the southern berm, larger entrances at the corners, and a wider sidewalk along Pennsylvania Avenue on the south. Some trees would be retained across the site. The general concept of stepped terraces and planters on the south side of the central space would remain, and the configuration of planters and stairs on the north would be shifted slightly south. The Pershing memorial would be reinstalled in its current location and a new commemorative element, the Memorial Wall, would be added on the west. The proposed 75-foot-long bronze bas-relief would depict a three-part narrative commemorating the heroism of Americans during World War I. She emphasized that the proposed design would maintain the general topographic relationships of the existing park.
Mr. Krieger asked for clarification of the proposed changes to the height of the berms. Ms. Lickwar responded that changes would range from a reduction of 1.25 feet at the west to as much as five feet at the east. She said that the original Oehme, van Sweden planting palette of native and adapted trees, grasses, and perennials would be augmented with new plantings to increase species diversity, with a focus on low-maintenance, sustainable plantings. To allow each tree an adequate volume of soil, fewer trees would be planted within the berms, although they would be planted in the same pattern as existing trees. Mr. Powell asked if the presentation includes a view of the proposed lower berms along the south. Ms. Lickwar responded that the existing southern berm increases in height as it follows an ascending ramp; she said that this berm would still rise but its height would be lowered, in response to the new grading of the site as a whole.
Mr. Dunson commented that the presentation included conflicting statements about the berms—that they would not remain, and that they would remain but would be lowered—and he asked for more definitive information. Ms. Lickwar responded that there are currently berms in the park. Mr. Dunson observed that the concept resembles the existing design, but the presentation suggested that berms would actually be removed, and he asked for clarification of the discrepancy. Referring to a diagram, Ms. Lickwar indicated the "slight modifications" to the berms to permit expansion of the Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk on the south and to allow paths or stairs to pass through the berms in a few areas, but otherwise the proposed plan is the same as the existing. The height reduction on the inside edges of the berms, as previously noted, would range from 1.25 feet at the west to a maximum of 5.43 feet at the east. Mr. Luebke asked her to clarify if the plaza of the Pershing memorial would also be at a different elevation; Ms. Lickwar responded that it would be lowered 2.8 feet to create accessible entry from the southeast corner and an accessible route between the Pershing memorial and the new Memorial Wall.
Ms. Gilbert observed that the proposed plan would essentially flatten the entire original Friedberg design—whose major component is topography, defined by its sculptural quality, scale, width, and height. Ms. Lickwar acknowledged that the site would not be entirely flattened: an elevated walkway at the west and a lower central space would remain, while the steps and an inaccessible ramp would be eliminated.
Mr. Dunson commented that the proposed changes are more subtle than he had originally thought, but he emphasized the need for sectional drawings. He said that the issue involves grade changes as well as changes to the berms, which are the signature element of the Friedberg design. The Commission is having difficulty in evaluating whether the proposal would enhance or detract from the park, due to the lack of adequate sections or models to compare existing and proposed conditions. He reiterated that Ms. Lickwar's description did not correspond with the presented graphics. Ms. Gilbert commented that lowering a berm by four feet would actually be a major change. She said that Ms. Lickwar had implied the topography would be extensively flattened, but judging the extent of such changes is difficult with the vague illustrations. She noted the importance of seeing side-by-side sections of the existing and proposed designs; Mr. Powell agreed, and Mr. Dunson said that side-by-side comparisons are necessary for discussion of the park's significance.
Mr. Krieger said that the drawings give the appearance that the proposed changes would be more drastic than was described, leading him to wonder whether he is misinterpreting the drawings or whether Ms. Lickwar did not accurately describe the proposal. He said that the submission materials should also include a plan at a larger scale. He asked if the design team has studied whether the accessibility problems could be solved without changing the berms. He said that the photograph of the berms rising above eye level is compelling, and a comparable image should be provided that depicts the appearance of the reshaped berm; without such comparisons, the significance of the proposed changes is difficult to understand.
Ms. Gilbert emphasized that the concept proposes not only lowering the berms but also narrowing them and therefore altering their shape. She asked how much the south sidewalk would be widened; Ms. Lickwar responded that it would be widened from the narrow existing width of ten feet. She added that another goal is to improve visibility into the park, particularly from the south and east. Ms. Gilbert said that the revised design shows the park as much more open toward the north facing the Willard Hotel, an area that would have much activity.
Mr. Dunson observed that problems with safety and poor visibility in the existing park are due to the lowered center plaza, but since the concept design proposes raising this area, as well as increasing the park's openness to the north, this concern would be eliminated. He commented that the key design elements have been retained, even if they would be reduced in size. He concluded that the proposed changes may be reasonable, but without documentation of side-by-side comparisons, the Commission cannot assess the design; Chairman Powell agreed.
Mr. Krieger commented that he had not been in favor of the proposed design at first, believing it was a reconceptualization rather than a preservation of the existing design. However, he said that the presentation has led him to reconsider his opinion, although he is still unsure how spatially significant the proposed changes would be. He said that if the changes are significant, affecting such defining features as dimensions, sections, and access points, the redesign could not be called an act of preservation; but if they are not very significant, he would suggest developing this proposal. He reiterated that not enough information is conveyed in the presented drawings to justify approval of the concept; Chairman Powell supported this conclusion.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the proposed scrim of water and lawn panel would create a different experience than the existing water feature, primarily because of their smaller scale. She suggested creating a single large scrim of water and eliminating the lawn. While she supported the proposal to improve circulation through the site, she emphasized that the Friedberg design is not a failure—but is instead a design with strong components that has had problems because it has not been maintained. She requested further documentation of the concept design, including sections, to understand the changes proposed for the topography.
Chairman Powell noted the consensus of the Commission members that more information, particularly comparative sections, is necessary to evaluate the proposal. Mr. Luebke summarized the comments sent by Commission member Elizabeth Meyer: Ms. Meyer expresses concern that the submission is neither a proposal for a new memorial design nor an appropriate rehabilitation of a significant cultural landscape, and she therefore does not support the concept. She urges the project team to begin again by documenting the park, diagramming the new design, and transforming the character-defining features incrementally to demonstrate the minimal nature of the rehabilitation; this study would reveal whether or not creating a commemorative landscape is feasible within an authentic rehabilitation scheme. If not, she advises that the Memorial Commission should either prepare a new design or find a new site.
Chairman Powell noted that Ms. Meyer's comments are stronger than those of the other members. He conveyed the Commission's appreciation to the project team and expressed the Commission's confidence and continuing interest in the project. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
2. CFA 20/OCT/16-2, Rock Creek Park/Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, multi-use trails from M Street to Broad Branch Road and Arkansas Avenue, NW. New pedestrian bridge over Rock Creek. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposal for a new pedestrian bridge in the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway section of Rock Creek Park, submitted by the National Park Service on behalf of the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT). The bridge would span Rock Creek immediately south of the Beach Drive tunnel beneath the National Zoological Park, adjacent to an existing vehicular bridge that carries Beach Drive over Rock Creek. She noted that the pedestrian bridge is part of a larger project now underway to resurface and slightly widen the multi-use trails in Rock Creek Park from M Street to Broad Branch Road.
Ms. Batcheler asked Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation. Mr. May emphasized that the pedestrian bridge would be a critical piece of the parkway rehabilitation. He introduced Paul Hoffman of DDOT, who asked engineer Steve Zeender of Stantec and bridge engineer Inmar Badwan of T.Y. Lin International to present the design.
Mr. Zeender said that work on the larger project of trail rehabilitation began in 2011 with an Environmental Assessment; the resulting Finding of No Significant Impact was completed in 2014. In 2015, the Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division of the Federal Highway Administration took on portions of this project, including the reconstruction of Beach Drive, and will continue the design work for trails begun by DDOT and the National Park Service. He said that construction of the pedestrian bridge is expected to begin in summer 2017; the project also includes stabilization of the adjacent bank on the north side of Rock Creek.
Mr. Zeender said that the Beach Drive tunnel and existing parkway bridge over the creek comprise what is likely the most constricted section of the Rock Creek Trail. Just north of the parkway bridge, the tunnel passes through a high rocky outcrop on zoo property. The Rock Creek Trail passes around this outcrop through the zoo, but this segment of the trail is closed during hours when the zoo is closed, from dusk till dawn; the tunnel provides an alternative route for trail users. The Beach Drive vehicular bridge curves as it approaches the tunnel, and the existing trail bends sharply to join it. The sidewalks in this area are very narrow—approximately three feet wide on the bridge, and slightly narrower in the tunnel.
Mr. Zeender said that widening the existing bridge is not technically feasible, and a new pedestrian bridge is therefore proposed. The location chosen for the pedestrian bridge is north of the existing bridge. The area to the south includes a floodplain bordered by woods; the steep, eroded north bank of Rock Creek is stabilized only by trees. Two sewer lines run through the area, including a 42-inch combined sewer near the projected route of the new bridge; the structural footings of the new bridge abutments must be located at least five feet from the sewer. The pedestrian bridge would be ten feet wide, and the sidewalk in the tunnel would be widened to approximately four feet.
Mr. Zeender described the poor sightlines at the existing junction of the trail through the zoo and the tunnel sidewalk. Safety improvements to the junction would include adding a limited amount of signage or markings to facilitate movement from the zoo segment of the trail onto the bridge. He said that other footbridges in this section of the park date from the 1930s and have timber railings. He asked Mr. Badwan to describe the proposed bridge design in more detail.
Mr. Badwan said that the bridge would be located approximately 45 feet upstream of the existing vehicular bridge; this northward placement would provide a safe connection for people approaching from the north and also avoids conflict with the sewer. He said that the proposed siting allows a straight alignment across the creek and would have a comparatively low impact on trees and plants. The concrete in both options would have a dark finish. The facing of the abutments would be natural stone with colored mortar joints, resembling the stonework on the other bridge and around the mouth of the tunnel. The bridge structure would be a series of concrete panels in a gently arching form, which is similar to other footbridges in the park, and a two-inch layer of asphalt laid over this concrete substructure would match the paving of the trail. He presented two options for the horizontal elements of the bridge railings: thin cables, and larger steel railings painted a dark color to resemble split timber. The design would incorporate a low level of lighting. He added that a secondary span over the west floodplain is also being considered, although the resulting configuration of abutments may have a negative effect on the creek's hydraulics and on flooding.
Mr. Zeender continued on behalf of the project's landscape architect, Kathleen Dahill, who could not attend the meeting. He said that the proposed new plantings are intended to create environmental diversity and wildlife habitat, to mitigate the loss of wildlife species from the existing forest, and to provide stabilization; the palette has been developed for hardiness and deer resistance. Forest plantings would include canopy trees such as beech and white oak, with perennial mayapple in the upland area and on slopes. Plantings in the floodplain would include sycamore and green ash, while sycamore, beech, tulip poplar, oak, hornbeam, and hickory trees and viburnum shrubs are proposed for the managed grass area. Two existing mature sycamore trees between the roadway bridge and proposed pedestrian bridge would be protected as a partial buffer between the road and the trail. He said that additional plantings would be installed to discourage trail users from creating a social trail to the roadway bridge.
Mr. Zeender described the proposed treatment of the junction of the main Rock Creek Trail with the zoo segment of the trail and the alternative route on the sidewalk in the tunnel. The grade near the tunnel entrance would be pulled back to eliminate the blind corner, and several terraced planters would be built against the retaining wall next to the tunnel entrance. On the north bank, where the creek is undermining the trail, trees would be removed and the bank would be reinforced with a vegetated geogrid; the appearance would be comparable to other local park projects. Stone similar to varieties used in the park would be used; he said that these stones tend to develop a green patina over time.
Ms. Gilbert observed that trees now grow on the bank of Rock Creek, and she asked why the bank stabilization proposal indicates that only shrubs would be planted instead of trees. Mr. Zeender responded that the vegetated geogrids would not allow enough space for new trees, and the tree roots would undermine the stability of the bank. Ms. Gilbert commented that the proposed plantings would all be low and would have rocks in front of them, and she recommended a more varied design. She also commented that the proposed treatment of the terraced wall next to the tunnel opening would be too conspicuous and would obscure the junction of the bridge with the ground; the amount of planting proposed for this location would further interfere with the desired broad view. She recommended redesigning this area to extend the woodland character that is important to the Rock Creek valley, instead of the proposal to create tiered planting beds. For the plant selections, she recommended specifying native plantings without using cultivars, which tend to have small, compact growth habit that would be inappropriate for this woodland location. Mr. Krieger supported Ms. Gilbert's comments, and Mr. Zeender agreed to these changes.
Ms. Gilbert asked if the dark metal railings of the second proposed option for the pedestrian bridge could be thinner; Mr. Badwan responded that this option is intended to mimic timber railings. Mr. Krieger recommended choosing the option of thin cables as a more transparent design, commenting that this would help attract pedestrians to the bridge; Mr. Powell and Ms. Gilbert agreed. Mr. May noted that the National Park Service strongly favors the cable rail for this reason.
Ms. Gilbert asked if other pedestrian bridges in the area are lighted. Mr. May responded that this would be the first such bridge in the park to be lighted, adding that the National Park Service tries to keep lighting minimal in the parkways; he said that most of the park's pedestrian bridges receive ambient light from nearby roads, but as this bridge would be separated from the road, it would need its own lighting. He added that he hopes to reduce the lighting brightness from the current design shown for the cable rail option. The Commission members agreed the lighting should be as subtle as possible.
Mr. Krieger commented that the overall concept is reasonable; Ms. Gilbert agreed. Upon a motion by Ms. Gilbert with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the concept submission.
C. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 20/OCT/16-3, National Museum of Natural History, 10th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW. Access ramps at south entrance (Madison Drive). Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 16/JUN/16-6.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the revised concept proposal for the construction of two new ramps for barrier-free access at the south entrance of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. She said that the Commission last reviewed the project in June 2016, approving the general location and configuration of the ramps but expressing concern about the character of their design. She asked Ann Trowbridge of the Smithsonian Institution to begin the presentation.
Ms. Trowbridge noted the opening in September 2016 of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and she thanked the Commission and staff for their work over several years in reviewing designs for the museum. She said that the Smithsonian would like to begin construction of the proposed ramps for the Natural History Museum in approximately one year, which would also coincide with a major cleaning and repair of the existing entrance area and its retaining walls, which were installed in the 1960s. She introduced architect Alyson Steele of Quinn Evans Architects and landscape architect Claire Bedat of AECOM to present the design.
Ms. Steele said that the majority of the museum's seven million visitors use the Mall-facing south entrance, which is close to an accessible parking area, a bus drop-off, and the Smithsonian Metro Station. However, access to this entrance requires ascending two short flights of steps. She said that the Smithsonian Office of Accessibility estimated that a person unable to use steps would need approximately fifteen minutes to travel from the south entrance to the accessible north entrance, resulting in a large investment of time compared to the typical museum visit of two hours. She said that addition of the two symmetrical ramps, each with grades of under five percent, would improve the entrance's accessibility.
Ms. Steele described the operating procedures for this entrance area. Currently, one Smithsonian visitor experience staff person works at the south entrance to prepare visitors for security screening and to bring order to the busy and active space. She said that when the new ramps are complete, the Smithsonian would increase the staff assignment to two, and on busy days to three; the museum's administrators believe the staff would be able to manage effectively the new ramps and ensure an improved visitor experience. She said that the Smithsonian is also committed to keeping open the existing entry stairs for regular use.
Ms. Steele presented the revised design of the proposed ramps. She said that the scale has been reduced for the perimeter security barriers that form the base of the ascending walkways; they would resemble low garden walls and would be obscured by vegetation. Continuous metal handrails would line each side of the ramp, from the sidewalk level to the entry portico; paneled railings, which would function as guardrails, would begin at the ramps' landings at the switchbacks and continue to the entry portico. She said that this simplified railing design is intended to appear as a light, continuous ribbon lining the walkways, rather than the heavier design that was presented previously. She said that the design team is continuing to work on refining various details of the ramps: how the ramps and railings turn corners, how the railings end, how plantings and trees can enhance the character of the ramps, and the back side of the ramp structure adjacent to the sunken service drive and areaway along the building facade.
Ms. Bedat presented several section drawings of the proposed design, indicating the intent to distinguish the ramps as new elements complementary to the existing building by disengaging the new structure from the building's facade. The ramps would also be separated and distinguished from the ground-level sidewalks by using the parterre-like planting beds to create portals into the walkways. At each of these portals, the name of the museum would be carved into the stone walls that form the base of the upper ramps. She said that the carving would be similar in character to the stone inscriptions of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial located on the western edge of the Tidal Basin.
Ms. Bedat said that the proposed veneer stone for the ramp walls is Lake Placid granite, which is intended to be complementary to the rustication and coursing of the museum's Milford Pink granite base. Striated bands would be either sandblasted or honed, and the field would have a thermal finish. She said that this patterning would give the walls contrast and shadow, and it would also be used on the rear of the ramp structure. The surface of the walkways would be an exposed aggregate concrete. One aggregate color option would combine a light-colored marble with a dark granite for a high-contrast appearance; an alternative design would pair light-colored pebbles with rose-colored marble set in a light-colored concrete mix for a lower-contrast appearance. She also presented several paving patterns; the preferred option is a gradient pattern with light-colored aggregate down the middle and darker-colored aggregate at the edges, a pattern that she said would improve the perception for people with impaired vision. Other patterns studied include striated and randomized aggregate banding.
Ms. Bedat said that the planting plan is still being refined, and it is intended to engage the new ramp structures while allowing for more open, reciprocal views between the sidewalk and the museum entrance. She said that the design team is working with Smithsonian staff to increase the level of biodiversity on the site by providing habitats for birds. Trees planted along the base of the walkways would provide shade for pedestrians; the trees under consideration include the 'Princeton' and 'Valley Forge' cultivars of the American elm tree. Evergreen shrubs would provide fragrance and winter foliage.
Ms. Bedat described the proposed design for the ramp railings, which is intended to be more light, dynamic, and innovative than in the previous submission. She said that the design team studied twelve different design options for the railings, including a perforated metal panel system, a glass panel system, and the previously presented post-and-panel option, which was derived from the golden ratio patterning of the museum fenestration's mullions. She said that the preferred option is a stainless steel panel, punched with a figural pattern suggesting grass blades that form the vertical pickets. The railing would be notched into the masonry structure of the walls that line the walkways and would be fully integrated into the stone coping and panel details of the walls. The planters on the masonry plinths at the top of the stairs, added in the 1980s, would be removed and replaced with large, rectangular lanterns encased with figurative grass-themed panels similar to the railing panels, creating upper-level gateways for the ramps.
Ms. Bedat said that an LED light strip would be installed under the handrails to illuminate the walkways of the ramps. Recessed linear LED lights would also be placed underneath the curved benches on the ramp landings and would be used to cast a wash of light on the exterior museum signage. She said that the lighting would be subdued to avoid competing with the lighting of the Mall.
Ms. Gilbert asked for clarification of the handrail design and the depth of the proposed grass-themed panels; she emphasized that the shadowing on the panels would be important to the overall appearance of the ramps. Ms. Bedat responded that the design of the handrail will be developed further; its basic form would be round, and the top of the railing will be refined to be flatter and more elegant. She said that the panels would be produced using a punched fabrication method, rendering the grass blades in a single plane.
Mr. Krieger commented that the overall proposal is fairly elegant and an interesting combination of traditional and modern design. Mr. Powell and Mr. Dunson also commented favorably on the proposed design of the ramps. Mr. Krieger asked for further clarification of the panel design, observing that the presented renderings show the grass blades layered in multiple planes with shadow lines. Ms. Bedat said that two layers of panels would be used, but each would be a flat plane. Mr. Krieger said that he prefers the railings as depicted in the renderings, while acknowledging that a more three-dimensional design would likely be more complicated to fabricate. Ms. Gilbert asked about the apparent color contrast of the layers of metal panels; Ms. Bedat clarified that they would all be the same color, and the contrast in the renderings is the result of shadowing. Ms. Gilbert asked if the design of the panels could feature more irregular gaps between the blades and the top of the railing; she suggested that this effect could be achieved by terminating some of the smaller grass pickets below the top rail. Ms. Bedat offered to study this idea.
Mr. Krieger asked how the handrail would connect to the panels. Ms. Bedat responded that some grass blades would fold out toward the walkway to carry the handrail; these blades would be welded to the panel behind. She added that the larger grass blades would serve as structural supports for the cap of the railings. Ms. Gilbert asked for clarification of the connection detail between the railing and the stone base. Ms. Bedat said that the pickets would be welded to a metal flange at the base of the stone coping; the flange would appear as a continuous band below the coping, and a notch would allow for drainage.
Ms. Gilbert asked if the proposed colors of the exposed aggregate on the ramps would match the sidewalks. Ms. Bedat responded that the colors would be different from those of the sidewalks, but would be complementary to the ramp walls and the museum building; mockups would be built to judge the appropriateness of the color compositions. Mr. Krieger asked if the benches on the switchback landings were part of the previous submission. Ms. Bedat said that these curved, cantilevered stone benches were not included in the previous design, and they would be composed of the same stone proposed for the ramp walls.
Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the revised concept design with the comments provided.
D. General Services Administration
1. CFA 20/OCT/16-4, Department of Homeland Security Headquarters, St. Elizabeths West Campus, 2700 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE. Center Building. West Addition. Concept. (Previous: CFA 21/JUL/16-4.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the second concept submission for an addition at the west end of the historic Center Building at the St. Elizabeths West Campus. She said that the Commission did not take an action on the previous submission in July 2016, instead requesting the development of a new concept design. She asked Mina Wright of the General Services Administration to begin the presentation.
Ms. Wright said that the design team has considered the Commission's previous comments in preparing the new design; she added that many on the project team agreed with the Commission's concerns. She introduced architect Todd Symonds of Goody Clancy HDR and landscape architect Elliot Rhodeside of Rhodeside & Harwell to present the design.
Mr. Symonds expressed appreciation for the Commission's previous comments, which inspired careful reconsideration of the project's central issues. He summarized the project site, located between the Center Building, the historic Creamery building, and the recently constructed Munro Building, which houses the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters. He described the Commission's previous concern that the design was too timid and did not adequately address the context. He said that the previous design had a bifurcated character that was distracting and reduced the building's visual strength within the context. He also noted the Commission's guidance to consider more carefully the pastoral character of the campus.
Mr. Symonds presented photographs of the site, indicating the significant slope of approximately ten feet from north to south; the proposed massing is intended to respond to this topography. Further study of the previously proposed massing has resulted in the conclusion that it was too complex; the current proposal therefore has a bolder, simpler massing that emphasizes the building's strong organizing spine framed by two volumes. The revised massing also allows a further setback from the facade alignment of the Center Building and a lower height for one of the volumes, improving the visibility of the Center Building as people approach it. The character of the multiple facades has been simplified to a more consistent treatment, emphasizing the primary materials of terra cotta and glass. The entrance location has been moved further down the slope, simplifying the approach walk and providing a more gracious design. He presented comparative drawings of the previous and current proposals for the building's footprint and massing, noting the adjustments while keeping the building at approximately the same location.
Mr. Rhodeside described the continuing effort to design the site in relation to the immediate context as well as the pastoral character of the overall campus. An additional challenge has been the grading of the entrance walk to provide barrier-free access within the sloping site; he indicated the accessible approach route along Birch Street, and the curving downward slope of less than four percent to the proposed lobby entrance. He said that the curved plan of the entrance walk relates to the nearby curving street and to the pedestrian circulation pattern. The site design around the south-facing entrance has been developed further; additional elements include a low seating wall to the east of the entrance, a sweep of ornamental grasses at each side, and flanking deciduous shade trees. He said that the trees would be located away from the building to allow views of the facade. The small site area at the addition's north side accommodates several emergency egress routes, and the landscape in this area is intended to be simple and calm. The west side of the site is intended as a contemplative area that could accommodate lunchtime seating; the east side of the site would have a walkway and is intended for further development when the nearby Creamery building is renovated. He said that the plantings would generally be informal in character, with an emphasis on an open landscape, and the entrance area would emphasize a subtle shift in texture between grass and ornamental plantings.
Mr. Symonds concluded with a series of perspective renderings to illustrate the proposal. He emphasized the more unified treatment of materials in the current proposal, with the glass facades visible through a screen, or "veil," of terra cotta panels; the circulation spine would be strongly expressed with a vertical glass-enclosed stairwell projecting from the south facade. The building's rusticated base of brick would be interrupted for the glazed entrance lobby. He said that the vertical emphasis of the facades and horizontal emphasis of the base would relate to the architecture of the Center Building. The varying sunlight effects on the terra cotta and glass would give the building a changing appearance at different times of the day. He indicated the emphasis given to the entrance by using more glass and less terra cotta on the facade above, in response to the Commission's previous guidance to strengthen the entrance design. The upper volume of the building would overhang the entrance, and the glass soffit treatment would relate to the vestibule design to unify the entry sequence. He indicated the shaping of the topography and the use of low site walls as part of the transition in the grade and plantings. He also emphasized the improved visibility of the Center Building due to the adjustment in the massing of the addition. The area of connection to the Center Building would use a contrasting material to provide a sense of separation; Mr. Rhodeside added that a bench may be added to the design for this area.
Mr. Krieger observed that most of the entry level would be windowless and partially buried within the grade; he asked if this is consistent with the planned uses in this area. Mr. Symonds responded that the program for the entrance floor includes extensive mechanical space and a conference and training facility, all of which do not require daylight. He added that fenestration within the base was considered, but the conclusion was that the building design is stronger with a simple, windowless base.
Chairman Powell commended the design team for the progress in revising the design in response to the Commission's previous comments. Mr. Krieger asked for clarification of the intended wall assembly; Mr. Symonds responded that the terra cotta would be treated as a veil across the facade, using four panel sizes with widths ranging from 8 to 35 inches. The panels would be fastened to a one-story-high substructure that would be attached to the building frame. Horizontal bands of dark metal would be visible as part of the framing system, aligned with the floor levels and serving as visual datum lines; the mullions of the curtainwall system would also be partially visible. The plane of the terra cotta would be approximately eight inches in front of the glazed curtainwall.
Ms. Gilbert questioned the design of the entrance area, commenting that the grading is unclear and the planting proposal seems insufficiently developed; she suggested a bigger sweep of contrasting plantings to give emphasis to the entrance. Mr. Rhodeside agreed that further study of this landscape area is needed, and several ideas have been explored in the weeks since the current proposal was submitted to the Commission. He said that the proposed sweep of plantings is quite large but could be made larger; the intent is to create contrast with the landscape of lawn and trees. He added that further study is needed to relate the landscape curves and seating wall to the context, and the presented rendering may not match the site plan. He said that the overall direction of design refinement for this area has been to make the entranceway smaller, and the amount of hardscape shown in the current design seems appropriate. Ms. Gilbert asked if trees could be added near the entrance plaza; Mr. Symonds responded that the placement of trees is still being studied, with the goal of ensuring that the building is visible from a variety of angles. Ms. Gilbert suggested extending the placement of trees to wrap around to the south side of the building. Chairman Powell noted that these issues could be addressed as the design is developed from the current concept level.
Mr. Luebke asked for comments on the proposed massing and the treatment of the glazed central circulation spine and projecting stairwell, which is not differentiated in height from the adjacent eastern building volume. Mr. Krieger said that the overall design has improved substantially; he supported the simplification of the massing, the adjustment to increase the visibility of the Center Building, and the sophisticated treatment of the exterior materials. He said that the design of the entrance and adjacent landscape remains problematic, giving the appearance of a "mouse-hole" as people descend and walk beneath the overhanging upper stories to reach the entrance doors. Based on inspection of the physical model, he said that a person approaching the building would not expect the entrance to be at the proposed location, although the perspective renderings show this area to be less problematic. He suggested further study of this area, going beyond the intended revision of the seating wall design.
Mr. Krieger asked if the apparently random pattern of the terra cotta panels would respond to the solar orientation of each facade. He said that a solar logic might result in slight adjustments to the design, which could be developed later in the design process. He added that the glass circulation spine and stairwell enclosure appears too diagrammatic in the renderings; he noted the southern exposure of the stairwell and suggested a large specimen tree to shade it. He summarized the need for more nuance and refinement in materials and details as well as further study of the entrance, while reiterating that the current design shows great progress from the previous submission. Ms. Gilbert observed that the height of the glass circulation spine appears to be different in various drawings.
Mr. Symonds responded that the roofline of the glass enclosure would be horizontal, and its height is intended to match the three-story volume of the proposed addition; this height has been selected to relate well to the existing parapet of the Center Building. He said that the views from different locations give the impression of varying height due to the perspective angles. He added that a taller or shorter treatment of the glass element was considered, but either alternative seemed to introduce unwanted complexity; the conclusion was to hold to a consistent datum for the roofline. In response to the issue of solar orientation for the terra cotta panels, he said that the proposal is a consistent treatment of the terra cotta on all facades; he noted the previous problem of a distracting excess of variety among the facades. He said that the terra cotta would provide ample shade for the curtainwall, and the curtainwall itself includes a significant proportion of spandrel glass. The proposed design is therefore comfortably within the sustainability guidelines for glass exposure on a high-performance building. He agreed that the glass treatment at the circulation spine requires further study, perhaps with the introduction of a frit pattern to provide solar protection. However, he noted that this area is simply a circulation space for transitory use; the design emphasis is on its visual effect in tying together the building masses and relating to the Center Building. Mr. Krieger said that the detailing of this glass wall seems less architectural than at other parts of the building exterior, and it is depicted somewhat unrealistically as merely thin glass; he encouraged further study of this feature, perhaps lessening the overly dramatic separation of the building volumes. He also reiterated the recommendation for further study of the entrance area; Ms. Gilbert agreed, commenting that the extensive overhang results in a dark entrance.
Chairman Powell summarized the apparent consensus to approve the concept submission with the comments provided. Upon a second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted this action.
2. CFA 20/OCT/16-5, Department of Homeland Security Headquarters, St. Elizabeths West Campus and Shepherd Parkway. New Off-Site West Access Road and improvements to the I-295/Malcolm X Avenue Interchange. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/APR/15-4.) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
E. District of Columbia Public Library
CFA 20/OCT/16-6, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW. Building renovation, alterations and expansion. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/JUL/15- 3.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced Richard Reyes-Gavilan, executive director of the D.C. Public Library, to begin the presentation of the proposed final design for renovation of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library. Mr. Reyes-Gavilan expressed appreciation for the collaborative design process that has involved the Commission members and the staff, along with other government agencies and many D.C. residents. He acknowledged the numerous comments that have been received throughout the process, resulting in refinement of the design and the inclusion of features that will appeal to many people. He also expressed appreciation for the design team of Mecanoo and Martinez+Johnson; he introduced Tom Johnson of Martinez+Johnson, the lead preservation architect, to present the proposal.
Mr. Johnson joined in acknowledging the benefits of the collaborative design process, and he said that the design incorporates suggestions from both the government review agencies and the general public. He noted that the presentation booklets include extensive documentation of the proposal, while the presentation will focus on issues that were previously identified by the Commission.
Mr. Johnson said that the existing library was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in the mid-1960s and was completed in 1972; it is Mies' only building in Washington. He emphasized that the character of the neighborhood has subsequently changed significantly; as an example, the vacant lots and small row houses across G Place to the north have been replaced by a government office building. He cited the clarity, beauty, and rigor of the Mies design: a thirty-foot-square column grid; a five-foot-square module that extends from the site paving to the building's interior; four vertical cores that serve to organize the plan; and a column-free central area flanked by reading rooms on each floor. He also noted the naming of the building as an early memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and he indicated the interior mural depicting Dr. King's life, which was installed after the building's completion.
Mr. Johnson described the problems to be addressed in the renovation project. The exterior curtainwall system is more than forty years old, and its problems include peeling paint, cracking windows, and infiltration of air and water. The building's mechanical and structural systems also require updating. Some of the five-foot-square exterior granite pavers have cracked, and the buff brick site wall around three sides of the building shows visible signs of movement. The building's vertical circulation is not readily legible to the library's users. He noted that Mies designed numerous one- and two-story buildings, as well as very tall buildings, but few with the intermediate height of this library; he said that the building has the character of several one-story buildings that are merely stacked on top of each other. He presented photographs of the unwelcoming stairwells that are difficult to find, an undesirable situation for this moderate-height public building.
Mr. Johnson described the building's protection under historic preservation laws, which he said is notable for extending to the interior and for protecting a building that dates from only the early 1970s. The protected features included the exterior of the building and site including the first-floor loggia; the first-floor great hall; and other interior spaces with varying degrees of protection. He said that the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board had already accepted modest interventions as part of the building's ongoing maintenance and management; the current challenge is how to design additional interventions that would transform the building while maintaining the integrity of the original Mies design.
Mr. Johnson described the overall result of the renovation proposal as being not quite how Mies would have designed it, but generally maintaining the building's symmetry, horizontality, and relationship to the urban context. The building's main entrance area would be made more inviting and legible. The most significant proposal involves the four vertical cores, which would become partially glazed instead of enclosed by brick walls. The two cores nearest the entrance would become the public circulation, reversing the existing programming of the cores; the two new public stairwells in these cores would have a very contemporary character, distinct from the Miesian design vocabulary. Of the two vehicular ramps to the below-grade parking level, the northwest ramp would continue to serve as the vehicular access, while the northeast ramp would be eliminated to allow this corner of the site to be redesigned for active amenity spaces in the loggia, improving the connection between the loggia, first-floor reading rooms, and the surrounding city. He noted that 9th Street now has a continuum of pedestrian-oriented spaces, in contrast to the character of this area in the mid-1960s when the library was designed; the proposed design would create a small "pocket park" along the street, perhaps with a cafe. He said that an earlier proposal had been presented to convert the loading dock into a performance and assembly space opening into the north side of the great hall; however, after consultation with the D.C. Department of Transportation, this feature has been abandoned in order to allow the current loading configuration to remain.
Mr. Johnson presented sections and perspective views to illustrate the proposed design, emphasizing the prominence of the new staircases. He described several changes to the programming of the building. The meeting rooms, currently located in the first basement level, would instead be placed at the top of the building; this location would encourage people to move through the building, and the primary focus would be a two-story public auditorium rising from the fourth floor. The special collections area would also move to the fourth floor. The first-floor great hall would continue to serve as a gathering space, and its north wall would be activated to provide a visual focus as people enter the library. Many of the building's more actively used spaces would be placed along the G Street facade on the south, while staff offices would primarily be on the north side along alley-like G Place. The first basement level would contain additional staff work areas, along with some noise-generating public uses such as a fabrication lab. He illustrated the revised proposal for moveable furniture groupings in the reading rooms, noting that the design is more muted than an earlier proposal for bright red furniture that was not well received. The existing walled groupings of central rooms on the upper floors would be broken up to provide a column-free focal space on each floor, echoing the footprint of the great hall below. A portion of the ceiling of the third-floor east reading room would be opened into the fourth floor, creating a double-height space and helping to break down the existing separation of the building into horizontal layers.
Mr. Johnson described the proposed site treatment, which would largely be based on the Mies design. The deteriorating granite pavers would be restored or replaced, and street trees would similarly be replaced where necessary. Many of the interior linear ceiling lights, prominently visible at night through the building's glass facades, would continue to follow the building's design grid to emphasize the overall architecture; the fixtures would be modernized, and specialized lighting would be used in some locations such as the children's area. He said that the current view from the exterior is of the book stacks; this would be reversed, with more active zones placed along the windows while the books would be shelved away from the daylight. He indicated the locations along the south loggia where the existing vertical cores extend beyond the first-floor curtainwall facade; portions of the brick and metal walls of the cores would become glazed at the new, curvilinear public stairwells, serving to activate this area around the library's entrance. He noted that other service stairs would remain in the building, while the more prominent public stairs would be perceived as special places. He presented the proposed site plantings, some at street level and some in raised planters.
Mr. Johnson presented the proposal for a partial new fifth floor on the existing roof, which is currently unoccupied and contains only extensions of the four vertical cores. The new fifth floor would contain the upper entrance to the auditorium along with several other interior spaces and an extensive outdoor garden terrace providing interesting urban views. The design would combine curving and angled forms with the building's prevailing five-foot-square module. An unoccupied green roof would be constructed on top of the new fifth floor. He noted that the auditorium design is more contained than in the previous presentation.
Chairman Powell noted the lengthy multi-year consultation process for this project. Secretary Luebke said that the submission addresses most significant issues of the design, including the resolution of the northeast corner of the site; further review of the project's final documentation may be needed. Mr. Johnson confirmed that the design issues arising throughout the process have now been resolved.
Ms. Gilbert asked for further information about the proposed planters. Landscape architect Sheila Brady of Oehme, van Sweden responded that the planters would be constructed of anodized metal, matching the building facade material and having the same color tone. The drawings currently show benches with backrests along the planters, but she said that this detail is still being finalized.
Mr. Krieger and Mr. Dunson suggested approval of the final design submission. Upon a motion by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted this action. Mr. Johnson offered to leave the material finish boards for further review, noting that the D.C. Historic Preservation Office has already approved the selection.
Chairman Powell departed during the lunch break, resulting in the loss of a quorum. In the absence of the Vice Chairman, Mr. Krieger 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. District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities
CFA 20/OCT/16-7, K Street medians at the Washington Circle underpass, K Street between 21st and 22nd Streets, NW. Public art installation by Catherine Widgery. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the concept design for a public art installation by artist Catherine Widgery titled Leading Lights, submitted by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities on behalf of the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District (BID). The project would be located along K Street between 21st and 22nd Streets, NW, framing the east approach to the Washington Circle underpass. He asked Tonya Jordan, the public art coordinator for the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, to begin the presentation; Ms. Jordan introduced Ted Jutras of the Golden Triangle BID.
Mr. Jutras said that the art installation is intended to improve the pedestrian and driver experience of this segment of K Street, a gateway to the commercial district that is currently characterized by asphalt, concrete, and metal. He asked Catherine Widgery, who was selected following a national call for artists, to present the design.
Ms. Widgery described the proposed art installation as a series of 34 triangular columns of dichroic glass mounted on top of steel poles arranged in two parallel, equally spaced lines of seventeen columns placed within the existing two-foot-wide raised strips along the retaining walls of the K Street underpass approach. The steel poles would be attached to a metal flange, which would then be bolted into the concrete of the raised strips. She said that the artwork is intended to create the sense of a gateway and would animate the approach without dominating it. The dichroic glass would reflect many different colors of light and would potentially rotate on its vertical axis in the wind, making the artwork interactive with its environment. She said that the artwork is intended to be a dynamic, energized, and modern version of a colonnade, which would relate to the architectural vocabulary of Washington, D.C, and it is also intended to have a visual impact beyond its physical boundaries to animate the entire K Street corridor. She added that the open triangular form of the columns is similar to the logo of the Golden Triangle BID.
Ms. Widgery presented a one-fifth scale mockup of a glass column, which she said displays the rich and nuanced color potential of the proposed full-scale work. She described the special visual qualities of dichroic glass, imparted by a microlayer of metallic oxides fused to the glass; the effect would transition between mirrored light and a translucent or transparent appearance, depending on the angle and level of light that the glass is reflecting.
Describing the one-fifth scale mockup when it was installed outdoors at her studio, Ms. Widgery said that it reflected various colors onto surrounding surfaces, and the full-scale work would similarly project stripes of color on the surrounding streets, sidewalks, and buildings; a viewer would also be able to see reflections of the surroundings in the glass panes of the columns. She said that the column would seem to almost disappear in certain conditions, such as when seen against a gray sky. She also presented photographs of a full-scale glass column mockup constructed in Germany.
Ms. Widgery said that the glass columns would be illuminated at night with five-by-six-inch LED panels mounted atop each glass column; these would be powered by either a connection to the city's electrical grid or by individual solar panels and batteries. A white surface at the bottom of each column, opposite the light panel, would reflect light and illuminate the entire column. She suggested that the color effect at night would be more subtle than shown in the presented renderings.
Ms. Gilbert asked Ms. Widgery to clarify the height of the support poles and the glass columns; Ms. Widgery said that the poles would be eight feet tall and the glass columns 10.5 feet tall, totaling 18.5 feet. Ms. Gilbert asked if potential glare or unwanted refractions of bright light would be emitted from the columns onto the roadway; Ms. Widgery responded that glare and indirect light already shine onto streets and sidewalks from many sources, such as glass building facades and opening or closing storefront doors, but that people typically ignore these various reflections because they are so ubiquitous. Mr. Krieger questioned if the light reflected by Ms. Widgery's proposed artwork would be ignored in a similar fashion, or conversely, if the work would be too distracting; he said that either result would be problematic. Ms. Widgery emphasized her belief that the glass columns would reflect a rich quality of colors that would give the artwork a jewel-like appearance in an otherwise bleak setting.
Mr. Dunson reiterated the concern with potential glare emitted by the artwork and its effect on drivers, recommending that the issue be studied further. While expressing appreciation for this concern, Ms. Widgery emphasized that the glass columns would be substantially above eye level and therefore less likely to reflect glare into drivers' eyes. She suggested that the height of the support poles could be increased to mitigate negative effects on drivers and pedestrians, while reiterating that light reflections are ubiquitous in urban environments and that people would filter out distracting glare or light slivers. She added that a mockup of a column would be brought to the site to test its visual effects in various locations; Mr. Krieger recommended that the on-site mockup include at least two full-scale columns. He said that the design is fascinating and potentially beautiful, observing that many different reflections are visible in the glass model now displayed. However, he questioned the number of columns proposed, expressing reservations about the monumental quality of the thirty-four columns; he described their arrangement and spacing as having a militaristic quality. Ms. Widgery responded that she believes the scale and number of columns proposed is necessary to be impactful in this busy urban environment. She said that after studying the spacing during the development of the design, she has concluded that the selected distance creates an appropriate rhythm between each column for drivers and pedestrians; she compared this rhythm to trees spaced along a boulevard. Ms. Gilbert agreed that the proposed spacing may be appropriate for pedestrians, but commented that the rhythm may be less appropriate when viewed more quickly from a moving car. She suggested that the columns could be arranged in a staggered pattern with more spacing between them, making the columns appear to zig-zag and creating a favorable visual interaction with the trees planted along the sidewalks.
Mr. Dunson commented that the height of the columns and the spacing between them appear to be appropriate; he said that the overall effect of the installation is impressive and would create a gateway for this part of the city. However, he agreed that the overall concept needs to be tested in the field. Mr. Krieger said that a mockup with three columns may be more helpful. Ms. Widgery expressed appreciation for the comments and said that she would study further the number of columns and the spacing between them. She also suggested that just one column of the mockup be constructed of the proposed materials, which would weigh more than three hundred pounds, and that any additional mockup columns be constructed of a lighter material that would be easier to move and test.
Mr. Krieger observed that the effect of the proposed artwork would be difficult to predict, acknowledging the potentially powerful impact the installation could have on observers. He suggested that the artwork might be more effective at a scale where pedestrians could physically interact with the columns. Ms. Gilbert agreed, noting that pedestrians would want to walk around or turn the columns to observe the effects of the dichroic glass, and she expressed disappointment that the columns would not be installed along the sidewalks. Ms. Widgery responded that the site along the raised strips within the roadway was selected by the Golden Triangle BID, and the work would therefore not easily be directly accessible to pedestrians. However, she emphasized her belief that the light reflected and shadows cast by the columns would reach the surrounding sidewalks, allowing pedestrians to interact indirectly with the work.
Mr. Krieger observed that people in urban environments are often inundated with creative uses of light, citing Shanghai and Tokyo. He commented that he prefers the daytime views of the proposed columns because their lighting effects would potentially be more subtle; at night they would have the potential to be overwhelming, and he suggested trying to achieve a more subtle effect of coloring and intensity when lit at night. Ms. Widgery responded that the presented nighttime renderings exaggerate the color effects of the columns, and the color produced by the dichroic glass would in reality appear more subtle; she agreed that certain uses of light at night can be overwhelming to pedestrians and drivers. She added that the on-site mockup would aid in judging the color effects at night.
Mr. Krieger summarized the consensus that the design concept is promising, but that observation of the concept tested on site is needed before taking an action. The discussion concluded with the guidance that a full-scale mockup of several columns be installed and inspected in their intended locations to address the comments of the Commission. Secretary Luebke noted that the Commission members had also recommended further study of the spacing between the columns. The discussion concluded without a formal action; the comments were subject to confirmation by a quorum at the next meeting.
G. District of Columbia Department of General Services
1. CFA 20/OCT/16-8, Orr Elementary School, 2200 Minnesota Avenue, SE. New replacement school building. Concept. The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
2. CFA 20/OCT/16-9, Murch Elementary School, 4810 36th Street, NW. Additions and building modernization. Final. (Previous: CFA 21/JUL/16-7.) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
3. CFA 20/OCT/16-10, Edgewood Recreation Center, 301 Franklin Street, NE. Replacement recreation center building. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced architect Jon Guldenzopf from Moody Nolan to present the proposal for a new building to replace the Edgewood Recreation Center; architect Susan Hickey and landscape architect Holt Jordan from the project team also contributed to the discussion. Mr. Luebke noted that, in the absence of a quorum, the members' comments and recommendations would be forwarded for formal adoption at the Commission's November meeting.
Mr. Guldenzopf described the site's context in northeast Washington. The major roads bordering the site are Franklin Street to the north, Lincoln Road to the west, and Evarts and 3rd Streets to the south; Rhode Island Avenue is located several blocks south. Glenwood Cemetery lies across Lincoln Road, Trinity Washington University is located to the northwest, and brick apartment buildings are to the southeast. He added that the Brookland Metro stop is nearby with numerous bus routes passing through the neighborhood; he said that most pedestrians enter the site from Franklin Street on the north.
Mr. Guldenzopf described the site as characterized by steep drops in grade, particularly from north to south but also from east to west. He noted that a stream flowing through the site has long been buried, but its historic presence inspired the concept of a landscape design of flowing geometries, expressed in paving patterns and plantings that would move through the site in long curves from north to south and would help to negotiate the changes in grade. Several existing features would remain: tennis and basketball courts located on the northern part of the site, and a large playing field on the west. A "splash park" would be located in the center of the site near the convergence of the two major pedestrian paths, aligned with a new playground to the west. Community gardens would be located east of the splash park, at the site's highest point.
Mr. Guldenzopf indicated the location of the new recreation center, which would be built at the same location as the existing building on the east side of the site. Because of the slope, a portion of the building would be set into the hillside; this portion would have spaces that do not require windows, such as the building's service areas and the skylit gymnasium. The lobby, classrooms, fitness room, and other public spaces would be placed at the front or west facade, where large windows would allow natural light and relatively broad views. The major pedestrian path would run north to south, connecting the two main entrances to the site from Franklin and Evarts Streets. A secondary cross-axial path would run east-west, connecting an entrance from Lincoln Road with the main path. An open field would be renovated and relaid with sod. Most of the existing large trees are unhealthy and would be removed; new trees would be planted around the playground, the splash park, in a plaza at the north entrance, and along Franklin Street. He indicated the location of a significant mature overcup oak, the only healthy tree on the site, which would be preserved.
Mr. Guldenzopf said that the new two-story building would be configured as a bar oriented along the north-south walk. The upper story would be shifted south to create an entrance facing Evarts Street beneath its overhang; the shifting of this volume would also create room for a glass tower denoting the entrance, and for a rooftop community garden that would be accessible both from the second story and from the higher part of the site. He added that an alternative for the building would include photovoltaic panels.
Mr. Krieger asked for clarification about the location of the main pedestrian path in relation to the slope, observing that this is not clear on the site plan. Mr. Guldenzopf responded that the new building would be situated at the edge of the slope, and the path would extend north-south in front of the building. Mr. Jordan added that the path would be located on the downhill side of the slope, and he confirmed that it corresponds with the path shown on the site plan as circling the playing field. Mr. Krieger reiterated that the design of the path is unclear; he emphasized the need for a topographic drawing, or drawings at a larger scale, to clarify the grades.
Mr. Dunson asked if the entrance floor of the recreation center would be at the same level as the playing field. Mr. Guldenzopf and Mr. Jordan responded that the entrance would be a couple of feet higher than the field; the site then slopes steeply up along the sides of the building. Mr. Guldenzopf said that a person entering from Franklin Street would be able to walk downhill past the entrance to the new recreation center, or reach the recreational area north of the building by ascend a stair up the slope, which is too steep for an accessible ramp. He said that the initial intention was to use only ramps throughout the site, but the steep grades in some areas require stairs; he said that the site would nonetheless be fully accessible. He added that the path alignment would include curving wider areas to encourage casual social interactions.
Ms. Hickey said that cementitious panels were substituted for brick in certain areas of the proposed building, after the presentation booklets were sent to the Commission; the change primarily affects the proposed siding for the gym and the fitness area. In the revised version now being presented, metal panels are proposed for the second-level fitness room, depicted as a projecting red volume, and cementitious panels in different scales, textures, and colors are proposed for the rest of the building. Mr. Krieger asked if cementitious panels had been chosen to replace brick because they are less expensive; Mr. Guldenzopf responded that the panels are actually comparable to brick in expense and durability. Ms. Hickey said the different panel sizes would allow variations in scale to reduce the apparent size of some volumes: for example, the gymnasium volume would have smaller panels in darker colors to make it recede visually.
Mr. Krieger observed that discrepancies in the renderings raise questions about the location and extent of grade changes on the site. He emphasized the importance of a better topographic presentation; he said that more specific information might indicate if elevations could be adjusted to make portions of the building more or less prominent against the slope. Ms. Gilbert also requested a clear circulation plan to explain the location of paths and how they would connect. She observed that paths seemed to move away from buildings in response to site conditions but the design is ambiguous; Mr. Krieger emphasized that the rationale for the proposed configuration of paths is not clear.
Mr. Dunson commented that the plan is clearly organized, and the central spine is a good device. However, he said that the submission needs sectional drawings through the site—from east to west and from north to south—to clarify how the building would be located within the rolling topography; the landscape plans need to illustrate proposed plantings and identify which trees would be removed. He added that contextual views including the adjacent apartment housing to the east would be helpful. Mr. Guldenzopf agreed to provide these graphics; Mr. Jordan noted that some were included in the original submission.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the circulation system appears to spread out randomly, and the site plan needs a clear hierarchy of circulation paths. She observed that the northeast corner of the site appears to be crowded with program elements, such as a picnic area set immediately next to a generator; she recommended further study of this corner and clarification of the circulation to assist in simplifying the composition. She also observed that three separate paths would lead to the amphitheater seating facing the playing field, and the next submission should illustrate this significant area.
Mr. Krieger summarized that the interior of the building seems well organized, while the proposed building and landscape designs have been represented too schematically for the Commission members to evaluate, resulting in the request for a further submission. He added that the number of exterior materials may be excessive, but using the panels more consistently might help; the other Commission members agreed. Mr. Dunson recommended preparation of a physical model.
The Commission members did not take an action on the proposal, requesting the resubmission of the concept proposal with further documentation. The comments were subject to confirmation by a quorum at the next meeting.
H. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
SL 17-006, 2200 P Street, NW, Embassy Gulf Service Station. Relocation and adaptive reuse of historic building, and a new 10-story mixed use building. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposal to redevelop the site of the Gulf service station at 2200 P Street, NW, an existing one-story neo-classical limestone building that was built in 1936. She described it as a significant surviving example of 1930s service station architecture along the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway; the building is listing on both the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites and the National Register of Historic Places. She said that the owner of the property proposes to relocate the historic building on the site and restore it as part of a residential and retail project that would include a new ten-story building and underground parking. The current submission focuses on alternatives for the relocation of the historic building and the massing of the new building. She noted that the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission has adopted a resolution on this project that has been distributed to the Commission members. She asked architect Shalom Baranes of Shalom Baranes Associates to present the alternatives.
Mr. Baranes noted that in 1936, the Commission had reviewed the initial proposal for the service station, which was designed by Gulf Oil's in-house architect as part of a nationwide corporate chain of brick service stations. He said that the Commission had requested changing the brick exterior to limestone in order to relate better to the limestone-clad church across P Street to the north. He said that the construction of the service station was also coordinated with the National Park Service, including donation by Gulf Oil of some land across 23rd Street to the west, which was subsequently incorporated into the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway landscape. He indicated the existing residential condominium building at the southern end of the block toward O Street. The area between the condominium building and the service station has a complex ownership situation, with below-grade parking for the condominiums and a ground-level paved area that is used by the service station; he said that a future submission will provide a design for this area that will include landscape and parking.
Mr. Baranes presented photographs of the existing service station, which he said needs restoration but is generally in very good condition: the exterior limestone remains and needs re-pointing; the interior has not been changed significantly. The service station's formal front facade is on the north. He said that the intended treatment is to restore this building and use it as retail space, likely a restaurant; the new residential building would have a small connection to the service station and would be designed to match the ninety-foot height of an existing residential building to the east across 22nd Street. He said that placement of a new residential building having the desired density on this site is not feasible with the service station's current location, resulting in the proposal to relocate the service station. He said that moving it northward is the best strategy, allowing the residential building to occupy the southern part of the site, but the exact configuration has been the subject of differing opinions during consultation meetings with the staffs of the Commission and the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board. The current submission therefore provides three options for relocation of the service station and the resulting configuration of the new residential building.
Mr. Baranes presented Option A, which is preferred by the project team. The service station would be rotated a quarter-turn clockwise and placed at the north edge of the site along P Street, resulting in its front facade being on the east toward the commercial strip of P Street that extends east from 22nd Street. The new residential building would have a generally square footprint occupying approximately the southern two-thirds of the site. Option B would relocate the service station to the northwest corner of the site, maintaining its current orientation with the front facade on the north; the residential building would be configured as an L-shape to the south and east, with a plaza area at the northeastern portion of the site near the corner of 22nd and P Streets. Option C would reverse this configuration: the service station would move to the northeast corner of the site, again facing north; the L-shaped residential building would be to the south and west; and the northwest corner of the site would be open space, oriented toward the corner of 23rd and P Streets and the parkway landscape beyond. He noted that all three options provide ample opportunities for outdoor seating that could be associated with a restaurant occupying the restored service station building.
Mr. Baranes presented plans, aerial perspectives, and ground-level views of each option set within the cityscape. He said that the advantage of Option A is the simple volumetric form of the new residential building, with the service station being clearly treated as a separate element along P Street; the service station would be perceived as having a setting of open space, and three of its facades would be readily legible, comparable to its current siting as a freestanding building. Options B and C result in an L-shaped residential building that wraps around two sides of the service station, which he described as a "strange relationship."
Secretary Luebke said that the D.C. historic preservation staff had discouraged the rotation of the building in Option A, and instead preferred an option that would maintain its current orientation. He said that an additional issue is height: the proposed residential building would be taller than other buildings along the edge of the parkway in this area, and a reduction of perhaps three stories would be more consistent with the parkway context. Mr. Krieger asked how the proposed height compares to the condominium building on the south. Mr. Luebke responded that the proposed building would be several stories taller; Mr. Baranes clarified that the proposed height would match a different existing residential building to the east, which Mr. Luebke noted is a block away from the parkway. Mr. Baranes added that the Commission had approved a project that he designed several years ago a few blocks south along the parkway, with the same height as the current proposal; that project had involved adding several floors to an existing building, but Mr. Luebke recalled that the immediate context of that project included buildings of comparable height along the edge of the parkway. Mr. Baranes said that removing several floors from the current proposal could jeopardize the project and may not significantly affect the building's appearance from the parkway.
Mr. Baranes inserted models of the existing conditions and each option into a context model, indicating the bend in the parkway to the west and north. Ms. Gilbert emphasized the feeling of broad openness in this area as currently configured; a new building on this site would result in a different character. She said that Option C is problematic because the small service station, moved to the site's northeast corner, would no longer have a direct relationship to the parkway. Mr. Baranes said that an additional concern with Option C is that the open space at the northwest corner of the site would be distant from the commercial strip to the east, weakening the space's function as an urban plaza. Ms. Gilbert asked if it would really serve as a plaza or would be part of the restaurant space; Mr. Baranes clarified that it would be private space, but it could be readily accessible to the public that uses the restaurant seating.
Mr. Krieger noted the expansive open space of the park and commented that the new building's height as depicted in the drawings does not seem problematic, unless local zoning regulations require a lower height. Mr. Baranes said that the other current issue is the massing and configuration of the service station and new residential building; the facade designs would follow in a later submission. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission's role under the Shipstead-Luce Act is to protect the character of the adjacent federal property—in this case, Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway—by commenting on relevant issues such as materials, height, and bulk; he suggested further consideration of the likely impact of adding a 90-foot-tall building along the edge of the parkway at this location. Mr. Krieger acknowledged that evaluation of the design is a judgment call for the Commission, and he clarified that his judgment is to focus on issues other than the proposed height, which is apparently within other regulatory limits. He questioned the appropriateness of a service station being located alongside a parkway; Ms. Gilbert responded that facilities for fueling cars were historically associated with the development of parkways in this era.
Mr. Dunson commented that moving a historic urban structure, such as this service station, would ordinarily not be considered an appropriate treatment, although it is sometimes done. He said that in Option A, the historic building would have a prominent location, even though its orientation would be changed; it would become a pavilion for the larger new building to the south. In contrast, he said that the prominence of the service station would be compromised by its siting in Options B and C, notwithstanding the maintenance of the building's existing orientation. He therefore offered tentative support for Option A as having the least negative effect on the design qualities of the service station. He added that in Option A, the new residential building would have a relatively compact footprint that might give it a smaller appearance when seen from some directions, including the view from the parkway as it bends to the west and north. He said that the existing view from the parkway includes numerous city buildings seen through the trees, giving different visual effects at different times of the year; he said that the existing building heights are not problematic in the context of the broad vistas from the parkway in this area. He acknowledged that this initial recommendation may be in conflict with many principles of historic preservation, but sometimes a different approach is needed to achieve the objectives for a specific project. He added that his reaction is based on the presented options, but he is also readily able to imagine additional options.
Ms. Gilbert said that the service station currently has the character of floating like an island in its setting of open space. She offered support for Option B, which she said gives a better sense of this open space setting by placing the service station adjacent to the parkway at the northwest corner of the site and placing an adjacent large plaza area at the northeast corner. She said that preserving the building's current orientation, as in Option B, is a desirable feature, particularly for people approaching the site from the north; she questioned the broad view of the building's side facade along P Street that would result from the placement in Option A. Mr. Dunson agreed with these concerns and said that he could support Option B; he emphasized the goal of mitigating any negative impacts to the design qualities of the existing building, including the connection between the service station and the new residential building. Mr. Luebke noted that the details of the new building's size and footprint in relation to the service station would be subject to further review as the design is developed.
Mr. Krieger commented that in some parts of the country, such as New England, many buildings are much older than this service station and have been moved several times in their history; he therefore supported the effort to preserve this small structure by moving it a modest distance. He said that the building's existing orientation may not be an important factor, due to the evolution of the urban context and the anticipated further change to the context by placing a new residential building immediately alongside the service station. He said that the project's new design should make sense for the present and future, rather than being based on past conditions that would no longer exist. He also commented that in many cities, merely the front portion of such a service station would be preserved, and he asked whether its rear portion of service garage bays is worth preserving. He clarified that he does not object to preserving the building in its entirety, but more creative solutions might be available for relating the service station and the new construction, beyond the options presented. He said that the design approach to the project may be too deferential, insisting that the service station's footprint be intact on the site plan; but other options could include extending the new residential building above the service station, or not preserving the entire back portion of the service station. He rejected the opinion presented by Mr. Baranes that Options B and C are problematic due to the resulting L-shaped building, which he emphasized could be shaped differently.
Mr. Krieger summarized his general support for the concept of moving the service station to the north and for adding a building of the height illustrated. He noted a regulation in Boston that new buildings cannot cast a shadow of more than an hour's duration on the Public Garden; he said that if such a rule applies to the parkway adjacent to this project, then the proposed massing may need to be evaluated differently. But in the absence of established rules, he said that the evaluation is subjective, and his opinion is that the proposed overall bulk is acceptable. He reiterated his encouragement for developing further massing options. As an example, he suggested that a variant of Option A could shift the relocated service station further east toward the 22nd Street corner, leaving more outdoor dining space at the site's northwest corner adjacent to the parkway. Ms. Gilbert agreed that more open space at this location would provide valuable contiguity with the parkland, and could serve as a stronger connection between a future restaurant and the park. She added that the building's siting should be evaluated in relation to this future use, rather than its past use as a service station; Mr. Baranes said that this siting could allow for outdoor dining at both the northwest and northeast corners.
Mr. Krieger observed that the discussion has already generated a new range of alternatives, which could be developed to center the service station along the site's P Street frontage with the new residential building designed symmetrically to the south. Mr. Baranes said that the design team has already considered many additional options, but the near-term goal is to obtain initial approval from the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board; he said that a proposal to build above the service station or preserve only its facade would surely not be approved. Mr. Krieger clarified his guidance as encouraging more flexibility in the design approach to the project. Mr. Baranes asked if the Commission's recommendation is for a variant of Option A; Mr. Krieger said that this is his own preference, while acknowledging the drawback of changing the building's orientation. He added that the massing solution could be informed by how the new building is designed, such as articulating a corner of the residential building to relate to the context—perhaps with a glassy corner at the northwest with expansive views of the parkway, resulting in an interesting overall composition.
Mr. Luebke suggested that the orientation of the service station in Option A could be reversed, with the original north facade oriented to the west instead of the east. Mr. Baranes said that the disadvantage of this solution would be placing the rear of the building toward the more active urban context on the east; he said that facing the front of the building toward the more urban intersection of 22nd and P Streets would be more compelling. Ms. Gilbert asked about the design quality of the rear part of the service station; the Commission members inspected the photographs of the existing conditions, and Mr. Krieger concluded that the rear portion of the building would be reasonably presentable as the urban face of the building on the east. He therefore supported the further revision to Option A of reversing the proposed rotation of the service station. He described the potentially rich composition that could result at the site's northwest corner: a modest open space with outdoor dining; the historic formal front of the service station; the corner of the new residential building, perhaps with an interesting glass corner; and the broad exposure to the existing parkland across 23rd Street and P Street.
Mr. Dunson said that the result of this proposal could be the preservation of the service station as a three-dimensional building rather than simply historic facades; even if its orientation is changed, its primary facade could become a significant design element in shaping the corner of 23rd and P Streets. He emphasized the importance of careful design in developing the potential of this treatment, including evaluation of sightlines from multiple locations in the parkway. He said that building heights would be part of this evaluation, but he reiterated that the proposed height does not appear to be a significant issue for this location. He noted the significance of the site as a promontory in relation to the flow and slope of the nearby open space, and he emphasized the importance of further study. Mr. Krieger added that the impact of the project on the open space would depend on the design of the building; Ms. Gilbert and Mr. Dunson agreed. Mr. Luebke noted that the top of the building will likely be designed to include a more extensive penthouse structure than is typical for Washington, resulting from a recent change to building height regulations; he emphasized that the Commission has authority to recommend a more limited building envelope.
Mr. Krieger suggested that the design team work further with the Commission's comments; Mr. Baranes acknowledged that he has received ample direction for further development of the proposal. Mr. Luebke noted that no action is being taken, and the comments of the Commission members would be subject to confirmation by a quorum at the next meeting. He added that the current submission does not really constitute a full concept design.
Mr. Dunson asked if the question of height is settled by the current review or would be considered with future submissions. Mr. Luebke said that the importance of the height issue may become increasingly apparent as the building design is illustrated in its context and the penthouse massing is developed further. Mr. Dunson acknowledged that the new residential building may serve to screen views from the parkway of the 1960s residential building to the east across 22nd Street. Mr. Luebke emphasized the Commission's role in assessing the impact of the proposal on the federal parkland. Mr. Krieger asked why the height controls in D.C. apparently do not impose a lower limit alongside the parkway; he said that such regulatory control would resolve this problem before a design is brought to the Commission. Mr. Luebke noted that the Shipstead-Luce Act provides for the Commission's review that is separate from the other local regulatory review processes, in order to provide a subjective evaluation for controlling the framing of public space in the nation's capital. He summarized the apparent conclusion of the Commission members that the height is not a concern at this location. He added that the prevailing heights vary along the parkway, and the height should therefore be evaluated in relation to the context; in the vicinity of this site, the building heights along the parkway are lower than the proposed massing.
Mr. Dunson asked for clarification of the proposed height in relation to the existing residential building to the east. Mr. Baranes responded that their parapet heights are within three feet of aligning; the proposed building would have a 20-foot-high penthouse in accordance with recent regulations, compared to 18.5 feet on the nearby existing building. Mr. Dunson said that the issue is therefore not whether the new building would establish a greatly different height for the context, but instead whether its impact on the park edge would be excessive; he concluded that the impact does not appear substantial. Mr. Krieger suggested that the treatment of the penthouse could be more interesting if it were integrated into the building composition instead of being placed in the middle of the roof; Mr. Baranes responded that current interpretations of the local height regulations do not allow such a treatment, and the penthouse must be set back from the edge of the building. Mr. Luebke reiterated that the Commission has authority to request a more limited building envelope than is permitted by regulations, as part of the architectural control established by the Shipstead-Luce Act.
Mr. Baranes said that he intends to pursue some form of Option A, subject to the upcoming guidance from the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board. Mr. Dunson reiterated the need for preparing numerous sightline studies from different points within the parkway, including consideration of the descending topography toward Rock Creek. Mr. Krieger emphasized that this project is in a special location, and he reiterated the potential for articulating the northwest corner of the site, perhaps making use of the service station's front facade. The discussion concluded without an action.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:30 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA