The meeting was convened in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, at 10:05 a.m.
Hon. Earl A. Powell, Chairman
Hon. Elizabeth Meyer, Vice Chairman
Hon. Edward Dunson
Hon. Liza Gilbert
Hon. Alex Krieger
Hon. Mia Lehrer
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
A. Approval of the minutes of the 16 March meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the March meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the minutes.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 18 May, 15 June, and 20 July 2017.
C. Report on the pre-meeting site inspections. Mr. Luebke noted the Commission's inspection earlier in the morning of an on-site mockup of masonry alternatives for the recladding of the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum, as a follow-up to the Commission's review in June 2016. The displayed alternatives included pink "Tennessee marble" limestone, from the same quarry as the limestone that is currently on the building's exterior; Saint Clair limestone, with a grayish, striated appearance; Echo Lake granite, in a pink-gray color with a swirling pattern; and an ultra-high-performance concrete panel with a warm, neutral color. He invited comments from the Commission members to assist the staff and the project representatives in the audience with the development of the proposal in the coming months, and he said that the Smithsonian Institution anticipates submitting the project for the Commission's formal review later in the year.
Mr. Krieger commented that the project team may be overly focused on replicating the appearance of the material that was selected for the museum's original construction in the 1970s. He noted that the project scope includes replacement of the building's entire exterior, and the selection of a new material may therefore be appropriate. He said that the replacement material would never truly match the original stone, and people will not be able to remember the original material's exact appearance to make a comparison. He acknowledged the logic of the original stone selection to relate to the exterior of the National Gallery of Art across the Mall; however, he questioned whether this logic needs to be followed today due to the extent of additional construction along the Mall in the intervening decades. He recommended selecting the best material that is available in our own time, with consideration of its durability to avoid the need for another exterior replacement in forty years, but with less consideration of precisely matching the original exterior stone's appearance.
Ms. Meyer added that an additional sample, of Lac Dubonnet granite, was displayed adjacent to the mockups, and she commented that this alternative did not appear to be appropriate for this project. Ms. Lehrer commented that even if a suitable stone is selected from among the alternatives, the challenge would remain of obtaining a reasonably consistent quality of stone veneer with a surface area of perhaps more than 100,000 square feet. She instead suggested consideration of a metal cladding, particularly because it could relate to the museum's subject matter. Ms. Meyer emphasized that the performance of the material, not just its appearance, must be taken into consideration; she acknowledged the project team's research of the durability of the alternative materials, but commented that the historic preservation concerns may be getting in the way of finding the best exterior material. Mr. Krieger agreed, adding that the conflict is even greater when the goal is viewed as creating a much more durable overall wall system.
Mr. Luebke said that the staff would work with the project team in addressing these comments. He also noted that following the mockup inspection, the Commission visited the sites of two projects on today's agenda: Banneker Park at 10th Street and Maine Avenue, SW, and the International Spy Museum, which is under construction along 10th Street, SW. Chairman Powell said that comments on these sites could be provided in conjunction with the reviews on the agenda (see items II.B, II.F.1, and II.F.2).
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that no changes have been made to the draft appendix. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported several changes to the draft appendix. The concept recommendation for a project at 4615 Colorado Avenue, NW, has been changed to be favorable in response to continuing consultation with the architect (case number SL 17-083). Other changes are limited to minor wording adjustments and noting the receipt of supplemental materials. Four recommendations are subject to further design consultation, and she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations when the remaining issues have been addressed. The Commission approved the revised appendix.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Stevenson said that no changes have been made to the draft appendix, which includes 34 cases. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the Old Georgetown Act appendix.
Secretary Luebke noted that the Commission's May agenda could include a concept presentation for redevelopment of the West Heating Plant in Georgetown. This project has been reviewed several times by the Commission's Old Georgetown Board, with an additional concept review anticipated at the Board's next meeting in early May.
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 20/APR/17-1, Benjamin Banneker Park, southern terminus of 10th Street, SW. Pedestrian-bicyclist connection between 10th Street and Maine Avenue—interim stairs and ramp. Final. (Previous: CFA 19/MAY/16-1.) Secretary Luebke introduced the proposed final design for an interim pedestrian-bicyclist connection through Benjamin Banneker Park between the elevated 10th Street Overlook (also called the Banneker Overlook) and Maine Avenue. The National Park Service has submitted the proposal on behalf of the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) and Hoffman-Madison Waterfront, the private-sector developer of The Wharf project across Maine Avenue on the Southwest waterfront, and he noted that the project was initially conceived as part of the Southwest Ecodistrict Initiative of the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC). He summarized the past guidance of the Commission of Fine Arts: in its November 2013 review, the Commission recommended that the design of the connection be simplified to improve its relationship to the existing park and overlook, designed in the late 1960s by modernist landscape architect Dan Kiley; at the next concept review in May 2016, the Commission approved the preferred alternative and provided comments for its development. He said that the current design incorporates changes made in response to review comments by the Commission and others. He asked Peter May, the National Park Service's Associate Regional Director for Lands and Planning for the National Capital Region, to begin the presentation; Mr. May introduced architect Lance Eubanks of ZGF to present an overview of the project.
Mr. Eubanks presented photographs of the original Kiley design, taken shortly after the park's completion, along with current photographs showing the site's barren condition, its narrow pedestrian connections, and its numerous social trails. In NCPC's Southwest Ecodistrict Initiative, 10th Street was envisioned as a wide boulevard providing the primary access from the Mall south to the waterfront, including improved connections; as part of Hoffman-Madison's development of The Wharf, a community agreement includes funding for improvements to Banneker Park. An environmental assessment of these improvements was prepared in 2016, presenting two alternatives for an interim connection; all of the reviewing agencies preferred Alternative B, which provides connections on both sides of the elliptical overlook instead of just one connection to the east. He said that the major changes in the current design include a slight realignment of the retaining wall at the base of the hill to reduce the expansive width that was proposed for the sidewalk along Maine Avenue, along with a reduction in the height of this retaining wall. He asked landscape architect Greg Matto of ZGF to present the proposed final design.
Mr. Matto said that the project includes constructing a stairway on the west side of the park that would connect with terraces, and constructing walks on the east side with grades less than five percent that would connect the overlook to the intersection of 9th Street and Maine Avenue. The project would maintain the park's open lawn areas to the northwest and southeast, and all stormwater would be collected in biofiltration areas at the foot of the hillside that would drain into the existing stormwater system. The steep slope leading up to the overlook would be planted with a hybrid mix, and bosques of flowering trees would emphasize intersections in the circulation. The proposed lighting plan would use simple modern poles set twelve feet apart, with LED technology specified to emit a warm light.
Mr. Matto presented the stairway design, comprised of a series of steps and landings with a central handrail; a channel on each side would facilitate the movement of bicycles as the cyclists walk up or down the staircase. He said that the project team has been concerned that the proposed retaining wall, 300 feet long and rising to a height of eight feet, would have an oppressive appearance; the proposal is therefore to vary the surface texture of the wall's precast panels to increase its visual interest. The panels would use a combination of the National Park Service's standard yellow exposed-aggregate concrete and a gray-colored concrete that is typical for DDOT structures. To stabilize the soil of the steep hillside, a geocell system would be installed.
Mr. Krieger asked if the entire retaining wall would be covered by plantings; Mr. Matto responded that plants would be grown only over certain segments. Mr. Krieger asked why plants are not proposed to cover the entire wall; Mr. Matto said that the exposed bare surfaces of the retaining wall would be seen in conjunction with the smaller wall around the overlook, providing an effective contrast to the extensive planted hillside.
Mr. Krieger commented that the trees circling the overlook do not appear to be in good health, as seen on the Commission's morning site visit, and he asked what is planned for this area; Mr. Matto responded that the overlook is not part of the current project. Mr. Krieger suggested that these trees should be addressed; Ms. Gilbert observed that some are dead or dying. Mr. May said that the National Park Service recognizes this issue, but the Banneker Overlook is a different project, and he does not know its status. Mr. Krieger encouraged the National Park Service to proceed with improvements to the overlook as soon as possible.
Ms. Meyer observed that the presentation had not included a detailed grading plan, and she emphasized the importance of defining the relationship of the proposed stairs and terraces with the shape of the earth hillside to the west. She questioned the proposal to enliven the retaining wall and reduce its apparent length through textured surfaces and overhanging plants. She commented that these measures may not be necessary due to the wall's curved alignment, because the effect of daylight and shadow on its surface would change continually with the position of the sun. She suggested preparing a light study; Mr. Matto agreed and said that mockups would be built to explore this condition. Ms. Gilbert added that vines may create enough visual variation, with the additional textures being unnecessary. Mr. Krieger supported reconsideration of the textured surfaces for the retaining wall; he observed that the presented drawings of the wall are misleading because they seem to show it with a "pleated" appearance. He added that one advantage of a retaining wall with a uniform surface treatment would be its clear relationship to the overlook wall above. He also observed that much of the retaining wall's length would be seen through the existing row of street trees, further reducing the need to create a visually interesting wall surface. He suggested placing more emphasis on the groundcover; Ms. Gilbert commented that people would be more likely to look at a beautiful hillside planting than at a wall and lawns.
Ms. Gilbert asked for a more detailed description of the planting beds at the base of the wall, expressing concern that they would likely become trampled and collect trash. Mr. Matto indicated the locations of the planting beds at the ends of the wall; their biofiltration plantings of brushes and sedges, along with the presence of water, would signal that pedestrians should not walk through them. Ms. Gilbert commented that these areas would not always be wet. Mr. Matto added that the National Park Service will contract with the local Business Improvement District (BID) to provide maintenance for the park.
Ms. Lehrer questioned whether the proposed plantings of a small number of regularly spaced flowering trees would actually be perceived as the intended groves; she suggested planting a larger number of trees in more natural configurations to create a stronger experience for visitors. Mr. Matto said that the proposal is for six-inch caliper specimens of multi-stemmed eastern redbuds planted in clusters of six and nine trees; he offered to consider the recommendation for larger groupings. Ms. Gilbert acknowledged that the design team has been responsive to the Commission's advice to locate trees along walks, but she recommended extending the groupings across the walks so that pedestrians would move through them, creating a more effective experience.
Ms. Gilbert emphasized that the plantings on the slope would create a highly visible tapestry; she recalled the description in the presentation of a mix of many plants from three different plant groups, but she said that more details about the proposed plant layout should be provided. She added that the highly invasive Japanese barberry should be removed from the plant palette. Mr. Matto agreed to provide detailed information about a typical layout for the acre of planting and its overall appearance, which is intended to suggest a natural progression from lawns to groves and would include many plants to attract pollinators.
Ms. Gilbert asked for further information about the proposed lighting. Mr. Matto responded that a simple, modern vertical fixture has been identified, with a 12-foot-tall pole, good projection of light, and uniform light distribution; slightly higher light levels would be required for the stairs. He said that these proposed light fixtures will be studied further on site. Mr. Krieger asked if the lights at the overlook would be replaced or if the existing original lights would remain. Mr. May responded that National Park Service projects typically take into consideration historic design and context; the light fixtures in parks are often modernized, and the National Capital Region is now installing LED lighting while trying to preserve original intent.
Ms. Meyer offered a motion to approve the final design for the interim circulation connection, including support for the modern character of the proposed lighting, with the recommendation to simplify the surface treatment of the retaining wall. Mr. Krieger suggested that the approval include a recommendation to the National Park Service to proceed with improvements to the Banneker Overlook. Upon a second by Mr. Powell, the Commission adopted this action.
C. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
CFA 20/APR/17-2, Flood protection project, various locations in Federal Triangle and the National Mall. Modifications to vent shafts for flood protection. Final. (Previous: CFA 19/SEP/13-5.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposed final design for protection of several Metro vent shafts from flooding. He noted the extensive coordination process with the National Park Service, the General Services Administration, and the D.C. Historic Preservation Office; the resulting memorandum of agreement has been signed by these and other agencies. He described the design proposal as a very simple, direct solution to the immediate problem of flooding. He introduced engineer Jim Ashe of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (WMATA) to present the design.
Mr. Ashe said that the vent locations are clustered in two areas: along 12th Street, NW, within the Federal Triangle; and along the National Mall. He said that the proposal is a response to localized flooding concerns and to updated delineations of 100- and 500-year floodplains. He noted that the vent shafts were designed to accommodate some water intrusion, but the volume of water entering the vents has been increasing over time and has exceeded the design capacity.
Mr. Ashe presented the proposed construction within the Federal Triangle. The northernmost of the existing sidewalk vents, near the southwest corner of 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, would be protected by an 18-inch-high parapet wall. Further south, a pair of vents along the west side of 12th Street, slightly north of Constitution Avenue, would be protected by 40-inch-high walls. In the middle of this block, the existing air intake on the west side of 12th Street, within the distinctive hemicycle of Federal Triangle, would be protected by a 24-inch-high wall. All of these walls would be clad in Mount Airy granite. He presented photographic simulations of the proposed construction within the context, along with photographs of the existing temporary protection measures—sandbags and plastic barricades—that would be removed. He said that an alternative was considered to design the vent enclosure within the hemicycle to resemble the adjacent concrete planters, which provide perimeter security for the Ariel Rios Building, but the conclusion was to propose the simpler cladding design. He added that WMATA has agreed to consider changing the sidewalk vent enclosures along 12th Street in the future in coordination with any forthcoming project by other agencies for improved perimeter security.
Ms. Meyer observed that the axonometric drawing and photo simulation appear inconsistent for the enclosure within the hemicycle; she asked which design is intended for approval. Mr. Krieger agreed that the proportions appear inconsistent; Ms. Meyer added that the photograph depicts a single grate while the axonometric depicts two. Mr. Ashe responded that the two existing sidewalk-level grates would be combined into a single grate at the top of the new enclosure. Ms. Meyer reiterated that this intention is inconsistent with the axonometric drawing labeled "Proposed Undertaking."
Mr. Ashe presented the proposed construction along the Mall and Independence Avenue. A sidewalk vent near the southwest corner of 12th Street and Independence Avenue, SW, would be protected by a 12-inch-high parapet wall with granite cladding; he indicated the sandbags in a photograph of the existing condition. Two vents near the centerline of the National Mall—one on each side of 7th Street, located within small grass panels—would be protected by 12-inch-high parapet walls with granite cladding. He said that berms were considered as part of the design at these locations, but the National Park Service had expressed concern that berms would result in maintenance problems. The final location is a line of four vents within the south walk of the Mall, located west of 12th Street and the Smithsonian Metro station escalator. Protection for these vents would be provided by a four-inch-high granite curb; the proposal is to surround these curbs with a tapering apron of exposed-aggregate concrete, extending as far as eight feet, to integrate the protected vents into the gravel walk.
Ms. Meyer asked for clarification of the overall width of the gravel Mall walk, for comparison with the width of paving that is proposed. Mr. Ashe responded that the walk is approximately sixteen feet wide. Ms. Meyer asked how much of this width would remain as gravel; Mr. Ashe said that he does not have this information available, but he confirmed that the proposed paving would not extend entirely across the walk. Ms. Meyer said that if the remaining unpaved width of the walk is relatively narrow, such as only two feet, then a better design solution may be to pave the walk's full width. Mr. Ashe said that such a design modification would be feasible, and he acknowledged that the transitions between the paved and unpaved portions of the walk could end up as uneven surfaces. Peter May of the National Park Service added that a separate study is underway for the Mall walks, and the optimal extent of paving could be considered further as part of that study. He said that the issues for the walks include maintenance and barrier-free accessibility. He added that the results of this study will eventually be presented to the Commission.
Chairman Powell welcomed the removal of the existing sandbags as part of the WMATA project. Ms. Meyer commented that she empathizes with the problem of protecting the vents from flooding, but she expressed frustration that the multiple public agencies apparently cannot work together to create a reasonable design for the public space. For the 12th Street vents, she said that perimeter security and flood protection should be addressed together, instead of wasting money by constructing a solution to the flood problem and then reconstructing the area in the near future as part of a perimeter security design. She said that the financial waste is unfortunately intrinsic to the current planning process. She expressed unwillingness to support the proposal, reiterating that the intended design for the 12th Street vent enclosures is unclear due to the inconsistency of the drawings, and the appropriateness of the design for the Mall vent enclosures is unclear due to the lack of adequate section drawings to illustrate the entire gravel walk. She summarized that the documentation of the proposal does not appear sufficient to evaluate the project.
Ms. Gilbert commented that another shortcoming of the presentation is the lack of broader views of the project settings, particularly along 12th Street. She said that the experience of the pedestrian walking along 12th Street should be considered, including an adequate clear width for the sidewalk, but the presented photographs and drawings do not convey sufficient information to evaluate this. She suggested providing more extensive views in a further submission, even though WMATA does not control some elements of the streetscape such as the concrete planters and the street tree planting areas. Mr. Ashe responded that adequate sidewalk width has been an issue in this area: to accommodate pedestrians, some of the planters were initially installed on top of the WMATA vents, which created a safety hazard for the Metro station, and WMATA therefore had to move these planters off of the vents. He said that one solution to the vent flooding could be simply to seal off the vents, which has been done at some locations, but the vents being protected are necessary for the safety of the underground system. He said that designers today might configure the shafts to avoid the problem of vents within the floodplain, but WMATA must work with the problematic configuration as originally designed.
Ms. Meyer said that better drawings should be provided that clearly show the streetscape elements and the unobstructed sidewalk space that would be available for pedestrian circulation. She acknowledged that the Commission is simply being asked to approve a relatively minor protective wall, but she emphasized that the Commission must consider the overall public realm and the impact of the project on the pedestrian's experience, which is difficult to evaluate due to the inadequacy of the presentation materials. Secretary Luebke noted that WMATA has also submitted construction drawings; Ms. Meyer said that the presented illustrations are nonetheless inconsistent, and the photographic simulations are inadequate.
Mr. Dunson described the broader issue of the project as the quality of the spaces. He said that the raised enclosures would result in the vents being perceived like tables within the overall assembly of street furniture. The issues include how the various streetscape elements are organized, whether they are respectful of each other, and how the numerous edge conditions are addressed, ranging from curbs to building walls. He said that each element should contribute to the aesthetic quality of the overall streetscape organization while also facilitating the movement of people. He summarized that people will end up liking or disliking the space on the basis of both its aesthetics and its functionality. He agreed with the other Commission members that the project should be considered more comprehensively than just as a series of raised vent enclosures.
Mr. Ashe reiterated WMATA's challenge of designing within a context that it does not control; the WMATA infrastructure is allowed through easements and permits. He acknowledged the Commission's broader design concerns but emphasized that WMATA is focused specifically on protecting the Metro system. He said that the issues of perimeter security for the buildings and sidewalk clearance for pedestrians are outside of WMATA's property and immediate interest. He emphasized that WMATA is not in a position to solve these problems, notwithstanding the Commission's encouragement to expand the design scope. Mr. Dunson said that WMATA's role could be to bring together the other public agencies with responsibility for these issues in order to develop a solution in which the components work well as part of an overall design. He also noted Mr. Ashe's comment that a present-day design for the Metro system might use different solutions, asking if any such solutions could be described now. Mr. Ashe responded that a modern-day design would not place the vent openings within the floodplain, but this approach might involve significant engineering changes to the entire Metro corridor in this area; he confirmed that the current proposal is the best solution to protect the Metro system as currently configured.
Mr. Luebke noted that the General Services Administration has undertaken studies for a comprehensive perimeter security plan for the Federal Triangle. He suggested that the Commission may want to advocate for moving this project forward, such as by including such a request in the Commission's follow-up letter and sending a copy to the General Services Administration.
Chairman Powell suggested an apparent consensus to request improved documentation to illustrate the context and the details, while generally supporting the proposed design at each vent location. Mr. Krieger expressed reluctance to support the design. He joined in acknowledging the need to protect the Metro system from flooding, but he said that in some locations—such as on 12th Street within the hemicycle—the proposed design looks worse than the photograph of the existing condition. He said that the existing sandbags are perceived as a temporary awkwardness resulting from an issue that needs to be addressed, while the proposed design would have the unfortunate appearance of a permanent awkwardness. Mr. Powell said that the photographic simulation suggests that the new enclosure is floating above the ground plane. Mr. Krieger summarized that in addition to the poor quality of the illustrations, the problem is with constructing a design that does not have the appearance of being the best solution. Ms. Gilbert cited the additional concern that people might accidentally walk into the low raised vent enclosure. Ms. Meyer said that the details of the sidewalk configuration are difficult to correlate on the various axonometric and plan drawings, and she requested the preparation of more careful site-specific drawings instead of prototype illustrations.
Mr. Luebke asked if the Commission is generally satisfied with the scope of the proposed interventions, subject to the submission of improved documentation. Ms. Meyer emphasized her unwillingness to support the design approach on the basis of the inadequate illustrations presented. She suggested a further submission that would better document all of the vent locations, rather than the Commission approving the vent protection at some locations but not others. She emphasized the need to understand how the proposed interventions would relate to the context, including adequate section drawings and more consistent illustration of the existing and proposed conditions.
Mr. Dunson observed that the protection for the vents within the Mall walk is much more modest in height than the proposed protection for other vents. Ms. Meyer said that this presumably results from varying topography in relation to the 100- and 500-year flood levels, but she noted that this useful sectional information has not been included in the presentation. She suggested the preparation of a long section along 12th Street, extending from the Mall to Pennsylvania Avenue, to illustrate the topography and the vents in relation to anticipated flood levels.
Ms. Lehrer suggested that the vent enclosures within the Federal Triangle could be designed to provide perimeter security, eliminating the need for some of the existing concrete planters. Mr. Luebke suggested conveying this advice from the Commission to the General Services Administration. Chairman Powell supported such a solution, and he summarized the consensus to request an additional submission with improved documentation of the proposal and context. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
D. Events DC (Washington Convention and Sports Authority)
CFA 20/APR/17-3, Saint Elizabeths East Campus, Oak Street, SE. New entertainment and sports arena. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 16/FEB/17-6.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the revised concept design by Marshall Moya Design with Rossetti Architects for a new entertainment and sports arena (ESA) building on the St. Elizabeths East Campus. The ESA would be the first large new building to be constructed on the East Campus; it would serve as a new home basketball court for the WNBA Washington Mystics and as a practice facility for the NBA Washington Wizards. She noted that the project is submitted by EventsDC in partnership with the D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) and Monumental Sports and Entertainment (Monumental, the majority owner of the two teams). The Commission last reviewed the project in February 2017, when it approved the concept with several recommendations, primarily concerning the long street-facing facades and the players' parking and entrance area. She asked architect Michael Marshall of Marshall Moya Design to present the revised proposal.
Mr. Marshall summarized the program for the ESA, including an arena for public events, a basketball training facility, and support spaces for EventsDC and Monumental. He indicated the streets surrounding the building site: Oak Street on the southwest, Cypress Street on the northwest, a planned extension of 13th Street on the northeast, and Cherry Street on the southeast. He indicated the historic buildings of the St. Elizabeths Hospital's former "Continuing Treatment" (CT) campus to the southwest across Oak Street; these buildings are planned for redevelopment as affordable housing, and the site across 13th Street to the northeast is planned for future residential and commercial development. The ESA would front Oak Street; he indicated the proposed main public entrances at the corner of Oak and Cherry Streets and mid-block along Oak Street. He said that most patrons would arrive from the Congress Heights Metro station to the southeast using Oak Street. When 13th Street is completed, patrons using this new street would ascend the thirteen-foot grade change along Cherry Street and enter at the Oak Street corner; the ESA would not have an entrance on the lower corner of Cherry and 13th Streets. A fifty-space parking lot and entrance for players and employees would be sited on the northwest side of the building off Cypress Street; an additional entrance in this area, previously designated as a separate entrance for Mystics players, would be used for event performers, visiting players, and other guests. He noted that the property line for the EventsDC site has been adjusted recently, resulting in EventsDC no longer having control over the redevelopment of an adjacent historic building and triangular plot of land. He added that the design of the public realm of the overall campus is still being developed with the DMPED and the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT).
Mr. Marshall described the proposed exterior material of large red- and beige-toned insulated metal panels, which are intended to relate to the terracotta, brick, and limestone of the historic CT campus buildings. Most of The ESA's first-level public concourse along Oak and Cherry Streets would be glazed, and a retail space along Oak Street would have access from both inside and outside the arena. The street-level facades on Oak Street that would not be glazed would be clad in a cream-colored brick similar to the proportions of Roman brick. On the 13th Street facade, the red-toned metal panels would continue down to the elevated wrap-around terrace; below the terrace, the wall along the sidewalk would be clad in the same brick that is used along Oak Street.
Mr. Marshall described the modifications to the design to address the Commission's previous comments regarding the transition on the Oak Street facade between the expansive metal cladding of the upper arena and the glass storefront toward the base. In the current revised design, a cornice line and one-story-high band of smaller-scale beige metal panels would comprise the second-story area. Joints separating the large sections of the upper-level metal cladding would be continued down into the smaller-scale panel section, addressing comments that the two areas should be visually tied together through vertical alignments; intermediate vertical joints would further subdivide the area of beige panels. He said that the proposed cornice line is intended to align with the cornice line of the historic CT campus buildings across Oak Street.
Ms. Gilbert asked if an arcade or mezzanine for event attendees would be located along this second level. Mr. Marshall said that the design team studied the feasibility of restoring this feature but concluded that it would not be possible due to the internal programmatic needs. Mr. Krieger asked for further clarification of the proposed materials for the Oak Street facade, including the intermediate vertical joints. Mr. Marshall said that generally brick would be used on the first level, and a variety of metal panels would be used elsewhere: a textured metal panel similar in color and size to the beige brick would be used for the second-level transition band, and larger red- and beige-toned panels without texture would be used to clad the upper volume of the building. The vertical joints between the metal panels on both the second level and upper volume would either be recessed or protrude; they are intended to add detail and break up the monolithic appearance of the building's boxy form.
Mr. Marshall described the new combined players' entry sequence as shown on preliminary working drawings and a model. Access to the combined upper-level entrance would be at approximately the same level as the parking lot, eliminating the previous design for two separate sunken entrances for Mystics and Wizards players. Once inside the ESA, players would descend stairs to the lower level to access their separate facilities; Monumental staff would use the same entrance. The sunken patio remains in the proposal as a secure area for the players; access to this patio would be only from inside the building on the lower level. A stairway adjacent to the sunken patio would lead from the parking lot and service drive down to a long walkway, which visiting teams, event performers, and other visitors would use to access an arena entrance. He indicated the adjacent service drive; due to insufficient space to accommodate a turnaround area, buses and trucks would have to exit the service drive by backing out.
Ms. Gilbert observed that the landscape design previously proposed for the triangular area between Oak Street and the parking lot is now marked on the site drawings as "Existing Landscape to Remain." Mr. Marshall said that this is the area that has been removed from the project scope, and control of this area has returned to the DMPED; the area would continue to be a lawn, which is favored by the D.C. Historic Preservation Office (HPO). Ms. Gilbert said that the technical and aesthetic performance of the landscape would suffer without the previously proposed bioretention and tree plantings. Mr. Marshall said that the HPO considered the previous design and did not support it because it would be inconsistent with the historic campus.
Mr. Marshall introduced engineer William Lattanzio of the Wiles Mensch Corporation to present the revised landscape design, as shown on a supplemental drawing distributed to the Commission members. Mr. Lattanzio confirmed that the most substantial change to the landscape design results from the exclusion of the triangular area along Oak Street from the scope of the project. The project's bioretention area would now be confined to a smaller area just outside the southeast corner of this triangular area, near the gap between the parking lot fence and the ESA building. An additional bioretention would be located in the parking lot's center island; the fifty parking spaces have also been reconfigured to accommodate the new combined entrance and improve the design of the accessible parking. Ms. Gilbert acknowledged that the adjustment of the property line was beyond the control of the design team, but she expressed regret that the removal of the vegetated, woodland-like bioretention area would result in an unappealing view for Oak Street pedestrians directly into the parking lot. She recommended engaging the DMPED and DDOT to ensure that something besides grass would be planted in the triangular area, suggesting several trees. Mr. Marshall said that restoring this bioretention area would also require further negotiation with the HPO.
Ms. Meyer asked about the intended users of the fifty parking spaces and the reason for establishing this number. Mr. Marshall said that the number was not generated by the design team; it results from negotiations between EventsDC and Monumental, and the spaces would be used by Mystics and Wizards players and staff. He added that a garage structure will be located elsewhere on the St. Elizabeths East Campus. Ms. Meyer commented that the spaces appear to be jammed into the allotted space, resulting in a poor site plan; Mr. Lattanzio acknowledged that the fifty spaces are a design constraint. Mr. Krieger asked if players from the two teams would be using the building at the same time. Mr. Marshall said that there is little overlap between the seasons of each team, and fewer spaces are therefore provided than would be required to accommodate both teams simultaneously.
Ms. Meyer expressed confusion regarding the texture and material of the white band at the second level on the Oak Street facade, commenting that it seems to resemble both brick and metal. Mr. Marshall said that the rendering most accurately expresses the intended color—although not the texture—of this band. Ms. Meyer commented that the small-scale texture of the panels, as well as the joints between the sections of cladding, create a confusing and problematic composition. She asked if the intention of the design is to weave together the first and second levels and upper arena volume by continuing the materials and textures across the band. Mr. Marshall confirmed this intention, which he said is based on recommendations from the previous meeting to bring more detail to the second level. Mr. Dunson acknowledged that more detail in this area was recommended, but he emphasized the Commission's preference for glazing at the second level; he observed that the joints between the panels recall mullions and contribute to an overall rhythm similar to glazing. He commented that perhaps the second-level band could have a scale similar to the upper volume, which could be achieved by using the larger-sized panels or carrying down the joint lines from above while eliminating the intermediate mullion-like joints. He also suggested the alternative of extending the brick material from the first level to the second. In either case, he recommended using a single, unambiguous material in this transitional area. Ms. Meyer and Mr. Powell agreed; Ms. Meyer recommending that the second-level banding should clearly be brick or metal.
Mr. Marshall said that he prefers Mr. Dunson's suggestion to use metal on the second level and have consistent joints between the second level and upper volume; this solution would also be easier to construct. He asked if the mullion-like joints would still be necessary to break down the scale of the second level. Mr. Krieger observed that the latest iteration of the second-level design solves some problems but creates others; for example, the design now gives the false impression that an extra floor has been inserted into the building. He suggested that the best solution may be to revert to the previously presented design for the second level, recognizing that not every suggestion the Commission makes will be fruitful once incorporated into a design. Mr. Dunson clarified that the Commission's previous suggestion to add detail was based on the intention that glazing would be reincorporated into the second level; Ms. Gilbert added that the Commission's previous recommendation for glazing was based on finding a programmatic use for the interior mezzanine walkway or continuing the exterior circulation space from the Cherry Street facade around to the front of the building. Mr. Powell agreed that the design should be simplified, commenting that the previous exterior was more elegant and that the interpretation of the Commission's previous advice has resulted in an overly complicated design. Ms. Meyer also expressed support for the previous, simpler design; Mr. Marshall said that he would revise the design for this area accordingly. Ms. Meyer asked if the revision would also result in an improved design for the corner entry at Oak and Cherry Streets. Mr. Marshall responded that the prominence of this corner entry pavilion in the previous design would be restored to the proposal; Mr. Powell, Ms. Gilbert, and Ms. Meyer agreed with this conclusion. Mr. Marshall added that the previous design featured thinner metal panels at the transitional area between the levels, which aids in the transition while still honestly expressing the large volume behind.
Ms. Meyer expressed strong support for the combined entrance for the players, commenting that it is a marked improvement over the separate entrances of the previous design. Mr. Krieger asked if the arbor-like structure that covers the long walkway to the former Mystics entrance would remain; Mr. Marshall responded that the arbor is still included because it would screen the walkway from the noxious activity of the service drive and loading dock. Mr. Krieger expressed support for retaining this arbor. Ms. Meyer recommended continued revision of the parking lot entry sequence, observing that the preliminary sketches show elements from the earlier scheme, especially in the area of the stairway that leads down from the parking lot to the long walkway. Mr. Marshall said that the drawings would be refined and consolidated to reflect the latest design revisions.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus for the previous design's solution for the second level of the Oak Street facade, and that the balance of the revised concept design is responsive to the Commission's previous comments. He offered a motion to approve a design that incorporates both the improved players' entrance and the previous design for the second level. Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted this action. Chairman Powell asked when construction of the project is expected to begin; Mr. Marshall responded that the client is eager to begin as soon as next week.
E. D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities
1. CFA 20/APR/17-4, John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave, NW. Installation of a bronze statue of Marion S. Barry by Steven Weitzman. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the first of two public art projects submitted by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH): a commemorative statue of Marion Barry, the late D.C. mayor, to be located at the east end of the north side of the John A. Wilson District Building, facing Pennsylvania Avenue. He asked Lauren Dugas Glover, the manager of the DCCAH public art division, to begin the presentation.
Ms. Dugas Glover said that the project to memorialize the Mayor Barry had been spearheaded by the DCCAH in partnership with the Executive Office of the Mayor and the Marion Barry Commission; a call for proposals from artists in the metropolitan area resulted in the selection of sculptor Steven Weitzman of Weitzman Studios. She introduced Mr. Weitzman to present his proposal.
Mr. Weitzman said that a location adjacent to the District Building had been chosen because of Barry's long association with the building. The site is located within a raised planting bed that extends along the facade to the east of the center staircase and entrance; the planting bed contains trees and a large digital sign. He said that his concept originated with the idea for a base depicting the District's eight political wards and incorporating a quotation from Barry. The statue would show the mayor raising his hand as if to greet passers-by. The submission includes alternatives for the statue at two different sizes, six feet and eight feet tall, each with the base at a different scale: the six-foot-tall statue is proposed to occupy a larger base, extending from the front to the rear of the planting bed, while the base for the eight-foot-tall statue would be smaller because of budget constraints. Mr. Weitzman said the inscription would be more legible on the smaller base, and the more intimate composition would allow benches to be incorporated.
Mr. Krieger observed that Mayor Barry is depicted as standing on the Potomac River; Mr. Weitzman said that the intent is to depict Barry occupying the center of the base, positioned directly above the quotation. He added that in his initial design the statue stood on Ward 8, the ward which Barry represented as a D.C. Council member, but this design had been envisioned for a site on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue; when the site was changed, he altered the base. Mr. Krieger observed that the renderings show the base for both alternatives as the same size. Mr. Weitzman responded that the renderings were created to show the statue on the same base in two heights at three different locations: westward immediately to the left of the electronic sign; eastward near the northeast corner of the building; and between these two extremes. He said that his preferred alternative, the westernmost location, was eliminated because it would be too close to the sign, and the site near the building corner was eliminated because it would interfere with the roots of an existing tree; the proposed site is therefore the intermediate location.
The Commission members inspected the model provided by Mr. Weitzman. Mr. Powell suggested that the pedestal be raised higher than the top edge of the planting bed wall. Mr. Weitzman anticipated that visitors will want to step up onto the base to have their photo taken with the statue, and if the base were higher, it would have to be high enough to be a normal step; if the edge of the base were only slightly raised, it would create a tripping hazard. Alternatively, the base could be at the same level as the top of the wall, as proposed. Chairman Powell reiterated that raising the base might help. Mr. Weitzman added that the relatively low base would foster public interaction with the statue, and he noted that Mayor Barry had been very approachable in public. Ms. Gilbert suggested that locating the statue in a planting bed is not consistent with a sense of accessibility; Ms. Meyer agreed and added that the proposed location is surrounded by many impediments, such as light poles and trees, that also fight with the idea of accessibility. Mr. Krieger commented that a statue at this location would appear to be intentionally hidden; Ms. Gilbert agreed. Mr. Weitzman acknowledged the difficulties presented by the intermediate site, although, he said that a possible benefit is that it would allow visitors to discover the statue; he added that the DCCAH has been looking for other locations that would give the statue greater public exposure.
Mr. Krieger and Ms. Meyer suggested that a site nearer to the northeast corner of the building would be a preferable location. Mr. Weitzman said that this site would require removing an existing tree; he indicated the curved recess at the corner of the planting bed wall, which results in a distance of only four or five feet between the tree and the curved wall. Chairman Powell suggested squaring this corner of the wall; Mr. Weitzman responded that the corner site involves both federal and D.C. jurisdiction, and the presence of utility lines also might prevent any alteration. He said that another alternative might be to create a niche within the planting bed near the corner, in which the statue could be set at ground level; the edge wall of the planting bed could serve as a seating wall around the statue.
Ms. Meyer expressed support for the design of the statue, but she emphasized that the impact of a piece of sculpture is also affected by its pedestal and siting; she observed that another problem with the proposed location is that the statue would be in front of a window, blocking light into the room behind. Chairman Powell added that the statue at this site would look sunken, and he supported Mr. Weitzman's suggestion to carve out a niche in the planting bed. Mr. Dunson emphasized that a statue of Marion Barry deserves a prominent site, equivalent to that of the Alexander Robey "Boss" Shepherd statue at the other end of the building's Pennsylvania Avenue facade, as well as a location where it would not have to compete with existing features.
Ms. Lehrer strongly supported the larger scale for the statue at eight feet in height. She asked if Mayor Barry would be depicted with his hat, presented as an additional feature for the maquette; Mr. Weitzman responded that the DCCAH has not yet decided whether to include the hat, although Barry's widow, Cora Masters Barry, prefers that it be omitted. He added that Barry's face would be more visible without the hat.
The Commission members returned to the table to continue their discussion of the siting. Mr. Krieger suggested that the best location might be at an existing manhole cover in the sidewalk; Ms. Dugas Glover said this location is not under D.C. jurisdiction. Ms. Meyer said that the problematic tree could easily be removed from the site near the corner of the planting bed; Mr. Powell agreed that this site would be appropriate. Mr. Krieger commented that a location in the planting bed would leave the statue somewhat removed from the street, and Ms. Gilbert emphasized that a person would have to step up into the planting bed to reach the statue. Mr. Weitzman said that letting people stand next to the statue is desirable but, if necessary, plantings could be installed as a deterrent; he emphasized that the site closest to the corner of the planting bed would give the statue better visibility than the other two sites. Mr. Krieger asked if the tree could possibly be kept along with the statue; Mr. Weitzman said the installation of the statue's pedestal may damage the tree's roots.
Ms. Meyer noted the commercial appearance of the existing digital sign and asked if it could be moved; Ms. Dugas Glover offered to discuss this with the Mayor and D.C. Council. Mr. Krieger agreed that the setting of the sculpture would be better if the sign were moved. Ms. Meyer objected to any proposal that would place the statue behind a light post and a tree; she emphasized that this relatively small tree can easily be moved or replaced, and the tree should not be viewed as an obstacle to siting the statue. She reiterated that the other siting options would jam in the statue among features that are not essential to the setting of the District Building. Mr. Krieger observed that even if the statue is sited near the building's corner, the window would be visible behind it; he reiterated his concern with the peculiarity of placing a statue in this small planting bed, regardless of the exact location. Ms. Meyer agreed, adding that the presentation should include a larger photograph of the site, including the area up to the main entrance staircase.
Ms. Gilbert commented that reading the inscription on the statue's base may be difficult because of the nearly flat orientation; Ms. Meyer agreed. Ms. Gilbert added that the base also would become covered by dirt and leaves; she recommended less design effort for the base, with more focus on the correct siting of the statue and an inscription that could be read easily. Mr. Weitzman said that if the pedestal were raised, its face could carry the quotation; Mr. Powell and Ms. Meyer supported this idea. Mr. Krieger also recommended removing the security camera mounted on the corner of the building near the statue site.
Ms. Meyer commented that the proposed base depicting the D.C. wards would not be appropriate, presenting an entirely different character than the statue and showing Mayor Barry standing on the Potomac River; Mr. Krieger agreed. Mr. Weitzman suggested that Barry could be shown standing on Ward 8 instead. Ms. Meyer said that the problem is placing a figural statue on a map because of the unresolved question of whether the statue is meant to be standing on a pedestal or on the ground. She observed that the base and the statue seem to be conceived by two different designers with entirely different aesthetics and using different materials. She recommended designing a traditional pedestal that would be aligned with the base coursing of the District Building.
Chairman Powell offered a motion to approve the concept proposal for an eight-foot-tall statue of Mayor Barry, to be sited in the planting bed near the corner of the building, and standing on a simplified traditional pedestal without a map, with trees to be removed if necessary.
2. CFA 20/APR/17-5, Pepco Substation, 1st and R Streets, SW. Public art installation, Flash Point by David and Eli Hess. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the second submission from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH), a proposal for a public sculpture to be installed in front of a new Pepco electric substation at 1st and R Streets, SW. He asked Ron Humberston of the DCCAH to begin the presentation.
Mr. Humberston said that the proposed sculpture, entitled Flash Point, is the work of father and son artists David and Eli Hess. He introduced Travoris Culpepper of Pepco to discuss its participation, along with the Hesses to present the proposal.
Mr. Culpepper said that the new substation will be in operation by November 2017, providing power to support existing and planned development in Southwest Washington. The substation's design has been developed in consultation with public and private stakeholders, and it also follows the recommendations outlined in the Buzzard Point Vision Framework plan regarding art, architecture, and landscape architecture; the plan encourages the inclusion of public art at this location to emphasize the role of Potomac Avenue as a gateway to Buzzard Point. The site, at the southeast corner of the intersection of Potomac Avenue with 1st and R Streets, SW, is across from the site of the future D.C. United soccer stadium.
David Hess said that the proposed sculpture is based on the idea of celebrating the source of the modern electrical grid, honoring the historic work of Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, and others, through a sculpture that would convey the idea of energy. The Hesses observed that people take electricity for granted and lack a visual image of what occurs during its production; also, the architecture of the new substation—which they likened to a contemporary warehouse—would mask what happens inside and below ground, where the transformers will be located.
The Hesses said that their piece is based on a famous experiment conducted by Tesla, in which he used charged wands to release energy at high voltage. In the sculpture, the wands are proposed to take the form of two pillars, 35 and 48 feet tall, that lean towards each other. Each wand would be composed of 20 stainless steel tubes, rising from a common base and converging at an apex that would terminate in a four-foot-diameter sphere. The two spheres atop the wands would be connected by twisted bronze material—ranging in diameter from three-quarters of an inch to an inch and a half—to create an impression of energy being transmitted between them. To convey this almost instantaneous phenomenon, the bronze would be given a green patina; David Hess described the patinated bronze as resembling "sinewy, growing vines." Eli Hess added that the concept would be most fully realized at night, when pre-programmed projectors located inside each of the two spheres would flash at each other periodically, mimicking the effect of lightning shooting along the rods.
The Hesses described the placement of the sculpture in a planting bed that is being designed with the assistance of Pepco's landscape architects. The planting bed would conceal the sculpture's below-grade footing and would deter pedestrians from walking under the large wands, which would not have sufficient headroom to meet regulatory requirements for pedestrian passage below.
Ms. Gilbert asked if consideration was given to placing the wands far enough apart to allow visitors to walk between them, or if issues other than headroom clearance had argued against this. David Hess responded that clearance was the main issue, and he said that positioning the sculpture has been difficult because of the constraint of the property lines; the requirement is to place the sculpture entirely on D.C. instead of federal property. Mr. Krieger noted that the previous sculpture project on the agenda, for former Mayor Barry, was similarly constrained by property line issues.
Mr. Krieger asked what had determined the specific shape of the wands. David Hess responded that the shape is a stable yet dynamic form that would allow the desired height to be reached. The tapering conical forms would be hollow, with the component tubes spaced four inches apart at the base and converging above. Ms. Gilbert asked if the height of the taller wand had been calculated in relation to the cornice line of the new Pepco building; the Hesses responded that they have established the height to be slightly below the building's cornice. Ms. Gilbert asked how the height of the shorter wand had been decided; David Hess responded that the intent is simply that it be lower than the other wand.
Ms. Meyer commented on the character of the twisted bronze, noting that this feature looks different in the presentation drawings compared to the historic photograph of the electrical experiment. She observed that the electric arcing in the historic image is a large tangle; she questioned whether the sculpture at some point might appear too tame to convey the desired effect, and whether metaphorically describing the bronze as vines is appropriate. David Hess acknowledged that the reference to vines may not be the right image. He said that they want a material other than stainless steel for the arcing, and it should be a material that would not require painting, to reduce the need for maintenance; he added that bronze is a beautiful material that can be patinated in different colors. David Hess emphasized that the intent is to make the twisted bronze appear as chaotic as possible; he agreed that the vine metaphor may not be appropriate but said that the resemblance may not be evident to most visitors. He described an interim study to have the trace of the arcing as a green line on the paving below, but this proved to be infeasible. Ms. Meyer said that the line would potentially be an interesting feature; she observed that the sculpture's most important feature may be the interaction of the rods between the spheres with the light emitted by the projectors.
Mr. Krieger commented that the concept is intriguing. However, he said that the wands appear to be too thick at the base; Ms. Meyer agreed. Eli Hess responded that the grouping of tubes forming the larger wand would be 32 inches in diameter at the base and the smaller wand would be 26 inches. Mr. Krieger recommended making the wands thinner and more elegant; Ms. Meyer supported this suggestion. David Hess responded that the project's structural engineer has found it challenging to design the sculpture's footing because the soil is a mixture of sand and fill, and the tubes have to be three inches in diameter to handle the torsion resulting from the leaning positions of the wands, which is necessary to the concept.
Ms. Lehrer expressed her admiration for the sculpture. She observed that the bronze components are larger than could be achieved using modern fiber optics, and she asked if fiber optics such as a filament has been considered to carry the light between the wands. David Hess said they had discussed this idea but dismissed it because of concern that birds would damage them; he said that the proposed projectors would be set securely inside the four-foot-diameter spheres and could be serviced if necessary, while filaments would be too fragile.
Ms. Gilbert questioned the proposed density of the bronze rods, which she said should be the focus of the sculpture. She asked if more mockups would be prepared; David Hess said that this is planned as part of the off-site fabrication. Ms. Gilbert asked if the planting bed would be irregularly shaped or rectangular. The Hesses responded that the planting bed around the sculpture's base would be an irregular shape set within a larger rectangle of small-scale pavers; the intent is to contrast the sculpture's setting with the streetscape's regular pattern of larger-scale pavers. Mr. Krieger and Ms. Gilbert recommended eliminating the rectangular shape surrounding the planting bed. Ms. Lehrer suggested a simpler solution, such as designing an irregularly shaped planting bed within the larger paving modules, leaving out the smaller module of paving.
David Hess asked if the Commission could encourage the D.C. Department of Transportation to shift the location of a proposed street light, which would block views of the sculpture. Chairman Powell said that the Commission could comment on this to the appropriate authorities; Secretary Luebke said that the follow-up letter for the project could include a statement supporting relocation of the street light.
Mr. Krieger offered a motion to approve the concept for the sculpture with recommendations to alter the proportion of the wands and to request a careful investigation of the location of the street light, possibly shifting it further away from the sculpture, and with the comments provided. Upon a second by Mr. Powell, the Commission adopted this action.
F. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
Ms. Batcheler introduced the two concept submissions related to the new building for the International Spy Museum, currently under construction as seen by the Commission members earlier in the day during a site visit. She noted the Commission's approval of the building's final design in April 2016. The first of the current submissions is to add a weather protection system on the building's upper terrace, in order to integrate the infrastructure for special events on the terrace with the building's overall architecture. The second submission is for exterior signage and sculpture to identify the building and its special exhibitions. She introduced architect Ivan Harbour of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners to present the terrace structure, and Patrick Gallagher of Gallagher & Associates to present the signage.
1. SL 17-090, International Spy Museum, L'Enfant Plaza. 420 10th Street, SW. New museum building—Rooftop terrace. Concept. (Previous: SL 16-087, April 2016.) Mr. Harbour summarized the approved design for the building, which is already visible as the structural skeleton is being completed. He indicated the primary architectural components, related to the program and themes of the building: a "black box" for exhibition space, a "veil" along the facade with circulation areas behind, and an "events box" above. The terrace is located above the exhibition space, with access from the events area. He said that the terrace has been envisioned as a setting accommodating temporary structures; after the Commission's review of the final design, Spy Museum officials have requested a more permanent architectural solution for providing weather protection, in order to avoid the appearance of a "circus tent" remaining on the terrace for a substantial part of the year. The intention is to design a shade structure that could be deployed or retracted easily in response to weather conditions, with minimal impact on the building's architecture. He presented images of standardized systems that serve this purpose with motorized operation and minimal structure.
Mr. Harbour presented the alterations to the terrace area, comparing the proposal with the previously approved design. A projecting steel frame would be added to the ends and upper portion of the previously designed exterior wall; this frame would be enclosed to define a shallow exterior porch or alcove space that would encompass the visitor door and service door onto the terrace. The horizontal framing and sloped beams of a canopy structure would be connected to the steel frame, giving the appearance of an integrated system rather than an added element. He presented several aerial perspective views of how the terrace would appear with event tables in place: the structure alone with the canopy retracted; with the fabric extended to form a shallow sloped ceiling above the event area; and with additional fabric screens extended vertically to provide further protection from wind and sun. He noted that the proposed canopy structure would not extend the entire north-south length of the facade; the southern portion of the facade would continue to face directly onto the open terrace. He said that the overall north-south length of the canopy structure would be 92.5 feet, approximately half the length of the building; it would extend twenty feet west from the proposed framing system around the porch, which itself would extend eight feet west from the already approved upper facade. He added that the proposed dimensions relate to the grid of the building below.
Mr. Harbour presented additional details of the proposal. Glass doors would be included at the north and south ends of the porch framing system to provide adequate emergency egress from the outdoor event space when the vertical screening is extended. The retracted fabric and supports for the ceiling system would be gathered within the porch framing. He presented sections to show the height and profile of the proposed canopy system in relation to the upper volumes of the building. He noted that rainwater on the extended canopy would drain into the planting area that is already designed for the west edge of the terrace, along the building parapet; the proposed canopy would not channel water onto the facade. The ceiling of the space would have a light-colored fabric; the vertical screens would be a dark fabric to provide a greater sense of transparency.
Mr. Harbour concluded with several perspective drawings of the proposal from street level, overlaid on the already approved design and the existing buildings in the vicinity. Approaching from the National Mall on the north, or from Banneker Park on the south, a portion of the proposed system would be visible behind the existing office buildings and the Spy Museum itself; from some vantage points, the visibility would include a portion of the porch enclosure, which would be colored red to match the highlighted elements of the museum's exposed structural system. Secretary Luebke noted that the drawings depict the entire extent of the proposed canopy structure in dashed yellow linework, although only a small portion would be visible in the street-level views being presented.
Ms. Gilbert questioned the proposal to use red for the porch enclosure; while this would relate the event terrace to the museum's major red-colored structural elements below, the porch enclosure would only be slightly visible from certain street-level viewpoints, and a simpler solution may be to use red only for the major structural highlights below. Mr. Harbour responded that numerous color choices were considered, including the use of red for the entire structural system of the terrace enclosure and even for the fabric; the conclusion was that the terrace design should relate in some manner to the building below, and the red for the porch framing helps to define the event space as an important part of the building instead of merely a mechanical penthouse. He added that Spy Museum officials have not yet evaluated this color proposal, but he emphasized its purpose in placing some of the building's red color at the skyline and in signifying the importance of this space. Mr. Krieger asked what material would be used for this porch enclosure; Mr. Harbour responded that the red would be a glossy finish applied to a durable exterior material such as aluminum or steel panels.
Mr. Krieger expressed overall support for the proposal; he asked why some of the canopy framing would be white and other parts gray. Mr. Harbour responded that the intention is to define distinctly the edges of the terrace—the vertical columns and horizontal beams, as well as the vertical fabric, all in dark gray—in comparison to the white color for the ceiling canopy fabric and its shallow sloped supports. He said that the color distinction of the framing would help to avoid the perception of the canopy system as being a tent; similarly, the fabric itself would be selected to be unlike a tent, such as with a dark, loosely woven fabric for the vertical screening. Mr. Krieger asked about the capacity of the terrace; Mr. Harbour said that it would accommodate seating for approximately 150 people. Mr. Krieger reiterated his support for the proposal, and he observed that the terrace would be more fully visible from the upper stories of the adjacent buildings. Mr. Harbour responded that this visibility is part of the reason for carefully designing the enclosure system so that it is not perceived simply as a large object placed on the roof.
Ms. Meyer suggested that the intended simplicity of the design could be helped by eliminating the vertical screening; she cited the example of the rooftop terrace at the Hotel W on 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, although Mr. Luebke said that vertical screening has been added to protect this terrace.
Chairman Powell recognized Michael Lee, representing the owner of the hotel that is located on the upper floors of the L'Enfant Plaza building immediately to the east of the Spy Museum site. Mr. Lee read a statement expressing the owner's objection to the length of the penthouse along much of the Spy Museum's east side, describing it as a two-story-high wall rising above the main building volume. He said that the additional awning structure would effectively increase the building's height beyond the 130-foot limit and result in greater use of the terrace than would normally be anticipated in conjunction with allowable penthouse uses. He requested that the penthouse be reconfigured to a more limited size, with a more desirable tapering for the upper part of the building, in order to reduce the impact on surrounding sites.
Ms. Meyer asked for clarification of the issues raised by Mr. Lee. Secretary Luebke responded that the current proposal does not change the extent of the penthouse, other than the eight-foot-deep alcove extension on the west. He said that the remainder of the penthouse would remain as previously approved by the Commission in 2016, and it is currently under construction. He added that the impacts were considered of the impacts from occupancy of the penthouse and terrace; he described these discussions as productive, resulting in the design to pull back the occupiable areas from the edges of the roof. Ms. Meyer asked if other review agencies would address the regulatory issues concerning the penthouse design; Mr. Luebke responded that the regulations are enforced by the D.C. government, and the local regulations allow for occasional use of penthouse space although it is not intended for permanent occupancy. He described this building's penthouse design as a fairly standard treatment.
Mr. Krieger asked Mr. Lee to clarify his concern. Mr. Lee said that the overall massing of the penthouse volume is the concern, and the currently proposed canopy system would further increase this penthouse massing. He expressed regret that the hotel owner was not able to raise this concern at the previous reviews of the overall building. He urged the design team to consider decreasing the overall size of the penthouse. Mr. Krieger observed that the hotel is located to the east, while the current proposal would extend the west side of the penthouse structure. He therefore questioned whether the current proposal would have any impact on the hotel, while acknowledging that the ongoing construction of the museum may have made the overall issue of the penthouse size more apparent to the hotel's owner in recent months. Ms. Gilbert asked if the hotel is taller than the museum; Mr. Lee responded that both buildings reach 130 feet; the hotel guests in west-facing rooms will see the museum's large blank wall, which he described as massive and unarticulated.
Ms. Meyer recalled that an additional building is planned on the east side of the Spy Museum, closer to the hotel; Mr. Luebke confirmed that this further construction has already been approved at the concept level. Ms. Meyer noted that the evaluation of the Spy Museum design included the assumption that it would be part of a larger project. Mr. Krieger summarized that the museum's blank east wall would not be visible after the next phase of construction. Mr. Luebke added that projects reviewed under the Shipstead-Luce Act often have notable views of Washington's monumental core. He said that the best solution for this terrace screening may be to support a proposal that is carefully designed as part of this building, rather than rely on unattractive temporary structures that could remain in place for much of the year.
Mr. Dunson offered a motion to approve the concept proposal. Mr. Luebke noted that the project scope is relatively small, and the Commission has not raised major concerns; he suggested the possibility of delegating review of the final design to the staff. He said that this small project was placed on the Commission's agenda due to the prominence of the location. Mr. Dunson supported the delegation as part of the approval, and the Commission adopted this action.
Chairman Powell departed during the discussion of the following agenda item, and Vice Chairman Meyer presided for the remainder of the meeting.
2. SL 17-091, International Spy Museum, L'Enfant Plaza. 420 10th Street, SW. New museum building—Signs and banner. Concept. (Previous: SL 16-087, April 2016.) Mr. Gallagher presented the proposed exterior signage for the International Spy Museum. He described the role of his firm, Gallagher & Associates, as the museum planners, exhibit designers, and brand managers; their work has included the museum's interior and exterior signage. He noted that the initial staff consultation included a wider scope of area-wide pedestrian signage, but the current submission is limited to the immediate area of the building: identification signage above the museum entrance; graphics along the lobby's glass wall; a wall-mounted banner on the north to identify temporary exhibits; and a sculpture below the overhang at the southwest corner of the building.
Mr. Gallagher described the range of banners used on Washington museums to identify temporary exhibits; he noted that the Spy Museum will have an area of 5,000 square feet for such exhibits. After initial studies for a much larger banner toward the western edge of the museum's north facade, the current proposal is for a banner of approximately 700 square feet, extending over the three service portals that will provide loading access for the three levels of exhibits. He indicated the brackets that would connect the banner to the building's structural system. He presented adaptations of past banners for the Spy Museum's temporary exhibits, adjusted to the proposed banner's proportions; he anticipated that the future banners on the new building would be comparable in character. Mr. Krieger asked how the past and future sizes compare; Mr. Gallagher said that the past banners have been wider but shorter. He presented two photographic simulations of the banners as seen when approaching the museum from the National Mall and the Forrestal Building on the north. He added that an additional banner on the south facade was also under consideration, but this has currently been removed from the sign program.
Mr. Gallagher presented the proposed identification signage, which would consist of three-dimensional lettering mounted on the angled door surrounds above the two museum entrances and the museum store entrance. The material of the letters would be stainless steel, exposed on the front and painted on the sides; the letters would be rear-illuminated, with no lighting on the front. An application of vinyl graphics is also proposed on the glass facade of the museum lobby and store as a safety measure to deter people from accidentally walking into the glass. He presented a variety of graphic patterns under consideration, and he said that a selection would be made when the sunlight conditions can be studied more carefully within the building setback after the glass is installed.
Mr. Gallagher presented the proposed sculpture beneath the museum's overhanging southwest corner, a three-dimensional representation of the word "SPY." The stainless steel sculpture would be nine feet tall, set directly on the ground pavement at a slight angle to 10th Street; lighting would be provided from above. He said that the remainder of the plaza and seating would not change from the previously approved site design.
Mr. Krieger asked about the extent of the graphics on the glass facade and whether a frit technique would be used. Mr. Gallagher responded that the graphics would be limited to the lower portion of the tall glass wall, below the first horizontal mullion line. Mr. Harbour, the building's architect, added that safety codes sometimes require such a visual signal of separation when the floor level is the same on both sides of a glass wall. Mr. Gallagher added that this feature may not actually be characterized as signage; Secretary Luebke clarified that it would be considered as a pattern related to the museum's theme, rather than a sign that conveys information. Ms. Gilbert asked if this window treatment would change periodically; Mr. Gallagher responded that the proposal is for a one-time, permanent installation.
Ms. Meyer observed that the safety issue for the glass facade would have been known during the building's design process; she asked why it was not addressed as part of the architectural proposal, and is instead being treated as applied graphics. She commented that the proposal would unexpectedly add an extra pattern to the building design; she emphasized that the fundamental issue of safety may not really be a problem of graphics. Tamara Christian, president of the Spy Museum, responded that the importance of this issue became more clear after recent consultations with the staff of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture: since that museum opened on the Mall in 2016, people have been injured walking into the glass wall of its lobby, and the Spy Museum is therefore trying to address this problem in advance of its public opening.
Mr. Krieger observed that the alternative patterns under consideration are more elaborate than a typical grouping of simple dots, and would instead relate more closely to the museum's theme by suggesting a veil or sense of mystery for the interior, notwithstanding the stated functional purpose of public safety. Mr. Harbour responded that the required safety measure in Europe had once been a horizontal line on the glass, and now the requirement is two lines at a defined spacing; he said that the issue is evolving. Mr. Gallagher elaborated on the intended meaning of the alternative patterns, in relation to the museum's narrative themes: most of the graphics are derived from electronic code patterns, a motif that will also be used elsewhere in the building. Mr. Krieger asked about the presented alternative that would depict the famed Mona Lisa painting; Mr. Gallagher said that this has been removed from consideration because the pattern should not be a recognizable image. Ms. Gilbert observed that the choice of a pattern involves a scale issue that will become apparent when the design is enlarged to apply to the actual glass panes. Mr. Krieger emphasized that this graphic pattern could be an interesting addition to the character of the museum building. Mr. Gallagher offered to provide the Commission with a sample of the selected graphic pattern; Mr. Krieger encouraged this submission. Mr. Gallagher summarized the general intent to provide some sort of pattern on the glass at the eye level of visitors. Mr. Luebke asked if the Commission wants to provide more specific direction for the selection of a pattern; Mr. Krieger said that a further opportunity for review would be satisfactory, and he expressed general support for the concept of applying graphics along the lower portion of the glass facade.
Mr. Krieger asked for clarification of the banner's proposed location, which would be on a side facade of the museum. Mr. Gallagher responded that it is oriented toward the Mall on the north, which is the anticipated direction of arrival for most visitors. He added that the banner could not feasibly be attached to the museum's angled west facade, which may also be a regulatory problem because the west facade projects beyond the property line. Mr. Krieger suggested that the banner could be even bigger; Ms. Gilbert said that a smaller banner may better convey a sense of mystery because its content only becomes apparent as one moves closer to it. Mr. Krieger said that ideally its location would not be so far around the building's corner, but he acknowledged that a better position may not be feasible for this building design. Mr. Gallagher noted that one of the concerns in locating the banner has been the engineering feasibility of the attachment brackets; the banner could not be attached securely to the aluminum louvers that form part of the building facade. He said that the siting constraints have resulted in a smaller banner size than would be preferred by the museum staff.
Ms. Gilbert asked if the text size on the banner has been studied in relation to legibility from various distances. Mr. Gallagher said that this has not been studied thoroughly; he cited the precedent banners for an approximation of the anticipated temporary designs, observing that they have emphasized strong graphic features in the past. He added that the new building will itself have a strong sense of identity, resulting in the decision not to propose a large-scale graphic for identifying the museum from a distance; the proposed banner addresses the more limited need to promote temporary exhibits. He emphasized that the banner would not become prominently visible until a visitor passes beneath the Forrestal Building, which spans above 10th Street near Independence Avenue to the north.
Mr. Krieger asked whether such a banner is actually important for this type of museum and location, where pedestrians are unlikely to happen upon the museum while passing through the area; he agreed that the building itself will serve the purpose of attracting visitors from a distance. Mr. Gallagher responded that the Spy Museum's promotion of temporary exhibits is no different than the many other museums whose banners were illustrated in the presentation; Mr. Krieger questioned this comparison, observing that most of those banners are intended to be seen at a relatively close distance, while the proposed Spy Museum banner is intended to be legible from several blocks away. Mr. Gallagher confirmed that the museum staff wants information about special exhibits to be communicated to visitors who are approaching from as far away as the Forrestal Building. He added that 10th Street may attract many more pedestrians in the future, due to the waterfront development under construction and the planned improvements to the pedestrian connections at Banneker Park (see agenda item II.B); 10th Street will be the main artery for people walking between the Mall and the waterfront. Ms. Lehrer observed that the proposed banner would be on the north side of the building facing away from the waterfront; Mr. Gallagher reiterated that an earlier plan for a banner on the museum's south side was removed from the proposal. Ms. Lehrer questioned the logic of placing a banner on only the north facade when the intense pedestrian activity in the near future will likely be both north and south of the museum. Mr. Gallagher responded that the reduced scope was a response to the early guidance provided during the consultation process.
Mr. Gallagher clarified that the importance of promoting special exhibits is a result of the extra investment made by the museum in developing or renting such exhibits; this investment is recouped through ticket sales for both the museum and the special exhibits. Mr. Krieger acknowledged this purpose and observed that the promotion can take many forms, such as newspaper and on-line advertisements, without relying entirely on the banner. He emphasized that the design question is the appropriate size and location for the banner, related to where people are when perceiving its message; he suggested that the information about a temporary exhibit may be more useful for someone close to the building than for someone several blocks away. Ms. Meyer agreed, commenting that the anticipated increase in pedestrian use of 10th Street would suggest that many people will be walking directly in front of the museum, without needing to be attracted to it from several blocks away. She questioned the banner's apparent purpose in drawing visitors from Independence Avenue who might otherwise not choose to walk along 10th Street; she said that a better design strategy could be to attract pedestrians from across the street, as they are already moving through the 10th Street corridor. She said that it is the people close to the building, instead of those several blocks away, who would be more likely to decide to make a detour to spend some time visiting a temporary exhibit; the banner should therefore be sized and positioned for this purpose.
Ms. Gilbert recalled past presentations about planting trees within the median of 10th Street; Secretary Luebke confirmed that this is planned but with no established schedule. Several Commission members agreed that the median design suggests a more appropriately modest scale for the signage to promote the museum's temporary exhibits. Mr. Dunson added that this advice could include moving the temporary exhibit sign from the north side to the west front of the building; he observed that the banners at other museums, as illustrated in the presentation, tend to be at the museum entrance and often closer to the ground level. Mr. Gallagher reiterated the structural issues in supporting the banner, particularly due to wind loads; a location may be infeasible on the west facade, which is designed as a "glass veil." Mr. Dunson suggested consideration of a location closer to the ground, below the hanging glass facade. Mr. Gallagher responded that a temporary banner would be too susceptible to vandalism if installed close to ground level. Mr. Dunson acknowledged that the proposed glass treatment may serve to communicate the museum's purpose at the ground level, comparable in purpose to an exhibit banner; noting the structural issues, the building's unique design as an identifying feature, and the temporary nature of a banner, he offered support for the banner location as proposed. He nonetheless encouraged consideration of other ways to communicate the museum's temporary exhibits to visitors, potentially more effectively than with the banner. He emphasized that this museum will likely be a planned destination for most visitors, and upon arrival they will choose to see the exhibits.
Mr. Gallagher said that the unique characteristics of the context will likely result in most pedestrians moving along the east side of 10th Street; he said that this would suggest the undesirability of a banner on the west facade that is oriented toward pedestrians across the street. Mr. Krieger said that this museum's unique characteristics should be a more important consideration: he criticized the banner proposal as a conventional solution to a very unconventional situation. He observed that the banner as proposed would not be visible to people who are close to the museum, due to its elevated position and its location around the corner from the entrance. He suggested instead that this unconventional building should have a more imaginative way of communicating information about what happens within, such as special exhibits. He summarized the proposal as somehow odd, but said that the Commission could accept it if this is what the project team wants.
Ms. Lehrer suggested considering the proposed signage in relation to the visitor experience. Someone who visits Washington periodically may already have seen this museum, and would not need to revisit it regularly, but might decide to see a special exhibit upon seeing promotional information at the site. She emphasized that the pool of visitors is not limited to pedestrians; many tourists enjoy using buses, particularly open-top buses, and these visitors too may decide to visit a museum based on seeing its signage. She acknowledged the prevalence of on-line information but said that banners are nonetheless valuable in attracting visitors, as demonstrated by their widespread use. She asked if the need for exterior signs has been considered thoroughly, or if the Commission will be asked to allow additional signage in a few years. Mr. Gallagher responded that future needs cannot be anticipated fully. He cited the example of the existing light poles with banners along 10th Street; while these were considered for museum signage, they are outside the museum's control. The longer-range plans for 10th Street include replacing these light poles and installing more planters, but the details and timetable of such changes are not known. Ms. Meyer said that the long-term variability in the context suggests the value of a more unconventional approach to the solutions for signage; she urged the museum staff and area property owners to coordinate their efforts to obtain a future streetscape design that attracts visitors to the area.
Vice Chairman Meyer summarized the consensus of the Commission that the proposed banner may not be the most effective way of attracting visitors to temporary exhibits. Mr. Dunson added that the north facade as designed is beautiful in itself, and he expressed regret that it would be interrupted by the proposed banner. Mr. Gallagher responded that his proposal has been coordinated with Mr. Harbour for architectural compatibility, and he reiterated that the banner would conceal three service access doors that are designed into the facade for the museum's three levels of exhibition space. Mr. Dunson observed that some design solutions for banners would have more impact than others, as illustrated in the range of presented precedents from other museums; he urged further exploration of the possible alternatives, such as locating a banner near the building entrances, in order to have greater assurance that the proposed design is the best solution. Mr. Gallagher noted that most of the illustrated precedents use banners to frame a single primary museum entrance, while the Spy Museum will have multiple entrances; he reiterated the numerous problems with locating a banner near the entrances, including sightlines and the property line. Vice Chairman Meyer emphasized that the Commission does not object to the museum's goal of promoting temporary exhibits in order to recoup the investment in them; the guidance instead is to reconsider whether the proposed banner would be the most effective way of achieving this goal. She reiterated that the building itself would be the primary attractor of visitors, and the banner is an overly conventional advertising technique that may be ineffective in its purpose of drawing distant visitors from Independence Avenue. She said that the apparent consensus is not to reject the proposal, but to advise the project team that the proposed expense may be wasted.
Vice Chairman Meyer invited comments on the proposed plaza sculpture of the word "SPY" at the southwest corner of the building. Several Commission members expressed support for this proposal; Mr. Krieger described it as public art. Ms. Meyer observed that people may be able to walk through the nine-foot-tall sculpture, particularly between the "P" and "Y." Mr. Krieger said that visitors would at least be able to interact with it playfully; Mr. Dunson supported this attribute. Mr. Krieger summarized that the sculpture is interesting, and Ms. Lehrer anticipated that people will enjoy being photographed alongside it.
Mr. Krieger expressed surprise that the signage near the entrances would not include any information about temporary exhibits, which would instead be conveyed on the banner on the north facade. Mr. Luebke anticipated that this might be the subject of a future submission for additional signage. Ms. Gilbert suggested that the vinyl graphics on the lobby's glass facade could be developed as a changeable method of announcing temporary exhibits, instead of the proposal for a permanent graphic design pattern on the glass. Mr. Gallagher said that such signage would not fulfill the purpose of communicating information about the temporary exhibits to people who are approaching the building from a greater distance. Mr. Dunson reiterated that the unusual building will attract the visitors, who will decide upon arrival to see the temporary exhibits; a reasonable solution would therefore be to communicate information about the exhibits at the building entrance points. He emphasized the beauty of the architecture and suggested that a large exterior banner should be located where it would appear more integrated with the building design, instead of appearing to be merely applied; he suggested consideration of the space between the glass enclosures of the front facade. He joined in encouraging Mr. Gallagher as well as the architect to extend the creativity of the building design in finding a less traditional solution for the banner. Ms. Lehrer agreed that the building design is beautiful; she said that an alternative to the banner on the facade could be a temporary sign that is set out each day. She acknowledged that the draw for many visitors may be the museum's subject matter rather than the building's beauty or its signage.
Noting the particular sensitivity of landscape architects to issues of solar orientation and visibility, Ms. Meyer added an additional consideration for the proposed banner, observing that its location on the north facade would place it in the shade as it is viewed by people who are looking toward the sun. The banner would therefore be difficult to see, while the building would be appreciated as a veiled, layered, mysterious, and enigmatic form, including its appearance in silhouette when seen from the north. She reiterated the apparent consensus of the Commission to accept the project team's proposal despite it being an unnecessary addition to an extraordinary building.
Vice Chairman Meyer invited a motion to conclude the discussion. Mr. Krieger suggested approving the concept submission, noting its reluctance in approving the temporary exhibits banner that is presented as a programmatic necessity for the client, and with the encouragement of the client's reconsideration of how best to promote the museum's temporary exhibits. Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted this action. Secretary Luebke asked if the Commission would prefer a presentation of the final design instead of listing it on the Shipstead-Luce Act appendix; Mr. Krieger said that the Commission should see a subsequent presentation for the banner proposal.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:41 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA