The meeting was convened in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, at 9:10 a.m.
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
(In the absence of Chairman Powell, Vice Chairman Meyer presided.)
A. Approval of the minutes of the 15 June meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the June meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission approved the minutes.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 20 September, 19 October, and 16 November 2017. He noted that the September meeting will be held on a Wednesday to avoid conflict with a religious holiday on Thursday, 21 September; he also noted that no meeting is scheduled in August.
C. Proposed 2018 schedule of meetings and submission deadlines for the Commission and Old Georgetown Board. Mr. Luebke presented the proposed schedule of meetings and submission deadlines for calendar year 2018. The Commission meeting dates would be the third Thursday of each month except August and December; the meetings of the Old Georgetown Board would be on the first Thursday of each month except August. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission adopted this schedule.
D. Report on the approval of objects proposed for acquisition by the Freer Gallery of Art. Mr. Luebke reported the approval earlier in the day by Vice Chairman Meyer, on behalf of Chairman Powell, of the proposed purchase of six Chinese textile artworks by the Smithsonian Institution for the permanent collection of the Freer Gallery of Art. These textiles are known as rank badges or Mandarin squares, which were affixed to the coats of imperial officials to indicate rank. He said that the material includes kesi, a type of cut silk, and the depicted subjects include phoenixes, peonies, clouds, lions, egrets, and a tiger; the badges are approximately fourteen inches square and date from the 14th to 17th centuries.
E. Report on the 2017 National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs grant program. Mr. Luebke reported on the federal grants program administered by the Commission to support Washington, D.C.-based arts organizations. The applications for 2017 have been processed, and the results were reviewed by a panel including Chairman Powell and outside officials. Of the 23 organizations receiving a grant in 2016, 22 have been awarded grants for 2017. The organization leaving the program is the Textile Museum, which has recently become part of the George Washington University and therefore no longer qualifies as an independent arts organization. He said that the authorized funding for the program is $2 million, and the median grant is approximately $90,000; the specific amount of each grant is determined by an established formula. He noted that the Commission has administered the program since the late 1980s.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that the only change to the draft appendix is a revised recommendation for the renovation of Coolidge High School, in response to supplemental information that has been submitted (case number CFA 20/JUL/17-f). He noted that this revised recommendation includes provisions for continued coordination with the staff and further design refinements for the proposed new canopies, allowing the concept proposal to move forward during the Commission's break in August.
Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported several changes to the draft appendix. The dates have been noted for the recent receipt of supplemental materials. Three projects listed on the draft appendix have been removed and will be considered in a future month. Five projects have been added at the end of the appendix (case numbers SL 17-141 through 17-145); she said that these are relatively simple projects, and the staff was aware in advance of their pending submission. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised appendix. (See agenda items II.E.1 through II.E.5 for additional Shipstead-Luce Act submissions.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Mellon said that one project has been removed from the draft appendix to allow time for further refinement of the design details. The revised appendix includes 49 cases; all of the supplemental drawings were received prior to distribution of the draft. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 20/JUL/17-1, National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial, Two locations (West Potomac Park at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue, NW, and George Washington Memorial Parkway, south of Memorial Circle area on Columbia Island). Site selection for new memorial. Secretary Luebke introduced the site selection study for a new national memorial to Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield, submitted by the National Park Service (NPS) on behalf of the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association. He said that the proposed memorial was authorized by federal law to honor the Americans who served on active duty in these two military operations from 1990 to 1991. Further legislation has authorized the Memorial Association to consider sites within Area 1, as defined in the Commemorative Works Act, and two alternative sites are submitted for consideration: the first is located in Lady Bird Johnson Park, just south of Memorial Circle at the southwestern end of Arlington Memorial Bridge; the second is on the National Mall, northwest of the Lincoln Memorial at the southwest corner of Constitution Avenue and 23rd Street, NW. Both sites have the scale to accommodate a one-acre memorial within a two-acre site; both sites are surrounded by busy roads and would present difficulties with access. He asked Peter May, associate regional director for lands and planning for the NPS National Capital Region, to begin the presentation.
Mr. May noted the previous consideration by the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission of this memorial's authorizing legislation, its Area 1 authorization, and its initial site selection study. He introduced Scott Stump, president of the Memorial Association, to begin the presentation. Mr. Stump said that two speakers would address the Commission before the presentation of the sites: Edward Gnehm, former U.S. ambassador to Kuwait, and Mike Lonetto, a U.S. Army veteran of Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Mr. Gnehm urged the Commission to support the Mall site. Describing the gratitude expressed by Kuwaiti citizens after their liberation, he said that a location on the Mall would underscore the significance of this conflict and honor the coalition of 34 countries that supported the operations; he added that many of their citizens now visit Washington as tourists, and the memorial should be easily accessible by pedestrians. Mr. Lonetto described the welcome given by Kuwaiti resistance fighters to Army forces entering Kuwait City at the beginning of the ground war. He also supported the Mall site, saying that all who fought and died in this war deserve a place of honor next to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Alan Harwood, a planner with AECOM, and landscape architect Skip Graffam of OLIN presented an overview of the site selection process. Mr. Harwood described the memorial's purpose as commemorating the war, the service members killed, and the unprecedented coalition of forces. He said that the war restored the faith of the American public in its military and brought healing after the divisions of the Vietnam War, as exemplified by the National Victory Celebration Parade along Constitution Avenue on June 8, 1991. Under the requirements of the Commemorative Works Act, the Memorial Association will fund and build the memorial; after completion, it will be under the jurisdiction of the NPS. The goal is to complete the memorial by 2021, the thirtieth anniversary of the war.
Mr. Harwood said that the site selection process began with consideration of all 100 sites listed in the 2001 Memorials and Museums Master Plan. Criteria for the memorial site include accessibility, safety, environmental resiliency, and establishing thematic connections with other sites. Eighteen sites were selected for further study, located both within and outside of Area 1, the area immediately around the Reserve at the heart of the monumental core. The project team then evaluated how a memorial on each site would fit within its context. Existing memorials were studied to determine an appropriate scale for a memorial intended to be compact yet emotionally moving, and capable of suggesting characteristics of the Kuwaiti desert. General design parameters were developed to evaluate how sites could accommodate or influence the memorial. The conclusion was that the new memorial should occupy a footprint of about an acre within a 1.5- to 2-acre site that is located mostly outside the 100-year floodplain; he characterized this scale as moderately sized. The memorial should not be an isolated object; it should be low and horizontal rather than vertical; and it should be a place of reflection, with a clear relationship to other significant sites. It should fit within existing tree plantings and existing circulation networks, with easy access by pedestrians, and with little need for parking except for handicap spaces. He added that while some memorials in Washington are oriented to the river, this memorial is not intended for a waterfront site. These criteria led to the selection of the two currently submitted sites in Area 1; both are desirable for their prominence and their potential as the setting for a memorial of lasting significance.
Mr. Graffam described the intent for the new memorial as the creation of a simple yet profound experience, incorporating a gradual transition from sidewalks to an arrival point or foyer in front of the memorial. Visitors would move into a "sacred" space, and then continue through a space designed to encourage reflection on the experience before returning to the existing pedestrian circulation. The memorial would be integrated into its landscape through manipulation of the topography; views and circulation would tie it into a larger thematic context established by other national memorials. He said that a new memorial on either of the two sites could bring benefits to the city by improving local circulation, enhancing plantings, and reinforcing contextual themes.
Mr. Harwood presented the first of the two sites: a mostly open meadow loosely framed by clumps of trees, just south of Memorial Circle. The site is located in Lady Bird Johnson Park, which was designed by landscape architect Edward Durell Stone, Jr. [CFA member, 1971–85]. The general area, listed as Site #1 in the Memorials and Museums Master Plan, is part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway and is within the cultural landscape of Lady Bird Johnson Park. The memorial would not take up the entire site; space would remain for future projects. The site is accessible by Metro, highly visible from cars on the parkway, and lies outside the 100-year and 500-year floodplains. The primary constraint is the heavy parkway traffic, which makes access difficult. The site lies within the foreground of Arlington National Cemetery, which has four million visitors annually. It is less than a mile from the Lincoln Memorial across Memorial Bridge, and less than half a mile from the Women in Military Service for America Memorial—which he noted is a significant relationship because more than 40,000 women were deployed in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the largest-ever deployment of American women. He added that siting the memorial in the center of Memorial Circle would not be feasible because of the amount of traffic around the circle.
Mr. Graffam described how the site would inform the memorial design. The Memorial Circle site is the largest meadow within the picturesque landscape of Lady Bird Johnson Park, encompassing 9.3 acres. He compared this with two presidential memorials having linear landscapes: the Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove to the south, which is 9.2 acres; and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in West Potomac Park, which is 7.8 acres. The meadow slopes down gradually toward the south and is more visually prominent than any of the other sites studied.
Mr. Harwood presented the Mall site at the western end of Constitution Avenue, which shifts alignment west of 23rd Street to become an entrance and exit ramp for the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge. He said that the avenue originally extended to the curved balustrade of the "Belvedere" at the Potomac River, alongside the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway; a row of trees extending west from 23rd Street still recalls the southern edge of Constitution Avenue's original alignment. The site lies northwest of the east-facing Lincoln Memorial, just outside the Reserve. Like the rest of West Potomac Park, it occupies land reclaimed from the river in the late nineteenth century. Metro access is relatively near, and the area receives many tourists: each year, eight million people visit the Lincoln Memorial, and six million visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The number of visitors may increase after construction nearby of a planned education center for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The proposed Desert Storm Memorial site therefore lies within a context of war memorials, particularly to twentieth-century wars, and the location is adjacent to the route of the 1991 Desert Storm victory celebration parade along Constitution Avenue. It is also located across the avenue from the U.S. Institute of Peace; near the State Department, which played a central role in creating the international coalition that backed the operations; and near the Embassy of Saudi Arabia, a key player in the war that was fought in part to protect Saudi oil fields.
Mr. Graffam described the Mall site's benefits. The topography is slightly bowl-shaped, so that the memorial could be placed within a corner, affording it some protection from traffic noise. A one-acre memorial within the 3.8-acre site would be of similar or smaller scale than the existing memorials in West Potomac Park; for comparison, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial's overall site is 7.4 acres, the Korean War Veterans Memorial is 5.2 acres, and the World War II Memorial is 4 acres. The Mall site would be easy to reach from other memorials, and would have controlled traffic intersections. Its most powerful thematic connections would be to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial—senior officers in Desert Shield and Desert Storm had been young servicemen in Vietnam—and to the State Department. It would also provide clear views of the Lincoln Memorial.
Mr. Graffam described the constraints of the Mall site. It lies partially within the 100-year floodplain and almost entirely within the 500-year floodplain; its elevation varies by approximately eighteen inches. A levee may be built somewhere within the site area to provide protection from the 500-year flood. A memorial would have to avoid the root zone of the existing line of trees. The convoluted and unsightly web of roadways to the north presents an obstacle to pedestrians and is a source of traffic noise. In addition, he said that DC Water may need this location to install a laydown area and a drop shaft for a major combined sewer outfall mitigation project. He said that the drop shaft itself would have little conflict with the memorial, but the site's topography would need to be elevated to address drainage issues. The disturbance would be greater if the area becomes a mining site—essentially a truck depot—with a laydown area where material removed from the shaft would be deposited. However, he said that the memorial project could accommodate the disruption; the DC Water work would have only a limited duration of several years, and other areas may be available for the mining. Mr. Harwood added that the tangle of roads to the north of the Mall site includes many redundant routes.
Vice Chairman Meyer opened the discussion for questions. Mr. Dunson asked why the parti diagram for the Mall site would place the memorial's entrance area at the end of the site farthest from Constitution Avenue. Mr. Graffam responded that the focus of this presentation is site selection, and the concept for the memorial's layout therefore remains abstract. Nonetheless, one goal is to relate the new memorial to other nearby sites with a similar theme. The approach to the Desert Storm Memorial would reorient visitors, requiring them to leave the established pedestrian circulation route and to follow a new path that would curve around the memorial to an arrival point leading into the main memorial space. This space would be enclosed by a wall or a berm where visitors would be isolated from the noise and views of the city to focus on the memorial. Visitors would then move to another space designed for reflection before leaving the memorial to rejoin the everyday world through an exit oriented to a view of the Lincoln Memorial. He said that the project team is working with this parti, although the memorial's forms are still abstractions. Mr. Dunson expressed support for this concept of a ceremonial arrival and departure experience along an indirect route; he contrasted this to how an ordinary office building might be designed with its entrance directly at the street corner.
Ms. Gilbert asked how the decision was reached to plan for a one-acre memorial within a two-acre site. Mr. Harwood responded that this size had been determined by studying the scale of precedents. The goal is a memorial that is compact, intimate, and sacred, rather than sprawling and cavernous; the project team believes that the modern-day expansion of national memorials to sites of four acres seems excessively large. Ms. Gilbert asked if a smaller site for the memorial was considered; Mr. Harwood responded that the size of the memorial will be more clearly defined during the development of a concept design. Mr. Graffam said that an additional scale consideration is having a space that can hold 80 to 100 people. Two acres would also be large enough to accommodate the transitional features, such as paths or berms, that would be needed to define a memorial area of approximately an acre.
Mr. Krieger began his comments by emphasizing his belief that Desert Storm and Desert Shield, and the sacrifices of the soldiers who fought in these operations, deserve to be remembered. However, he observed that in recent decades the idea has emerged that memorials need to occupy entire landscapes. He said that this idea is spurious and will ultimately create problems for the city; he cited the four-acre site of the Eisenhower Memorial. He commented that thousands of powerful memorials throughout the world are on small sites, and proposing a large site for this memorial is unnecessary and strange. He said that the presentation's scale comparisons made it clear that memorial sites are becoming inflated, and he emphasized that continually selecting large sites is not an intelligent way to approach memorial design. He noted that Memorial Avenue—the ceremonial roadway leading from Memorial Circle to Arlington National Cemetery—is lined with memorial niches that are no less powerful for being small. He said that while every memorial deserves to be in a central location, if all memorials were sited this way, then the power of each would be diminished.
Mr. Krieger commented that another consideration should be that history may judge events differently than we do now, and future historians may consider Desert Storm and Desert Shield as the first in a sequence of events that is still unfolding—an important question which deserves more thought. He said that the thematic connections identified in the site selection process may not be obvious to the public. He also commented on the difficulties posed to the Mall site by the web of roadways to its north, and he questioned whether any memorial should be built in this area before improvements are made to the road pattern, since such changes may require changes to the landscape. Citing the important role of peaceful collaboration among nations in this war, he suggested creating a modest memorial on the grounds of the Institute of Peace; he added that a smaller site could inspire concepts that may not require a large area.
Mr. Harwood acknowledged these difficulties, but he emphasized that the intention is to build on a compact site of no more than an acre, adding that the Desert Storm Memorial would have a different character than the niche memorials along Memorial Avenue. Mr. Krieger agreed but reiterated that only recently have important memorials been thought to require entire landscapes.
Expressing appreciation for Mr. Krieger's comments, Ms. Meyer said that she too supports the creation of a Desert Storm Memorial, and in fact feels a personal connection to the conflict because her brother had served in the war. However, she described both sites as profoundly inappropriate locations. She commented that the presentation for both sites did not adequately address their enormous potential for other uses that would give more enduring value to the city and to the nation. She questioned the assumption that the memorial has to be large, agreeing with Mr. Krieger that many other excellent sites would become available if the proposal were for a small memorial; she suggested that the design process could focus on sculpture instead of on planning and landscape architecture. Acknowledging that she is not a historian, she observed that it is difficult not to see these events of the early 1990s in relation to the ongoing sixteen-year war in that part of the world, and memorials cannot be built for every war and military operation occurring over such a short period of time.
Ms. Meyer discussed the specific shortcomings of the two sites. The site near Memorial Circle is already located within two existing cultural landscapes: the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Lady Bird Johnson Park. She observed that Arlington Memorial Bridge commemorates the Civil War, marking the line of reconciliation between North and South as represented by the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington Memorial Cemetery, built on the plantation of Confederate commander Robert E. Lee. Additionally, the original parkway—built in 1932 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of George Washington's birth—connected his Mount Vernon home with Memorial Circle, and from there via Memorial Bridge to the Mall. She said that Lady Bird Johnson Park is a landscape dedicated to the former First Lady in celebration of her contributions to the public landscape of Washington and to the environmental movement. She concluded that it would not be appropriate to locate a new memorial at this significant threshold; she emphasized that this site is not an empty piece of land but is full of meaning and association, and constructing the Desert Storm Memorial here would introduce new themes and confuse existing meanings.
For the Mall site, she noted the concerns raised by Mr. Krieger, emphasizing that a new memorial at this location could interfere with potential improvements to the area northwest of the Lincoln Memorial in conjunction with the redesign of the redundant roadways. She said that Washington and the Mall should not be a landscape of war memorials, as the Mall's western end has become since the completion of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982; it should be a place of civic prospect, not a landscape of retrospect. She expressed concern that the proliferation of war memorials will give the appearance that Arlington National Cemetery has leaped over the river to occupy the entire western end of the Mall.
Ms. Meyer reiterated her support for the memorial but summarized that the process for selecting the site is flawed because it began with an assumption of a large size. She observed that memorials are not simply structures inscribed with words; they are also experiences, and the experience created by a memorial must be considered. She recognized that the project team has begun to think about this, as evidenced by the compelling diagrams of spatial sequences; however, she said that the experience of a place is also related to other qualities of a site, such as ambient traffic noise, which would require buffers. In addition, she cited the large-scale landscape transformations that may affect the site. She concluded that other, better locations exist for this memorial experience in Washington.
Mr. Dunson agreed with the comments of Mr. Krieger and Ms. Meyer, although he questioned the expectation that the area northwest of the Lincoln Memorial will ever be planned in a coordinated way. He agreed that locating the new commemorative structure near Memorial Circle would have too great an impact on existing commemorative features. He said that a more persuasive argument could be made for using the Mall site and mitigating its potential problems, and he concluded that this site could accommodate a small, self-contained memorial. Nonetheless, he agreed with the concern about overcrowding this part of the Mall with memorials, and he posed the rhetorical question of whether the development of memorials would stop with the Desert Storm Memorial. He recommended considering other forms of memorialization.
Ms. Gilbert suggested that the project team move beyond the notion that memorials need to be adjacent to each other and instead consider other ways to establish connections, such as by creating connecting routes along a waterfront, through a landscape corridor, or via a bicycle path. She emphasized that adjacency is not necessary for visitors to understand relationships among memorials; she suggested that a change in basic conceptualization could reveal new options.
Secretary Luebke advised that the Commission does not have to take an action on the site selection and could instead request further study. Ms. Meyer and Mr. Krieger agreed that more information about other sites should be presented. Mr. May responded that the presentation might not have explained adequately how the project team had determined that these two sites were the best options. He said that the National Park Service has moved away from what had been a rigid process for site approval, in which a site was chosen before a design was developed; the process now tries to connect site selection and design more closely so that the evaluation of sites is more meaningful. He noted that the National Capital Planning Commission, at its meeting earlier in July, had requested design studies for both locations, and he offered to bring these to the Commission of Fine Arts for the next review. He emphasized that the NPS had not endorsed any particular size for the Desert Storm Memorial; he said that the NPS shares the Commission's concerns about the limited availability of land in the best locations, as well as concerns about the maintenance of large memorials. He expressed the hope that future memorials will be smaller than the Eisenhower Memorial; he raised the question of whether smaller memorials should be built in Area 1 or located in another area of the city.
Vice Chairman Meyer expressed appreciation for Mr. May's offer to present more design studies. She cautioned that the project team should not assume these two sites are the only possibilities, and instead should consider the Commission's comments in evaluating whether other sites would be better. She urged serious thought about the effect of another ten memorials in Area 1, and she emphasized the need for a coherent strategy to govern the building of future memorials. While Desert Storm may have changed public perception of the military, she observed that today's armed forces are composed of volunteers; most Americans have not served and do not know anyone who has, with the result that war service is often invisible to many citizens. She said that Desert Storm led to many little-known military actions, and this needs to be taken into consideration when deciding where these war memorials will go to avoid the creation of a cemetery landscape stretching between Arlington National Cemetery and the Capitol. Mr. May responded that this is the concern that resulted in the Memorials and Museums Master Plan, and these questions are continually revisited during debates over commemoration.
Mr. Krieger anticipated that the Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial will be the first in a sequence of memorials which should be linked, and this prospect should determine the site more than the desire for a location near any existing memorial; he observed that this issue did not appear to have been given much thought. Mr. May responded that the concern has arisen in meetings of the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission, and he asked Mr. Stump to respond.
Mr. Stump expressed his disagreement and emphasized the lack of equivalence between Desert Storm and the Iraq War; he said that this viewpoint would be comparable to linking World War I and World War II because they were fought over similar ground and against a similar enemy. Notwithstanding the shared geography, the mission of Operation Desert Storm was to liberate the people of Kuwait, not to invade Iraq; he added that some believe Desert Shield had more to do with the Vietnam War than with subsequent wars. Mr. Krieger commented that the question could not be resolved at this meeting.
Referring to Mr. Krieger's example of the statues in niches along Memorial Avenue, Mr. Stump said that the Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial would have a larger scope and a larger audience than these and would commemorate a larger number of people. He emphasized that the mission of Desert Storm and Desert Shield was successful; he expressed appreciation for the Commission's concerns, including the proliferation of memorials, but he emphasized that building this memorial would ensure that Americans will learn about this war and the sacrifices made by its soldiers.
Vice Chairman Meyer summarized the Commission's request that the project team consider its concerns about the two sites and return with an assessment of other possible locations. She urged careful thought about the memorial's proposed size and its connection to other potential war memorials. She noted that the Commission's past discussions of the Eisenhower Memorial had benefited from hearing statements from social and political historians; similarly, hearing the perspectives of scholars would be valuable for the Commission members, particularly because Desert Shield and Desert Storm have a geopolitical history separate from their military history. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
2. CFA 20/JUL/17-2, Lincoln Memorial, West Potomac Park at 23rd Street. Building rehabilitation and modifications for expanded visitor facility in undercroft. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the concept proposal for rehabilitation of and modifications to the public facility in the Lincoln Memorial's undercroft, which currently has a small exhibit area, inadequate restrooms, and a single elevator for barrier-free access to the memorial chamber above. The proposal would enlarge the facilities in the undercroft to improve interpretation, visitor services, and operations by providing a new retail and exhibit area, larger restrooms, and a second elevator, along with an area where visitors can look into the unimproved space of the undercroft—a hollow structure that supports the memorial. The proposal also includes enlargement of the two existing doorways in the east-facing exterior walls of the undercroft, which flank the upper portion of the memorial's exterior entrance stairs; neither is currently wide enough to adequately accommodate two-way passage and emergency egress. He said that the Commission is asked to evaluate the impact of this exterior work on the memorial's historic fabric. He asked Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation.
Mr. May said that the project would improve the visitor experience at the Lincoln Memorial by allowing for relocation of the bookstore, which is inappropriately located alongside the memorial's main chamber, and the provision of a second elevator for more reliable barrier-free access. The proposed change to the size of the doorways is intended to balance respect for the memorial's design with the demands of visitor use. He introduced Carl Elefante of Quinn Evans Architects to present the design.
Mr. Elefante said that the project respects the power and compelling experience embodied by the Lincoln Memorial, and recognizes the importance of maintaining this experience. He noted the historical role played by the Commission in the memorial's design and construction. He said that the proposal is consistent with the National Mall plan and with efforts to provide necessary visitor services that are universally accessible. Approximately eight million people visit the Lincoln Memorial annually, and this project is designed to support as many as 1,100 people entering the memorial within a fifteen-minute period.
Mr. Elefante summarized the historical changes to the undercroft and its east wall since the memorial's completion in 1922. In 1927, the memorial's original architect, Henry Bacon, designed the insertion of small restrooms in the undercroft and the creation of the northern and southern doorways in the eastern exterior walls. In 1974, the southern doorway was widened, the elevator was added, and an enlarged interior area was created to the south for restrooms and exhibits. In 1995, the exterior barrier-free route to the undercroft, lined by a row of shrubs, was widened and slightly altered, along with some other modifications; and in 2002, perimeter security elements were added.
Mr. Elefante indicated the extent of the proposal, primarily involving the undercroft beneath the raised terrace surrounding the memorial, and also affecting the larger undercroft beneath the main memorial chamber. The existing restrooms and interpretive area are on a partial mezzanine level above the floor of the undercroft; the northern doorway currently leads to a much smaller mezzanine that is used only by NPS staff, and the proposal would create a larger mezzanine connecting these areas. The proposed restrooms would accommodate larger numbers of people, using standards developed by the National Academy of Sciences, and would have duplicate facilities to the north and south to allow one set of bathrooms to be temporarily closed for cleaning. The interpretive area would be improved; the revenue-generating bookstore would be relocated to an enlarged space; and the undercroft itself would be exposed to view so visitors could see into the dim space, which is over forty feet high with rows of large columns. The proposed second elevator would be inserted to align with the memorial chamber's exterior wall to the north, in a location symmetrical with the existing elevator to the south; each elevator would be conveniently near one of the exterior doors. The two separate doors would also provide improved emergency egress from the unified interior space. He noted that the two existing doors are at slightly different grades, which will be resolved as part of the design of the consolidated interior.
Mr. Elefante presented several alternatives for widening the two existing doorways and increasing their height. Under current building codes, the minimum width requirement for an accessible doorway is 36 inches. If both doorways were widened to 50-inch-wide openings, the unified space within the undercroft could accommodate emergency egress for up to 499 people. The project team's preferred alternative is to widen both doorways to 72 inches, which would allow two operating doors and accommodate two people passing in or out at the same time; he said that the 72-inch dimension is the consensus recommendation of different NPS divisions. The proposal would involve demolishing the stonework around the existing doors to create the wider doors, and the height of both openings would be increased slightly to improve their relation to the existing stone coursing. He said that the doors would be opened in the morning and would remain open all day, being closed only at night to provide security; when open, they would lie flat within recesses in the walls. He presented comparative elevations and perspective views of 36-inch, 50-inch, and 72-inch-wide doorways, with the doors shown both closed and open. He noted that the 36-inch width would not be noticeably different from the existing condition and would use single-leaf doors; the 50-inch and 72-inch widths would use double-leaf doors. With the preferred width of 72 inches, the doorway openings would be raised 14 inches to align with an existing horizontal joint in the masonry wall.
Ms. Gilbert asked where the top of the door would be located if it were not raised to the coursing level. Referring to the illustration of the 50-inch-wide doorway, Mr. Elefante said it would fall about 14 inches below the joint line. Mr. Krieger observed that the height of the existing doors does not correspond to any course line in the masonry wall.
Mr. Krieger asked if a lighting plan for the undercroft is being developed so that visitors would not be peering into a dark space. Mr. Elefante responded that this is still being considered; the desire is to preserve the dark and mysterious character of the undercroft, which contrasts with the daylit, expansive memorial chamber.
Mr. Krieger expressed support for the proposal for a wider doorway. He observed that the lower height looks awkward, especially as the width increases; additionally, as the doorway gets wider, the course of stone intersecting the top of the doorway looks progressively weaker—too thin to appear to support the weight of the masonry wall above it. Noting that the doors will need frames, he suggested designing a more substantial top jamb to suggest the presence of a lintel and provide visual support for the longer span. Mr. Elefante agreed and said that this detail has already been considered; the only concern is that the additional height of the top jamb would lower the height of the opening. Mr. Krieger said that this element would only be a frame that is detailed to imply support structural support.
Mr. Dunson commended Mr. Elefante for his clear presentation. Ms. Lehrer observed that the dark color of the existing bronze doors makes them too visible and distracting, and she suggested using a lighter color of bronze for the new doors.
Ms. Meyer also expressed support for the wider and taller 72-inch doorway opening as the least compressed of the alternatives. She recommended coordinating the desired entrance sequence with the NPS to ensure that the doorways into the undercroft do not become the main entrances as a way for visitors to avoid climbing the memorial's historic stairs. She emphasized that the original entry sequence—in which visitors climb to the memorial chamber and then move back down—is an important part of the intended choreography of the Lincoln Memorial. She suggested that this issue may be solved simply through appropriate signage and direction by park rangers. She emphasized that the dramatic entrance sequence from the exterior into the undercroft should also be carefully composed. She urged the project team to recognize that the entrance through these doorways is the beginning of a larger experience, and to carefully consider the sequential changes in lighting along this route as visitors move from intense daylight into the dim undercroft.
Vice Chairman Meyer summarized the Commission's support for the larger doorway openings, with several suggestions for development of the design. Mr. Krieger said that although the Commission does not normally review interiors, he would like a future presentation of the proposal for orchestrating the lighting of the undercroft. Secretary Luebke said that informing the Commission about this issue would be appropriate for the Lincoln Memorial, a national memorial of the highest significance.
Mr. Krieger offered a motion to approve the proposal to change the width and height of the doorways into the Lincoln Memorial undercroft, with the recommendations that the framing be designed to suggest support and that an alternative finish color be considered for the bronze doors, and with the request for a presentation on the development of the interior sequence, including the composition of the lighting. Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted this action.
C. Events DC (Washington Convention and Sports Authority)
CFA 20/JUL/17-3, Carnegie Library, 801 Mount Vernon Place, NW (Mount Vernon Square at Massachusetts and New York Avenues). Building rehabilitation and site improvements to accommodate retail and cultural uses (Apple Store and Historical Society of Washington, D.C.). Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 18/MAY/17-3.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced a revised concept design for the rehabilitation of the Carnegie Library, a National Historic Landmark, to accommodate a retail store for Apple, the computer products company. The building would also continue to serve as the home of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. He said that the project's signage, landscape, and north stairway have been revised following the project's first review by the Commission in May 2017. He asked architect Hany Hassan of Beyer Blinder Belle, preservation consultant Emily Eig of EHT Traceries, and Mike Brown of Apple to present the project.
Mr. Hassan thanked the Commission members for the comments provided during the previous review. He said that the presentation will focus on revisions to designs of the building's signage and its setting in Mount Vernon Square. He noted that the site is owned by the U.S. government and administered by the District of Columbia, which owns the library building itself.
Mr. Hassan presented the proposed site improvements. Mr. Krieger asked for clarification of the boundary line on the site plan. Mr. Hassan responded that the project area encompasses all of Mount Vernon Square; the dashed boundary line labeled "limit of work" applies only to the building modifications. He presented an aerial photograph from the 1950s showing dense tree coverage of the square; the proposal, inspired by this image, is intended to restore some of this earlier character. He said that piecemeal additions to the site and building have resulted in a clutter of signs, banners, and lightpoles that the proposal seeks to improve with new street furniture and a new wayfinding and identification signage program. He described several specific changes: an existing lightpole on the south side of the site would be moved and paired with a new pole to form a symmetrical arrangement with the building facade, and all trash receptacles and benches on the site would be replaced according to District Department of Transportation (DDOT) standards. He said that a comprehensive tree survey and tree protection plan have been prepared. The proposal would protect and maintain the existing mature trees, while unhealthy trees would be removed and replaced in kind. In addition, the building's roof drainage would be modified to collect rainwater to use in the site's sprinkler system.
Mr. Hassan described the revised proposal for replacement of the building's exterior north stairway. The previous proposal directed the main stairway to the north, which was not appropriately aligned to accommodate pedestrian traffic. The current proposal would arrange the stairs in a semicircle, allowing for easier pedestrian access from the east and west; the central area of the stairway would have double-height steps intended as seating.
Mr. Hassan presented the proposed wayfinding and identification signage system. Four freestanding monument-type signs identifying the Carnegie Library and Mount Vernon Square would be placed near the four corners of the site; wayfinding signs indicating accessible entry points to the building would be placed near these signs, and shorter two-inch-thick freestanding signs directing pedestrians to barrier-free entrances would be placed throughout the site. A freestanding, vertically oriented sign announcing the Historical Society's tenancy would be placed directly in front of the eastern stairway pediment at the south entrance; this sign would be three inches thick. Both types of freestanding sign panels would be made of dark bronze or Cor-ten steel, and the lettering would be durable, high-contrast white Corian. He said that the design of these freestanding signs is similar to signage used by the National Park Service and the General Services Administration. Banners identifying the building's two primary tenants would be installed on four poles erected on the site's north and south sides; the banners would depict only the tenants' logos. He said that the poles and banners are intended to be appropriately scaled to the building and site.
Mr. Hassan presented three additional signs that would be placed on the building itself. An internally illuminated sign depicting the Apple logo would be installed above the north entrance; it would be made of acrylic and glass with bronze edging, and its internal illumination would be powered by wires running through a minimally visible conduit. On the south side of the building, two smaller signs also depicting the Apple logo would be fastened to existing marble blind panels in the two bays that flank the entrance; each sign would be fabricated from a solid panel of marble selected to match the existing marble. The shape of the Apple logo would be carved out of the center of each new marble panel, with the logo-shaped hole covered by a flush bronze-edged acrylic inlay; this logo would be lit by an internal fixture powered by wires running through a hidden conduit. Anchor points for the signs would be located in the joints between the existing marble panels to minimize their impact on the historic building fabric. He concluded with nighttime renderings of the north and south elevations of the building and site depicting these various signs.
Ms. Gilbert asked if the recent tree survey documents the number of trees missing from the landscape as it was shown in the historic photograph; she also questioned whether trees that may be removed should be replaced in the same locations, or if their replacements should instead be located in accordance with the earlier layout. She emphasized the importance of studying this earlier layout, as well as considering the full extent of the landscape within the scope of work that includes signage and other alterations to Mount Vernon Square. Ms. Eig responded that in addition to the tree survey, a historic structure report has been prepared that includes a study of the earlier landscape plan and subsequent alterations; she said that this study would serve as a basis for the new planting plan to be prepared in later stages of the project. Ms. Gilbert also noted several apparent errors on the site plan: a new wayfinding sign would be placed in the same location as an existing tree, and a new light fixture would be placed in the same location as a tree marked to be replaced in kind. She urged the design team to review the multiple layers of the site plan to ensure that intended design is depicted.
Ms. Lehrer asked for a fuller description of the central portion of the proposed stairway at the north entrance. Mr. Hassan confirmed that this portion of the stairs would be similar to amphitheater seating: the risers would be the height of two steps of the flanking stairways, similar to the height of a bench seatback. He said that this configuration would encourage pedestrians—who come from the corners of the site—to use the flanking stairs rather than the central portion for building access. Ms. Lehrer expressed support for the configuration of the stairway, commenting that pedestrians would likely be drawn to the central portion as a casual meeting place; she advised that this central portion would require notches at certain points to comply with accessibility regulations. Secretary Luebke suggested that the handrails be shifted outward radially to provide better access to the flanking stairways; Ms. Lehrer agreed that this could help the design. She asked if a ramp would be provided on the north side to provide barrier-free access to the building. Mr. Hassan responded that ramped access would be retained on the south side of the building; no ramps are proposed on the north.
Ms. Meyer asked for a description of the previous design for the north stairway; Mr. Hassan said that the previous proposal was a triangle-shaped stairway that opened to the north. This design has now been modified to better accommodate the approach route of pedestrians from the east and west; no mid-block pedestrian crossing is provided to the north, directly opposite the main entrance to the Convention Center. Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation that all of Mount Vernon Square is now included in the design, even if it was not within the earlier scope of work, reflecting an understanding that the building is set within an important but degraded space that needs rehabilitation. However, she commented that the current proposal for the north stairway appears odd and self-conscious, and she said that it does not compare favorably to the more elegant southern approach and stairs. While supporting the general design approach of stepped seating flanked by stairs, she questioned both the scale and configuration of the new north stairway. To reduce its overwhelming appearance, which she said unfavorably asserts itself as an object in opposition to the elegance of the building, she suggested that it be arranged in a rectangular configuration rather than a semicircle. This simpler form would be better scaled to the small plaza area at this entrance, and would also allow for a more sensible shaping of the plaza and better integration of the side terraces into the design. She added that she would be willing to support the design of the north stairway if the other Commission members conclude that it is appropriate.
Ms. Meyer questioned the specification for standard DDOT benches, which she speculated would be falsely historic and clunky, commenting that they would likely be inappropriate in comparison to the otherwise refined and elegant proposed design. Mr. Krieger encouraged the installation of a generous number of beautiful, high-quality benches on the park-like site; he also expressed support for the restoration of the degraded site. However, he questioned both the height and necessity of the tall banner poles proposed at the north and south entrances, commenting that the banners do not seem to add much to the design. Mr. Hassan responded that because tenant signage on the building itself would be minimal and intended for pedestrians, the banners are scaled for those passing the building in vehicles. He clarified that the banners would be on poles installed in four locations—two on the north side and two on the south side, with each pair symmetrically framing the entrances; the banners would only depict the tenants' logos, with one banner on either side of the pole for each tenant. He said that although the poles and banners appear large, they would be in scale appropriately scaled with the site and trees. He also noted that the many existing banners installed on DDOT lightpoles appear incidental. Ms. Meyer expressed support for the scale of the banners, citing the fast vehicular traffic around the site and the major intersections that are formed where diagonal arterial avenues meet Mount Vernon Square. However, she recommended studying the location of the banner poles, suggesting that they could be moved closer to the corners of the site—nearer to the intersections and away from the elegant building. She added that different spacing between the poles on the north and south sides would be appropriate to allow for better legibility of the banners. Mr. Krieger agreed, commenting that the building is sufficiently formal without the additional symmetrical framing of the proposed banner poles. Mr. Hassan responded that he would study this issue while taking into account the locations of existing trees to ensure that the banners are not blocked by them.
Secretary Luebke expressed concern regarding the internally illuminated signs proposed near the north and south entrances, noting that this type of sign would not be permitted if this project were within the Shipstead-Luce Act area. He also raised the question of the signs' apparent commercialization of a public building owned by the District of Columbia, and he asked if the two logo signs on the south facade are necessary in addition to the many other signs proposed for the building and site. He said that that sign illumination is a recurring issue for the Commission. Vice Chairman Meyer agreed that this topic should be discussed further to provide direction for the staff and applicants. Mr. Krieger acknowledged that approving internally illuminated signs may set a precedent, but that these specific signs depict a near-universally recognized icon and logo, making it different from a generic sign that is internally illuminated. He added that he had expected a much more ostentatious proposal. Ms. Gilbert said that the signs' subtle placement and lighting differentiates them from common signs of this type. Ms. Lehrer expressed concern that the white light illuminating the Apple logo would sometimes be changed to a different color. Mr. Hassan said that the Apple logo would be illuminated acrylic that would appear white and would be flush with its stone surround. Mr. Krieger compared the proposed signs to the glowing logo on the back of some Apple laptop computers. Ms. Meyer expressed support for the signs, commenting that the proposal is very restrained and that the subtle white Apple logo seems appropriate. She said it is helpful to understand that this sign is not, for example, proposed for Pennsylvania Avenue, where illuminated signs would not be allowed. She also noted that thousands of non-residents visit the convention center every week, making the simple identification signs for Apple appropriate.
Ms. Lehrer asked if the project's viability is based on corporate funding; Mr. Luebke said that although project funding is not a factor in the Commission's review, his understanding is that Apple is paying for a substantial portion of the rehabilitation costs. Ms. Meyer noted that the library is a public building that has been underused for decades. Ms. Lehrer asked if the project is a public-private partnership, which she noted is a common funding method for these types of projects across the country. She recalled that her firm was a part of such a project to build a bridge in which funding ratios between the public and private entities determined the bridge's name. Ms. Meyer agreed that this is type of funding mechanism is an issue with which many local governments are grappling.
Mr. Brown said that the project is a public-private partnership in the sense that it benefits Apple and the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., a non-profit organization. He said that Apple is paying a market rate for the space it will be leasing in the library building; it was granted a lease based on its successful response to a Request for Proposals released by Events DC. In addition, Apple is paying for the exterior rehabilitation of the building, the restoration of the atrium space on the interior, and utility upgrades, as well as for a significant portion of the renovations to the historical society's space. He said that Apple is pursuing the rehabilitation project because it is seeking to occupy a great building and foster a productive partnership with the historical society. Mr. Hassan said that the design approach for the building has been one of restraint because he personally has great respect for the building—a sentiment also supported by Apple. He said that aside from the restoration work, the additional elements are intended to be reversible so as to not physically damage the building if the tenants leave and the elements are removed. Mr. Krieger expressed appreciation and admiration for the restraint and quality of the design.
Mr. Dunson joined in expressing support for the project. When comparing the internally illuminated signs to others around the city, such as the free-standing examples found in front of many churches and the new signs in front of the Renwick Gallery, he said that the illuminated Apple signs proposed for this project are dissimilar to and more subtle than these other examples. He praised the design of the signs, which he characterized as whimsical, and noted their respect for the building as well as the work's reversibility. However, he suggested that the Apple signs could instead be lit by exterior lamps. Ms. Gilbert observed that large uplights are currently positioned around the building, and she asked if these would remain. Mr. Hassan responded that the uplights would be removed, and a new exterior lighting plan for the building is being developed. Mr. Dunson advised careful study of the exterior illumination of the building, adding that in the composition of the site design, any new lightpoles—along with other vertical elements such as banner poles—should be secondary to the importance of the trees. Ms. Meyer suggested the preparation of renderings to depict both daytime and nighttime views of the building and proposed signage, as well as landscape elevations and perspectives that depict the relationship between the trees and secondary elements. She also suggested that the project team partner with Casey Trees (a local non-profit organization dedicated to urban forestry) to create a long-term tree replacement strategy for the entire site that does not necessarily rely on financial support from the D.C. Government.
Mr. Krieger suggested that Apple would most likely be able to financially support the planting of some additional trees on the site, which he said would be a small proportion of the project's overall cost. Mr. Brown said that Apple's approach to the landscape is to make it beautiful, whether this requires pruning, fertilizing, or aerating trees' roots. He said that the company does not believe it is appropriate to dictate to the local government an approach for restoring Mount Vernon Square beyond these maintenance tasks; instead, Apple's goal is to understand the community's aspirations for the site after the store and the historical society are open and operating. He said that possible site treatments could include the full restoration of an "urban forest," the installation of a cafe, or the construction of a playground. Mr. Krieger asked if Apple would, for example, provide fifteen new trees if these are desired by the community. Mr. Brown said that this would be feasible and could easily be incorporated into a maintenance program for Mount Vernon Square, adding that the DowntownDC Business Improvement District is supportive of improvements to this site. He noted that many funding sources could be available for this work, and collective effort will be needed to make these improvements. He noted the 1.5-year planning effort for the rehabilitation of nearby Franklin Square, and he estimated that planning for Mount Vernon Square could take approximately two years. Mr. Dunson cautioned that a degraded landscape would detract from the careful restoration of the building, and he encouraged the design team to make its influence apparent across the entire site by employing the same level of care for the landscape revitalization as is shown in the proposal for the building itself.
Vice Chairman Meyer summarized the Commission's comments on the high quality of the design, including the care that Beyer Blinder Belle usually brings to its work on historic buildings, the sympathy for the buildings' histories, and the joy and delight apparent in the detailing of new elements. She said that the Commission has provided several suggestions intended to improve the design, although none are imperative. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Ms. Lehrer, the Commission approved the revised concept design with the suggestions provided.
District Wharf – Introduction (agenda items II.D and II.E.1 through II.E.4)
Ms. Batcheler introduced a set of submissions for portions of the second phase of the Southwest Waterfront redevelopment, a project named "District Wharf" (previously known as "The Wharf"). She noted the Commission's numerous reviews of the project's master plan and components of the first phase over the past seven years. The current submissions include four buildings in the second phase, several public spaces adjacent to these buildings, and the extension of the first-phase public space designs for the waterfront edge and the Maine Avenue streetscape. She said that the second phase will also include additional buildings and public spaces that have not yet been submitted; these will likely be on the Commission's agenda in September 2017. The overall District Wharf project is a complex public-private partnership that is being coordinated by the private-sector development team of Hoffman-Madison Waterfront; due to the property configuration of the project, the public spaces and streetscapes are listed as D.C. Government submissions from the D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, while the proposals for buildings are submitted as private-sector referrals in accordance with the Shipstead-Luce Act. She asked Matthew Steenhoek of Hoffman-Madison Waterfront to begin the presentation.
Mr. Steenhoek noted that the first phase of the District Wharf is scheduled to open in October 2017, and he encouraged the Commission members to visit the development. He introduced the designers of the various project components that will be presented: Hilary Bertsch of EE&K/Perkins Eastman; Mary Wolf of Wolf/Josey Landscape Architects; Nate Trevethan of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates; Navid Maqami of S9 Architecture; Hiroshi Jacobs of Studios Architecture; Jay Bargmann of Rafael Viñoly Architects; and Morris Adjmi of Morris Adjmi Architects.
D. D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
CFA 20/JUL/17-4, Southwest Waterfront Development, "District Wharf." Phase II, Maine Avenue, SW, between 6th and 7th Streets. Public space elements: Marina Way, M Street Landing, and the Terrace. Concept. Secretary Luebke noted that the presentations are listed to begin with the public space elements in order to provide an overview of the context before consideration of the separate buildings. Ms. Bertsch of EE&K/Perkins Eastman presented an overall plan of the District Wharf, indicating the first-phase area to the northwest that is nearing completion. The second phase is envisioned as a continuation of the District Wharf's mixed-use character; it will include office buildings and hotel and residential space, as well as retail stores. The development's two levels of below-grade parking will be extended into the area of the second phase, adding 800 parking spaces. She presented a ground-level plan of the second phase, indicating retail areas, building entrances, and parking ramps, as well as the open spaces that will provide the setting for each building. She said that the building proposals for Parcels 6, 7, and 8—closest to the project's first phase—will be submitted later. The current submission includes Marina Way, a small shared pedestrian and vehicular street between Parcels 8 and 9; the larger M Street Landing park between Parcels 9 and 10, located at the western end of M Street, SW, as it curves to become Maine Avenue; and a small extension of the recently completed Waterfront Park, called the Terrace, located toward the southeast end of the project. The second phase also includes three small buildings extending southwestward above the water of the Washington Channel, known as "water buildings," with two of these buildings being presented today along with the larger buildings for Parcels 9 and 10. The public space submission also includes the continuation of the project's streetscapes along the waterfront wharf and Maine Avenue, with the same palette of materials that was used in the first phase; she presented composite elevations of the second-phase buildings along these frontages.
Ms. Wolf of Wolf/Josey Landscape Architects presented the design for Marina Way, which will provide a direct vehicular and pedestrian connection between Maine Avenue and the waterfront wharf. Two-way traffic would be accommodated, and the cobble sidewalks along each side would be flush with the vehicular cartway. The street section would be asymmetrical to accommodate a below-grade stormwater sewer and the intended preservation of a large street tree along Maine Avenue: Marina Way's northwest side would include a parking lane and street trees, with greater solar exposure, while the southeast side would have only a ten-foot-wide sidewalk. She added that the soil volume for the tree roots would be extended by using a Silva Cell support system beneath the northwest sidewalk and parking lane, as indicated in the section drawing. She said that the proposal uses the same paving materials as in the first phase, resulting in a unified design for the area. Bollards and differentiated paving would be used to delineate the vehicular and pedestrian areas.
Mr. Trevethan of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates presented the landscape design for the M Street Landing park. He emphasized its special location at the western visual terminus of M Street as it curves northwestward to become Maine Avenue. He anticipated significant use of the space by pedestrians and bicyclists moving between the city grid and the waterfront, and the design character is therefore intended to be a very porous and inviting public space. He indicated the buildings that will define the park: the planned developments on Parcel 9 to the northwest and Parcel 10 to the south, as well as the existing Arena Stage to the northeast across Maine Avenue and the recently completed condominium building and church across 6th Street to the southeast.
Mr. Trevethan described the site as hourglass-shaped due to the positions of Parcels 9 and 10; the proposed design would develop this configuration by creating a plaza area near Maine Avenue, centered around a fountain, and another plaza area near the waterfront edge. Curved planting areas would define the spaces. He said that the fountain plaza would be an attraction for families with children, while not being a conventional playground. Parents could occupy the edges of the plaza, where seating would be placed along the curves of the planters, while children could enjoy the fountain with water jets and large stone blocks. The nearby building fronts on Parcels 9 and 10 would include outdoor cafe seating that would further animate the park. Along the waterfront, the M Street Landing would provide a visual terminus for the wharf promenade to the northwest, which turns more southward at this point to extend to Parcel 10 and the recently completed Waterfront Park. This visual terminus would be marked by the outdoor amphitheater that would be constructed along the edge of the Parcel 10 building, and the plaza space along the waterfront would also include additional areas for flexible use.
Mr. Trevethan presented several diagrams to indicate seating areas and pedestrian routes within the M Street Landing. He said that the site furnishings would include bicycle racks and movable tables and chairs. Near Maine Avenue, the park would include a pedestrian access point to the below-grade parking, designed with a 25-foot-diameter circular opening that would provide daylight and wayfinding for the garage space. He said that the paving would use the same module but a different material than the pavers used elsewhere along the wharf; the intention is for the paving to provide a unifying field for the M Street Landing, with the spaces shaped more strongly by the edges and planting areas. He added that the Maine Avenue edge of this park is designed to accommodate loading and unloading of tour buses, along with a bicycle lane.
Mr. Trevethan presented the preliminary proposal for plantings, which may include a grove of goldenrain trees; he said that the specification would be for a higher-branch variety than shown in the presentation image, with the goal of allowing views around the tree trunks toward the Washington Channel. Hophornbeam trees would provide a stronger vertical emphasis to punctuate the space. The planters would have various types of shrubs to provide year-round interest for visitors. He presented the proposed design for railings around plantings and at the waterfront edge, as well as for lightpoles and other site furnishings.
Ms. Wolf presented the proposed design for the Terrace, a gathering space and seating area that would extend from the northwest corner of the recently completed Waterfront Park. She said that the design and materials of this proposed park are based on the larger Waterfront Park while also relating to the wharf promenade to the west, the building on Parcel 10 to the north, and the M Street Landing park further to the north. She indicated the organization of the Terrace around a central lawn, intended as a flexible space that could be used for recreation and seating, or for events in a tent. At the northeast corner, adjacent to the intersection of 6th and Water Streets, would be a paved area shaded by a bosque of trees; the paving would extend west to a plaza space with seating along the Parcel 10 building. The grade change between the city streets and the waterfront promenade is approximately five feet; a curved walk with a shallow slope would extend through the southeast portion of the Terrace to provide a barrier-free connection, and the southwest edge of the lawn would accommodate the grade change with stepped wood seating along a sunken bioretention basin. Additional bioretention basins would be located along the eastern and southern edges of the site. She presented the proposed materials, emphasizing the relationship with the adjacent Waterfront Park. The plantings would include serviceberries and meadow plants, selected for their tolerance for water from the bioretention basins; the higher bosque to the northeast would be honey locusts. Along the stepped seating would be a row of cherry trees, added to the design at the request of the community after the recent loss of a large beech tree that was transplanted to the Waterfront Park from a nearby building site.
Vice Chairman Meyer suggested a discussion of overall comments on the public spaces, followed by comments on each specific park proposal. She noted that the presentations related the proposed materials to the material palette of other public spaces of the District Wharf, and she asked for an overview of the larger project's consistency or variety of landscape elements. Ms. Bertsch responded that a consistent palette is being used for the first phase of the District Wharf to the northwest, and the intention is to extend this palette into the second phase. However, the Waterfront Park at the southeast end of the District Wharf, already completed as a separate part of the first phase, uses a different palette; the proposed design palette for the Terrace is more closely related to the Waterfront Park, while the other public spaces relate more closely to the prevailing palette of the District Wharf. She said that Marina Way is the best example of a continuation of the prevailing materials from the first phase of the District Wharf. Mr. Trevethan added that the wharf promenade is consistent in its materials, such as the use of granite block pavers, but the larger park spaces located along the wharf have been treated as special design opportunities that have some variation in the material palette.
Mr. Krieger observed that numerous designers are working separately on the various open spaces, with the desirable result of a different design for each park; however, the public will eventually perceive these areas as one continuous public space. He commented that the design goal should therefore be a balance between distinct characters and a sense of continuity among the family of open spaces. He suggested ongoing communications among the designers in order to achieve this balance. Mr. Steenhoek responded that the process has included several early full-day design sessions with all of the design teams present, providing the opportunity for each team to understand what the other designers were considering.
Vice Chairman Meyer invited comments on the Marina Way proposal. Ms. Gilbert asked about the proposed tree spacing along this street in comparison to the typical spacing along the streets of the District Wharf; Ms. Wolf responded that the spacing is generally 25 feet, with some variation for interruptions such as parking entrances and street intersections. Mr. Krieger observed that the illustrated precedent for a curbless street does not show the extensive use of bollards; he asked about the proposed spacing of bollards for Marina Way, commenting that they would greatly affect the character of the street. Ms. Bertsch responded that trees and lightpoles would be used to demarcate the cartway edge along Marina Way, with only limited use of bollards; Mr. Krieger supported this design approach. Ms. Bertsch added that breaks in the cartway edges would be needed to allow for vehicular access to parking ramps and loading docks. She said that the optimal spacing of bollards has been under consideration throughout the District Wharf, with the goal of spacing them close enough to ensure public safety while far enough apart to avoid a sense of intrusiveness; she clarified that these are not crash-protection security bollards, but simply an indicator of where vehicles are permitted. Ms. Meyer observed that the bollards would be part of an overall set of tactile indicators for pedestrians, who cannot be fully protected from the hazards of ignoring such guidance; she suggested minimizing the use of bollards to avoid impairing the simplicity and elegance of the street. Mr. Krieger agreed, commenting that the illustrated precedent is very appealing and is not interrupted by a profusion of bollards. Ms. Wolf added that the proposed bollard locations are indicated on the site plan although difficult to see; the proposed spacing is approximately fifteen feet.
Mr. Dunson asked about the overall character of Marina Way, commenting that the fifteen-foot spacing of bollards may be insufficient to provide design clarity on a street that is heavily used by cars, trucks, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Mr. Steenhoek responded that Marina Way would carry some traffic using the parking garage entrance and the loading area for Parcel 9. Additional vehicular circulation would be allowed toward the wharf promenade and various building entrances, as shown on the presented site circulation diagram; however, as with other streets within the development, the vehicular connection to the wharf promenade could be closed off. He said that a potential scenario would be to close the vehicular connection to the promenade on weekend evenings, when the area may be very crowded with pedestrians, while still keeping open the portion of the street that provides access to the parking garage and loading dock. He said that under less crowded conditions, the intention is to allow for vehicular access to the retail entrances, which may have valet parking. He added that some on-street parking is also provided within the District Wharf, as part of the goal of fostering a vibrant retail setting; if drivers are unable to find on-street spaces available, they can continue into the below-grade parking garage. Mr. Dunson reiterated the concern that the proposed fifteen-foot spacing of bollards may be too distant to provide a clear demarcation of vehicular areas for pedestrians, who may be wearing earphones or otherwise be distracted while walking along the street.
Ms. Meyer emphasized that the design cannot entirely address the potential for people's carelessness. Ms. Lehrer added that in European cities with such shared-use streets, people simply learn how to use them. Mr. Dunson commented that Americans are less accustomed to this type of situation; he cited the example of American tourists routinely walking into bicycle lanes when visiting European cities. Mr. Steenhoek noted that the first phase of the District Wharf, scheduled to open in October, will provide Washingtonians with the opportunity to become accustomed to this type of shared streetscape design; he said that the contrasting paving materials, as well as the intended slow speed of vehicles, may be sufficient to ensure pedestrian comfort in walking along the cartway as well as on the sidewalks. Mr. Krieger agreed that pedestrians would occupy the entire streetscape; he said that the modest length of Marina Way, its narrow width, the parked cars along one side, and the resulting slow vehicular speeds should be sufficient to provide a comfortable pedestrian environment, and he reiterated that the use of bollards should be minimized in the design. Mr. Dunson emphasized the contrasting viewpoint that more bollards, spaced closer than fifteen feet, may be preferable; however, they should not be so prevalent that they detract from the street's spatial character. He asked if the paving surfaces would be differentiated; Mr. Steenhoek responded that the cartway would have a rougher texture, encouraging a slow speed for vehicles, while the sidewalks would have a smoother paving.
Vice Chairman Meyer summarized the differing viewpoints of the Commission members on the optimal prevalence of bollards along Marina Way; she suggested that the design team consider the comments as the design is developed. Mr. Krieger commented that, aside from this issue, the proposed concept appears very promising.
Vice Chairman Meyer invited comments on the second portion of the presentation, the M Street Landing park. She observed that the park serves an important urban design role as a transition between the primarily paved public spaces to the northwest and the more landscaped Waterfront Park to the south. She said that the proposal appears successful in providing this transition, avoiding the potential problem of an abrupt shift in design vocabulary. She asked for clarification of the design intention in selecting canopy and specimen trees, and in the uniformity or variety in the paving field across the park. Mr. Trevethan responded that the goldenrain tree was selected as the primary canopy tree to provide a sense of enclosure, resulting from its branching structure. Other trees serve to animate the space and make it more inviting. He also said that the paving material would be uniform, but the orientation would likely shift in response to the various geometries affecting the site: for example, the alignment of the wharf promenade to the northwest; the shift in this alignment due to an angle in the waterfront edge extending southward from this park; and the alignment of the Parcel 9 building's main entrance. He said that his firm's previous projects have included unique paving details for a shifting field resulting from the collision of geometries, and he described the results as quite beautiful. Ms. Meyer suggested that the paving proposal could be presented in more detail with the next submission.
Ms. Lehrer and Mr. Krieger asked for further information about the depth of soil across the park, observing that extensive planting of trees is proposed above a parking structure. Mr. Trevethan responded that the typical grade along Maine Avenue is approximately six feet above the top of the parking structure's roof slab. Filling this entire depth with soil is not necessary or cost-effective; one option being explored is to give additional height to the upper level of the parking garage in some locations. Mr. Krieger questioned whether the proposed trees, with whatever soil depth is optimal, would actually mature to the size illustrated in the drawings. Mr. Trevethan acknowledged that the perspective drawings depict an optimistic size for the long-term growth of the trees; the plan drawing more accurately depicts the tree sizes shortly after construction of the park. He added that not all of the section drawings depict the goldenrain trees, although the general intention is illustrated to use trees with a high canopy to allow lower-level sightlines across the park, particularly along the significant M Street alignment and toward the Arena Stage building. Ms. Lehrer asked if the necessary structural support has been considered for placing the fountain's large stone blocks above the parking structure, or if these blocks would have to be hollow. Mr. Trevethan responded that the parking structure includes an extensive column grid, although it is not illustrated in the section drawing; the structural issues will be explored further as the design is developed. Ms. Lehrer suggested making advance arrangements to specify trees so that they would grow to be larger by the time of installation.
Ms. Lehrer acknowledged the advantages of placing the fountain near Maine Avenue but questioned whether this could be a safety problem due to the proximity of playing children and heavy traffic; she said that some parents may be uncomfortable allowing their children to run freely through a fountain at this location. Mr. Trevethan emphasized the curved planters, trees, and railings that would provide multiple types of separation between Maine Avenue and the fountain area; he compared the design to the layers of an onion. He acknowledged the need for the fountain plaza to be safe, with parents not needing to worry as their children are playing in this area, and he said that the design team would continue to consider this issue in detailing the design. Ms. Lehrer supported the general character of the curved planters in defining the fountain plaza and relating to the wider context, but she suggested refining their shape to improve the comfort of family members responsible for the safety of children, perhaps by moving the seating edges closer to the fountain area.
Ms. Gilbert offered support for the M Street Landing proposal, welcoming its refreshing simplicity in comparison to the elaborate features seen in other open spaces along the District Wharf. She said that the special attraction in this park will be the people, plants, and fountain, while the design is open to the site's many directions of approach. She emphasized the importance of the plantings to the success of the park, and she encouraged further development of the design.
Vice Chairman Meyer summarized the Commission's overall support for the M Street Landing concept, with comments that largely relate to refinements of scale. She said that scale is particularly important in this design because it establishes the balance between the sense of enclosure and movement within the park. She said that the Commission looks forward to seeing further refinements to the design in the next submission.
Vice Chairman Meyer invited comments on the Terrace, located adjacent to the Waterfront Park. Mr. Krieger asked if the planting palette in these two park areas would be compatible, relating to his broader concern about the relationship among the varying designs for open spaces within the District Wharf. Ms. Wolf responded that the plantings would generally be compatible, with many overlapping plant specifications; the plantings for the Terrace would have a greater emphasis on native species and a wet soil condition. Ms. Gilbert questioned the size and placement of the proposed trees, particularly the cherry trees. Ms. Wolf responded that numerous locations were considered for the cherry trees, including the bosque toward the northeast corner of the Terrace; but the decision was that the cherry trees would be too dense and messy alongside the plaza, resulting in the proposal to use honey locusts for this bosque to provide a more dappled light. Placement of the cherry trees at the site of the failed beech tree was also considered but rejected. A smaller number of cherry trees was also considered, but the choice was to use a sufficient group to have an impact on the design. The proposed configuration, as a line paralleling the water's edge, is intended as a reference to the well-known grouping of cherry trees around the Tidal Basin and also a source of shade for the lawn.
Mr. Krieger commented that the formal organization of the Terrace is unclear; he contrasted this with the straightforward street character of Marina Way and the transitional space of the M Street Landing among the surrounding buildings. He said that the design presentation for the adjacent building on Parcel 10 will be helpful in evaluating the landscape proposal for the Terrace. Ms. Wolf referred to the aerial perspective drawing of the Terrace, which depicts the existing and proposed buildings nearby. Mr. Krieger said that this drawing is still unclear because it does not depict the interaction between the open space and the Parcel 10 building's ground level. Ms. Wolf acknowledged the complex boundaries and adjacencies for the Terrace, emphasizing the Waterfront Park as the initial basis for the design. Ms. Bertsch clarified that the southeastern corner of the Parcel 10 building is the office entrance, and the proposed bosque of trees near the northeastern edge of the Terrace is intended to help define the office entrance area. The lawn at the center would serve as a flexible space that could be used for events, and the stepped seating would provide a view toward the water while accommodating the grade change across the site. She emphasized the intended character of the Terrace as a smaller space in comparison to the Waterfront Park, providing for the spillover of activities from the Parcel 10 building, with a design concept of three distinct areas. She also noted that the southwest corner of Parcel 10 will include public elevator access to the parking garage, providing convenient access to the nearby piers; she said that the public use of this access point would be comparable to the activity generated adjacent to the M Street Landing by the amphitheatre stairs at the northwest corner of Parcel 10.
Ms. Meyer acknowledged the relationship of the park design to the adjacent areas but commented that the issue of scale is a concern. She questioned whether the row of cherry trees would be sufficient to define the lawn as an outdoor room, and she contrasted this modest lawn to the more commodious central lawn of the Waterfront Park. She supported the inclusion of a bioretention garden toward the waterfront edge, but she suggested consideration of providing trees within it, as well as a denser edge of trees behind the stepped seating; the result could be shade for the seating during much of the day, instead of the very limited morning shade from the proposed cherry trees. She said that the community request for the cherry trees may not have taken into consideration the larger scale that is appropriate for this landscape. The goal should be a more powerful design of denser edges that would provide a sense of enclosure for the lawn, giving it the feeling of a special space rather than simply a small grass area beside a plaza.
Ms. Gilbert provided further suggestions for strengthening the scale of the design gestures, commenting that parts of the site plan appear to be broken up into small pieces. She suggested that the landscape edge along the curved walk be treated as a more unified bioretention zone. Ms. Meyer said that the perspective rendering illustrates the insufficient scale of the park elements in comparison to the large scale of the adjacent Parcel 10 building. She recommended a simpler design with more unified gestures, including larger trees, understory trees, groundcover, and the bioretention zone. She added that the defining the lawn with a strong tree canopy would be an appropriate response to the large-scale overhangs of the Parcel 10 building.
Ms. Gilbert questioned the configuration of the stepped seating as a single alignment paralleling the waterfront edge; she suggested consideration of an angled configuration that would take better advantage of the available views. Ms. Wolf responded that some of the bioretention areas have already been constructed, and the feasibility of modifying them is constrained, but she offered to explore this further.
Vice Chairman Meyer suggested taking an action on the concept submission for the public spaces. Upon a motion by Ms. Lehrer, the Commission approved the submission with the comments provided. Mr. Krieger emphasized the need for coordination among the open spaces so that they are complementary while also having distinct features; he also noted the specific advice to consider an alternative to the proposed cherry trees at the Terrace. Noting the complexity of the submission, Vice Chairman Meyer recommended further staff consultation, and perhaps a further concept-level review by the Commission, prior to the submission of a final design; she said that this additional coordination would lessen the risk of having to resolve comments during the concluding stage of the design process. She emphasized that the Commission wants to help improve the design without standing in the way of its completion.
(The Commission provided additional comments on the public spaces, including the extension of the wharf promenade as well as the parks discussed above, during its review of the building proposals at the District Wharf. See agenda items II.E.1 through II.E.4 below.)
E. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs — Shipstead-Luce Act
1. SL 17-136, Southwest Waterfront Development, "District Wharf." Phase II, Water Building 2, 630 Wharf Street, SW. New marina services and retail building. Concept.
2. SL 17-137, Southwest Waterfront Development, "District Wharf." Phase II, Water Building 3, 584 Wharf Street, SW. New marina services building. Concept.
Vice Chairman Meyer suggested hearing presentations on both of the submitted District Wharf buildings located in the Washington Channel—Water Buildings 2 and 3—followed by the Commission's comments on each of them.
Mr. Maqami of S9 Architecture presented the design for Water Building 2, a two-story pier structure to be located across the wharf promenade from Parcel 9. The program includes approximately 2,500 square feet of marina services on the wharf level, and 14,000 square feet of retail that is configured as two spaces on the wharf level and two spaces, likely restaurants, on the upper level. The building would take advantage of the Washington Channel view to the southwest, views along the wharf promenade toward the northwest, and sightlines eastward to the M Street Landing park and to the Arena Stage building across Maine Avenue. He said that the design is inspired by traditional pier structures, using the traditional materials of wood and metal; the wood is used to extend the natural realm of the water toward the built-up wharf, while the metal is used to extend the urban realm toward the water. He said that the proposed green roof would serve as an extension of the M Street Landing landscape, further integrating the building with its context, while also providing attractive views of the roof from the upper floors of nearby buildings. He indicated the area for rooftop mechanical equipment, placed within a central lower portion of the roofscape to minimize the equipment's visibility.
Mr. Maqami presented additional details of the proposed design. The staircases leading up each side of the building to the upper-level restaurants would be comparable to those seen at other pier structures around the world; he showed examples from England and New York. The facades would have vertical fins of metal, likely galvanized steel, that would be more closely spaced at the foot of each staircase and more widely spaced at the restaurant windows to attract visitors into the spaces. The upper level would be cantilevered outward at the northeast and southwest, providing shade for the retail frontage and the windows of the marina services area. Some of the restaurant facades would be designed as doors that could be opened to connect the interior space with the upper-level terrace. Additional exterior materials would include concrete pavers and wood steps. He presented several perspective views of the proposal, and he clarified that each of the upper-level restaurants would have its own entrance stair from the wharf along with separate elevator access.
Mr. Jacobs of Studios Architecture presented the proposal for Water Building 3, which would provide services for the people living on houseboats along the southern portion of the waterfront. The program includes a laundry room, mail room, showers, a security desk, and a social room with a kitchen. He said that the building is intended to relate to the water and the adjacent park area—including the Waterfront Park and the Terrace—and its location is fairly unobtrusive toward the southeast end of the wharf promenade. He indicated the eighty-foot-long gangway that would ramp down from the promenade to the level of the floating docks. The upper end of the gangway, toward the northwest, would be near the southwest corner of Parcel 10 that will have an elevator connection to the below-grade public parking garage.
Mr. Jacobs said that Water Building 3 would be configured as a two-story building set on a floating platform at the level of the docks, not directly abutting the wharf embankment; the building entrance would be at the dock level, and the second story would be at approximately the level of the wharf promenade. The building's exterior vestibule area would include the security gate for access to the docks in this area of the waterfront; for the residents of the houseboats, this gate is a first point of entry as they arrive home, and the building design is intended to emphasize a domestic character for the benefit of the residents. He presented a conceptual diagram of a simple gable-fronted house that would be transformed into a V-shaped, butterfly-roof profile that is characteristic of the water buildings in the first phase of the District Wharf; the design therefore refers to the waterfront context as well as to traditional domestic design. The facades would be richly textured gray metal that would develop a patina, probably a zinc shingle system; the details at some of the facade openings would include a warmer-colored metal that does not patinate. He described the design as relatively understated within the overall context of the District Wharf, using rich materials on a quiet building.
Mr. Jacobs presented the plans and several perspective views of the proposal. He indicated the double-height foyer at the lower-level entrance, with day-to-day support spaces on this level including the mail area, laundry room, and bathrooms. A staircase and elevator would lead to the upper-level social room with tall windows providing views north and west across the wharf and the Washington Channel, including a view of the Washington Monument. A small conference room and covered terrace would be located adjacent to the social room. The northeast side of the building, paralleling the wharf promenade and facing the Terrace, would be mostly windowless on both levels. The angular roof form would be planted, and visible mechanical equipment would be minimized due to the roof's visibility from nearby taller buildings; most of the mechanical equipment would be within the building, and the louvers would be located on the southeast facade. He indicated the overall building height of 38 feet from the dock level to the uppermost corners of the roofline.
Mr. Krieger commented that the presentation of Water Building 3 has affected the advice he gave earlier on the landscape design of the Terrace: it is the relationship of the park's landscape to this building, more than to the Parcel 10 building, that requires much further study. Ms. Meyer agreed. Mr. Krieger said that the odd features of the relationship include the curving walk of the Terrace that terminates in an uninteresting back corner of Water Building 3, blocking the view of the Washington Channel, and the park's stepped seating that mostly faces the blank northeast facade of Water Building 3. He said that the overly conspicuous design of Water Building 3 gives the incorrect impression that it is a public attraction, such as a restaurant, instead of simply a service building for the houseboat residents; he suggested that a more understated design would be preferable, with a reduced height. He also questioned the proposed exterior materials of two types of metal; he said that he had expected the facades to be a combination of wood and metal, similar to Water Building 2, so that these buildings would share a similar palette as "bookends" for this segment of the wharf promenade, even though the buildings would have different appearances.
Mr. Dunson commented that Water Building 3 should appear to be part of the Washington Channel and the boat docks, instead of being closely associated with the wharf promenade as presented. He suggested rotating the building slightly away from the wharf edge so that it would appear to be a separate structure on the water, visually disengaged from the shore. Mr. Jacobs responded that a different orientation for the building was considered at an early stage of the design process, and he welcomed the encouragement to revisit this issue. He noted the constraint of the dock that has already been constructed, resulting in a limited site area along the wharf edge.
Vice Chairman Meyer summarized that further development of the design, possibly including a rotated siting if feasible, should address the question of whether the building is perceived as public or private, and whether it is associated more closely with the land or the water. A reduced scale for the entrance would be more appropriate for the building's domestic purpose, with the double-height interior space being revealed more gradually as the residents enter the building. The design should also better recognize the building's role as one of the edges of the Terrace, with more careful coordination of the building's relationship to the park's bioretention area and stepped seating.
Ms. Meyer questioned the use of metal as the primary exterior material, commenting that it could be an uncomfortably hot surface when people inevitably lean against it during the summer. She acknowledged the careful attention to the appearance of the materials, but she emphasized that the building must be understood as part of the environment, with surfaces that are touched as well as seen. She said that the design should consider the everyday life of the houseboat residents, who will experience this building while carrying provisions as they return home at the end of the day. Ms. Gilbert commented that the presentation drawings already convey the appearance of a wood exterior, as seen in some of the presented design precedents; she expressed surprise that the material is actually intended as metal. Mr. Krieger suggested replacing the primary exterior material with wood, while using metal for the accent details. He reiterated his overall advice to make the building less self-conscious and prominent, with a toned-down character that is more easily understood as a service building.
Ms. Lehrer asked about the number of residents who will use this building; Mr. Steenhoek responded that the associated docks accommodate 94 houseboats. Ms. Lehrer commented that this building could appropriately convey its use as a clubhouse for the houseboats, within the context of a newly built waterfront that has many activities that are open to the public and other activities that are private. A revised design for the entrance could be helpful in establishing this building's private character. She said that the larger problem is the siting, with the building blocking the views outward from the Terrace, although she acknowledged that this problem is confined to a small portion of the extensive overall public access to the waterfront at the District Wharf. Mr. Steenhoek confirmed that the siting of the building is constrained by the recently built dock, although some flexibility may remain in the building's alignment and its distance from the wharf bulkhead, with the goal of enhancing the perception of the building being associated with the water. He noted that the security gate is currently located along the wharf promenade, with an unwelcoming appearance; the intention is to move this control point down to the dock level. The private purpose of the building could be conveyed in various ways, such as signage at the promenade stating that the gangway access is intended only for residents of the marina.
Ms. Meyer suggested that the Terrace be considered more carefully as a park that supports the houseboat residents who will be using Water Building 3; she suggested that the stepped seating could serve as a front porch for the residents. She clarified that the park should not exclude the general public, but it could be designed programmatically for the residents' needs instead of being based primarily on spatial concepts. Ms. Lehrer also questioned the design for the building's green roof, commenting that it looks too much like a lawn and should instead have a more natural character, perhaps attracting birds.
Mr. Krieger said that despite his criticisms, he supports the design as an imaginative building. He offered a motion to approve the concept for Water Building 3 with the comments provided, including further coordination with the designers of the Terrace, reconsideration of the exterior material palette, and a less conspicuous design in keeping with the building's function. Upon a second by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission adopted this action.
The Commission next provided comments on Water Building 2. Ms. Meyer asked if the exterior fins would be configured with consideration of the solar orientation; she said that a design that is functional as well as formal would result in a better quality of place. Mr. Maqami responded that the design team intends to consider the solar orientation more carefully as the design is further developed. Ms. Meyer encouraged this exploration, commenting that the beautiful and energetic facade could be ruined by the placement of ordinary shades due to a lack of careful calculation of solar orientation. Mr. Maqami added that an additional issue with the detailing of the fins is privacy for the retail spaces, such as alongside the exterior staircases. Mr. Krieger commented that the concept seems promising but the detailing will be critical to its success, and he said that the Commission will look forward to the review of a more developed design.
Mr. Dunson expressed support for the open character of the design, with the building serving as a "skeleton" that allows views between the interior and exterior. He asked if the structural support for the building has been studied adequately, or whether the porous appearance in the presentation drawings would be marred by the addition of many supporting columns. Mr. Maqami responded that the edges of many portions of the upper level would be cantilevered, with the structural support provided approximately ten feet back from the building edge; this configuration allows flexibility in the treatment of the facades, such as the extensive transparency that is proposed at the southwest and northeast ends of the building. Mr. Dunson supported this result, emphasizing that awkwardly located columns would be problematic for this design. He compared the beauty of the building's twin staircases to a functioning version of the famed M.C. Escher drawing of helical staircases; the facade's fins serve to give the design an open character. He asked if the fins would be movable with the sun's angle; Mr. Maqami said that they are currently intended as fixed, and he confirmed that this will likely remain as the design intent to avoid excessive complexity. Mr. Krieger added that the recessed position of the columns should be considered carefully for the upper level as well as for the wharf level.
Mr. Krieger commented that the concept of using wood and metal to wrap different portions of the facade is too diagrammatic; he suggested a more sophisticated weaving of the materials with an emphasis on more wood in some areas and more metal in other areas. He said that the work of Carlo Scarpa, as presented earlier in the day as a precedent for the proposed modifications to the Lincoln Memorial (agenda item II.B.2), provides a better example of the subtle use of materials.
Ms. Meyer expressed overall support for the design, commenting that the District Wharf has brought together a remarkable group of designers who have the opportunity to collaborate. She questioned why the result appears to be separate projects that are spliced together in the presentation drawings without responding to the adjacent designs. She cited the narrowly conceived landscape idea of Water Building 2: a binary idea of land and water, metal and wood, city and nature. She discouraged such simplistic design approaches; however, even accepting it as the concept for this project, she questioned how well it is developed within the context. The exterior staircases are intended as an extension of the public space, but it is unclear if the stairs are dimensioned as interior stairs, or with the wider treads and shorter risers that would be characteristic of landscape stairs that are consistent with the scale of the wharf promenade and the overall waterfront area. She suggested that the exterior wall planes could deviate from the promenade grid to engage the people walking by. She summarized that the diagrammatic concept for this building—and for the District Wharf overall—could be fitted to the site more thoughtfully to result in a better design. She said that the broader design ideas are strong enough that they would not be compromised by a few design inflections, and the result would actually improve the conceptual rigor of the project. Mr. Krieger added that the inflections could be subtle gestures of the building to acknowledge the landscape, just as architects often want the landscape to inflect in response to the building. Mr. Maqami responded that this issue has been raised during staff consultation meetings, and the design team is considering a response while also verifying the project constraints such as those imposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers along the waterfront. He said that an inflection on the land side of the building should be feasible and is being studied. Ms. Lehrer observed that the early freehand sketch from the presentation seems to suggest a wide, shallow staircase as recommended by Ms. Meyer.
Ms. Gilbert suggested that the landscape of the M Street Landing, such as the large planting beds, be extended toward Water Building 2. She said that more overlapping and touching of the design gestures would be desirable, while acknowledging that the entrance areas need to be unobstructed. Ms. Meyer observed that the segment of the wharf promenade between Marina Way and the M Street Landing appears to be simply a continuation of the standard materials of the promenade, and it is being shown without attribution to any designer; she suggested consideration of how the design of this space could be developed with a more successful relationship to the adjacent buildings and landscapes.
Ms. Gilbert offered a motion to approve the concept for Water Building 2, subject to the Commission's comments including further study of combining exterior materials and the relationship to the landscape; Mr. Krieger clarified that the advice is more weaving together of the wood and metal on the facades, and more weaving together of the building and landscape. Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted this action.
3. SL 17-134, Southwest Waterfront Development, "District Wharf." Phase II, Parcel 9, 620 Maine Avenue, SW. New condominium and retail building. Concept. Mr. Bargmann of Rafael Viñoly Architects presented the proposed building for Parcel 9. He described how the context has shaped the building, which serves as a transition between the orthogonal grouping of District Wharf buildings to the northwest and the irregularly shaped open space of the M Street Landing park to the southeast. He said that this building could be perceived as the head or tail of the more intensely developed main portion of the District Wharf. He indicated the varying geometries of other nearby buildings, including the Arena Stage building to the east across Maine Avenue and a recently built church to the southeast across the park. Vehicular access to Parcel 9 would be provided by a drop-off roadway to the southeast along the M Street Landing side of the site, continuing around the wharf promenade to Marina Way on the northwest. Important sightlines in the vicinity of Parcel 9 include the views between the waterfront and Arena Stage; the proposed building would have broad views in several directions.
Mr. Bargmann described the proposed building configuration. The lower portion would occupy the entire site, serving as a plinth and defining the geometry of the adjacent open spaces. Most of the ground floor would be retail space, continuing the extensive retail program of the District Wharf; the retail spaces along the park would be restaurants with outdoor seating, providing an active edge to the open space, and additional retail space would be along Marina Way. The residential lobby would be at the center of the curved facade along the M Street Landing park; automobile elevators to each side of the lobby would provide access to the below-grade parking. The loading dock would be on the opposite side of the building, with access from Marina Way. To enhance the light and air for the M Street Landing, the prominent curved facade would slope back from the park as the building rises, and this shape would be reinforced by the detailing of the balconies with sloped glass railings. This complex volume would be set against the orthogonal geometry of the northwestern portion of the building, which would relate more directly to the orthogonal configuration of the District Wharf buildings to the northwest. He presented elevation and perspective drawings, as well as enlarged views of the main entrance and the transition between the curved and orthogonal geometries. He indicated the overall building height of 130 feet to the base of the penthouse, which then rises with a one-to-one setback for a total height of 146 feet, lower than the allowable maximum of 150 feet.
Mr. Bargmann described the proposed materials. The apartments would have a simple facade of floor-to-ceiling glass, and a different material or color would be used for the building's podium to differentiate the volumes. The two vertical circulation cores, visible on the exterior at the southwest and northeast, would be concrete; he said that the configuration with two cores will result in shorter corridors, as well as floor-through apartments on the uppermost floors.
Mr. Krieger asked for clarification of the vehicular circulation. Mr. Bargmann indicated the one-way access drive leading from Maine Avenue to the drop-off point at the residential lobby entrance; residents' vehicles could enter and exit the below-grade parking garage through the vehicle elevators adjacent to the lobby. The access drive would continue around the southwest end of the building, and vehicles would loop onto Marina Way to return to Maine Avenue. Mr. Krieger and Ms. Gilbert asked if this entire vehicular route would be curbless; Mr. Bargmann responded that much of the drive would be defined by planting beds and the edge of the outdoor seating of the building's restaurants. He added that the amount of traffic on this drive would be minimal, and he confirmed that it would also provide emergency access for firefighting equipment. Ms. Lehrer asked about roof gardens; Mr. Bargmann responded that many units would have private terraces, and the shared amenity space on the second floor would have a terrace facing Marina Way, adjacent to the building's fitness center.
Mr. Krieger offered support for the proposal as an interesting design, commenting that the building's unusual shape could be very attractive or would at least attract attention. He expressed surprise that its shape would be so different from the other buildings of the District Wharf, which he said may be too similar to each other, resulting in the jarring contrast with this outlandish building at the end of the primary development area. He said that the contrast may be excessive, and the tilt of the curved facade may also be excessive and disorienting, although this impression may just result from the technique of the perspective renderings. Mr. Bargmann said that the intention of the tilted facade is to be deferential to the park; the upper volume would be perceived as resting on the two-story podium and leaning against the solid vertical cores. Mr. Krieger supported the inventiveness of the design approach, and he said that the building would provide a successful transition to Marina Way; he observed that many of the buildings at the District Wharf are tightly spaced near their neighbors, while the configuration of the volumes for this building results in a more generous spacing from the nearby buildings on the opposite side of Marina Way. Ms. Lehrer emphasized that this building's contrasting geometry would be appropriate for its transitional location at the end of the District Wharf's primary development area. Mr. Bargmann added that a further benefit of the stepped-back massing is to allow the Arena Stage building to continue to have a relationship to the Washington Channel; he said that the proposed building's geometry, although unusual, is not arbitrary. Mr. Krieger commented that the building's curved shape, in combination with the long block of District Wharf buildings to the northwest, makes it look like the back end of a cruise ship.
Ms. Meyer said that the contrast of this building to the context is its great strength: rather than blend in with the other buildings, it responds to the specific conditions of the site, including the unusual shape of the M Street Landing park. She described the design as refreshing in comparison to the relentlessness and similarity of the other District Wharf buildings. She emphasized the importance of detailing for the success of the project, particularly due to its prominent location. Mr. Bargmann agreed that further coordination with the designers of adjacent sites would be beneficial as the design is developed in more detail. Mr. Dunson said that design coordination with the M Street Landing at the ground plane will be particularly important, because this edge will be perceived as the front of the building within the geometry of the urban design context.
Mr. Krieger reiterated his concern that the proposed design may be too alien within its context, while noting that the proposals for the three parcels immediately to the northwest of Parcel 9 have not yet been submitted for Commission review; he said that the Commission would carefully consider the designs of these neighboring buildings in comparison to the proposal for Parcel 9. He also observed that the perspective views show continuous terraces along the curved southeast facade, which is unlikely to be the complete design; Mr. Bargmann clarified that glass walls would be used to separate the terraces of each apartment. Mr. Krieger said that the depiction of these walls would have an effect on the building's appearance in the renderings. Ms. Gilbert asked about any special design character for the glass, such as tinting; Mr. Bargmann responded that these details have not yet been resolved, but the overall intention is to differentiate the building's upper volume from the podium.
Mr. Dunson asked for clarification of the massing at the ends of the curved facade, observing that these areas are not depicted well in the presented renderings; he said that the treatment of these areas would affect whether the building is perceived as a single enormous entity or as multiple volumes. Mr. Bargmann responded that the terraces would not wrap around the ends of the curved facade; the design intention is to have a transition between the stepback configuration along the front curve and the orthogonal geometry of the building's northwest side, which relates directly to the other District Wharf buildings to the northwest. Ms. Meyer agreed that these areas should be depicted more clearly with perspective drawings; Mr. Dunson emphasized that the clarity of the design concept should be legible so that the building does not appear to be a "blob." Mr. Luebke noted the staff's agreement that the submitted drawings do not fully illustrate the proposal; he said that an additional perspective view from the northwest, looking along the wharf promenade, would be especially helpful in showing the intended transition between the building's curved and orthogonal geometries. He said that the west corner of the building at the wharf promenade and Marina Way seems to have a strange configuration that is not entirely clear, and many people will be approaching from this direction. Mr. Bargmann acknowledged that this corner would be clearly visible along the promenade, and he offered to improve the depiction of the design. Mr. Dunson added that the appearance near Maine Avenue is also important.
Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the concept with the comments provided. Vice Chairman Meyer said that the requested additional views would help the Commission and the designers in clarifying the concept before preparing a final design submission. Mr. Krieger emphasized the importance of the design for Parcel 8 as part of the context for Parcel 9. Mr. Dunson reiterated the need for improved illustration of the design's transition areas to ensure that the building does not appear heavy and ponderous.
4. SL 17-135, Southwest Waterfront Development, "District Wharf." Phase II, Parcel 10, 590 Maine Avenue, SW. New office and retail building. Concept. Mr. Adjmi of Morris Adjmi Architects presented the proposal for Parcel 10, located at the southeast end of the District Wharf promenade and south of the M Street Landing park. He indicated the slight change in the alignment of the waterfront edge to the northwest of the site, giving this building a prominent location directly on the visual axis of the wharf promenade to the northwest. The first-story podium of the building would be aligned with Water Street on the east, which is consistent with the city grid. The four upper floors of office space—a recessed second floor, two projecting floors, and a set-back penthouse floor—would be rotated 45 degrees to respond to the alignment of the wharf promenade; he likened the rotated volume to a prow facing the water. The podium would contain extensive retail space with entrances on the north, west, and south; a loading dock along Water Street; an office lobby at the southeast corner of the building; and a ramp to the below-grade public parking garage that extends beneath the M Street Landing and Parcels 9 and 10. The northwest corner of the podium would be carved away to form a small amphitheater that would be an extension of the M Street Landing public space, and a public stair and elevator at the building's southwest corner would provide pedestrian access for the parking garage.
Mr. Adjmi presented several images of other buildings that have served as inspiration for this design, featuring a simple volume of office space and a continuation of the grade-level landscape onto the building surfaces. The proposal would extend the M Street Landing landscape to the edges of the building, into the amphitheater area, and onto the roof of the first-floor podium. The penthouse-level roof terrace, located on the setback area above the fourth floor, would have a planting strip along the edge of the building. He concluded with elevations, sections, an additional ground-level perspective view, and illustrations of the proposed materials of glass, metal, and sand-blasted precast concrete; he said that terra cotta or natural stone is also being considered as an exterior material instead of precast concrete.
Ms. Meyer and Mr. Krieger asked about the location of retail entrances. Mr. Adjmi responded that their location would conform to the District Wharf master plan for retail entrances, and would also depend on the number of tenants occupying the retail space of approximately 16,000 square feet; all of the entrances would be on the first floor. Ms. Gilbert asked about the size of the amphitheater; Mr. Adjmi said that it would accommodate approximately 75 people, and he estimated the length of its sides as 35 feet.
Mr. Dunson commented that the proposals have all been presented separately, which is helpful in some ways but has resulted in the Commission's request for closer coordination among the different designers. He said that the lack of consolidated presentation drawings is problematic, and the design for Parcel 10 raises concerns that might relate more directly to other components of the District Wharf that have already been reviewed. He emphasized that the overall development should be perceived as a cohesive whole rather than a collection of discrete parts. Mr. Adjmi responded that the different designers had come together in the early part of the design process to coordinate issues such as massing and materials, with the goal of designing buildings that relate to each other and to the landscape. Mr. Dunson observed that this southeastern end of the District Wharf, centered on the M Street Landing, would be understood as an ensemble that is shaped by the buildings on Parcels 9 and 10, as well as by the recently completed condominium building and church to the east on Parcel 11. He said that all of these buildings should relate to each other on the ground plane and through their geometries, including the proposed shift between the diagonal and orthogonal grids on Parcel 10. He summarized that the design goal for Parcel 10 should be to resolve these competing dynamics. Mr. Adjmi agreed that the dynamics on the site are complex; he said that the rotation of the upper stories would provide a greater sense of place for the church, and the design works to balance the context of other buildings and the landscape.
Mr. Krieger complimented the proposal as adventuresome, providing a departure from the typical design of a boxy office building, with sophisticated details being developed for the curtainwall. He observed that the perspective view from the wharf promenade on the northwest shows that the building could easily be perceived as a two-story office building that is raised above an elevated plateau; the first-story podium has the appearance of a rising ground plane, or of a rising landscape. He said that the amphitheater at the northwest corner contributes to this perception, and he suggested that it be bigger; Ms. Gilbert agreed. Mr. Krieger said that this design approach could be used more dramatically at this location, providing an elevated public space that terminates the half-mile-long wharf promenade and a viewing platform toward the southern part of the Washington Channel and the river beyond, as well as to the city and along the length of the wharf promenade. He acknowledged that this design goal would require revising the design of the podium level and its connections to the surrounding public space. Notwithstanding the profusion of planned restaurants throughout the District Wharf, he said that a restaurant at this building's second story, set within the "plateau" on top of the podium, would be a wonderful destination. The south side of the podium would return the visitor to grade level at the Terrace, a smaller park presented earlier in the day, which would provide an additional vantage point for expansive views of the Washington Channel. He said that the design has the potential to surpass the conventional 1980s concept of rotating a cube, by emphasizing the concept of a beautiful glass building perched above a plateau. He emphasized the need for further coordination with the landscape design for the Terrace in order to achieve a bolder vision. He added that such a vision would also address the problematic relationship of the landscape to Water Building 3, as previously discussed by the Commission, by re-orienting the design of the Terrace toward the south view instead of toward the blank building wall on the west. He described this vision for the area as a fantasy, but he urged the design team to consider it.
Ms. Gilbert suggested that the amphitheater be more generously sized and relate more broadly to the M Street Landing open space to the north and west; she likened the proposed design to a mouse's bite taken from a block of cheese, or a "little green bean" hugging the wall of the building. She said that the building and open spaces should overlap and bleed together, rather than simply line up. She added that people might want to sit in the amphitheater on windy days due to the protection of its side wall, while other areas would be enjoyable for their openness to sunlight. Mr. Adjmi responded that alternative configurations were studied for the amphitheater; the proposed configuration would have a planted wall on its southeast edge, visible above the outdoor steps when viewed from the M Street Landing. He agreed to consider enlarging it and designing it to wrap more generously around the corner of the building.
Mr. Krieger said that in his vision for the concept, the amphitheater would be especially important as the transition for pedestrians to ascend from the ground plane to the top of the podium. Mr. Adjmi clarified that this outdoor space, encircling the second-story office space, is not intended to have public access; Mr. Krieger expressed regret at this intention, which is contrary to his vision of how the building could relate to the wider context. Mr. Steenhoek said that the access to this area could change depending on the occupant of the second-story interior space. Mr. Krieger reiterated his vision that the open space above the podium could be a key attraction that relates the park areas to the north and south, as well as relating the overall wharf area to the broader expanse of the Washington Channel and the wide river beyond. He said that this vision would be a more fitting terminus at the southeastern end of the District Wharf than the curved building that was previously presented.
Ms. Lehrer observed that the perspective renderings omit Water Building 3, which should be shown; she said that its presence would provide a visual clue that the District Wharf extends further toward the southeast, which is insufficiently apparent in the presented view. She supported the recommendation to increase the amphitheater's scale and its relationship to the landscape. She suggested that solar exposure be considered as the design of the building is developed further, possibly resulting in wood or metal louvers that would give the character of a waterfront building instead of simply a generic office building. She recalled that many of the earlier building proposals for the District Wharf had carefully designed fenestration, and she recommended similar care for this building. Mr. Adjmi responded that the current design approach is to adjust the glazing specification for different exposures, but he offered to consider louvers or other passive solar techniques. Ms. Lehrer said that some sort of solar protection will be needed; if it is not provided on the exterior, the result will likely be interior screens or shades. She emphasized that the resolution of this issue could help to relate the building to its waterfront setting. She summarized that the office space in this building appears to be very attractive.
Vice Chairman Meyer acknowledged the extensive design effort that has been demonstrated for all of the projects presented to the Commission, going beyond the typical level of a concept submission. She reiterated the Commission's advice that the District Wharf's developer should again bring together the various design teams for further collaboration; she said that each design could be developed into an adequate project in isolation, while improved collaboration could lead to a more "magical" result. She said that Mr. Krieger's guidance may require an extensive reconceptualization of the building's plinth and retail programming, and she instead offered suggestions for more limited revisions that would be more compatible with the submitted design. She said that the plinth has the potential for far greater engagement with the context than simply one amphitheater; she suggested creating additional connections that respond to the varied conditions on each of the building's four sides. She observed that the amphitheater would be carved into the podium, while other features could extend outward from the podium—perhaps an overlook, a staircase, or some other feature that does not necessarily provide access to the open space above the podium, which understandably may need to be a private space. She emphasized that even without direct public access, the plinth could be understood as part of the landscape and the public realm. She also suggested consideration of inflecting the configuration of this building, comparable to the Commission's advice for repositioning Water Building 3. She observed that the outdoor space above the plinth is apparently designed with biomorphic shapes that are similar in plan to the planter shapes in the adjacent M Street Landing park; Mr. Adjmi confirmed this intention, adding that the plantings at the office building may be less exuberant than those in the public park. Ms. Meyer commented that the three-dimensionality of these planters is critical to their success in the M Street Landing proposal, while a flat repetition of the shapes would be unsuccessful and a lost opportunity; she urged further design effort for the office building's outdoor space, with consideration of the spatial experience rather than simply the design patterns. Mr. Trevethan of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the landscape architect for M Street Landing, responded that volumetric planters are intended as part of the landscape above the podium, although this is not conveyed in the presented drawings. He added that the designers have already been exploring the goal of treating the podium roof as an extension of the nearby park, even without public access.
Mr. Krieger reiterated his advice that the 11,000 square feet of second-story office space above the podium be programmed instead as a restaurant, potentially the most attractive at the District Wharf with extensive views in many directions; Ms. Meyer agreed. Ms. Gilbert added that a restaurant at this location would be especially popular with theatergoers from Arena Stage. Mr. Krieger described the current design as a missed opportunity and a "tease" that suggests something that it doesn't deliver; he acknowledged that the Commission would not require the change in use, but he urged further consideration of how to bring the design's promise to fruition.
Mr. Dunson commented that the design of the ground plane will be critical in unifying the various buildings and open spaces in the immediate context of Parcel 10, with the landscape design being more significant than the architecture. He cited the relationships to the water's edge, to Water Street and Maine Avenue, to the wharf promenade extending to the northwest, and to the adjacent park areas. He suggested that the architect work closely with the landscape architect in developing the vision for the Parcel 10 proposal.
Vice Chairman Meyer suggested a motion on the submission. Mr. Krieger acknowledged the Commission's support for the project, but he said that his preference for a motion would be to encourage the different vision that he has for this building's connection to the open space context. Mr. Dunson offered a motion to approve the concept with the comments provided, and with emphasis on the desirability of further coordination among the architects and landscape architects for the projects in this area in order to achieve a cohesive whole. Ms. Meyer added that the outcome of the design coordination may be a realization that the prevailing design guidelines for the more intensively developed portion of the District Wharf should be altered at this southeastern end of the development, rather than simply treating the District Wharf as an extrusion of development that is simply cut off at the end. She suggested including a request for an additional submission for projects in this area before the submission of a final design. Upon a second by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission adopted this action. Mr. Krieger acknowledged the quality of the design but abstained from the vote, with the intention of encouraging consideration of an alternative design approach. Mr. Dunson clarified his intention that this guidance was part of the motion.
District Wharf – Concluding Comments
Ms. Lehrer offered her general congratulations to the development team for the District Wharf, acknowledging the difficulty of maintaining a high standard of design quality for this lengthy process. She welcomed the coming opportunity to visit many waterfront restaurants. Mr. Krieger recalled his criticisms of some of the earlier buildings in the development; he said that the quality of design has been improving, which is an impressive achievement.
Mr. Luebke noted that today's presentations encompassed slightly more than half of the District Wharf's second phase, with the remainder anticipated for review at the Commission's September 2017 meeting. He asked if the Commission has any further guidance for the forthcoming submissions. Ms. Batcheler added that the remaining components include two large buildings spanning three parcels, a smaller building at the water, and the associated public spaces. Ms. Lehrer said that an overall plan of the landscape architecture would be helpful, illustrating the entirety of this phase and the adjacent areas; Mr. Dunson agreed. Ms. Meyer clarified that the request should be for a public space plan, encompassing the building thresholds and the edges of the buildings as they meet the grade level. She said that such a drawing was lacking in today's presentations; the Commission was presented with the overall planning strategy, but not a concept for how the individual projects would come together to form a precinct. She said that the goal is to avoid delaying the understanding of how the components relate to each other, and she offered to talk further with the designers on what should be illustrated in this additional drawing. Ms. Lehrer reiterated that the drawings should accurately illustrate the context, including the small buildings that are part of the overall development. Mr. Krieger suggested that each project's submission booklet should begin with information about the context, notwithstanding the potential redundancy, although the presentations would appropriately be more concise.
5. SL 17-138, Metropolitan Club, 1700 H Street, NW. Rooftop addition. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept for a rooftop addition to the Metropolitan Club, located at the southwest corner of 17th and H Streets, NW. The existing building—a five-story Beaux Arts–Italian Renaissance Revival structure completed in 1908 and designed by the New York firm Heins & LaFarge—is listed on the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites and on the National Register of Historic Places. The proposed one-story, eighteen-foot-tall addition would provide 4,375 square feet of new function space for the club. She asked architect Hany Hassan of Beyer Blinder Belle to present the design.
Mr. Hassan noted that the building has become surrounded by newer buildings since its completion in 1908. He said that the roofscape has become cluttered with pieces of incrementally installed mechanical equipment at the end of their useful lives, and the appearance is inconsistent with the high quality of the building. The proposal includes replacing most of the equipment and consolidating it toward the southwest corner of the roof, away from the two street facades; the existing cooling tower and emergency generator would remain. Consolidating the equipment would allow for the construction of a double-height rooftop addition that would house a function space, restrooms, and a prep kitchen; it would also enclose and shield from view much of the mechanical equipment. The addition would be set back from the street facades, and an occupiable deck would wrap around the northern and western sides of the roof.
Mr. Hassan said that in response to the existing building's high quality and classical detailing, the proposed addition is designed as a simple, minimalist glass box set back on the existing roof. He presented perspective views of the building from 17th and H Streets, indicating where the addition would be visible from the street behind the existing parapet. A glass facade would enclose both the function space and the equipment; the facade would have a return of several feet at the roofline, which is intended to create a simple and crisp edge without the appearance of a weighty or substantial roof. Some mechanical equipment would be double-stacked above the restrooms and prep kitchen, and the existing eighteen-foot-tall cooling tower would be shielded from view by the addition.
Ms. Gilbert asked about the planned uses for the function space. Guy Martin, an architect and the chairman of the Metropolitan Club's building committee, responded that it would be used for club activities, not for outside event rentals. He said that the current project was initiated to bring the rooftop mechanical systems into compliance with D.C. regulations, resulting in the decision to replace and consolidate the equipment. He credited Mr. Hassan with the idea to construct an occupiable addition that both encloses the mechanical equipment and provides function space, rather than just a simple screen or mechanical penthouse. Mr. Krieger asked if representatives from adjacent buildings have offered any opinions of the proposal; Mr. Hassan said he thought the neighbors would appreciate the consolidation of the mechanical equipment.
Mr. Dunson expressed support for the design, which he characterized as a simple and straightforward addition that provides more space for the club. He expressed regret at the apparent lack of design review that has resulted in the inappropriate placement of rooftop mechanical equipment on this building and on the adjacent building to the west, clearly visible from the street. He said that the proposal to consolidate the extensive mechanical equipment would restore some aesthetic integrity to the building and would help to provide an upper termination for the building's mass.
Mr. Krieger also expressed support for the design; he commented that the proposed return of the glass facade at the addition's roofline has the appearance of a cornice. He asked for clarification of the cooling tower enclosure; Mr. Hassan confirmed that the glass facade would continue in front of the cooling tower. Mr. Krieger asked if transparent glass would also enclose the rooms at the back of the addition, such as the bathrooms and kitchen. Mr. Hassan clarified that glass would be used on the north and east facades, extending around the northwestern and southeastern corners of the addition, but would not continue be used to clad the addition at the rear; the exterior in this area would be masonry. Mr. Krieger expressed support for this treatment.
Secretary Luebke asked for a description of the narrow zone between the proposed glass facade and the existing cooling tower on the northwest side of the addition. Mr. Hassan said that two glass walls along this edge would frame a narrow passageway along the cooling tower; the use of two surfaces as screens for the cooling tower behind is intended to diffuse its appearance by reflecting light off both surfaces. He emphasized that the glass facade is intended to appear as a transparent and consistent envelope for the entire addition while also shielding unsightly equipment from view. Mr. Krieger commented that this glassy passage would be a favorable place to grow plants.
Ms. Lehrer asked for clarification of the proposed roof plantings. Mr. Hassan confirmed that the planted edge would line the entire balustrade parapet; the intention is to keep people away from the edge, which may also necessitate the installation of an additional glass barrier. Ms. Lehrer recommended providing at least twelve to fourteen inches of soil depth for the survival of the plants. She asked if D.C. has regulations that require green roofs; Mr. Martin responded that D.C. does have a requirement for green roofs, although this building is exempt because it is a historic landmark.
Ms. Meyer recalled a previously reviewed project—located on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House and also within the Commission's jurisdiction under the Shipstead-Luce Act—that may require a transparent anti-ballistic barrier wall along its roof terrace. She asked if the Metropolitan Club would require a similar vertical barrier in addition to the existing historic stone parapet. Mr. Hassan responded that the height of the parapet is sufficient for safety, but an additional glazed edge could be installed to prevent rooftop occupants from approaching the parapet. Mr. Krieger suggested installing a curb at the edge where the decking and planting bed would meet, rather than a glass barrier, which he said would appear too fussy. Mr. Hassan said that a glass barrier would likely not be necessary. Ms. Meyer summarized the consensus that the treatment of this edge condition is important and should be studied further. She advised that the design not rely on plantings as a safety barrier since they may not survive; she suggested that a small coping could be installed instead, with some stone ballast used to fill in the planting area. She said that if the plantings are included in the design, they may have to be in containers to provide the necessary soil depth.
Mr. Luebke recalled previous projects where the Commission has approved a design for an occupiable rooftop terrace or addition, and subsequently a proposal is submitted for an additional permanent shade or tent structure; he asked if the Commission members want to address this issue to help guide the current applicant. Vice Chairman Meyer said that the current proposal is successful because the rooftop structure would be set back from the parapet and would be only minimally visible from the street. She said that the Commission would likely not support any further additions to the rooftop, which would have to be submitted for review. Mr. Dunson agreed, observing that the setback and glass facade of the addition are clearly delineated and appropriate; he said that a shading structure that protruded into the setback area would likely not be approved. Mr. Krieger agreed that an additional structure would appear awkward in relation to the minimalist aesthetic sensibility of the current proposal, and approval would be unlikely; he suggested that temporary umbrellas could be added instead. Mr. Luebke noted that these would have a visual impact; Mr. Krieger clarified his overall advice that something retractable would be preferable to a fixed extension of the roof addition. Ms. Lehrer said that sliding doors or other operable exterior walls could provide access to the deck while the rooftop structure itself would provide shade and cover from the elements; this would allow for an experience similar to sitting outside under a canopy, but without the undesirable protrusion of a secondary shade structure. Ms. Meyer added that the addition's long side would face north, making it an appropriate location for glassy, moveable partitions. Mr. Hassan said that the current design does not propose a structure within the setback area; Mr. Krieger noted that although this is not in the current proposal, the club could bring forward proposals for such additions in the future. Mr. Martin said that the building is subject to a preservation easement held by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which provides an additional process of review for alterations to the building.
Vice Chairman Meyer suggested approval of the submission with the comments provided. Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted this action.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:58 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA