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 9:06 a.m.
Hon. Earl A. Powell, Chairman
Hon. Elizabeth Meyer, Vice Chairman
Hon. Edward Dunson
Hon. Liza Gilbert
Hon. Toni Griffin
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
In the absence of Chairman Powell at the beginning of the meeting, Vice Chairman Meyer presided through agenda item II.B.
A. Approval of the minutes of the 20 September meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the September meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the minutes.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 16 November 2017, 18 January 2018, and 15 February 2018. He noted that no meeting is scheduled in December.
C. Retirement of the Commission's Administrative Officer, Phyllis Roderer. Mr. Luebke announced with regret that Ms. Roderer will retire at the end of October, after nearly nine years on the Commission staff. He recalled that she had filled an urgent need for administrative expertise, and her managerial achievements include improvements to the Commission's financial reporting and annual audit process. He said that the staff will miss her cheerfulness and skills. Ms. Roderer said that her time on the staff has been enjoyable and a great opportunity; she expressed appreciation for the kind farewell as she transitions to retirement.
Mr. Luebke said that Ms. Roderer will be replaced by Trenice Hall, currently employed at the U.S. Department of Agriculture; he anticipated that Ms. Hall will be introduced to the Commission at the November meeting.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that no changes have been made to the draft appendix. He noted that the appendix includes a report of the staff's recent approval, by delegated authority, of the design for a pedestrian connection at Benjamin Banneker Park at the terminus of 10th Street, SW. Upon a motion by Ms. Gilbert with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported that the recommendation on one project for alterations to a house and site has been revised to be entirely favorable (case number SL 17-173), subject to the anticipated receipt of supplemental materials; she requested authorization to finalize this recommendation when the materials are received. Changes for other projects are limited to minor wording adjustments and noting the receipt of supplemental materials. Upon a motion by Ms. Gilbert with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act appendix.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Stevenson said that no changes have been made to the draft appendix, which includes 26 projects. Upon a motion by Mr. Dunson with second by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission approved the Old Georgetown Act appendix.
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider items II.E.3 and II.F. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission may wish to act on these submissions without presentations, noting that they do not meet the requirements for inclusion on the Consent Calendar. (Agenda item II.H.2 was similarly approved later in the meeting, prior to item II.G.1.)
E. District of Columbia Department of Transportation
3. CFA 19/OCT/17-6, Cleveland Park, 3300 to 3500 blocks of Connecticut Avenue, NW (between Macomb and Porter Streets). Streetscape improvements. Concept. (Previous: CFA 18/MAY/17-4.) Mr. Luebke noted that this is the third concept submission for the Cleveland Park streetscape project. He said that a letter has been distributed from a neighborhood group in support of the design; remaining issues involve below-grade stormwater management, which he anticipated would be resolved successfully. He added that the Commission may wish to delegate review of the final design to the staff.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the proposed planters appear to be too small, and she recommended further study of their size and distribution. She also supported an artistic treatment for the truck barrier at the Macomb Street entrance to the service lane along the east side of Connecticut Avenue. Upon a motion by Mr. Dunson with second by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission approved the concept submission with these comments, and delegated review of the final design to the staff.
F. District of Columbia Department of General Services
CFA 19/OCT/17-7, Ward 6 Short-term Family Housing, 850 Delaware Avenue, SW. New seven-story building. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/FEB/17-7.) Mr. Luebke noted that the final design submission responds to the comments provided by the Commission at the concept-level review. Upon a motion by Mr. Dunson with second by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission approved the final design and delegated any further review to the staff.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B.
B. United States Mint
CFA 19/OCT/17-1, Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Program. Obverse designs, submissions from the eighteen competition finalists. Information presentation. (Previous: CFA 15/JUN/17-8, Reverse design for four coins.) Mr. Simon introduced the presentation of obverse designs for the commemorative coins to be issued in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing in 2019. He noted several unusual circumstances with this coin program. The coins will be curved, an unusual design feature that the Mint has previously used with the National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins; he distributed a sample of a coin from this set. The Apollo 11 coin program will include four coins of varying sizes, with a common design for all of the coins. The design for the convex reverse was already reviewed by the Commission at the June 2017 meeting; it will feature a view of the lunar mission reflected in the visor of an astronaut's helmet. The current submission is for the design of the concave obverse face of the coins, which will be selected by a design jury convened by the Department of the Treasury. The jury includes Ms. Gilbert and Mr. Dunson from the Commission and Mr. Lindstrom from the staff, as well as representatives of the Mint's Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee. The first stage of the competition was the selection of artists based on their portfolios; the selected artists were then invited to submit design proposals for the obverse of the coins, and eighteen of these artist proposals will be presented today. He emphasized that these designs have not been edited for issues such as feasibility or historical accuracy, due to the unusual selection process of a two-stage juried competition. He said that the Commission's comments will be provided to the jury, which will meet the following day; a recommendation from the Commission for a specific design is not necessary. He asked April Stafford of the Mint to present the artist submissions.
Ms. Stafford said that this program will include three types of coins that are typical for commemorative coin sets—a five-dollar gold coin, a one-dollar silver coin, and a half-dollar clad coin—as well as the unprecedented inclusion of a larger five-ounce silver coin that will have a diameter of three inches. She summarized the program's authorizing legislation, which includes the requirement for nationwide public design competition for the obverse, rather than relying on the pool of artists who have an established relationship with the Mint. In accordance with the legislation, the obverse design is intended to be emblematic of the U.S. space program leading up to the Apollo 11 moon landing; the reverse depicts the accomplishment of the landing. She confirmed that the designs are being presented as submitted by the artists, without editing by the Mint; supplemental information by subject-matter experts has been provided by the Mint for the Commission's consideration. She also noted that the recommendations from the Commission and other groups are normally provided to the Secretary of the Treasury, who makes a final determination of a design; but for this program, the determination will be made by the design jury. She said that representatives from the National Air and Space Museum are in the audience to answer questions, as well as Ron Harrigal, manager of the design and engraving team at the Philadelphia Mint.
Ms. Stafford presented the eighteen submitted designs, identifying the artists by number and reading a condensed version of their narratives. Vice Chairman Meyer invited comments from the Commission members, particularly Ms. Griffin, who will not be part of the design jury. Ms. Griffin recalled the stated objective for the obverse to honor the process leading up to the lunar landing, in contrast to the reverse depiction of the landing itself; she therefore expressed interested in the designs that depict this process, either through technological achievements or the spirit and involvement of many participants. She cited seven designs that appear to best address this objective—those submitted by artists #167, 279, 292, 294, 328, 341, and 343.
Ms. Meyer agreed with this emphasis on the process, and she suggested the design by artist #328 as an additional strong candidate due to its depiction of the ground control facility, although this design is too busy and would need simplification. She noted the recent emphasis, such as through the film Hidden Figures, on the technical expertise and political forces that were behind the scenes of the space program.
Ms. Gilbert suggested a more detailed discussion of each design that has been cited. Mr. Dunson expressed interest in #167, which features a Saturn V rocket as a symbol of the space program; however, he questioned the feasibility of executing the artwork on a coin. Ms. Stafford noted the additional challenge of adapting the artwork to the four different scales of the coins in this set; she said that this issue was discussed extensively at the meeting of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee earlier in the week. Mr. Harrigal emphasized the wide range of sizes in the set, from 0.85 inches in diameter—approximately the size of a nickel—to the three-inch-diameter silver coin. He said that most of the detail in design #167 could be achieved on the three-inch coin, although the linework of the mathematical equation might need to be simplified; for the smaller coins, much of the fine detail shown in the artist's drawing would be lost. He added that these coins will be produced with proof and uncirculated finishes, which typically include frost and polish to provide contrast; but these techniques would be difficult to use for the linework of #167. He said that the rocket and the lettering could perhaps be polished on the three-inch coin, but the process becomes more difficult at the smaller sizes.
Mr. Dunson said that the design by artist #318 is intriguing and very different from the other submissions; it depicts elements of the space program against a background portrait of President Kennedy. He said that this composition is not as strong as it could be, but it conveys the important role of President Kennedy in the development of the space program. He agreed with Ms. Griffin that designs #279 and 294 are of interest, along with #254.
Ms. Gilbert suggested further discussion of design #341, featuring an astronaut in the foreground with the sky behind. Ms. Griffin asked who is depicted; Ms. Stafford responded that the astronaut is not any specific person, but is intended to represent the overall effort resulting in the first manned lunar landing. Ms. Griffin said that the composition is very inspiring, but she discouraged the design approach of having a specific face as a general representation of the broad and diverse group of people who contributed to the space program; Mr. Dunson agreed.
Ms. Gilbert asked for discussion of design #328, featuring a computer console of the ground control facility in the foreground. Ms. Griffin agreed with Ms. Meyer that this design is too busy, but it successfully suggests the celebration of the ingenuity in the process that led to the lunar landing. Mr. Dunson suggested discussion of design #254, depicting a woman looking through binoculars as a representation of the general public's interest in the moon landing; he said that this powerful design is particularly interesting due to the use of binary code to represent the text "Apollo" along the outer edge, as well as an arc representing the path of the spacecraft. Ms. Meyer questioned this design: although it does not depict a specific person, it does convey a specific gender and could be interpreted as relegating women to being observers of the space program rather than participants in it. Ms. Griffin emphasized the collective process of achieving and celebrating the space program, which is not represented well by depicting one person, notwithstanding the strength of the composition.
Mr. Dunson suggested discussion of design #279, depicting the first U.S. rocket and additional symbols of the later development of the space program. He commented that the composition is interesting, although the meaning of the symbols may be difficult to understand. Ms. Griffin said that the presented description of this design was particularly moving, more than the design itself; Mr. Dunson agreed. Ms. Gilbert commented that the image of a footprint in the lunar soil, featured in design #265, will need to be discussed by the jury; the footprint image has been widely seen by the public, and the goal of a design competition should be to generate a new idea.
Ms. Gilbert and Mr. Dunson said that the comments of the other Commission members have been helpful as they prepare for the upcoming meeting of the design jury. Vice Chairman Meyer expressed appreciation for their extensive effort in serving on the jury, along with Mr. Lindstrom. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
Chairman Powell entered the meeting during the discussion of the Mint submission; he presided for the following agenda item, and then departed the meeting.
C. National Park Service
CFA 19/OCT/17-2, National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial. Site selection for new memorial. (Previous: CFA 20/JUL/17-1.) Secretary Luebke introduced the submission from the National Park Service on behalf of the National Desert Storm Memorial Association of a revised site selection study for a proposed memorial to the conflict known as Desert Storm and Desert Shield, or collectively as the Gulf War. He said that in the previous review in July 2017, the submission had proposed two locations for the memorial—one site at Memorial Circle on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and the other at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue on the National Mall in West Potomac Park. The Commission members had expressed support for a national memorial that would commemorate this conflict; while emphasizing the importance of finding an appropriate site, they did not approve either one, and they requested further study of potential sites along with further scholarly analysis of the conflict's historical significance. He said that today's presentation will provide a more thorough evaluation of eight sites located within Area 1, as defined by the Commemorative Works Act, and will include testimony from historians on the war's significance.
Mr. Luebke asked Peter May, regional director for lands and planning of the National Park Service's National Capital Region, to begin the presentation. Mr. May introduced Scott Stump of the National Desert Storm Memorial Association to provide an overview of the site selection process.
Mr. Stump expressed his appreciation to the Commission and its staff for the guidance they provided in two consultations with the project team following the July meeting; he said that this guidance has validated their choice of site. He introduced historian Thomas A. Keaney, a retired Air Force colonel, a senior fellow at the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies, and a senior adjunct professor of military strategy at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Dr. Keaney described the historical context of Desert Storm and Desert Shield, which marked a key moment in late twentieth-century international affairs and was distinguished by the diplomatic activities that governed it. The conflict occurred in the middle of the period between the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991. With the destruction of the Berlin Wall, the countries of Eastern Europe gained independence from the Soviet Union, but the Soviet republics still sought their independence. In the fall of 1990, when the threat of combat with Soviet troops arose in the Baltic states, the United States and the Soviet Union joined with the United Nations coalition in the Gulf War to free Kuwait from Iraqi control—the first such U.N. coalition since the Korean War in 1950. Dr. Keaney explained that this action marked a change in attitudes among Middle Eastern nations; the U.S. and other outside forces had never been stationed in these countries before, but Saudi Arabia—recognizing the importance of liberating Kuwait—permitted coalition troops to be stationed in their country, and soon other Gulf states followed suit. The support provided by Arab countries altered global politics.
Dr. Keaney said that the Gulf War was also the last of the old-style wars, while in many ways it was the first of the new. Its operations—defined by large battlefield formations and the deployment of tanks, soldiers, artillery, air-to-air combat, air bombardment, battleships, and aircraft carriers—resembled the battles of World War II, but the introduction of global positioning, stealth sensors, and precision munitions led to dramatic changes in the fighting. He said no other war in history showed such a dramatic shift, and although the Gulf War will be subject to continuing interpretation, it needs acknowledgement and commemoration.
The second historical overview was provided by historian Jeffrey A. Engel upon his arrival later in the presentation. Mr. Stump introduced Dr. Engel as the founding director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University and a senior fellow of the Norwegian Nobel Institute. Dr. Engel described Desert Storm and Desert Shield as a pivot point in American history, one that moved the U.S. beyond the legacy of the Vietnam War and marked the end of the Cold War, which he called the longest and greatest geopolitical struggle in American history.
Dr. Engel said that the Gulf War represents how America finally achieved the fulfillment of the international system designed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt after World War II. He emphasized that the United Nations carried out its mission to liberate Kuwait by working through the international community to reach consensus, assembling a coalition of 34 nations from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, including the Arab States. These nations contributed supplies and more than a quarter million troops to supplement the half-million U.S. troops. This milestone was recognized at the time by James Baker, who noted that he was the first U.S. secretary of state to stand united with a Soviet foreign minister on a major international issue; Baker said that for him, the Cold War ended at that moment.
Dr. Engel characterized the legacy of Vietnam as a devaluing of American patriotism, which persisted into the early 1980s and constituted a loss of faith in the country's ability to accomplish great things, especially on the international stage. He said that it was only with the Gulf War victory that America believed once more in its global mission and finally left the Vietnam era for the post-Cold War era of today.
Mr. Stump asked Alan Harwood of AECOM to begin the presentation of the site selection study. Mr. Harwood said that the historians had expressed their conviction that this memorial would be more than a war memorial—it would also recognize international diplomacy. He noted that the Commission had requested more information on the site selection process; in response, Mr. Harwood summarized the recent planning history and regulatory framework for Washington-area memorials, the design of other national memorials, and the reevaluation of the sites. Guidance was provided by four key planning documents: the Commemorative Works Act of 1986, which was later amended to establish the Reserve area in the center of the monumental core; the Extending the Legacy Plan of 1997, a planning document that emphasized the need to attract visitors away from the Mall by shifting the city's focus eastward from the Washington Monument to the Capitol; the Memorials and Museums Master Plan of 2001, which examined potential commemorative sites beyond the Mall; and the Framework Plan of 2009, which studied specific means through which the Mall and its activities could be expanded into adjacent areas.
Mr. Harwood noted that the Memorials and Museums Master Plan examined the context of the monumental avenues, established by the 1791 L'Enfant Plan, some of which extend from the White House and the Capitol. He enumerated several successful memorials that have recently been built or designed for sites off the Mall, including the Victims of Communism Memorial, the Holodomor Memorial to Victims of the Ukrainian Famine-Genocide of 1932–33, and the recently approved design for the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Memorial.
Mr. Harwood observed that the Memorials and Museums Master Plan presented ways of organizing 100 possible memorial sites but did not analyze the thematic connections among them; the project team has therefore attempted to define such connections as part of the site selection study. Memorials to the American Revolutionary War are clustered around Lafayette Park; equestrian memorials to Civil War leaders are located on avenues radiating from the White House; a general military commemorative theme has been established along Memorial Drive leading to Arlington National Cemetery; memorials to Latin American leaders have been placed along Virginia Avenue, NW; and memorials to other international figures are located along Massachusetts Avenue, NW. At the western end of the Mall, between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial in West Potomac Park, a cluster of twentieth-century war memorials has developed in recent decades. Intersecting with this is what Mr. Harwood referred to as a "line of leadership": a linear configuration of memorials to preeminent American leaders, extending northwest from the Jefferson Memorial to the Kennedy Center along the Potomac River waterfront and including the memorials to Martin Luther King, Jr., Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
Mr. Harwood presented the two preferred sites for the Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial. Walt Whitman Park, situated along the E Street, NW, corridor between the White House and the Kennedy Center, has a potential connection with the theme of American presidents. The second site is at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue, NW, at the western end of the Mall; it is a short distance northwest of the Lincoln Memorial and the Mall's central axis, and also near the series of memorials along the Potomac waterfront. He noted that Constitution Avenue is a major ceremonial route for patriotic parades, including the Desert Storm parade of 1991; he drew a parallel between the symbolism of this event and the theme of post-Civil War reconciliation represented by the nearby Memorial Bridge. Significantly, 23rd Street extends north from the Lincoln Memorial past several thematically related institutions: the Institute of Peace, the Department of State, and George Washington University with its Elliott School of International Affairs.
Mr. Harwood described the timeline of this project. The memorial was authorized by federal legislation in December 2014. Potential sites were studied by the National Park Service and the memorial association, with review at various points by the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission, the National Capital Planning Commission, and the Commission of Fine Arts. The study began with the 100 sites listed in the Memorials and Museums Master Plan; this number was reduced to eighteen. Among these, one that stood out was the site east of the Tidal Basin occupied by the Liberty Loan building, a World War I temporary building; however, a busy highway ramp runs through the site and separates it from an easy connection with the Tidal Basin area. Six sites were carried forward into a second round of consideration, and the focus began to tighten on riverfront sites, which are often preferred by memorial sponsors for their visibility and tranquility; however, the project team decided that a waterfront site would not be appropriate for a memorial to Desert Storm. The third round of analysis studied three sites in detail: Hains Point, Memorial Circle, and the historic western terminus of Constitution Avenue at the Belvedere. Hains Point was eliminated because it is too far removed from the monumental core, and because it is largely surrounded by water, among other challenges.
Mr. Harwood said three sites were presented to the Commission in July 2017: Memorial Circle, the Belvedere, and 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue. For the current review, these sites were evaluated again, along with some locations for small memorials in constrained locations along Pennsylvania Avenue and Memorial Drive—so-called "niche memorials"—at the request of the Commission. He said that the memorial should complement existing qualities of the site, including its historic context and landscape character, and should maintain the civic quality of the site's open space. He added that the memorial is now envisioned as a having a compact horizontal profile, occupying no more than a quarter of an acre, significantly smaller than the one-acre area proposed in July.
In response to the Commission's discussion of site constraints in the July review, Mr. Harwood said that the project team carried out an elementary measurement of noise levels at its three preferred sites to establish relative data. Most noise was found to come from automobiles and air traffic. The greatest amount of noise is found in areas south of the Mall, closer to Reagan National Airport and the river, because many airplanes flying into or out of the airport follow the river north of the airport; accordingly, the George Mason Memorial and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial are much louder than areas further inland or north of the Lincoln Memorial.
Mr. Harwood discussed the niche sites, which he characterized as "points" where monuments can be viewed from a fixed location rather than as spaces to be occupied for contemplation and respite. He said that such sites tend to be more appropriate for commemorating military units instead of battles or wars. Examples include the small memorials to military units on Memorial Avenue leading into Arlington National Cemetery, or those honoring Benjamin Franklin and Franklin D. Roosevelt on Pennsylvania Avenue; all have a distinctly different character from memorials on the Mall.
Mr. Harwood described the reconsideration of a few other sites. The relatively small, flat, and open site at the intersection of Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues at 3rd Street, NW, is an area of great symbolic importance. It has visual connections to the Capitol and the Navy Memorial, and it is situated on the opposite site of the Mall from the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. While a compact memorial could be designed here, the site is surrounded by heavy traffic, and it would not offer the desired visitor experience.
Mr. Harwood said that Freedom Plaza was also reconsidered as a potential site, occupying a major location on Pennsylvania Avenue. The somewhat deteriorated plaza is an incomplete design by Venturi Scott Brown that depicts the L'Enfant Plan in the pavement of a large elevated plaza; an equestrian statue of the Revolutionary War officer Casimir Pulaski stands at the east end. He indicated the plaza's connections to Pershing Park immediately to the west, site of the planned World War I Memorial, and the prominent views of the Capitol and the White House grounds. However, he said that Freedom Plaza has also been determined not to be an appropriate site, due to the need for a larger redevelopment of the entire area and the concern that a new memorial here would be lost among the plaza's many existing elements.
Mr. Harwood then discussed the three submitted sites in greater detail. The Walt Whitman Park site on the E Street Corridor is two blocks west of the White House and two blocks east of the State Department, near Virginia Avenue, 23rd Street, and George Washington University. The site is generally open park space; a playground formerly occupied a portion of the park. He said that the project team believes the site's thematic context is limited; somewhat removed from the Mall, it would need to be a destination in itself. It could accommodate the memorial program but would have to provide some feature to attract visitors and activity. He noted that a block west of Walt Whitman Park is the historic location of the intersection of New York and Virginia Avenues, one of the inflection points or "knuckles" of the 1901 Senate Park Commission Plan, identified by the Framework Plan as a key commemorative location. He said that the entire area requires major reconsideration, and the project team believes that a memorial to a U.S. president or a Latin American leader would be more appropriate here.
Mr. Harwood described the two sites toward the western end of Constitution Avenue. The Belvedere forms the avenue's historic terminus at the Potomac River. He indicated the remnant row of trees that extends for two blocks west of 23rd Street along the historic alignment of Constitution Avenue's south curb, dating from before the avenue was shifted to connect with I-66 and the approach to the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge. Because the Belvedere curves out into the river and provides a view over the Potomac to Arlington Memorial Cemetery, the small site has the potential for an effective waterfront memorial. It has relevant thematic relations for the Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial, including views to the State Department, the Institute of Peace, and the parade route along Constitution Avenue; the Vietnam Veterans Memorial site and the Lincoln Memorial are both visible through the trees. It lies within an area that will be receiving more attention after completion of the new landscape under development on the south side of the Kennedy Center. However, the site lies within the hundred-year floodplain, and a memorial design here would require careful consideration of resiliency issues. The Framework Plan called for reinforcing the Belvedere as a memorial location. Mr. Harwood said that the project team has determined that due to its waterfront location this site would not be appropriate for the Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial.
Mr. Harwood said that the site at the southwest corner of Constitution Avenue and 23rd Street possesses important intrinsic qualities, including associations with the parade route, the State Department, and the Institute of Peace—important because the memorial would also commemorate the diplomatic efforts that led to the success of Desert Storm. Its location just west of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial would make explicit the association with the Vietnam War, although there is some question whether this association might be gained at the expense of other thematic relations. He noted the Commission's previous comment that this site may not be suitable for a commemorative work, but he indicated its connection to pedestrian routes, the presence of the line of trees, and its relatively accommodating scale. He said that the discussion of this site in July included concern with a planned major DC Water project that would use this location for construction staging. The more recent information is that DC Water will likely not use this location as a mining site for the Potomac River Tunnel, only for the tunnel's drop shaft; the site likely has enough space for both the memorial and the lay-down area for tunnel construction, which in any case would be temporary.
Mr. Harwood summarized that both the E Street site and the 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue site have great promise, and the request is to advance the analysis from the context and scale level to the design level. He noted that the Commission apparently understood the intended memorial extent to be three or four acres; he clarified that the intent is to sculpt the topography into a landform meant to suggest the vastness of the desert on a small site. He presented an image of how the desired effect might be achieved with low and horizontal dune-like landforms. He emphasized that the preference is for a site that is open to its surroundings, where a memorial can be built at a modest scale appropriate for maintaining any existing civic functions.
Mr. Harwood presented a size comparison among existing memorial sites. The sprawling Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial has a paved area of 2.4 acres; the Vietnam Veterans Memorial occupies a paved area of only a quarter of an acre, although its placement within a six-and-a-half acre landscape setting constitutes a site of much greater size; and the Korean War Veterans Memorial has a paved area of about three-quarters of an acre within a four-and-a-half-acre site. He said that the closest precedents may be the small Signers of the Declaration of Independence Memorial in Constitution Gardens, and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial in Lady Bird Johnson Park. Both are relatively small structures within much larger landscapes; he said that the Signers Memorial in particular does not change the character of the space around it but instead embraces its context.
Mr. Harwood described the project team's two preferred locations in greater detail. The 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue site occupies an area of about seven acres, with roughly half of this outside of the Reserve and therefore usable for a memorial. Its landscape character is defined by an open lawn framed with trees. The memorial at this location would have a tightly compact design, occupying about a quarter-acre next to the trees, leaving the basic landscape character unchanged; the framing with shade trees, the open views toward the river, and the filtered views of the Lincoln Memorial would be retained. The site has pedestrian connections from Constitution Avenue, and the memorial would reinforce the use of that roadway as a pedestrian thoroughfare. At 23rd Street, Constitution Avenue changes from a vehicular road to a ramp leading to Interstate 66 over the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge. The sidewalk continues for another block west and the remnant row of trees continues further toward the Belvedere. Toward the south, the site slopes gently up toward the Lincoln Memorial at a grade of less than one percent; with a similar east-west slope, the topography forms a gentle, almost bowl-like shape. Noise is mostly generated by higher-speed traffic, and is loudest at the lowest point of the site toward the west, suggesting that the more appropriate location for a memorial would be in the somewhat quieter eastern portion. He said that a planned flood-control levee for this area has not yet been designed, but the memorial's design team would attempt to shape the ground plane to work with the levee embankments and to keep the DC Water project's drop shaft out of the floodplain. He said that building the memorial here could make the site more resilient and sustainable, and the project could help improve this part of the monumental core.
Mr. Harwood said that the E Street location is a more linear site situated along a busy traffic corridor. Rawlins Park lies immediately to the east, and the two portals of the E Street Expressway tunnel are to the west. The pedestrian connection to the Mall is along 19th Street; the connection at 20th Street is interrupted by the reconfigured street pattern at Virginia Avenue. Framed by tall buildings, the site has a very urban character. Noise is generated by vehicles passing at relatively high speeds, and is somewhat increased by echoing off the surrounding buildings; additional planting would be needed to buffer a memorial here. The site is more sloping than the Constitution Avenue parcel, descending at a grade of about five percent from north to south. It is large enough to accommodate the memorial program on a quarter-acre space, probably on the eastern side, where it could either be framed by trees or lie within a shaded area with an open lawn.
Mr. Harwood summarized that both sites, although very different, warrant proceeding to the design stage to explore how they can accommodate the memorial program. He asked the Commission to approve the request to move forward with these sites.
Chairman Powell invited testimony from members of the public in attendance. The first speaker was retired general Ronald H. Griffith, formerly the chief of staff for the U.S. Army; Gen. Griffith served in Vietnam and later commanded the 1st Armored Division during the Gulf War. He said there is unequivocally a direct linkage between the Vietnam War and Desert Storm. Leaders who served in Desert Storm had been low- to mid-grade officers in Vietnam and were treated poorly when they returned to the U.S. However, following the Vietnam War, the Army built the best-trained, most disciplined, and toughest army in American history, capable of synchronizing all elements of combat power necessary to defeat the Iraqi army in the Gulf War. He described the Gulf War as a short conflict but a great victory. He said he looks forward to being able to walk from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to the new Gulf War memorial, symbolizing the range of his military experiences. Thanking the Commission members for their consideration, he expressed his firm belief that Desert Storm was a great event in American history and deserves recognition in Washington, D.C.
The next speaker was John D. Altenburg, Jr., who was drafted into the U.S. Army and served almost two years in Vietnam before spending his career as an Army lawyer. Mr. Altenburg said that the Vietnam War broke the bond of trust between American service members, national leaders, and the public. While his father's generation had been honored for serving in World War II, the veterans of Vietnam were criticized for their service. This broken bond of trust, he said, was restored by Desert Storm as a result of the dramatic improvements to military training described by Gen. Griffith. He said that Desert Storm healed the veterans of Vietnam, and the juxtaposition of the two memorials would b fitting.
Following this testimony was a short video statement from Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, expressing his support for the site at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue. He said that the memorial's authorization had strong bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, and it would honor the thousands who served in the Gulf War as well as the almost 400 service members who died. He emphasized how the war had inspired renewed American patriotism and support for the military.
Mr. Stump summarized that the project team had not come to quick conclusions about specific sites but had vigorously investigated numerous locations, mindful of the existing memorial landscape and its potential future development, and the Commission's comments. In response to the Commission's concern that the Memorial Circle site would not be appropriate, it was eliminated from consideration. The Commission had also raised the issues of how the Gulf War fits into the continuum of war memorials and of the potential for future war memorials; he said it was apparent that the Commission members wanted consideration of other commemorative concerns, such as the future siting of multiple memorials. While the project team appreciates this concern, he suggested that the task of redirecting the course of commemoration in Washington, D.C., is more than this particular memorial effort should have to undertake. He emphasized the preference of the memorial's sponsoring association for the site at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue as the most appropriate location for the Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial. While recognizing the challenges of this site, he said that these can be solved with the right design. He added that the willingness to scale down the proposed footprint demonstrates the project team's flexibility and commitment to establishing a memorial with the best location and design. He urged the Commission to approve moving ahead with developing a design proposal for this site.
Chairman Powell invited comments from the Commission members. Ms. Griffin asked whether the Commission is being asked specifically to approve the development of concepts for the two sites; Secretary Luebke responded that the process is still in the site selection phase. Mr. May said that in the past, the site approval process for memorials had begun with the selection of a single site, and then the subsequent development of a design for that location; however, realizing that design is a factor in the site, the National Park Service has recently been moving toward a process that integrates site selection and design, which may or may not lead to a single site at an early stage. For this memorial, he said that proceeding with two sites could be appropriate; or if the Commission concludes that one site is clearly better, the National Park Service would follow this guidance.
Ms. Griffin said that she supports proceeding with the two sites presented, Constitution Avenue at 23rd Street and Walt Whitman Park on E Street. She expressed appreciation for the testimony of Gen. Griffith and Mr. Altenburg, which clarified the argument for a link between the Vietnam War and Desert Storm, and helped her come to a fuller understanding of the narratives behind the two sites: the history of international diplomacy and Desert Storm as representing a pivot point in American history, and restoring the bond of trust and respect for the military. She commented that both are strong narratives, and there are compelling arguments for either narrative on both sites. She said that she was initially reluctant to support the Constitution Avenue site because she did not appreciate the relationship between the proposed memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; she was also reluctant to surrender one of the few remaining memorial sites on the Mall for such a small monument. However, based on the testimony of Gen. Griffith and Mr. Altenburg, she said that she is now willing to consider this site.
Ms. Griffin said that her initial preference had been for the E Street site. The idea of locating the memorial along this corridor is compelling because of the diplomacy narrative, due to the site's relationship to the White House, the State Department, and the Elliott School at George Washington University; this site would allow for thinking of the memorial not just as a space for quiet contemplation, but also as an area for active contemplation and engagement. As the design criteria are further developed, she urged more consideration of how the E Street corridor can become this space for engagement. She concluded that both sites offer interesting possibilities for the design articulation of two powerful narratives.
Ms. Gilbert advocated for continued consideration of the Belvedere site. She observed that its viewshed would be similar to that of the other Constitution Avenue site, but it would also provide a stronger visual connection across the river to Arlington National Cemetery. She asked for clarification of why this waterfront location had been dismissed as not appropriate. Mr. Stump responded that it was a matter of context: the Gulf War occurred in the dry desert landscapes of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and few soldiers in this conflict were stationed near water. He said that the project team hopes to evoke that landscape, where water is a scarce commodity. Ms. Gilbert encouraged the project team to think more broadly about what this memorial could be. She questioned whether the suggested land forms would actually recall a desert landscape, or whether they would simply look like grass-covered berms; she suggested that this image might be hindering the conceptualization of the memorial. Mr. Stump responded that the idea is to incorporate the undulating effect of desert topography rather than to literally recreate the sandy battlefield landscape, although using building materials resembling sand has been discussed. He said that the project team is concerned that there is no thematic connection between Desert Storm and the Potomac River. Ms. Gilbert observed that the other two sites have lawns and large shade trees; she emphasized that the memorial would be located in Washington, an entirely different geographical area than Kuwait, and she encouraged expanding the notion of how the design can inform the site.
Ms. Meyer observed that Ms. Gilbert's comments reinforce the process described by Mr. May regarding the National Park Service's effort to pair site selection with conceptual design; she said that seeing these two topics as related could mean that the project team needs to consider two and perhaps even three sites. She identified two issues for further study: how a memorial would fit within the scale of each site, and how the site would allow for the notion of the Gulf War as a pivot to be understood in two directions. She expressed concern that the landform of a grassy berm has already been chosen; if so, she said it will be necessary to find a way for the selected site to work with that. She cited two examples of successful public landscapes that incorporate simulated dunes: the design by Teresa Gali-Izard and FOA (Foreign Office Architects) of geo-engineered dunes on the waterfront in Barcelona, Spain; and the dune formation created by Taylor Cullity Lethlean landscape architects at the Botanic Garden outside Melbourne, Australia, meant to suggest the vast Australian interior. She said that exploring such ideas requires being open to other ways of thinking about topology, concept, and how to place a memorial on these sites.
Ms. Meyer commented that the second issue, interpreting the conflict as a pivot in American history, is more complex than presented because the notion of a pivot implies looking back as well as looking forward. While she appreciated the perspective provided by the speakers who had served in both Vietnam and Desert Storm, she observed that there is also the perspective of those soldiers who were young men and women in Desert Storm and continue to serve in the armed forces today. She emphasized that future national memorials will be built to commemorate events following the Gulf War; she expressed her belief that the E Street corridor offers more opportunities to accept additional memorials and thematic connections, with the capacity to let this particular memorial set the stage and even act as a catalyst for future work. She added that 19th Street provides a direct connection between the E Street site and the Vietnam Memorial.
Mr. Dunson agreed with Ms. Gilbert that the Belvedere site should be considered as a third option. He expressed appreciation for the information provided by the speakers on the context of Desert Storm and the role played by international diplomacy, which could result in an interesting new memorial with many thematic connections. He observed that the presentation's thematic diagram provides justification for each of the three sites. Mr. Powell commented that he found the testimony compelling, and he supported further exploration of the three sites, including the Belvedere.
Mr. Stump noted that the Commission's comments included skepticism of whether the proposed modest footprint for the site at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue would be sufficient. He clarified that the project team had arrived at this small size in order to be respectful of the existing green space and its location near the Reserve; the Memorials and Museums Master Plan had also suggested that this site should have a small memorial. However, he said that if the Commission prefers a more extensive site, the project team will consider a three-quarter-acre site. Ms. Griffin said that this concern relates to the Commission's comments about scale, which is different for each site. She observed that the revised site criteria have begun to move into design criteria, and she cautioned that a successful design for one site could be very different from a successful design for another site. She recommended removing the berm image entirely from consideration so that it does not become the focus of a design that has not even been formulated yet; she emphasized that the memorial's formal qualities should evolve through further site study. She also suggested further consideration of what existing qualities Mr. Stump believes need to be respected on the site at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue.
Ms. Griffin offered a motion to support further design explorations for locating the memorial at three sites—the project team's two presented sites as well as the Belvedere site. Upon a second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission adopted this action.
Chairman Powell departed at this point, and Vice Chairman Meyer presided for the remainder of the meeting.
D. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 19/OCT/17-3, National Air and Space Museum, Independence Avenue at 6th Street, SW. Revitalization Project—Replacement of terraces and new entrance vestibule with canopy. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 16/JUN/16-5 and CFA 15/JUN/17-3; replacement facades.) Ms. Batcheler introduced a revised concept submission for a new visitor screening pavilion and alterations to the terraces surrounding the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum (NASM) on the Mall, part of a larger project to renovate the museum's exterior. The Commission last reviewed the design of the project in June 2016, when it approved the concept with recommendations for its development. The Commission also reviewed stone samples in June 2017 for the proposed recladding of the building. She said that since the 2016 review, the scope of work for the project has been reduced; the current proposal is significantly revised and simplified. For example, there are several features that were formerly proposed which are now eliminated from the project, including an entrance pavilion at the south entrance, a photovoltaic array for the roof, and a reconstructed water feature as the setting of the sculpture Delta Solar along 7th Street. She asked Ann Trowbridge of the Smithsonian Institution to begin the presentation.
Ms. Trowbridge said that budgeting and documentation for the project are being completed, and preparations are being made for the relocation of museum staff and collections; objects from the collection will be stored at a new facility near Dulles Airport. She said that a performance mockup of the proposed exterior should be ready for inspection in spring 2018 in York, Pennsylvania, and construction is expected to begin in summer 2018. As with the Commission's past review of the facade of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Commission members and staff are invited to inspect the mockup. She introduced landscape architect Roger Courtenay of AECOM, landscape consultant Patrick Cullina, and architect Larry Barr of Quinn Evans Architects to present the design.
Mr. Courtenay said the presentation would focus on the revisions made to the project since it was last presented to the Commission. The principal changes to the landscape include alterations to the terrace and planter configurations at the entry points of the site, as well as a new ground plane planting plan and treatment for the Delta Solar sculpture. He said that in general, the current design eliminates the previously proposed alterations that would have reduced the extent of the terrace planter walls and introduced plazas at the corners of the site. He said that a sun shade analysis on the impacts to the proposed ground plane plantings has resulted in greater spacing between new shade trees, increasing from 30 to 45 feet. The increased soil volume required for the new trees would be accommodated underneath the walkways. In addition, the rows of trees would be offset to provide more animation to the streetscape and canopy. He said that although the proposal would decrease the total number of new trees compared to the previous design, it would still result in more than twice as many trees as exist today on the site.
Mr. Courtenay presented the revised site design in greater detail, beginning at the site's northwest corner. The existing terrace walls and planters at the corner would be retained. A new walkway would lead to the elevated terrace level and north entrance, gently sloped to allow for barrier-free access; he said that this proposed walkway is consistent with the original 1970s design. The revised design for the approaches to the north entrance is similar to the previous version, except for the wider spacing between shade trees; a railing would also be added to the previously proposed ramp. At the northeast corner of the site, the revised design retains and reconditions the existing stairs and high terrace walls. However, the planting plan would be modified: new trees with higher canopies would allow for more open views toward the building and improve visitor wayfinding—a goal of the project. At the southeast corner, the existing planter walls, stairs, and barrier-free ramp would also be retained and reconditioned; the plantings would reflect the new tree spacing and ground plane design. He indicated the south entrance at Independence Avenue and 6th Street, where the previously proposed entrance pavilion has been eliminated from the project. The previous design for the approaches to the south entrance has not changed substantially, except for the addition of a railing along the proposed ramp. Subject to the results of structural studies, the existing sculpture outside the south entrance, Continuum by Charles O. Perry, would be moved to align with the central axis of the entrance; currently, it is placed off-center. He said that the sculpture in this new location would serve as a wayfinding device for visitors, and would be consistent with the central placement of the sculpture at the north entrance—Ad Astra by Richard Lippold.
Mr. Courtenay then presented the revised proposal for the sculpture Delta Solar by Alejandro Otero. Currently, the sculpture and its disused fountain pool occupy the southwestern corner of the site. The current design eliminates the previously proposed water feature at the base of the sculpture, replacing it with a dry plinth faced with diamond-finished black Mesabi stone. The top surface of the plinth would be horizontal, with drainage provided through the open joints of the stone. He said that this anorthosite stone is similar to rocks found on the moon, providing a design element to be interpreted for the public. He added that the design team is continuing to study ways to discourage skateboarding and visitors climbing on the plinth and sculpture. To the north of the Delta Solar site is a grove of large willow oak trees, which has been the subject of extensive root studies; the trees would be preserved and protected with new ground-plane plantings to prevent root disturbance by pedestrians.
Mr. Courtenay said that the paving plan has changed significantly. In the previous design, stone was proposed as the paving material for the entire site. However, due to cost constraints, the current proposal is to pave most of the site with cast-in-place exposed aggregate concrete, with the exception of the north and south entrance plazas and their approaches. He said that the stones being considered for these special areas are Chelmsford Gray and Chester Gray granite; mockups of all the paving options will be prepared for inspection. He added that the site is currently paved with granite installed in the 1990s.
Mr. Courtenay asked Patrick Cullina to present the proposed planting design for the ground plane. Mr. Cullina said that these plantings would be characterized by a consistent matrix pierced by vertical plants. Herbaceous plantings would be selected for year-round visual interest, and they would exhibit observable change by the week. Plantings would also be selected for low-maintenance survivability and resiliency in an urban context. He said that the arrangements of the plants could range from simple to complex, but in any arrangement the blending of sympathetic plant material, anchored by grasses and plantings to add texture, is intended to evoke an evolving physical character that would be apparent even if some plants were to die. He described the concept using the metaphor of clothing: the garment would still hold together even if some threads are pulled out. He described the plantings for another project on which he worked, the High Line in New York, in which many of the planting areas provide year-round visual interest; for example, the southern portion near the Whitney Museum is characterized by green lushness in the spring and summer, dynamic color changes in the fall, and bare trees with rust-colored ground plantings in the winter. He said that these plantings fulfill the goal of providing an immersive habitat for animals and people. He noted that the High Line plantings also provide a precedent for the potentially shallow soil conditions of the National Air and Space Museum project: in some areas of the High Line with shallow soil conditions of approximately 1.5 feet, the plantings are thriving because of proper specification of plants and soil as well as consideration of solar orientation. He said that similar results have been achieved in even shallower conditions, such as at the Hoover-Mason Trestle in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, which features robust plantings such as American snowbell. Portions of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway in Boston also feature robust plantings in shallow soil conditions.
Mr. Cullina said that the proposed flowering plants for the National Air and Space Museum project would be used in sequence with other plants rather than serving as traditional ornamentation. The plantings would also provide visual interest almost immediately while the tree canopy is growing to maturity. He said that the proposed planting palette features both hot and cool colors: the hotter colors would be specified for the sunnier areas, while cooler colors would be specified for shadier locations, using ferns and sedges that would exhibit different leaf shapes and textures. The proposed plantings are also intended to be evocative of the subject matter of the museum. For example, the physical structure of the proposed buttonbush resembles the satellite Sputnik. Beyond the forms of the plants, their method of seed dispersal was also considered: for example, the seeds of the proposed butterfly weed erupt from their pods and are distributed across the landscape, evoking a sense of dynamic flight, kinetic movement, and habitat creation for flying insects.
Mr. Barr presented the revised design of the entrance pavilion and the proposed nighttime lighting. He said that further study of the north entrance pavilion has resulted in a revised design that is simpler and more elegant. The proposed materials would remain the same, while the diameter of structural components of the roof canopy would be reduced by using tension rods for supplemental support. In addition, the structural steel tubes of the canopy would meet the ground without the intervention of plinths as was proposed in the first design, and downspouts that previously appeared as separate elements would be incorporated into the structural supports. At the south entrance, where the previously proposed pavilion has been eliminated from the scope, the security screening area would instead be located inside the museum building. He also indicated on the south elevation the new location of Continuum that was described by Mr. Courtenay. For the nighttime lighting, LEDs would be mounted to the vertical faces of the terrace planter walls, and integrated fixtures would be provided in the handrails of the ramps and stairs. The facade and north entrance pavilion would be lit with a wash of yellow-toned uplighting; the interior upper-level balconies of the museum building would also be washed with uplighting. He concluded by noting that the building lighting would be secondary to the lighting of other major structures seen from the Mall, such as the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol.
Ms. Gilbert asked why Delta Solar needs to be set on a plinth; Mr. Courtenay responded that the sculpture currently sits in a disused fountain pool elevated fifteen to eighteen inches above grade. To minimize operational requirements and increase the visual impact, the sculpture would be placed on a dry plinth and moved closer to the corner of Independence Avenue and 7th Street, SW; the proposed 36-inch-tall plinth would also serve as a portion of the museum's perimeter security. He noted that since the sculpture itself is relatively light, the plinth is not structurally required. Ms. Gilbert asked if the plinth could therefore be smaller; Mr. Courtenay responded that this is possible. He added that the original relationship between the sculpture and its base was carefully conceived by the artist, and the proposed plinth would replicate the horizontal planar dimensions of the existing fountain pool. He confirmed for Ms. Meyer that the fountain pool was a part of the original conception for the piece, resulting from consultations in the 1970s between the artist and the Commission.
Ms. Meyer acknowledged the compromises necessary to reduce the scope and cost of the project; however, she expressed regret that concrete would be a substitute for the previously proposed stone paving, and that the previously proposed open corners of the site would be left more constrained. She said that the open corners would have created broad thresholds and welcome areas of respite amid the busy pedestrian activity on the Mall. Mr. Dunson agreed, while commenting that the proposal is nonetheless an improvement on the existing configuration. Ms. Meyer expressed general support for the proposal's diverse herbaceous plantings, which she said would animate the ground plane. She noted that this is not a new idea in Washington—the firm Oehme, van Sweden introduced the concept in the late 1970s. However, she said that the proposed landscape would require extensive maintenance—she cited the example of Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, a similarly designed landscape that is now in poor condition because of inadequate maintenance. Overall, she questioned whether or not the cost savings that would result from the decreased investment in the quality of the site paving and setting of Delta Solar would be realized, since the costs of properly maintaining the plantings would be high. Mr. Courtenay responded that the design team has held multiple workshops with Smithsonian Gardens, which has limited staff resources and has expressed enthusiasm about the expected low maintenance cost of the proposed landscape. Mr. Cullina added that the proposed plantings represent a progression from the work of Oehme, van Sweden; he described how the maintenance of the plantings can be understood as editing or managing a dynamic landscape character, rather than the protection of singular plants. Ms. Meyer emphasized that she understands the history and approach of the proposed ground-plane plantings, but nonetheless is concerned that the Smithsonian may not fully anticipate the high cost of properly maintaining such a landscape.
Ms. Meyer questioned the proposed treatment of Delta Solar, commenting that the new base for the sculpture—an imposing, polished stone plinth—would absorb heat during Washington summers and create a hot microclimate in an otherwise inviting landscape. She urged the project team to return to the previously proposed water feature for the base; Mr. Dunson and Ms. Griffin agreed. Ms. Griffin said that the proposed treatment of Delta Solar is the least successful aspect of the proposal. While acknowledging the role of the sculpture's base in the museum's perimeter security, she said that its design should receive the same attention as was given to the overall ground plane and landscape. She recommended preparing a new design with different planar relationships for the base, along with different materials and colors. Mr. Dunson said that determining the height of the plinth is important, commenting that if it were too low it would appear to be a dry fountain pool, but if too high it would obscure the sculpture and appear as a large obstruction in the landscape. He said that the sculpture's siting should also be carefully studied because it will likely be in this location for a long time, and he suggested considering the benefits of allowing more visitor participation in the new setting.
Regarding the north entrance pavilion, Ms. Griffin expressed appreciation for the intention to convey the metaphor of flight in juxtaposition with the rectilinear museum building. However, she cautioned that the pavilion's curving elements may instead begin to resemble the surrounding tree canopy if not carefully detailed; she suggested further study of how the entrance pavilion's curving structure would relate to the existing triangular trusses of the museum's adjacent atrium. Mr. Barr responded that the design team has considered this aspect of the design, studying many iterations of the canopy and its relationship to the museum building. Secretary Luebke suggested providing additional documentation of the pavilion design, including interior drawings; Mr. Barr agreed.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the proposal to reposition Continuum to the centerline of the south entrance appears misguided. While acknowledging the similar current placement of Ad Astra at the north entrance, she commented that Continuum is more a piece of art than a statue, and it has a different scale than Ad Astra. She recommended maintaining the current asymmetrical placement of Continuum, which she said is more successful. Mr. Luebke noted that Continuum may be aligned with the centerline of 6th Street, SW, and the sculpture is in its original location. Mr. Barr clarified that the sculpture appears to be aligned with the northbound driving lane of 6th Street. Ms. Gilbert asked if any other potential locations have been studied for this sculpture. Mr. Barr responded that other locations were only being considered due to the previously proposed south entrance pavilion, which has since been eliminated from the project.
Vice Chairman Meyer summarized the comments provided for the development of the design. She said that the consensus of the Commission members is that a new design should be prepared for the base of Delta Solar, possibly including water. In addition, issues with the design of the pavilion, including its resemblance to organic forms, should continue to be resolved. Finally, in weighing alternatives for reducing the project's scope and cost, the Smithsonian should reconsider the priorities in deciding what elements of the project should be augmented or reduced, with the advice that the water setting for Delta Solar may be more important to include than large areas of stone pavement or complex herbaceous plantings that could have long-term maintenance costs. She offered a motion to approve the revised concept proposal with these comments. Mr. Dunson and Ms. Griffin agreed with this summary; upon a second by Ms. Griffin, the Commission adopted this action.
E. District of Columbia Department of Transportation
1. CFA 19/OCT/17-4, Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge and South Capitol Street corridor from I-295/Suitland Parkway interchange to P Street. South Capitol Street at the Anacostia River. Replacement bridge and redesign of the approaches. Concept. (Previous: CFA 19/SEP/13-6.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal for the replacement of the existing Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge and its approaches along the South Capitol Street corridor. He noted the Commission's review of an early concept for the project in September 2013; the Commission's guidance was that the bridge should be civic infrastructure with a strong design presence rather than being only an engineering solution. He asked Sam Zimbabwe, chief project delivery officer for the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT), to begin the presentation.
Mr. Zimbabwe described this project as the largest in DDOT's history. In addition to replacing a deteriorating bridge, the project will connect communities on both sides of the Anacostia River and will be an enduring feature of the city. He noted the long timeline and many stakeholders for the project, beginning nearly twenty years ago; the proposal reflects the vision, commitment, and dedication of those who have been involved in it. He said that subsequent to the September 2013 submission, DDOT worked with the staffs of the National Capital Planning Commission and the Commission of Fine Arts to develop design goals that were incorporated into the environmental study. The project's first phase is being procured through a design-build contract, and the selection process included an evaluation of the visual quality of the proposals in comparison to the established design goals; DDOT assembled a panel of outside advisors to assist in the evaluation of the proposed designs, and he expressed appreciation to the Commission of Fine Arts staff for participating in this panel. Mayor Bowser unveiled the bridge design in August, and he said that the public has supported the design approach. He described the design as an important and appropriate addition to Washington's civic architecture and a celebration of the Anacostia River as the center of the city in the 21st century.
Ken Butler of AECOM, the lead structural engineer for the project, said that the design has evolved greatly from the utilitarian initial concept in 2013 that had emerged from the environmental review process. The design process has included collaboration with Keith Brownlie of Brownlie Ernst and Marks, the lead architect for the bridge; Alan Harwood of AECOM as the lead urban designer; and Ignacio Bunster-Ossa of AECOM as the lead landscape architect. He said that the inspiration for the design evolution has been DDOT's goal of creating a gateway for South Capitol Street to central Washington. While the bridge is the centerpiece of the project, the scope also includes elongated traffic circles at each end as well as some work on the northern terminus of the Suitland Parkway.
Mr. Butler said that the design process began with consideration of various bridge types, particularly the beautiful bridges seen in Washington—primarily arched structures such as Francis Scott Key Bridge and Arlington Memorial Bridge. The designers therefore focused on developing a modern interpretation of the ancient form of an arch. An additional design goal was connectivity across the river and with the different neighborhood contexts at each end, resulting in careful consideration of the landscape architecture and urban design. The design also responds to the geometric constraint of the river's navigation channel, requiring a clear opening a minimum of 150 feet wide and extending 42 feet above the water level. He said that the initial concept from 2013 had four piers in the river, resulting in spans of 340 feet; the bridge structure was shown as a variable-depth box girder, a typical form for this geometric configuration. The current concept strives for a higher standard of design, in accordance with the project's design goals; the proposal is for only two piers in the river, resulting in 540-foot spans. He noted that the wider navigation channel allows for eliminating the fender system for the piers, which opens up the appearance of the river. An additional geometric constraint is the width of the deck, which includes three lanes of traffic in each direction as well as an eighteen-foot-wide path for bicyclists and pedestrians; belvederes along this path are a desirable feature for enjoying the river view. He said that beyond solving the geometric issues, the next concern was how to design the structure to be a gateway feature, particularly the portion above the bridge deck; he asked Mr. Brownlie to present the further evolution of the design.
Mr. Brownlie said that his involvement in this project began with a feasibility study in 2006, which placed the bridge on a different alignment and included an operable span for clear navigation, perhaps using a cable-stayed structure. He described the project as having subsequently matured into its appropriate focus on the idea of civic responsibility. He said that bridge architecture always involves placing a structure into the context of place and time; his goal is to provide a design with elegance and clarity.
Mr. Brownlie described the proposed design as a multi-arch structure with the bridge deck suspended from cables. Aside from the structural reasons for this choice, it draws on the arch typology of bridge aesthetics that is common in the area, including the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, the Arlington Memorial Bridge, and others. With the typology for this bridge quickly established, the challenge was how to develop it. He presented preliminary studies of many different options for the bridge, including variations on the number of arches and their placement partially above or entirely below the bridge deck. The goal that emerged was continuity of form in crossing from one side of the river to the other; the focus is on a design gesture extending across the entire river rather than a differentiated central span above the navigation channel. He said that the proposal is therefore not for a "signature span" that might be suitable in other contexts, but instead treats the entire bridge as a special design. Among the issues studied were whether the bridge elevation should be symmetrical and at what height the arch structure should begin: arches "bouncing off the deck," or the chosen solution of "bouncing off the water," giving more of a gateway aesthetic. The visual experience of those on the bridge was considered, in addition to the appearance of the bridge when viewed from elsewhere.
Mr. Brownlie said that the resulting design has subtle proportions that give primacy to the center arch, which is slightly larger than the two approach arches; he described this emphasis as appropriate in the context of a navigable river, and people on the bridge will also be able to sense when they are passing the halfway point. The center arch's maximum height of 168 feet above the water—114 feet above the highest point on the bridge deck—was determined to achieve the appropriate amount of visibility in the urban context. He noted that the three arches of the bridge elevation are paired, resulting in a total of six arches, providing visual interest when the bridge is viewed as a three-dimensional structure rather than simply in elevation. The placement of the arches to the sides of the bridge deck results in a gateway experience for those crossing the bridge. The parabolic shape of the arches is based on extensive precedents; he said that this form gives a sense of lightness despite the significant structural work that the arches perform. He presented sections of the arches, indicating their complex profile and varying thickness; continuous lines along their length would create a sense of continuity, achieved through the unusual detail of overlapping plates along the surfaces of the arches. He said that this detail allows for some experimentation with light and color along the arches.
Mr. Brownlie described the bicyclist-pedestrian path, which he said would provide a different experience that is separate from the highway bridge. This path would have a more tangible relationship to the bridge's structure, with belvederes located where the arches cross the path level. He likened this configuration to the Pont Neuf in Paris, as depicted in a 19th-century painting by Renoir. Alcoves were traditionally located above the bridge piers, providing a place for pedestrians to escape from the path of an approaching carriage; by the time of Renoir's painting, these alcoves had become spaces of leisure for pedestrians, serving as belvederes. He therefore described the proposed belvederes as being in the only logical location, serving as celebratory elements that project outward from the bridge deck. He added that people are very interested in structures, and the belvederes provide the opportunity to get close to the arches—a deliberate feature of the design.
Mr. Brownlie presented additional details of the design, including the fluid relationship of the base of the arch to the supporting pier; he said that this detail is consistent with the overall aesthetic of a fluid wave for the bridge crossing. The railings of the bicyclist-pedestrian path would have a lighter character than a typical vehicular railing. He said that the bridge's nighttime lighting would primarily emphasize the arches, with minimal light spill; the effect would be heightened by the reflection of the bridge in the water. He acknowledged the typical over-enthusiasm of bridge lighting designers but described the lighting for this bridge as more limited, serving to enhance the essence of the design.
Mr. Harwood presented the concept for the bridge landings, connecting the span to landscape architecture. An oval-shaped open space would be located at each landing, serving to provide thresholds to the bridge and connect it to the neighborhoods at each end. The landscape may be perceived as an extension of the Suitland Parkway, and the ovals also have a relationship to each other although located more than 2,000 feet apart. The ovals would serve to receive bridge traffic and distribute it to surrounding roads; the areas within are intended to be open spaces for the community and could accommodate future memorials. He indicated key points in the geometry of each oval, with axial alignments to the centerline of the bridge and South Capitol Street. He said that the open space within each oval is approximately three acres. He noted that the idea of creating these spaces had emerged from the environmental review process several years ago, and their design has been developed for the current concept submission. Due to their potential as future memorial sites, the ovals are now being shown with temporary uses that could be adapted to a commemorative design.
Mr. Harwood said that the ongoing historic preservation review process has focused attention on how this bridge would be perceived within key views, such as from the overlook at the historic core of the St. Elizabeths West Campus. He presented a photographic simulation of this view, indicating that the proposed bridge would not obstruct the sightline toward the U.S. Capitol. More generally, he said that the proposed bridge design would allow views through the open arches.
Mr. Bunster-Ossa presented the overall design for the project's open spaces, which he described as a 57-acre park exclusive of the roadways; he said that this constitutes a very significant landscape that would also be linked to an additional 70 acres of open space being planned at Poplar Point. He said that the design goals include providing a gateway and civic space, reinforcing urban life while anticipating future developments. He emphasized the northern oval's tight sense of urban enclosure; the adjacent baseball stadium and planned soccer stadium will bring thousands of people to the area, generating much activity. The southern oval has more of a parkland context, and it is linked to the Suitland Parkway. He said that the design for each oval is intended to respect and extend these differing characters. For example, the south oval is envisioned as a tranquil space of respite, transitioning from a woodland on the south to a meadow and then a garden space on the north, where a future memorial may be located; in contrast, the northern oval would have more extensive paved areas, including a demarcation of the Potomac Avenue alignment that would connect the two stadiums in the vicinity. The landscape design is also influenced by the concept of fluidity in the bridge design, including the forms suggested by the bridge arches in relation to the river. He said that these relationships are seen in the proposed design of the embankments, connecting the bridge with the landscape and extending the bridge aesthetic beyond the actual structure. The multipurpose trails are also designed as links between the bridge and the public space.
Mr. Bunster-Ossa said that an additional concern for the landscape design is sustainability, which is addressed through the use of native vegetation, meadows, rain gardens, and the recycling of materials from the existing bridge. He added that the open spaces could be enhanced with public art. He said that the landings of the bridge would be treated as places of celebration, with vibrant activity throughout the day and year. He indicated the numerous pedestrian crossings that would provide access to the ovals, where future activities could include marketplaces. He emphasized that these spaces would reinforce the permanence of the bridge as a significant enhancement to civic life. He concluded with views along the waterfront itself, noting the design goal of encouraging people to move between the bridge and the water's edge. He said that details such as railings and the placement of gardens would encourage this connection and the sense of engagement with the public sphere.
Vice Chairman Meyer invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Ms. Griffin asked if the shape of the ovals is based on managing the traffic flow, or whether another shape such as a circle could be considered. Mr. Butler responded that traffic flow was considering extensively during the environmental review process that resulted in this shape; the elongated form helps to improve traffic flow in comparison to a simple circle. He confirmed that a similar analysis informed the design at each end of the bridge. Ms. Griffin asked about the location of traffic signals to allow for pedestrian access to the ovals. Mr. Harwood responded that each of the crosswalks shown on the site plan would be protected by a traffic signal; he said that the intended design character is more like Dupont Circle than a fast-moving highway, and generally the roads would be a maximum of three lanes wide. He noted the project's general role of providing a transition from the higher-speed Suitland Parkway on the south to the urban boulevard character of South Capitol Street on the north, changing from a car-oriented to a pedestrian-oriented environment. Ms. Griffin asked about the ownership and maintenance of the ovals; Mr. Harwood responded that DDOT would have this responsibility. Ms. Griffin asked about past reviews of the project. Mr. Harwood responded that in 2013, the initial concept was reviewed by the National Capital Planning Commission as well as the Commission of Fine Arts; today's presentation is the first formal review of the new concept design. Secretary Luebke clarified that much of the infrastructure layout was established in 2013 in conjunction with the environmental review process, including the layout of roads. Mr. Butler said that the layout from 2013 has not been changed by the current project team; for example, details such as the location of the ovals and traffic signals, as well as the speed limit for traffic, were all established in the lengthy environmental review process that concluded in 2013. Mr. Harwood said that the aesthetic character of the bridge itself was the primary issue that was left open-ended after 2013. He also noted that the Commission's letter from September 2013 following the previous review had cited support for the oval spaces with encouragement for further development of this concept.
Ms. Gilbert asked for more information about the future memorial sites, such as whether specific memorials are currently anticipated. Mr. Harwood responded that the Memorials and Museums Master Plan of 2001 had already suggested a future commemorative opportunity where South Capitol Street meets the Anacostia River south of the U.S. Capitol; the bridge replacement project has further developed this idea, with the memorial sites serving as focal points where key alignments intersect. He said that the actual location of the memorials could vary, perhaps in response to future development nearby, proximity to the river, or the extent of other nearby memorials. He added that the memorials on opposite ends of the bridge could be conceived as a pair, with related or contrasting themes, although they might be developed at different times. He also noted that the Memorials and Museums Master Plan addressed the general characteristics of the area, while the current proposal identifies and reserves specific sites that had emerged several years ago during the environmental review process. He said that the requirement for the design-build team is that each oval be designed to provide community open space, sustainable bio-retention, and a future memorial site; each of these uses has been sited in the most logical location. He said that no near-term proposal is anticipated for these memorial sites, due to the current perception of these locations as remote from typical popular locations for memorials, but future interest could arise at any time; the intent in the current design is to reserve the sites as prominent locations.
Ms. Meyer asked for further information about the context for the southern oval; she noted the ongoing redevelopment of the Barry Farm area nearby, as well as the evolving plans for redevelopment of Poplar Point. She said that this context may affect the extent of park use by residents as well as the best location for access routes. Mr. Harwood responded that the project team includes people involved in these nearby projects. He said that the redevelopment plan for Barry Farm is already established, whereas plans for Poplar Point have not been determined; the necessary land transfer for Poplar Point development has been delayed by continuing coordination between the D.C. government and the National Park Service, including the costly relocation of a police helicopter facility. He said that the land use for Poplar Point may include residential and commercial space; the D.C. government has suggested this location for various private-sector and governmental office complexes, which could serve as the impetus for more extensive development. He described the broad goal for Poplar Point as a supplement to the adjacent neighborhood of historic Anacostia. He added that the planning for Barry Farm redevelopment near the bridge oval includes commercial space and housing, with a site plan based on neo-traditional principles. He said that the best connection to the bridge's oval space from both of these nearby areas would be along Howard Road; a more direct connection is difficult due to the existing highway infrastructure. Ms. Meyer asked about the potential for more direct connections between nearby residential areas and the south oval. Mr. Harwood responded that a more direct connection is difficult due to the existing interstate highway in the area; the Suitland Parkway offers some access but much of the area is currently fenced. He added that the south oval will become a terminus for the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, providing connections toward the 11th Street Bridge Park. He also noted that the fenced border of the Bolling-Anacostia military base would prevent convenient pedestrian access to the west side of the oval, although this could improve if the base becomes open to the public and a planned walkway is provided; the oval would then be better connected to a more regional system of recreation trails.
Mr. Dunson asked for clarification of the river's navigability for boats upstream after completion of this project; he observed that the proposed clearance beneath the bridge would be insufficient for some craft, such as sailboats with tall masts. Mr. Butler agreed that the passage of some larger craft would of course be constrained by the bridge's clearance height. He said that the river's navigability was considered extensively because the existing bridge has an operable span that has allowed tall ships to reach the Navy Yard without any restriction on height. The Navy and the Coast Guard eventually decided to remove the one tall ship at the Navy Yard and to allow a fixed bridge; the minimum vertical clearance of 42 feet was established by the Coast Guard based on a vessel impact study. He clarified that the height of 54 feet indicated on one drawing is to the top of the bridge deck, not the clear height beneath it. He said that the design-build team is conforming to the dimensional requirement that is included in the contract for this project; the request for a permit has been submitted to the Coast Guard, which is in the process of notifying mariners. He said that the 42-foot dimension should be ample for the modest amount of barge traffic along the river and for the fire department's vessel. Mr. Dunson observed that any boat with a taller mast would have to lower the mast to pass beneath the bridge.
Ms. Gilbert asked for further information about the proposed profile where the arches meet the tops of the piers. Mr. Brownlie responded that the intended visual effect is for the piers to cradle the arches, allowing the sequence of arches to be perceived as a continuous form rather than the more typical treatment of a series of single arches separated by the piers. He said that this detail results from the overall goal of emphasizing a continuous, sinuous line between the two riverbanks; this detailing is for aesthetics and does not affect the structural performance of the arches, and it creates a welcome and interesting opportunity to differentiate this bridge from the many similar bridges of this typology. Ms. Gilbert commented that this detail appears to be very "unusual."
Mr. Dunson cited the composite drawing that compares various elevations that were considered for this bridge; he said that some of the rejected alternatives have a more pronounced arching profile for the bridge deck that appears to be more graceful than the relatively flat deck in the proposed concept. He acknowledged that the arc may be slightly more difficult for drivers' sightlines, but he questioned the decision not to pursue a more graceful profile with a higher arc. He said that such a profile could also allow for a taller navigation clearance beneath the center of the bridge, and the bridge deck would also have a subtle relationship to the structural arches above.
Ms. Meyer commented that the best feature of the project is neither the bridge's elevation nor the oval parks at each end, but the design of the abutments. She said that this component is often neglected by bridge designers, while in this project the abutments justify the shallow arc of the bridge. She commended the landscape designers for the generous and welcoming transition where the bridge meets the ground and for the successful transition between the parkland and the river, commenting that the design begins to animate the public space that connects the river to the neighborhoods. Mr. Dunson agreed, citing the treatment of the surface beneath the bridge deck as it crosses above the riverfront trail where it will be seen by pedestrians. Ms. Meyer said that this aesthetic results in a relatively flat profile for the bridge deck, and the bridge is therefore not as strongly perceived as a separate object. She also commended the design of the pedestrian paths and belvederes.
Ms. Meyer suggested that the design strength of the abutments be extended to the two oval or lozenge-shaped spaces, which she described as still being placeholders for a future design. She observed that these spaces have a relentless symmetry, and the designers are struggling to find reasons to program these spaces in order to inform to their design. As discussed earlier in the day with the site selection review of the National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial, she commented that future memorials may have a form unrelated to the dot or circle that is reserved within the two ovals. Ms. Gilbert agreed, saying that a future memorial may instead spread out horizontally, perhaps occupying the entirety of the oval space. Ms. Meyer anticipated that the memorial site on the north would probably be taken first, due to the extent of other activity nearby; she said that such factors should be considered as part of the location and extent of the memorial sites. She expressed frustration at evaluating the site designs for these ovals without knowing whether a memorial or stormwater retention facility would be built first. Instead of getting caught up in questions of form, she suggested developing a stronger conceptual vision for each oval, perhaps emphasizing a wetland design with a memorial at the edge or in the center. She said that the landscape could be related to the commemoration of Frederick Douglass or related historical themes such as the Underground Railroad. She criticized the presented designs as merely diagrams of grass and trees with dots for memorials, without a clear depiction of their landscape character. Mr. Harwood agreed to study this issue further; he also noted the Commission's in 2013 to consider these spaces as potential commemorative sites rather than using them to solve engineering issues such as stormwater management. Ms. Meyer said that a bioretention landscape can have cultural associations rather than simply being an engineering feature; she said that the issues involve the landscape's character and associations.
Ms. Griffin commented that the problem with the design of the ovals is demonstrated by their being symmetrical and identically sized, with similarly rendered landscapes. She criticized their treatment as "symmetrical dumbbells," and she said that the Commission's advice is to avoid getting stuck in this mindset. She suggested that a more interesting approach would be to better relate each oval to its context: the south oval could respond to the character and geometry of the Poplar Point area, while the north oval could respond to the city grid. She emphasized that the Commission's current advice is consistent with the advice provided in 2013, and she encouraged the design team to give further consideration to these issues by developing a distinct design character and set of uses for each oval.
Ms. Griffin suggested returning the discussion to the design of the bridge itself, which she finds problematic. She said that some cities have bridges with a more industrial character, while other cities have subtler bridges that simply extend the urban fabric across the water, allowing the focus of the view to be the city beyond rather than the bridge itself; she said that Washington's bridges are typically of this more subtle type. She agreed with Mr. Dunson that the earlier studies for the bridge elevation are more successful and more authentic to the monumental character of this city. She criticized the proposed design as being typical of any American industrial city, seemingly unrelated to the character of Washington. She suggested further consideration of the earlier elevations that relate more closely to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge or Arlington Memorial Bridge. By using lower arches than in the proposed design, the experience of crossing the bridge can focus on the view toward the U.S. Capitol, for example, rather than on the cables and tall arches of the bridge structure. She discouraged the design approach of large arches rising above the bridge deck due to its inconsistency with Washington's established visual character. She added that the bridge's monumentality could be expressed in other ways, without relying on large-scale structural gestures; she urged a design that allows for more focus on the city than on the bridge itself.
Mr. Butler responded that the design results from many constraints, including the design-build contracting process and the numerous design goals that were specified in the contract. Many of the constraints involve geometry: as an urban bridge, the landing points and elevations are already largely established, although the south oval is being elevated by ten to twelve feet of fill. The height above the river is also already established, which results in the shaping of the overall bridge profile while limiting the extent of structure below the bridge deck. He emphasized that the design team includes bridge architects as well as bridge engineers and urban designers; the many people involved in the project bring a variety of perspectives. Dozens of bridge types were considered before settling on the proposed design approach, which he said evolved from the analogy of a "skipping stone" along the river. He said that during the contracting process, DDOT and the aesthetic advisory committee encouraged the use of structural elements above the bridge deck; the resulting structure extends both above and below the bridge deck to provide a sense of visual continuity and a relationship to the river surface. The similar treatment of the ovals at each end of the bridge results from a desire not to treat the oval in the Anacostia neighborhood differently than the oval in the more central part of the city, out of concern for community sensitivities. He noted that earlier designs used more piers in the river, resulting in shorter spans; the current design reduces the number of piers, which is intended to give a greater sense of openness for the river when seen from many vantage points, as encouraged by the design goals. He said that some of the alternative structures shown in the comparative elevation drawings, despite being cited by the Commission members as more graceful, would have a relatively heavy appearance when seen from some viewing locations; this results in part from a structure below the bridge deck being closer to the surface level of the river. He described the design alternatives using concrete arches as unsatisfactory because they didn't convey the desired gateway character when seen in the perspective drawings. He also questioned the criticism of the proposed design as having the character of a typical industrial bridge. He said that a more industrial solution for an arched bridge would use a tied arch that springs from the level of the bridge deck, where the tie beam is located; instead, this proposal adapts the form of the arch to spring from the water in order to provide a better appearance. The arches and piers are shaped to enhance this aesthetic and to resolve the structural forces on the bridge. He said that the arches themselves have a carefully designed profile, using a hexagonal shape of varying size instead of a more typical trapezoidal profile; the detailing reflects further care in considering issues such as shadow lines and nighttime lighting, all contributing to the intended avoidance of an overly industrial character.
Mr. Brownlie said that the key issue in the bridge elevations is to clear the navigation envelope established by the Coast Guard. An additional issue is the number of spans that comprise the overall length of the bridge; the choice that was debated for this bridge had been five spans or three spans, and the decision to use three spans helps to avoid the additional problems that would be associated with constructing more support piers in the river. With the decision to cross the river in three spans, the length of each span is too great for an arch to be placed beneath the bridge deck; such a structure would be too shallow to function as a viable arch. The design approach was therefore to extend the arch above the bridge deck, and the design process then focused on the shaping and details of the structure. He said that bridges inherently stand out within the context of a city, crossing gaps within the urban fabric, and he described the proposed design as an appropriate solution for creating a civic object within this urban context. He acknowledged the questions about Washington's design character and the bridge's civic role, but he expressed confidence that the scale, shaping, and detailing are all being developed well.
Vice Chairman Meyer encouraged the members of the project team to be more accepting of the different viewpoints that arise during the complex process of design and review. She said that the Commission members are trying to evaluate the bridge in relationship to its context, and each person is framing a response in a different way. She observed that the engineers and architects on the team have already exhibited some tension arising from their different disciplines, but she said that the design studies show the value of the design team's collaborative effort in evaluating alternatives. However, the Commission members are looking at the bridge proposal from other perspectives, such as its relationship to the monumental core and to other Washington bridges. She suggested that the design team give further consideration to the language of bridges in Washington—generally low bridges, as noted by Ms. Griffin—and make a case for why this bridge should be different, whether due to the context or the geometric constraints such as the navigation clearance. She said that this bridge's contrasting design character, seemingly not acknowledged by the design team, is generating the Commission's criticism. She suggested that an argument could be made for this bridge's different character based on the amazing future potential of the Anacostia River area, notwithstanding the slow progress of government agencies in cleaning the river and reimagining its adjacent public spaces. She said that the potential activity along the riverfronts is the reason that the design of the bridge's abutments and undercroft is so important; the gateway experience of passing under the bridge along the river edges might even be more important than the gateway experience of traversing the bridge. She suggested that the design team develop such arguments, in order to assist the Commission in evaluating the proposal within the larger context rather than merely responding to the perspective drawings.
Mr. Dunson commented that the southern end of the bridge should be treated as the equal of the northern end, but the visual focus of the vista to the south is unclear; the oval and surrounding open space, as a newly landscaped site, could provide the opportunity to establish this context. He said that the design elements within the ovals at each end of the bridge could serve to turn attention back toward the urban fabric. He also observed that this bridge will be highly visible and would be one of the first structures in Washington to have a design character of this type. He said that the design team should give more consideration to the distant appearance of the bridge instead of focusing on its details. He reiterated the importance of designing the bridge to have a sense of grace, commensurate with the anticipated future level of activity along the Anacostia River. He compared this setting to the Washington Channel, where any imagined bridge would now have to respond to the new context of the District Wharf. He said that the focus of the Douglass Bridge should also be on the activity on either side of the river, as well as on bicyclists and pedestrians, more than on simply carrying traffic across the river. He agreed that what happens beneath the bridge deck may be more important than what happens on top of it, and he supported the focus on how the bridge meets the ground, adding that views from boats on the river are also an important consideration. He encouraged bringing together the many perspectives on the project to make this the city's most successful bridge.
Ms. Gilbert asked if the parkland in the vicinity of Poplar Point is part of this project, observing that the drawings are unclear. Mr. Harwood responded that the DDOT right-of-way line passes near the existing bridge, and portions of the Poplar Point parkland are not included within this project's scope. Ms. Gilbert said that this area offers the potential for a more wild riparian landscape; the landscape treatment of the south oval could also have a more wild character, instead of being lined with a regular system of paths that may not actually relate to future needs. She suggested consideration of a wet meadow landscape related to the river, as seen at the comparable riverfront location at the 11th Street Bridge. She also considered further consideration of the landscape in the oval as a temporary and phased design, perhaps more cost-effective than a more resolved design.
Vice Chairman Meyer asked if the Commission members are willing to take an action on the proposal or would prefer to see a further concept submission. Ms. Griffin suggested an additional submission; she expressed appreciation for the responses provided, including the description on the project's design and engineering constraints. She commented that some of these are not really constraints but might be better described as the requests and desires of various constituencies, which she acknowledged must nonetheless be taken into consideration by the design team. She recognized the proposal as an attempt to balance all of these considerations, but she urged the design team to acknowledge more clearly which factors are actually constraints that are primary determinants of the design. She suggested more consideration of how this proposal fits in with the bigger system of the city's river crossings, including the nearby 11th Street Bridge Park, a large and very different crossing that is listed next on the Commission's agenda. She concluded that she remains unconvinced that the proposed solution is best for this South Capitol Street crossing between two areas of Washington, and she encouraged a follow-up submission that reprioritizes the project constraints and responds to the Commission's comments.
Secretary Luebke suggested that Mr. Zimbabwe respond to the Commission's comments and address the feasibility of reconsidering the design issues that have been raised. Mr. Zimbabwe said that the concept design from 2013 served as the basis for the design-build procurement process, which involved several bidders and multiple evaluation factors. He said that a reasonable next step would be a further submission that responds to the Commission's questions and provides further details about how the design was developed. A complete reconsideration of the proposed bridge structural system would be more problematic, particularly because the design approach was part of DDOT's selection process for the design-build team. He said that some aspects of the project will need to continue moving forward, such as the choice to cross the river in three spans instead of five.
Ms. Meyer suggested that the next submission include many more perspective views of the proposal in the broader context of the river, comparable to the single view that was provided from the St. Elizabeths West Campus. The perspective views could also show the visual impact of this bridge while driving or walking along the river, and would help in understanding the scale of the proposal as perceived by different users; the result may be a better understanding of how an idiosyncratic, atypical bridge design could be successful. She said that such drawings and photographs are surprisingly lacking in this submission, although they would typically be included in an environmental impact statement. She emphasized that this request involves improved documentation of the proposal within the larger context, rather than extensive redesign. Mr. Zimbabwe agreed that this request is reasonable, acknowledging that many of the presented perspective views are from elevated vantage points. Ms. Meyer suggested that views could also be provided from an entrance to the baseball stadium or from a street within the Buzzard Point neighborhood. Mr. Zimbabwe added that the view from the Yards Park, to the east of the baseball stadium, would also be relevant because the project's wider scope includes pedestrian linkages to this park.
Ms. Griffin asked if the reluctance to reconsider the project's fundamental design decisions is due to a concern that such changes would compromise the integrity of the competitive design-build procurement process; Mr. Zimbabwe said that this could be a consideration, and Ms. Griffin acknowledged that this would be an understandable concern. Ms. Griffin asked for clarification of whether the choice between three or five spans could be reconsidered; Mr. Zimbabwe responded that reconsideration of design elements that significantly affect the overall project cost could be difficult at this stage, after the contract has been awarded. Ms. Griffin reiterated that her major concern is with reducing the height of the bridge's tall arches, which could have ramifications for other design features, and she asked if the process allows any room for addressing this concern. Mr. Zimbabwe responded that the question is difficult to answer in the abstract, and he offered to confer with the design team to identify the scope of design changes that could be needed. He said that the conclusion may be that such a fundamental design change would likely constitute a fundamental change in the procurement process that has already been executed, but the answer cannot be provided immediately. He added that the design direction was based on the guidance in 2013 from the Commission, along with further guidance from the staff and other review agencies, particularly concerning the desire for monumentality in the design; he expressed reluctance to step back to pursue a different design direction after several years of work. Ms. Griffin reiterated that she does not perceive her current comments as conflicting with the Commission's guidance from 2013; the intent is instead to request consideration of other ways of articulating a design character of monumentality. She expressed appreciation for Mr. Zimbabwe's cooperative response to her questions.
Vice Chairman Meyer reiterated the Commission's request for improved documentation of the proposal and the wider context of Washington's bridges. She suggested section and elevation drawings and height information on the city's other notable bridges for comparison to the current proposal. She noted that some members of the Commission already know these bridges well, while others would benefit from such additional data. She said that she is having doubts about the proposal based on the concerns raised by Ms. Griffin, who has close familiarity with the city through her past professional work. Mr. Zimbabwe responded a comparison between bridges on the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers may be difficult because the rivers have very different characteristics, such as their navigation needs and adjacent topography. Ms. Meyer added that the bridges across Rock Creek are also very different due to the steep topography. Mr. Zimbabwe suggested focusing on comparisons to other Anacostia River bridges.
Mr. Dunson reiterated his concern that this highly visible bridge should have an appropriate sense of grace, which could be based on further study of the earlier bridge elevation drawings that were presented. He said that the design of the oval spaces, while important, is a lesser concern because these areas will likely be redesigned in the future. He added that the presented perspective view along the bridge deck was unfortunate, failing to suggest the connection with the context that would be understood by a person moving across the bridge; he said that the drawings should be understood as having political and social implications, with greater care in selecting what views to present. He concluded that the design concerns raised by the Commission members could likely be addressed through refinement rather than a complete redesign of the project.
Vice Chairman Meyer summarized the apparent consensus to defer a vote until more information is presented, such as the proposal's context in relation to the city and to bridge typologies. She also requested further clarification of the project's phasing, including the extent of improvements within the ovals during the initial construction phase. She encouraged a more diagrammatic approach to understanding these areas before focusing on specific designs; for example, the character of the spaces could be forested and shaded, or a sponge-like landscape that absorbs rainwater. Similarly, the provision for each future memorial could be looser because the actual future memorial will have a different design than is anticipated; the focus instead should be on an interim landscape that is simple and elegant with an identifiable character. She said that the long-term treatment of the south oval may also depend on the completion of redevelopment at Poplar Point and Barry Farm. Mr. Zimbabwe responded that the sharply colored portions of the drawings indicate the extent of the project's first phase; the later phase includes work further north along South Capitol Street. Ms. Griffin asked if the ovals would merely be covered with sod in the project's first phase; Mr. Zimbabwe responded that the near-term proposal for the ovals could be developed further in the next submission, perhaps with a different conceptual approach than illustrated in the current presentation drawings. He suggested that a Commission action on this component could be helpful in allowing part of the project to move forward, even if the Commission is not yet ready to approve the concept for the bridge.
Vice Chairman Meyer said that the consensus of the Commission appears to be not to take an action on the project at this point. Mr. Luebke observed the varying opinions of the Commission members; he said that the request for expanded documentation may be helpful in moving the process forward at the next submission. He suggested that the Commission try to reach a consensus on the design of the bridge itself with the follow-up submission, perhaps with less concern about the design of the ovals, which will likely be redesigned later. Ms. Meyer said that the landscape design team could continue developing the proposals for the ovals, notwithstanding their likely future replacement. She added that these locations will be great sites for future memorials, even if the interim landscape does not identify exact locations and configurations for them; the interim designs should instead have an integrity of their own. She said that the focus in the presented designs on an undefined axial feature has the effect of killing the remainder of each space.
Vice Chairman Meyer summarized the consensus not to take an action on the current submission, as a whole or in part. She noted that the next submission would likely benefit from review by more members of the Commission. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission's comments would be summarized in a letter that will be sent to members of the project team, and the discussion concluded without a formal action.
Ms. Gilbert departed the meeting at this point, resulting in the loss of a quorum.
2. CFA 19/OCT/17-5, 11th Street Bridge Park, 11th Street at the Anacostia River, SE. New public park on old bridge piers. Concept. (Previous: CFA 17/MAR/16-1, Information presentation.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the concept submission for a park to be located on a new bridge deck that would be constructed on the existing piers of the recently demolished 11th Street Bridge. He noted that the Commission heard an information presentation on the proposal in March 2016. He asked Konjit Eskender of the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) to begin the presentation.
Mr. Eskender said that the project has been developed in partnership with Building Bridges across the River (BBAR). The old bridge foundations and piers would support the new park, which will be constructed through a design-build process. She introduced Scott Kratz, the project director from BBAR, to provide an overview of the project.
Mr. Kratz described the key goals for the bridge park: to serve as an anchor for economic development; to ensure that development is equitable and inclusive; and to engage with the Anacostia River. He noted the challenging health issues facing District residents and the need for safe recreational spaces in this area. He said that BBAR's role is to engage with the community and to work with the design team of OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture) and OLIN landscape architects; BBAR ran the design competition and will manage the park when it is completed.
Mr. Kratz said that the Anacostia River has historically been a dividing line in the city, and the new structure is intended as a physical and metaphorical bridge between the communities on each side of the river. During the two years before the design team was engaged, BBAR built support for the project among the local communities—religious and civic groups, business owners, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) representatives, and other neighbors. The process included more than 200 meetings, and the response was generally enthusiastic. BBAR asked for suggestions on design and programming, receiving similar ideas from both sides of the river; all these ideas were included in the materials for the 2014 design competition, and meetings with stakeholders continued during the competition process. He said that the four finalists were evaluated by stakeholders as well as by the jury, using the same criteria, and the winning design team of OMA and OLIN was announced in late 2014.
Mr. Kratz said that over the last two years, a series of public artworks have been installed in the neighborhoods in a further effort to tie the two communities together. One project involved a collaboration among the U.S. Navy Museum, the Capitol Hill Business Improvement District, and students from Ballou and Eastern high schools to install large images of historical figures along 11th Street; another was the recent creation of a lighting installation in the Interstate 295/Good Hope Road underpass.
Mr. Kratz said that another project goal has been to find ways to invest in the wider community. After the competition winner was announced, BBAR worked with the community to develop recommendations for housing, workforce development, and small business enterprises to ensure that local residents will be able to remain in their neighborhoods and avoid being displaced through gentrification. In addition, a community land trust and a homebuyer's club have been formed. Another effort involves exploring how local residents can acquire the necessary skills to gain employment on construction of the bridge park.
Mr. Kratz introduced engineer Jim Guinther of WRA to present the structural issues of the proposal. Mr. Guinther said that after a new pair of bridges was built to replace the old 11th Street Bridge pair, the downstream bridge's deck and superstructure were removed but its piers and foundations were left in place. Their reuse for the bridge park were then evaluated through background research and inspections of the structure above and below water; for example, the foundations were examined to determine their depth, the amount of load they were designed to bear, and how much support they could actually provide.
Mr. Guinther said that the bridge park will not be a typical road bridge linking two banks of a river; instead, it will have multimodal connections and will include play areas, an amphitheater, and a plaza. Emergency vehicle access is required throughout the bridge park, along with an emergency vehicle route from one end to the other, and barrier-free access is required to make the park available to all. Development of the design criteria has required close coordination with engineering requirements, and the project team has met with a wide variety of stakeholders and other interested parties to evaluate the proposal for potential problems.
Mr. Guinther emphasized the importance of evaluating the bearing capacity of the existing piers to ensure that the weight of the bridge park does not exceed their strength. To balance the load of the bridge park, the foundations and the piers above the water may need to be modified, and additional piers may need to be built at certain points. Hydrological studies of the river carried out for the recent construction of the new 11th Street Bridge spans have been consulted to understand what modifications may be necessary. He said that the goal is to retrofit the existing piers rather than having to demolish them and build an entirely new bridge. He added that the bridge park would be adjacent to the new 11th Street Bridge, and at a couple of points the two structures would actually connect. He said that by working with DDOT and other government agencies, an engineering solution has been developed that will meet the programming requirements without significantly changing the vision of the competition design. The new bridge park would be slightly narrower than the original design, but would still be tapered in plan and located outside of an existing utility corridor. The superstructure would be steel, and WRA will collaborate with OMA on the appearance.
Mr. Guinther introduced architect Jason Long of OMA to present the design. Mr. Long said that the competition-winning proposal had conceived of the bridge park as a comfortable and inviting place, a civic space, and a prominent structure that would have an iconic urban presence. The basic form is proposed to be an "X" created by two platforms—one rising gradually from the west, the other from the east—that meet in the middle to create a multipurpose space over the river that would symbolize the coming together of communities from both sides of the river. Both decks would have a slope of slightly below five percent. The extension of the two decks over each other would create attractive program spaces between them, with shaded areas beneath and places above with views of the downtown area, the monumental core, and the Anacostia neighborhood. The X shape is also meant to recall the form of the intersecting avenues of the 1791 L'Enfant Plan for Washington.
Mr. Long detailed the planned programming for the bridge park, with a variety of active and passive spaces. The four key elements would be the education center, the play space, the café, and the amphitheater. These would be surrounded by passive recreation areas, including green landscaped areas—a series of gardens, a hammock grove and picnic garden—and hardscape, such as a multiuse plaza. The outlines of the recreational areas have been simplified slightly from the competition design. Above the café would be overlooks, a series of landscaped areas, and an urban agriculture garden.
Mr. Long said that the park configuration in the competition design was wider toward the east, providing needed amenities on that side of the river and gesturing towards Good Hope Road, which connects to historic downtown Anacostia. Although the subsequent structural feasibility study has required narrowing the bridge park to reduce its weight, the project team is determined to retain the design's key aspects. The competition design has also been adjusted to accommodate existing waterfront paths and emergency access routes, and the slope of the platforms has been slightly refined. He indicated the narrowing of the bridge at one pier from 139 to 116 feet, but he emphasized that the basic outline and program remain the same.
Mr. Long described the adjustments to the program features and structure from the competition design. The environmental education center, which had been proposed for the river's edge on the east, has been moved out of the floodplain to a site farther up the riverbank on the other side of Anacostia Drive. This new location will let it act as a gateway into the bridge park; it will be oriented to have a clear view to the river and perhaps to the bridge park through a double-height space. This facility will also include offices for the park and public restrooms, adjacent to an outdoor classroom plaza. An additional play space has been moved from its initially proposed riverbank location to the bridge park. The location of the cafe near the center of the park has been shifted slightly to allow seating around it, including a shaded seating area to the south with a view over the river; a community room has also been added within the cafe. The original concept of a 300-seat amphitheater has been reduced to 200 seats, and its direction has been reversed: its original orientation facing west would have had the audience looking at a bridge pier, while the new configuration of east-facing seating will give visitors a view of the river behind the performance space. He noted that the reorientation will also allow the overlook balcony to the east to have a view into the amphitheater as well as toward the U.S. Capitol. Certain structural adjustments have been made to retain the X form. Pairs of new outboard columns have been added at two of the existing piers to support wider areas of the bridge park, and a new pier has been added at the eastern landing near the new site of the education center. The bulk has been reduced at each pier, and columns will be built up to reduce the weight.
Mr. Long introduced landscape architect Hallie Boyce of OLIN to present the landscape design. Ms. Boyce said that the landscape would be designed to educate the public about the effect of human activity on the river's health. Specifically, the environmental education center will be a place to tell the story of the Anacostia River and the neighborhoods that have grown alongside it. Programs will focus on how citizens can contribute to a cleaner river; there will be demonstrations of such topics as greenways and how plants clean water. She expressed appreciation for the assistance given by the project's partners, including BBAR, the National Park Service, DDOT, and the Anacostia Watershed Society.
Showing images illustrating the intended character, Ms. Boyce said that the plantings around the bridge park landings on both sides of the river will reflect the plant communities that would have grown here historically. On the west side near the Navy Yard, the emphasis will be on demonstrating how aquatic plants can improve water quality. On the bridge park itself, landscaped areas would include the shaded play space; the shaded picnic grove, an elevated lawn offering broad views up and down the river; and an area above the cafe dedicated to urban agriculture, where such issues as food deserts can be studied. An accessible path within a riparian meadow would connect the bridge park with Good Hope Road.
Ms. Boyce presented the proposed plant palette, which is similar to the one outlined in the competition entry. The existing riverbanks are denuded areas of lawn with few trees. Varied plantings would highlight seasonal differences, such as red maples for brilliant fall color and serviceberries for spring flowers. Plantings and structures would provide shade throughout—for example, chinkapin oaks would shade paths on both sides of the river. Bald cypresses would demonstrate how plants adapt to wet conditions. Grasses and blooming perennials would create meadows for children to explore, and these meadows would infiltrate far more water than the present landscape, reducing maintenance while creating wildlife habitat. Toward the Navy Yard side, waterfalls in the bridge park would demonstrate the role of plants in cleansing water. Plantings on the historic Anacostia neighborhood side would provide shade, with red twig dogwood and similar plants for winter interest. Riverbank plantings would delay and clean stormwater flowing off the park's paved areas; two cisterns would hold the overflow, which can be reused for irrigation in the bridge park.
Ms. Boyce then described the bridge's material palette. Wood decking would probably be used for the platform surfaces since it is comfortable in hot summers. Concrete pavers are proposed for the pedestrian path, with stone pavers for the plaza and a rubberized surface for the play area. Aluminum mesh around the waterfalls would allow a sense of the water below. The deck would be designed to a 4.6 percent slope, remaining below 5 percent to avoid the need for handrails; relatively level areas include the central plaza, play area, and picnic grove.
Ms. Boyce summarized that the bridge park has been conceived as a series of connected, accessible rooms. Two areas of the park—the amphitheater and the cafe—would connect with the adjacent vehicular 11th Street Bridge. She noted that the crowds attending the Anacostia River Festival have grown from 2,000 to 9,000 visitors in recent years, with more than half taking public transportation. She indicated the proximity of the Anacostia and Navy Yard Metro stations and the location of public parking lots: in addition to parking at the Metro stations, a 1,000-space parking garage would sometimes be available at the Maritime Plaza office development near the park's west landing, and parking is also available on Good Hope Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. Pedestrian circulation would connect to the neighborhoods and waterfront trails on both sides of the river, and a bike path would extend through the bridge park with places to park bikes.
Secretary Luebke noted that Ms. Gilbert's departure has resulted in the loss of a quorum; he said that the remaining members should provide comments and recommended actions to be adopted by the Commission at the next meeting where a quorum is present. Ms. Griffin noted that she would recuse herself from any vote for this project because she had served on the competition jury, but she would participate in the discussion.
Ms. Griffin asked where a handicapped visitor would be dropped off to visit the bridge park; Mr. Guinther responded that this issue had been evaluated during the recent Anacostia River Festival. The relocation of the education center has required adjusting the drop-off location and barrier-free route in this area; he indicated the proposed solution, which would provide direct access to the elevator in the education center and to paths leading to the bridge park. He added that additional access may be provided in the future from the planned streetcar line on the vehicular 11th Street Bridge. Ms. Griffin asked what would occupy the space formerly designated for the education center; Mr. Guinther responded that it would be a kayak launch. Ms. Griffin encouraged the project team to develop a coordinated design for the entire sequence of drop-off roads and access routes. She also emphasized the likely desire for parking on both sides of the river, with the need to accommodate park employees as well as special events; she asked where public parking would be located. Mr. Kratz responded that the project team is addressing this question with the NPS. Currently, parking is provided in Anacostia Park, which would be linked to the bridge park. In addition, there are existing parking lots and structures on both sides of the river—at the Anacostia Metro Station, which will have direct access to the bridge park; near the recreation center; and at Maritime Plaza, particularly at night and on weekends.
Ms. Meyer commented that new considerations always arise between a competition and the full design phase. She commended the project team for the many adjustments that have been made to the project, and for responding to design complications as opportunities to improve the concept. She supported the proposed reconfiguration of the amphitheater, and she commented that the decision to move the play area from the riverbank onto the bridge park deck would further encourage local residents to enter the park. She said that her one concern is whether the cafe and its surroundings would become a social and physical barrier. She urged the project team to take care that the detailing of the project does not result in the creation of barriers, such as between the park's walkway and the cafe seating area. She emphasized that the entire space between the edge of the bridge, the pedestrian path, the outside seating area, and the cafe interior should be designed together so that it does not impede free movement along the bridge.
Observing that the landscape part of the presentation had emphasized "human activity and river health," Ms. Meyer commented that the project team should also consider the reverse equation—"riparian activity and human health"—as equally important. She said that residents of communities on both sides of the bridge park should be encouraged to actively engage with the landscape and the park activities. She added that a related issue involves the material palette: the automotive traffic crossing the 11th Street Bridge produces particulate air pollution, and she cited current research on how materials, such as charred bamboo, can be used along highways to absorb small particulate matter from vehicle exhaust. She recommended further consideration of how the park's materials can be selected to improve human health as well as comfort.
Finally, Ms. Meyer said, the Anacostia River has been heavily modified over the last century. She observed that the definition of native plants has been changing, and can vary depending on what historical time period is selected. She expressed support for a plant palette that can work in disturbed conditions, such as the novel ecosystems of urban waterways. She summarized that her suggestions are intended as encouragement for an exciting project that is improving as it progresses.
Mr. Dunson commended the direction of the project and supported the concept of connecting the two communities. He said that more specific diagrams would be helpful in illustrating how the project would connect with the communities on each end. He emphasized that the physical connections with the neighborhoods will be as important as any other feature of the project, since these will be the portals leading into the bridge park. Mr. Kratz responded that this issue has been a focus since the beginning of the process, when a graduate planning class from Virginia Tech studied walkability and accessibility to inform the design competition. He indicated the existing barriers to the bridge park: two freeways, railroad tracks, and the remains of industrial pollution. He pointed out several points of access, including connections to the vehicular 11th Street Bridge and to the wide pedestrian/bike path that extends over the I-295 freeway, ending at the corner of Good Hope Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in the center of the historic Anacostia neighborhood. He said that the most difficult access is probably the pedestrian route leading up into the Barracks Row neighborhood of Capitol Hill on the west side, which passes between a high security wall and a freeway on-ramp; an art installation here would improve the pedestrian experience and help draw people to the bridge park. As an example from the east side of the river, he illustrated the 90-foot-long lighted art piece beneath the I-295/Good Hope Road underpass, the only point of access into the bridge park along a two-mile stretch of roadway. Mr. Dunson expressed appreciation for the response, noting that he had raised the issue in the context of Ms. Griffin's comments about handicap access, and also to emphasize that constraints can provide opportunities.
Secretary Luebke characterized the concept submission as representing a transition from the competition entry towards concept development; he observed that the Commission members seem to support the design, but they could ask to see an additional concept submission. Mr. Dunson offered a motion to approve the concept with the recommendations provided; Ms. Meyer added that due to the project's complexity, she encourages the project team to consult with the staff on any issues that arise, particularly regarding the design of the areas where the bridge meets the ground. The Commission members present adopted this action, subject to confirmation by a quorum; Ms. Griffin recused herself and did not take part in the vote.
3. CFA 19/OCT/17-6, Cleveland Park, 3300 to 3500 blocks of Connecticut Avenue, NW (between Macomb and Porter Streets). Streetscape improvements. Concept. (Previous: CFA 18/MAY/17-4.) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
F. District of Columbia Department of General Services
CFA 19/OCT/17-7, Ward 6 Short-term Family Housing, 850 Delaware Avenue, SW. New seven-story building. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/FEB/17-7.) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider item II.H.2. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission may wish to act on this submission without a presentation. (The Commission had similarly acted on agenda items II.E.3 and II.F earlier in the meeting, following item II.A.)
H. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
2. SL 18-003, Federal Center SW Metro Station entrance, 409 3rd Street, SW. Installation of a circular LED digital screen on ceiling above the Metro escalators. Concept. Mr. Luebke said that the staff has been working closely with the applicant, the Museum of the Bible, on this proposal. He said that control of the lighting level may be an outstanding issue that could be noted. Vice Chairman Meyer supported approval of the submission; she said that in addition to the lighting, another issue is ensuring that the digital display does not go beyond an art installation to become advertising. Mr. Luebke said that the applicant intends to display only images, with no text. Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the submission with these comments, subject to confirmation by a quorum.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.G.1. Ms. Griffin departed the meeting during the discussion of this submission.
G. D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
1. CFA 19/OCT/17-8, Continuing Treatment Complex, Saint Elizabeths East Campus, Sycamore Drive (formally Dogwood Street) and Oak Street, SE. Renovation and adaptive reuse of buildings #107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, & 113. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 20/SEP/17-5.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced a revised concept submission for the adaptive reuse of seven historic buildings that comprise the former Continuing Treatment (CT) complex, a part of the larger St. Elizabeths East Campus in the Congress Heights neighborhood; the Commission gave a general approval to the previous concept submission during its September 2017 meeting. He asked architect Maria Casarella of Cunningham Quill Architects to present the revised design.
Ms. Casarella expressed appreciation for the Commission's advice regarding the design of the site, particularly the four internal courtyards of the complex; she said that the revised proposal incorporates this advice and addresses how the new additions, alterations, and landscape features will mitigate the existing institutional character. She presented new site plan diagrams to address the Commission's concerns regarding pedestrian circulation around the site, differentiation of the courtyard landscapes, and the ambiguity of the fronts and backs of the buildings; the diagrams indicated the various entrances for residents and visitors, and conveyed more information about the proposed programmatic spaces in the courtyards and within the existing circulation corridors that connect the buildings.
Ms. Casarella described the revisions to the courtyards and the proposed entry pavilions. The size of the entry pavilions would be slightly enlarged in response to the Commission's advice. In the southwestern courtyard, the new pavilion would be entered from a terrace configured with dining and seating areas. In the northwestern courtyard, the pavilion entrance would be elevated and accessed by a ramp; a series of play spaces designed for younger children would be near this entry. She said that the D.C. Historic Preservation Office (HPO) has requested consideration of different materials to make the pavilions appear more solid, and the design team is working to give them a more porch-like character.
Ms. Casarella introduced landscape architect Kara Lanahan of Oehme, van Sweden & Associates and historic preservation consultant Laura Hughes of EHT Traceries to present the revised landscape design. Ms. Lanahan said that the existing historic landscape surrounding the buildings would be preserved, and new groves of trees would be planted throughout the landscape to create shady gathering places. The courts at the outward-facing entries toward the perimeter of the site would be planted with allées of trees, framing these areas as the front entrances of the buildings. She said that the site design is also intended to soften the institutional character of the complex and break down the scale of the more open and pastoral landscape surrounding the buildings. She indicated the retained heritage trees that shape the geometries of the courtyard plans, especially in the northeastern and two southern courtyards. She said that the internal courtyards currently have extensive paved surfaces, which is consistent with their functional use historically; the current proposal would maintain this functional use within the courtyards, with loading areas located in the northwestern and southeastern courtyards adjacent to the new entry pavilions. Based on consultation with the D.C. Office of the Fire Marshall, the revised landscape design includes additional life safety features, including twenty-foot-wide fire lanes within each courtyard. The parking areas are now designed as flexible plaza spaces that could accommodate temporary or pop-up activities, such as farmers markets, when not occupied by automobiles; the reconfigured parking areas would also result in more green space within the courtyards. She said that the southwest courtyard, called the "game court," would contain multipurpose playing courts for activities such as soccer; this is intended to address the Commission's advice to provide recreation and amenity spaces for teenagers. Outdoor furniture would also be provided for lounging and studying. The northeast courtyard, called the "family quad," would feature a consolidated playground area for the complex, with recreational water features and space for family and group gatherings. A lawn space around an existing mature pin oak tree would accommodate picnics and outdoor movie screenings. The southeast courtyard, called the "dining green," is conceived as an adult evening space and would be focused on food: space would be allocated for a community garden, and a dining terrace would be equipped with grills.
Ms. Lanahan described the conceptual approach to the proposed planting plan. She said that historically the landscape was characterized by a wide variety of specimen trees. The proposed design would retain as many of these trees as feasible; additional specimen trees would be planted on the site perimeter, configured to define the intended pedestrian circulation paths through the site. She said that the trees proposed for each of the exterior-facing entry courts are intended to differentiate each space: trees in the northern courts would be selected for distinctive features such as their fruit or the beauty of their bark in the winter months; trees in the eastern and western courts would be selected for distinct fall coloring; and the southern entry courts would have flowering trees. The understory plantings for each entry court would also be specific to each space. The internal courtyards would be planted with smaller flowering trees to give each a distinct identity; for example, one courtyard would be planted with dogwood trees, while another would be planted with serviceberry trees. She concluded by indicating the walkway that would replicate the historic oval street configuration around the site, as shown in the previous submission; she said that this has been discussed as an important feature in consultations with the HPO.
Ms. Griffin asked how the proposed number of parking spaces was determined. Ms. Lanahan said that the agreement with the D.C. government requires one space per three housing units; the proposed design accommodates nearly this amount. Ms. Griffin asked if any attempt had been made to seek approval for shifting parking to the four radial entry drives. Ms. Lanahan responded that the fire marshal asked the project team not to allow parking along these drives; she said that the fire marshal did not provide reasons for this restriction, but the likely concern is that parked cars could block access for emergency vehicles. Ms. Griffin observed that parked cars within the courtyards could also impede emergency access to the buildings, and she strongly encouraged the project team to consult further with the fire marshal about allowing parking on the entry drives.
Ms. Griffin asked what constraints have affected the proposed locations of the entry pavilions along the circulation corridors; Ms. Casarella responded that the siting of mechanical equipment, loading areas, and parking have played a role in determining the location of these pavilions. Ms. Griffin observed that the layout of these elements was developed by the project team and is not an existing constraint. Ms. Casarella clarified that the loading docks would be located near the entrances to accommodate residents moving into the buildings, and the mechanical units are sited a certain distance away from the edges of the buildings. She added that additional design factors for the pavilion locations include the ramp configurations and the desire to maintain visual connections between adjoining courtyards through the pavilions. Ms. Hughes added that the pavilions would be located in the same places as the existing masonry entry structures that would be demolished; these date from 1986 and do not contribute to the historical significance of the CT complex. She said that this design approach has been supported by the National Park Service (NPS) and the HPO, and these agencies requested that no new exterior openings be made into the circulation corridors.
Mr. Dunson said that the overall design has improved; he asked if alternatives have been prepared for the location and design of the entry pavilions. Ms. Casarella responded that alternatives are being developed in consultation with the HPO, and these could be provided to the Commission. Mr. Dunson said that the pavilions should have an architectural character that is different from, but complementary to, the historic buildings; he acknowledged that using glass enhances the visibility and safety of residents using the entries. He asked if parking could be accommodated on the site's peripheral lawn areas near the streets, or if these areas are protected historic landscapes. Ms. Casarella responded that the peripheral lawns are considered major character-defining features of the site, and the NPS and HPO would not allow any programming in these areas; altering them would likely disqualify the project from receiving historic tax credits. She also confirmed for Mr. Dunson that the entry drives help define the lawn areas and that the drives could not be widened. Mr. Dunson identified the historic landscape as the factor that is limiting the parking options; he suggested that access by emergency vehicles would not be a constraint if they are able to pass the parked cars.
Ms. Griffin said that the project team should give first priority to the quality of the open spaces; this goal should be emphasized over the external constraints being placed on the project, such as the amount of parking and the protection of the existing landscape. She recommended aligning the useable areas within the internal courtyards to make them more contiguous and less "choppy." For example, the pavilions located within the two eastern courtyards could be moved further west to better integrate them into the surrounding open space and form a more unified entry sequence. For the design of the pavilions themselves, she suggested that the more public northern and southern entry pavilions facing the streets could differ in architectural character from the smaller, resident-only entrances within the courtyards; she said that varying the opacity of the exterior cladding materials could help to differentiate these entrances. She also suggested that the pavilions be more porch-like by better integrating them into the landscape, perhaps elevating them to create a stoop and allow residents to look out across the courtyard. Finally, she suggested developing alternatives to the organically patterned vertical metal fins proposed for the glass facades of the pavilions, or eliminating them from the design altogether. Mr. Dunson agreed that the locations of the pavilions could be studied further; he reiterated his comment that the pavilions should be designed as modern additions that complement the existing architecture, adding that perhaps the design of each pavilion could be different as long as it fits within the context of an individual courtyard and its landscape.
Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation for the additional information about the underlying conditions driving the design. Observing that the pastoral landscape is considered important to the historical significance of the site, she noted that its only programmatic function in the proposal is as a scenic foreground to the buildings. To achieve the goal of moving parking out of the courtyards, she suggested that the project team could negotiate a compromise with the NPS: perhaps parking could be permitted on some peripheral portions of the site in exchange for retaining or restoring the historic landscapes at the outward-facing entry courts. She agreed with Ms. Griffin that moving even a small number of parking spaces out of the courtyards would greatly improve their quality. Ms. Casarella said that the design team has investigated moving some parking just outside the courtyard areas, but the program requires the courtyards to be fenced and gated; the fence line would have to be extended if secured parking is moved out from the courtyards. Nevertheless, she offered to inquire again about moving the parking out of the courtyards and onto the entry drives or other areas of the site.
Ms. Meyer said that the proposed gates could be perceived as offensive—not protecting residents but rather excluding them from being part of the larger community. She said that as a board member of a housing development enrolled in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Housing Choice Voucher Program (known as Section 8) in Charlottesville, Virginia, she recalled that residents expressed displeasure with a similar type of barrier system, comparing it to being "caged." She objected that the design of the fences and gates had not been fully presented to the Commission, and she suggested eliminating them from the proposal.
Mr. Dunson agreed that the character of the project is changed by this new information about fencing the courtyards. He compared the CT complex to a college campus, observing that North American college and university campuses were generally developed on pastoral sites that were then fenced and gated. Commenting that the project's constraints should be considered opportunities, he suggested that the fences and gates should be thought of as new architectural features and incorporated more fully into the proposal, similar to the detailed consideration of the new entry pavilions. He said that the complex's secured outdoor space could be increased by expanding the perimeter of the new fences and gates, allowing for parking within the secure perimeter but outside the courtyards. Ms. Casarella responded that the barriers have always been included in the proposal as part of the program, but she offered to study whether additional open space could be included within the fence perimeter. Ms. Lanahan added that the fences would keep deer out of the courtyards, which allows for a more flexible planting plan. Ms. Meyer asked how the gates would be operated; Ms. Lanahan said that she expects they would be activated by residents using transponders, but the access system is still being developed.
Secretary Luebke observed that the extent of the barriers is geometrically minimal where they are currently proposed, and he questioned whether expanding the fence outward would improve the project or be acceptable to the NPS and HPO due to the intrusion into the historic pastoral landscape. Ms. Casarella said that the HPO likely would not support increasing the extent of the fences, but said she would study the issue; Mr. Dunson agreed that the extent and placement of the fences requires further study.
Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation that the courtyard landscapes would be differentiated through more diverse plantings and distinct amenity spaces. She encouraged further differentiation of each courtyard by varying the arrangements of these elements beyond allées or bosques, perhaps using configurations such as quincunxes. She agreed with earlier comments that adjusting of the location of the entry pavilions could allow for stronger connections between the entries and surrounding public spaces, and she questioned whether the entries' adjacency to the loading docks would be necessary for everyday resident needs. Ms. Casarella said that the ability to move the location of the pavilions would be determined by the NPS, which is evaluating the project for tax credit eligibility; she said that she would consult further with the NPS regarding the feasibility of moving the pavilions to enhance the courtyards.
Ms. Meyer said that the revised design is more coherent than the previous version; Mr. Dunson agreed. Ms. Meyer offered a motion to approve the concept, encouraging the project team to meet with the other review agencies and advocate for the Commission's suggested changes to the design. She added that the differentiation between old and new is important in the design, and the Commission supports the contemporary expression of the glass entry pavilions. Mr. Dunson agreed, and he requested further documentation of the proposed fences and gates as part of the next submission. Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission members present approved the concept submission with the comments provided, subject to confirmation by a quorum. (Ms. Griffin departed the meeting prior to the vote; Vice Chairman Meyer and Mr. Dunson discussed the remaining agenda items.)
District Wharf – Introduction (agenda items II.G.2 and II.H.1)
Ms. Batcheler introduced a set of concept submissions for portions of the second phase of the Southwest Waterfront redevelopment, a project named "District Wharf" (previously known as "The Wharf"). The current submissions include the designs for four public spaces and for Water Building 1; she noted the Commission's previous review of these components in the meetings of July and 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 are listed as D.C. Government submissions from the D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, while the building proposal is submitted as a private-sector referral in accordance with the Shipstead-Luce Act. She said that Matthew Steenhoek of PN Hoffman, part of the Hoffman-Madison Waterfront team, will present the public space proposals in the absence of the landscape architects; Water Building 1 will be presented by architects Marc Kushner and Tom Orton of Hollwich Kushner Architecture.
2. CFA 19/OCT/17-9, Southwest Waterfront Development, "District Wharf." Phase II, Maine Avenue, SW, between 6th and 7th Streets. Public space elements: Wharf Promenade, M Street Landing, The Grove, and The Terrace. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 20/SEP/17-6 and CFA 20/JUL/17-4.) Mr. Steenhoek provided on overview of the District Wharf and the location of the public spaces, as described in previous presentations. He said that the only change to the context is that Water Building 3, toward the southeast end of the development near the Terrace, has been reoriented in response to the Commission's advice at the concept review: the new orientation is orthogonal to the adjacent marina slips, which conforms to the alignment of the bulkhead and buildings in the northwestern portion of the District Wharf, instead of the previous orientation that aligned with the immediately adjacent bulkhead. The modifications to the design of Water Building 3—including its lowered grade, simplified roof, and revised materials—will be included in the forthcoming final design submission.
Wharf Promenade and the Grove
Mr. Steenhoek presented the revised concept for the extension of the Wharf Promenade through the second phase of the development. He noted the Commission's previous concern about the need for continuity in the double line of London plane trees along the Washington Channel edge of the promenade, instead of the initial concept's proposed thinning to a single row at Water Building 1, change of species to a single row of Kentucky coffeetrees opposite the Grove, and a complete break in the line of trees at Water Building 2 and Marina Way. He also presented a plan of the Wharf Promenade in the first phase, which opened to the public earlier in the month; he indicated the prevailing double row of trees and the locations of breaks or a single row at some locations. He said that the revised concept for the trees along the water in the second phase would remove the four Kentucky coffeetrees opposite the Grove and would add eight more London plane trees at this location and opposite Marina Way. He said that further study of the likely extent of tree limbs in relation to Water Building 1 has confirmed the desirability of using only a single row along the front of this building. At Water Building 2, the building's cantilever toward the Wharf promenade requires omitting the trees in front of the building; the treatment is comparable to the design of the promenade along the yacht club building in the first phase. He presented perspective views and a section of the proposal, and he described the overall effect of the added trees as giving a strong continuity along the water's edge of the promenade.
Mr. Steenhoek presented the revised design for the Grove. He said that the previous design using a mix of species has now been simplified to be a grove of twelve Kentucky coffeetrees, due to the removal of the four additional coffeetrees that had been proposed on the opposite side of the Wharf promenade. He said that this simpler design would be more coherent at the smaller scale that the Grove's design would encompass; however, additional visual interest could be provided by selecting individual coffeetrees that have some variety in their forms. He said that the other design elements of the Grove remain unchanged, including the stepped ground plane and the surface of decomposed granite.
Vice Chairman Meyer suggested acting on these public spaces before continuing with the presentation. Mr. Dunson expressed support for the revised concepts and offered a motion to approve them; upon a second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission adopted this action, subject to confirmation by a quorum.
M Street Landing
Mr. Steenhoek presented the revised concept for the M Street Landing park to address the Commission's concern with the relationship between this park and the Parcel 10 building. He said that the design teams for these two projects—Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates for the park and Morris Adjmi Architects for the building—worked together to address the Commission's previous comments. The resulting proposal is to extend the stepped seating at the western corner of the Parcel 10 building into the M Street Landing space, providing a stronger sense that the seating is part of the park instead of being perceived as a wall at the park's edge. The form of the extended seating has been developed using the geometry of the park design, while still relating to the architecture of the building. He said that the outdoor area around the recessed second floor, above the building's podium, would remain a private outdoor space, but stepped seating is now proposed at its edge in order to continue the sense that the building relates to the park. He presented plans and perspective views of the revised design, indicated the stepped seating's organic form and larger area that will provide an improved social space for the public.
Ms. Meyer commented that this design revision is a significant improvement, allowing the stepped seating at the building's corner to serve as a transition between open spaces. She noted the success of the additional collaboration between the design teams, as requested by the Commission, and expressed appreciation for bringing them together. Mr. Dunson agreed that the design is improved. He observed that the more organic treatment of the corner of the building's podium results in the loss of the previous clarity of the architectural concept—the rotated relationship of two rectangular volumes—but the benefit of the revised design outweighs this loss. Mr. Steenhoek confirmed that Mr. Adjmi was initially reluctant to accept the revision to the rectilinear concept for the building but ended up supporting the resulting design; he said that bringing the design teams together was very useful. Mr. Dunson and Ms. Meyer summarized their support for the revised concept for the edge of the M Street Landing park at Parcel 10.
Mr. Steenhoek presented the revised design for the Terrace, a park adjacent to the southeastern edge of Parcel 10 that is being designed by Wolf/Josey Landscape Architects. He noted the Commission's previous dissatisfaction with the proposed line of seven cherry trees and with the orientation of the stepped seating toward the largely blank northeast facade of Water Building 3. He said that the design team has more carefully studied the likely use of the seating, the cohesiveness of the planting palette, and the relationship of the park to Water Building 3. The revised design introduces a large curved seating edge that relates more closely to the adjacent Waterfront Park; the linear elements that remain in the design will serve to relate the Terrace to the adjacent building facades. He said that the newly rotated orientation of Water Building 3 allows for two directions of views from the Terrace, which are emphasized in the revised layout of the landscape design: one view corridor opens southward down the Washington Channel, and the other view opens westward across the marina docks. He indicated the shade trees that would be placed along the curved seating edge; their location has been determined through study of the sun's path. He said that the planting palette for the park has been made more consistent, with a mix of American elm and swamp white oak as shade trees and serviceberry as understory trees; he also indicated the additional tree cover along the Wharf Promenade. He described the resulting design as softer and more park-like. He presented a context plan illustrating the relationship of the Terrace to the Waterfront Park, along with a perspective view looking west, where the sunset would be framed by trees.
Mr. Dunson described the revised proposal as a vast improvement that results from the revised orientation of Water Building 3. Vice Chairman Meyer agreed, noting that few comments are being provided because the presented design works well. She said that the concept submissions for the open spaces had previously been approved, and no further action is needed today. Mr. Luebke said that the supportive comments would be conveyed in a letter and would be listed on the next meeting's agenda for confirmation by a quorum. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
H. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
1. SL 18-002, Southwest Waterfront Development, "District Wharf." Phase II, Water Building 1, 670 Maine Avenue, SW. New marina services and retail building. Concept. (Previous: SL 17-167, September 2017.) Mr. Kushner of Hollwich Kushner Architecture expressed appreciation for the clarity of the Commission's previous guidance on Water Building 1, and he said that the design revisions have resulted in a more elegant building. Mr. Orton of Hollwich Kushner Architecture presented the design response. He described the further effort to relate the building to the master plan and the nearby buildings, as requested by the Commission; the goals also included strengthening the engagement of the building with the Wharf Promenade and the pedestrian experience. He said that the Commission had been concerned with the large-scale gestures and over-expressiveness of this building, and with the lack of cohesiveness among the water buildings along the Wharf Promenade.
Mr. Orton indicated the siting of the building, which has not changed; he emphasized the alignment of the building's southeast edge with the southeast edge of Parcel 7, which is being combined with Parcel 6 to accommodate a large building that will have the open space of the Oculus at its center. Further to the southeast, Water Building 2 will be sited across from Parcel 8, with Marina Way leading from Maine Avenue to the Wharf Promenade. He said that this configuration of buildings and open spaces results in several locations where pedestrians will emerge onto the promenade and have an initial view of the water buildings, the Washington Channel, and the tree-lined promenade itself.
Mr. Orton described the previous design inspiration of the wood bulkhead along the promenade; the current proposal is based on the more finely grained element of the thin linear bench that extends along the promenade. The concept remains of an exposed double-height truss between the ground plane and the roof; the roofline would repeat the thin dimension of the bench, lifted up by the truss that wraps the building. Behind the truss, the simple two-story glass facades would clearly reveal the interior program spaces of the building. He said that the resulting concept is a truss that connects two thin bands at the top and bottom of the building, instead of two heavy bulkheads as previously proposed. He described the improved integration of Water Building 1 with the consistent design of the Wharf Promenade, using the bench as the unifying element: a segment of the bench would be located within one portion of the truss; the continuous line of the bench would be lifted up by the truss to continue at the roof level; and the bench would be deflected horizontally to follow the edges of the site extending into the Washington Channel. The breaks in the line of the bench would be located where necessary for access to the building and the narrow open spaces along its edges. He said that the simplicity of the current design is reinforced at the roof terrace by the simple glass railing that is set back from the edge of the roof plane behind a planted edge, resulting in a much less bulky appearance for the upper part of the building without reducing the height of the interior space. He added that the rooftop planting would relate this building to the terraced plantings at the Parcel 8 building and to the landscape of the Grove. He presented a perspective view of the current design seen from the Grove, in comparison to a view of the previous design from the same location; he said that the new design fits more comfortably within the context.
Mr. Orton described additional revisions to the design details. The bench height would be 22 inches, expressed in portions of the bottom chord of the truss and repeated as the top chord. The thickness of the diagonal truss members has been reduced from 22 to 18 inches. The material palette has been revised to relate better to the warm tones of the District Wharf's other buildings, particularly the water buildings: the window mullions and penthouse wall panels would have a bronze finish, while the truss would remain as painted steel. The interior plans are largely unchanged with large restaurant spaces on each level; the entrance to the marina services staff area has been moved from the promenade facade to the side of the building, in order to allow for the placement of a segment of bench along the promenade. The section is also largely unchanged, with minor revisions due to the thinner detailing of the roof edge. He said that the elevations convey the new design intent, with a more horizontal character for the building. The simple glazing of the facades would include many sliding windows to allow the interior space to be opened to the exterior; with interior ceiling heights of fifteen feet and the thinner diagonal members of the exterior truss, the design emphasizes the expansive views toward the Washington Channel marina and East Potomac Park beyond. He concluded with a view of Water Building 1 within its context, illustrating the relationship of this building to the base of the Parcel 6/7 building, the Terrace, Parcel 8, and the horizontal datum of the Wharf Promenade; he summarized the effort to design a building with a unique character as well as a sympathetic relationship to the context.
Mr. Dunson commented that the new proposal responds to the Commission's previous comments, and he described the result as an elegant building in contrast to the very ponderous design that was presented in September 2017. He especially cited the description in the presentation of the careful attention to scale, continuous alignments, and material selection to relate this building to the rest of the District Wharf. He said that the window mullions appear to be wood in the new renderings; Mr. Orton clarified that they would still be metal, but with a different finish color. Mr. Dunson said that this color change establishes a better contrast between the exterior truss and the building envelope, and the interior space and solid internal core can now be understood more clearly from the exterior. He summarized that the new design is a much more successful solution for this building.
Ms. Meyer agreed with Mr. Dunson's support for the project. She recalled the Commission's previous dissatisfaction that each project was being designed as a separate project with its own features, while the aggregation of the projects was not as successful. She expressed appreciation for the effort to develop a more sympathetic design that still has a distinct character, resulting in a building that can be understood as part of a series of buildings that are idiosyncratic but related. She said that this design evolution is exciting, and the city is benefitting from the quality of the architects who are working on this development.
Ms. Meyer suggested careful detailing of the bench design to avoid any later revisions that would detract from the design's elegance. She said that the 22-inch height of the bench may be too high for optimal seating comfort; but the height and width of the bench may affect the potential need for safety railings, which would be an undesirable added design element. Mr. Orton said that the bench detailing will be studied further; wood seating may be added, and the height of the seating surface could be lowered slightly within the overall bench configuration. Ms. Meyer supported this potential development of the bench detailing, and she emphasized the importance of such details in the success of the design.
Mr. Dunson reiterated his support for the elegance of the current design in comparison to the previous version, and he suggested approval of the concept with the comments provided. Ms. Meyer agreed in supporting approval, subject to confirmation by a quorum at the Commission's next meeting. Ms. Batcheler noted that the project team could move forward from the concept level, notwithstanding the month's delay in confirming an official action.
2. SL 18-003, Federal Center SW Metro Station entrance, 409 3rd Street, SW. Installation of a circular LED digital screen on ceiling above the Metro escalators. Concept. The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.E.2.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:54 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA