The meeting was convened in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, at 9:14 a.m.
Hon. Edward Dunson
Hon. Liza Gilbert
Hon. Toni Griffin
Hon. Alex Krieger
Hon. Mia Lehrer
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
In the absence of Chairman Powell and Vice Chairman Meyer, Mr. Krieger presided.
A. Approval of the minutes of the 19 October meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the October meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission approved the minutes.
Mr. Luebke also reported that the bound volumes of the Commission’s past minutes, dating from 1910 through 2002, have recently been scanned into digital form. The digital format is available on-line, with access through the Commission’s website, allowing members of the public to use these resources without having to visit the Commission’s offices.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 18 January 2018, 15 February 2018, and 15 March 2018. He noted that no meeting is scheduled in December.
C. Introduction of the new staff Administrative Officer. Mr. Luebke introduced Trenice Hall, who joined the Commission staff earlier in the week following the retirement of Phyllis Roderer at the end of October. He noted Ms. Hall’s eleven years of federal government service, most recently as an administrative officer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. He summarized her experience with managing budgets, contracts, personnel, and procurement, which will be valuable in her future work for the Commission. Chairman Powell joined in welcoming Ms. Hall to the staff.
D. Confirmation of the approval of the design for a Congressional Gold Medal to honor Senator Bob Dole. Mr. Luebke asked the Commission to take a formal vote to confirm the design recommendation for a Congressional Gold Medal honoring Senator Bob Dole. To accommodate the need to issue the medal in 2017, the single proposals for the obverse and reverse were circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting for an expedited review. Upon a motion by Ms. Lehrer with second by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission confirmed the approval of the submitted design.
E. Confirmation of the recommendations from the October 2017 meeting after the loss of a quorum. Mr. Luebke said that a formal action is needed concerning five submissions reviewed the previous month without a quorum. He noted that the members present had made recommendations which were conveyed in letters sent to the applicants and distributed to the Commission. He listed the projects requiring action:
CFA 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.)
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.)
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)
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)
SL 18-003, Federal Center SW WMATA Metro Station entrance, 409 3rd Street, SW. Installation of a circular LED digital screen on ceiling above the Metro escalators. Concept.
Mr. Luebke noted that the last of these cases, for the ceiling display above a Metro entrance, is sponsored by the Museum of the Bible, which will open to the public later this week. Upon a motion by Ms. Gilbert with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted the October recommendations for these five projects.
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 reported a correction from the draft appendix to list the stormwater management project at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall (case number CFA 16/NOV/17-b) as a final design, not a concept. The Commission approved the revised Government Submissions Consent Calendar. (See agenda item II.B for an additional project at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.)
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported that four projects on the draft appendix have been removed (case numbers SL 18-011, 18-012, 18-014, and 18-015); these projects will likely be included on the appendix in January. The recommendations for two projects have been revised to be favorable based on further coordination with the applicants (case numbers SL 18-009 and 18-013); she noted that the revision for case number SL 18-013 is subject to the anticipated receipt of supplemental materials, and 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: Mr. Mellon said that no changes have been made to the draft appendix, which includes 26 projects. He noted that one project is listed with a negative recommendation (case number OG 17-357). 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.F and II.H. 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.
F. National Park Service
CFA 16/NOV/17-5, Anacostia River Trail at the U.S. National Arboretum and Anacostia Park. New pedestrian/bicycle bridge over the Anacostia River. Concept. Mr. Krieger commented that the proposed bridge will be a welcome amenity and appears to be well designed. Ms. Gilbert suggested that a more restrained range of color for the bridge, perhaps monochromatic, would result in a more elegant design. She also suggested the need for a maintenance plan to protect the cleared areas that are proposed, such as the managed meadow, so that they will not be overtaken by invasive plants.
H. District of Columbia Department of General Services
CFA 16/NOV/17-8, Maury Elementary School, 1250 Constitution Avenue, NE. Building renovation and addition. Concept. Mr. Krieger commented that the proposed treatment of the corner of the school building appears overly aggressive, with a wedge-shaped mass embedded into the edge. He suggested refining the design of this area as the design is developed, in consultation with the staff.
Upon a motion by Ms. Griffin, the Commission approved the concept designs for the pedestrian bridge and for Maury Elementary School, with the comments provided.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B.
B. U.S. Department of Defense / Department of the Army
CFA 16/NOV/17-1, Joint Base Myer–Henderson Hall, Arlington, Virginia. Security fence between Joint Base Myer–Henderson Hall and Arlington National Cemetery. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal for a security fence to be constructed along the boundary wall between Arlington National Cemetery and the combined military base of Fort Myer and Henderson Hall. He asked Antoine Plessy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin the presentation.
Mr. Plessy said that the project is a joint effort of the Army Corps’s Baltimore District with Joint Base Myer–Henderson Hall and the engineering firm of Jacobs. The project scope is to construct a security fence, with several entry gates and an intrusion detection system, along the shared boundary of Arlington National Cemetery and Myer–Henderson Hall, comprising approximately 10,000 linear feet, or almost two miles. He characterized the current condition of the boundary as an emergency situation: the cemetery’s existing historic stone wall is too low to deter trespassers between the cemetery and the base, and the cemetery’s visitors include many foreign nationals who could enter Myer–Henderson Hall simply by climbing the wall in areas where it is not monitored. He emphasized that the security fence is needed to meet minimum anti-terrorism requirements for the military base. He introduced landscape architect Brett Nein of Jacobs Engineering Group to present the proposal.
Mr. Nein described the project’s goal as addressing security needs for the base while remaining sensitive to the historic context of the cemetery and its stone boundary wall. He said the presentation illustrates vignettes of the entire length of the project, from north to south, and also before and after images of particular segments. The gates affected include, from north to south: Wright, Millennium, Old Post Chapel, Selfridge, Memorial, Hobson, and Henderson (Gate 3). The presentation book includes views of each gate demonstrating how it would work, and provides information on their average daily traffic; the busiest are the Selfridge Gate and the Old Post Chapel Gate.
Mr. Nein said that the new barrier is proposed to be an eight-foot-tall anti-climb fence, with vehicle gates comprising sliding horizontal bars and two vertical posts placed in front of the historic gate posts. While not a traditional vehicle barrier, this design was chosen because the horizontal bars will have less visual impact on the existing historic cemetery gates. He said this fence would be a clean, simple design, constructed in dark bronze or black steel in order to fade into the visual context. Historically, the cemetery and the base have used many different types of fence for various purposes, but there is no existing model for a perimeter security fence. New fencing will not be required at the gates because it already exists at these locations. The average distance between the fence and the wall would be thirteen or fourteen feet; in some places, the distance would be narrower because of existing walks, while in others it may be much wider. The fence alignment will be extensively modulated to accommodate existing mature trees, particularly in the areas around the Millennium Gate and the Selfridge Gate.
Mr. Nein said that new or enhanced plantings would augment the landscape in many areas so that when someone looks toward the fence from the cemetery, it will be mostly or entirely hidden behind the wall and plantings. Any trees removed for the fence installation would be replaced. A new perimeter path for Myer–Henderson Hall would be built adjacent to the fence. Existing light fixtures would be reused along the new pedestrian routes; poles supporting security cameras would be nondescript to blend in with their surroundings, and most would be located on the opposite side of the path from the cemetery wall.
Mr. Nein presented the proposed alignment in greater detail. At the Wright Gate, the fence line would vary slightly relative to the wall, to avoid new plantings and stands of mature trees. Moving south toward the Millennium area, the distance between the wall and fence would vary from eleven to thirty-four feet, narrowing near the Millennium Gate to a range of six to thirteen feet. This gate, located behind the Old Post Chapel, is used primarily by maintenance vehicles. At the Old Post Chapel, new landscape areas would be installed around the chapel’s parking lot; the fence route would weave considerably to avoid mature trees. The path would be moved to the border of the parking lot for greater separation between wall and fence, and new paths would be added as necessary for continuity in the perimeter circulation.
Mr. Nein described how operations proceed at the Old Post Chapel. Up to four funeral services are held there daily, and the band, the caisson, and visitors’ vehicles each follow distinct routes when departing to the cemetery or returning through the parking lot. Two alternatives were considered for the redesign. In the first option, the parking lot would be reconfigured and expanded, resulting in a larger dedicated area for the band muster and providing a new circulation route through the parking lot. The fence would be installed along the east and south sides. The design would function similarly to the present configuration, requiring only changes to the routes followed by vehicles through the parking lot. He confirmed that the existing Millennium Gate would remain. The second option explores moving the fence away from the wall alignment, bringing it out to the north and west sides of the Old Post Chapel and its parking lot. This change would probably require installing a new gate off McNair Road and creating more parking. This option would be more complicated than the first; caissons would follow the same route as they do now but buses, limousines, and cars would have to enter the parking lot through the cemetery. The cemetery gate would remain open; if a new gate were created off of McNair Road, it is likely that security measures, such as vehicle inspection and visitor clearance, would be required here since vehicles would not have already been cleared to enter the military base. This might require the creation of a loading and staging area off McNair Road and increased traffic congestion. A new pedestrian security gate would be needed, along with the new vehicle gate at McNair Road. During the day, the Old Post Chapel Gate would be open and the vehicle barrier would slide behind the existing guard house. At night, when the gate is closed, the vehicle barrier would slide in front of the historic gate.
Mr. Nein described the proposed treatment around the Selfridge Gate near the Memorial Chapel, a building frequently used for larger weddings and funeral services than can be accommodated at the Old Post Chapel. A small area for outdoor events would be created near the chapel, with a design based on the chapel’s architecture; a small vehicle access area would be built for staging. The entrance gate itself would be moved from the historic wall out to the new fence line to avoid redundancy. At one point, the fence would be located fifty feet from the wall to accommodate existing trees. Located at the back of the parking lot is a small memorial, dedicated in 2009 to the victims of the Bakers Creek air crash in World War II; its setting would be improved with new plantings and a new path.
Mr. Nein said that the Memorial Chapel Gate, located south of the Memorial Chapel, would be treated in the same way as the Selfridge Gate, with the gate moved farther from the wall. A jog in the fence line would allow room for a vehicle storage area and for the introduction of additional security measures, such as bollards connected by a chain, to prevent vehicles from driving into the buffer area between the wall and fence. The bollard and chain feature would also warn pedestrians to stay out of this area, and would allow the Memorial Chapel Gate to be closed while the cemetery gate remains open. Mr. Krieger asked if the turn from the gate into the buffer area would be difficult for any vehicle; Mr. Nein responded that it would be difficult, both here and throughout the length of the buffer area.
Mr. Nein described the area south of Memorial Chapel, where Carpenter Road and Hobson Drive intersect. The existing path is located on the west side of the road. Parking is located at a tight corner in Hobson Drive; many spaces would be removed to allow room for the new fence and landscaping. The fence alignment here would make a couple of sharp turns, and the distance separating the fence and wall would be maintained at fourteen feet. The reduction in the size of the parking lot would improve circulation, with fewer cars having to back out into Hobson Drive. Hobson Gate, located near the corner of Carpenter Road and Hobson Drive, is no longer much used and would be permanently closed. The fence here would not include a gate, but the area would be large enough and landscaped in such a way as to permit the future reinstallation of a gate. The new fence would end at the Henderson Gate, also known as Gate 3, where it would tie into the existing fence system and guardhouse. A new parking lot would be built here to replace the parking spaces removed from other locations during construction. The lot would have large bioswales, and some parking spaces would be planted with grass to facilitate drainage into the swales.
Mr. Nein concluded by noting that the available area along the east side of McNair Road is narrow, and the proposal is to move the pedestrian path from the east side of the road to the west. This shift would avoid utilities and allow the existing lighting along the roadway to remain in place. He confirmed that the proposed height of the fence is eight feet and that it would be an anti-climb fence.
Mr. Krieger asked whether the addition of a new gate at the Old Post Gate is necessary. Mr. Nein responded that the existing Old Post Gate is beautiful and provides adequate defense against climbing, but the new gate would add a vehicle barrier. Noting that the existing stone wall is 150 years old, Mr. Krieger asked why a new parallel fence is now needed. Mr. Plessy responded that a fence is needed to provide anti-terrorism protection for Myer– Henderson Hall; people visiting the cemetery have jumped over the wall onto the military base, with fifteen such occurrences in 2017.
Commenting on the prestige of Arlington National Cemetery and Joint Base Myer–Henderson Hall, Ms. Griffin recommended choosing a fence color other than black, which is always the default color chosen for fences and suggests a commercial use. She noted the range of color options available. She suggested that a sense of hierarchy could be created at the entrances, where the fence color could relate more to the brick and stone palette of the piers and thus blend in more effectively. She observed that a fence of this length would necessarily be expensive, no matter what color is chosen. Mr. Nein responded that a black fence tends to blend in with a landscape and creates the least visual obstruction; but in certain locations, such as around the Memorial Chapel, the fence would be so close to the wall that a compatible color could be considered. Ms. Griffin said that mockups should be placed in different areas of the campus as the concept designs are developed. She suggested that a bronze-colored fence would be similar in color to tree bark and may not be obtrusive in a wooded area. Mr. Nein agreed to consider other colors.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the fence will have to be adjusted to many different existing conditions. She suggested that instead of using a zigzag alignment around heritage trees, a rectilinear niche be created, which would serve as a more emphatic marker of a tree’s location; also, when a tree eventually dies, it would be more likely to be replaced because it has a defined site. She recommended further refinement of the fence alignment in these wider areas, taking advantage of opportunities to create designed spaces. Indicating the southeast corner of the parking lot at the Old Post Chapel, she suggested that the fence could be placed behind the large tree here instead of angled around it.
Ms. Gilbert observed that the proposed alignment appears most successful where it is farther from the wall. She said that at many places along the proposed alignment, more room could be made to allow for the creation of landscape character, stressing that this character depends not only on new plantings but also on the alignment itself. She emphasized the need to be thoughtful about the placement of the fence and the importance of allowing enough space for the wall in other areas than at the gates. Ms. Gilbert said that any readjustment of the fence alignment would be more successful if the fence is treated as a design element with its own language, separate from the wall.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the proposed condition at the Millennium Gate, where bollards would be introduced and the fence would be close to the wall, appears to be problematic. Mr. Nein responded that this gate would not be much used except by maintenance vehicles. Ms. Gilbert asked if the bollards are even needed at this gate, where the radius appears too tight for a vehicle to turn into the buffer area. Mr. Nein responded that the buffer area needs to be secured because the cemetery gate remains open, and a person could enter the area between the fence and wall and remain almost hidden. Mr. Krieger suggested a non-climbable fence instead of bollards. Mr. Nein said the fence could connect back to the wall, although it would have to come down to the wall’s lower height. Secretary Luebke said this topic had been discussed with the staff, and the original scheme did have this type of fence return; however, the staff had recommended treating the fence as its own structure, distinct from the wall. He added that such a low barrier would never stop a pedestrian from entering this space, but a bollard barrier is required to stop a vehicle. Mr. Nein said the team would reconsider this element.
Mr. Dunson asked how the fence height had been determined—whether it had been an aesthetic decision to make the fence as tall as possible without being too visible, or whether it had been a practical decision that it should be tall enough to deter climbing over it. Mr. Nein responded that the selected height was the lowest possible to be both aesthetically acceptable and still meet specific anti-climb standards.
Mr. Krieger noted the explanation that the fence and the wall would not often be placed near each other. He asked about the possibility of moving the fence further back than proposed in some places, and what considerations might limit the ability to move the fence in such areas. Mr. Nein responded that the considerations include the operational needs of the base. He said that as the final design is developed, the project team could again consider where more space can be created between the fence and wall while still maintaining the required level of security.
Mr. Luebke noted that the project had undergone a major conceptual change when the perimeter jogging path was moved to the inside of the road, a change which had also improved the buffer area. Mr. Nein agreed and said that the design is intended to solve two issues— maintaining the perimeter path and creating a secure border.
Referring to the gate manufacturer’s photograph and drawings on p. 40 of the presentation booklet, Mr. Krieger asked whether the depicted face of the gate would be toward the military base or the cemetery; Mr. Nein responded that it shows the fence and gate on the military base side, and the cemetery’s existing fence components would remain behind it. Mr. Krieger observed that most people would see the area from the cemetery side, with the fence in the background behind the cemetery’s boundary wall.
Mr. Krieger asked why the first option for the Old Post Chapel area is presented as preferable to the second. Mr. Nein responded that the first option is better due to security issues and the need to maintain operational continuity on the Myer–Henderson Hall side. Mr. Luebke said that the staff had encouraged the project team to pursue the second option because, among many other reasons, it would move the congestion resulting from the daily funeral services away from that gate and because it would be easier for visitors to attend a funeral if they could stay outside the military base’s security perimeter. He said that another concern is that the Old Post Chapel has historically been perceived as being in the cemetery, even though it is actually part of Fort Myer, but he acknowledged the necessity of working with the project boundaries.
Ms. Lehrer thanked the project team for a thorough presentation, particularly commending the graphics and the model. She offered a motion approving the concept, subject to the comments provided about color and varying the distance of the fence from the wall. Upon a second by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission adopted this action.
C. U.S. General Services Administration
CFA 16/NOV/17-2, Department of Homeland Security Headquarters, St. Elizabeths West Campus, 2700 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE. Center Building. West Addition (Building 54). Final. (Previous: CFA 20/OCT/16-4.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposed final design for the West Addition to the historic Center Building, as part of the adaptive reuse of the St. Elizabeths West Campus for the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. She noted that an earlier design team—the architecture firm Goody Clancy and the landscape architecture firm Rhodeside & Harwell—had developed the West Addition through the concept stage, as reviewed by the Commission in October 2016. For the current submission, the design team includes architect Shalom Baranes of Shalom Baranes Associates and landscape architect Jane Jacobs of John Milner Associates.
Mr. Baranes said that the current design responds to the concerns raised by the Commission during the concept review in October 2016, while generally retaining the design that was developed by Goody Clancy. He presented an image from the master plan for the overall headquarters project, indicating the intended addition to the Center Building in approximately the location of the current proposal. The design for the West Addition is organized around a north-south circulation spine that would extend to the western portion of the Center Building. He summarized the Commission’s comments on the concept submission from 2016: the entrance was not sufficiently monumental and expressive for a building of this size; the landscape design around the entrance walk was unsatisfactory; the expression of the circulation spine as a glass volume on the front facade was too undifferentiated; and the vertical elements of terra cotta were too similar on each facade, without consideration of solar orientation.
Mr. Baranes presented the proposed final design. The expression of the entrance has been revised to include a two-story volume with a glass facade that projects four feet forward from the building’s recessed brick base; the entrance would also be highlighted with a projecting canopy. He said that this treatment would make the entrance legible to people approaching from either the east or the west. The entrance was previously centered on the south facade of the building’s western volume; it has now been shifted toward the left portion of this facade, providing an asymmetry that is consistent with the building’s asymmetry and with the topography that descends toward the west. He said that the overall effect is of the building cascading down the hill.
Mr. Baranes described the revisions to the exterior of the glass-enclosed circulation spine. The glass had previously been shown extending to the ground on the south facade; the current proposal is to add a brick base below the glass that would be slightly lower than the adjacent base of the building volumes. The glass facades would also be articulated with fins, shadow boxes, mullions, and fritted glass, introducing a complex rhythm that relates to the interior uses and the building columns. He said that these features would give the appearance of a punctuated facade with visual complexity. Mr. Krieger asked for clarification of the material for the base, observing that the drawings give the appearance of large concrete blocks with wide joints. Mr. Baranes responded that ordinary-sized brick would be used, matching the brick size of the historic Center Building, and the mortar joints would be slightly recessed; he said that the apparent larger scale seen in the perspective drawings may just be a result of the computer rendering technique.
Mr. Baranes presented the revisions to the facades of the upper stories. The rhythm of the vertical windows and terra cotta panels has been adjusted, with terra cotta fins added on the west facade to provide screening from the afternoon sun as well as a visual sense of depth. He said that the fins would shade approximately thirty to forty percent of the west facade.
Mr. Baranes described the proposed entrance plaza, greatly enlarged from the entrance walk that was previously presented. He said that the previous design was constrained by the slope of the sidewalk along Birch Street on the south, descending from the elevated terrain to the east; in order to keep the sidewalk slope sufficiently shallow, it had extended to near the southwest corner of the site to reach the entrance level. The current proposal eliminates this sidewalk, relying instead on the opposite sidewalk along the south side of Birch Street, connected by a crosswalk to the West Addition entrance. This revision allows for steeper terrain and a larger, relatively flat entrance plaza. He asked landscape architect Jane Jacobs to provide a further presentation of the site design.
Ms. Jacobs said that the overall goal of the site design is to respect the historic features of the West Campus cultural landscape, while accommodating new uses including this building. The issues in the site design have included the context, topography, circulation, vegetation, and hardscape materials. She described the context as a grouping of historic buildings, including the Center Building, along with the associated landscape; the site is at the transition between a plateau and a steep ravine, with a drop of approximately ten feet toward the southwest corner. The proposed site plan extends the historic plantings and spatial pattern of the campus, with clusters of trees interspersed among open lawns, continuing the pastoral character that survives in remnants near the Center Building while also responding to the topography. She added that the placement of trees also responds to views, shade, and the location of underground utilities and vaults.
Ms. Jacobs indicated the streets adjoining the site on the south and west, along with the service drive on the east that would provide truck access to the Center Building’s loading dock. The north side of the site is configured as two narrow landscaped open spaces, to either side of the connecting link between Building 54 and the Center Building; the northeastern space would include an emergency egress walk leading to the service drive, and the northwestern space would include an extension of the brick sidewalk around the westernmost wing of the Center Building, consistent with its historic edge treatment. She said that these areas could be suitable for informal seating and lunchtime use. Plantings in these narrow areas would include lawn and shrubs; the shrubs would provide color, texture, variety, and visual screening of the adjacent loading dock.
Ms. Jacobs said that the treatment of Building 54’s main entrance, toward the southwest corner of the site, is based on a study of historic building entrances on the campus. While the walks in the landscape are typically curved, the entrances to the more important buildings are formalized with an axial treatment, suggesting a ceremonial approach to the main doorway; she said that the proposal uses this design approach. The entrance area has been enlarged to accommodate the large number of people who will be using it, many of them approaching from the large parking garage across the street to the west. She indicated the low retaining walls along the edges of the entrance plaza and sidewalk, serving as seating walls. The trees adjacent to the plaza would provide shade, spatial definition, and a scale transition between the building and the low retaining walls; the two largest trees proposed for the site—with a mature height of sixty to seventy feet—would broadly frame the entrance plaza.
Ms. Jacobs said that the material and plant selections are based on a study of the context. The retaining walls would be fieldstone with a slate cap. The plantings would be low-maintenance and tolerant of deer and drought. She presented a range of shrubs being considered, with the exact specification to be determined after further study of the soil conditions.
Ms. Griffin asked for clarification of why the design no longer includes a continuous sidewalk on the south edge of the site, along the north side of Birch Street; she said that extending the proposed segment of sidewalk at the site’s southwest corner would appear to be a straightforward feature. Mr. Baranes responded that the decision results from the slope along Birch Street: in order to provide a sidewalk with a slope that is shallow enough to be compliant with accessibility regulations, a switchback configuration would be needed to descend to the grade of the proposed entrance plaza. This switchback configuration had been included in the concept submission but has been removed from the current proposal, resulting in less need for substantial re-grading. Ms. Griffin commented that pedestrians would likely be annoyed by the lack of choices for moving around the site; the approach to Building 54 from the edge of the campus along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue would be especially problematic. She encouraged further consideration of revising the proposal to include a sidewalk along the north side of Birch Street. Mr. Luebke added that the staff has also supported including this sidewalk; he said that an alignment away from the curb could provide more flexibility in achieving the necessary grade change, while also allowing design consistency with the more organic layout of historic walks around the Center Building. He also noted that the grade of the entire site would be altered as part of the current proposal. Ms. Griffin commented that the increasing employee population on the campus results in greater need to accommodate pedestrians, and she urged developing a site design that better supports the increasingly urban character of the campus. She discouraged the proposed solution of requiring pedestrians to cross Birch Street, or walk within the street, when moving between Building 54 and areas to the east.
Ms. Griffin observed that the presentation drawings show square or rectangular pavers in a regular pattern; she questioned whether this design would be consistent with the irregular facade pattern of the proposed building. Ms. Jacobs responded that the paving design is still under consideration, including study of other patterns as well as variation in texture and color.
Ms. Gilbert asked for clarification of the tapering in the seating wall design in relation to the grade changes around the entrance plaza; she suggested that the seating height be continued for the entire length of the walls. Ms. Jacobs responded that this is the intent, and the complex grading is still being resolved within this constrained area. Ms. Gilbert observed that the site drawings for the previous design had suggested a rougher surface texture such as groundcover, while the current proposal appears to use only grass; she suggested further consideration of groundcover for the steep, narrow areas near the building entrance, citing its easier maintenance as well as visual interest. Ms. Jacobs agreed and said that groundcover remains under consideration.
Mr. Krieger commented that the building design has improved substantially, and he commended the revisions to the concept submission; he cited the reduced flatness of the facade, the adjustments in response to solar orientation, and the improved design for the entrance area. He offered several suggestions for further refinement of the design. He observed that the color of the brick and terra cotta appear to be very similar—perhaps intended to match, although this would not be feasible; he instead suggested a more distinct color difference between these two materials. He said that the recessed brick base appears darker in some drawings, perhaps due to the depiction of shadow, and this contrast enhances the relationship of the base to the building mass above. Ms. Wright asked for clarification of whether the contrast should be from the color value or a difference in the color itself; Mr. Krieger said that both could be adjusted. Mr. Dunson said that the design concern is that the upper volumes, marked by vertical fins, should appear to float above the base; this effect would be enhanced by more differentiation between the materials. Mr. Baranes responded that the proposed brick color has been selected to relate well to the historic brick of the Center Building, and the adjustment should therefore be to the color of the terra cotta. He said that an alternative sample of terra cotta, not shown at today’s meeting, is slightly darker with a more brown color, and this selection may address the Commission’s concern. Mr. Krieger encouraged further consideration of the material specification.
Mr. Krieger said that the expression of the stair tower on the south facade has improved, including the continuation of the base in this area. He suggested that the dark, prominent horizontal lines of the office facades should be extended across the glass of the stair tower to reduce the sense of a gap in this portion of the facade. He recalled a comment by the late architect Charles Gwathmey that such horizontal banding would ideally encircle the entire building. Mr. Baranes offered to study this further; Mr. Krieger said that he would accept the design team’s resulting decision.
Mr. Krieger commented that the proposed glass connection between the Center Building and the north side of Building 54 would ideally be expressed as a two-story-high bridge spanning a ground-level opening; instead, the connection is three stories high rising directly from the ground, perhaps due to programmatic needs. He suggested providing a short masonry base for this connection, comparable to the base that is now proposed for the glass stair tower on the south facade, so that the glass facades of the connection do not terminate abruptly at the ground. For the entrance plaza, Mr. Krieger commented that the fieldstone seating walls would be an interesting feature. However, he observed that their ends appear to collide with the building facade, and he recommended more elegant detailing of these intersections. Mr. Baranes offered to study all of these suggested modifications.
Mr. Krieger disagreed with Ms. Griffin that additional sidewalks are needed. He observed that this campus was historically intended as a pastoral landscape and will likely remain that way; it is not expected to take on the character of an urban downtown area. Sidewalks are therefore not necessary along all street edges, particularly along a service drive that will likely have few pedestrians. He said that the grade problems provide ample justification for omitting the sidewalk on the south, along Birch Street; he added that the reason for omitting the sidewalk on the west, along Cedar Drive, has not been provided. Mr. Luebke noted the varying opinions of the Commission members and requested clear guidance on this issue. Ms. Griffin emphasized that the function of the campus is changing; Mr. Krieger said that the change is only moderate. He observed that the proposed building does not have additional entrances on the sides; Ms. Griffin said that nonetheless the campus is shifting to a larger population of workers, who will make use of facilities at various locations on the campus, and the result will be many pedestrians. She acknowledged that the campus will not have a downtown character but said that it should provide a safe and pleasant walking environment for pedestrians, rather than a more suburban situation of people having to walk in the grass or on the street.
Ms. Gilbert observed that no sidewalk is present on the north side of Birch Street along the next block to the east of Building 54, where the historic Creamery building is located. Mr. Krieger also emphasized that the street separating this block is merely the service drive. Ms. Gilbert asked if the future redevelopment of the Creamery will include a sidewalk along this edge. Edmund Newman, the Building 54 project manager from the General Services Administration, responded that historic buildings to the east come directly to the street, and therefore no sidewalk is planned along that side of Birch Street. He added that the proposed service drive could have an unwanted convergence of pedestrians and truck traffic, providing an additional reason for discouraging pedestrian use of this area. He also noted that the allowed traffic on the campus is limited, and pedestrian use of the extensive street system is therefore being encouraged. He said that the broader circulation intent is a continuous, barrier-free, and clearly marked route for pedestrians that will extend from the large parking garage on the west to the entrance gate along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue on the east. The sidewalk along the south side of Birch Street would be part of this route. Ms. Gilbert observed that this larger pedestrian circulation pattern would concentrate many street crossings near the intersection of Birch Street and Cedar Drive.
Mr. Krieger summarized his view that an additional sidewalk along Birch Street should not be a high priority, particularly if it requires returning to the previous layout for the entrance plaza which awkwardly pushed the entrance point further toward the southwest corner of the site. Ms. Griffin said that the decisions about specific sidewalks should be based on the overall circulation plan for the campus, with consideration of where people enter the campus along its perimeter. Ms. Gilbert supported obtaining further information about campus-wide pedestrian circulation needs in order to evaluate the need for this sidewalk; Mr. Krieger agreed. Mr. Baranes responded that regardless of even an exhaustive study that predicts desired pedestrian movements, the problem remains that the grade along this street edge would result in an awkward configuration for the sidewalk and building entrance; he reiterated that the current proposal improves the configuration of this area by eliminating the sidewalk. He said that he has no strong opinion about the sidewalk itself, but the more graceful entry sequence in the current proposal is an important advantage. He said that an alternative would be to include steps in the sidewalk to accommodate the grade change.
Ms. Griffin offered a motion to approve the final design; Mr. Krieger noted that the approval includes the comments that have been provided. Upon a second by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission adopted this action. Mr. Krieger asked if the guidance on the sidewalk is sufficiently clear; Ms. Wright responded that the project team will respond to the forthcoming letter describing the Commission action. Ms. Gilbert asked if pedestrian circulation and connections have been studied; Mr. Baranes confirmed that this was addressed early in the planning process.
D. D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
CFA 16/NOV/17-3, 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 19/OCT/17-8.) Ms. Batcheler introduced a second revised concept design 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. In October 2017, the Commission had approved the first revised concept design and requested a subsequent submission to address recommendations, including further differentiation of the courtyard designs and reconsideration of the location and design of the entry pavilions. She asked Ed Fisher of the D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development to begin the presentation.
Mr. Fisher said that this redevelopment project is a high priority of the D.C. government and has an accelerated schedule: the goal is to receive required permits by the end of 2017, before the expiration in 2018 of the land disposition agreement between the D.C. government and the private-sector developer, Flaherty & Collins Properties. Brandon Bogan of Flaherty & Collins said that consultations with the Commission and others have helped shape the project, which he said would positively impact the community. He introduced Maria Casarella of Cunningham Quill Architects to present the design.
Ms. Casarella said that the design of certain details results from a consensus among the project’s stakeholders—including the new entry pavilions, the interior courtyard landscapes, and mechanical enclosures. She presented the revised design for the new north and south perimeter-facing entry pavilions. The north pavilion would allow access for community members as well as building residents; the northern buildings may include community-oriented uses such as a classroom or a private organization as a tenant. The pavilions would be placed on the site of existing non-historic additions that will be demolished, minimizing new alterations to the historic buildings. The proportions and materials of the new pavilions are inspired by the historic buildings’ sleeping porches, which are considered character- defining features. She said that at the request of the National Park Service (NPS) and the D.C. Historic Preservation Office (HPO), the depth of the pavilions has been reduced; this results in locating some of the programmed gathering space into the historic connecting corridors instead of in the pavilions. The south entry pavilion would be shallower in plan than the north pavilion but would have the same basic configuration. The interior stairway landings of the pavilions would serve as the transitional elements between the new structures and the existing buildings. The entry sequences for all the proposed pavilions would be barrier-free, and the pavilions would contain elevators.
Ms. Casarella presented three exterior design options for the north and south entrance pavilions; she said that these options respond to stakeholders’ comments regarding the compatibility of the new pavilions with the existing buildings. The pavilions in Option A would have a masonry base and corners. The roofline would be raised to be level with the existing eave, rather than tucked under the eave as in the previous proposals; this would conceal the elevator override from view. Option B has similar proportions to Option A, but the masonry base would be topped by a more transparent glass enclosure with visible support columns. Option C, which she said is the preferred option, is a hybrid of A and B: it would have solid corners, but a portion of the base would be a continuation of the glass enclosure system. The new masonry base would also align with the base of the existing buildings, creating a continuous datum. She added that the selection of material colors for the new pavilions could be based on the existing sleeping porches, which have red masonry and green painted wood.
Ms. Casarella said that the proposed entry pavilions within the internal courtyards would have a similar configuration as the perimeter-facing pavilions but would feature more glass. A larger pavilion would be appended to either the north or south side of the two east-west connecting circulation corridors, with a smaller glass vestibule structure on the opposite side of the corridor; this configuration would allow some views between the northern and southern courtyards. She said the structures are designed to be highly visible within the courtyards to aid in resident wayfinding. She noted that the NPS, which administers the historic preservation tax credits that are relied upon to partially finance the project, has expressed concerns about creating additional openings in the historic buildings; the placement of new entries is therefore limited to the currently proposed pavilions.
Ms. Casarella introduced landscape architect Kara Lanahan of Oehme, van Sweden & Associates to present the revised landscape design. Ms. Lanahan said that the revised design responds to the Commission’s suggestions to better integrate the green and amenity space into the landscape and consolidate the proposed parking spaces. At the northeast and southeast courtyards, where a large heritage tree would be protected, the consolidation and improvement of the landscape design has been achieved by reversing the arrangement of the larger pavilion and smaller vestibule: the larger pavilion would be located in the northeast courtyard, and the smaller vestibule would be in the southeast courtyard. Both of these structures have also been shifted to the west along the existing circulation corridor. The larger pavilion would be aligned with a grove of trees, better integrating the new structure within the landscape. Other revisions to the design of the northeast courtyard include the realignment of the entry drive to improve access to the loading area, which would be buffered by additional plantings. In the southeast courtyard, the internal east-west drive has been removed, allowing for better pedestrian access to the newly contiguous green and amenity space.
Ms. Lanahan said that in response to the Commission’s previous comments, the project team studied the potential for placing some parking areas toward the perimeter of the site instead of only within the internal courtyards. However, the conclusion is that parking could not be sited on any of the radial entry drives because of various constraints: several heritage and special trees would be compromised; the NPS and HPO have stated that they do not support locating parking within the historic landscape toward the site perimeter; and the D.C. Fire Marshal has said that congestion created by the parked cars would restrict access for emergency vehicles. Ms. Lanahan said that four six-foot-tall operable gates are proposed to control access to the internal courtyards, which will be restricted to residents; historically, chain-link fences were used to control access to the courtyards of the hospital facility.
Ms. Lanahan said that because the complex does not have many flat roofs, new mechanical equipment would be placed throughout the landscape and concealed with decorative metal enclosures or buffered by plantings, depending on the size of the equipment. She indicated on site plans the various locations of the equipment in relation to the historic buildings.
Mr. Dunson expressed appreciation for the design’s responsiveness to the Commission’s previous comments, citing in particular the inclusion of more useable green and amenity space within the internal courtyards. He recalled that he had previously recommended relocating the entry gates and moving some parking spaces from the courtyards to the entry drives, but he said that the current design of the courtyards has an acceptable balance between parking and the green and amenity spaces. He also expressed support for the revised design and location of the proposed entry pavilions and vestibules, noting that the design of the pavilions is clearer and more compatible with the existing buildings. He added that this relationship is improved by the alignment of the bases of the new pavilions with those of the existing buildings. However, he asked for more details about the returns between the new pavilions and the existing buildings. Ms. Casarella responded that the large north pavilion and the two larger pavilions in the courtyards would have small glass hyphens separating the old and new elements; the existing masonry would be visible through the hyphens. She said that because of space constraints created by piles, the connection between the south entry pavilion and the existing buildings is more awkward to construct; shallow recessed metal joints may be used in these locations. She added that the south entry pavilion would be smaller than its northern counterpart because it would be used only by residents and their visitors, not the public.
Mr. Krieger said he would support the consensus of the Commission on whether to approve the concept. However, while acknowledging the many stakeholders involved in the process, he said that the entry pavilions appear as if they are designed by committee; Ms. Griffin agreed. Mr. Krieger expressed some support for the pavilion design in Option B because of its clear differentiation between old and new, but he concluded that Option C seems to be the most expedient choice, considering the schedule of the project and the stakeholders involved. To improve the design of the pavilions, he recommended reducing the scale of their roof overhangs. He also commented that the internal courtyards still have too much area dedicated to parking, and he continued to question the conclusion that parking could not be accommodated on the entry drives, observing that vehicles parked in the courtyards would also restrict fire truck access. He indicated the large amount of open area around the buildings as areas where parking could be located. He also questioned the need for securing the internal courtyards with gates, noting that most other apartment buildings in Washington do not have such restricted access.
Ms. Casarella confirmed that the pavilions were essentially designed by committee, which she said is to be expected in projects such as this one, and that the design is secondary to the larger goal of constructing affordable housing. She added that the large roof overhangs are intended to complement the deep eaves of the existing buildings. Regarding the location of parking, she reiterated the various constraints: the prohibition on disturbing the historic pastoral landscape toward the site perimeter; the requirement of maintaining a twenty-foot-wide right-of-way on the entry drives for fire truck access; and the required number of spaces due to the large number of families that will live in buildings and presumably have vehicles. She added that the parking requirements are stipulated in the land disposition agreement. Mr. Krieger clarified that he is not questioning the number of parking spaces, but rather their distribution. Ms. Casarella said she is confident that the design team has explored every option for siting the parking, and that the design satisfactorily balances parking with green and amenity space. Moreover, she said that because the large complex would be located near an arena and Metrorail station, and because the development will be one of the first to open on the campus, the large complex needs gates to restrict parking and make the residents feel secure. While acknowledging that the gates are not a common solution in urban areas, she said that the unique program requires them and that they were requested by the community. She reiterated that the gates would not be a new element, since enclosures had historically been used to keep institutional patients within the courtyards.
Ms. Gilbert said that the design of the courtyard landscapes has been much improved given the constraints, and she cited the different textures and activities planned for each. She also noted that excluding parking from the entry drives and perimeter pathways would allow for a pleasant landscape amenity that encircles the entire site.
Ms. Griffin agreed that the design has been much improved. However, she continued to question the inclusion of security gates in the project, noting that they have many unfortunate connotations—including gated communities, the stigma of public housing, and the institutional history of the campus. She expressed hope that the gates could eventually be removed, resulting in the full integration of the campus with the community. Mr. Fisher offered that this concern with excessive fencing may be addressed by the intended removal of the extensive fence that surrounds the entire St. Elizabeths East Campus. He said that people driving to the arena would be tempted to park within the courtyards if security gates were not in place, adding that the surrounding community has complained about spillover parking resulting from recent events held on the campus. Ms. Griffin suggested that a temporary barrier could be placed across the driveways during events.
Ms. Lehrer noted that details of the landscape, such as proposed materials and plantings, had not been presented. She said that the project’s mission to provide affordable housing is important, and she expressed appreciation for the care taken in adapting the historic buildings for this new use. She offered a motion to approve the project, expressing hope that construction would begin as soon as possible. Ms. Griffin supported the motion and reiterated Mr. Dunson’s request that the Commission staff be provided with drawings to further illustrate the returns between the entry pavilions and the existing buildings.
Ms. Lehrer asked if the proposed plantings would be reviewed by the Commission or its staff, and she suggested that drought-tolerant and climate-appropriate plantings be specified. Secretary Luebke said that with approval of the project at the concept level, it could be placed on the consent calendar when submitted as a final design; however, the Commission could also request a presentation of the final design, or alternatively could delegate further review to the staff. Ms. Lehrer suggested that the Commission see the final submission and then decide; Mr. Luebke agreed that this is an option, while noting that the project has been presented to the Commission several times. Mr. Krieger asked how the Commission could expedite review of the project. Mr. Luebke responded that if the Commission approves the concept, then the project will still need to be submitted for final review, which would depend on the applicant’s schedule; he noted that a final submission would require additional documentation. Ms. Casarella said that the Commission’s suggestions could be incorporated into the project during December as part of the preparation of the construction permit documentation. Mr. Luebke suggested that the Commission could delegate review of the final design to the staff, which could then report its recommendation at the January meeting. Ms. Lehrer offered support for delegating further to the staff, with the recommendation that the site and landscape design give priority to the safety and comfort of people of all ages while ensuring that vehicles remain unobtrusive. She added that if not for the important priority of constructing affordable housing, the Commission would likely choose to see the project again. Mr. Krieger agreed; he reiterated his recommendation to reduce the size of the pavilion roof overhangs and his comments regarding the parking. Mr. Dunson supported delegating further review to the staff, and he reiterated Ms. Griffin’s recommendation to eliminate the gates. Mr. Krieger offered a motion to approve the project with these comments, and with review of the final design delegated to the staff. Upon a second by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission adopted this action.
E. District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation
CFA 16/NOV/17-4, Stead Park Community Recreation Center, 1625 P Street, NW. Playground renovation and building additions. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal for the renovation of Stead Park, including additions to its small recreation center. He asked landscape architect Brent Sisco of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to begin the presentation.
Mr. Sisco said that $10 million is budgeted in fiscal year 2019 for expansion of Stead Park’s recreation center. The D.C. government is working with the park’s friends group, which donated funds to hire an architect; meetings have been held with community groups regarding plans and programming. He introduced architect Outerbridge Horsey of Outerbridge Horsey Associates to present the design.
Mr. Horsey said that the project is in the early stages of concept design, and the current submission could be treated as an information presentation instead of a request for a Commission action. The presentation includes a second option that has modifications made in response to comments received at community meetings. He provided an overview of the site, occupying the central portion of a block between 16th Street on the east and 17th Street on the west, with frontage on P Street to the South and extending north toward Q Street. The site had formerly been further subdivided by an alley and Church Street, which were removed as the park site was assembled.
Mr. Horsey presented a brief history of the site and the park’s creation. The southern portion is a remnant of the property of Henry Hurt, a Civil War veteran who moved to Washington after the war and became successful in business; adjacent to his house on this property, he pursued his interest in flower and vegetable gardening. Hurt’s carriage house, the sole remaining structure, is a small brick building with an ornate central gable, which has been used as a recreation center since the park’s establishment in 1952. Row houses formerly occupied other portions of the park. The historic twelve-story Cairo Hotel, on Q Street, is a prominent building on the block to the north. The two-story carriage house, which is visible from the sidewalk along P Street, originally had an open one-story passage in the middle; its center bays have been filled in, but the current plan recommends using them again as the recreation center’s main entrance.
Mr. Horsey said that a major challenge of the project will be designing a successful addition to the carriage house, which is eighteen feet tall, sixty feet wide, and only fourteen feet deep. A 1999 addition at the rear will be removed, and the rear is the only area with enough space for a new addition. He indicated the other existing park features: a basketball court at the southwest, a sports field to the north, a splash park, and an asymmetrical oval plaza in front of the carriage house. Two playgrounds are currently on the southeast portion of the site; the proposal is to redesign this area as a single playground for children of different ages. Park improvements in 2014 resulted in the splash park and a renovated recreation field, and both will remain.
Mr. Horsey said that the 1952 plan for the site’s conversion to a park and recreation center has provided some ideas for the current proposal: most importantly, an axial parterre or lawn in front of the carriage house, with a row of trees along each side—a composition that will make the small building appear more imposing when seen from P Street. Another proposed feature is to create small sensory gardens on the P Street frontage, located in the tree bed along the sidewalk and in planters in front of the park; this would memorialize Henry Hurt, who bequeathed his estate to establish a residential home in Georgetown for impoverished blind people. The proposal also includes providing a shade structure over the basketball court that would have open sides and would support a solar collector array.
Mr. Horsey said that the addition to the carriage house would be organized in two connected blocks: a two-story structure directly behind the carriage house, and a three- story structure immediately to the west behind the basketball court. The addition would include numerous recreational and meeting spaces. The two-story block would have a large pyramidal skylight and a second-floor balcony, and both blocks would have a green roof. The roof on the two-story block would be an event and children’s play space, centered on the skylight and with access provided by an external stairway on the east side; the other roof would be more intensively planted as a small agricultural space. He said the addition as a whole should merit an environmental rating of LEED gold or platinum.
Mr. Horsey said that the renovated playground would incorporate a piece of climbing equipment that is long, tall, and narrow, and enclosed with mesh sides; it could accommodate a large number of children at one time. Additional trees and a shading structure would be provided along the playground’s perimeter, while the center of the playground would remain open. He added that the perimeter trees would create a buffer between the playground and the large Foundry Methodist Church building to the east.
Mr. Horsey described the modifications proposed in the second option. These include entirely enclosing the basketball court so that it would function as a multi-purpose gym; replacing the proposed pyramidal skylight with a circular monitor roof, which might be less susceptible to children climbing on it; and designing the exterior stairway as a cylindrical instead of rectangular form, enclosed in the same mesh as used on the playground structure and painted in a bright color to relate it more closely to the playground.
Mr. Horsey introduced landscape architect Dan Dove of Studio 39 to present the landscape design. Mr. Dove noted that his firm had worked on the recent redesign of Stead Park’s recreation field and the addition of the splash park. He described the design strategy to change the landscape from the existing organic shape, which has several large ovoid areas shaped like fan blades or petals, because this created too many difficult angles and small spaces in the playground. The proposed axial design would make better use of a larger portion of the land area. The existing stairways into the site from the P Street sidewalk include a narrow set of steps on the west and a wider stairway flanked by a ramp on the east, with a sloping lawn area between them. The proposal would create a unified design across the P Street frontage; the existing stairways and ramp would remain but the area between them would become a wide stepped area, including double-height steps designed for sitting along with narrow stairways and a tree on either side. The trees would be the first in the lines of trees that would flank each side of the new parterre, a forecourt to the carriage house, which would give this small structure a new prominence. The sensory garden would be an additional feature of the entrance area. He said that the project team has consulted with the Urban Forestry Division of the D.C. Department of Transportation a streetscape design that would include shrubs and perennials in place of the typical groundcovers to discourage the creation of social trails. All the street trees and most or all mature trees within the park would be retained.
Mr. Horsey said that the center entrance of the historic carriage house would function as the primary entrance to the enlarged recreation center and would lead directly into a large multipurpose community space encompassing the ground levels of both the historic building and the new block directly behind it. A corridor would be built along the rear of the carriage house, in the general location of the historic alley; program spaces and administrative offices would be arrayed along this spine, and an elevator would give access to the different levels in the new blocks and to the two green roofs. Mr. Krieger asked why the new building would have floors on different levels from the historic building; Mr. Horsey responded that ceiling heights in the carriage house are only eight feet high, while ceilings in the larger addition would be twelve feet. Another large multipurpose space would be located in the basement of the larger block to the west, opening to an areaway that would lead to the playing field. He added that the side facades of the renovated recreation center have not yet been designed.
Secretary Luebke summarized the comments from several letters submitted to the Commission by community members: the plans are uninviting and need more trees and shrubs to frame the spaces; the design should pay more attention to the aesthetics of the historic building and not let it be overwhelmed by the new addition; and action on the proposal should be deferred.
Mr. Krieger invited comments from members of the public. The first speaker was Nick DelleDonne, the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission member for the area located immediately north of Stead Park. Mr. DelleDonne said that at the second public meeting on the proposal, the Friends of Stead Park had presented a more flexible architectural plan that could accommodate future, as yet undetermined functions. He noted that at this meeting the proposed structure had been called uninspired and inappropriate. He suggested designing a more symmetrical addition to improve the site’s layout, and he supported the attempt to make the entrance more noticeable.
The second speaker was Bonnie Garrity, a member of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association and a neighborhood resident. Ms. Garrity emphasized the importance of preserving five street trees planted in 2009 by the association, working in collaboration with Casey Trees and volunteers from Foundry Methodist Church. She said that the trees should be retained even if this requires not building the new stepped entrance area. She observed that no historic view would be re-created, since Church Street no longer exists on the site. Otherwise, she supported the proposal, particularly the intent to plant additional trees and shrubs. Mr. Horsey noted that four, not five, of these recent street trees are remaining.
Robin Diener, president of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, said that her testimony was influenced by her experience as director of the Library Renaissance Project, a private citizens’ group that has advocated for the recent redesign of public libraries in the city. She emphasized that Stead Park is a public space. She said that the current program has not been defined well enough to evaluate whether it will meet the community’s goals in such areas as security. She expressed support for the proposed solar array and its resulting energy savings. She noted that she had heard general comments about the design’s “unbalanced” appearance, and she questioned whether it would relate well to the recently constructed splash park. Finally, she emphasized the need for additional shade in the playground. Mr. Krieger asked Ms. Diener for clarification about whether she was calling for more specific information about the interior program of the building or about the functions on the site; Ms. Diener responded that she wants the goals for the project to be clearly stated.
Mr. Krieger invited comments from the Commission members. Mr. Dunson noted that he used to play basketball in Stead Park, and he questioned the unusual proposal to cover the basketball court. He asked how a cover would affect the appearance of the complex and the experience of playing on the court, and he suggested that this basketball court structure might compete visually with the recreation center building. He observed that the proposed addition behind the diminutive carriage house evokes the looming impression of the Pan Am building rising behind Grand Central Terminal in New York. He commented that the carriage house now forms the centerpiece of the park, and the proposed addition would reduce its visual importance. He asked if there were a better location for the circulation spine that would create more separation between the original building and the addition, and give more prominence to the primary view of the carriage house. He also asked whether a symmetrical design could be achieved without a center entrance; he suggested consolidating the existing separate green spaces to convey more formality while still allowing for generous circulation into the site.
Ms. Gilbert expressed support for this proposal to consolidate green space, observing that the existing wing walls tend to cut up the space. She observed that the proposed design is a landscape of leftover pieces, with no evident cohesive move to unify the disparate parts. Noting that the site contains ample space, she recommended extending the eastern row of shade trees further north as a green “zipper” or corridor that would join the front lawn panel with the playground to the east and the playing field to the rear. She questioned the proposal to create a sensory garden directly along P Street, where it would attract dogs, suggesting instead that it be placed in a more protected area at the center of the park’s street frontage, in place of the proposed stepped area; the two existing stairways at either side could be retained.
Regarding the proposal to treat the larger green roof as an event space, Ms. Gilbert commented that so many planting beds are proposed for this roof there would be no room left to hold an event. She recommended limiting the dense planting to one roof and creating a different character on the other for an event space.
Ms. Lehrer agreed that an event space should have much less planting, and she noted the critical importance of maintenance for green roofs. She observed that the site design appears too crowded. She cited the fallacy of designing a playground based on the selection of a single piece of equipment; she also indicated the complications of having children of different ages occupying one large, flat site. She said that the playground should be designed as a place of varying elevations, perhaps anchored by two large trees on a higher level, with shaded places for parents and caregivers to sit. She expressed support for the proposal to cover the basketball court with a structure supporting solar panels. She commented that if the enclosed structure in the second option is built, it should not be just a two-story gym but should have a basketball court on the first level and other functions carefully organized around and anchored by the carriage house.
Ms. Griffin emphasized the necessity of clearly defining the underlying ideas of the design program so the Commission can evaluate how much interior space is needed and how it should be organized. She requested this information for the next review, along with a discussion of how the program has been shaped by community engagement. She commented that the site design should celebrate the carriage house, and she agreed with Ms. Diener’s comment about the importance of the park as a special public space within its neighborhood. She suggested using the historic photograph of the carriage house, showing its open center bays, to develop the idea of a central corridor space running straight through the building that could act as an organizing framework for other spaces or functions. She observed that the existing pair of entrances to the park from P Street are somewhat peculiar, since the space itself implies that a visitor would enter into a central plaza and then proceed directly back through the first floor of the carriage house to the playing field. She said that the symmetry of the proposed design should focus on this movement, and not on whether the rear addition is symmetrical to the historic building. She added that the addition’s rear facade would function as another primary facade along the playing field and should receive careful attention.
Ms. Griffin expressed concern about how loud the central atrium space might be if it is programmed for multiple uses. She also questioned the decision to cover the basketball court, observing that such enclosures are uncommon, and the panels above look strange and may not be necessary; she asked if anyone has actually talked to the basketball players about their preferences. She suggested that the design of the court could incorporate bleachers, treating the court as part of the landscape while encouraging people to come and watch the games. She recommended redesigning the playground as an area within a landscape that includes shade trees, instead of a collection of play equipment framed by trees.
Mr. Krieger commented that symmetry has no particular virtue. Noting that the original house had not been symmetrical to the carriage house, he said the importance of symmetry to the park is being overstated. He gave the example of Boston’s Colonial-era Old State House, a symmetrical structure now surrounded by high-rises, and he said the contrast only emphasizes the symmetry and dignity of the older building. He called the carriage house a “beautiful little pavilion” and said that nothing would detract from it; an asymmetrical design would actually be more interesting and dynamic. He agreed with Ms. Griffin on the difficulty of commenting on whether an addition of this scale is needed, and the design would be better if the necessary functions could be accommodated in less space. He emphasized that this issue needs to be clarified before the Commission can fully comment on the concept design.
Mr. Krieger described the decision to cover the basketball court as a brilliant move and ahead of its time, especially because it would provide solar energy. He warned against falling prey to sentimentality about how people play basketball, commenting that the players might even like the shelter, although he agreed they should be asked. He said that the sides of the court should not be enclosed because enclosure would make it a private environment. He commented that the park design as a whole seems unbalanced because the playground has not yet been designed; he agreed that the playground could include more trees, which might help with the issue of balance.
Mr. Krieger observed that the massing of the enlarged building now appears ungainly, especially from the north; he recommended that the next submission include an explanation of the number and size of required interior spaces. He questioned the proposed children’s roof garden, particularly its separate stairway, which he thought could be an attractive nuisance; he anticipated that the roof garden, even with a safety fence, would have to be closely monitored when children are playing there.
Mr. Luebke asked if the Commission members have further comments on the architectural design of the addition. Ms. Griffin said that she has addressed its massing and does not want to comment yet on its architecture. She noted that some Commission members have said they do not think the building needs to be symmetrical; she added that it appears very bulky, but further explanation of the program at the next review would help the Commission assess this. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
F. National Park Service
CFA 16/NOV/17-5, Anacostia River Trail at the U.S. National Arboretum and Anacostia Park. New pedestrian/bicycle bridge over the Anacostia River. Concept. The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
G. District of Columbia Department of Transportation
1. CFA 16/NOV/17-6, 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/OCT/17-4.) 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 previous review of the concept in October 2017, when the Commission requested further information and did not take an action. He asked Sam Zimbabwe, chief project delivery officer for the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT), to begin the presentation.
Mr. Zimbabwe emphasized the importance of the project and the legacy it will provide to the city for the next century or more. The process has been underway for fifteen years, including extensive consultation with local and federal agencies as well as the residents of neighborhoods on both sides of the Anacostia River. He said that the process has resulted in many specific technical requirements, policy objectives, urban planning goals, and civic design aspirations. The project scope includes construction of the new multi-modal bridge, demolition of the existing bridge that has deteriorated, construction of access routes, improvements to the surrounding streets, and development of public open spaces on each side of the river. The project is intended to facilitate regional traffic flow, improve connections between neighborhoods, and connect people with the Anacostia River itself.
Mr. Zimbabwe said that the design results from a two-year procurement process resulting in a design-build contract. The Commission had initially been consulted in September 2013, prior to the procurement process, and then recently in October 2017; today’s presentation is intended to address the questions raised by the Commission in October. Some of these questions related to the design-build method for the procurement. He emphasized that the contract is based on the many studies and environmental review documents that were completed during the lengthy preparation phase, and the winning project team has extensive expertise in “globally significant infrastructure projects.” He also acknowledged the involvement of the Commission staff in the procurement process, along with representatives of the National Capital Planning Commission and the D.C. Historic Preservation Office. He noted that visual quality was an explicit factor in the evaluation of proposals, an unprecedented procedure for DDOT. He said that after concept approval, the project will return to the Commission as a final design submission. He introduced engineer Delmar Lytle, DDOT’s program manager for the project, to address other questions raised by the Commission.
Mr. Lytle said that the current Frederick Douglass Bridge, nearly seventy years old, is classified as structurally deficient and functionally obsolete; it lacks design and safety features that would be included in present-day bridge construction. The pedestrian sidewalk is only five feet wide and does not have any larger areas for enjoyment of the river view. The portion of South Capitol Street at the bridge’s northwestern landing lacks the grace that would be expected for the foreground of a view to the U.S. Capitol; plans for improving this area were developed by the National Capital Planning Commission in the 1990s and then by the D.C. government in recent decades. Following the review of the bridge project by the Commission of Fine Arts in 2013, DDOT brought together dozens of stakeholders, including the Commission staff, to develop visual quality guidelines. These guidelines called for transforming South Capitol Street into a grand urban boulevard near the bridge’s northwestern end, creating an iconic bridge, providing a gateway to Washington’s monumental core, enhancing views, celebrating the city’s history, and harmonizing the scale of the bridge with the surrounding neighborhoods. As part of the subsequent bidding process, an Aesthetic Review Committee—including representation from the Commission staff—evaluated the design- build proposals for adherence to these guidelines. Other evaluation factors addressed issues such as safety, traffic operations, schedule, and cost. The winning project team was then selected in July 2017.
Mr. Lytle showed the initial concept for the bridge that was presented in 2013, when the Commission called for a bolder civic design with greater emphasis on design quality, which can sometimes be underemphasized in a design-build procurement process. He said that the selection process has addressed these concerns, resulting in a balance between technical requirements and aesthetic features. He noted several examples of the technical design parameters that have been established for the project: the strength and durability of the structure, security, and the navigation clearances required by the federal government.
Mr. Lytle described the current design proposal as bolder and more contemporary than the 2013 concept, as requested by the Commission, resulting from subsequent study of other Washington bridges crossing the Potomac and Anacostia. Several iconic bridges on the Potomac River provide specific examples of desired and undesired features. The Arlington Memorial Bridge is beautiful but heavy-looking, with deep arches and many piers in the river. Its sidewalks are adequately wide but do not celebrate the crossing with overlooks for pedestrians. The Francis Scott Key Bridge also has many piers and a heavy structure. The more recent Woodrow Wilson Bridge has a somewhat lighter structure with V-shaped piers that refer to the traditional civic design of Memorial Bridge and Key Bridge; pedestrian movement is celebrated with overlooks along the wide shared-use sidewalk. Enjoyment of the views from vehicles is limited by the design of all three of these bridges. The Theodore Roosevelt Bridge is a more typical highway bridge with steel girders; the outer girders have a curved profile to relate to the nearby arched bridges, but he said that the design lacks elegance and should not serve as an inspiration for the new Douglass Bridge. On the Anacostia River, the John Philip Sousa Bridge is similarly designed with steel girders and a curved profile along the outer faces; its stone piers have a stronger character than those of the Roosevelt Bridge, but the pedestrian experience is weak. He also noted the relatively minimalist designs of the Metrorail bridge and the Long Bridge on the Potomac River, nearest to the Douglass Bridge.
Mr. Lytle introduced Alan Harwood of AECOM, the engineering firm of record on the selected project team, to present the bridge aesthetics and the project’s urban design. Mr. Harwood described the proposed design in relation to the visual quality guidelines that the Aesthetic Review Committee (ARC) used in evaluating the bids. He said that the ARC enthusiastically supported this proposal as a great civic design, citing the bridge’s form as modern, fluid, and a contemporary interpretation of Washington’s design tradition; the multiple-arch configuration would break down the bridge’s scale, bring together the two sides of the river, and relate to the nearby urban fabric. He said that the project team is therefore comfortable with the arches as part of the proposed design. He described the benefits of the design in enhancing the overall project area, with expansive views beneath and around the bridge structure, as shown in numerous perspective drawings. The ARC also agreed that the scale of the proposal would harmonize with anticipated future growth in the vicinity, and it commended the integrated treatment of open space for pedestrians and bicyclists. The ARC had commented that the proposed reuse of stone from the existing bridge piers would add character to the project. The ARC commended the state-of-the-art landscape design and the sustainable design features of the bridge, including treatment of water runoff. Additional attributes cited by the ARC included the bridge’s clear and singular idea, the equal engagement of both sides of the river, and the celebration of the river itself.
Mr. Harwood provided additional photographs, perspective drawings, and diagrams to illustrate the urban design issues, as previously requested by the Commission. He described several inspirations for the use of arches rising above the bridge deck: the sinuous line of the river’s edges; the dome of the U.S. Capitol; the design tradition of Washington’s bridges; the unifying role of the bridge; and the towering character of Frederick Douglass himself. The sinuous form of the arches would also extend into the landscape design. He compared the curved form of the bridge’s sequence of arches to the serpentine “line of beauty” that was diagrammed by 18th-century painter William Hogarth. He presented a series of perspective views to illustrate the appearance of the bridge from varying angles and distances, as well as its relationship to the wider context; some of these views were developed as part of the bidding proposal, and others were developed more recently in response to the Commission’s previous comments. From a boat on the river, views would extend beneath the bridge to the distant shore; the proposed bridge would have only two piers located in the river, resulting in only minimal interruption of the river-level views. He emphasized that this configuration also provides ample clear passage for rowing, which is popular along this portion of the Anacostia River; spectators could watch the rowing from the proposed overlooks along the bridge. The view from the north, adjacent to the Nationals baseball stadium, would be attractive in the near term and as further development occurs along the shoreline; the view beneath the bridge deck would extend to Poplar Point, Buzzard Point, and the Navy air base, all of which are planned for new construction. He added that the proposed bridge would contribute to the evolving visual character of the area. He presented a view of the bridge from the recent Yards Park to the northeast, where the foreground could include the park’s pedestrian bridge in a contemporary industrial style, resulting in an interesting juxtaposition that connects elements of the neighborhood’s evolving design character. He presented views from the bridge’s roadway and pedestrian walk, indicating the relatively open views around the bridge’s suspension cables and slender arches; he said that these views address the Commission’s previous concerns that the extensive structure above the bridge deck would constrain views, and he likened the panorama to the view of Georgetown from the Key Bridge. In the view from a vehicle approaching the bridge, the triple-arch profile would be legible, and the opposite shore would be visible between the cables. Similar characteristics are seen in views from Diamond Teague Park, Poplar Point, and the mouth of the Anacostia River near Buzzard Point; he emphasized that the bridge design could serve as an architectural inspiration for the anticipated future development in these areas and is compatible with the character of notable existing buildings in the vicinity. He noted that the uppermost height of the bridge arches would be similar to the maximum height of existing and planned buildings in the vicinity, further contributing to the compatibility of the bridge with the context.
Mr. Harwood provided a closer perspective view of the bridge piers, where the converging arches form a V shape that gives the appearance of the bridge springing above the water surface. He emphasized the importance of this intersection of structural elements in resolving the gravity and wind loads on the bridge.
Mr. Harwood presented comparative diagrams of the proposed bridge in relation to several other prominent bridges in the city, both in elevation and in plan. He noted that several of these bridges have similar configurations of arches below the bridge deck; in comparison, he described the proposed high-arch profile of the Frederick Douglass Bridge as much lighter, thinner, and more transparent, providing a contemporary interpretation of the traditional bridge form. In plan, the other bridges have more closely spaced piers within the river, while the proposed Frederick Douglass Bridge has only two piers in the water; the required navigation channel is easily accommodated, and the bridge design therefore provides advantages for the river’s usability as well as for open views.
Mr. Harwood described the special characteristics of the Anacostia River area, which influence the bridge design. The Washington Navy Yard, upstream of the Douglass Bridge, was historically the city’s major industrial facility; a few of the industrial buildings have remained as the area has transformed in recent decades into office, residential, and retail uses. He cited the careful planning that has guided this transformation, with a focus on open space and a combination of historic and contemporary features to create a new civic identity; the proposed bridge is intended to become a part of this identity. He noted that the planning for the area has ranged from broad study of the river and bridges to detailed design standards such as contemporary benches and lampposts.
Mr. Harwood presented a diagram of the ecological systems converging at the bridge. The landscape corridor of the Suitland Parkway extends southeast from the bridge, and its character would be extended to the landscape around the bridge’s northwest landing. This green landscape intersects the water corridor of the river itself; he likened the concept as the intersection of the green river and the blue river. The proposal includes features to enhance the ecology, such as capturing and treating rainwater before it is released to the river. The framework for the open space is intended to be more than walks along the river: it includes a series of spaces and esplanades on both sides, and connects them across the bridge and into the nearby neighborhoods. Broader connections would link the area to the regional open space system. He indicated several of the connecting recreational trails, a topic raised by the Commission in the previous review; these are primarily at the southeastern end of the bridge, while the city grid provides the context at the bridge’s northwestern end.
Mr. Harwood presented topographically aligned elevation diagrams to illustrate the height and scale of the bridge in relation to the terrain and important buildings. He said that the bridge’s scale is mitigated by its location in the middle of a broad basin framed by Capitol Hill and the Anacostia ridge; within this larger context, the bridge’s sequence of arches would suggest a visual reference to the gentle hills surrounding central Washington, serving to celebrate the natural setting. The top of the bridge would be lower than the U.S. Capitol dome and the baseball stadium to the north, and also lower than the historic Frederick Douglass house, Cedar Hill, on the ridge to the southeast.
Mr. Harwood described the revised landscape concepts for the two oval spaces at the bridge landings. The ovals would be identically sized but different in character: the oval to the northwest would emphasize straight lines and an axial configuration, in response to its more urbanized setting, while the oval to the southeast would be more naturalistic with curving forms. He indicated the additional area that would be allocated to stormwater retention. He indicated the alignment of the northwest oval with South Capitol Street, the plaza at its north end near the baseball stadium, and the diagonal connection across the plaza to link the baseball stadium with the soccer stadium being built in the Buzzard Point area. He added that this plaza would be suitable for uses such as recreation or a farmers market.
Mr. Lytle concluded the presentation by emphasizing the D.C. government’s desire to replace the existing bridge and to provide a suitable commemoration of Frederick Douglass.
Mr. Krieger observed that the proportion of the arches appears slightly inconsistent in the drawings; he asked for clarification of the intended relationship of the height and width of the arches. Ken Butler of AECOM, the lead structural engineer for the project, responded that the arches supporting the center span—reaching a maximum height of 160 feet—are slightly taller than the arches of the two flanking spans. Mr. Krieger said that the proportions nonetheless appear to vary in some drawings; Mr. Butler said that all of the drawings should be accurately conveying the intended dimensions. Mr. Krieger said that the proportions look more elegant in some images where the arches appear to be slightly flatter. He provided an overall reaction that the proposal is not the most elegant bridge design imaginable; but he acknowledged the very extensive process that has led to this design, and he recommended moving forward with the proposed concept. He said that the design is not as striking as, for example, the bridges designed by Santiago Calatrava, but it has most of the attributes that were described in the presentation. He acknowledged that the bridge would be distinctive and iconic, and it would be an improvement on the unimpressive bridges built in Washington in the mid-20th century. He added that the project team has succeeded in improving the design from what was presented in 2013. He urged careful attention to developing the details, which have the potential to make the project better.
Mr. Dunson said that his previous concern with the bridge’s gracefulness is consistent with the comments offered by Mr. Krieger. He observed that the size difference between the center arches and the outer arches is not readily apparent, and a stronger distinction would better convey the intended flowing line that crests at the center of the bridge. Mr. Harwood noted that the relationship of the arch heights corresponds to the gentle curve of the bridge deck below. Mr. Dunson agreed with Mr. Krieger that careful detailing will be critical in moving the design forward from this stage, with particular attention to how the different components meet. Mr. Krieger added that some features are not yet well developed, such as railings and the barriers along the vehicular lanes; the development of these features will also be important to the success of the design.
Ms. Lehrer expressed appreciation for the emphasis on relating the project to the urban setting, including its connection to the land and the surrounding areas. She said that the project is an example of the welcome stage when the developments in a growing city begin to build on each other as they are completed. She said that this bridge would appropriately be less exotic than a typical design by Calatrava. She described the proposal as elegant, acknowledging that it could be made more exciting, perhaps through lighting or other details. She commented that the pedestrian and bicyclist access points from the land seem tenuous, and she recommended a more robust treatment; she emphasized that these are connections to the entire city, not just to the riverfront path system. On the bridge itself, she cautioned that the shared space for pedestrians and bicyclists should be sufficiently wide to avoid conflicts. She expressed confidence that the capable landscape architecture team would be able to address these issues successfully, and the proposal already identifies the components that will be further developed.
Mr. Lytle responded that the shared-use sidewalks on the bridge would be eighteen feet wide, with eight feet dedicated to pedestrians and ten feet for bicyclists. Mr. Dunson asked how these zones would be differentiated, citing the potential scenario of bicyclists taking over a larger portion of the sidewalks. Mr. Lytle said that the current intention is to use pavement marking rather than a physical barrier, but this detail could be reconsidered as the final design proposal is developed.
Ms. Lehrer asked for clarification of the project budget, noting that it was described as the most expensive project undertaken by DDOT. Mr. Lytle responded that the total budget, including right-of-way acquisition and design costs, is slightly over one billion dollars for the first phase, which includes the bridge and portions of the nearby street improvements. Mr. Dunson asked if the new bridge would have a longer lifespan than the current bridge, which is less than seventy years old. Mr. Lytle responded that the new bridge is being designed for a one-hundred-year lifespan. Mr. Dunson asked if a longer time period would be feasible; Mr. Lytle said that the constraint is the durability of the concrete.
Mr. Dunson offered a motion to approve the concept with the comments provided. Upon a second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted this action; Ms. Griffin voted against the motion. Mr. Krieger reiterated that the success of the project will rely on the parts that are not yet fully designed; he said that further Commission review of the design’s development, rather than a complete rejection of the concept, would be the most reasonable way to achieve a good result at this stage of the lengthy process. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission had previously raised more extensive concerns with the landscape design; he said that the staff would continue to work with the project team on these issues. Mr. Krieger agreed that the concept for the ovals is not as clear as for the rest of the project; he described the proposal for the ovals as cartoonish, and he encouraged further review of these areas. He added that the connection points in the pedestrian and bicyclist circulation are similarly in need of careful development, as identified by Ms. Lehrer. Ms. Gilbert agreed that a sequence of reviews would be appropriate.
Ms. Griffin commented that the weak differentiation between the sizes of the central and outer arches may be contributing to the perception of a squat design in some of the perspective views, and the resulting perception that this is not an exceptionally good bridge design. She suggested further study of the proportions, particularly to increase the difference in size of the arches. Mr. Krieger said that the design looks too much like a diagram of a bridge, with an overly conspicuous profile, resulting in the perception—at least as a first impression—that the bridge lacks elegance. He said that this concern may be the reason for the shared reaction of the Commission members that the design is not quite beautifully elegant, but is good enough to move forward.
Mr. Luebke noted a concern during the bid evaluation process that the transition of materials from steel to concrete would disrupt the sense of continuity in the bridge design. He said that this could be an example of the details that will need to be developed further for review by the Commission.
2. CFA 16/NOV/17-7, Materials Testing Laboratory, 350 McMillan Drive, NW. New materials testing facility. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposed expansion of the D.C. Department of Transportation’s Materials Testing Laboratory adjacent to the McMillan Reservoir and immediately east and north of the Howard University campus. The existing laboratory is housed in a historic pump house of the reservoir complex, which would be retained, and in a grouping of trailers and modular buildings, which would be removed. The result would be a consolidated laboratory with the historic pump house as a central feature. He noted that earlier in the day, the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board approved the project on its consent calendar; Secretary Luebke clarified that this approval pertained to the impact on historic properties, while the Commission of Fine Arts remains free to approve or disapprove the project based on overall design issues. Mr. Lindstrom asked architect Rachel Chung of DLR Group to present the design.
Ms. Chung indicated the site within the McMillan Park Reservoir Historic District, largely built in the early 20th century; the pump house included in this project is a contributing feature, although not individually listed. The pump house is brick with a tile roof, and it has its original steel double-hung windows; its floor area is slightly more than 3,000 square feet, primarily within a single story. On the north, the building faces McMillan Drive, which curves around to the east side of the site; the public does not have access to McMillan Drive. Fourth Street is to the west, and a Howard University dormitory is to the south; the reservoir itself is to the northeast. The grade varies significantly across the site—a drop of as much as nine feet toward the north, and six feet toward the west; the expansion would be placed on a flat area toward the south side of the site. She indicated several other buildings of the McMillan Reservoir complex in the vicinity. She presented interior photographs, indicating the existing equipment of the materials testing laboratory as well as the changes in floor level within the building; aside from the laboratory space, current uses include restrooms, office space, and a meeting area. The front portion of the building has exposed steel trusses supporting the hipped roof; these would be restored.
Ms. Chung presented several exterior photographs of the building and site, indicating the driveway entrance from the east and the extensive paved parking area. Wood retaining walls, constructed from railroad ties, bound the north edge of the parking lot; numerous large trees are located between these low walls and McMillan Drive. A chimney and small loading dock are located on the building’s west side; the proposal would remove the loading dock while incorporating the chimney into the expanded laboratory.
Ms. Chung summarized the consultation process with the staffs of the Commission and of the D.C. Historic Preservation Office to address the constraints of the site and budget. An additional constraint is a no-build easement for a large underground pipe, extending diagonally across the northeast portion of the site. The proposal would retain the existing driveway entrance at the east side of the site, and would site the expanded laboratory in the most readily buildable area, the plateau around the existing building. In order to maintain a visual relationship between the pump house, the related historic buildings, and the reservoir itself, the north side of the pump house and adjacent side walls would remain exposed; the additions would be sited to the east and west, abutting the rear wing of the pump house.
Ms. Chung said that the 9,000-square-foot program includes offices as well as the laboratory space itself, which involves large equipment with special requirements for ventilation and acoustics; the materials being tested would typically include asphalt and concrete. The configuration of recessed additions flanking the pump house would highlight the importance of the historic building; the portion of the western addition that projects furthest forward would be held eight feet back from the plane of the pump house’s north facade. The pump house would contain offices and a locker room; the immediately abutting portions of the additions have been programmed with simple circulation and lounge spaces that would minimize the impact on the historic building, while the more complex laboratory space would be in a taller portion of the eastern addition that is more distant from the pump house. The primary building entrance on the pump house’s north facade would remain in use. The loading dock would be located at the east end of the eastern addition, close to the new laboratory space and to the existing entrance driveway. The higher roof of the laboratory volume would be vegetated; the lower portions of the additions would have shallow sloped roofs, and exterior mechanical equipment would be concealed.
Ms. Chung presented the proposed north elevation, indicating the clear distinction between the historic building, the lower-scaled portions of the additions, and the industrial function of the larger-scaled laboratory volume. The height of the lower portions would be slightly below the pump house’s cornice line, while the height of the laboratory volume would be close to the pump house roof’s ridge line. The facades of the new office space would be glass storefronts, with views toward the reservoir. On the laboratory volume, the upper portion would have extensive clerestory windows; at several locations these would extend down to the lower portion of the laboratory space to offer views for the workers inside. Horizontal mullion lines would relate to facade features of the historic pump house. The clerestory window would extend around the western addition’s corner to a portion of the west facade. The opaque walls of the additions would be metal panels, in keeping with the industrial program; the metal color would be similar to the red brick of the pump house. She provided a sample of the proposed color, noting that it is more accurate than the color shown in the drawings.
Ms. Griffin asked about the masts and cables rising above the roof; Ms. Chung clarified that these are a row of three ventilation chimneys, and the cables extending diagonally from them would serve to stabilize the chimneys rather than to suspend the roof structure. She said that these chimneys are needed for some of the laboratory equipment; in accordance with building codes, the chimneys must rise ten feet above the roof. She added that coordination with the mechanical engineer is continuing, with the goal of consolidating all of the ventilation needs into the three chimneys shown on the drawings. She acknowledged that the chimneys are aligned with the deeper windows as seen on the north elevation, but she clarified that the chimneys would be set far back from this facade and would not obstruct the window openings.
Ms. Griffin said that the presented photographs show the beauty of the historic building and its detailing. She said she often supports contrast instead of mimicry in the design of additions to historic buildings, but she commented that the proposed additions appear to be too unrelated to the pump house. She suggested that the design go beyond functionality to include stronger references to the historic building and context; the modifications could be in the materials rather than a revision to the proposed massing. She said that the laboratory complex should have a greater sense of belonging at this location, and the proposal for a large metal box seems unconvincing. Ms. Chung responded that the design is intended to support this relationship, such as with the massing that places lower volumes next to the historic building, creating a separation for the taller laboratory volume. The proposed metal for the facades is intended to express the industrial use, but she offered to consider using masonry instead; she added that a masonry selection distinct from the pump house’s brick would be appropriate.
Mr. Krieger observed that the larger existing reservoir-related building to the north, across McMillan Drive, obstructs the axial view north from the pump house toward the reservoir. He therefore questioned the design approach of balancing the additions around the pump house. He suggested consideration of a much more asymmetrical massing, perhaps placing all of the addition to the west, away from the extensive open views to the northeast; this would result in a more typical urban intersection for McMillan Drive and Fourth Street, framed by an existing building at the northeast corner and the new laboratory addition at the southeast corner.
Ms. Chung responded that various siting alternatives were considered; the constraint of the underground easement, discovered during the design process, resulted in an approximate balance of available construction area to the east and west, which was one of the factors leading to the current proposal. She said that placing the laboratory volume toward the western end of the site would be problematic for the necessary truck access in delivering material samples: a curb cut on the west along Fourth Street would not be feasible, and a laboratory at that location would be remote from the existing curb cut to the east along McMillan Drive. She noted that the southern edge of the site abuts a very narrow private alley owned by Howard University, along with an adjacent retaining wall, precluding the use of this side of the site for truck access. She emphasized that the additions would be placed as far to the south as possible, intended to address Mr. Krieger’s concern with providing ample exposure of the historic building’s north facade. Mr. Krieger asked about the frequency of truck access, commenting that a modest frequency such as a couple of trucks per day would not justify rejecting other massing options; he questioned whether the D.C. Department of Transportation regulations may be overzealous in limiting the location of a modestly used curb cut.
Mr. Krieger said that if the additions must be kept in the proposed locations, then the balance of the composition could be improved. He suggested that the easternmost storage room in the east addition be designed with windows or some type of glass assembly that is appropriately safe; lowering the height of this easternmost volume would also be helpful. He said that the result could be understood as a shorter glass spine extending the length of the complex, with two taller pavilions—the laboratory and the pump house—projecting forward from it. The contrast of these two pavilions could be interesting, with the laboratory being very contemporary and the pump house having beautiful historic detailing. He said that this design approach could overcome the apparent imbalance of a large addition to the east of the pump house and a small addition to the west; the composition would instead be seen as a unified horizontal line with projecting volumes. Ms. Chung offered to reconsider the facade material at the east end of the building; she added that the upper portion of the facade in this area is simply a screening wall for rooftop mechanical equipment, and it could be pushed back. Mr. Krieger encouraged this direction for developing the design.
Ms. Lehrer questioned the relationship between the height of the additions and the height of the historic building’s features, commenting that they appear mismatched and arbitrary. Mr. Krieger agreed, suggesting raising the height of the lower portions of the additions by approximately nine inches to improve the alignment, and perhaps also increase the height of the laboratory volume to give it more prominence. Ms. Chung responded that the presented height is intended to stay clear of the pump house’s dentils and flashing at the intersection of the new and old construction, but she offered to study this detail further.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the layout of the parking area, adjacent walk, and entry plaza could be more elegant, notwithstanding the constraints of the site. She suggested configuring the plaza as an extension of the pump house’s entrance facade in order to provide greater emphasis for this beautiful historic building; the walk could simply lead into this plaza. She also suggested reconfiguring the parking so that the site design places greater emphasis on the pedestrian experience. She acknowledged the reduction in paving from the existing condition, but she said that the proposed site design still appears to have an excess of paving. Ms. Chung offered to develop the site design further.
Mr. Krieger asked what action would be appropriate based on the comments of the Commission members. Mr. Luebke said that some comments involve detailing that could be developed after a concept approval, while other comments involve the fundamental planning of the project. Mr. Krieger said that if reorganizing the site is infeasible due to restrictions on vehicular access points, then the concept for the project is settled and could not realistically change. Mr. Luebke suggested approval of the “general concept,” conveying the Commission’s satisfaction with the overall planning while not yet being satisfied with broad issues such as materials and scale. Mr. Krieger supported this approach and reiterated the suggestion to organize the design as two pavilions set against a linear glass-walled background. Ms. Chung confirmed that the materials and other exterior details could be studied further, while the overall planning of the constricted site could not realistically be changed from what is proposed. Upon a motion by Ms. Griffin, the Commission approved the general concept for the planning of the project, with the request that issues of massing, materials, and site design be revised in accordance with the comments provided.
H. District of Columbia Department of General Services
CFA 16/NOV/17-8, Maury Elementary School, 1250 Constitution Avenue, NE. Building renovation and addition. Concept. The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:10 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA