The meeting was convened in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, at 10:10 a.m.
Hon. Edward Dunson
Hon. Liza Gilbert
Hon. Toni Griffin
Hon. Alex Krieger
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 15 March meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the March meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Ms. Gilbert with second by Ms. Griffin, the Commission approved the minutes.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 17 May, 21 June, and 19 July 2018.
C. Report on position announcement for hiring new staff. Mr. Luebke reported on the progress toward filling a job opening on the Commission staff to support the work of the Old Georgetown Board. Interviews with applicants are being scheduled for later this month.
D. Report on the pre-meeting site inspections. Mr. Luebke reported the Commission’s inspection earlier in the morning of the three sites under consideration for the National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial, reviewed most recently in March 2018 and anticipated as a future submission. Mr. Krieger asked for clarification of the status of the review process for this memorial. Mr. Luebke said that two different sites have been approved: the Belvedere site, approved by the Commission of Fine Arts in March 2018; and a site at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue, NW, approved by the National Capital Planning Commission in early April 2018. This divergence will need to be reconciled, and the project team is still considering how to proceed.
E. Confirmation of the recommendation from the March 2018 meeting after the loss of a quorum. Mr. Luebke said that a formal action is needed concerning a U.S. Mint submission reviewed the previous month without a quorum. He noted that the members present had made recommendations which were conveyed in a letter sent to the Mint and distributed to the Commission. He listed the project requiring action:
CFA 15/MAR/18-7, 2019 American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Program. Designs for five-dollar gold, one-dollar silver, and half-dollar clad coins. Final.
Upon a motion by Ms. Griffin with second by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission confirmed the March 2018 recommendations for this coin program.
F. Resolution in memory of Sue A. Kohler, CFA Historian, 1974 to 2007. Mr. Luebke reported the death in early April of Sue Kohler, who served as the historian on the Commission staff from 1974 to 2007, continuing as a consultant for several years afterward. He noted her involvement in producing several publications including a history of the Commission’s work and a collection of essays on the 1901 plan for Washington. He presented a resolution in appreciation of her service, which the Commission adopted.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that no changes have been made to the draft appendix. Upon a motion by Ms. Griffin with second by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission approved the Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported several changes to the draft appendix. Two projects for antennas have been removed, and these will likely be resubmitted in the near future (case numbers SL 18-080 and 18-101). One case has been added, for a sidewalk cafe that will likely be satisfactory upon receipt of final drawings (SL 18-105). The recommendations for two projects have been changed to be favorable based on the recent or anticipated receipt of supplemental materials (18-078 and 18-092). She said that the recommendations for a total of four projects are subject to the anticipated receipt of supplemental materials, and she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations when satisfactory information is received. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act appendix.
Secretary Luebke noted the complexity of managing an average of twenty cases monthly for Shipstead-Luce Act review, which requires a response to the D.C. government within a limited timeframe; he said that the revisions from unfavorable to favorable recommendations are an indication that the process is working well in resolving design issues. He also noted the ongoing difficulty of managing the appearance of rooftop antennas, which tend to function better when placed in more visually prominent locations. He said that this issue may involve further coordination with the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), which has also been trying to address rooftop clutter. Mr. Krieger asked if NCPC and the Commission of Fine Arts have ever held joint meetings. Mr. Luebke responded that staff-level meetings often include representatives of both agencies, but joint meetings of the two commissions have been rare.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Stevenson said that no changes have been made to the draft appendix, which includes 32 projects. The Commission approved the Old Georgetown Act appendix.
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider the Materials Testing Laboratory for the D.C. Department of Transportation, listed as item II.D.
D. District of Columbia Department of Transportation
CFA 19/APR/18-3, Materials Testing Laboratory, 350 McMillan Drive, NW. New materials testing facility. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 16/NOV/17-7.)
Secretary Luebke said that the Commission may wish to act on this submission without a presentation, noting that the revised concept submission appears to be responsive to the Commission’s previous review in November 2017. Ms. Gilbert observed that the site includes retaining walls made of wood railroad ties, and she recommended changing these walls to a more permanent material such as brick or stone; she suggested that the solution could be based on a study of other retaining walls in the vicinity. Mr. Luebke said that this comment could be included as part of the concept approval; he added that the Commission may choose to delegate the review of the final design to the staff. Upon a motion by Ms. Gilbert with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the revised concept with the comment provided, and delegated further review to the staff.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B.
B. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 19/APR/18-1, Smithsonian facilities, south side of the National Mall (South Mall Campus). Independence Avenue, SW. Draft master plan. Final. (Previous: CFA 18/JAN/18-2.) Secretary Luebke introduced the updated draft of the Smithsonian’s South Mall Campus Master Plan. He said that when the Commission members reviewed a previous draft in January, they expressed support for the master plan’s goals but requested additional study of several issues, including the future use of the Arts & Industries Building; the quality of the entrance experience into the underground museums within the Quadrangle; the relationship of these museums to the planned visitor support areas beneath the Castle; and the design principles for the garden that would be installed to replace the existing Enid A. Haupt Garden, proposed to be removed to enable repair of the structure below that serves as the roof of the underground museums.
Mr. Luebke said that the current presentation will focus on principles of planning, programming, and the visitor experience; in the future, specific design proposals will be reviewed as individual cases as they are developed over a period of years. He noted that the master plan has moved forward through the historic preservation and environmental review process with Alternative F as the Smithsonian’s preferred option, which includes excavation along the Castle’s south side for the expanded lower-level visitor support areas and for new entrances from the Quadrangle. The National Capital Planning Commission adopted comments in support of the master plan at its meeting earlier in April. He also noted the significant public interest in the project, particularly concerning the treatment of the Haupt Garden. He asked Albert Horvath, the Smithsonian’s Under Secretary for Finance and Administration, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Horvath emphasized that the Smithsonian supports keeping its visitor center within the expanded public spaces of the Castle, the oldest and most iconic of the Smithsonian’s buildings. He characterized the Castle as the “front door” to the diverse collections of the Smithsonian; its distinctive massing makes it immediately recognizable from the nearby Smithsonian Metro station on the National Mall, from which the majority of visitors arrive. The master plan calls for restoring the Castle’s major interior spaces to their historic appearance while using a greater amount of these spaces for public programs. He said that in recent years, the Castle’s Great Hall has been improved with visitor amenities and a better layout, and its popularity has suggested that further improvements in a rehabilitated building would be even more successful. The Castle is now used primarily for office space; most of the offices would be moved to other buildings, and the restored Great Hall would house a larger visitor center and provide clear access to the new, large underground visitor area—which would connect to all of the Quadrangle’s museums, the Dillon Ripley Center, and a new 800-seat auditorium.
Mr. Horvath said that, in response to the Commission’s previous comments, the Arts & Industries Building has been incorporated more fully into the master plan. This building will benefit from the planned site improvements, including a consolidated loading area; a central, more efficient utility plant, which will have a lower carbon footprint that the current plant; and better pedestrian circulation, which will include an east–west route through the Arts & Industries Building itself. He observed that among the Smithsonian museums, the building provides a uniquely flexible space for large-scale, innovative programs. While the rehabilitation work completed in 2013 stabilized the exterior and replaced the roof and windows, the building’s interior is largely unfinished and lacks permanent air-handling systems, although it is still used for events and programs; an investment of several hundred million dollars will be needed to finish the interior. He added that rehabilitation of the National Air and Space Museum and the Castle must be completed before renovation work can begin on the Arts & Industries Building.
Mr. Horvath addressed the significance of the proposed relocation of the entrance pavilions for the two below-grade museums. He said that the existing pavilions leading to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the National Museum of African Art lack a visible presence on the Mall, the direction from which a majority of visitors arrive. The pavilions also block views from the south toward the Castle and the Haupt Garden. The master plan proposes building two new entrance pavilions closer to the Castle, both for better visibility and to locate public circulation closer to the Castle and the new shared visitor spaces.
Mr. Horvath noted that the new entrance pavilions would be built in approximately ten to fifteen years, as part of the redesign of the Enid A. Haupt Garden. He said that when Enid Haupt provided funding for the garden’s creation, the Smithsonian committed itself to maintaining a garden in this space; he emphasized the importance of gardens and horticulture to the Smithsonian’s mission. He added that the master plan calls for maintaining or improving significant views of the historic buildings from within and outside the Quadrangle, and it would create a more open and welcoming appearance for visitors arriving from Independence Avenue and nearby areas, while retaining a sense of enclosure. In response to the burgeoning growth of commercial and residential development in Southwest Washington, the Smithsonian is working closely with various organizations to ensure that this area of the city will feel connected to the Smithsonian. He said that the future design for the Enid A. Haupt garden will be developed with landscape designers to retain key characteristics of the existing garden, possibly including some of its physical features and exploring issues of the Smithsonian’s legacy and culture. Smithsonian Gardens, the division that oversees horticulture for the museums, has developed a comprehensive interpretive and public education program, and a gardens advisory group has been established to oversee the redesign; the Commission’s comments will be included in the design guidelines. He asked architect Aran Coakley of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) to present the master plan.
Mr. Coakley said that the master plan is primarily a plan for preservation and restoration, improving infrastructure, and improving the visitor experience and understanding of the site. The campus is considered a cultural hub, and it occupies a central location within its broader neighborhood; he noted its proximity to the Mall and to the developing Southwest Ecodistrict. The campus includes three historically significant buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places—the Castle, the Freer Gallery of Art, and the Arts & Industries Building—along with the Hirshhorn Gallery, which has recently become eligible for National Register listing; in addition, the Castle and the Arts & Industries Building are National Historic Landmarks. He discussed existing development constraints. These include the Mall setback line of 445 feet on either side of its central axis; the Castle is the only building standing in front of this line, giving it unique visual prominence. Another constraint is the 9th Street Tunnel, which precludes an underground connection between the Arts & Industries Building and the Hirshhorn Gallery, therefore requiring a ground-level connection. For the Enid A. Haupt Garden, the master plan calls for maintaining its horticultural diversity, intimate character, and educational mission; he noted that many comments received through the public review process have concerned the importance of maintaining the garden’s character.
Mr. Coakley said that the expanded visitor center would make the Quadrangle complex more accessible and provide better amenities. The three separate loading docks currently on the south campus would be consolidated into two areas, maintaining the Hirshhorn’s existing loading dock while creating a new centralized area to serve all of the buildings in the Quadrangle part of the campus; building underground connections above the new loading dock would be a key goal in making this zone function.
Mr. Coakley described the master plan’s proposals for grading and excavation. The initial version of the plan proposed a grade change north of the Castle, while the revised plan maintains the historic grade. The revised plan also reduces the amount of excavation proposed beneath the Castle by half, proposing only enough to accommodate a portion of the improved loading facilities below the Castle’s West Range and Commons. The remainder of the new below-grade space would be located in the currently unexcavated area between the existing Castle basement and the Quadrangle; it would contain utilities, loading, spaces for education and galleries, and improved visitor amenities, such as a café, shop, restrooms, and a large auditorium. Mr. Krieger asked if the Castle’s existing entrances would remain in use, and if they would provide access to all of the Smithsonian south campus facilities. Mr. Coakley responded that the main visitor entrance would still be through the Castle’s north door, and the Castle would still be the main visitor center, giving clear access to the additional visitor amenities in the expanded underground spaces via stairs in the Castle’s north tower and a stairway, ramp, and elevators in the south tower. The below-grade areas would link the Castle to the underground Quadrangle complex; upon entering this space, visitors would be able to move freely throughout the entire museum complex without having to pass through separate screening areas. The proposed Quadrangle entrances would be secondary to those in the Castle; the larger goal is for each of the south campus museums to have a door on the Mall to help attract visitors. The relocated entrance pavilions for the two below-grade museums would lead to glass-walled stairways that would act as clerestories, bringing daylight into the lower levels; additional daylight would enter through a continuous ring of perimeter skylights around the Quadrangle garden.
Mr. Coakley said that the Castle would be restored to its period of significance; the Great Hall and other interior spaces would be restored, and the Great Hall would contain kiosks featuring displays about the Smithsonian’s D.C.-area museums. Offices that now occupy the level above the Great Hall would be removed, allowing the space to be returned to its original double-height configuration. Other parts of the building would be used for educational purposes and evening events. The basement of the Castle formerly housed collections and now contains service areas; in conjunction with improving the building’s mechanical and seismic systems, the basement floor would be lowered to make the basement usable for educational space and to connect the Castle to the shared below-grade visitor center. The B-2 basement level would contain the new engineering facility and the consolidated loading area, and the B-3 basement level would provide a larger exhibition area for the Sackler and African Art museums to address the current fragmentation of exhibit, office, and support spaces. He said that the possibility of retaining the current vertical cores of the Quadrangle museums had been considered, but this has been rejected because it would make visitor access and internal circulation too difficult.
Mr. Coakley described the existing interior of the Arts & Industries Building as an imposing and well-lit space, appropriate for large-scale exhibitions; however, it is not currently functional for daily use and is served by an outdated mechanical system. During construction of the new below-grade space, the Arts & Industries Building would continue to be used for special events and as flexible space to accommodate museum activities when other buildings are closed for renovation. The Arts & Industries Building would also be connected to the new central loading area and utility plant, allowing it to be rehabilitated for permanent use sometime in the future. He noted that the building’s axial plan would easily accommodate the planned east-west pedestrian circulation, and removing the existing at-grade loading area to the east would allow expansion of the Mary Ripley Garden. He said the project team has considered whether the visitor amenities currently proposed for the Castle and the adjacent below-grade expansion could instead be housed in the Arts & Industries Building; however, the needed area for the amenities is 113,000 square feet, while the footprint of the Arts & Industries Building is 95,000 square feet.
Mr. Coakley said that the Freer Gallery would be enhanced with an accessible entrance facing the Quadrangle; the current accessible entrance is on the south side, facing Independence Avenue, and is considered back of house. With the future consolidated delivery facility beneath the Castle, the existing loading ramp in the Quadrangle, near the Freer Gallery’s east facade, would be removed. The changes proposed for the Hirshhorn Museum include a new opening in its west boundary wall to accommodate the proposed east–west pedestrian circulation route connecting to the Arts & Industries Building. The Hirshhorn’s sculpture garden would be renovated, and a new below-grade exhibition space would be created; the pedestrian tunnel that runs beneath Jefferson Drive between the sculpture garden and the museum building would be restored and expanded.
Mr. Coakley described the planned replacement of the existing Enid A. Haupt Garden, which he described as seasonal, diverse, small in scale, intimate, and educational. The Haupt Garden is located on the roof of the Quadrangle complex; because the roof leaks, the garden will have to be removed before the roof can be rebuilt. A new garden dedicated to Haupt would be planted after this work is completed, and the intent is for the new design to maintain the distinguishing qualities of the original. The new design would also emphasize the garden’s connection to the “green thoroughfare” that is proposed to extend along the 10th Street Promenade to the Banneker Overlook, the Wharf, and the larger Southwest Ecodistrict.
Mr. Coakley described the probable impact of the relocated museum entrance pavilions on the historic campus. Their height would be reduced from 37 to 26 feet to avoid obscuring historic facades; they would be built with green roofs. The entrances would be visible from the Mall and Independence Avenue and from within the Quadrangle. He noted that a smaller third pavilion near the Freer Gallery, the Dillon S. Ripley Pavilion, partially obscures views of the Arts & Industries Building when seen from the Mall; this pavilion would be removed and not replaced.
Mr. Coakley concluded by presenting the planned sequencing of projects. The restoration project for the Castle has begun with the preparation of seismic and blast analyses, although preservation work will not begin until two or more years from now. The Castle restoration will be followed by construction of the new loading area and central utility plant, which will enable the rest of the work to proceed, including rehabilitation of the Quadrangle. Mr. Krieger observed that the phasing plan appears to call for the leaking roof beneath the Haupt Garden to remain in place for approximately ten more years; Mr. Coakley confirmed that the sequencing of projects requires the completion of other work before the roof can be replaced.
Ms. Griffin asked for clarification of the proposed below-grade connections between the Castle and the other buildings and facilities; she asked if an area would be excavated and built out before further excavation is carried out. Mr. Coakley responded that excavation would be completed to the lowest level beneath the Castle; these levels would later be connected to the Quadrangle area, although this connection would not be completed for approximately ten years.
Ms. Griffin asked whether the two entrance pavilions could remain in their current locations if the floor plans for the underground levels were redesigned to simplify the connection to the proposed new below-grade space. Mr. Coakley responded that all of the existing floor plans of the underground spaces would be reconfigured, but leaving the two at-grade entrances in their current locations would not address the goal of making the entrances more visible and increasing their prominence; Mr. Krieger supported this goal.
Ms. Griffin asked why the loading areas would be consolidated. Mr. Coakley responded that large trucks cannot back into the existing loading area for the Quadrangle, so all museum collections have to be loaded off and onto trucks parked on the street, in areas where trash pickup also takes place; he characterized this situation as inappropriate for these world-class museums. Mr. Krieger and Ms. Griffin noted that the Commission members had observed this situation on the morning’s site visit, and they agreed that it is substandard.
Mr. Krieger expressed appreciation for the clear presentation, although he objected to the size and wastefulness of the submission booklets. He observed that much of the project’s cost would be in the initial phases, when many of the construction activities would be underway concurrently, while later phases would be easier. Mr. Horvath noted that the Smithsonian’s work is progressing on the renovation of the Air and Space Museum; for the south campus, the Castle will be the first priority because its rehabilitation will drive the rest of the work.
Mr. Krieger invited public comments. Jared Green, representing the American Society of Landscape Architects, asked whether all entrances would be fully accessible once the rehabilitation is complete; Mr. Krieger joined in asking for clarification of the planned entrances. Mr. Coakley indicated the multiple accessible entrances that would be provided, including a ramp and elevators to the below-grade visitor area. Security screening would be located at entrance points, but once visitors enter the underground complex, they would not have to pass through security again.
Ms. Gilbert asked for further information on the central parterre proposed for the redesigned Haupt Garden. Mr. Coakley responded that the rebuilt garden would include a flat forecourt with this parterre, retaining the existing garden’s intimate character; shade trees would be planted to retain its “vertical diversity.” He added that this initial design concept for the garden will undergo much more development.
Mr. Dunson commended the project team for the presentation, citing its clarity about intent and probable outcome. Calling the revised plan a substantial improvement, he expressed support for the clear below-ground connections and for the decision to reduce the amount of excavation. Noting the size of the trucks to be accommodated, he commented that a remaining challenge is how ramped access to the consolidated loading will work.
Ms. Gilbert expressed support for the Haupt Garden planning. She noted that in the previous presentation, the landscape architect had said that the existing garden would be replicated; but it is now clear that everything will be changed—the circulation, scale, and connections—with the result that the garden will be more open, with a greater presence on Independence Avenue. She called this a wonderful opportunity, but cautioned that the landscape design needs the same level of care and investigation that has been given to the architecture; she added that sufficient time remains for this design study. She emphasized that the new Haupt Garden will be a living landscape, with layers that can be clearly revealed precisely because of the work that will be done on the ground plane building; currently, many visitors do not realize the garden is built on top of an underground structure, but in the future they will be able to see and understand those layers. She urged the project team to make this apparent, emphasizing that revealing a working landscape is part of the Smithsonian’s mission.
Ms. Gilbert said that the garden proposal involves the preservation of an important and well-loved American garden; she stressed the need to consider its essential qualities, such as shade and intimacy. She added that Enid A. Haupt, one of America’s greatest horticultural patrons, had declared that “nature is my religion,” and therefore a garden named in her honor should employ new and inventive ways to address such issues as climate change, maintenance, and sustainability. She said that the rehabilitation of the Haupt Garden contains great promise, but this is not yet apparent in the master plan, and these challenges should be investigated in the garden’s design.
Ms. Griffin expressed appreciation for the attention given to understanding the south campus and its relation to the southern part of the Mall, and also for the decision not to treat Independence Avenue as merely the back door to the south campus. She observed that the master plan is based on concepts of revealing and visibility. She anticipated review of how the new pavilions and the redesigned garden might evoke the collections of the Sackler Gallery and the Museum of African Art, since the underground buildings themselves cannot do this.
Mr. Krieger commented that the master plan is sufficiently complicated that the Commission has benefitted from hearing the presentation twice. He said that the Commission members now have a better understanding of the goals and phasing, and he commended the clear logic. He observed that the relationship between the Castle and the Haupt Garden will be severed for some period during construction of the new visitor center, and he concluded that many challenges remain to be considered. He said that he anticipates many future reviews of the different components.
Ms. Griffin offered a motion to approve the proposed draft master plan, with the understanding that subsequent development of the plan and its individual components, including the pavilions and landscape, will be submitted for the Commission’s review. Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted this action.
C. District of Columbia Department of General Services
CFA 19/APR/18-2, C.W. Harris Elementary School, 301 53rd Street, SE. Building renovation and additions. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept design for renovating C.W. Harris Elementary School, located in the Marshall Heights neighborhood of Washington. The design-build project would renovate the existing L-shaped, two-story building dating from 1964, and construct a one-story addition containing a gymnasium, cafeteria, administrative offices, and new main entrance for the school. The project would be phased, with the modernization of the existing building to be completed in August 2019 and the new addition completed in August 2020. She asked architect Sean O’Donnell of Perkins Eastman to begin the presentation.
Mr. O’Donnell said that the project is intended to transform the school from one that appears outmoded into one that provides light and views for its users, and is engaged with the community and landscape. The principles that have informed the concept design have been developed through a creative process that included evaluation of the site and the required program for the school, as well as interaction with the community. Other factors that have informed the design include consideration of the school’s civic presence; the desire to celebrate the school’s history and its multigenerational importance to the Marshall Heights community; and the desire to facilitate a high-quality educational program, which is focused on a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curriculum.
Mr. O’Donnell said that the streets in the Marshall Heights neighborhood are rotated slightly off the city’s typical orthogonal grid, probably due to topography and the development history of the area; this orientation increases the school building’s solar heat gain. In addition, the recent replacement of windows has resulted in increased glazing, exacerbating this issue; he indicated in photographs that interior sun shades are drawn for most of the school day. He indicated the site boundaries: C Street, SE, to the north; 53rd Street to the west; D Street to the south; and an unnamed alley as the eastern boundary. He noted that vehicular access to the northern half of the alley is currently blocked by concrete barriers, and that a segment of Call Place, SE, once ran east–west through the site but was incorporated into the site when the school was constructed.
Mr. O’Donnell said that most people arrive at the school from the northwest; cars travel along 53rd Street in the opposite direction, often moving past the inconspicuous main entrance, which is at the southwest corner of the site. He described the building’s current entry sequence as inadequate: students assemble on adjacent parking lots or the basketball court and enter through one of the side egress doors. The project would establish a more formal and gracious entry into the building; cars, which are now given prominent areas near important building entrance points, would be made secondary to pedestrians in this arrival and entry sequence. He emphasized that safety, security, and vehicular convenience are important considerations in the design of this sequence, but they should not be allowed to define the perception of the school’s quality. He indicated an existing open green area that occupies most of the center, northern, and eastern parts of the school site; this area is underused for several reasons, including community use of the lawn as an informal and unkempt dog park. He said that the most used outdoor spaces are the recently reconstructed playgrounds, located on the north and south sides of the building. The south playground, used by the preschool program, is adjacent to a large service yard and loading area; the proposal would replace this service area with a classroom garden and other landscape features, contributing to the overall goal of creating a series of integrated exterior learning environments with gardens and other active outdoor spaces. Service functions would be moved to the northeast corner of the building and combined with a parking lot, which would be screened. He added that reestablishing vehicular access to the alley would be desirable to improve access to the loading and parking area. He indicated a secondary entrance for younger children that would be created between the new landscape and existing playground, allowing for access to the southeast portion of the building without walking through the halls from the main entrance. The west side of the site along 53rd Street is now mostly a narrow lawn, with several modest planters intended to be part of an experiential landscape; he said that this area presents an opportunity for plantings that would activate the building’s street frontage and provide enhanced educational opportunities for students.
Mr. O’Donnell said that the current building comprises approximately 60,000 square feet across two wings, configured as double-loaded corridors. The two wings intersect at the multipurpose room, located at the southwest corner of the site at 53rd and D Streets adjacent to the school’s current main entrance. The multipurpose room is expressed as a double-height box projecting from the mass of the school building; however, this volume obscures the building entrance, which is tucked between the windowless facades of the multipurpose room and the northern academic wing. He said that another deficiency in the existing school’s plan is that the front office is not located near the entrance, requiring visitors to walk through the school to check in, which presents security concerns. He also indicated several spaces that lack windows, which results in a dark and institutional experience inside the building.
Mr. O’Donnell said that the goal of providing more daylight and views throughout the building would be achieved by reorganizing the existing building in a single-loaded configuration; this would also help facilitate a contemporary educational curriculum. The new main entrance at the north end of the school would include a security barrier that would separate the community functions of the building from the school functions, allowing the building to serve as a community center outside of school hours. Adjacent to this new entrance, the proposed gymnasium would feature a double-sided stage with a large operable partition that would allow the stage to open onto an assembly space outside the building, supporting the goal of integrating interior and exterior spaces. He asked architect Mary Rankin of Perkins Eastman to present the proposed addition and alterations in greater detail.
Ms. Rankin described two important objectives informing the proposed design: to respect the history of the school as a community focal point, and to celebrate the spirit of the school’s Viking mascot. She said that although the existing building may not be architecturally significant, it has played an important role in the lives of many community members for generations. Therefore, the massing and elevations of the new addition are intended to appear as a respectful, but differentiated, evolution of the existing building. She said that the solar heat gain that results from the new floor-to-ceiling window system would be mitigated by applying an external sun shade system across the old and new buildings. The second goal—celebrating the school’s mascot—would be achieved by using architectural forms associated with a Viking ship for the new addition, which would house functions including the cafeteria and gymnasium. The roof of the addition would be curved, intended to invoke the sense of being within the hull of a ship; on the exterior, the intersecting curved roof forms are intended to appear like waves crashing around a ship’s hull. The double-height volumes for the cafeteria and gymnasium are also intended to provide a civic presence for the building.
Ms. Rankin described the intended primary entry sequence for the school. The entrance would be reached from 53rd Street through Viking Plaza, an outdoor gathering space for students, parents, and the community; the plaza would be set back and separated from the sidewalk by a low wall. Students would then proceed into the double-height lobby area, under a bridge that connects the top of a new monumental stair with the second floor of the existing building. The ceiling structure of this space would be composed of curved glulam wood beams intended to make students feel they are walking into a wooden Viking ship; these beams would extend into the gymnasium space beyond the lobby. The administrative suite and main office of the school would be located off the lobby area. She added that a skylight is being considered for the central corridor of the addition, but this has not been included in the current drawings. The exterior volume of the lobby, while providing a civic presence in the neighborhood, would also respect the scale of the detached single-family houses across 53rd Street and C Street.
Ms. Griffin asked for a description of the proposed materials of the addition. Ms. Rankin responded that the school’s STEM curriculum has inspired the palette, which celebrates the advancement of modern materials and technologies. She said that a durable masonry material—for example, a dark-colored brick or ground-face block—would be used to clad the base and some of the facades of the addition; the scale of the masonry would be related to the patterning and materiality of the existing building. Other areas of the upper facades would have a system of vertical metal corrugated panels or an insulated translucent panel system; the color of the metal panels is still being considered. Vision glass would be used on many ground-level areas of the facades. She added that the project team is also exploring whether vision glass could be used instead of the translucent panels, which would allow views out of the building from the upper level of the interior monumental stair.
Ms. Rankin described the proposed alterations to the south facade of the existing building, indicating the two continuous strips of exterior sunshades that would be applied across this facade along the outside of the windows. She said that the system shown in the drawing is horizontally arranged and somewhat flat, and the project team is studying the feasibility of a more vertically arranged panel system similar to the one proposed for the west elevation, which would have panels of perforated metal that would mitigate sun and glare while still allowing some views out of the windows. She said that her firm has successfully used a similar perforated material as security grates for windows. She noted that the existing multipurpose room would be converted into the school’s library.
Mr. Krieger asked how the building alterations would relate to the existing stairways. Mr. O’Donnell responded that the two stairways in the northern wing would not align with the proposed corridor configuration and would be demolished. The northernmost stair would be replaced by the new monumental stair in the addition that would connect to the existing second floor via a bridge across the new double-height lobby area; the southern stair, near the intersection of the two academic wings, would be rebuilt nearby within a new structure appended to the existing building. Mr. Krieger asked about the relative size of the proposed reconfigured classrooms. Mr. O’Donnell confirmed that they would be reoriented by ninety degrees and would be larger than the existing classrooms; he indicated the existing column lines that would remain, corresponding to the sides of the existing corridor. He said that this conversion of a double-loaded corridor to a single-loaded configuration has been successfully completed in the firm’s work on Watkins Elementary School. Mr. Krieger observed that the building’s toilets and mechanical systems would also be relocated, and asked if consideration was given to demolishing the building and replacing it entirely. Mr. O’Donnell responded that these types of buildings still have value, and they can be adapted quite well for modern use; he also noted the recent investment in the building’s new windows and photovoltaic roof panels.
Ms. Griffin agreed that the proposed consolidation of community facilities near the new entrance could be beneficial. However, she observed that students would have to leave the secured area of the school when going from their classrooms to the gymnasium and cafeteria adjacent to the new main entrance lobby and school offices; she asked if the school’s teachers and administrators support this configuration, or if instead these program areas should be closer to the classrooms. Mr. O’Donnell responded that having the gym and cafeteria spaces next to one another is desirable because the spaces can be used separately or combined; the cafeteria also needs to be near the street because of the associated loading dock. He said that travel distance was considered in the placement of these functions, and the younger students, who are the most distractible when traveling, would be closer to these shared spaces; he added that the youngest children would eat in their classrooms instead of in the cafeteria. He emphasized that the proposed configuration places the library within the former multipurpose room, elevating this function to be at the heart of the school where the building’s two wings meet.
Ms. Griffin clarified that her concern is the potential for noise and disruption near the administrative offices because of the proposed arrangement of spaces, as well as problem of students moving back and forth between the secure school zone and the more public zones of the building. Ms. Rankin said that these concerns have been considered in the design: for example, the administrative suite would be separated from the busy corridor by waiting areas, storage space, and bathrooms. The security doors between the outer lobby and the inner corridor are also intended to separate students and visitors, who would be able to access the administrative suite directly from the outer lobby. Mr. O’Donnell acknowledged that the corridor outside the gym and cafeteria would be active and dynamic, but he emphasized that classrooms would be buffered from this area.
Ms. Griffin commented that the intended reference to a Viking ship was not apparent until specifically described in the presentation; she said that the design appears to be too subtle, and she suggested that some of these referential forms could be developed further to convey better the intended associations. She also commented that the planes of each elevation appear flat, and she suggested adding more relief in the details. She said that the exterior would be improved by including more wood surfaces.
Mr. Krieger agreed with Ms. Griffin’s comments, but he said that some “moments of inspiration” would be good to retain and enhance, while others could be eliminated from the design. He expressed support for the proposed exterior forms, as well as most of the proposed material palette, including the glulam beams, and he commented on the surprising adaptability of the existing school building. He also expressed appreciation for the design strategies used to mitigate the solar heat gain issues cause by the recent window replacement. However, he observed that if the interior space of the addition is intended to resemble a Viking ship, then it is most similar to an upside-down or sunken one, resulting in potential negative associations with the imagery of a sunken ship and crashing waves. He also cautioned against making the design references too literal, and he suggested that a beautiful model of a Viking ship placed in the lobby may be more appropriate. Ms. Griffin said that the design should either embrace the nautical references and make them more literal and apparent, or eliminate these references from the design altogether. Mr. Krieger agreed; he said that if the ship’s hull element is retained in the design, then it probably should not appear to be capsized. Regarding the other proposed materials, he suggested decreasing the extent of the dark masonry block, which he said is not a desirable material for users of the school and may appear overwhelming; he encouraged using a lighter-color masonry if feasible.
Ms. Gilbert commended the project team for its design process, including the inspiration that informed the proposal as well as the research and guidelines developed from the architects’ experience completing numerous school projects in Washington. She expressed appreciation that the large neglected playing field is included in the site design and would become a part of the life of the school and larger community. She said that she looks forward to the development of a planting plan that would give a new vegetated perimeter to the campus. She asked how the design could discourage climbing on the exterior solar screening fins that are proposed near the main entrance. Ms. Rankin responded that the masonry wall separating the plaza and school building from the sidewalk, as well as plantings in this area, would deter climbing; she acknowledged that the fins along the ramp leading to the entrance plaza may be the most problematic. Ms. Gilbert suggested installing a track or guard to limit the projecting angle of the fins.
Ms. Griffin suggested that the extensive exterior use of the color gray be reconsidered; she observed that it does not seem related to the existing building or its context. Mr. Krieger agreed, commenting that the gray would appear overwhelming on some of the taller facades and site walls. Ms. Griffin suggested incorporating colors and materials from the existing building to prevent the new addition from appearing like a tacked-on metal shed. She cited the rich color of the perforated aluminum panels shown in the precedent image for the proposed exterior sun fins. Regarding the proposed fins on the south facade of the existing building, she encouraged further developing the concept of orienting them more vertically. She suggested placing the fins between the building piers, rather than across them, in order to allow each of the facade components to be legible. Mr. Dunson agreed with the suggestions that have been provided, commenting that the proposed design is a substantial improvement over the existing facility.
Secretary Luebke noted that the Commission has not raised serious issues with the design; he suggested that if the Commission members approve the concept, they could choose to delegate the review of the final design to the staff. Mr. Dunson said that the Commission would likely be interested in the detailing that addresses the issues discussed, which could be reviewed at the staff level. Mr. Krieger agreed, and he asked about the status of the project’s cost estimating; Ms. Rankin responded that the schematic design phase has been completed, and precise cost estimates are still being developed. Mr. Krieger said that if the presented design turns out to be too costly and is modified, then the Commission members would like to review the revised design; Mr. Dunson agreed. Mr. O’Donnell clarified that early estimates show the design as being over budget; however, he said that the distinctive elements of the design are within reach of the budget. For example, he noted that the contractor has reported no price difference between the proposed glulam and more conventional steel framing, so the most important elements of the design should likely be achievable. Ms. Rankin added that because this is a design-build project, the contractor is already involved in the design process. Mr. O’Donnell said that the District of Columbia Public Schools is excited about the project and the proposed design.
Ms. Griffin offered a motion to approve the concept with the comments provided, and with review of the final design delegated to the staff; however, if the staff determines that the design has substantially changed during the value engineering process, it could recommend that the Commission review the final design. Mr. Krieger emphasized that the dark gray color should be reconsidered. Mr. Luebke asked if the Commission has additional guidance regarding the color; Ms. Griffin reiterated her earlier suggestion to reference the existing building, and Mr. Krieger agreed. Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted the motion for approval.
D. District of Columbia Department of Transportation
CFA 19/APR/18-3, Materials Testing Laboratory, 350 McMillan Drive, NW. New materials testing facility. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 16/NOV/17-7.) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
E. D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities
CFA 19/APR/18-4, Reservation 313A, South Dakota Avenue, 26th and Irving Streets, NE. Public art installation. Final. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal for an outdoor sculpture in a small triangle park that is managed by the D.C. government. He asked Keona Pearson, the public art coordinator for the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, to begin the presentation.
Ms. Pearson provided an overview of her agency’s program of grants for public art. Artists and organizations compete for the opportunity to design, fabricate, and install a work of art that can be temporary or permanent. The current project is by artist Wilfredo Valladares, who is developing the artwork in cooperation with the community; the approval process also includes the D.C. Office of Planning and the D.C. Department of Transportation’s Urban Forestry Division. She noted that the grant program each year covers a period from 1 October through 30 September, and this project is therefore intended for completion—including design, fabrication, and installation—by 30 September 2018. Ms. Griffin asked what would happen if the deadline is not met; Ms. Pearson responded that an extension could be granted if necessary.
Mr. Valladares presented the proposed sculpture, which he said is inspired by the Woodridge neighborhood where it is located and where he lives and works. The sculpture is intended to inspire people and to activate the park by bringing visual interest to it; the sculpture would complement the existing trees and other landscape features of the park. The project also includes workshops for the community, held either in his studio or at a local gallery, with the added opportunity to involve local schools through the workshops and planting flowers around the sculpture. He noted that the project has the support of the Friends of Rhode Island Avenue neighborhood group, as well as the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission.
Mr. Valladares described the proposed site, indicating the triangle-shaped park’s trees and the sidewalks along each edge. He presented a maquette of the sculpture, which would be a flower-like form of stainless steel stems and leaves. Within the leaves would be stained-glass inserts, supported by clear resin for durability; light passing through the stained glass would result in colored light along the ground. The leaves would be brightly colored with a powder coating on the stainless steel. The overall height would be fourteen feet, and its extent in plan would be approximately seven by nine feet. He presented his own design drawings for the sculpture’s base and foundation, noting that a structural engineer is preparing more detailed drawings for obtaining a construction permit; he also presented a photographic simulation of the sculpture at scale within the park. Ms. Gilbert asked if the base would be square in plan or have a more amorphous shape. Mr. Valladares responded that the square shape in the presentation is the suggestion of the structural engineer, but other options will be explored for better aesthetics, such as a circular base or a more organic form. He indicated the location at the center of the park, away from the existing trees and other plantings. The intention is to plant flowers around the sculpture’s base; this feature will be developed further by a landscape architect, with consideration of minimizing maintenance needs.
Ms. Gilbert questioned the coloring of the sculpture’s leaves, commenting that the color intensity may be excessive; this could be reduced by not coloring the top surfaces of the leaves. She also commented that the brightness of the presented colors would be out of character with the winter appearance of the park; she suggested a more subtle treatment that would emphasize the beauty of the stained-glass inserts.
Ms. Griffin asked about the fabrication process for the complex forms of the sculpture, emphasizing that the execution of such an intricate design will be critical to its success. As an example, she expressed concern that the presented maquette oversimplifies the attachment of the leaves to the stems—an important detail that will be visible to people looking up at the sculpture. Mr. Valladares agreed that the fabrication process is important, and he confirmed that each shape in the sculpture is unique. He said that he is relying on the engineering drawings for the details, and he distributed several of these drawings to the Commission members. He clarified that the stainless-steel stems would be hollow tubes, with diameters ranging from approximately three to six inches. The leaves would be made of steel plate with a thickness of 3/8 of an inch; the curves of the stems and leaves would be achieved using a pressure roller. Attachments would be welded, and the sculpture would be bolted to the foundation. He noted that he has done similar projects in the past, using machines to bend the sculptural elements. Ms. Griffin said that the engineering drawings are newly presented and difficult to understand, and she expressed reluctance to approve the sculpture without a better understanding of the fabrication and engineering process, notwithstanding the project’s constrained schedule. She cited the diameter of the stems, questioning whether such a thin tube pipe could be used for the fourteen-foot height of the sculpture; Mr. Krieger added that the stems appear thicker in the maquette. Ms. Griffin acknowledged the extensive community engagement and the desire to create a cherished amenity for the neighborhood; she said that further Commission review of the sculpture’s intended realization would help to ensure that the community’s expectations are fulfilled. Mr. Krieger asked what additional information should be provided to the Commission; Ms. Griffin reiterated her concern with the attachment of the leaves to the stems, as well as the thickness and surface quality of the leaves.
Mr. Dunson asked for clarification of the proposed siting of the sculpture, which is depicted in the photographic simulation as simply inserted into the middle of the park; he suggested the preparation of an overall design for the triangle park. He also questioned the finish of the proposed welding, which he observed has been left rough on the presented maquette. Mr. Valladares responded that the engineering drawings show the bolted connection of the leaves to the stems. Mr. Dunson asked if the bolts would be exposed; Mr. Valladares clarified that the bolts would be concealed in an internal connection, resulting in a seamless appearance. He said that the exact detailing is still being finalized through his discussions with the engineer, involving a balance between aesthetic concerns and structural needs. He added that the welded connections would be smoothed and polished.
Mr. Dunson asked how the height and proportions of the sculpture have been determined. Mr. Valladares responded that the proposed size is modest enough to avoid overwhelming the small park, intended instead to enhance it, but it is tall enough that people will look upward to the leaves. Mr. Dunson commented that the scale relates to both the aesthetics and engineering of the sculpture, including the thickness of the tubes that form the stems. Mr. Valladares said that he is continuing to coordinate with the engineer to determine the necessary thickness of the sculpture’s components as the design is scaled up to the intended height of fourteen feet. Mr. Dunson said that a strong wind would likely cause the sculpture to move, which should be considered as part of the engineering; the temperature extremes of summer and winter would also cause elements of the sculpture to move in different ways. Mr. Valladares responded that these issues are encompassed in the engineering calculations and the selection of materials.
Ms. Gilbert asked whether the sculpture is susceptible to climbing, which could result in it being treated as a piece of playground equipment. She observed that a standing person could easily start climbing the lower stems and move upward toward the top of the sculpture. She said that climbing could be deterred by the detailing of the leaf edges or the design of the ground plane. Mr. Valladares acknowledged that sculptures are generally susceptible to climbing, and he said that the proposed planting of flowers around the sculpture’s base would serve as a deterrent. Ms. Gilbert emphasized that this sculpture, with its projecting leaves, would be a different sort of climbing attraction than, for example, an equestrian statue; she encouraged careful consideration of this issue.
Ms. Gilbert agreed with Mr. Dunson that the statue’s siting could be considered further. While acknowledging the desirability of avoiding negative impacts on existing trees, she suggested moving the statue further from the relatively heavy traffic of South Dakota Avenue. Ms. Pearson responded that the proposed siting at the center of the park was recommended by the D.C. Department of Transportation staff in response to the location of existing trees; at the selected location, the sculpture’s foundation would not be likely to affect the tree roots. Mr. Dunson asked about an overall plan for the park. Ms. Pearson responded that none has been prepared, beyond the additional plantings presented by Mr. Valladares; she added that the installation of the sculpture could encourage further improvements to the park.
Mr. Krieger said that the proposed sculpture is very interesting and will likely be beloved by much of the community; nonetheless, the Commission’s skepticism is justified due to concerns with its fabrication and detailing. He said that each leaf would be stable in shape and quite heavy, apparently attached to its stem at only a single point, as shown in the maquette. Mr. Valladares clarified that the maquette is a simplified depiction to illustrate the design; the actual connection would encompass a broader area. Mr. Krieger said that such differences are the reason for the Commission’s questioning of the design; if the area of contact is broadened with metal plates, their detailing is unclear, perhaps appearing as rectangular plates or having a more organic shaping.
Ms. Griffin observed that the maquette shows double-layers of stained glass, while the newly provided engineering drawings show a single layer of glass. Mr. Valladares clarified that the single-layer detail is correct; the glass would be the same thickness as the metal leaf and would be held in place by metal brackets. Ms. Gilbert asked how the stained glass would be curved to match the shape of the leaf into which it is inserted; Mr. Valladares responded that the glass would be fired in a kiln using a form that would give it the desired shape. Ms. Griffin asked if the added material at the support point—a one-inch thick metal plate, according to the engineering drawings—would also need to be bent, noting that the detailing of the underside of each leaf will be quite complex; Ms. Gilbert emphasized that these areas would be readily seen by the public. Mr. Dunson suggested deferring to the artist, who has already provided a satisfactory explanation of the intended seamless connection to the stem. Ms. Griffin said that the seamless connection does not address the issue of the metal plate’s appearance beneath each leaf; Mr. Dunson agreed that the design materials do not address whether this plate would be concealed or exposed. Mr. Valladares responded that the plate would blend gradually into the bottom of each leaf; the viewer would not be aware of the presence of the added metal plate.
Ms. Gilbert suggested preparing a more detailed model of a single leaf and a portion of its stem to illustrate the connection detail and the finish; Mr. Dunson agreed that this would be helpful. Mr. Krieger questioned whether this could be provided while still maintaining the tight schedule for the project. He also questioned whether curvature of the steel plate for the leaves is realistic, and whether the details could be resolved while coordinating the openings for the stained-glass inserts. He added that the sleeve connection at the upper end of each stem appears to be curved, which suggests that the materials for this connection would have to be cast in a custom shape. Mr. Dunson agreed that a conflict among these details would be problematic, and a failure in fabricating any of the uniquely shaped components would prevent the sculpture from being successful.
Ms. Pearson suggested providing the Commission with images of past work by Mr. Valladares to demonstrate the success of similar detailing on completed sculptures. Mr. Krieger asked how close the similarity would be to the current proposal; Mr. Valladares said that his past work is the same material, using comparable leaves, but at a slightly smaller scale. He said that images of his other work are available on his website but are not included in the presentation materials. The Commission members compared the height of the proposed sculpture to the similar height of their meeting room, agreeing that the sculpture would be large but could be tempting to climb.
Mr. Krieger summarized the consensus that the Commission is unwilling to approve the sculpture as a final design; he suggested consideration of approving it as a concept. Mr. Luebke said that the approval could be conditional on the submission of further information; the project team would first need to consider whether the proposal is even achievable in light of the Commission’s concerns. Mr. Krieger agreed that this is an open question, due to the potential complexity of the detailing. Mr. Luebke offered to address the issues through further staff-level consultation meetings; he noted that an additional model or mockup would be necessary in any case for the project team to resolve the detailing questions. Mr. Dunson agreed that the Commission’s request for a more detailed model is not really adding an additional requirement to the needed process; the model, in conjunction with photographs of the artist’s similar past work, would make the Commission more willing to approve the project.
Mr. Krieger said that the Commission’s concerns result from the differences between the maquette and the engineering drawings, because the artist’s vision as shown in the maquette may not be structurally achievable; Mr. Valladares agreed that the sculpture must be engineered successfully. Ms. Griffin added that an improved understanding of the fabrication technique would reveal problematic details that could then be addressed in a manner that retains the overall artistic vision for the sculpture. For example, the solution could be to reduce the sculpture’s height in order to lessen the structural requirements and therefore allow for a more simply detailed connection. She said that the design decisions are interrelated and should be informed by a more detailed model or examples of past work.
Mr. Luebke said that the Commission could approve the submission as a concept, while delegating the review of the final design to the staff; this could allow the project to remain on schedule. He noted that if the design issues do not appear to be resolved satisfactorily, the staff would bring the final design back to the Commission for further review. Mr. Krieger and Mr. Dunson supported this procedure. Ms. Gilbert reiterated that the bright colors should also be reconsidered, commenting that they would make the sculpture appear to be a piece of playground equipment and would therefore encourage climbing. She clarified that some use of color would be appropriate, but with a subtler palette instead of bright green and pink. She suggested consideration of brown and yellow, which would relate to the year-round colors of nature rather than the short duration of brighter colors as seen in some flowers; she said that this palette would be more appropriate for this permanent sculpture installation.
Mr. Krieger offered a motion to approve the submission as a concept, with review of the final design delegated to the staff, and subject to the comments provided—particularly concerning the detailing of the connection beneath each leaf, as well as the color palette. Ms. Griffin added that the connection of each stem to the sculpture’s base is an additional concern that should be studied; Ms. Gilbert also included the detail of how to install the stained-glass inserts within the surrounding metal-plate leaf. Upon a second by Ms. Griffin, the Commission adopted this action.
Ms. Gilbert emphasized the value of this art program in engaging the community, and she said that the sculpture would be a positive addition to the triangle park. Mr. Dunson encouraged the D.C. government to enhance additional triangle parks throughout the city; Ms. Gilbert said that this sculpture could serve as inspiration for improvements in other neighborhoods.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 1:04 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA