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. Earl A. Powell, Chairman
Hon. Elizabeth Meyer, Vice Chairman
Hon. Edward Dunson
Hon. Liza Gilbert
Hon. Toni Griffin
Hon. Alex Krieger
Hon. Mia Lehrer
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
(Assistant Secretary Lindstrom represented the staff at the start of the meeting due to travel delays for Secretary Luebke.)
Approval of the minutes of the 19 April meeting. Assistant Secretary Lindstrom reported that the minutes of the April meeting had been circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the minutes.
Mr. Lindstrom requested the Commission’s approval of a small revision to the February 2018 minutes concerning the World War I Memorial; the proposed single-sentence addition had been circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved this addition.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Lindstrom presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 21 June, 19 July, and 20 September 2018. He noted that no meeting is scheduled in August.
C. Anniversary of the establishment of the Commission of Fine Arts, 17 May 1910, and the Shipstead-Luce Act, 16 May 1930. Mr. Lindstrom acknowledged the Commission’s two anniversaries falling in May: the 108th anniversary of the Commission’s establishment and the 88th anniversary of the Shipstead-Luce Act.
D. Report on position announcement for hiring new staff. Mr. Lindstrom reported that a candidate has been selected for the position of historic preservation specialist to work on the review of projects in the Old Georgetown historic district. He anticipated that she would join the staff within a month and would be introduced to the Commission at the June 2018 meeting.
E. Report of the approval of two objects proposed for acquisition by the Freer Gallery of Art. Mr. Lindstrom reported Chairman Powell’s approval earlier in the morning of the acquisition of two artworks by the Smithsonian Institution as part of the permanent collection of the Freer Gallery of Art: an 18th-century Japanese hanging scroll painting that was influenced by Chinese art, and a 17th-century porcelain tea bowl produced in China for the Japanese market. He said that both artworks have been offered to the Smithsonian as gifts.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Lindstrom 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 two projects at the Hyde–Addison Elementary School have been moved to this consent calendar from the draft Old Georgetown Act appendix, because these projects are direct submissions from the D.C. government. Changes for other projects are limited to minor wording adjustments. He noted the report attached to the consent calendar to list recent actions on reviews that the Commission has previously delegated to the staff; a third project has been added to this attached report, approving the renovation project for Arlington Memorial Bridge. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the revised Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported the addition of one case to the draft appendix to note its withdrawal by the applicant (case number SL 18-101). Changes for other projects are limited to minor wording adjustments and noting the receipt of supplemental materials. She said that the recommendation for one project is subject to the anticipated receipt of supplemental materials (SL 18-120), and she requested authorization to finalize this recommendation when satisfactory information is received. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act appendix. (See agenda item II.F for an additional Shipstead-Luce Act submission.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Stevenson said that the only change to the draft appendix is to remove the two projects at the Hyde–Addison Elementary School; these projects are instead listed on the Government Submissions Consent Calendar. Upon a motion by Ms. Griffin with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised Old Georgetown Act appendix. Mr. Lindstrom acknowledged Ms. Stevenson’s work in managing the entire Georgetown caseload.
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider the proposal for Eliot–Hine Middle School, listed as item II.E.2.
E. District of Columbia Department of General Services
2. CFA 17/MAY/18-6, Eliot–Hine Middle School, 1830 Constitution Avenue, NE. Building renovation and additions. Concept.
Mr. Lindstrom said that the Commission may wish to act on this submission without a presentation, based on the review of the submission materials. Upon a motion by Ms. Griffin with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the concept submission. Mr. Lindstrom added that the Commission may also choose to delegate review of the final design to the staff; upon a motion by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted this delegation.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B.
B. National Capital Planning Commission
1. CFA 17/MAY/18-1, Pennsylvania Avenue Initiative. Pennsylvania Avenue from 3rd to 15th Streets, NW. Information presentation. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the first of two presentations by the staff of the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC): an overview and analysis of its Pennsylvania Avenue Initiative. The initiative considers near- and long-term improvements to the area of Pennsylvania Avenue between 3rd and 15th Streets, NW, including Federal Triangle, the main Treasury Building, and several blocks north of the avenue. The study is managed by NCPC with oversight from an executive committee that includes representatives from the General Services Administration (GSA), the National Park Service (NPS), and the D.C. Government; the staffs of the Commission of Fine Arts and the D.C. Office of Planning have also advised the effort. He said that the initiative considers a range of issues and solutions, including the related funding and management structures, to address the current challenges of the study area. He introduced Sarah Ridgely, a senior urban planner with NCPC, to provide the information presentation.
Ms. Ridgely said that the presentation includes an overview and key findings of the initiative, which were released for public comment earlier in the month and are available to the public on NCPC’s website. She said that the members of the initiative’s executive committee include the agencies that have responsibility for the economic and physical condition of the avenue, following the dissolution in 1996 of the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation (PADC). NPS is responsible for the sidewalks and the parks, and the D.C. Government has jurisdiction over the vehicular cartways. She briefly described the history of PADC, which was established by Congress in 1972 to redevelop the area of the avenue and strengthen the connection between downtown and the National Mall. A major achievement of PADC was the Pennsylvania Avenue Plan of 1974, which served as a catalyst for Washington's downtown development revival. The plan is still in effect today; however, it does not reflect the subsequent dramatic changes in the city or the latest best practices of the design, planning, and development professions.
Ms. Ridgely described the boundary of the Pennsylvania Avenue Initiative study area as inclusive of the 1.2 miles of Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the U.S. Capitol; it also includes the nearby area covered by the 1974 Pennsylvania Avenue Plan, as well as Federal Triangle. She said that the area is facing challenges for several reasons, one being the traffic closure of E Street and Pennsylvania Avenue as they cross the White House Grounds, which has led to a significant decline in crosstown traffic using the avenue. Another challenge is the sense that the avenue is a dividing line between downtown and the Mall. She said that the goals of the initiative are to connect these two areas and to make the avenue both a daily and civic destination.
Ms. Ridgely said that the initiative includes several analyses of the study area. A market study evaluated demographic and economic data, land uses, and the competitive advantages and disadvantages of the avenue related to other neighborhoods. An urban design analysis and transportation study were also performed, examining the physical components of the avenue. In addition, traffic along the avenue was measured and compared to the rest of downtown. She also referred to the cultural landscape inventory completed by NPS in 2006, which extends the current period of significance for the avenue: the new period is 1791–1996, which encompasses the avenue’s modern transformation that began in 1962 with the establishment by President Kennedy of the Ad Hoc Committee on Federal Office Space, and ended in 1996 with the dissolution of PADC.
Ms. Ridgely presented the findings of the market study, which found that the primary land use along the avenue is government and commercial offices. She noted that although office vacancy rates remain high, rental rates are also high. In addition, the study shows that office buildings in the area tend to have larger floor plates than what is currently desirable in the market. She said that the study indicates the potential for the addition of 400,000 square feet of retail, but this demand is hampered because of internal cafeterias and other services found in the area’s federal and private office facilities. In addition, the opportunity exists for growth in the cultural and entertainment sectors, which she said is the character-defining feature of the avenue. She noted that the numbers of tourists along the avenue has been increasing annually, with more than 22 million tourists in 2016. She listed several advantages of the avenue, including its strong civic identity, central location, access to transportation, a concentration of cultural and historic destinations, the stable government office sector, and a general preference for downtown living on the north side of the study area. She said that disadvantages of the area include the high cost of land and real estate, an inability to serve as a regular daily destination for residents as seen along 14th Street or in Georgetown, and a scarcity of street-fronting retail space resulting from the design of federal and private office buildings.
Ms. Ridgely then described the findings of the urban design analysis, which was informed by NCPC’s previous work on the square guidelines for the Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters site on the avenue. The analysis considered the study area’s physical form, land uses, transportation networks, and the individual character areas that compose the larger study area, along with comparisons to other notable world capital city streets. She said the analysis found that a principal strength of the area is a strong civic identity and character, which is reinforced by the grandeur and central vista of the avenue, and the architecture and the landscape architecture of federal buildings and complexes that express strength, stability, and endurance. She noted the area’s favorable distribution of parks and plazas that, along with the streetscape, forms a “green spine” that connects the special places along the avenue. She said the areas that most successfully engage people are two mixed-use nodes: the west end by the Willard Hotel, and the mid-avenue at Market Square. These nodes draw large numbers of people to the avenue and are dynamic areas because they balance cultural, entertainment, and general activity uses. The analysis also found that the avenue is served well by multiple modes of transportation that provide good access to other parts of the city and region; options include Metrorail and buses, tour buses, highway access, and bike lanes on the north–south streets and on the avenue itself. She noted that 7th Street serves as a strong connector between downtown and the Mall.
Ms. Ridgely then described the challenges created by the urban design of the study area. One challenge is an inconsistently engaging experience for daily users, which is caused in part by a lack of pedestrian scale, interest, comfort, and “sticky spaces” needed to keep people on the avenue. She said that many of the parks and plazas have extensive maintenance backlogs that result in diminished pedestrian occupancy and enjoyment; in addition, federal and cultural uses along the avenue often do not generate sufficient activity on the evenings and weekends. She indicated on a plan that many of the buildings that front the avenue have non-public ground floors. She said that another challenge is the lack of pedestrian connectivity to surrounding areas. Aside from 7th Street, the other north–south streets insufficiently link downtown and the Mall; likewise, the east–west streets are typically lined by block-long single-use buildings filled with offices, which discourages pedestrians from walking along or leaving the avenue to explore areas to the south or north. Regarding vehicular connections, she said that the east end of the avenue terminates in a parking lot condition within the U.S. Capitol Grounds, and the west end is cut off from through-traffic because of security barriers around the White House Grounds. She described the cumulative result as an underpopulated area.
Ms. Ridgely presented additional analysis of the study area’s transportation network. She said the area is one of the busiest transit corridors in the city, traversed by up to 80 buses an hour. In addition, passenger pickups and deliveries create high demand for curbside space. The bike lanes running down the center of the avenue currently see about 2,000 trips per day, and she noted that the design of the lanes—in which pedestrians must share the median space with bicyclists—often results in conflicts. The analysis also found that the reduced vehicular traffic level on the avenue has resulted in its use by drivers accessing the more popular north–south numbered streets: left or right turns are the most common traffic movement. This finding led to the conclusion that approximately twenty feet of the avenue’s cartway width could be reallocated for other uses while still maintaining acceptable levels of service for vehicular traffic; additional analysis would be required to design and implement this reallocation.
Ms. Ridgely said that after evaluating the findings of these various studies, the executive committee generated four goals for the Pennsylvania Avenue Initiative:
- Celebrate the avenue’s civic role and democratic experience.
- Develop the avenue’s vital urban landscape in and around awe-inspiring architecture.
- Reinvigorate the avenue’s circulation and mobility for 21st-century needs.
- Elevate the identity of the avenue as a great destination.
She said short-, mid-, and long-term strategies would help achieve these goals. Short-term strategies include programmatic and operational improvements, as well as the study of potential physical improvement concepts related to the roadway, sidewalks, building setbacks, vistas, and connections between downtown and the Mall. Mid-term strategies include further analysis and development of an action plan and update to the 1974 Pennsylvania Avenue Plan, which would likely entail historic preservation and environmental regulatory compliance processes; public input would be an important part of these reviews. Long-term strategies include implementing any of the programmatic, operational, and physical changes developed.
To conclude, Ms. Ridgely described current private and public programs to improve the avenue. For example, in addition to lobby and rooftop improvements underway at several properties, 1301 Pennsylvania Avenue is being fully reconstructed, and the National Children's Museum is being relocated to the Ronald Reagan Building in Federal Triangle. Federal and local agencies are reinvesting in infrastructure, as well as in maintenance of the parks and plazas along the avenue to make them more inviting. She also cited several programs or events designed to attract people to the area after business hours, such as a farmers’ market outside the Reagan Building and evening programs at the National Gallery of Art.
Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation for the presentation. Noting that she remembers the initial work of PADC, she offered support for this initiative’s renewed design and planning work for Pennsylvania Avenue, which she said appears dated and in need of attention. While acknowledging that everyday events and activities should be supported on the avenue, she found that the presented analyses underemphasize the national civic and symbolic role of Pennsylvania Avenue—a singular, extraordinary thoroughfare that provides a vista to the Capitol and a direct connection between the Capitol and White House. She said that a tension would likely always exist between the scales required to successfully realize this dual role of the avenue, but she encouraged a more thorough investigation of what activities can or should be supported on this special street, as opposed to the more commonplace streets of the city. She noted that Pennsylvania Avenue has historically served as a space for protest as much as for celebration, and an important consideration is therefore to ensure that both kinds of activities can continue. In addition, she criticized the decades-long presence of a parking lot within the U.S. Capitol Grounds at the eastern end of the avenue, commenting that this area seems to be considered the back of the Capitol, and she urged a reassessment of the parking garages and other infrastructure on the Capitol Grounds in order to eliminate surface parking in this location. She said that the dissipation of pedestrian activity and energy at this southeastern end of the avenue would likely continue until the parking issue is addressed, and she encouraged the executive committee to engage with the Architect of the Capitol. Ms. Ridgely responded that the executive committee shares these concerns, and agreed that finding the balance between everyday activities and larger civic and symbolic functions on the avenue is a continuing challenge. She also noted that the Architect of the Capitol was involved in early meetings about the initiative, and agreed with the goal of further engagement during the upcoming concept design phase.
Mr. Krieger commented that the excessive width of the avenue, while contributing to its symbolic role within the city, overwhelms other functional considerations. He said that this been an issue since the street’s conception by Pierre L’Enfant, but narrowing the avenue to accommodate more building area would be quite difficult. He acknowledged that large-scale solutions to other problems identified in the presentation—such as altering the floor plates of existing buildings, eliminating internal cafeterias, or further widening of the sidewalk to accommodate European-style vendors—would likely also be difficult to achieve. He tentatively suggested relocating vendors from the edges of the Mall to Pennsylvania Avenue, and he cited La Rambla in Barcelona as an example. Ms. Ridgely responded that PADC had considered retail kiosks along the avenue, and this could be explored further. Mr. Krieger said that the kiosks should be spaced closely—perhaps every other block—to achieve the intended benefit.
Ms. Griffin commented that the presented perspective images are primarily from the center of Pennsylvania Avenue, which emphasizes its civic identity. However, the avenue also has distinct pedestrian-level zones that become apparent when the space is viewed from the sidewalk. Noting the expressed desire to modify the excess space of the cartway and increase density along the avenue, she suggested additional analysis to understand these zones in section and three-dimensionally. This would be helpful when exploring the character, identity, density, programming and the ultimate use of the avenue, and she suggested development of a concept of zones where pedestrians could gather, walk, or linger, which would likely change from block to block.
Ms. Gilbert agreed with the presentation’s assessment that John Marshall Park is poorly maintained. She suggested implementing simple short-term interventions, such as temporary street furniture, events, or vendors, to activate the green spaces throughout the area while long-term solutions for maintenance and rehabilitation are developed. Ms. Ridgely responded that NPS plans to experiment with temporary programming ideas in John Marshall Park; one idea involves bringing visiting school groups to the park to eat their lunches. She said that toward the opposite end of the avenue, the Downtown D.C. business improvement district (BID) is considering evening programming on Freedom Plaza, such as outdoor movies. She said that these small interventions might serve as the impetus for more substantial future programming. Ms. Gilbert expressed support for these ideas, and she suggested erecting temporary tents for shade as another potential intervention. Ms. Ridgely added that GSA is also collaborating with the BID to attract people from the avenue to Wilson Plaza, adjacent to the Reagan Building.
Mr. Krieger reiterated Ms. Griffin’s comment regarding the presentation’s overemphasis on both historical and contemporary images of the view along the center of the avenue, and he recommended greater consideration of depicting the edges of the avenue. He cited an 1880 photograph in the presentation, which supports the concern that creating ever-wider sidewalks would likely not be an effective solution for the avenue’s design. He commented that the avenue has been a challenge since its inception more than two centuries ago.
Mr. Dunson expressed appreciation for the presentation. He asked how a “civic street” would be defined; he questioned whether this description means that the treatment of Pennsylvania Avenue should be defined by its “reverence” to the Capitol, or by the people activating it. He said that this question also relates to Ms. Griffin’s comments regarding sectional studies, agreeing that although the avenue is wide, its edges—not the center—are the problem. He acknowledged that the avenue needs more activity, but the challenge is to determine the appropriate or desired nature of this activity. Mr. Krieger agreed, commenting that the center of the avenue—with the iconic axial view—will not change, and any concept designs for improvements to the avenue should be primarily concerned with its edges, which present many opportunities.
Chairman Powell reiterated the Commission’s appreciation for the information presentation. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
(The Pennsylvania Avenue Initiative was referred to further in the discussion of the following two agenda items.)
(Ms. Lehrer and Mr. Luebke entered the meeting during the presentation of the following agenda item.)
2. CFA 17/MAY/18-2, Monumental Core Streetscape Project—update of the Streetscape Manual for the National Mall Road Improvement Program. National Mall and West Potomac Park from 3rd to 23rd Streets. Information presentation. Mr. Lindstrom introduced an information presentation on the Monumental Core Streetscape Project, an initiative to update the Streetscape Manual for the National Mall roads improvement program. This program began as an effort by federal and D.C. Government agencies to implement and coordinate roadway and streetscape improvement initiatives in the vicinity of the Mall; the Streetscape Manual was developed in 1992 to provide guidelines for a coordinated and consistent streetscape. As of 2012, the participating agencies have collaborated on the rehabilitation and reconstruction of all the streets and sidewalks on and near the Mall, from the U.S. Capitol to the Potomac River. To coordinate future projects and to address expected changes in best practices and technology, revisions to the manual are necessary. He introduced Meghan Spigle, an urban planner with the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), to provide the information presentation.
Ms. Spigle described the background of the National Mall roads improvement program. In 1991, the Secretary of Transportation expressed a desire to improve National Mall-area roads. This led to the establishment of the interagency National Mall Improvement Program, which included the Architect of the Capitol, the D.C. Government, the Federal Highway Administration, and the National Park Service; in 2005, the group expanded to include representatives of the NCPC, the General Services Administration, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian, and the Commission of Fine Arts. The agencies then formed the current working group, which meets quarterly to coordinate streetscape improvements. She said that the working group identified the need to update the Streetscape Manual, and the update is especially timely because no major roadway improvements are anticipated in the near term.
Ms. Spigle said that in addition to updating the existing manual, NCPC is working to advance streetscape planning, design, and construction within portions of the greater monumental core; the resulting document would therefore be a new manual that encompasses a larger area than the existing one. She said that the Urban Design Element of the Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital defines the Monumental Core as the spatial and symbolic center of the city, which includes the U.S. Capitol grounds, Federal Triangle, the White House, the National Mall, Arlington National Cemetery, and the surrounding government office, civic, cultural, and symbolic structures; this project would focus only on the parts of the monumental core around the Mall. She noted that new, large-scale developments to the south have changed the Mall’s place in the city from an edge to the center of an expanded “downtown.” This project would help to connect these two northern and southern areas across the Mall through a cohesive public realm and streetscapes.
Ms. Spigle said that Washington’s streetscapes should be of a high quality to establish the city’s unique role as the nation's capital and to create a welcoming and livable environment for people. She said this is especially important within the monumental core, where streetscapes should reinforce a civic quality that inspires people and cultivates a sense of pride, permanence, and dignity. She emphasized that the monumental core is a place where the details matter, and its streetscapes must meet these objectives at an elevated standard; the manual contributes to achieving these aspirations.
Ms. Spigle said that the current Streetscape Manual provides guidelines for four geographical precincts: the executive precinct, which includes the White House and its grounds; the legislative precinct, which includes the U.S. Capitol; the National Mall; and the adjacent office buildings and workplaces. On a photograph of the area outside the National Museum of Natural History, she indicated the specific streetscape areas and elements considered in the manual, including the spaces fronting roadways and pedestrian ways considered part of the street scene; she noted that the manual does not apply to parks, open spaces, or building yards. The manual includes specifications and detail drawings for the construction and installation of streetscape elements that broadly fall into the categories of lighting, paving, and furnishings; specific examples include roadway and sidewalk pavement, curb and gutter treatments, and streetlights. She presented photographs of several examples of successful streetscape detailing near the Mall, noting that the well-constructed and well-maintained streetscapes convey a sense of manicured precision that elevates the quality of the public realm; in contrast, low-quality streetscapes diminish the public realm.
Ms. Spigle said the manual must address issues raised by several new projects and initiatives that are underway. She cited the D.C. Smart City Initiative and the related Street Light Modernization project, which would retrofit the city's 75,000 streetlights with LED bulbs and incorporate new “smart city” technology into the streetscape. In addition, a workshop is being convened to discuss flooding in Federal Triangle. Other future considerations include the addition of WiFi and telecommunications antennas, and electric car charging kiosks.
Ms. Spigle said that in order to understand these changing conditions and emerging issues, NCPC staff has completed field studies, consulted with the working group, and examined relevant existing plans and policies to assess their consistency. The overall analysis is organized into five categories: policy and planning; applicability of the manual; precincts and transitions; function; and coordination. Beginning with policy and planning, she said that the NCPC staff has evaluated relevant federal and local documents and found that they offer a wide range of detail, from high-level policies that provide general guidance to documents with detailed specifications. She described a gap in mid-level federal guidelines, especially as compared to local guidance. Field studies show that agencies apply the existing Streetscape Manual more consistently on the Mall than off it. She noted that the manual limits flexibility in its application because it offers prescriptive details and specifications for all elements, rather than performance details and specifications. On a photograph of the U.S. Department of Agriculture headquarters, she indicated the inconsistent appearance of the streetscape, which includes three different types of non-specified trash receptacles and paving materials. With regard to precincts and transitions, she said that the existing manual does not adapt to the unique character of the different precincts, and it does not clearly define elements applying across all precincts. In the specification of materials, she cited the inconsistency of the transitions across precincts as well as between the Mall and larger monumental core. She indicated on a photograph of 12th Street at Independence Avenue, SW—an intersection considered an entry point or threshold to the Mall—the unappealing quality of the streetscape, which she said is partially caused by the abrupt transition of paving material. The function portion of the analysis has revealed that the current manual does not address several emerging issues: stormwater management and flooding; changing and sustainable technologies; expanding transportation options and their infrastructure needs; walkability and universal accessibility for pedestrians; wayfinding for visitor orientation; and perimeter security. She presented photographs of streetscape conditions where barrier-free access and perimeter security needs are in conflict. Regarding coordination, she said that the NCPC staff has found that right-of-way jurisdiction is unclear, and the enforcement of jurisdiction for maintenance and repair work is inconsistent. She indicated the resulting low-quality streetscape condition in a photograph outside the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Federal Triangle on Constitution Avenue, NW. She added the manual and relevant local standards are not well coordinated, and the manual’s specifications are not regularly used or updated.
Ms. Spigle said that in order to address these issues, the scope of work for updating the manual has been expanded to include: development of an urban design streetscape framework to provide general conceptual guidance and enhance coordination with the D.C. Smart City Initiative and the related street light project; development of streetscape design guidelines to reconcile the framework vision with the construction details; an update of the manual to fill its current gaps; and an update to the memorandum of understanding among the agencies participating in the working group. She noted that a conceptual lighting plan, developed for inclusion in the manual by the Commission of Fine Arts in 1992, provides guidelines for illuminating the city: the monumental core, waterfront, major landmarks, special squares and circles, and key avenues and streets would be lit with a whiter light than the surrounding urban context, which would have a more yellow light. She said that the updated manual would include a new lighting framework plan to provide guiding principles for lighting within the monumental core and its relationship with the rest of downtown Washington. Once the urban design vision framework is complete, federal streetscape guidelines would be developed to provide missing guidance on the emerging issues described. She presented an excerpt from the Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District’s Streetscape Enhancement Notebook of 1999 as an example of the level of detail that would be pursued; this would include guidance on the spacing between and spatial relationships among the various streetscape elements. Lastly, she said that the construction details and specifications that are currently in the 1992 manual would be revised to include elements that are missing or outdated. She concluded by presenting the anticipated timeline for the revision of the manual: the memorandum of agreement update, urban design streetscape framework, and conceptual lighting framework, including additional presentations to the Commission of Fine Arts, would be completed in 2018; federal streetscape guidelines, updates to construction details and specifications, and discussions with the D.C. Government on the streetlight initiatives would continue into 2019.
Ms. Griffin expressed appreciation for the presentation and for the consecutive placement of the two NCPC initiatives on today’s agenda; she observed that they address similar issues such as identity and streetscape within overlapping or adjacent areas of the city, and she said that she looks forward to seeing the reconciliation of the two efforts. She asked for more information about the oversight of implementation of the Streetscape Manual. Ms. Spigle responded that NCPC has purview over reviewing design and planning documents, but it does not have policing power; after drawings for construction are approved by NCPC, the applicant is responsible for executing what was submitted. She added that the working group performs some oversight of the projects within the areas discussed, and quarterly meetings and communications among members are the intended setting for enforcement of the guidelines. Ms. Griffin strongly recommended development of a formal governance and oversight structure for enforcement of the plan, and she emphasized that the guidelines would only be as effective as the effort to enforce them. She noted that the presentation included a brief discussion of new infrastructure being developed to accommodate emerging digital technologies—including elements of advertising, landscape, and lighting—and she recommended that the new streetscape framework reference or incorporate guidance for this infrastructure. While expressing support for continued mobile food and retail service along the roads of the monumental core, she observed the stark contrast between the prescriptive streetscape design and the makeshift appearance of existing vendor carts and structures; she suggested conducting a design competition to better integrate them into the streetscape and landscape.
Ms. Lehrer commented that both of today’s presentations by NCPC did not sufficiently address potential new technologies and their impact on the streetscape. She said that commonplace components of the street scene, such as vehicles and regularly spaced trees along the roads, would likely experience drastic changes in the future; the update of the Streetscape Manual offers the opportunity to think strategically and holistically about such issues and how the quality of the streetscape can be maintained while adjusting to new technologies. She recommended that a workshop be convened to help anticipate the scope and character of this change.
Ms. Meyer agreed with Ms. Lehrer, and she commented that some of the manual’s terminology referenced in the presentation, such as sustainability, is outmoded. She said that the concept of sustainability, which is concerned with balancing current needs, has been eclipsed by more forward-looking concepts such as regeneration and adaptation. Therefore, in addition to studying ways to accommodate new technological infrastructure, she suggested including in the manual creative and ambitious methods, such as new ecological technologies, to modify the large-scale streetscape to address the increasing prevalence of extreme weather events such as heat, storms, and floods, and more generally the issue of collecting water. In addition, she suggested that a phrase used to describe the approach of the existing manual—"manicured precision"—should be reframed as "adaptable precision" or "manageable precision" to acknowledge the balance between achieving precision for important civic spaces and designing them for adaptability to climate change and extreme conditions.
Mr. Krieger said that he agrees with the critique of the manual brought forward by NCPC and the comments of the other Commission members. But he added that changes in the streetscape will be difficult to anticipate, citing two examples from recent decades: solar-powered trash collectors, and the widespread installation of protective bollards around government buildings beginning in the 1990s, just after the creation of the original streetscape manual. He emphasized that the updated manual should be a nimble, useful mechanism to guide change, not a document that is rarely referenced because it is out of date. Ms. Spigle responded that this concern is shared by the streetscape working group, and she said that this initiative seeks to make the manual adaptable. Ms. Meyer said that performance-based criteria would be beneficial; Mr. Krieger agreed.
Mr. Powell asked for more information about the WiFi and electric car charging infrastructure described in the presentation. Ms. Spigle said that the car charging kiosk in the presented photograph is one of approximately ten that were installed on the Mall under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. Peter May of the National Park Service, present in the audience, responded that the charging kiosks were implemented as part of a larger initiative involving parking meters and other projects on the Mall.
Chairman Powell expressed appreciation for the presentation. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
C. National Park Service
CFA 17/MAY/18-3, National World War I Memorial. Pershing Park, Pennsylvania Avenue, between 14th and 15th Streets, NW. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 15/FEB/18-1.) Secretary Luebke introduced the revised concept design for the National World War I Memorial, submitted by the National Park Service (NPS) on behalf of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission. He noted that in February 2018, when the design was last submitted for review, two alternatives had been presented for locating the proposed sculpture wall within Pershing Park. The Commission did not take an action, finding the wall’s length excessive and recommending it be reduced, and that the sculpture wall’s location should be more closely related to the site features. He summarized that the Commission members had expressed enthusiasm for the opportunities presented by the freestanding wall in Option A, which might have a lighter appearance and less impact on the park’s existing features, and had also suggested that such a wall could be located at another site within the park. He said that the Commission had remained open to further development of Option B for a wall integrated into the existing west terraces; the primary advice was that either alternative required more coordination between the landscape architect and the sculptor to reduce the length of the wall and integrate it into the park’s central pool landscape. The project team has now returned with detailed design studies of the sculpture wall’s length and location, along with alternative details for walks, the kiosk site, and other features. He asked Peter May, associate regional director for lands and planning at the NPS National Capital Region, to begin the presentation.
Mr. May first thanked the Commission members for their comments on the two previous presentations on today’s agenda, including the initiative to reconceive Pennsylvania Avenue. He noted that he has served on the executive committee for this initiative and that most of the Commission’s comments have been discussed over the years. He expressed frustration with certain issues, such as parking for the U.S. Capitol at the eastern end of Pennsylvania Avenue; he noted that the Architect of the Capitol’s office has been involved in the Pennsylvania Avenue initiative but has little decision-making authority over the parking.
Mr. May said that the World War I Memorial proposal is being resubmitted in response to the Commission’s previous comments. He introduced Edwin Fountain, vice chairman of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, to present the status of the project.
Mr. Fountain said that the project team is seeking decisions on two key design points in order to proceed with design development. The current submission is a revision of the concept approved by the Commission in May 2017, which proposed integrating the sculptural wall into the park’s western terrace. At the Commission’s direction, the project team has explored alternatives, but has concluded that the integrated concept best addresses most of the challenges; today, the request today is for the Commission’s support to continue developing this concept. He said that the project team is also seeking a decision on the length of the sculptural wall.
Mr. Fountain summarized the memorial process to date, including the overall mission to establish a memorial on this site that will be a worthy tribute to the nearly five million American men and women who served in the First World War. He provided a historical overview of Square 226, the site of Pershing Park, which has seen varied uses over the last two centuries. Commercial buildings constructed here in the early twentieth century were razed in 1928 to open views toward the new Commerce Department building in Federal Triangle. A temporary War Department building constructed here in 1942 was demolished for a park in 1955. In 1956, Congress approved a proposal by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) to develop Square 226 as a memorial to General John J. Pershing and the American Expeditionary Forces of World War I. A design for a large memorial with other park elements was approved in 1959; however, before this was built, the park was redeveloped in the mid-1960s under Lady Bird Johnson’s Beautification Program. Soon after, the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation (PADC) was formed, and the ABMC was directed to consult with PADC on the further design of the Pershing Memorial; PADC suggested a greater emphasis on a park-like character with recreational uses. Landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg then developed a design for Pershing Park that was a revision of the design he had first conceived for Western Plaza (now named Freedom Plaza) immediately to the east. Pershing Park was completed in 1982; in Friedberg’s executed design, the memorial component had been reduced in size and relegated to a quarter of the site, while the park’s dominant features were a pool and ice skating rink, a retail kiosk, and a fountain feature that also housed the ice rink maintenance vehicle.
Mr. Fountain said that in 2014, the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission was chartered by Congress and began planning for a national memorial to World War I. The initial preference was a site on the Mall, but this was prohibited by the Commemorative Works Act. While acknowledging the viewpoint that Pershing Park is already a national memorial to World War I, he said that the Centennial Commission’s position is that the Pershing Park site is incommensurate with the memorials on the Mall to the other major 20th-century wars. Historically, the view of the ABMC—as expressed by Gen. Pershing, its first chairman—was that if memorials are built in a remote area, they need to be grand enough to draw people to them; Mr. Fountain said that this advice applies to Pershing Park. He emphasized that the existing Pershing Memorial is not the central physical feature of Pershing Park; the commemorative elements are focused on Pershing rather than on the soldiers he led; and the memorial lacks the drama of other national memorials.
Mr. Fountain said that the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission was authorized by legislation to enhance Pershing Park with commemorative elements; this has been interpreted as a direction to rebalance the memorial with the park. An additional goal is to preserve and restore the existing park. He noted the many challenges to preservation of the park, including the major features which are currently inoperable: the pool, fountain, and skating rink. A design competition for the World War I Memorial was held in 2015. The winning design by Joseph Weishaar, announced in January 2016, has subsequently undergone extensive review by a wide variety of agencies and stakeholders, including the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), and it has changed considerably.
Mr. Fountain said that the concept design approved by the Commission of Fine Arts in May 2017 remains the project team’s preferred alternative. It retains and restores all the character-defining features of the park, with two exceptions: it replaces the fountain and garage structure with a longer wall that is integrated into the western terrace along the pool, with cascading water on three sides and a new high-relief bronze sculpture wall as a memorial; and it replaces the original kiosk with a grouping of flagpoles. Because the Commission had also asked for further study of alternatives, the next submission in February 2018 included this design as well as an alternative proposal for the sculpture on a freestanding wall at the west end of the pool. The Commission has also asked for studies of placing the sculpture in other locations within the park. After preparation of such studies and further consultation with other agencies, the project team has determined that its preferred option remains Option B, the integrated memorial wall; the reasons include providing the greatest amount of cascading water, and providing an overlook with views of the original park design. He reiterated that the project team has returned to ask for the Commission’s endorsement of this option and its approval of the 56-foot-long sculpture wall.
Mr. Fountain noted that the competition design had featured a sculpture wrapping around three sides of an elevated lawn area for a total length of 300 feet. By May 2017, the length of this sculpture wall had been reduced to 65 feet. By comparison, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is almost 500 feet long; the wall at the Korean War Veterans Memorial is 164 feet long; and the granite walls of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial have a combined length of 200 feet. He said that the sculpture wall is now proposed as 56 feet long; this size will still allow the sculpture’s figures to appear monumental, and the sculpture will still present a narrative that depicts the range of narrative themes, from the heroism of American soldiers to the transformation of the United States into a world leader. A length below 56 feet, however, would diminish the work’s monumentality and content.
To present the design, Mr. Fountain introduced landscape architect David Rubin of the David Rubin Land Collective and sculptor Sabin Howard. Mr. Rubin emphasized that the project team has enjoyed an extraordinary collaboration with a number of partners, including his firm, sculptor Sabin Howard, architecture firm GWWO, and Joseph Weishaar, the winner of the original design competition for the memorial. He said he believes that the project team has responded to all of the comments made by the Commission at the previous review.
Mr. Rubin summarized that the previous submission had included two options: Option A, the freestanding sculpture wall, and Option B, the integrated wall. In both options, the proposed wall was 64.5 feet long, and both designs attempted to balance the new memorial wall with the existing park design. He acknowledged further consultation with the Commission staff to discuss options for other locations for the wall, but the project team believes that these would not be appropriate.
Mr. Rubin said that the primary design challenge is to balance the memorial wall with the original park design by M. Paul Friedberg. He emphasized that Mr. Friedberg’s design concerns more than the relationship between the three objects of fountain, kiosk, and Pershing Memorial; it also concerns the rooms created within the park, and the sense visitors have of being removed from the noise and activity of the surrounding city. The new design intends to retain the three primary objects while altering the character of the spaces to relate to a national war memorial—all balanced with the civic character of a neighborhood park. He said that the design team has prepared numerous studies examining other possible locations for the wall, including along Pennsylvania Avenue to the north or facing the Pershing Memorial to the east. However, challenges include conforming to the guidelines that govern design along the avenue, and the safety problem of creating a freestanding wall behind which people could hide. A wall cannot be built on the upper level of the western terraces for similar considerations of safety; a wall in that location would also block views along the length of the park at grade and into its center, and its visibility would be partially obstructed by the bosque, which would limit visitors’ understanding of the sculpture’s narrative. If the wall were configured to face the park’s interior, the likely need would be to remove trees to make the narrative legible. Placing the wall at the pool’s eastern edge would separate the two important memorial elements on the east side from the remnant park on the west. Placing a north-facing wall along the pool’s northern edge would require modification of the spatial definition of the outdoor room on the north side, and would obstruct important views into the park. A wall in the middle of the park would also obstruct long sightlines.
Ms. Meyer recalled that one of the options the Commission had asked the design team to pursue was to reimagine the circular kiosk site as a freestanding memorial element, but that option does not appear to have been explored. Mr. Rubin responded that the kiosk had only been considered as a location for flagpoles. Ms. Meyer said she is surprised that the presentation again shows only flags at the kiosk site, and she asked why the Commission’s suggestion here was not pursued; Mr. Rubin apologized and said he did not recall this suggestion.
Mr. Rubin presented a diagram illustrating direct access to the pool edge in the two current options. He said that the accurate dimension for the existing condition is 52 feet 8 inches of inaccessible length along the western edge of the pool, reasonably close to the 56.5 feet of inaccessible length currently proposed to accommodate the sculpture wall. He illustrated paired drawings of the wall at 56.5 feet and at 51 feet; both lengths are derived from geometries on the opposite side of the pool. He said that the greatest challenge is that if the wall is reduced beyond a certain length, the scale of the figures would also have to be reduced, which would affect their monumentality. He asked sculptor Sabin Howard to address the reduction in figural scale in relation to the length of the wall.
Mr. Howard recalled his understanding that the Commission members were most concerned about the relationship between the new sculpture and the existing park. He addressed four issues: the length of wall within the park; the height of the figures; the height of the sculpture on its base; and maintaining narrative clarity. He showed a comparison of the sculpture presented at the February 2018 meeting—65 feet long, with 7-foot-high figures—with the current design for the wall, its length reduced to 56.5 feet and the figures now reduced to 6 feet 5 inches tall. He emphasized that the scale of the human figures is the critical factor in communicating the theme of a soldier’s journey through the war, as well as the broader theme of the men, women, and children who served in and lived through this war. He described the proposed scale as heroic and monumental, but what will make the project unique is that this scale will also be intimate and accessible because this is meant to be a memorial about ordinary people. He said that the average height for a human figure within the sculpture, ranging from 6.5 feet to 7 feet on a 38-inch base, would establish a connection with the existing 8-foot-tall figure of Gen. Pershing on its 4.5-foot-high pedestal at the east end of the park. The proposed wall would also act as a counterbalance to the presentation of Pershing as a “Great Man.” He said that based on his many decades of professional experience, a further reduction in the length of the wall and the scale of the figures would be a serious problem. He added that he is seeking the experiential feel of a “film in bronze” to bring the viewer viscerally into the subject matter; any further reduction of the scale would risk losing the emotional engagement with the viewer.
Mr. Howard provided further comments on the issue of scale in sculpture. He said that inanimate objects outdoors tend to appear about five to ten percent smaller than they actually are, so that a six-foot-tall figure outside will appear smaller than life size. Because of this, historically sculptors have increased the scale for outdoor statues. Pedestal height is also critical since it determines the “realm” of the sculpture, whether it appears accessible or removed from the everyday world. The 38 inches proposed for the base of the sculptural wall would be at the same time accessible and appropriately heroic for these figures, and generally six feet six inches tall would be the smallest height feasible for the figures in the relief. He described the heights of various outdoor statues in Washington, from the seven-foot-high statue of the Lone Sailor at the Navy Memorial, which stands directly on the ground, to the eight-foot-high figures of the Three Soldiers at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Mr. Howard summarized how he had arrived at the specific dimensions and composition for the proposed sculpture. He said that after reducing the overall scale, he compressed the composition on the horizontal axis to maintain the established ratios and composition for a narrative that will work on three different levels: universal myth; national and global history; and the personal history of soldiers and families. He hired actors and models to pose for scenes that he captured in thousands of photographs; he then created test sculptures to figure out the composition and establish the best depth for dramatic impact. The sculpture’s narrative is composed in three acts, and each act has three parts: a beginning, middle, and end—or alternatively, a start action, transition, and end action. The transitions are developed as a balance between opposing gestures. He said the story juxtaposes civilized and savage behavior: the ideals of heroism, family, and caring are contrasted with violence, terror, and aggression, showing war’s effects on society. For all parts to fit together, transitional areas are necessary, and pacing is critical for clarity. He said that the pace is created in sculptural relief through spacing; for example, a battle scene cannot be rammed into a quiet scene—the parts need to flow at the correct rate of speed to maintain clarity. He described additional details of the composition, such as the use of diagonals to direct propulsive energy and of space to create stillness. Finally, he said that symmetry will help the relief to read clearly from a distance. The correct hierarchy of parts will lead to a clear, unified story and a visceral experience that will be easily understood by anyone, helping visitors from all over the world to understand the American experience in World War I.
Mr. Rubin then presented further information on the two options for the sculpture wall in relation to the existing park. The sculpture wall would have the same dimensions in both options, and its position would be determined by the park’s geometries and aligned with the pool’s center axis. The material of the wall would match the existing granite. Where water is present, the stone would have a flame finish; where the granite acts as a framing element, the finish would be honed. Water would be separated from the sculpture’s frame by a slight reveal in the frame and by the change in surface finish. The perimeter edge of the pool would be maintained in both options. Visitors would use a new ten-foot-wide L-shaped walk set within the existing pool, entering near the southern end of the pool’s eastern edge and then reaching a wider platform in front of the sculpture wall. Visitors would walk along the platform, following the sculpture’s narrative from left to right, and then exit on the north edge of the pool. He added that another option for configuring the walk would be in a U shape, with the return walk leading eastward on alignment with the kiosk and flag area.
Mr. Rubin said that for the freestanding wall in Option A, the discontinuous segments of the stepped western terrace would be “stitched” together in the area now occupied by the central fountain/garage structure that housed the ice rink maintenance vehicle; alterations would also be made to elements such as planters to improve pedestrian circulation. On the west side of the sculpture wall, a 597-square-foot gathering space would be created, with 43 feet 4 inches of accessible pool edge. The freestanding wall would stand on a stone plinth, similar to the steps of the existing park, abutting an extrusion of dark granite and supported on the pool bottom. The north and south sides of the wall would be wrapped in bronze; water would cascade over the west-facing granite wall, except for six inches on each end, a treatment similar to the existing fountain. In the design team’s preferred alternative, Option B, the sculpture wall would be integrated with the terraced western wall, and a 230-square-foot overlook space would be created on top of the integrated wall. The position of the platform in Option B was established in relation to the view from the overlook, to ensure that people standing at the overlook would not be visible to visitors in front of the sculpture. Access to the pool along the west terrace would be limited to the steps at the north and south ends with a total of 15 feet 3 inches.
Mr. Rubin said that the new water system for the pool would be designed to allow water to remain in the basin throughout the year. He said that although an acoustician has not yet been consulted, the design team has attempted to maintain the sound quality created by the cascading water in the Friedberg design. For both wall options, calculations were made of the geometries of each wall face to determine the expanse of water that would either cascade directly into the pool or fall over the sides into runnels before cascading into the pool. For the freestanding wall in Option A, 570 square feet of water would fall over the west face into the pool. For the integrated wall in Option B, 422 square feet of water on the sides would fall into runnels and from there into the pool. He noted the challenge of reestablishing a water cascade that flows over the sculpture wall without the use of a metal edge.
Mr. Rubin acknowledged the desire to avoid handrails on the new walk; he described the challenges of establishing the depth of the water, and the attempt to make the water appear deeper than it would actually be. He said that the existing pool is twelve inches deep with a cast-concrete bottom. As “living water” with areas of planting, the water is often not clear, so the proposal is not to reinstate the plantings. He presented two options for detailing the L-shaped walk and viewing platform: the walking surface could be kept at the mid-terrace level, casting a deep shadow line; alternatively, the entrance walk could descend from the existing elevation of the pool edge paving to a viewing platform at water level, with a curb edge for pedestrian safety. By lining the bottom of the pool with black granite, the water depth could be kept shallow while appearing to be greater; limiting the actual depth to three inches would avoid the need for handrails, and the surface of the water could be aligned with the lowest tread of the steps at the pool’s edges.
Mr. Rubin presented the proposed modifications to the kiosk area, which would be used to present interpretive information about World War I; he noted that the kiosk area provides a clear view across the eastern area of the park to the sculpture of Pershing. The kiosk structure, including the elevator to a below-grade service space, would be removed. The proposal is to keep the kiosk’s circular base as part of the existing curved access ramp descending into the park from the Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk on the north; flagpoles would be erected to maintain Friedberg’s concept of a third compositional element at this location. Another option would be to lengthen and widen the access ramp in a straight configuration, inserting a rectangular element that would contain the flagpoles; interpretive information would be provided either in this area or along the ramp. Mr. Rubin concluded the presentation with a video animation depicting the proposal and the overall park.
Chairman Powell invited questions from the Commission members before receiving public comments. Ms. Meyer asked for a comparison of the height of the existing fountain to the proposed height of the integrated sculpture wall in Option B; Mr. Rubin responded that the top of the sculpture wall is proposed to be approximately six to eight inches higher than the existing fountain block. Ms. Meyer asked why the area on top of the wall would be called an “overlook” even though people standing there would not be able to see the park; Mr. Rubin clarified that visitors on the overlook would be able to see most of the park, but would not see the people standing on the viewing platform in front of the sculpture. Ms. Meyer said that the overlook could more accurately be described as an “enclosed room” that is oriented to the west; due to the height of the wall, the overlook would have nothing to do with the eastern part of the park.
Ms. Meyer asked what assurance could be given that this design would not end up with an “enclosed cage” of handrails lining the walks in the pool, which would destroy the intended memorial experience. Mr. Rubin emphasized that the design team is committed to not having handrails and has been working with the National Park Service to understand the issue. Design studies have considered either raising or lowering the depth of the water while trying to maintain the perception of its original depth through the use of a darker material to line the pool. Ms. Meyer asked for clarification of the range of depths being studied, such as three versus six inches; Mr. Rubin responded that the issue is three versus twelve inches. He said that the proposed depth must be reduced to lessen the risk of someone drowning; he added that the depth would be an issue even if the proposal were simply to restore the Friedberg design.
Ms. Gilbert emphasized that it is not productive for the project team to compare the proposed World War I Memorial to other national memorials in Washington, as Mr. Fountain had in his introduction, or to compare the length of this sculpture wall to walls in other memorials. She emphasized that this particular site next to the White House is exceptional and its scale is unique; the focus should be on its particular conditions. Referring to the presentation on Pennsylvania Avenue earlier on today’s agenda, she noted that this study had identified Pershing Park and Market Square as the two major hubs along the avenue.
Ms. Griffin asked for clarification of the stone proposed for the sculpture wall in comparison to the stone of the existing fountain. Mr. Rubin responded that ideally it would be the same stone, with the same finish and appearance. Ms. Griffin observed that the stone in the presentation appeared more refined and polished; Mr. Rubin attributed the discrepancy to the computer images. Mr. Luebke added that the existing stone is a reddish granite in a medium tone called Dakota Mahogany.
Ms. Griffin asked about the difference in the sound of water between the two design alternatives and the original fountain design. Mr. Rubin responded that the significant difference would result from not having a water cascade facing east in either of the alternatives. With the freestanding wall in Option A, the greater volume of water would face west, with smaller amounts on the north and south sides. With the integrated wall in Option B, the cascades would be on the north and south sides. He confirmed that the difference is primarily where the sound would be heard by visitors, rather than the character of the sound itself.
Ms. Griffin observed that the former kiosk platform looks unimpressive in the perspective renderings; she noted that while each of the presenters has talked about the need for monumentality, no monumental element had been proposed for this significant location. She asked if some constraint is limiting the use of the kiosk site. Mr. Rubin responded that this area has simply not yet been studied closely; the focus has been on the integration of the sculpture wall within this designed landscape, and the kiosk area will be studied further. Ms. Griffin commented that the needs of historic preservation have put constraints on the memorial site, but the project team is creating its own self-imposed constraints regarding the commemorative elements; the Commission is trying to find a balance between these. She said that she finds some of the submitted public comments compelling, such as those asking how the sensory experience of Pershing Park would be replaced if the design is changed. She suggested that the design team has not yet explored all of the likely opportunities to solve such problems, and she observed that the Commission members do not appear convinced by the alternatives.
Ms. Meyer recalled that the diagram of Mr. Friedberg’s design showed three important conceptual points—the fountain, kiosk, and Pershing Memorial. However, the kiosk area continues to be ignored by the designers, except for the addition of flags, while it might have the potential to solve the identified issues of scale and experience.
Chairman Powell suggested consideration of public comments. Mr. Luebke summarized the comments that have been received and distributed to the Commission members, which include a letter from Mr. Friedberg opposing the new design because it would destroy the original park, and offering his help in finding a solution. A comment from David DeJonge—the founder of the National World War I Memorial Foundation, a different organization from Mr. Fountain’s—opposes the proposal because it would obliterate the park’s design and also its potential as a memorial. Darwina Neal, a former cultural resources officer with the National Park Service, observed that all options would have adverse effects, particularly the integrated wall of Option B, but the freestanding wall of Option A would also lead to questions about the appropriateness of the new gathering space to the west. Andrew Lewis of the D.C. Historic Preservation Office wrote that the integrated wall would be more appropriate because it would minimize the adverse effects more than the freestanding wall. Developer Oliver T. Carr, formerly a PADC member, expressed concern about the design and process, and asked for deferred action and the opportunity to develop a better solution.
Chairman Powell recognized Charles Birnbaum, speaking on behalf of The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF). Mr. Birnbaum said that Pershing Park is a nationally significant design by landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg, with a planting plan by James van Sweden and Wolfgang Oehme; the park has been determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. He said that when landscape architect David Rubin was introduced to the Commission at its February 2018 meeting, TCLF thought his involvement would herald a multidisciplinary approach to the memorial’s design, providing an opportunity to balance the objectives of the new project within the historically significant park; he recalled that Ms. Griffin and Ms. Meyer had stressed that the sculptor and landscape architect would need to collaborate. However, Mr. Birnbaum said there is little evidence that such collaboration is taking place. The integrated option would place a massive physical barrier at the west end of the basin, restricting access between the park’s upper and lower levels and access to the pool from the west end. The limitation of this barrier would be evident at the overlook, particularly for a visitor in a wheelchair and those small in stature. He said this option would also replace the dramatic effect of the cascade fountain with mere streams of flowing water and runnels. He cited a past comment by Ms. Griffin that the memorial design needs to conceptually incorporate the pool as well as the sound of cascading water in order to engage the rest of the landscape in the manner of the original fountain.
Mr. Birnbaum said that in both options, a wall more than 10 feet high extending more than 56 feet in length would dominate the western end of the pool, even though the Commission gave very specific guidance to the applicant about reducing the length. He said the height of the wall in the latest proposals is in part due to the elevation of the sculpture’s ground plane to 38 inches above the surface of the pool, despite the sculptor previously saying it would be set only two feet above. In addition, both options would reduce the depth of the water in the pool to only three inches, which would considerably alter the pool’s quality as a continuum of reflective mass, recasting it as something between a wading pool and a splash pad, and diminishing the intended auditory and cooling effects. He said that even more significantly, this change would diminish the dignity of the original design.
Mr. Birnbaum recalled that at the February 2018 Commission meeting, Mr. Dunson had emphasized that the sound of cascading water had played a vital part in the original design; however, both of the proposed options present the water as a static element. Both options would interrupt and lessen the pool basin’s surface area with new walks—severing the relationship between the cascading water and the pool by separating its unified expanse into separate rectangles. He emphasized that these changes would transform the animated cascade and pool into an expanded hardscape interrupted by shallow sections of placid water, reinforced by a grid-like paving pattern that would extend from the walk into the basin.
Mr. Birnbaum concluded with a statement by Ms. Griffin from the February 2018 meeting, in which she spoke of “the size and treatment of the wall and how the water could be incorporated in a way that represents the existing design.” He cited her recollection that the first time she saw the project, she had commented that the wall and the sculpture should not be treated as separate elements, but in February the sculpture still appeared to be applied to and not integrated with the wall. He said that she had identified this as the design’s inherent problem—a sculptural relief sitting in a frame floating on a wall, disconnected from the ground and the water.
Chairman Powell invited further comments from the Commission members. Ms. Griffin complimented the video animation that concluded the presentation. She referred to Mr. Rubin’s mention of “living water” and asked if a three-inch-deep basin could support plants. Mr. Rubin responded that a three-inch depth could be living water, preferably in conjunction with some pockets of deeper water; he said that the primary requirement for living water is that it not be chlorinated. Ms. Griffin asked if living water could be combined with the avoidance of handrails; Mr. Rubin said this could be done.
Mr. Krieger noted that although he had missed the February review, he had been present for the first three, and that he had been more supportive than some of his colleagues of the proposal to inert the new sculpture wall within the existing park. He said that he continues to support the proposal. He said that he is also strongly convinced by the sculptor’s argument that the figures need to have a certain scale. He said that while he had been satisfied with the previously proposed length of 65 feet, he would accept the currently proposed 56-foot-long wall if this is satisfactory to the design team.
However, Mr. Krieger said that everyone is skirting around the major issue. He compared two images in the presentation—a photograph of the original fountain and pool juxtaposed with the current proposal for the integrated sculpture wall. He described the original design as a deeply romantic and peaceful park, animated with the sound of cascading water, while the new version would demand attention for entirely different reasons. He called this the central dilemma of the design and said this is why people are having a problem with the proposal, adding that Mr. Friedberg’s letter alluded to this very problem. Mr. Krieger said that he understands this issue but, not being a strict preservationist, he is not entirely sympathetic to it.
Mr. Krieger then offered a proposal that he said might solve the problem. He suggested rotating the freestanding wall 180 degrees—reversing it so that the non-sculpture side of the wall would face the pool, and the sculptural relief would face the western terraces. Water could then cascade over the east side, once again providing the experiential quality that many people have identified as one of the park’s vital characteristics, and on the west visitors could sit and contemplate the memorial at leisure rather than simply file past it. He said that while he is not concerned about preserving everything of the Friedberg design, this solution would preserve the fountain, eliminate the need for walkways within the pool, and thereby eliminate the concern with potentially adding handrails.
Mr. Krieger said that in this scenario, the west end of the park would have to accept a new use by becoming the place where visitors can contemplate this wonderful sculpture, while the center of the park could remain a place of peace and reflection. The memorial to the war’s hero, Gen. Pershing, would be at the east end of the park; at the west would be the memorial to the soldiers who fought and died under him. He urged the project team to consider this solution, which may overcome the dilemma of inserting a new element in a space that wants to be calm and reflective.
Ms. Meyer said that Mr. Krieger has articulated a way to envision what Commission members and others have clearly said: M. Paul Friedberg’s concept for Pershing Park was experiential as well as formal, and its geometry was in the service of creating an experience. She said that Mr. Krieger’s comparison of the two images underscores the importance of having cascading, animated water on the east-facing side, which may mean imagining the sculpture as something that is more interactive with the wall and the water.
Ms. Meyer expressed her sympathy for Mr. Howard’s task as sculptor. She said that his eloquent account of his design intent and creative process is analogous to that of Mr. Friedberg, and the Commission is charged with finding a way for the two visions to work together. She emphasized that Mr. Friedberg had given the same attention to the park’s parts and relationships that Mr. Howard has given to the parts of his sculpture: both have geometric order, proportions, hierarchy, and a spatial organization relating to the overall experience; all these elements are interconnected, and changing one affects all the others. But while Mr. Howard’s description of his process was eloquent, Ms. Meyer said that it had no conversation with the process of Mr. Friedberg. She observed that Mr. Howard has continued to dwell on the length of the sculpture wall without the flexibility shown by, for example, the designers of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial over many years in adjusting their proposal to the wide range of concerns raised by the Commission and other review agencies. She said that this concern indicates that Mr. Howard is not as open as he needs to be to work in the public realm. She urged Mr. Howard to think about Mr. Friedberg’s response when the architect Robert Venturi, commissioned by the PADC to design the Pershing Park site, maneuvered to get the Western Plaza site instead, which had been assigned to Mr. Friedberg. When this happened, Mr. Friedberg took his concept for a much larger site and adapted it to the smaller park. She described this as a kind of creative genius that shows what an artist can do under constraints.
Ms. Meyer emphasized that several paths for moving forward are available to the design team. However, arguing about a 50-foot-long wall versus a 56-foot wall is not productive; the solution is to imagine this memorial sculpture as a work that will not dramatically affect the integrity of the park but will make it better. She said that she strongly disagrees with the stance of the D.C. Historic Preservation Office on this question: she believes that the freestanding wall of Option A is a much better design solution than the integrated wall, which would be an enormous intrusion into the Friedberg design. She added that the alternative proposed by Mr. Krieger is a brilliant way of thinking about how to design a memorial wall within the existing park.
Ms. Meyer commented that another option would be to use the kiosk site; this could be done by creating a sculpture that responds to that site’s circumference. She emphasized that the full range of options inherent in this site is not being explored; she cited a stubbornness on the part of the project team that is frustrating to the Commission members. She observed that today is the Commission’s sixth review of the project; although a concept was approved, the design was subsequently revised, and the revised concept has not yet been approved.
Ms. Griffin elaborated on Ms. Meyer’s comments about the current design as a conversation and collaboration between two artists. She agreed that the sculpture wall is the stubborn element, and Mr. Krieger’s suggestion to reverse the freestanding wall would create an intimacy of space in front of the sculpture on the west, where steps would face it and come down to the water. She observed that Option A would present a blank wall to the steps, and the question is how this wall could act as a canvas for the story, similar to the Commission’s ongoing suggestion to incorporate the kiosk site into the narrative. So far, the linear sculpture wall has been seen as the only means of telling the story of the memorial.
Referring to Mr. Howard’s discussion of his design process, Ms. Griffin agreed that reducing the sculpture’s length has begun to cause the concept to suffer: the figures are becoming too small, resulting in the proposal to elevate the relief by three feet. The effect may be to make the sculpture difficult to see—for example, by a viewer in a wheelchair. She said the proposal is being compromised and chipped away, while the design team is stuck on the initial conception of the wall. She suggested other ways of reconceptualizing the wall and its narrative: reversing the wall, or wrapping the story on its sides, or having the water move through the wall; she emphasized that art and landscape can be integrated more effectively in a variety of ways. She summarized the suggestion of the Commission members that the site comprises spaces and experiences that are not being taken advantage of to tell the narrative described by Mr. Howard.
Mr. Krieger questioned Ms. Griffin’s characterization of the problem. He said she is asking for faithful adherence to Mr. Friedberg’s design while asking Mr. Howard to change his design entirely. He clarified that his comments were not meant to attack the proposed wall, but to emphasize that it should be thought of as a sculpture. He added that he does not think reconceiving the sculpture on a semi-circular wall at the kiosk site would work. Ms. Griffin clarified that this is not her suggestion, but the Commission has clearly advised throughout the design process that refinement of the concept is needed. She said that she supports the sculpture wall but believes it should be more integrated into the site and the landscape, and Mr. Krieger’s suggestion of reversing it might be one way to do that.
Ms. Griffin said that her suggestion is to use the kiosk site in a conceptually stronger way than as an area for flagpoles. Any solution is for the project team to design, but the kiosk site offers another opportunity to extend the narrative. The length of the wall cannot keep shrinking without affecting the dimensions and scale of the sculpture, while reducing the length is not going to solve the problem of integrating the wall into the landscape design. Mr. Krieger noted that although the kiosk site and the Pershing Memorial are close together, space is available between them. Mr. Rubin responded that the greatest challenge may be resolving the narrative between the Pershing Memorial and the sculpture wall, and the solution may lie in adding inscriptions or some other element; Mr. Krieger said that the solution should use the kiosk site.
Mr. Rubin asked Mr. Krieger for further clarification of his proposal, such as whether the suggestion includes moving the wall to a higher elevation on the western terrace. Mr. Krieger responded that he is suggesting a freestanding wall at the same elevation, similar to the wall in Option A but with water cascading over the east-facing side into the pool, and therefore with no need for walks in the basin. He reiterated that with a freestanding relief sculpture facing west, visitors would be able to sit on the western terraces and see the full sculptural narrative.
Chairman Powell commented that Mr. Krieger and Ms. Griffin have identified issues that he also has been struggling with. He strongly encouraged the design team to explore this option for the emotionally powerful sculptural wall, adding that the large mass of the western wall in Option A had concerned him. Ms. Griffin said that these issues are why she has suggested exploring a hybrid solution: the suggestions are ideas that the project team can use in reconsidering the reciprocity between the park and the sculptural memorial. She said that the various ideas include the experience of approaching the memorial; the experience of intimacy that would be created if the freestanding wall were flipped; and splitting the difference by wrapping the sculpture around the wall, with water in the center. Mr. Krieger suggested that alternatives could be quickly explored through computer renderings. Chairman Powell emphasized that the Commission wants to help make the World War I Memorial a great monument, and the Commission’s comments should be helpful in achieving a successful design.
Ms. Gilbert recalled that Mr. Howard described his sculpture as a "film in bronze," a compelling phrase that suggests developing the edges and ends of the sculptural wall so that the narrative would not begin at just one point, to be viewed from a single place, but would move around the piece. She reiterated the comment from an earlier review that the base could be treated more realistically, providing a ground that the soldiers would appear to actually be standing on. She said that in the current version, the ground appears heavy and removed on a large chunky base.
Ms. Gilbert said that on a recent site visit she had noticed that the kiosk fulfills an important function by blocking the sight and sound of traffic on the adjacent segment of Pennsylvania Avenue. This edge is also important because its grade is closest to the level of the center of the park. She emphasized the kiosk’s important anchoring role as the park’s third focal point; she recommended a stronger treatment for this location than grass and flagpoles, which would not fill the same role. Ms. Griffin agreed, recommending bolder thinking about the opportunity represented by the kiosk site. As an example, she observed that the presentation included an alternative for a U-shaped walkway through the pool that would return from the sculpture wall on a direct alignment with the kiosk site, underscoring its significance. Mr. Krieger suggested adapting the kiosk to serve as an interpretive center for World War I, which could avoid a future need to construct a separate interpretive center. Mr. Rubin responded that the design team has already explored this idea, and the studies can be brought to the Commission.
Chairman Powell expressed appreciation for the presentation, and he noted the Commission’s consensus to support the proposed length of 56.5 feet for the sculpture wall.
Mr. Fountain then said that, as the sponsor of the World War I Memorial, he feels entitled to respond to the Commission’s review. He said that he takes great offense at the Commission’s characterization of the project team as stubborn and inflexible. He emphasized that from the beginning, with knowledge of the process followed by other memorial projects in Washington, the sponsoring organization has involved the relevant agencies at every step—in setting up the design competition, choosing the competition winner, and developing that design further—to avoid being told that a proposed design would not work. The presentation has illustrated how far the current design has evolved from the competition-winning design. He said he is at a loss to understand what the Commission’s concept approval means, because the integrated wall, Option B, was presented to the Commission in 2017 and was approved. He noted the financial difficulty of continuing to pay for design development while raising money for construction. He said that responding to the Commission’s new recommendations would set the process back by two years; it would mean returning to the review agencies and going through historic preservation review once more, all under pressure from donors about when construction can begin. He described this as a big step backward, jeopardizing the entire project. He objected that the Commission is talking to the designer but not to him, as the representative of the sponsoring organization who is trying to see this project through to completion. He emphasized that this project has been very responsive to concerns about historic preservation; he offered to work further on developing the design, but reiterated his disagreement with the project team being called stubborn and inflexible.
Ms. Meyer acknowledged Mr. Fountain’s comments and offered a response. She recalled that a year ago, in May 2017, the project was presented to the Commission with the sculptor but without a landscape architect present. The Commission gave concept approval at that meeting, but with stated concerns and without the involvement of a landscape architect in the review. The Commission members had said they understood more about the memorial sculpture as a result of the review, but they had also recommended that the sculptor and landscape architect should coordinate their efforts so that the park and the new commemorative elements would work together. She said this had been clearly stated in the meeting minutes and in the letter detailing the Commission’s action. The U.S. World War I Commission then took another nine months to return for review with a landscape architect. She emphasized that the Commission of Fine Arts is here to support the effort to design the World War I Memorial, but the process is not just about the sponsor; the setting here is Pershing Park on Pennsylvania Avenue, and everyone involved has to get the design right.
The discussion concluded without a formal action.
D. U.S. Department of Defense / Department of the Army
CFA 17/MAY/18-4, Joint Base Myer–Henderson Hall, Arlington, Virginia. Security fence between Joint Base Myer–Henderson Hall and Arlington National Cemetery. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/NOV/17-1.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposed final design for a security fence to parallel the existing boundary wall along the west side of Arlington National Cemetery. He noted the Commission’s approval of the concept submission in November 2017 with recommendations for developing the design. He asked Antoine Plessy, design manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Plessy said that the project would improve the security of the military base by controlling access along its east side, supplementing the vulnerable areas along the existing boundary wall. The project encompasses approximately 10,000 linear feet of fence along with four gates. He said that the current proposal is based on careful consideration of the Commission’s previous comments, including further study of design alternatives. The submission also includes a viewshed study that considers views from the cemetery as well as from the military base. He introduced landscape architect Brett Nein of the engineering firm Jacobs to present the design.
Mr. Nein presented an overview of the fence alignment and described the response to several design concerns that were previously raised by the Commission. The color of the fence was previously proposed as black; the Commission had suggested consideration of a bronze color or other alternatives. The design team has subsequently examined existing metalwork on the military base, including gates and signposts, as well as the colors used for the insignia of the Old Guard that is housed on the base. The prevailing color of the existing metalwork is black, and the Old Guard insignia uses black and gold; while some examples of other colors are present on the base, the design team’s conclusion is that a black fence would provide the best visual compatibility with existing features. He said that visual studies within the context have also shown that black fencing would have the least visual impact.
Mr. Nein said that a second concern of the Commission was the zig-zag alignment of the fence to accommodate the preservation of existing trees. The design team subsequently studied different alternatives for the alignment, sometimes resulting in overly complex solutions; the current proposal is to gently curve the fence in plan to accommodate the trees. The resulting alignment does not exactly parallel the existing boundary wall, but it provides an unobtrusive solution that is also easier to maintain and to monitor for security intrusions by eliminating niches along the fence. He also said that the design no longer includes a “mow strip” at the bottom of the fence—a line of concrete that was intended to prevent weed growth where lawn mowing equipment could not reach. Further study of this feature led to the realization that it could cause drainage problems and could disturb the roots of the trees that are intended for preservation. The solution instead is to end the fence’s vertical pickets four inches above the ground, allowing sufficient room for maintenance beneath the fence.
Mr. Nein described a final area of concern in the Commission’s previous review: the visual intrusiveness of the gate near the Old Post Chapel, compared to possible alternatives such as installing retractable bollards. The design team considered the security issues and consulted further with the Old Guard, which conducts funeral services that include horse-drawn caissons passing through this gate. The issue related to the horses was clarified as not only a hazard from their walking on the top surface of the retracted bollard, but also the presence of a large metal plate on the ground surface around the bollards; the change in material from the asphalt roadway would be a slipping hazard. He said that an additional concern is the potential problem of a bollard not retracting due to mechanical problems or inclement weather, resulting in disruption of a funeral service and requiring a detour to another gate. The proposal therefore continues to include a horizontally sliding gate, which would remain open during the day for funerals. He said that the submitted views include this gate in the open and closed positions, at the request of the Commission staff, although the public would typically see this area when the gate is open. He indicated the proposed landscaping that would screen the view of the gate when it is retracted to the open position.
Mr. Nein presented the revised alignment and perspective views along the remainder of the proposed fence. He indicated the refinement of the design at the Selfridge Gate to provide a more dignified setting for the existing adjacent Baker Creek Memorial. The materials have been revised for the small plaza at the Memorial Chapel to improve the relationship of the plaza to the existing context. Hobson Gate would be closed, but the proposed fence and landscape would be designed to allow for making this gate usable if needed for emergencies or special maintenance requirements. He presented an overall plan of the revised fence alignment, noting that this revision would not harm additional trees and may even allow for preserving more of the existing trees. He indicated a proposed surface parking area that would offset the loss of curbside parking spaces resulting from the fence construction; this would be located toward the south at Henderson Hall and away from the boundary with the cemetery. He presented the manufacturer’s catalog drawings for the proposed fence type.
Mr. Nein described the perspective views in comparison to photographs of existing conditions. He indicated the portion of the proposed fence visible from the cemetery, which in many locations would be minimal due to screening from the existing boundary wall and vegetation. He noted the wide range of viewing conditions from the cemetery: the height of the existing wall varies from one to eight feet, and the screening provided by the vegetation will vary seasonally. An important view from the side of the military base would be in the area of the Old Post Chapel, where visitors would attend funeral services; he emphasized that the proposed sliding gate would be only minimally visible when it is open during the day, screened by existing features in this area including a guardhouse. He indicated the detail of extending the paving of the military base’s perimeter pedestrian path across the access roads in order to emphasize the design priority of pedestrians over vehicles.
Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation for the clarity of the presentation. Ms. Gilbert noted that the selected fence design from the manufacturer’s catalog includes pickets extending below the lower horizontal rail, while the presentation included a comment that the pickets would not extend downward. Mr. Nein confirmed that the pickets would stop at the lower rail, four inches above the ground, and the specific detailing of the fence would be a custom design that is arranged with the manufacturer. Ms. Gilbert asked for further information about the replacement trees that are proposed, including the relationship of the selected species to the nearby mature forest behind Arlington House. Mr. Nein responded that all of the trees to be removed are on the military base, not in the cemetery nor at Arlington House; the proposed palette of replacement trees is therefore intended to relate to the existing trees on the military base. He added that the number of trees to be removed has been reduced to sixteen due to the revised fence alignment, and five of these trees located near the southern end of the project are diseased and would need to be removed anyway. He added that more trees would be added than removed. Ms. Gilbert emphasized the importance of the choice of species. Mr. Nein said that the replacement tree is usually the same type as the tree being removed; some juniper trees being removed would be replaced with a different type of tree, due to the security problem of the juniper’s low foliage blocking views along the fence. He said that an overall security goal is to avoid creating hidden areas along the fence; the security would be supplemented by new cameras to be installed along the length of the fence line for round-the-clock observation.
Chairman Powell summarized the apparent consensus to approve the final design with the comments provided. Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted this action. (Additionally, the Commission’s request from November 2017 for a mockup remains in effect as part of the final approval process.)
E. District of Columbia Department of General Services
1. CFA 17/MAY/18-5, Ward 3 Short-term Family Housing, 3320 Idaho Avenue, NW. New six-story building. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/MAR/18-5.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposed final design for a six-story building to provide short-term family housing in Ward 3. The site is adjacent to the Second District police station to the north, and a complex of community gardens and playgrounds to the west. She noted the Commission’s previous review in March 2018, with approval of the concept design along with recommendations for the development of the facades and site. She asked project manager Stephen Campbell of the D.C. Department of General Services to begin the presentation. Mr. Campbell said that the submission was developed with careful consideration of the Commission’s previous comments. He introduced architect Joe McNamara of Ayers Saint Gross to present the design.
Mr. McNamara provided a brief overview of the context and site, as presented more fully in past reviews. After further study of other siting alternatives on the police station property, the selected location and building alignment remain as previously presented. An existing curb cut on Idaho Avenue for the police station parking would be shared to provide vehicular and service access for the proposed housing. A play area for the resident families would be to the west of the new building, and a landscape buffer to the south would provide some screening from the adjacent single-family houses. He noted the moderate scale and prevailing brick of these existing houses, which has influenced the design details of the proposed building; in contrast, the buildings to the north are larger in scale and include commercial uses as well as the police station. He indicated the general configuration of the building with a double-loaded corridor running east-west; shared-use spaces on each floor would be located along the narrow end of the building that faces Idaho Avenue, and the vertical line of windows at each end of the central corridor would define the exterior appearance of a split massing for the overall building. Different materials are proposed for the northern and southern masses in order to break up the building’s scale: brick is proposed on the south, and terracotta on the north. He recalled the Commission’s previous suggestion to consider reversing these materials, but the design team has concluded that brick is the appropriate material on the south to allow for more finely scaled details that relate to the adjacent single-family housing. The building would include an extensive green roof, and the rooftop mechanical equipment would have visual screening.
Mr. McNamara described the proposed ground-floor uses and their relation to the site plan. The shared-use dining room would be on the south side of the building, with a view across a bioretention area toward the planted buffer. This open space was formerly designed as a lawn that could serve as an outdoor extension of the dining room, but the site plan requires extensive bioretention in order to accommodate stormwater from the adjacent parking structure as well as from the residential portion of the site. This area is therefore designed as a visual amenity but would be too damp for routine occupancy. An outdoor deck is now proposed adjacent to the dining room, extending above the bioretention area and connecting to the play area on the west.
Mr. McNamara presented additional details of the facades. The windows and brickwork on the south facade are designed to provide shadow and texture with a handcrafted effect. On the northern part of the building, several types of terracotta would be used; the upper floors would have some striping to break up the building mass, and the ground-floor terracotta would have a ribbed texture. Terracotta baguettes would provide accents at some windows and stairwells, and the aluminum window frames would protrude from the walls. Metal panels would be used on the ground-floor facades, with a horizontal steel channel above the ground floor to provide a separation from the masonry of the upper floors. The two colors of terracotta would be orange-brown and a lighter orange; the red brick, still being finalized, would have a tonal range that is compatible with the terracotta colors. He noted that the rendered elevation drawings suggest a color contrast that is more stark than intended. He added that the facades of the nearby parking structure, currently under construction, would have planted green screens that are shown in the background on some of the elevation drawings for the residential building.
Mr. McNamara said that the previous Commission comments had referred to the south facade as the more public face of the building, but due to the large trees in this area, the south facade would actually be only moderately visible to people looking north along Idaho Avenue a. He presented several photographs to illustrate the relationship between the existing trees, the adjacent house, and the proposed massing of the residential building; some of the existing trees are evergreens, while the appearance of others would change seasonally. He indicated an existing brick site wall that would remain, located near the south property line; the existing plantings between this wall and the property line would also remain. The proposed plantings would contribute further to this visual buffer zone, resulting in a private character for the south side of the building. He said that the north side would be the more visible to the public, seen in views southward along Idaho Avenue and from the parking structure and nearby parkland.
Mr. McNamara presented a perspective view of the building entrance on the east facade along Idaho Avenue, describing its character as simple and welcoming; he said that the entrance is intended to feel residential rather than public. He indicated the angled entrance walk from Idaho Avenue, sited to avoid conflicting with street trees and also to free the landscape design from the rigidity of the building plan. He asked landscape architect Nathan Gulman of Ayers Saint Gross to present the site design in greater detail.
Mr. Gulman described the planning for four distinct site areas: the front garden to the east along Idaho Avenue; the side yard to the south with the bioretention area and occupiable deck; the play area to the west; and the service area to the north, between the residential building and the parking structure. He added that the site design is intended to incorporate the building into the area’s residential context, and to respond to the Commission’s previous comments.
For the front garden, Mr. Gulman indicated the existing large trees that would remain, primarily oaks, and the proposed plantings of shrubs, small trees, and herbaceous species. In the side yard, a row of evergreen trees would be added to reinforce the visual screening provided by existing trees. A wood trellis is proposed to provide a barrier between the side yard and the street frontage; this material would provide a warm character, and the plantings would mediate between the human scale and the large trees. Within the bioretention area, the proposed plantings would create a more wild, informal appearance and provide color throughout the year. He noted the Commission’s previous suggestion to improve the relationship between the seating area of the side yard and the nearby play area; in response, the proposed deck would provide seating with a view of both the play area and the bioretention landscape. The deck’s outdoor furniture would be colorful with a residential character, and the deck is low enough to not require handrails, allowing for open views. The play area would have traditional equipment to appeal to all ages. The existing brick wall along the west edge of the site, forming an edge of the play area, would be used for climbing; benches along other edges of the play area would be provided for parents, supplementing the seating on the deck. The service area on the north would be separated by plantings from the play area, and the building’s trash container on the north would be enclosed within a wood trellis.
Ms. Griffin expressed appreciation for the improvements that have been made to the design; she said that the facades are generally stronger than in the previous submission. She questioned the size and detailing of the windows in the southern part of the east facade, above the building entrance; she said that these windows have an overly institutional appearance, perhaps due to their proportions, framing, and relationship to the brick facade. She suggested that these windows be more expressive of the shared-use space on each of the upper floors, rather than give the sense of being utilitarian stairwell windows above the entrance. She said that improving these windows would help to strengthen the understanding of this narrow east facade as the building’s front along the street, rather than appearing to be merely a side that unexpectedly has an entrance door. Mr. McNamara offered to reconsider the design of these windows; he noted that they correspond to a study space on each floor for use by children, intended to be a quiet rather than active space. Ms. Griffin said that a different window shape, or some improvement in the detailing, would not detract from the use of the interior spaces as study areas, while the improvement of the street facade would be desirable.
Mr. Krieger asked if the proposed exterior brick and terracotta have differing costs; Mr. McNamara responded that the terracotta is probably more expensive. Mr. Krieger said that the cost difference seems to be the only reason for the proposed use of two different facade materials; he disagreed with the stated purpose of using two materials to reduce the perception of the building’s bulk, commenting that a person wearing a suit with different colors on each side would not appear to be thinner. He said that the intended relationship of the brick to the adjacent single-family houses is questionable because, as demonstrated in the presentation, the houses are largely obscured by trees. He said that the fenestration pattern seems acceptable, perhaps with some windows enlarged as suggested by Ms. Griffin, but the mix of colors and materials seems inexplicable unless the concern is that a single material would make the building appear too simple. Mr. McNamara acknowledged that the design team has struggled with how to use the two materials. Mr. Krieger said that they could be intermixed throughout the facades, or the base of the building could be brick and the upper floors terracotta; but the proposed configuration of materials appears to be cartoonish and does not lessen the perception of the building’s large size. He said that this issue weakens the generally sensible planning and design for the building and landscape.
Ms. Meyer noted that the Commission typically sees material samples as part of the submission for a final design; the lack of samples is a concern in considering Mr. Krieger’s comment and due to the apparent unreliability of the presented renderings in conveying the materials accurately. She said that the Commission’s dissatisfaction with the distinct color contrast, as illustrated in the drawings, may be lessened by seeing samples of the actual materials that are proposed. She suggested that the Commission could ask the staff to review material samples when available, although Mr. Krieger’s concerns may need to be addressed more fully.
Ms. Meyer commended the revised design for the landscape, particularly the relationship of the deck and play area that better corresponds to the everyday activities of a family. She suggested further study of the edge between the deck and the play area, which she described as a “social edge” where residents could congregate, and not merely a “technical edge” to be resolved without a railing. She also questioned the tree selection for the evergreens at the south edge of the site, commenting that the specified red cedar trees grow best with plenty of sunlight, which may not be available amid the shade of the existing large trees in this area. She suggested using evergreen magnolia trees, or some other evergreen that is suited for these growing conditions and would also provide a scent. She noted that such details would contribute to whether this area becomes a great space for families.
Ms. Gilbert suggested that this row of evergreen trees be less rigidly aligned, perhaps bringing some of the trees into the bioretention area. She suggested a more lush character for the trees when seen from the deck and elsewhere. She also suggested that the edge of the deck adjacent to the play area be treated as long steps where people could sit or play. She expressed overall support for the design as a substantial improvement.
Mr. Krieger cautioned that the height difference between the deck and the play area should be considered carefully in section to insure that seated parents would be able to see broadly into the play area. He questioned why a railing has been avoided, suggesting that a simple railing around the deck could relate to the higher level of the play area. Mr. McNamara offered to study the sightlines and detailing further. He said that a general design goal is to connect the deck and the play area, rather than create a barrier between them, but a railing may be desirable for safety and could be designed to be unobtrusive.
Mr. Dunson agreed that the design has been improved, and he commended the clarity of the presentation. He said that he is not concerned about the differing colors on the facade, but a reconsideration of the varying materials may be worthwhile, and the opportunity to inspect material samples would have been helpful for the Commission’s review. Mr. Krieger reiterated that the materials could be combined in other ways without additional cost, such as the commonly seen change in materials between the base and upper part of the building, while the proposed configuration of materials seems too simple. He summarized his desire to raise this concern while not delaying a generally well-designed project.
Chairman Powell said that the exterior materials do not seem problematic, but the Commission should have the opportunity to see samples. Ms. Griffin suggested that the Commission approve the final design submission while delegating further review of the materials to the staff; this would provide the opportunity to consider Mr. Krieger’s concerns in relation to the actual materials rather than the questionable representation of them on the presented drawings. She said that the materials should have a more cohesive tonal range, encompassing the masonry as well as the metal elements. Secretary Luebke said that this guidance from the Commission, along with the project team’s willingness to work further on the material selections, would allow the staff to finalize the approval through additional delegated review. Chairman Powell suggested a consensus to approve the project with this stipulation; upon a second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted this action.
2. CFA 17/MAY/18-6, Eliot-Hine Middle School, 1830 Constitution Avenue, NE. Building renovation and additions. Concept. The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
F. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
SL 18-085, 4101 Arkansas Avenue, NW. Single-family residence, additions to convert to two-family residence. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposed alterations to an existing one-story house that faces the parkland setting of the Piney Branch tributary of Rock Creek; the small house dates from 1950 and is located on a 2,200-square-foot triangular lot. She described the ranch-style house as an anomaly within the neighborhood context of traditionally styled row houses to the east and south, and a notable group of brick row houses from 1939 in the Modernist style to the north and west. The proposal would retain the existing brick exterior walls for the first story, add two stories and a rooftop deck, and expand the building footprint to the southeast. She said that in response to a consultation meeting with the staff, the current concept proposal supersedes an initial permit-level submission from April 2018. She noted that the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission has reviewed the proposal; a representative is present to provide comments, along with several neighbors. She asked architect Rocio Gonzalez, who owns and resides in the house, to present the design; the contractor for the project, Rodney Davis, also resides there and is available to assist with the presentation.
Ms. Gonzalez described the existing house, with a footprint of approximately 16 by 62 feet and a partial cellar. The proposal would add 158 square feet to the existing footprint of 1,062 square feet, add two stories, and convert the building to two abutting row houses; each of the resulting units would encompass approximately 2,000 square feet. She presented a context map, indicating the site at the northeast corner of Taylor Street and Arkansas Avenue, NW, and the nearby entrance to Piney Branch Parkway. She presented photographs of the site and vicinity; the nearby row houses are two or three stories tall, dating from the 1930s and 1940s. She said that the features of the modest existing house include a carport on the north, which would be demolished, and a bay window on the front of the house overlooking Arkansas Avenue to the northwest. Mr. Krieger asked for a further description of the adjacent row house to the east. Ms. Gonzales said that it is at the western end of a line of traditionally styled row houses; she described the treatment of the western terminus as unresolved. She noted that the owner of the end house also owns an adjacent small vacant lot to its west that separates the row from the house being submitted today. She added that her one-story house is approximately aligned with the partially exposed basement of the end house, which has a main entrance porch at its first-story level; she described the side brick facade of this house as having a plain appearance, with a projecting chimney and vinyl replacement windows. Mr. Krieger asked for clarification of the existing entrance locations for Ms. Gonzalez’s house; Ms. Gonzalez indicated the exterior stairs on the northeast, adjacent to the carport, leading down to a secondary entrance into the partial basement, and the front door on the northwest. Mr. Dunson asked about the posts that appear in the photographs of the existing house’s rear yard; Ms. Gonzalez confirmed that these are located at her property line, as part of the construction of a fence.
Ms. Gonzalez described the typical characteristics of the nearby Modernist row houses: 17 feet wide by 48 feet deep, with three bedrooms and approximately 2,000 square feet of interior space. Notable architectural features include layered front facades, large windows, second-story porches, brick chimneys appearing as towers within the front facades, and some surviving decorative trellises. The more modest brick row houses along Arkansas Avenue have triple windows at the second story marked by projecting canopies at the roofline. She noted that another Modernist house at the end of the row across Taylor Street has recently been expanded with a third floor and rear addition to become a four-unit building.
Ms. Gonzalez presented the existing and proposed plans, indicating the 158-square-foot expansion to the southwest; she clarified that this would extend the length of the house, but the existing shallow depth would not change. The partial basement would also remain, and most of the new construction would be placed on top of the existing house. The new northeastern unit would have four stories including the basement; its first story would retain most of the existing house’s layout, including the bay window, and this unit’s recessed front door would be at the approximate location of the existing front door. The second and third stories of this unit would extend approximately five feet northeastward above the exterior stairs leading to the basement. The new southwestern unit would have three stories without a basement, and it would have a similarly recessed front door along Arkansas Avenue. The floor level for this unit’s first story would be lowered by more than two feet by reducing the height of the crawl space below, resulting in an eleven-foot ceiling height. She indicated the living room at the southernmost end of this unit, with extensive windows to take advantage of the view toward Piney Branch Parkway. Both of the new units would have spiral staircases extending through all stories to the roof level, providing access to deck space; the southeast facade would be marked by the vertical emphasis of each staircase enclosure rising above the overall roofline. Both units would have access to the shared rear yard on the southeast.
Ms. Gonzalez presented the existing and proposed elevations; the only notable feature of the existing front facade is the projecting bay, which would be extended upward along the new northeastern unit, and the brick walls that would be incorporated into the new facades. Additional inspiration for the facades comes from the neighborhood row houses, including large windows, layered facades, projecting canopies, trellises, brick towers, and recessed entrances with glass block. She indicated the variety of materials, languages, and layers on the proposed front elevation along Arkansas Avenue. The three colors on the drawings indicate the three different materials that are proposed, including the existing brick; the actual new materials would probably be less bright than suggested by the drawings. The brick would be extended vertically to express towers at the front bay and the rear staircases. The second material would have a warm color, consistent with the brick, and it would have simple punched window openings. The third material would have triple windows with projecting canopies, a reference to some of the nearby row houses. The roofline would include a combination of open railings and parapet walls. She said that the transitions between materials are still being developed; the brick may terminate in a soldier course or precast concrete elements, and the transition between the second and third materials would have coping along the edge. She indicated the locations of trellises and glass block on the facades. She presented sections and detail drawings of the proposal, indicating the windows that would all be wood on the interior and metal on the exterior. Mr. Krieger asked what the new materials would be; Ms. Gonzalez presented images of several possible precedents, including a natural-finish wood and corrugated metal with a rusted appearance. Additional images illustrated the intended treatment of transitions, trim, corners, and the detail treatment of the recessed windows.
Chairman Powell noted that the Commission members did not see the initially submitted design; Secretary Luebke said that the current submission has changed substantially. Chairman Powell recognized Kenny Reff, the owner of a neighboring house. Mr. Reff noted the printed materials that he has provided to the Commission members, including a petition signed by more than 75 people urging the Commission not to approve the design. He noted that many of the signatories have added comments amplifying their objections to the proposal; he provided a set of excerpts that have been selected for relevance to the Commission’s concern with aesthetics and the setting of Rock Creek Park. He said that Ms. Gonzalez may dispute many of the stated concerns, such as the design’s scale and industrial character, as well as the issues of traffic congestion and parking; he acknowledged that some of the concerns may be misstated, and the design comments are based on the initial submission to the Commission that was shared with the public. He said that the currently presented design is an improvement, with better treatment of exterior materials and colors; however, the massing of the proposed building has not changed and remains problematic. He said that many of the signatories have expressed concern that the large building would be out of character with the neighborhood at this busy entrance into the park. He noted that the proposal would lengthen the house’s frontage on Arkansas Avenue by nearly thirty percent, from 62 to 79 feet, and would add two stories to the one-story house, plus a railing and parapet on the front facade and penthouses on the rear facade; the height would increase nearly four-fold, from approximately 11 feet to 42 feet. The interior space would also quadruple, from slightly over 1,000 square feet to 4,300 square feet. He acknowledged that the expansion includes the creation of a second unit, and increased density is a part of urban life; but he noted that the forty-foot width of each unit along Arkansas Avenue would be approximately double the width of the neighborhood’s typical row houses, which are seventeen to twenty feet wide. He emphasized that the house would be perceived as a very large building compared to the context, instead of as a compatible duplex. He described the proposal as being disrespectful, insensitive, and not socially responsible—contrasting sharply with the modest row houses of the neighborhood. He said that the proposal would radically interrupt the quiet dignity of this entrance to the park; in contrast, the modest size of the current 1950 house allows it to blend in with the older context, particularly when seen as a gentle transitional buffer by people exiting from Piney Branch Parkway into the urban neighborhood. He said that the proposed massing would stand out boldly, presenting a large-scale “monolith” to people entering or exiting the park. He provided the Commission members with a superimposition of the proposed massing on a photograph of the existing conditions as seen from the southwest by people exiting Piney Branch Parkway. He concluded that regardless of improvements to the materials, textures, or colors, the sheer size of the proposed building would ruin the area’s sense of dignity. He urged the Commission to convey its disapproval to the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.
Chairman Powell recognized Michael Halpern, the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) member representing this area. Mr. Halpern recalled the neighborhood’s previous interaction with the Commission of Fine Arts concerning the expansion of the end row house to the south across Taylor Street; he acknowledged the area’s ongoing pressure for increased development in response to increasing land values, often resulting in designs that are based more on costs than on aesthetics. He said that the ANC has recognized some unusual circumstances for the current project: the existing ranch-style house is an anomaly in the neighborhood; the developer intends to live in one of the units; and the developer’s stated goal is to create a building that is consistent with the neighboring properties, a goal that he hopes will be achieved. He said that the ANC’s reaction to the initial proposal was mixed: some expressed outright opposition, while others offered general support for residents doing as they wish with their property within legal constraints, even if not liking the proposed design. He said that the range of the ANC’s design concerns regarding the initial proposal included its boxy massing, the quality of construction materials in comparison to the neighborhood context, the material colors, and the project’s overall consistency with the neighborhood, including landscaping and signage. The current proposal was only made available in time for a brief, informal review by the ANC members; comments include acknowledgment of significant improvements, especially in the materials. He expressed optimism that the Commission’s review process would address the remaining concerns, and he emphasized the desire of neighborhood residents for a redevelopment that would complement the context. He said that the project presents the opportunity to develop a design that is consistent with the different styles of row houses in the immediate vicinity, and he acknowledged that the owner is working with the Commission to achieve this. He urged the Commission to look at the proposal in detail as the design is developed, including issues of materials, color, style, landscaping, and signage. He noted that a letter from the ANC has been provided to the Commission.
Rodney Davis, a resident of the house and contractor for the proposed work, asked to provide further information to the Commission. Mr. Davis emphasized that the proposal conforms to regulations—including its footprint and height—and does not require any zoning variances. He said that the concerns of the neighbors are therefore not relevant, and the project simply requires a normal permit process through the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. He said that the concern about the building being overly large is unfounded: the depth is only sixteen feet, and the massing would be broken up as two separate units. He described the proposal as two typically scaled row houses that are placed end-to-end instead of the more typical side-by-side configuration. He urged the Commission to support the as-of-right proposed construction.
Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission is not obliged to respond directly to the petition nor to the ANC letter; the Commission’s concerns with design and the public interest under the Shipstead-Luce Act are also independent of any zoning or other regulatory requirements. He clarified that the Commission’s role is to evaluate the design as it affects the public amenity of the park.
Ms. Griffin asked if the proposal uses the entire allowable development area that is allowed by D.C. zoning regulations. Ms. Gonzalez responded that the project will result in a three-story building, the maximum allowed by zoning; but the increase in lot occupancy will only be from 48 to 55 percent, still below the zoning maximum of 60 percent. Ms. Griffin asked if the conversion from a single-family to two-story building is consistent with regulations; Ms. Gonzalez responded that the current zoning already allows for two units, and the design will need to comply with related building code issues. Mr. Davis added that three houses in the immediate vicinity have recently been converted to two-family use. Ms. Griffin said that the satisfaction of these existing regulatory concerns is important to note as part of the project record.
Ms. Griffin said that her initial reaction on seeing the design proposal was that it would be a very large one-family house, and its two-family configuration became apparent only after further study of the submission materials. She said that the two-family configuration should be expressed more clearly, both in describing the project and in its design. She observed that the front elevation is composed horizontally, while the presented neighborhood precedents—including the beautiful and well-detailed example of mid-century Modernism—convey the scale of the individual units within the overall row. The presented design appears more monolithic, which may be contributing to the objections of neighborhood residents. She commented that the various design strategies for the proposed facades require a mastery of scale that is not yet apparent; the goal should be a perception of two houses, rather than one very long house, so that this building will fit better into the rhythm and scale of the neighborhood. She acknowledged that the existing house is an anomaly within the context of two- and three-story row houses.
Ms. Griffin suggested preparing elevation drawings of the proposed building within the context, including accurate topographic alignments, to better convey the relationships among the buildings; she noted that the higher grade level of the neighboring houses would be important in evaluating the proposal, adding that the photographic superimposition provided by Mr. Reff appears to be misleading. She summarized that the exterior scale, proportions, layering, coloring, and use of materials need further refinement. As an example, she observed that in the presented image of a precedent for corrugated metal and brick, the two materials are of similar color, but the presented elevations appear to show strongly contrasting colors. She recalled Mr. Krieger’s comment on the previous case, a short-term housing facility in Ward 3, that a two-color suit would be unflattering to wear. Mr. Krieger clarified that for this two-family building, a two-color suit is warranted as an appropriate solution; Ms. Griffin observed that the design instead offers a three-color suit. She observed that the neighborhood precedents are successful in using two-color exterior compositions.
Mr. Dunson observed that the nearby row of Modernist houses has an overall horizontal expression while the individual houses are configured vertically. Ms. Griffin said that the facade design for this row uses layering and recession more extensively than in the current proposal. Mr. Krieger acknowledged the difficulty of using these techniques for this project; Ms. Gonzalez emphasized that the depth of her building is only sixteen feet. Ms. Griffin agreed, commenting that the constraint on the depth suggests the need to rely on the proportions of facade elements to express horizontality and verticality, which is a challenging design problem. Ms. Gonzalez responded that the multiple colors express the way that people typically differentiate their houses, and the beauty of the proposed design comes from the horizontality of the composition. She also clarified that the neighbors had based their comments on a single elevation drawing from the earlier design concept. Mr. Dunson said that even if the photographic superimposition gives the wrong impression of the proposal, the need remains for the presentation materials to include a depiction of the existing and proposed buildings in comparison to the context; this should be conveyed by the additional drawings that the Commission is requesting. Ms. Griffin reiterated that the relationship of the proposal and its context is difficult to understand from the presentation; Ms. Meyer agreed that additional drawings are needed to understand the proposal, as with any project in an urban setting. She suggested that several section drawings, including sections through the two abutting streets, would be helpful. Ms. Gilbert suggested that one of these drawings include the recently expanded house across Taylor Street; that project, in combination with the current proposal, will form a gateway to the street, and the comparison of their heights would be helpful in reviewing the proposal.
Mr. Krieger emphasized that the existing house is more of an anomaly in the neighborhood than the proposed design would be. He agreed that the perceived width of the building is a concern; elsewhere in the neighborhood, this is typically addressed by articulating the vertical division between houses. He discouraged the design focus on multiple colors and textures arranged in horizontal layers, and instead suggested greater differentiation of the two units to avoid the perception that the building is one very large house that is out of scale with the context. He said that this differentiation could be achieved through creative use of the materials that are proposed, perhaps with adjustments to the colors. He anticipated that the result would be more handsome while also diminishing the negative impression of the building’s scale.
Ms. Griffin asked why the existing one-story brick house is being incorporated into the design, resulting in the lack of a visual separation between the units at the first story; Ms. Gonzalez confirmed that cost is a concern. Ms. Griffin suggested considering partial demolition; Ms. Gonzalez responded that the design already includes some demolition to accommodate the new window locations and the additional front door for a second unit. She said that the practical issues include cost, constructability, and a desire to work with what is already there. Mr. Krieger observed that the placement of two front doors on the Arkansas Avenue facade would already suggest the distinction between the two units; he suggested that this differentiation extend upward through the facade. He also discouraged the intention to extend the brick portion of the facades, questioning whether the new brick could accurately match the existing brick; he suggested reconsidering this feature of the design, possibly developing a solution that reinforces the perception of the building as two abutting houses. Ms. Gonzalez responded that an existing vertical transition on the facade is close to the actual division between the houses, and she asked if repositioning the facade transition by 1.5 feet would address the Commission’s concern; Mr. Krieger suggested that she give further consideration to the comments provided, and then develop a design response.
Chairman Powell summarized that the Commission has provided extensive comments that should be helpful to Ms. Gonzalez and Mr. Davis. Mr. Luebke noted the Commission’s apparent general support for the project while some issues need further resolution. Mr. Krieger suggested supporting the project, particularly due to its compliance with regulatory requirements, while the concept needs to change to address the articulation of the building as two houses; Ms. Meyer said that the massing is acceptable but the Arkansas Avenue facade needs revision. Ms. Griffin questioned whether the massing is acceptable, commenting that the submitted drawings are insufficient to convey the relationship of the proposal to the topography and nearby houses; she suggested that an expanded presentation and a revised design, responding to the Commission’s comments, would be desirable. Chairman Powell suggested a consensus that the Commission should see a revised proposal; Ms. Meyer agreed, recalling that the Commission had reviewed multiple submissions before approving the design for the expansion of the house across Taylor Street. Chairman Powell added that the many interested neighbors should have the opportunity to see the updated design.
Mr. Luebke suggested that the Commission convey its tentative general support for the massing, with the request for an additional concept-level submission; no approval action would be adopted, but the Commission would encourage the further development of the design. Mr. Krieger supported this conclusion, suggesting that the Commission more specifically support the creation of a two-unit building, request additional drawings to show the relationship of the proposal to the context, and encourage a revised exterior design that conveys the two-unit configuration as part of the overall development of the Arkansas Avenue facade. Ms. Meyer clarified that the additional drawings should include sections showing both sides of the streets. Chairman Powell suggested that this be treated as a motion, seconded by Ms. Gilbert. Mr. Luebke clarified that since no formal approval is being offered, no action is needed on the concept; he said that the Commission’s summary of its comments would be sufficient. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:16 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA