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 9:08 a.m.
Hon. Earl A. Powell, Chairman
Hon. Elizabeth Meyer, Vice Chairman
Hon. Edward Dunson
Hon. Liza Gilbert
Hon. Toni Griffin
Hon. Alex Krieger
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
A. Approval of the minutes of the 21 June meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the June meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. The draft has subsequently been revised to clarify the voting of the Commission members on the Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised minutes.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 20 September, 18 October, and 15 November 2018. He noted that no meeting is scheduled in August.
C. Proposed 2019 schedule of meetings and submission deadlines for the Commission and Old Georgetown Board. Mr. Luebke presented the proposed schedule of meetings and submission deadlines for calendar year 2019. The Commission meeting dates would be the third Thursday of each month except August and December; the meetings of the Old Georgetown Board would be on the first Thursday of each month except August. He said that this pattern will not conflict with any major holidays in 2019. Chairman Powell noted the consensus of the Commission to adopt this schedule.
E. Confirmation of the recommendation from the June 2018 meeting after the loss of a quorum. Mr. Luebke said that a formal action is needed concerning a U.S. Mint submission reviewed the previous month without a quorum. He noted that the members present had made recommendations which were conveyed in a letter sent to the Mint and distributed to the Commission. He listed the project requiring action:
CFA 21/JUN/18-8, 2020 and 2021 America the Beautiful Quarter Dollar Program. Reverse designs for: American Samoa, Connecticut, U.S. Virgin Islands, Vermont, Kansas, and Alabama. Final.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell, the Commission confirmed the June 2018 recommendations for this coin program.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that no changes have been made to the draft appendix. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported several changes to the draft appendix. Six cases with negative recommendations have been removed for consideration in a future month (case numbers SL 18-012, 18-147, 18-158, 18-173, and 18-174). Two cases with partially or entirely negative recommendations have been changed to be favorable based on supplemental materials and a reduced project scope (SL 18-157 and 18-170). One of these, along with the recommendations for three other cases, is subject to the anticipated receipt of supplemental materials and further design consultation; she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations when the remaining issues are resolved, rather than delay these projects two months until the Commission’s next meeting. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act appendix. (See agenda item II.H for an additional Shipstead-Luce Act submission.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Fox said that no changes have been made to the draft appendix, which includes 41 projects. He noted that all of the requested supplemental drawings have been received. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the Old Georgetown Act appendix. Mr. Luebke added that Ms. Stevenson is on vacation after being the sole manager of the Georgetown caseload for the past five months; a new staff member is expected to begin in August.
Mr. Luebke noted that one item listed on the draft agenda, for a forthcoming one-dollar coin program, has been withdrawn by the U.S. Mint due to unresolved issues of authorization and funding. He anticipated that this proposal would be resubmitted for the September 2018 meeting.
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider two submissions from the D.C. Department of General Services. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission may wish to act on these submissions without a presentation.
F. District of Columbia Department of General Services
1. CFA 19/JUL/18-6, Jefferson Middle School Academy, 801 7th Street, SW. Building renovation and additions. Concept.
2. CFA 19/JUL/18-7, NoMa Green, “The Park,” 101 Harry Thomas Way, NE (at 3rd and Q Streets). New public park. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/JUN/17-5.)
Ms. Meyer observed that the landscape design for the Jefferson Middle School Academy is labeled on the drawings as “Shown For Graphical Purposes Only.” She said that the Commission’s concept approval should therefore include only the building and the paved areas of the site; she requested that the next submission clarify the proposal for the plantings. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved these two submissions, subject to Ms. Meyer’s comment on the Jefferson Middle School Academy project.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B.
B. National Capital Planning Commission / D.C. Department of Transportation
CFA 19/JUL/18-1, Small cell infrastructure in public space, throughout the city. Draft guidelines for the installation of low-power antennas for cellular and data communication. Information presentation. Ms. Batcheler introduced an information presentation by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) on the draft of guidelines for the design and installation of low-power antennas for cellular and digital data communication—known as “small cell” infrastructure—within public space throughout the city. Antennas and associated equipment comprise the basic components of the infrastructure; these installations would supplement rooftop antennas and cell towers. She said that the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) has been engaged by several companies interested in installing small-cell infrastructure within public rights-of-way; DDOT is serving as the primary liaison with the providers and will administer the permitting process. In order to provide the desired coverage across the city, private companies will be requesting potentially thousands of locations for the small cell sites, primarily along sidewalks and in alleys, and ideally organized in an overlapping grid of 250 to 300 feet between installations. She said that the initial small-cell deployments would support the current fourth generation of broadband cellular network technology (“4G”), with the potential for upgrades to support future “5G” service. The overall process is controlled by master license agreements (MLAs) between the D.C. government and the private companies. To develop design guidelines for the installations, DDOT has convened an interagency committee that includes representatives of local and federal agencies such as the D.C. Office of Planning, the D.C. Historic Preservation Office (HPO), NCPC, and the Commission of Fine Arts. She asked urban planner Michael Bello of NCPC to present the draft guidelines.
Mr. Bello acknowledged in the audience Elizabeth Miller, NCPC’s director of physical planning, and Kathryn Roos, DDOT’s manager of public-private partnerships, and said they are available to answer questions. Mr. Bello said that the high design quality of Washington’s streetscapes reinforces its unique role as the nation’s capital and also creates a welcoming and livable environment. The small-cell antennas and related equipment can be attached to structures such as street lights, freestanding poles, or buildings; portions of the equipment can also be installed in at-grade enclosures or contained within below-grade vaults. He said that cellular providers have begun deploying small-cell infrastructure across the country, and the individual sites are usually spaced close together on city streets, compared to the longer distances between rooftop or tower installations. He presented a generalized diagram of the potential sizes and configurations of small-cell sites. He described one example in which an antenna structure is mounted at the top of a streetlight pole, with the related equipment attached further down the pole; a similar configuration could be used on utility poles or stand-alone poles, and larger-diameter stand-alone poles could have a hollow cavity containing the antenna and other equipment. He noted that several different private companies are involved in the small-cell infrastructure project; a cellular service provider, such as AT&T and Verizon, may install infrastructure to support only its own network, while other “hoteling” companies would install facilities that would contain infrastructure for several companies, with current technology accommodating up to four companies.
Mr. Bello said that while small-cell infrastructure would have benefits for wireless communication, it would also potentially have undesirable impacts on the city’s public space, including viewsheds, historic character, pedestrian access and circulation, and visual clutter. He presented photographic simulations, provided by the private companies, that depict the proposed infrastructure on existing D.C. streetlight poles with cobrahead, Twin-20, Washington globe, and teardrop fixtures; new stand-alone poles could also be designed to mimic these streetlight forms. He said the cylindrical, buoy-shaped antennas shown in the images are between four and seven feet in height. He then presented images of the stand-alone poles that would have the small-cell antennas and equipment enclosed within the hollow cavity of the pole; the examples shown are approximately 18 inches in diameter and would require a small access panel at the base for maintenance. The larger diameter of this pole could leave sufficient space to accommodate the eventual installation of 5G technology. Alternatively, the pole could have a narrower shaft with a wider base and top to accommodate the 4G antennas and equipment.
Mr. Bello then described the proposed guidelines. Because small-cell sites have a more limited range than rooftop or tower cellular installations, each provider will likely seek to install hundreds of small cell sites to meet their own coverage requirements, cumulatively resulting in several facilities per block and thousands of poles overall. To limit the impact, the guidelines would set a minimum distance between small-cell installations. For example, guidelines in Denver require a distance of 250 feet between installations, resulting in approximately 29 poles within a quarter mile; when applied to an average block in Washington, D.C., this standard would result in an average of two installations per block. The minimum distance is 300 feet in Dublin, Ohio, resulting in 21 installations within a quarter mile, and an average of one to one-and-a-half installations per Washington block. He said the guidelines would also address the relationship between installations and tree boxes, root systems, and accessibility, as well as the design and finish of poles. The intention is that if companies applying to install the infrastructure abide by the guidelines being developed, DDOT would review projects and issue permits without further review by CFA, NCPC, or HPO, although applications involving federal land would still require review by NCPC and CFA. He added that potential installation sites would be claimed by private companies on a first-come, first-served basis.
Chairman Powell thanked Mr. Bello for the presentation and invited public comments. Elsa Santoyo, a director of the Citizens Association of Georgetown (CAG) who chairs its Historic Preservation and Zoning Committee, addressed the Commission. She said that a resolution communicating CAG’s concerns about this project was sent in April to CFA, HPO, DDOT, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, and the D.C. Council. She summarized the concerns related to the effects of the proposed small-cell equipment on the Old Georgetown historic district. She said that the scale of Georgetown is characteristically small, and adding clutter to the streetscape at the density being discussed is concerning. She noted CAG’s understanding that the number of installations per block is still undetermined, that both carriers and hoteling companies will be installing equipment, and that antennas require an equipment cabinet that would be roughly the size of a curbside mailbox and located adjacent to the antenna. She emphasized the importance of design review, and she expressed regret that current legislation before Congress may exempt small-cell installations from such review. She summarized that CAG believes design review should be undertaken for these installations, requesting that DDOT encourage a programmatic design review instead of just individual reviews for each carrier; reviews should consider the installations’ proximity to trees and residences.
Mr. Krieger requested clarification of whether the power source enclosures described by Ms. Santoyo were illustrated in the presentation. Ms. Roos indicated on one of the photo simulations a cabinet attached to the pole; she said this is one of the cabinets described by Ms. Santoyo, and as depicted it is 5’-7” tall and 1’-8” deep. She said that the equipment enclosures could be mounted on the poles or at grade. She summarized the options for the small-cell installations as either two antennas at the top of the pole and a cabinet attached to the pole, or two antennas at the top of the pole and a slightly larger at-grade cabinet. She acknowledged that these elements may be difficult to see or may not be accurate in the photo simulations, but the description of the two options is correct.
Joe Gibbons, chairman of the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2E, said that his comments are on behalf of his single-member ANC district of 2,000 Georgetown residents; ANC 2E as a whole, representing the Georgetown, Burleith, and Hillandale neighborhoods, has not yet considered the current planning. He said he had previously introduced two resolutions that were unanimously passed by the ANC: one resolution requests the presentation of small-cell installations by DDOT to the Old Georgetown Board (OGB) as with others projects in the historic district, and emphasizes that Georgetown is a National Historic Landmark; the other resolution authorizes Mr. Gibbons to conduct a town hall meeting in order to learn more about potential impacts of the small-cell initiative. He added that the Burleith and Hillandale neighborhoods within ANC 2E have special topographic features that require consideration.
Mr. Gibbons expressed concern regarding the small-cell initiative, noting that many aspects are still unknown, including the eventual total number of MLA holders, as well as the number of individual service providers versus hoteling companies. He noted that the Commission’s Old Georgetown Act authority predates the D.C. home rule government and supersedes D.C.’s normal purview within this historic district. He said he believes that the MLA does not stipulate that projects must be submitted for the OGB’s design review, and only DDOT will review the aesthetics of objects installed in the public right-of-way, such as cabinets, facilities, and wires; guidelines include the stipulation that these objects not appear unkempt. He added that the MLA stipulates that DDOT will adjudicate de minimis modifications, and that DDOT will make determinations about what qualifies as de minimis; he therefore questioned whether public input would be allowed for subsequent modifications to the installations, such as upgrades to the technology or companies’ requests to add antennas. He said that the deployment and design standards section of the MLA states that DDOT will determine whether installations are obtrusive or harmonious with their surroundings; he noted that such aesthetic questions are usually presented to the OGB. He said that concerns he has heard from community members include the vagueness of potential installation locations, as well as a questioning of the requirement that no antenna should be placed within ten feet of a door, balcony, or window unless necessary, since it is unclear how “necessary” will be determined. He also noted concerns about company brand markings on the installations, and that they may be visible from residences. He noted that one company had given a presentation to the community, but it did not provide specifics on the aesthetics of the small-cell installations.
Secretary Luebke suggested that the Commission could respond to the information presentation by providing guidance to the staff as it continues to participate in the development of design guidelines.
Ms. Meyer suggested several principles to guide the small-cell initiative. She commented that the equipment presented seems rather large when compared to other advances in the information technology industry. She said that communities should push back against the installation of potentially antiquated technology, especially when the infrastructure appears to be “the size of a refrigerator,” and she advised against rushing the development of guidelines to accommodate obsolete, clunky technology. Regarding the guidelines, she cited the example of context-sensitive design guidelines such as those used by federal and local transportation agencies that modify standard engineering practices as appropriate for historic districts or sensitive environmental conditions; she recommended a similar strategy for this project. For example, siting guidelines would likely require modification for neighborhoods with narrow sidewalks. Finally, she recommended that alleys be designated as the preferred location for small-cell installations.
Ms. Roos responded that DDOT is acting as a facilitator of the small-cell initiative. She said DDOT recognizes that the city includes sensitive areas in which the infrastructure will be installed, and has therefore contacted CFA, NCPC, and HPO to facilitate a conversation. She said that the interests of these groups are driving the development of guidelines, with initial input from the MLAs regarding technical requirements. She said the goal is to find a balance between what is important to the city, what is appropriate regarding historic preservation concerns, and what companies need to develop the next level of their business. She expressed appreciation for Ms. Santoyo’s and Mr. Gibbons’s comments regarding the installation of small-cell sites in Georgetown and emphasized that DDOT would not preempt other regulatory jurisdictions. She noted that the MLA clearly states that license holders must comply with all other regulatory processes in the areas of installations, such as the Shipstead-Luce Act and the Old Georgetown Act.
Ms. Griffin noted that this proposal for privately operated public infrastructure should be considered similar to other publicly regulated utilities—such as electricity, natural gas, water, and sewers. She emphasized that the project requires a public advocate to protect public values in cooperation with private operators, not just a “facilitator” to implement private-sector enterprise; she compared the current effort to earlier projects that led to the burial of overhead power and telephone wires. She agreed with Ms. Meyer that the technology would evolve quickly, and expressed appreciation for the design guidelines currently under development. However, she said that guidelines do not provide design innovation or inspiration; she encouraged adding artists, industrial designers, and architects to the interagency committee to develop creative ideas for incorporate this technology into the public realm, perhaps extending to a design competition.
Mr. Dunson agreed with Ms. Griffin regarding the need for a strong public advocate for public values in the deployment of small-cell infrastructure within the public realm. He said that the government should determine if individual companies should collocate their installations, rather than leave this decision to the individual service providers; too much leeway is being given. He said that to achieve their business interests, the companies should be responsible for complying with the guidelines set by the government.
Mr. Krieger asked if local design review processes would still be in effect. He also commented that allowing individual companies to locate their exclusive installations on the same block would be extremely undesirable, and he asked if the government could require the companies to collocate their facilities. He also recommended further study regarding the installations’ proximity to residences. Ms. Roos responded that the ability to require individual companies to collocate is limited, partly because of their proprietary technology and the potential for signal interference. She said that the design guidelines could potentially restrict the distance between the installations and residences or trees, for example, and this would be important as the number of installations increases; however, these considerations are not under consideration for the first phase of deployment. Addressing the question of local design review, she said that the interagency committee is proposing that a broad programmatic review process, including the formal adoption of the design guidelines, would simplify the review of individual installations. She said this process would include comment from ANCs and a public meeting of the D.C. public space committee to review and adopt the guidelines, as well as review and adoption by the CFA, NCPC, and HPO. She added that this would only apply to installations that require permits from the D.C. government; installations on federal land would still follow the federal review process.
Secretary Luebke emphasized that the two CFA jurisdictions mandated by the Shipstead-Luce Act and the Old Georgetown Act would apply in all cases. He said that the staff believes a programmatic approach to approving the installations on non-federal land is reasonable, but would still request CFA review of certain individual installations within these federal jurisdictions; he said that direction from the Commission on this issue would be helpful.
Chairman Powell expressed appreciation for the presentation. He said this initiative is similar to efforts in recent decades to deploy bollards across the city, and he advised caution in evaluating this large-scale change to Washington’s streetscape. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
C. National Park Service
1. CFA 19/JUL/18-2, National World War I Memorial. Pershing Park, Pennsylvania Avenue, between 14th and 15th Streets, NW. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 17/MAY/18-3.) Secretary Luebke introduced a new revised concept submission for a World War I Memorial in Pershing Park, submitted by the National Park Service (NPS) on behalf of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission. He said that this design is based on the approved concept for the memorial from May 2017, and it also addresses comments in subsequent Commission reviews regarding the character and location of the proposed sculpture wall. Most recently, in May 2018, the Commission’s comments included reiterated concerns about the scale of the wall, its relationship to the water of the park’s central pool, alternative locations for the wall, and the auditory and visual experience of the park as a whole. He emphasized that throughout these reviews, the Commission has not questioned whether this park would be the site of the memorial. He said that the design team would present an analysis of the wall’s scale and relationship to the pool, as well as alternative locations for the wall. The design team’s preferred alternative continues to be Option A, featuring a freestanding wall facing east and set within the pool; Option B would connect the east-facing wall to the pool’s west terrace, retaining the concept originally approved by the Commission in May 2017.
Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission has received many public comments on this project—over 270 e-mails, many of them based on a form letter supporting the project team’s preferred alternative, and also many original letters supporting this alternative, including a letter from architect Roger Lewis who organized the design competition. In general, letters from preservation advocates and design professionals, such as the D.C. Preservation League and the landscape architecture firm of Oehme, van Sweden, recommend restoration of the park’s original design by M. Paul Friedberg, with a new commemorative sculpture on the site of the disused kiosk. Other correspondents, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, recommend proceeding with the project but do not express support for a specific alternative. He added that some of the people present at today’s meeting may want to address the Commission.
Mr. Luebke emphasized that the role of the Commission of Fine Arts is to assist in the design development through this interim review, not to revisit the authorization or site selection for the memorial. Because of the project’s scale and the scope of unresolved design issues, approval of a final design would not be considered at this meeting, but the Commission may wish to take a formal action to guide development of the design. He introduced Doug Jacobs of the National Park Service; Mr. Jacobs asked Dr. Libby O’Connell, a member of the World War I Centennial Commission, to begin the presentation.
Dr. O’Connell acknowledged the presence of two supporters of the memorial, Senator John Warner and Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun. She said that as a historian with extensive experience in preservation and education, she appreciates the insights gained through the review process. Previous presentations had focused on the sculpture wall; the design process has led the project team to support the option of a freestanding sculpture wall. The current presentation also includes other commemorative elements that will extend the narrative across the site. She introduced landscape architect David Rubin of the David Rubin Land Collective to present the project.
Mr. Rubin described the two options developed in recent submissions—Option A, a freestanding, east-facing sculpture wall within the existing pool; and Option B, an east-facing sculpture wall integrated into the terraced steps on the pool’s west side. He said that the project team’s preference is to proceed with Option A, in which the wall would be visible from many locations within the park; the space to the west would be occupiable, facing a cascade of water on the wall’s western side.
Mr. Rubin said that additional locations for the wall have been explored: within the pool at its east edge, facing east; at the north edge of the pool, facing north; to the northeast, along the angle formed by the diagonal of Pennsylvania Avenue; and on the east, within an existing grove of trees. Options suggested by the Commission were also studied: freestanding at the west end of the pool as in Option A, but reversed to face west instead of east; within the plaza north of the pool, facing south; adapted to a cylindrical form to replace the existing kiosk or at a nearby location; and on the southeast, within the existing Pershing Memorial area.
Mr. Rubin described the challenges presented by these alternative siting options. A west-facing wall in the west end of the pool would require introducing a walk along the west edge of the pool for viewing the sculpture, which would require extensive alterations to the existing stepped terrace at the pool’s edge. A west-facing sculpture would also lack a visual engagement with the Pershing statue at the southeast corner of the site; the wall’s east side would simply have a water cascade. If the wall were set in the lower north plaza, near the pool and facing south, a long-distance view of the sculpture would only be possible from the upper, and the wall would be located along a circulation corridor through the park rather than in a position of reverence, as a destination. A wall here would also form a visual barrier to views into the park from Pennsylvania Avenue on the north. The options for adapting the sculpture into a cylindrical form would require redesigning the sculpture and modifying other elements in the park, such as the grove of trees on the east; integrating a cylindrical sculpture with the overall park design would be difficult. Yet another option explored replacing one of the freestanding walls in the Pershing Memorial with a west-facing sculpture wall, which would require repositioning the Pershing statue and would divide the park in two, preventing integration of the design.
Mr. Rubin presented further variations of Option A—with an L-shaped walkway through the pool, as presented at the May meeting; with a refinement of the L-shaped walkway; and with a U-shaped walkway that visitors would enter at the southeast corner of the pool, proceed to a broad platform parallel to the sculpture wall, and then exit via a walk leading to the pool’s northeast corner. The development of each of these versions has included exploration of how to incorporate the pool and cascade to reinforce the sound of water as a visitor moves through the site, an intent of Friedberg’s original design for the fountain within the park. Mr. Rubin acknowledged the concern that railings might need to be added to keep visitors from stepping off the plaza into the pool; he emphasized that the project team wants to avoid adding railings.
Mr. Rubin said that because of the concern about visitors falling into the pool, another option is to replace the central area and east side of the pool with a quarter-inch-deep scrim of water; this would require deepening the remainder of the pool from 12 inches to 16 inches, and slightly altering the pool’s extent. The scrim would rise between paving joints and empty through a slot drain that would visually define the boundary between the scrim and the walk. To align with the scrim, existing steps into the pool would be flattened and elevated. The scrim could also be drained to leave a dry plaza for performances or event seating. He presented four options for detailing the walks, scrim and pool edge. He stressed the intent for the plaza to look handsome with or without water. The base of the pool, now made of cast concrete, would be changed to stone, perhaps of the same type used for the walks.
Mr. Rubin presented three options for locating a flagpole as part of the memorial: at the kiosk site; on the lower north plaza; and on the stepped landscape terrace located at the northwest corner of the park. At the kiosk location, illustrated with a cluster of flagpoles, additional features at the base would provide historical and interpretive information related to the memorial. On the lower north plaza, the flag would be aligned with the exit from the viewing platform for the sculpture wall. A flagpole positioned on the northwest terrace would be at a relatively high elevation and would be visible from within the memorial.
Mr. Rubin presented other elements of the memorial to be placed within the park. He said that if the freestanding sculpture wall in Option A is built, along with a flagpole on the northwest terrace, then additional interpretive elements could be placed either in the grove, at the kiosk site, or on planters along the northern Pennsylvania Avenue edge, which could be elevated. These elements could be freestanding panels could that carry changing exhibitions. Because of the central location of the kiosk site, it could be used as a viewing platform where visitors could read interpretive panels while looking over the park. Alternatively, the existing kiosk itself could be adapted for a renewed use, such as by placing interpretive features and exhibitions inside it, protected from the weather. Interpretive elements could also be placed at the site’s corners, and a vertical “totem” element could be used at the memorial’s boundary to indicate that a visitor is passing from the public space of the sidewalk into the memorial.
Mr. Rubin presented a video animation of the site, depicting oblique aerial views and tracing the changing sunlight conditions throughout the day. He concluded with an aerial perspective view illustrating the project team’s preferred combination of new memorial elements:
- Option A for the sculpture wall, as a freestanding wall with a cap, located near the west edge of the existing pool.
- Water cascades along the west side of the sculpture wall and extending to the ends of the east side.
- U-shaped walkway within the existing pool for viewing the sculpture wall, with the central area raised to the walkway level and featuring a water scrim.
- Flagpole at the northwest terrace, located north of the sculpture wall.
- Interpretive overlook to replace the existing kiosk.
- Interpretive blade signs within the grove east of the kiosk site.
Chairman Powell invited initial questions from the Commission members. Ms. Griffin asked for additional details about the proposed scrim, and for assurance that the addition of a safety railing along the proposed walkway will not be necessary. Mr. Rubin said that this detail is still undetermined; he added that the scrim solution would address the problem of visitors accidentally stepping into the pool, by instead designing a water feature that is deliberately intended to let visitors walk through it.
Ms. Meyer noted that one option had proposed siting the new sculpture wall to replace a wall in the existing Pershing Memorial, and she asked for a further description of the existing wall. Mr. Rubin responded that it contains text that could instead be added elsewhere at the Pershing Memorial. Ms. Gilbert observed that the renderings depict a single flagpole on the northwest terrace, while several flagpoles are shown for the alternative of the kiosk site; she asked whether more than one flagpole would be used if the terrace were chosen as the location. Mr. Rubin responded that while multiple flagpoles could honor the countries that were allied with the United States during the war, the current concept for the terrace location is just one flagpole, which he said would be simpler and more powerful.
Chairman Powell opened the meeting to public testimony. John Warner, a former U.S. senator, expressed strong support for the memorial and said it would have great meaning for him because his father served as a doctor in World War I. However, because the subject of war provokes strong reactions, he is concerned that this memorial would lack security and the sculpture wall could be vandalized at night. Mr. Rubin responded that several factors would help to deter vandalism of the sculpture: it would be lit at night; it would be made of bronze; and visitors would likely be present at most times, due to the anticipated popularity of a major memorial in the heart of the city. Additionally, the sculpture would be mounted on the wall set within a pool, making it difficult to reach; this configuration is intended more broadly to discourage routine visitors from touching the bronze. Chairman Powell noted a similar concern at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden; the visitors are very respectful of the art.
Christopher Leins, a retired Major General of the U.S. Army, said that each year he visits France to see the American battlefields, cemeteries, and memorials. Exploring these sites has deepened his understanding of World War I, and he commented that no similar experience is available in the United States. He agreed that this memorial should educate as well as inspire.
Carol Moseley Braun, a former ambassador and U.S. senator, spoke about her grandfather, one of 350,000 African American doughboys out of 4 million Americans who served in the war. She said that this memorial would finally honor the experience of the ordinary soldier, and she requested approval of the freestanding wall in Option A, as preferred by the design team. Ms. Griffin responded that the Commission members had recently emphasized the importance of ensuring that all soldiers are represented in the sculpture; Ambassador Moseley Braun thanked the members for their attention to these details.
Terry Hamby, chairman of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, said that he is also speaking on behalf of the 4.7 million Americans who fought in WWI and their families. He described the background of the Pershing Park site: it was dedicated by Congress to Pershing in the 1950s, and to the American Expeditionary Force as well in the 1960s. When the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation (PADC) took over the planning for this site, the focus was changed to Pershing only, and the doughboys were forgotten. The site’s redesignation as the World War I Memorial in 2015 and Joseph Weishaar’s winning competition design are intended to honor all Americans who fought in the war, transforming it from urban park to hallowed ground. Mr. Hamby expressed the memorial commission’s hope that design approval will soon be granted so that construction can begin.
John Henderson, a former official with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, spoke on behalf of the D.C. Green Spaces Alliance, which advocates for improved management of parks in Washington. He noted that many parks, including Pershing Park, receive inadequate maintenance because of insufficient funds. The Alliance encourages preserving the integrity of the Friedberg design and therefore does not support Option A, which would alter and undermine the spatial relationships of the original design; the Alliance encourages the Commission to consider other options, including Option C that would place a cylindrical adaptation of the sculpture on the kiosk site.
Landscape architect Eric Groft of Oehme, van Sweden & Associates said that his firm was commissioned by the PADC to design a planting plan for Pershing Park that was based on the American meadow, which resulted in an urban oasis popular with D.C. residents. He noted that the park has been designated as eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. He said that his firm strongly supports Option C, placing the commemorative element on the kiosk site, because it would have minimal impact on the original design and would finally relate the central pool to the nearby Pershing Memorial.
The final speaker was Charles Birnbaum of The Cultural Landscape Foundation. Mr. Birnbaum noted the approaching centennial of the end of World War I; he said that the memorial commission therefore has a great sense of urgency to secure design approval, and has been influenced by recent media coverage on the lengthy process to obtain approvals for national memorials in Washington. He said that the memorial commission had initiated a letter-writing campaign encouraging the Commission to approve the design being presented today. He said that the memorial commission’s vice chairman, Edwin Fountain, had stated at the February 2017 CFA meeting that the historic preservation of the park landscape had only emerged as a critical issue in May 2015 in meetings with review agencies during the development of the design competition program. Mr. Birnbaum said that Peter May, the National Park Service liaison to the memorial commission, had said in 2014 that the park would be determined eligible to be listed in the National Register. Therefore, while it was developing the design competition program in May 2015, the memorial commission was aware that preservation of the park landscape would be a critical issue, and should have anticipated that this designation could be an issue in the approvals process. When the memorial competition finalist designs were first presented to the Commission in November 2015, Mr. Fountain said that the competition was proceeding simultaneously with the historic preservation designation.
However, Mr. Birnbaum said that the actual design competition guidelines said nothing about potential preservation issues and the possibility that the park would be determined eligible. Moreover, since the five finalist designs were first presented to the Commission of Fine Arts in 2015, the Commission members have emphasized the need to respect and respond to the Friedberg design. At numerous reviews by the Commission of Fine Arts, the project team has been given guidance intended to help develop a war memorial that is compatible with the National Register-eligible park that would also be appropriate for a park within the National Historic Landmark site of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Mr. Birnbaum said that since the selection of the winning design proposal in January 2016, the memorial commission and the design team have insisted on inserting a large sculptural wall sculpture wall into Pershing Park, despite repeated reservations expressed by Commission members. For example, at the February 2017 meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts, the team was asked if other formal typologies had been considered, and they were advised to abandon the idea of the wall. At the May 2018 meeting, reference was made to the team’s stubborn insistence on the wall, but the only substantive change was that the memorial commission shifted its allegiance from Option B, a sculptural wall embedded in the western side of pool, to Option A, a freestanding wall—although both options would have an adverse effect on the park’s signature design feature of cascade and pool, and would destroy the park’s character-defining visual and spatial relationships. He said that the Commission of Fine Arts has repeatedly cited the significance of the cascade and pool, but the latest proposal includes not only the wall but also iterations of walks through the pool, in one area reducing the pool to a scrim, and these changes would fundamentally alter the park’s design.
Mr. Birnbaum said that on June 11, 2018, he joined M. Paul Friedberg and the design team for a meeting in New York City, where the team described specific plans to adapt a round version of the sculptural wall for the kiosk location, included as Option C in the current proposal. He said that TCLF could enthusiastically support this option, which would meet the Secretary of the Interior’s standards for rehabilitation; honor the park’s historic visual and spatial relationships; recognize and restore the cascade and pool; and maintain the park’s three focal points by creating a strong link among the Pershing statue, the cascade and pool, and the memorial wall at the kiosk site.
Noting that no other members of the audience wish to address the Commission, Chairman Powell asked the Commission members to proceed with comments on the proposal.
Mr. Krieger said that the presentation has convinced him the design is moving in a positive direction, and he endorsed the option for the freestanding wall and the location of the flagpole on the northwest terrace. He said that many appropriate decisions have been made, such as the selection of the freestanding wall—far superior to a sculpture wall integrated into the pool’s west terrace. He noted his previous suggestion to consider placing the sculpture on the freestanding wall’s west side, intended to encourage an understanding of two ways to design the commemoration; Option A may achieve this by having a cascade and possibly an inscription on the wall’s west side.
Mr. Krieger emphasized that strict preservation of the original design is not more important than the legislative designation of the entire park as a memorial: park and memorial must be equivalent in importance. Noting the lack of widespread interest in preserving the existing kiosk, he supported converting its site into a belvedere where visitors can overlook the park and memorial. He expressed reservations about the water scrim, which he said might become a nuisance. He agreed that extensive railings along all of the water edges should be avoided; however, even if they are not needed for safety reasons, he suggested having some railings for the benefit of visitors who would have difficulty standing without anything to hold onto while viewing the sculpture wall.
Mr. Krieger said that he does not support adapting the sculpture into a cylindrical form, which visitors would not be able to see all at once, an important intent of the artist’s design. But he observed that the cylindrical configuration allows the sculptural elements to break free of their background and become more three-dimensional—a desirable quality that should be developed further in the proposed linear sculpture and freestanding wall in Option A. He recommended that the sculptural figures be allowed to lift off or rise above the wall, instead of appearing to be plastered against it. He commented that the wall appears too heavy, and advised slightly diminishing the scale of its elements. For example, he questioned the heaviness of the wall’s base, on which the figures appear to stand; he recommended reducing the height of the base and having the cascade on the front plane emerge farther up, closer to the sculpture. He supported the proposal to have water cascade over the wall’s west side, which would recall the original design. Finally, he advised calling the sculpture wall simply a “sculpture” in order to emphasize that it would be an integrated element within the pool.
Ms. Griffin supported Mr. Krieger’s comments on Option A and said that its success will depend on the treatment of its details. She agreed the base should be thinner and also suggested exploration of a rougher, less finished surface texture. She noted that the Commission has repeatedly asked how the sculpture could be integrated with the wall instead of appearing as an appliqué; she suggested that one way to achieve this would be to extend the rough stone surface down to the pool instead of defining a base more than two feet tall that stops above the water’s surface. She agreed with Mr. Krieger to explore moving the water cascade higher to reduce the thickness of the base beneath the figures, and she recommended further studying the treatment of the wall’s edges. For the sculpture itself, she commented that the smooth, flat bronze background should be given a rougher texture to make the figures appear to project forward. Indicating the sculpture’s flag projecting above the wall, she said other details also need to break free of the wall and move into the surrounding space. She observed that having water cascade down the sides of the wall, and extending the plane of the stone base down to the water level in front, will help integrate the sculpture with the landscape.
For the treatment of the walkway and pool, Ms. Griffin observed that the water scrim would provide programming flexibility and would retain much of the concept of the original water feature instead of replacing it with a large paved surface. She said that if a railing were to be required, the configuration of the walks would be especially important. She stressed the importance of the view along the primary approach from the east.
Ms. Griffin supported incorporating the kiosk site within the memorial narrative, commenting that it presents another canvas for telling the complex story of World War I. She said that she is not convinced by the drum-shaped sculpture wall on a huge plinth presented in Option C, nor by using this site simply for flagpoles, nor by retaining the existing kiosk with the addition of interpretative features. She therefore suggested further exploration to develop a more resolved proposal for the kiosk site. She discouraged the presented alternatives for creating a new area nearby that would replicate the circular form of the kiosk site, questioning the benefit of this relocation and commenting that reuse of the existing kiosk site would preserve some of the integrity of the original park design.
Acknowledging the comments of her colleagues, Ms. Meyer said she is persuaded that Option A is the best approach because the design has finally been presented as both a memorial and a park, with the understanding that the sculpture will be so enriched by the spatial sequence of moving through the park that it would be diminished if the park is not cared for. She expressed appreciation for Dr. O’Connell’s introductory comments, and for the comments of the other speakers; she acknowledged the prevalence of family recollections of World War I. She said that the description of the proposal and the video animation were particularly compelling.
Ms. Meyer recalled how powerful the landscape design of Pershing Park had been when it was new and well maintained, and how improved it was by the planting design of Oehme, van Sweden & Associates. However, she agreed with Mr. Krieger that design and preservation are not antithetical: great designers find ways to both maintain and interpret the intentions of a place, although she observed that this process is particularly tricky for Modernist landscapes, whose defining features are often spatial as well as material.
Ms. Meyer emphasized the complexity of designing this memorial, and she agreed that the early part of the review process had not been conducive to quickly finding a great solution. She said there should have been much more clarity about historic landscapes when the design competition guidelines were being written, resulting in a dilemma for the project team regarding the original park design. However, she said she is convinced that the addition of the sculpture will not destroy the integrity of this landscape but will successfully reinterpret it, and she emphasized the need to further refine the wall.
Ms. Meyer commented that water scrims are used in urban locations to encourage movement and play, but such a treatment would be wrong for this park. She suggested conceiving of the park’s center as a simple plaza, slightly smaller than proposed and surrounded by deeper water as a frame for the memorial. She observed that the embankment in the new development of The Wharf, along Washington’s southwest waterfront, lacks railings in many areas; it relies instead on a wide coping along deep drop-offs—the horizontal condition substituting for the vertical railing. She suggested exploring this approach to the plaza design, allowing for the inclusion of a deeper pool and the acoustic effects of falling or bubbling water.
Ms. Meyer said that if interpretation is included at the kiosk site, the freestanding blade-shaped panels proposed for the grove should be eliminated, because the proliferation of pylons and walls would compromise the elegance of the sculpture. She recommended developing something remarkable at the kiosk site so that it can act as the hinge between the existing statue of Gen. Pershing and the new sculpture depicting ordinary soldiers, strengthening the memorial’s theme.
Ms. Gilbert observed that the extensive investigation of different options has led to the creation of a powerful sculptural narrative of the soldier’s journey, and the project team has begun to figure out the experience for a visitor moving through the park. She encouraged further consideration of what this interpretive journey could be, which would help clarify the treatment of the pool and scrim. She added that she found the most compelling image in the presentation to be of chairs set up on the plaza for an event.
Mr. Dunson thanked the design team for their responsiveness to the Commission’s prior comments and expressed his support for Option A. He said that as a preservationist, he wants to see Friedberg’s legacy continue, and he believes the park will remain Friedberg’s design, albeit with a different interpretation. He supported using a scrim to make the plaza a flexible space, which would help integrate the park and memorial, and unite the park with its wider surroundings.
Chairman Powell also expressed his support for Option A, and he thanked the memorial commission and the design team for their patience and dedication. Noting his experience with sculpture, he commented that the sculpture’s base should be better integrated with the rest of the wall, whether through becoming thinner or receiving a more rusticated surface treatment.
Mr. Krieger offered a motion to approve the revised concept of Option A for the sculpture wall, with recommendations to further study the relationship of the sculpture to the wall; to evaluate the options for a water scrim and determine whether railings will be required; and to consider the kiosk site as a primary interpretive location, linking the existing Pershing Memorial to the new sculpture wall. Upon a second by Mr. Powell, the Commission adopted this action. For subsequent submissions, Ms. Meyer recommended grouping different components of the project together and presenting them in sequence over several meetings. Ms. Griffin suggested continued consideration of the presented alternatives for configuring the walkway through the pool, commenting that the best solution may emerge from further study of such issues as the need for railings and the reuse of the kiosk site; Mr. Rubin responded that each of the presented configurations for the walkway remains under consideration.
2. CFA 19/JUL/18-3, Kennedy Center Pedestrian/Bicycle Trail, Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, NW, between Virginia Avenue and the Constitution Avenue Belvedere. Access and safety improvements, and roadway rehabilitation. Concept. Mr. Fox introduced the proposed improvements to the riverfront pedestrian and bicycle trail between Virginia Avenue, NW, and the Belvedere marking the historic terminus of Constitution Avenue. The proposal would improve access and safety by widening and resurfacing the existing trail and by creating a new passage for the trail through the abutment of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge. He asked Doug Jacobs of the National Park Service to introduce the presentation.
Mr. Jacobs noted that the project is a collaborative effort of the National Park Service, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the Federal Highway Administration. He anticipated that it would substantially improve safety and the visitor experience in this area. He introduced project manager Steve Zeender of Stantec to present the design.
Mr. Zeender provided an overview of the project and timeline, followed by specific design proposals for the segments of the project. The scope includes improvements to the roadway and recreational trail of Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, from Virginia Avenue, NW, on the north to the Tidal Basin on the south. Planned improvements include widening and resurfacing the recreational trail, road signage and pavement markings, wayfinding signage, lighting, stormwater management, and erosion and sediment control. The current submission focuses on three areas within the overall project:
- redesign of the roadway intersection and trail at the Belvedere, the historic western terminus of Constitution Avenue at the Potomac River;
- creation of a new passage through the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge abutment for an improved routing of the recreational trail; and
- alterations to the trail and landscape at the riverfront alongside the Kennedy Center.
Mr. Zeender presented photographs of the existing conditions in these three areas. He indicated the existing trail width of approximately ten feet, although the usable width is reduced when people are occupying the adjacent benches and riverfront viewing areas, resulting in an effective width of approximately four feet. He noted that the trail is heavily used by pedestrians and bicyclists, especially in the evening.
Mr. Zeender presented a plan of existing conditions at the Belvedere, which was originally at the intersection of Constitution Avenue and the parkway. The alignment of Constitution Avenue was reconfigured in the 1960s as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge construction, and it no longer reaches this location; as a result, the small road circle within the Belvedere no longer serves any traffic function except as a pull-off area. The Belvedere is now alongside the intersection of the main flow of Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway—which curves between the riverfront on the north and an inland alignment on the southeast—and Parkway Drive, a branch roadway that follows the river’s edge southward and rises to meet the circle surrounding the Lincoln Memorial. He indicated the gentle road alignments through this intersection, which encourage high vehicle speeds; this results in a safety hazard at the pedestrian crosswalk on Parkway Drive, located slightly south of the intersection, where drivers may not be expecting to encounter pedestrians. He also indicated the zigzag alignment of the recreational trail as it follows the riverfront edge of the Belvedere, providing an interesting view for pedestrians but awkwardly configured for bicyclists trying to travel quickly.
Mr. Zeender presented the proposed concept for the site plan at the Belvedere. The original footprint of the Belvedere’s circle and outer curb edges would be retained, which he said has been an important consideration for the National Park Service. The asphalt roadway itself would be converted to lawn within the Belvedere, and the adjacent roadway and intersection would be pushed further to the east. The recreational trail would be realigned to follow the western edge of the realigned roadway, providing a more convenient route for bicyclists. The trail’s paving in this area would be exposed-aggregate concrete, matching the historic sidewalk paving, in contrast to the typical trail paving of asphalt to the north and south. The walkway along the Belvedere’s river edge would remain, continuing to serve as an attraction for visitors; he noted a comparable configuration to the north of the Kennedy Center, with a pedestrian trail and benches that are separate from the primary recreational trail.
Mr. Zeender described the intended plantings at the Belvedere. Within the center of the former traffic circle, the mounded topography would have low-maintenance plantings. The existing lawn to the west, between the roadway and the riverfront walkway, would be planted with daffodils in keeping with the beautification program of Lyndon Johnson’s presidency. The existing elm trees in this lawn area would remain. He noted that the Belvedere has been identified by the National Capital Planning Commission as a potential future memorial site, and the proposed design could accommodate a memorial feature; Ms. Meyer noted the Commission’s familiarity with the possibility of locating a memorial here.
Mr. Zeender said that the reconfiguration of the roads into a more conventional T-shaped intersection would provide more clarity for the intersection and turning movements, helping to slow traffic. He added that traffic studies have predicted no significant impact from the reconfiguration. The Parkway Drive crosswalk, which links the riverfront recreational trail to the Mall’s trail system, would be moved close to the new intersection, providing a safer crossing point for pedestrians and bicyclists; as with the existing intersection, a small median island would provide a place of protection for people using this crosswalk. Twin-20 streetlights would be relocated to improve the framing of the Belvedere site. He presented several photographic simulations of the proposal in comparison to photographs of the existing conditions.
Mr. Zeender presented the second portion of the project, located immediately north of the Belvedere: the realignment of the riverfront recreational trail through a new passage within the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge abutment. The trail’s existing alignment joins the parkway in passing beneath the bridge; the trail narrows to eight feet in this area. He indicated the uncarved sculpture blocks on each side of the bridge abutment, intended for artistic representations of Roosevelt’s life; he said that the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) may pursue the implementation of sculptures in the future, and the current proposal is designed to avoid interfering with these sculpture blocks. He noted that the abutment is a hollow structure flanked by stone walls, which simplifies the technical challenges of routing the recreational trail through it; however, the stone walls are stabilized on their inner faces by buttresses called “counterforts” that are best left undisturbed. Overhead structural girders within the abutment may be a constraint for the grading of the recreational trail, due to the requirement for sufficient clearance above the new passage’s ceiling to allow for DDOT officials to inspect the girders. Existing utilities within the abutment are another consideration, but their relocation may be feasible if necessary.
Mr. Zeender presented the two trail alignments that have been studied. Alignment 1 provides a straight configuration for the trail passage and approaches, but it would conflict with the counterforts. Alignment 2 has a more serpentine alignment for the trail, allowing for the new portals in the abutment walls to be centered between the counterforts. He added that immediately north of the bridge, the recreational trail would connect at two points with a planned pedestrian bridge over the parkway, which is part of the Kennedy Center’s south expansion project that is currently under construction; the Kennedy Center project also includes rebuilding a portion of the recreational trail in this area. He said that coordination with the Kennedy Center design is ongoing. He said that the existing narrow trail along the parkway underpass would remain for maintenance access, but the connecting segments of trail to the north and south would be removed upon completion of the new alignment. He indicated an existing tree on the north side of the abutment that is in poor condition and would be removed; it has not been treated as a constraint in developing the alignment alternatives. He said that the design team’s preferred alternative is Alignment 2, due to its simpler engineering and its slightly better compatibility with the Kennedy Center pedestrian bridge connections.
Mr. Zeender presented photographic simulations of the alternative alignments, which include two alternatives for shaping the top of the portals in the abutment walls: Option A would use a segmental arch, comparable to the portal for the parkway underpass immediately to the east. Option B, suggested by the Commission of Fine Arts staff, would have a horizontal top resulting in rectangular portals. He noted that the width of the proposed path is fourteen feet in all of these alternatives, compared to the existing path’s typical width of nine to ten feet, reduced to eight feet for the existing alignment beneath the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge.
Mr. Zeender presented the third area of the project, the proposed treatment of the recreational trail on the west side of the Kennedy Center. The existing design brings the trail alongside a railing at the edge of the river embankment; the east edge is designed as a seating wall with alcoves, and the area to the east is a lawn with trees. He noted that this area differs from the areas to the north and south, where the typical trail alignment is approximately centered between the parkway and the river. He described the design guidance from the National Park Service’s Cultural Landscape Report, finalized earlier this year: to preserve historic character while providing opportunities to encourage and enhance its use as a commuter and recreational circulation corridor. He added that the report specifies 1974 as the year of focus for historic significance. Additional recommendations from the report include widening the trail and preserving the existing trees, although these directives are in conflict at some locations; the design team is continuing to study these issues. If the removal of trees is proposed, due to either trail widening or safety hazards, then new plantings would be in accordance with the historic planting plans.
Mr. Zeender presented photographic simulations of the proposed treatment in this area. The recreational trail would remain at the embankment edge and would be widened to fourteen feet; after allowing for people congregating at the embankment railing to the west and the seating to the east, the clear width should be ten feet, which he said is acceptable for a shared-use trail. The seating edges and alcoves would retain their current form but would be repositioned to accommodate the widened trail; backs and armrests would be added within the alcoves. He noted that the railing at the water’s edge has developed defects and would be either rehabilitated or replaced.
Mr. Zeender concluded by presenting the proposed lighting for the project, in addition to the presented treatment at the Belvedere. He said that the design goal is to adequately illuminate the roadway while not competing visually with the Kennedy Center. In keeping with existing conditions, the recreational trail itself and the waterfront would not have lights. Street lighting along the parkway would be improved to meet current standards, using Twin-20 fixtures spaced approximately 100 feet apart. Lighting at intersections would be provided by teardrop fixtures on 30-foot-tall poles. Along the west side of the Kennedy Center, the existing lights beneath the cantilevered Kennedy Center terrace would remain to illuminate the parkway; no new lighting in this area is included in the current project. At the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, lighting would be provided in the new trail passage, and the lighting within the parkway underpass would be replaced.
Ms. Meyer asked for clarification of the paving materials at the Belvedere. Mr. Zeender acknowledged that the presented photographic simulation may not accurately convey the materials shown on the site plan. He indicated the areas of exposed-aggregate concrete on both sides of Parkway Drive and along the waterfront, serving to frame the Belvedere site. The recreational trail would typically be paved in porous, asphalt but it is proposed to be exposed-aggregate concrete at this location. Ms. Gilbert asked about the paving materials to the north, alongside the Kennedy Center. Mr. Zeender responded that the existing surface is asphalt pavers with concrete banding, which has resulted in problems of upheaval, missing pavers, and weed growth; the proposed surface in this area is standard asphalt. Ms. Gilbert agreed that the loose blocks in this area are a hazard for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Ms. Gilbert asked why the circular shape within the Belvedere would be retained, even though it would no longer serve as a traffic circle. Mr. Zeender responded that the National Park Service often prefers that its renovation projects retain some trace of a site’s historic use and layout; he cited the example of safety alterations to the mill race at Peirce Mill in Rock Creek Park. Ms. Gilbert said that the treatment of a traffic roundabout is not necessarily comparable to the treatment of a historic mill race. Noting the Commission’s recent discussions about the suitability of this site for the Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial, as well as the possible continuation of the historic Constitution Avenue tree allée, she questioned whether retaining the form of the traffic circle is the best solution, suggesting instead that the area could serve as a shady pull-off point for bicyclists. She summarized that the design is preserving a remnant that does not need to be preserved, instead of using the space more effectively for a new purpose.
Ms. Meyer amplified Ms. Gilbert’s concerns, commenting that the broader issue with the treatment of the Belvedere is an understanding of the extent of the site. She said that the historic design drawings for this area treated the Belvedere as a piece of the larger design for Constitution Avenue, including its allée of trees. This project’s narrower conceptual approach for the Belvedere site has resulted in fussy details and the preservation of insignificant alignments, with the result that the beauty of the Belvedere’s shape is not apparent. A broader conceptualization might instead place a bosque of trees in this area, aligned with the historic plans for tree allées along Constitution Avenue to provide a larger connection and to serve as a reminder of the ongoing need for restoration of the walks along the avenue’s former alignment as an element of the past planning. She therefore encouraged the design team to look at the past master planning for Constitution Avenue.
Similarly, Ms. Meyer said that the proposed paving materials result in a confused design by focusing narrowly on the use of materials at the Belvedere site, with the apparent intent to use exposed-aggregate concrete to establish a sense of place within the Belvedere’s complex configuration. She said that the greater beauty of the riverfront is the distinct character of the recreational trail as a line that contrasts with the areas that it passes through. Mr. Zeender offered to address this concern by using the typical asphalt trail paving in this area, while limiting the proposed exposed-aggregate concrete to areas that are not part of the trail. Ms. Meyer said that further study is needed, observing that the site plan at the Belvedere has unusual conditions with oddly shaped spaces.
Ms. Meyer questioned the choice of plant species proposed within the circular space at the center of the Belvedere. She said that the specified hydrangea is best suited to moist soil and partial shade, but this location is extremely dry and hot. She said that exploration of options through a conceptual planting plan could be acceptable, but the presented plan appears to be a construction drawing with precise species and planting locations, and the lack of consideration of habitat and microclimate is problematic. She recommended reconsideration of the planting plan with an emphasis on hardier plants.
Ms. Gilbert acknowledged the heavy use of this recreational trail by bicyclists, and she supported a goal of designing a smooth, clear trail for their use. She expressed support for widening the trail and creating a new passage to bring it through the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge abutment, commenting that the trail’s existing alignment within the parkway underpass seems narrow and dangerous. She noted with interest that the Cultural Landscape Report identifies two periods of significance for this area—the 1920s–30s period and 1974—but questioned how closely the historic information can be applied to the current design. She said that some of the plant species in the historic plans may no longer be suitable due to climate change, and the current popularity of bicycling may require safety considerations for bicyclists and pedestrians that would not have been as significant in the historic plans.
For the layout and design of the trail passage through the bridge abutment, Ms. Meyer expressed support for Alignment 2 as the most logical choice, noting that it would be easier to construct because it does not conflict with the abutment’s counterforts. She also supported Option B for the portal design, providing a rectangular opening; she commented that a design contrast is appropriate between the new trail portals and the existing arched portals of the parkway underpass, in keeping with the historic preservation practice of distinguishing between new and historic features. She suggested adding a thin lintel above the portals, along with consideration of whether the top of each portal is aligned with the stone wall’s coursing or is sliced across existing stones.
Mr. Krieger commented that the presentation did not address the treatment of the walls within the new trail passage. Mr. Zeender said that the walls would be concrete with an anti-graffiti coating, and linear lighting would be provided along the ceiling. Mr. Krieger agreed with Ms. Meyer that Option B for the portals is more appropriate than the arched profile of Option A, but he said that the passage’s low height and concrete walls would give it the character of a mousehole, which may be unavoidable. He suggested consideration of brightening the passage’s interior and perhaps increasing its height if possible, while acknowledging the constraint of the bridge girders above. He emphasized that the proposed passage would be a substantial improvement compared to the existing trail alignment within the parkway underpass. Mr. Zeender responded that the interior space within the abutment is still being surveyed, and the height relationships will therefore require further study. He said that one option for achieving adequate vertical clearance for the passage would be to lower its floor; the adjacent landscape could address the grade change along the trail approaches, either with gradual grading or with knee walls adjacent to the portals. Ms. Meyer cautioned that the design should not create artificial low spots that are vulnerable to flooding; Mr. Zeender acknowledged that drainage would be a critical issue with this design solution.
Ms. Griffin agreed with Mr. Krieger’s concern that the portals could have the character of a mousehole; she said that this issue should be addressed through careful consideration of the passage’s ceiling plane, as well as its walls. The design should consider how all of the passage’s surfaces shape the experience of moving through it, even though the experience will typically be brief. Mr. Krieger questioned designing the passage width to match the width of the open-air trail, commenting that the spatial sense within the passage would be very different than outdoors; he suggested that the passage should be slightly wider than the typical design width for the trail. Mr. Zeender said that one of the portals is tightly constrained in width, but the passage could become slightly wider within the interior of the abutment. Ms. Meyer encouraged design modifications that would bring more daylight into the passage. Mr. Zeender responded that he expects the lighting design to include a varying level of illumination in response to outdoor lighting conditions; lighting at some level would be provided within the passage at all times. Mr. Krieger clarified his concern with the passage’s width, commenting that an outdoor trail provides flexible space at the edges that would not be available within the passage; for example, a bicyclist riding along the edge of the outdoor trail could have an elbow or handlebar extending beyond the trail edge, which would be problematic upon approaching the portal. He recommended designing the passage to be slightly wider than the typical trail width, perhaps adding a curb within the passage to define the trail edge; the result would be a slightly greater sense of openness. He said that such details could be included as part of a final design submission.
For the area north of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge abutment, Ms. Meyer questioned the relationship of the proposed trail alignment to the pedestrian bridge at the Kennedy Center’s south expansion. Mr. Zeender said that the proposed trail design is intended to meet the existing design for the pedestrian bridge’s switchback ramp and steps; he indicated the adjacent segment of trail that would be removed, part of the trail alignment through the parkway underpass that would no longer be used. He added that the illustrated paving materials for the two small connection areas at the base of the pedestrian bridge could be revised to differentiate them from the recreational trail. Ms. Meyer expressed frustration that the currently proposed trail realignment was not shared during the recent design work for the Kennedy Center project, despite extensive consideration of this connection by the Commission and the Kennedy Center’s architect. The eventual solution with the Kennedy Center was a design that resolved these connections in relation to the existing trail alignment; but this solution now appears awkward when shown in the context of the plan for the newly proposed trail alignment. Mr. Zeender said that the trail design will be developed to incorporate details from the Kennedy Center project, rather than trying to alter it. Ms. Meyer said that the design for this area is too problematic, and revisions to both the trail design and the pedestrian bridge design will be needed to resolve the situation.
Mr. Krieger agreed that angles at the pedestrian bridge’s landing would no longer make sense in relation to the proposed new trail alignment, and the edge of the pedestrian bridge’s ramp should be redesigned. He asked for clarification of the bridge’s construction status. Mr. Zeender said that the Kennedy Center’s overall expansion project is under construction, although Chairman Powell noted that construction has not begun for the pedestrian bridge. Ms. Meyer acknowledged that manufacturing may nonetheless have begun for components of the pedestrian bridge, but she urged consultation with the Kennedy Center project team to determine whether revisions are still possible for the landings of this bridge, in order to improve the two points of connection to the recreational trail.
Ms. Meyer summarized the Commission’s overall conceptual support for the proposal, with the understanding that much refinement is needed; she said that the resolution of the project’s details could be part of a final design submission. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the concept, subject to the comments provided.
D. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
CFA 19/JUL/18-4, Metrorail Stations. Digital advertising and signs in Metrorail stations; additional signs in six stations. Final. (Previous: CFA 21/JUN/18-5.) Ms. Batcheler introduced a proposed final design for the installation of digital screens, to be used for the display of advertisements and other information in six Metrorail stations: Farragut North, Gallery Place, L'Enfant Plaza, Metro Center, Navy Yard, and NoMa. The Commission reviewed and approved a concept submission in June 2018 for most components of the digital screen program, with the exception of the oversized displays at the Navy Yard and NoMa stations, for which they requested more information. In the June review, the Commission cautioned that increasing the number and size of screens may affect the clarity and integrity of the iconic design of the Metro stations and distract from passenger wayfinding, and requested a comprehensive set of principles and parameters for the installation of the digital screens. She said that WMATA has returned with additional information, as well as revisions to the proposal for the oversized displays. She asked Ivo Karadimov, manager of architecture for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), to present the proposal.
Mr. Karadimov summarized the previously presented overview of the program. He reiterated that the digital screens would offer environmental benefits, more flexibility in the content of advertisements, and a reduction in the resources required to operate the advertising program. He presented images of the two types of digital displays previously approved in concept by the Commission in 2016: freestanding and parapet-mounted screens. He said digital advertisements provide WMATA approximately $5 million in revenue [for context, equal to roughly one-sixth of one percent of WMATA’s annual revenues of approximately $3 billion].
Mr. Karadimov presented a new list of principles for the digital advertising program, which include: benefits for WMATA; benefits for customers; placement, visual, and aesthetic considerations; and customer comfort and safety. He first described the program’s benefits for WMATA, which is seeking ways to increase its non-fare revenue. He said that in the past year, non-fare revenue totaled $22.5 million dollars, of which forty percent was earned from advertising; in order to be competitive in the advertising market in the future, WMATA must follow the trends and technology employed by advertisers, which includes digital formats.
Mr. Karadimov said that the program’s benefits to customers include the ability to combine advertising with WMATA’s Art in Transit program, which incorporates art into Metro stations; he noted that his office has researched opportunities for showing digital art on the proposed screens. Other benefits include the ability to display highly visible customer information on the screens, including emergency messages. Regarding the placement of the screens, he said they need to be located in areas of high pedestrian flow, and the approach for the majority of digital advertising is to replace paper-format advertising boards with digital screens. The locations in which large-scale digital displays are proposed would require the assessment of additional parameters, such as viewing distance and the location’s compatibility with the proposed advertising. The installations would also need to be complementary and not adverse to the Metrorail stations’ unique architecture. Issues with customer comfort and safety include the concern that rapidly displayed images in digital advertising can distract and confuse customers, or potentially elicit worse reactions; the images on the screens would therefore be displayed for at least ten to fifteen seconds. In addition, the brightness of the displays would adjust automatically based on ambient light levels.
Mr. Karadimov then summarized the technical requirements and installation parameters for the digital advertising signs. The module established by WMATA is a 55-inch LCD display, used as either a stand-alone installation or in an array. The previously approved freestanding installations, which are for stations with a center platform, are composed of two screens attached back-to-back; this type of installation must have at least five feet of clearance on all sides. The previously approved parapet-mounted installations, for stations with side platforms, have one screen and are required to be at least three feet away from other signage such as wayfinding. The newly proposed wall-mounted installations must similarly be installed away from other signage, and would be required to be at least three feet away from escalators.
Mr. Karadimov said that the previously proposed locations for digital advertising in the Gallery Place station have not changed. However, he agreed with the Commission’s previous advice that the displays proposed to flank the portal leading to the F Street exit should not distract from the overhead wayfinding sign. Therefore, the proposal now includes replacing the existing wayfinding sign with a more reflective vinyl material; if this is not effective, it will be replaced with an illuminated sign. He also noted the Commission’s previous advice to move an existing regulatory sign further from a proposed digital sign on the western curving wall at the base of the F Street escalator bank; he said that the regulatory sign is no longer needed and will be removed.
Mr. Karadimov presented the revised locations for the oversized displays proposed for the NoMa station. He said the screen arrays would be installed along the street-level concourse, on the wall between escalators leading to and from the elevated platform, where customer traffic is concentrated. The arrays would be approximately 12 feet tall and 15 feet wide. He said that potential artworks for the displays include photographs taken by WMATA employees of the Metro system; the artwork would be included in the rotation of digital advertising images. In the Navy Yard station, an oversized display approximately 8 feet tall and 11 feet wide would be installed along the street-level entrance area at M and Half Streets, SE, on a wall near the fare machines; this screen array would replace a nearby temporary vinyl banner.
Mr. Karadimov said that since the previous review, two additional locations are being considered for digital advertising displays: on the eastern curving wall at the base of the F Street escalator bank; and on the 9th Street mezzanine at the west end of the station. He said the curving wall is currently covered with a vinyl advertising banner that is changed approximately every four weeks; the proposal is to cover the entire surface of the wall, which is approximately 20 feet long by 8 feet high, with an array of digital displays. The freestanding installation on the 9th Street mezzanine would be approximately 8 feet tall and 12 feet wide, placed near the parapet overlooking the tracks and platforms below. It would include a large advertising display that would also feature art, accompanied by a panel displaying wayfinding information such as the Metro system map.
Ms. Gilbert asked if the proposal for the 9th Street mezzanine would provide space between the parapet wall and the proposed freestanding display. Mr. Karadimov confirmed that the setback would allow for a person to walk behind the display and look over the parapet to the train tracks below. He said that advertising on both sides of this installation remains under consideration, depending on how visible it will be to people on the escalators between the platforms and the mezzanine. Ms. Gilbert recommended against displaying digital art and digital advertisements side-by-side within an array of screens, which would be confusing and work against the intended mission of integrating art into the Metro system; she instead recommended placing digital art and advertisements on separate installations.
Ms. Griffin said that she strongly opposes the proposed freestanding display on the 9th Street mezzanine, where it would obstruct views between the mezzanine and the vaulted length of the station; she said that this installation, or others in comparable locations, should be avoided. The other Commission members agreed with this concern. Ms. Griffin recommended that guidelines or regulations be developed to preserve significant or iconic viewsheds within Metro’s underground stations. She commented that unlike the 9th Street mezzanine proposal, the other existing and proposed displays seem carefully considered and positioned in an ordered and deliberate manner, as if they were paintings in a gallery; they could potentially enhance their settings, such as on the curving walls. Mr. Krieger said that the 9th Street mezzanine installation seems to violate the presented principle that the digital screens be “complementary to Metrorail stations’ public space without detracting from their unique architecture”; Mr. Dunson agreed. Ms. Gilbert commented that this display would be in a location that is a place of visual orientation for passengers, and that it would block views allowing them to see if trains are approaching or servicing the station; Ms. Griffin agreed.
Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation for the principles presented, but commented that WMATA may have misunderstood her previous request for the development of principles to guide the placement of digital screens. She said that her expectation was for site- and function-specific parameters such as the minimum and maximum size of the screens, as well as critical adjacencies for placement of the screens, including the space in which they would be installed and their distance from each other, from wayfinding signage, and from other unique elements within each space—such as fare collection machines, turnstiles, escalators, and informational pylons. She said the only such principle presented is adjacency, which is helpful, but it does not allow the Commission to evaluate the location and size of the screens relative to the significant spatial volumes in the Metro system such as the distinctive vaults. She recommended engaging in a robust design exercise to create principles that could guide the installation of future digital displays without further individual review by the Commission. Ms. Griffin suggested that the confusion may be the result of a desire for both design guidelines and broad principles. Ms. Meyer agreed, commenting that dimensional requirements as well as siting principles should inform the proposed locations for the screens; she said she does not have confidence that the presented principles would be able to guide the appropriate location, spacing, and size of the displays.
Mr. Karadimov asked if the request is for a more comprehensive document than the one-slide technical requirements matrix presented to the Commission; Ms. Meyer said that the information she is requesting could be conveyed with a similar matrix that is more fully developed. Mr. Karadimov responded that some information is not included because of the presentation’s PowerPoint format. Ms. Meyer said that she has handwritten a draft matrix, and the information she’s requesting—a robust set of considerations more general than simple numerical adjacencies—could be communicated on a PowerPoint slide. Ms. Gilbert noted that, for example, the design for a curved wall is different from that for a straight wall, but this difference is not addressed. Mr. Meyer added that installation criteria would also differ for siting a display either inside or outside a vaulted train room, or in a corridor versus a threshold; Ms. Gilbert agreed. Ms. Meyer concluded that she is not comfortable granting final approval to the digital screen program, which would conclude further formal review. Mr. Dunson commented that the organization of the presented matrix of principles is unclear, noting the confusion of whether it is organized by the proposed location or type of display.
Mr. Karadimov responded that the 130 proposed screens follow essentially the same typology. He cited the displays mounted along the escalator passages walls as one such typology, and they would be installed in a similar manner throughout the system. Ms. Meyer said that the spacing requirements for these screens has not been presented, such as whether they would be adjacent, abutting, or a greater distance apart. Mr. Karadimov said that the dimension Ms. Meyer is requesting has been established but was not included in the presentation. Mr. Dunson asked about other potential installation conditions not included in the technical requirements matrix. Mr. Karadimov responded that that the matrix addresses all of the typical conditions; other installations would be unique to their specific conditions and would require a separate review by the Commission. Ms. Meyer said that this is a reasonable approach.
Secretary Luebke said that the staff has concerns regarding the efficacy of the presented principles in guiding decision-making or programmatic approval of the digital displays; he suggested that perhaps some of the site-specific locations be approved, with the others approved using a programmatic approach. Because dimensioned drawings of the proposed installations were not submitted before the meeting, he requested that any final approval action be delegated to the staff to allow for a more detailed review.
Ms. Griffin identified several typological conditions within the Metro system where specifications for display installations could potentially be standardized: escalator passages with walls alongside, with standards for the size and spacing of displays; street-level lobby areas or areas near ticketing machines, with standards for the minimum and maximum size of the display allowed in proximity to the machines or other wayfinding signage; circulation passageways, with standards for the minimum and maximum size of displays allowed, as well as distances from escalators or other objects; and mezzanine areas overlooking train platforms, which should have stricter standards because of their importance as the place where one encounters the significant parts of the train hall architecture. She said that providing at least minimum standards for these areas would allow for consistency in the installation of the displays and assist the Commission in evaluating the project.
Ms. Meyer summarized that the Commission members are requesting the development principles and guidelines in a matrix format, and she supported Ms. Griffin’s summary of the requested information. Mr. Dunson commented that the station maps in the presentation are difficult to understand, and he requested the development of a map or diagram that corresponds to the spaces described by Ms. Griffin. He said that areas where digital displays are prohibited should also be included in the matrix; Ms. Meyer added that the matrix should also include guidelines for the display of digital art.
Chairman Powell asked if the Commission members would like to delegate final approval of the project to the staff. Secretary Luebke said the staff would prefer that the Commission defer approving the project and provide comments for a revised submission. Ms. Meyer cautioned that the risk of visual clutter within the extensive Metro system is too great for the program to proceed without clear design principles, and she reiterated her request for the preparation of location- and function-specific design guidelines that would help ensure a dignified Metro system. She requested that the guidelines document be developed in consultation with the staff. Mr. Dunson added that the existing Metro wayfinding is also significant and should be considered in the guidelines document; Ms. Meyer agreed that this signage is beautiful. Secretary Luebke said that the staff will be available to work further with WMATA. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
E. District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department
CFA 19/JUL/18-5, District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Memorial, 300 Indiana Avenue, NW (at the Henry J. Daly Building). Rehabilitation of historic fountain and new memorial wall and ramp. Concept. Mr. Fox introduced the proposed rehabilitation and expansion of the Metropolitan Police Department Memorial Fountain, part of a planned memorial and museum project associated with the adjacent police headquarters building. He said that the memorial fountain is located on the northwest corner of the grounds of the Henry J. Daly Building in Judiciary Square; it was designed by the John J. Earley Studio, known for its distinctive polychromatic exposed aggregate concrete, and it is a contributing historic feature to the Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic District. This proposal would restore the Earley concrete, replace the fountain’s pumps and plumbing, and construct a new curved commemorative wall with integrated ramps for barrier-free access. He asked architect Hany Hassan of Beyer Blinder Belle to present the design.
Mr. Hassan noted that the submission is for the proposed work at the exterior memorial; the planned museum will be located inside the Daly Building. The existing memorial, along with other site features, is a contributing element of the Daly Building’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as being part of the Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic District. He added that the landscape architect for the project is Oehme, van Sweden & Associates.
Mr. Hassan defined the project’s primary goals as creating a sense of place for the memorial, which now appears unrelated to its setting; making it accessible, by addressing the one-foot grade difference between the fountain and the nearby sidewalk; and adding a commemorative wall that will display the names of D.C. police officers who have died in the line of duty. The unique Earley concrete, which has deteriorated over time, would be restored to its original condition. The proposal is to add a symmetrical pair of curvilinear walks, bordered on each side by a curved tapering wall. The center of the continuous outer wall would bear the names of the D.C. police officers being honored, inscribed in 5/8-inch-high lettering; the inscriptions would also include a quotation from an advocate for this project, the mother of a slain officer. The inner walls would terminate at the pair of existing benches that flank the existing fountain, forming an alcove directly across from the inscriptions; the inner walls would also be shaped to form benches along the walkways. The area in front of the inscribed wall would be flat, and the walkways would have a gentle slope of five percent, not requiring handrails. He noted that the design team has studied various comparable memorials, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, to determine the appropriate memorial scale and the size for the lettering.
Mr. Hassan described the relationship of the memorial to the wider setting. The back of the outer wall would be 8 feet 8 inches from the facade of the Daly Building, set below window-sill height to avoid detracting from the historic building’s character. The Daly Building has limestone exterior walls on a distinctive red granite base; the same red granite would be used for the new memorial elements, with a thermal finish to provide traction on the ramps and a combination of honed and polished granite for the walls. A diagonal social trail, now paved in concrete, cuts across the adjacent lawn; this trail would be removed, and several mature trees at the site would be retained.
Chairman Powell invited comments from the Commission members. Ms. Meyer asked how much of the wall surface would be covered with names, and how much would be left for the future addition of names. Mr. Hassan responded that 121 names would be incised on the center portion of the new outer wall, organized by odd and even years, and occupying an area slightly less wide than the historic fountain; the design allows for additional names to each side in the future if necessary, placed on alternating sides in a generally symmetrical pattern. Ms. Meyer asked if the proposed wall would become too low and narrow at its ends for the inscription of additional names; Mr. Hassan acknowledged that this would occur where the wall begins to merge with the ground plane. He noted that Earley had designed benches for either side of the fountain, and the project presents the opportunity to add two new benches on the inside of the inner wall; the ends of these walls would also merge into the ground plane.
Mr. Krieger observed that this new seating would not be in the same area where the names would be located. Ms. Griffin added more generally that neither the existing benches, framing a contemplative area around the fountain, nor the new benches would face the inscription of names, unless many more names were added; and the new benches, as part of the grand gesture of the curved walkways, would be unrelated to the contemplative area. She commented that the curve seems like an intuitive move for this space, but she questioned whether it would serve the experience of the memorial: the seating and the flow of pedestrian movement in relation to the display of names do not seem to be correctly coordinated. She asked if this problem could be fixed by a minor change, or whether it would require another design approach. Mr. Hassan responded that one option would be to let the two historic benches remain the only seating, flanking the memorial fountain in one integrated composition; he said the proposed benches along the walkways are not meant to compete with the original two but are intended simply as resting places, and they could be eliminated.
Ms. Griffin said that even if the new benches were eliminated, the original benches would not engage with the new memorial space because they would be facing the fountain, perpendicular to and removed from the area with the police officers’ names. She suggested creating a more direct relationship between benches and names. Mr. Krieger disagreed, commenting that visitors would likely not want to sit and stare at a wall of names; he cited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as a successful example of a long memorial wall without seating. He said that sitting and watching the water in the fountain would be just as contemplative an experience as gazing at names on a wall. While the proposal treats the new benches as part of the design’s geometry, he said that the proposed seats would seem odd, since people sitting on them would face neither the fountain nor the names; they would actually be part of the groundscape design. He recommended not referring to the new seating edges of the inner wall as “benches.”
Mr. Hassan asked the Commission members for suggestions about solving another design problem: how to reconcile the juncture of the new inner walls with the distinctive curved profile of the Earley benches. He suggested the new seating walls could have a curve similar to the new walkways instead of relating to the historic benches. Ms. Griffin responded that the proposed new seating may be a larger gesture than this relatively small memorial requires; she observed that the inscribed names would fit in an area less than five feet wide, yet proposed to be within a much longer wall. Ms. Meyer agreed, adding that the issue is not only the length and shape of the walls and sloped walkways, but their broad arc, which is very large relative to the scale of the memorial. The entire extent, including the proposed walkways, would create a large spatial figure and give the overall composition the scale of a landscape. She suggested making the additions smaller and, instead of a curved wall, perhaps using a rectilinear walkway configuration along shorter, straight walls. She questioned the size of gesture required; noting the other somewhat small nearby memorials cited in the presentation, she said that if each of them were this large, cumulatively they would have too much impact on this area of the city.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the historic memorial appears diminutive in comparison with the proposed wall. She observed that the space of the existing memorial fountain already possesses a strong contemplative character; she recommended planting additional trees to create a garden setting, which could help relate the scale of the enlarged memorial to its surroundings. Ms. Griffin added that this design approach would be appropriate within historic Judiciary Square.
Mr. Krieger commented that the presentation drawings may make the proposed design appear more prominent than it would actually be, and in reality it might not be too large for this space. Mr. Krieger questioned judging the scale of the memorial relative to the location of the names, because these could be moved to some other place within the design; the memorial will not be limited to the small section of wall with names but would encompass the entire arc. He encouraged further development of the design, such as lowering or otherwise modifying the proposed wall, while supporting the overall concept and discouraging excessive faultfinding over minor issues.
Mr. Hassan responded that the length of the walkways and associated walls was determined by the desired slope and the grade change. He said that the intent is for the walls to be integral with the memorial and engaged with the ground plane, resulting in the design of the walls sloping down to the ground; in reality, the walls may appear less prominent than suggested by the presented plan and aerial perspective. Mr. Krieger commented that if the design were seen from eye level, it would probably not appear too large; he added that he does not think a short walk to read the inscribed names would be a problem. He reiterated his support for the proposed design, with the elimination of the added seating.
Secretary Luebke noted that this area of the Municipal Center dates from the late 1930s and is Art Moderne in style, characterized by large buildings with rigid, rectilinear terraces and parterres. He said that the imposition of a big curving gesture within this landscape may be objectionable because it would differ from its setting in scale and form; this issue may be of concern to the Commission or may arise in the historic preservation review process. Ms. Meyer observed that an existing nearby sidewalk to the northeast of the Daly Building is on a diagonal alignment, and the proposed walkway could follow a similar alignment between the fountain and the Daly Building, providing an appropriately classical gesture in the context of a Moderne building. Mr. Krieger said that Art Moderne buildings are organized around local symmetries, and the proposed design is consistent with this pattern. Mr. Krieger added that the nearby diagonal walk looks like an error; Mr. Luebke clarified that the diagonal is a remnant of a former segment of Indiana Avenue, whose alignment was symmetrical around Judiciary Square. Mr. Krieger reiterated that symmetry is the prevalent aesthetic in this area.
Ms. Meyer said she addressed the issue of historic compatibility because Mr. Luebke had suggested this project might run into problems with review by the D.C. Historic Preservation Office. Mr. Luebke clarified that the Historic Preservation Office has expressed support for this design. Mr. Hassan added that the project has received approval from the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board; he emphasized the design team’s understanding of the historic significance of the Daly Building and Judiciary Square.
Chairman Powell expressed agreement with Mr. Krieger in supporting the proposed concept while encouraging its further development. In summarizing the comments, Mr. Krieger asked for a ground-level view to be included with the next submission; Ms. Meyer said that the proposed seating should be eliminated and replaced by a coping or an edge; and Ms. Gilbert recommended adding more trees. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the concept design with these comments; Ms. Gilbert abstained and Ms. Griffin voted against the motion. Mr. Hassan added that eliminating the benches from the inner walls would simplify some of the unresolved design issues.
F. District of Columbia Department of General Services
1. CFA 19/JUL/18-6, Jefferson Middle School Academy, 801 7th Street, SW. Building renovation and additions. Concept. The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
2. CFA 19/JUL/18-7, NoMa Green, “The Park,” 101 Harry Thomas Way, NE (at 3rd and Q Streets). New public park. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/JUN/17-5.) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
G. District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation
CFA 19/JUL/18-8, Stead Park Community Recreation Center, 1625 P Street, NW. Playground renovation and building addition. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 18/JAN/18-4.) Mr. Fox introduced the third concept submission for renovations and additions to Stead Park Community Recreation Center, submitted in cooperation with the Friends of Stead Park and the D.C. Department of General Services. The 1.5-acre park is located at 1625 P Street, NW, a few blocks east of Dupont Circle. He summarized the Commission’s previous review in January 2018, approving the concept with support for the overall distribution of the design elements, and recommending further development of the shade structures, the sensory garden along P Street, and the playground. He noted that the most significant changes in the current submission are to the facades of the proposed addition to the recreation center. He asked architect Outerbridge Horsey of Outerbridge Horsey Associates to present the design.
Mr. Horsey said that the submission is intended as an update on several issues in the design process. He indicated the project’s focus on the southern and central areas of the park, with no change to the playing field on the north. He presented the existing site plan and photographs of the existing park and the neighborhood context. The historic carriage and stable structure near the center of the park would be renovated and expanded to the north and west; the original openings on the south facade would be restored, and the design would retain some expression of the original open passageway for carriages through the building’s first story. He acknowledged that the proposed design for the south facade is not fully resolved, and its development is continuing.
Mr. Horsey presented the revised design for the addition’s eastern volume, which would abut the north side of the historic building. The massing is similar to the previous submission, and the exterior material has been changed to glass on the exposed north and east facades. The western part of the addition would be masonry, and its rooftop pergola has been repositioned between the stair and elevator enclosures rising above the roof. He described the massing concept as a glazed transition volume connecting the masonry volumes of the historic building and the taller part of the addition to the west, which has more generous ceiling heights. He said that the interior layout has been developed further in consultation with the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, but the changes are relatively minor. The design currently includes a partial basement, but this may be eliminated from the design to reduce the project’s cost.
Mr. Horsey indicated the revisions to the site plan. Two trees have been added on the north side of the recreation center, aligned with the allée leading from P Street to the building’s south side. A pedestrian connection has been provided between the playground and the splash park to the north, in response to community comments. The sensory garden at the park’s entrance along P Street has been developed further but may undergo further revision. He noted the challenge of establishing an appropriate scale for the landscape setting and addition to the historic building, which is relatively small and set far back from P Street; it was an accessory building to a house that no longer exists. The site design is intended to open up the view of the building from P Street, but the centered location of the sensory garden may conflict with this view, and the design of the P Street frontage remains under study. The current design, responding to the Commission’s previous guidance, shows the sensory garden as a terraced space rising four feet from the sidewalk to the level of the park; two of the three small planters previously proposed along the sidewalk have been eliminated, and neighborhood representatives have suggested eliminating the remaining planter in order to maximize the available sidewalk space at the park’s entrance. He said that the goal remains to include a sensory garden, but its location may shift again—perhaps to the sloped landscape areas that continue the park’s allée of trees to the sidewalk, or to the landscape areas toward each end of the park’s P Street frontage, or as part of the tree boxes along the P Street curb.
Mr. Horsey presented the revised design for the circular stair tower sited east of the addition’s northeast corner, providing the needed additional egress from the roof deck. Based on further study of regulatory requirements, the stair tower must be a minimum of ten feet from the building; moving it slightly eastward to satisfy this requirement would conflict with a planned site path adjacent to the splash park, so the stair tower has instead been moved diagonally to the northeast. The connecting walkway bridge from the roof level would therefore have a diagonal alignment within the orthogonal geometry of the park and the recreation center. He said that this diagonal would be advantageous in establishing the tower as a landscape element in addition to being an extension of the building. He indicated the overall roof plan that includes an agricultural green roof to the west and a paved event space to the east.
Mr. Horsey described the reason for the proposed crenellated roofline at the western part of the addition. He said that D.C. zoning regulations allow a parapet to rise directly from the building facades, while a railing must be set back from the roof edge at a 1:1 ratio; openings within a parapet wall are limited to no more than half its length. In order to avoid losing the setback space from the green roof above the western volume, a parapet wall is proposed for the roof edge; and in order to give the parapet a less heavy appearance, it would be interrupted in alternating segments for just under half its length. The result is a crenellated appearance, which he said has been supported by the community as a playful design gesture. He noted that the proposed edge treatment for the occupiable roof above the eastern volume is a transparent railing that would have the required 1:1 setback.
Mr. Horsey concluded by presenting several section drawings and perspective views. He indicated the pergola and shade canopies, not significantly changed from the previous proposal. He also noted the refinements to the proposed exterior panels on the western part of the addition, which will relate it to the other parts of the building. He clarified that his primary goal for this review is to have the Commission’s response to the proposed use of a glass exterior for the eastern part of the addition, before the project moves into more detailed drawings.
Ms. Griffin asked how the glass facades would meet the ground. Mr. Horsey responded that the detailing of these walls, including their relation to the floor slabs and the ground, is still being studied. For example, the facades would probably be a curtainwall system that extends past the slab edges, but this has not yet been finalized.
Mr. Krieger expressed support for the proposal not to use masonry facades for the part of the addition that is closest to the historic building; he said that this clever solution addresses the problematic perception of the addition overwhelming the older building. He commented that the success of the design will largely depend on how the new glass facades meet the historic building. He also questioned the energy efficiency of the glass facades, anticipating that the interior will require extensive curtains. Mr. Horsey responded that the exterior glass will probably be fritted to avoid creating a hazard for birds, and it may also be tinted, at least on the east facade. For the western part of the addition, Mr. Krieger questioned the detailing of the proposed exterior paneling, which is apparently intended to match the historic building’s brickwork in coursing and color; he commented that an exact match would likely not be achievable. He suggested further consideration of how this new material would be distinct from and complementary to the historic brick. Mr. Horsey responded that the material of the panels would likely be either fiber cement panels or, if the budget permits, metal panels with a porcelain finish. He added that the historic brick is painted, which may not change. For the color, Mr. Horsey said that some advice on the project has been to match the brick color, while other advice is to create a contrast; he said that his own preference is to match the color, resulting in a more restful appearance. Mr. Krieger clarified that the real question is whether the color difference will be subtle or drastic; Mr. Horsey said that a closer match would allow this part of the addition to be perceived as a background element.
Ms. Meyer asked if a landscape architect is working on this project; Mr. Horsey responded that a landscape architect is part of the project team but was unable to attend today’s meeting. Ms. Meyer said that this role will be important in developing the design. As an example, she suggested that the sensory garden could be resolved as a special experiential feature along the sidewalk. The microclimate and multi-season use of this park should also be considered. She suggested further study of the area between the historic building and P Street, including the central lawn; she described the character of this space as honorific and symbolic as currently proposed, while a better strategy would be to attract park visitors to use this area. Mr. Horsey responded that this area is envisioned as a multi-purpose play space, especially suitable for the youngest children who may simply crawl around the lawn. He also indicated the trees, benches, and tables at each side, which would include chess boards. Noting the frequent concern for providing shaded areas, he said that a tent could be placed on this lawn during the summer. Ms. Meyer suggested moving the trees from the adjacent planters onto the lawn itself to improve the shade. Mr. Horsey acknowledged that a shaded lawn or orchard would be a nice feature, but this would conflict with park users who might want to use the open lawn for kicking a ball. Ms. Meyer commented that for the very young children envisioned as users of this space, only a small extent of open space would be needed for kicking a ball.
Ms. Griffin commented that the young adults of this densely populated neighborhood may want to use the open lawn for sunbathing, which she envisioned could be very popular on the weekends. She suggested a more open-ended vision of the demographics of this park’s users, and she encouraged versatile features such as an open lawn that different users could enjoy in different ways. Mr. Horsey responded that the park is sometimes used for concerts, which could be located on the larger playing field at the park’s north side. He acknowledged the desirability of having some areas of summer shade in the park, which could be provided at this lawn by a temporary sail-like cloth structure if funds are available. Ms. Griffin concluded that the lawn would be used, regardless of whether it is shaded or sunny.
Ms. Gilbert addressed the evolving design of the sensory garden along P Street. She suggested that all of the park’s small landscaped areas along the P Street sidewalk be developed to form the sensory garden, which pedestrians would experience as a linear feature, rather than limiting this garden to one small area. She said that a sensory garden encompassing this entire frontage would have a broader impact, relating to the basketball court on the west and the playground on the east.
Mr. Krieger commented that the proposed stair tower remains a dominating feature of the design; it is fairly large, and it would be significantly taller than the nearby historic building. He suggested consideration of sloping the connecting bridge downward from the addition’s roof to the stair tower, allowing the tower’s height to be reduced and giving the composition the interesting visual character of a play structure. Mr. Horsey added that the design of the stair tower is part of the broader issue of relating the scale of new construction to the scale of the historic building; one concern is that the new construction, although modest in height, would be perceived as being very tall due to its relationship to the small historic building. He added that the stair tower is set far back from the park’s entrance area, and may not become visible until visitors are moving through the park; Mr. Krieger emphasized that the tower is nonetheless very close to the large playing field and the splash park.
Chairman Powell suggested a consensus to approve the revised concept with the comments provided. Upon a second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted this action.
H. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
SL 18-171, 4101 Arkansas Avenue, NW. Single-family residence, additions to convert to two-family residence. Concept. (Previous: SL 18-085, 17 May 2018.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the second concept submission for alterations to an existing one-story house on a small triangular corner lot facing the parkland of the Piney Branch tributary valley of Rock Creek; the project would expand the building to become a two-family residence. She summarized the Commission’s previous review in May 2018: the Commission did not take an action, commenting that the expanded building could fit well in the context, and that the exterior should be articulated to express the two residential units so that the building would relate better to the scale of the nearby row houses. She noted the public comments provided at the previous review but said that no comments have been received on the current proposal. She asked architect Rocio Gonzalez, who owns and resides in the house, to present the design.
Ms. Gonzalez described the proposed expansion of the 1,000-square-foot house by adding two stories, resulting in a building with two units of approximately 2,000 square feet each. The existing partial cellar would be incorporated into one of the units. The proposal would also add 158 square feet to the existing footprint of 1,062 square feet; the carport would be demolished. She presented a context map and photographs, indicating the site at the northeast corner of Taylor Street and Arkansas Avenue, NW, and the nearby entrance to Piney Branch Parkway. The nearby row houses are two or three stories tall, generally brick on the exterior. Some are traditional in style, including the adjacent row along Taylor Street; the row across Arkansas Avenue, dating from 1939, is in an early Modernist style, with layered facades, large windows, trellises, second-floor porches, and some with recessed entrances and glass block. She noted that the houses in this row are approximately 2,000 square feet, 17 feet wide, and 48 feet deep, roughly comparable to the scale of the two units that are proposed. She indicated an end row house across Taylor Street that was recently expanded by one story and converted into four condominium units.
Ms. Gonzalez presented the proposed design. The existing bay window facing Arkansas Avenue would be enlarged, and another bay window would be created; these would project into public space, as typically encouraged by the D.C. Office of Planning to give a sense of scale for front facades. She presented extended section drawings to illustrate the proposed height in relation to the other row houses in the vicinity, emphasizing the similarity. The front doors of the two units would be recessed, comparable to the entrance configuration at the nearby Modernist row houses; additional proposed features of trellises, facade layering, large windows, and vertical emphasis are also derived from this precedent. She said that the previously proposed roof deck has been eliminated from the design, because the required setback of the safety railing would result in an occupiable area that is too narrow; this also results in the elimination of the rooftop enclosures for the extension of the interior staircases to the roof level, and the overall profile for the project is therefore lower than previously presented. She said that the front elevation along Arkansas Avenue has been developed to express the two separate residential units, in response to the Commission’s previous advice; the curving roofline serves to emphasize the two different bay windows on this facade. The tapering southwest corner of the building would express the acute-angled corner configuration of the lot; an exterior recess at this corner would be defined by a trellis but would not be occupiable as a balcony.
Ms. Gonzalez presented the proposed exterior materials. The existing house’s brick would remain; new materials include charred wood siding, based on a traditional Japanese building material. She presented two samples of the charred wood in black and gray, noting that the depth of charring affects the material’s appearance; she said that it would have an interesting and modern appearance with simple corners, and the gray color would be selected to be compatible with the existing brick. The window frames would be aluminum on the exterior and wood on the interior. She concluded with a perspective sketch of the proposal superimposed on a photograph of the existing conditions.
Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation for the extended section drawings that relate the proposal to the urban context, commenting that these drawings demonstrate the appropriateness of the proposed scale. She observed that while the massing would be increased, the existing building is very small in comparison to the context. Ms. Gonzalez acknowledged the Commission’s guidance in requesting these drawings at the previous review; as a two-year resident of the house, she said that the appropriateness of the scale was evident to her but needed to be illustrated more clearly for the review process.
Ms. Griffin commented that the presented images of precedents using the charred wood illustrate the beauty and elegance of this material. She asked how these precedents cap the wood facades at the roofline. Ms. Gonzalez responded that she has not yet investigated these details, but some of the precedents appear to have a very minimal cap. She said that the design intent is to have a seamless transition to the cap, without any change of color; some sort of cap would be necessary for protection from the weather. Ms. Griffin observed that some of the houses near this project have strong corners, even if these edge treatments are narrow; in contrast, the design intent for the proposed facades is apparently to extend the material to the edges of the facades, suggesting an infinite plane. She also questioned the proposed curve in the roofline, asking why it is part of the design and suggesting that this feature may be unnecessary; she added that the detailing of the curved edge may conflict with the intent to have a simple, clean edge for the facades. She supported the design of the two bay windows at different heights, and she suggested that a rectilinear roofline based on these differing heights could be a more effective way to emphasize the configuration of the building as two residential units. She commented that the building’s sharply angled southwestern corner would be a prominent feature that could be developed further in conjunction with resolving the roofline.
Ms. Gonzalez responded that the curved profile began as an intuitive gesture, and it evolved as a way to address the different designs of the bay windows. The upward extension of the facade plane was initially related to providing a safety railing around the roof deck; with this feature eliminated, the plane would simply be an architectural embellishment or parapet. She said that the vertically oriented siding could be cut off at any height; for the curved profile, she envisions a steel cap that could be shaped to follow the curve and would match the color of the wood siding. She said that such details would be developed to emphasize the wood itself as the special feature of the facades. Ms. Griffin clarified that her concerns include the detailing and the curve itself, which she reiterated may be unnecessary.
Ms. Griffin asked if the wood and brick surfaces of the facades would be coplanar; Ms. Gonzalez responded that they would be separated by a reveal of at least a few inches, along with some sort of cap on the brick. Ms. Griffin observed that the illustrated precedents show subtle opportunities, such as layering the wood over the brick, or slightly recessing the windows. She emphasized the importance of such subtleties in the precedent images, and she encouraged careful study of these details to achieve the intended texture for this project. She summarized that the treatment of the bays is promising, and the overall design is more successful than in the previous concept submission.
Mr. Krieger joined in expressing dissatisfaction with the proposed curve at the roofline, but he acknowledged that individual preferences can vary and should not be the basis of the design review. He said that a more general concern is that the proposed facades appear haphazard, especially in comparison with the more controlled treatment of the nearby Modernist row houses. The purpose of the proposed curve is unclear, and the materials of brick, darker wood, and lighter wood are used in roughly equal proportions, in comparison to the Modernist houses that clearly have primary, secondary, and tertiary materials. He suggested consideration of reducing the number of exterior materials from three to two, and establishing one primary material that is used most extensively. He said that part of the delight in the Modernist houses is the small “frivolous” features that are unexpected; however, the combination of features in the proposed design is not as successful. He suggested developing a more disciplined design approach, which would help to resolve such questions as the appropriate shape for the roofline. He added that he is satisfied with the project’s overall scale, as well as the conversion of the house to a two-unit building. He also questioned whether the three-story-high trellis at the southwest corner would be a beneficial feature. He summarized that the design should be less quirky and more beautifully proportioned, in deference to the interesting and well-proportioned designs of the other residential rows in the vicinity.
Mr. Dunson observed that the illustrated precedents of vertical siding all have rectilinear or angular profiles, unlike the proposed curve at the roofline. He acknowledged the intent to use the roofline in establishing a distinction between the two residential units, but he said that other design solutions could be used to achieve this. As an example, he said that the treatment at the ground plane could be used to differentiate the two units on this prominent site; the unit with a cellar would have a higher first-floor level than the unit without a cellar, which could suggest differing relationships to the ground plane. He observed that the terrain slopes downward toward Piney Branch, which could be expressed more fully in the design of the building’s base and roof; he said that the southern unit already appears to be trying to break free and make a gesture toward the park. The roofline could then be designed to reinforce the differentiation established at the building’s base.
Mr. Dunson recommended preparation of a physical model to better convey the design intent and to encourage exploration of subtleties such as the transitions of color and plane in the exterior materials. He emphasized that careful refinement of such details is needed for this relatively simple building on a prominent, prow-shaped site. He agreed with Ms. Griffin in requesting further study of the proposed recess at the building’s southwestern point, suggesting consideration of its effect on the exterior appearance and on the rooms within. Ms. Gonzalez responded that the lost space at this acute angle would not be very functional for the rooms within; the exterior effect is intended to establish a monumental expression of the lot’s triangular shape, with the sharp corner prominently visible to passersby. Mr. Krieger suggested that a beautiful corner window might be preferable. Mr. Dunson summarized that a model would assist the Commission in addressing the issues that are now being raised as questions.
Ms. Gilbert observed that many of this project’s design precedents are attached houses, which gain their architectural character from the subtleties of their front facades such as trellises and slight recesses. The proposed building is freestanding, and the challenge is to adapt these precedents to wrap the building’s corners, rather than to develop each facade independently. She acknowledged the effort to address this issue through the complex roofline, but she said that the proposed solution should be reconsidered.
Ms. Griffin suggested that the design would become more sophisticated and less quirky if the exterior were more closely related to the interior spaces. She observed that the proposed bay windows are composed of standard window shapes, and the same windows are repeated for living rooms and bedrooms; in contrast, the neighborhood houses and other illustrated precedents typically have a large plate-glass window for the living room. She also said that the logic is unclear for positioning windows in relation to the facade organization or centering them on the interior rooms. She suggested careful study of the fenestration in the precedents to understand the scale of the windows and their relationship to the overall facade composition. She added that the repetitive windows of the proposed design convey the appearance of an apartment building with stacked single-floor units, rather than the actual configuration. Ms. Gonzalez responded that some of the design features are constrained by the inclusion of the existing one-story house within this project; for example, one of the proposed bay windows is an extension of the existing bay. Ms. Griffin said that the extension of the bay window does not need to be an exact replication of the existing bay. She reiterated that the proposal has improved since the previous review, and she encouraged further design exploration and development, potentially breaking free from the standard modules established by the existing house. She encouraged Ms. Gonzalez to meet with the Commission staff for further discussion of the Commission’s comments and potential design opportunities.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus to support the concept submission with the comments provided, and with the request for further consultation with the staff in order to refine the design. Ms. Meyer added that the three-dimensional study of the project will be important for a better understanding of the freestanding building itself as well as the sloping site. The Commission approved the concept with this guidance.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:30 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA