The meeting was convened in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, at 9:06 a.m.
Hon. Elizabeth Meyer, Vice Chairman
Hon. Edward Dunson
Hon. Liza Gilbert
Hon. Toni Griffin
Hon. Alex Krieger
Hon. Justin Shubow
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
Mary Catherine Collins
(Due to the absence of the Chairman, the Vice Chairman presided at the meeting.)
A. Administration of oath of office to Justin Shubow. Mr. Luebke introduced Justin Shubow, who was appointed by President Trump on 23 October to a four-year term on the Commission, and administered the traditional oath of office to him. Mr. Luebke summarized Mr. Shubow’s work as president of the National Civic Art Society, a Washington-based organization that advances the classical tradition in public art and architecture; his advocacy on design matters affecting Washington, including testimony to Congress on the future of the National Mall and the design of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial; his publication of architectural criticism in several newspapers, magazines, and websites; and his speaking engagements on architectural topics. Mr. Shubow’s academic background includes a law degree from Yale; additional graduate work at the University of Michigan toward a Ph.D. in philosophy; and teaching philosophy as an instructor at both Yale and Michigan. Vice Chairman Meyer joined in welcoming Mr. Shubow to the Commission.
B. Approval of the minutes of the 18 October meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the October meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the minutes.
C. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 17 January, 21 February, and 21 March 2019. He noted that no meeting is scheduled in December. [The meeting of 17 January 2019 was subsequently cancelled due to a partial federal government shutdown resulting from a lapse in appropriations.]
D. Recognition of the service of landscape architect Mia Lehrer, 2014 to 2018. Mr. Luebke reported that Mr. Shubow replaces Mia Lehrer, who has served on the Commission since 2014. He said that a letter from the Chairman will convey the Commission’s appreciation for her service; he noted her valuable insights on undertaking transformative projects in the public realm. Vice Chairman Meyer added that in addition to expertise in the design of public landscapes, Ms. Lehrer also provided an important perspective on integrating sustainability and social equity into design issues; the Commission has gained immensely from this contribution.
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. He noted that the appendices include many projects that are relatively small, such as entrance alterations and the installation of antennas; with nearly 800 cases per year requiring action, the operation of the Commission is greatly aided by placing such projects on the appendices.
Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that no changes have been made to the draft appendix. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported that three recommendations from the draft appendix have been changed to be favorable, due to design changes, reduction in project scope, and additional documentation (case numbers SL 19-029, 19-030, and 19-031). Other changes are limited to minor wording adjustments and the notation of dates for receiving supplemental materials. She noted that the favorable recommendations for eight projects are subject to the anticipated receipt of supplemental materials; she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations when the materials are received, which will be particularly helpful because the Commission will not have a meeting in December. Upon a motion by Ms. Gilbert with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act appendix. Mr. Luebke acknowledged Ms. Batcheler’s work in processing the large caseload of Shipstead-Luce Act submissions, as well as her work on the public interface of the Commission’s website. (See agenda item II.H for an additional Shipstead-Luce Act submission.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Collins reported that the only change to the draft appendix is to note the receipt date for the revised drawings for two projects. She said that the appendix includes 23 projects that have been reviewed by the Old Georgetown Board. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the revised Old Georgetown Act appendix.
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider item II.B.4. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission may wish to act on this submission without a presentation.
B. National Park Service
4. CFA 15/NOV/18-4, Reservation 399, northwest of Tenley Circle at Nebraska Avenue and Yuma Street, NW. New landscape and pedestrian amenities. Final. (Previous: CFA 20/SEP/18-2, concept for Reservations 398 and 399.)
In noting the consensus of the Commission to approve this project, Vice Chairman Meyer commended the project team for its responsiveness to the Commission’s previous suggestions on the design for this small park reservation, resulting in a more welcoming public landscape for this privately funded project.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B.1.
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 15/NOV/18-1, National World War I Memorial. Pershing Park, Pennsylvania Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets, NW. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 18/OCT/18-1.) Secretary Luebke introduced a revised concept design for several components of the National World War I Memorial, submitted by the National Park Service (NPS) on behalf of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission. He said that in October 2018, the Commission of Fine Arts had reviewed options for the freestanding sculpture wall and its associated water elements, secondary commemorative elements, and the overall landscape design. The Commission had expressed strong support for the planting plan and provided guidance that would emphasize the bronze sculpture as a light-colored element against a monolithic stone background. He said that the current submission presents options for other components: the treatment and configuration of the pool and walkway platform, including the proposed scrim water feature; site access improvements; and refinements to the high-relief sculpture. This sequence of submissions for various components results from the July 2018 approval of the revised concept for the memorial, when the Commission requested further concept-level presentations of related elements as the final design is developed; other outstanding components, such as lighting and signage, will be presented to the Commission in the first half of 2019.
Mr. Luebke asked Peter May, associate director of the NPS National Capital Region, to begin the presentation. Mr. May introduced Libby O’Connell, a member of the World War I Centennial Commission, to provide additional background on the proposal. Dr. O’Connell said that the National World War I Memorial is sponsored by both the Centennial Commission and the U.S. Foundation for the Commemoration of the World Wars. She expressed appreciation for the feedback, encouragement, and direction provided by the Commission of Fine Arts and its staff, and she asked landscape architect David Elliott of David Rubin Land Collective to begin the presentation.
Mr. Elliott first described three options for the pool and plaza, referred to as: the U + Scrim, the U Bridge, and the Island. In all three options, the extent of the pool and plaza area would approximately match the existing pool’s boundary, with a configuration centered on the new sculpture wall to the west, and each option would include an area of water scrim, an area of deeper water, and a dry walkway surface and viewing platform. He listed key reasons to include a water scrim: to reduce the scale and perceived extent of paving in the park; to help guide circulation; and to bring the presence of water into the park’s center, animating this space with its reflective surface. The paving beneath the scrim water would have open joints through which water would rise to form a quarter-inch-deep sheet, flush with the surrounding walks. In all three options, the scrim could be turned off in winter, and at other times of the year to accommodate programming and larger numbers of visitors. The deeper perimeter water would be tempered so that it can remain during cold weather; it would have no plantings. Ms. Meyer asked if a scrim would cool the space in summer, or increase humidity and make it less comfortable; Mr. Elliott responded that it would cool the space without increasing humidity.
Mr. Elliott said the U + Scrim option, first presented in July 2018, comprises a U-shaped walk; a channel of water around the perimeter would maintain the extent of the park’s original pool, while increasing its depth from twelve to sixteen inches. A scrim of water would occupy the interior of the U; the scrim, the eastern edge of the pool, and the walks on the north and south would be flush with the adjacent plaza level to the east. Nearby planters would be slightly modified to allow for pedestrian circulation. He illustrated various possible seating configurations on the area of the scrim.
In response to recent staff comments, the project team has further studied the pool and walk to see if the composition could incorporate deeper water and more effectively suggest the historic condition. The location of the scrim was reevaluated and two additional options were developed, focusing on modifications to the eastern edge of the pool and the adjoining walks. He noted the goals of having the scrim and perimeter pool perceived as one element, of ensuring barrier-free access, and of creating a flexible design that can accommodate programming throughout the year.
Mr. Elliott said the U Bridge option differs from the U + Scrim option by creating an additional small basin on the eastern edge, which reveals the depth of the existing pool and its stair edge configuration. This basin would slightly reduce the available plaza area. Walks on the north and south would lead to the viewing platform in front of the sculpture wall; again, planters on the east would be modified to accommodate the walks.
Mr. Elliott presented the third option, the Island, which is similar to the U Bridge but combines the north and south walks into a single central walk into the plaza, allowing the pool’s northeast and southeast corners to remain unchanged; the eastern edge would also remain unchanged except at the central walk. Existing planters would be modified to allow better access to the walk. Proceeding westward, the central walk would split into north and south walks leading to the viewing platform; these paved areas would frame a square scrim of water at the center. He noted that the project team prefers the U + Scrim and the Island options over the U Bridge.
The Commission members agreed to provide comments on each component of the presentation, to be consolidated into an action at the end of the entire review. Ms. Griffin asked how the color of paving beneath the scrim would affect the water’s reflective quality; she commented that this quality as shown in the renderings seems appealing. Mr. Elliott responded that the darker the stone, the more reflective the scrim water would be, and so the stone beneath the scrim has been proposed as dark gray to enhance the reflectivity. Ms. Griffin encouraged testing this reflectivity when selecting the final stone color for the base of the scrim.
Ms. Griffin asked who would manage the programming and how often programs would be held in the park. Mr. Elliott responded that the site would be managed by the NPS, and the memorial sponsor will probably hold many events there commemorating the war. Dr. O’Connell added that the U.S. Army has already requested permission to play taps at sunset, and the Pershing Rifles, a collegiate military drill society, has asked to use the park seasonally. Outdoor concerts would also be held on the plaza. Ms. Griffin commented that, considering the amount of time spent on designing it for occupancy, the plaza should be used frequently for a variety of programs. Dr. O’Connell cited the five days of programming held in the park around Veterans Day 2018 in commemoration of the centennial of the armistice ending World War 1, as well as the benefit of Pershing Park’s central location now that programming on the nearby National Mall is becoming increasingly constrained.
Noting the proposed pool depth of sixteen inches, Ms. Gilbert asked how the design will avoid the need for handrails. Mr. Elliott responded that the code requirements for accessibility without handrails would be met through the use of curbs and other design elements. Additional features as electrical outlets would be integrated into the design details to accommodate programming.
Mr. Shubow asked whether visitors would be permitted to walk on the scrim, noting the controversy over people wading in the pool at the World War II Memorial. Mr. Elliott responded that the World War I Memorial will balance the needs of commemoration with those of an urban park, and it will be acceptable for visitors to walk on the scrim of water.
Ms. Meyer asked why the U Bridge configuration is the project team’s least preferred of the three options, commenting that it would have been her preference. She said that the symmetry and centrality of the scrim in the Island option is unrelated to the park’s spatial organization, while the U Bridge shares some of the park’s vital qualities, such as the deep perimeter water, the retention of the stepped edge, and the impression that the memorial stands within the original pool. Mr. Elliott responded that one concern is the need to introduce a distracting north-south curb in the U Bridge option to separate the scrim from the deeper basin to the east; in the other two options, all of the deeper water would be at the perimeter, separated from the scrim water by the walkways. The U Bridge option would connect two dissimilar bodies of water, and an additional concern is that children would be tempted to play in the east basin. Mr. Krieger said that this is why he considers the U Bridge to be the worst option: the east basin would look like a swimming pool dropped into the middle of a memorial. He added that in the presented ground-level view, the east basin does not make the water appear continuous but instead looks like an additional feature; Ms. Meyer agreed.
Mr. Krieger said the decision facing the Commission members is to establish which characteristic is most important in the design. If it is the continuity of the deep pool of water, he would choose the Island, although this would be somewhat at the expense of the original concept. If the continuity of water is of lesser importance, he would suggest the U + Scrim, although the perimeter pool and central scrim would be perceived as two separate bodies of water. Ms. Meyer responded that she values the integrity and logic of the existing site design for Pershing Park, and she therefore prefers the Island because the body of water and its edge are more dominant than in the U + Scrim option. Mr. Krieger agreed but said he would also want the bridge to the island to read clearly as a bridge—flat, but with the illusion that the water continues underneath it.
Ms. Griffin expressed support for the U + Scrim option because it would present the appearance of a continuous body of water. She said the presented renderings of the Island option led her to question whether the scrim would be large enough to create the intended effect. Mr. Elliott said this scrim would be approximately 35 feet square. Ms. Griffin suggested that the area of water could be enlarged so that it would appear to be more than just a novelty in the Island option, but the added expense may not be worthwhile; she concluded that the proportions of the U + Scrim option would better suit the overall spatial composition.
Mr. Dunson said that the discussion has focused on maintaining the perception of the water area that is a major characteristic of the historic park, but the smaller scrim in the Island option would not provide enough water surface to convey the sense of the existing pool. He also cited the importance of maximizing the year-round presence of water, and he therefore supported the U + Scrim as the best option. Mr. Krieger said that the Island would best achieve these goals. Mr. Dunson said that small east pool in the Island would be problematic, and the proportions of the U + Scrim option are superior in relation to the entire site. He added that if some adjustments were made to the paving color, the Island design could work within the context of the site, and he could perhaps support it; but while the Island option has some potential, it would still be counter to the qualities he thinks this park should have.
Mr. Krieger commented that a 35-by-35-foot body of water is not particularly small; Mr. Elliott said that notwithstanding its small appearance in the rendering, the scrim would actually appear quite large. Mr. Dunson observed that it would not look large within the context of the park as a whole or when seen from Pennsylvania Avenue; Mr. Krieger suggested that the scrim would not be visible from Pennsylvania Avenue.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the vitality of the scrim depends on reflection, and to reflect its surroundings it should be as large as possible; she noted that the presentation had included images of scrims reflecting trees, tombstones, and other features. She said that she supports the U + Scrim option due to its greater water surface.
Ms. Griffin asked Mr. Elliott for clarification of the project team’s preference. Mr. Elliott responded that the NPS prefers the U + Scrim; the design team prefers the Island but would be satisfied with either of these options. He described how the designs might appear in winter, when the scrim is turned off and the center is occupied entirely by paving. The U + Scrim has more reflective surface and a perimeter pool that maintains the corners, while the Island would better support programming. Mr. May added that the scrim would usually be dry from November to March. Ms. Griffin commented that when the temperature allows, having the scrim present in winter would be desirable; Mr. May said this would depend in part on the risks to the project’s components if the scrim freezes. Mr. Krieger agreed that the scrim should not be operational when it could freeze.
Mr. Krieger reiterated that the scrim should not be treated as the most important element of the pool’s design; it was a result of the desire to somehow preserve the extent of water, which would best be achieved by the Island alternative. Mr. Dunson said Mr. Krieger has convinced him that the year-round appearance is more important than the scrim size, and he would support the Island. Ms. Griffin observed that the renderings of the Island option truncate the perspective so that the scrim appears small relative to the length of the plaza. Mr. Krieger said this appearance may be accurate, although the rendering lacks a human figure near the sculpture wall for scale. Ms. Griffin reiterated that the image gives the impression of a tiny scrim; if she were sure it would be perceived as sufficiently large, she might support the Island option.
Mr. Elliott next presented the proposed detailing of the transition between the walkway and the existing pool edge, and between the walkway and the scrim. The walkway would be level with the lower terrace, and the water surface of the perimeter pool would be two inches below the walkway surface to ensure that this water remains contained. A fourteen-inch-wide curb—the same width as the top tread of the existing park stair—would rise two inches higher than the walkway, which serves to meet the code requirement for a separation between walkway and water; additionally, a tactile edge integral with the paving would signal to pedestrians the need for caution. When seen across the water, the reveal detail for the edge of the curb would create a shadow line that would make the walk appear to float.
Mr. Krieger emphasized the need for striated paving to keep visitors from tripping over the two-inch-high curb. He suggested that the width of the tactile edge might need to be increased; Ms. Meyer agreed that greater width may be needed to meet code requirements, which should be determined by the project team. She recommended adding pavers to the bridge in the same color as the existing paving. She also suggested differentiating the bridge from the plaza, perhaps through varying the size and color of the pavers, and either contrasting the edges from the center or creating a variegated design throughout; one of these solutions might also address her concern about the increased heat of the dark stone in summer. One option could be to include a lighter color within the dark field on the bridge, and perhaps use a mix of dark and light stones throughout the entire walk and bridge. She emphasized that a plaza with no trees and dark stone paving would be uncomfortable in the harsh Washington summers, adding that one strength of the original park design is the cool shade beneath the trees, along with the presence of water; she said that the texture, pattern, and color of the pavement can be studied further without compromising the reflectivity of the scrim.
Mr. Krieger agreed and suggested considering first whether the bridge itself is a distinct layer of the composition. He also suggested using a darker paving beneath the scrim and a lighter paving for the surrounding walks; the area of the scrim would therefore be perceived as a dark field regardless of whether water is present, and this surface treatment would not interfere with any programming needs. Ms. Meyer supported this approach; she suggested that if the edge of the plaza were dark, and the rest of the paving were a mix of tones, this would provide a further visual clue to avoid the edge. Ms. Griffin cautioned about lightening the palette too much, recalling Commission’s previous concern about creating different color fields in the historic space of the pool; she said the pattern would have to be carefully calibrated to achieve the right balance between such factors as comfort, heat, and dark and light stone, so that the space appears continuous rather than chopped up.
Mr. Elliott then presented the proposed alterations to two ramps that connect the park’s various levels, to bring them into compliance with current accessibility requirements. The east-west ramp near the southeast corner of the central pool is currently slightly more than four feet wide; its width would be increased to five feet moving a site wall slightly southward. The north-south ramp behind a wall of the Pershing Memorial has a 6.25 percent slope but lacks the required handrails for this slope. The ramp would be extended at each end to match the length of the adjoining Pershing Memorial wall on the west, reducing the slope to less than 5 percent so that a handrail will not be required. The ramp’s width would also be increased by one paving unit, from 7 feet to 10.5 feet, by reducing the width of the planter to the east; he said that this widening would improve pedestrian circulation while allowing visitors a better view of the inscription on the wall’s east side. Mr. Krieger and Mr. Dunson supported these changes. Mr. Elliott added that the curving ramp around the existing kiosk would be improved when the kiosk is rebuilt as a belvedere. He then asked Libby O’Connell to present the changes to the sculpture wall.
Dr. O’Connell said that the maquette of the sculpture wall was last presented in February 2018, and the sculpture wall was included in the Commission’s approval of the revised concept design in July 2018. The current revised maquette incorporates changes made in response to the Commission’s comments: the overall length had been reduced from 65 feet to 56.5 feet; the space between figural groups had been reduced; certain details have been revised for historical accuracy; and approaches have been explored for enlivening the textural treatment of the sculpture’s bronze background.
Dr. O’Connell said that the sculpture, with its theme of “the soldier’s journey,” will tell a story both universal and specific, and she highlighted several of the modifications. The soldier’s daughter is now depicted as growing older over the course of American engagement in the war, from ten years old to twelve. American soldiers are shown carrying the correct type of rifle, and gradually adopting the British practice of wearing puttees around their lower legs. Women are depicted in uniforms to indicate their new role as enlisted personnel, which also alludes to the imminent ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. African-American soldiers had to serve in French-led regiments during the war, and they are shown wearing French helmets, suggesting the pervasive racism in the American armed forces and the future Civil Rights movement.
Dr. O’Connell said that the project team plans to return in April 2019 with the final maquette; the Commission will also be invited to see the first segment of the sculpture at full scale in the studio of artist Sabin Howard, probably in July, and again in November to inspect the texture and patina on the final maquette.
Ms. Griffin expressed appreciation for the overview of the sculpture’s narrative. She said that serving on the Commission has allowed her to learn more about American history through the review process; she recalled a previous review with Sen. Carol Moseley Braun’s testimony about her grandfather’s service in World War I. Ms. Griffin supported the efforts to improve the sculpture’s historical accuracy, and she said the currently proposed size gives it greater density that will increase its engagement with viewers. She asked what interpretive means would be used to relate the deeper narrative of the war to the casual visitor. Dr. O’Connell responded that the intent is to provide information that is easily accessible electronically, with little physical interpretation on the site; she cited the Commission’s desire to keep the memorial a clean and uncluttered space. Interpretation will rely on the use of a cell phone app and perhaps a QR code; the Northrop Grumman Corporation has already awarded a grant to develop technology for education and interpretation of the memorial. Ms. Griffin asked whether the sculpture’s background texture would be varied to correspond with the narrative; Dr. O’Connell said that the texture would change in response to the rhythm of the narrative.
Mr. Shubow raised a concern about the facial expression of the soldier representing a victim of shell shock, the only figure in the sculpture to face outward. He observed that in the previous design the soldier’s mouth was closed, but now it is shown as partly open; he expressed concern that this would be an unflattering depiction, in accordance with the standards of traditional portraiture. He commented that the soldier could be portrayed as shocked and bewildered without an open mouth, and he recommended further revising the portrayal. Dr. O’Connell responded that the facial expressions can still be adjusted, but the open mouth effectively represents the shock and thousand-yard stare that soldiers were described as having; she said the depiction is meant to be accurate, not flattering. Mr. Krieger supported her response.
Mr. Dunson asked why the shell-shocked figure appears at this point in the narrative. Dr. O’Connell said that the soldier is shown as having passed through battle and succumbed to shell shock as the result of cumulative traumas. Calling the depiction hauntingly real and raw, Ms. Gilbert commented that war is terrifying, and nothing about the experience is flattering. Dr. O’Connell reiterated that this soldier represents how shell-shocked people feel; Mr. Krieger agreed, adding that the Commission is probably not even qualified to speak about this. He commented that although he was not initially enthusiastic about the sculpture, he now believes it will be magnificent.
Mr. Krieger recalled the Commission’s previous comments concerning the relationship of the sculpture to its base. Dr. O’Connell responded that the base will be included in the next review, while the sculpture is being developed more quickly because of the long process required for casting the relief in bronze. Vice Chairman Meyer emphasized that any future submissions of the sculpture should include its base, along with a representation of how the base will relate to the water and the ground; she reminded the project team that the Commission needs to be convinced that the architect, landscape architect, and sculptor are working together.
Vice Chairman Meyer recalled that the first presentation of the maquette had included a convincing interpretation of archetypal scenes of battle; at that time, Ms. Griffin had raised questions about historical authenticity, which could have been taken as applying only to the presence and segregation of African American soldiers, but the subsequent revisions have led to a much more powerful intertwining of myth and history. She said that the overall composition now taps into archetypes that are familiar and yet clearly about this particular war and our ancestors. She expressed her strong commendation of the project team for the development of the sculpture; Mr. Krieger agreed.
Vice Chairman Meyer suggested voting separately on the project components in the order presented, starting with the three options for the pool configuration. She proposed approving the Island option for two reasons: it would have the most pervasive presence of water year round, and she was now convinced that its bridge-like entrance walk could be developed through paving texture and pattern so that it would feel dynamic rather than static and centered. Mr. Krieger joined in supporting the Island alternative, with the recommendation to further study the color of the paving; Mr. Dunson agreed.
Ms. Griffin expressed support for the U + Scrim option, commenting that the scrim’s reflective quality, with deep water on all sides, would feel more powerful than in the Island configuration. However, she said she could accept the Island option with the assurance that its scrim would be larger than it appears in the renderings. Ms. Gilbert said that the progression of circulation created in the U + Scrim option is very compelling: visitors would have to approach the sculpture wall from one end or the other and then walk alongside it, following the narrative, instead of approaching it from the center. She observed that in either of these options, the approach route would be less defined when the scrim is dry.
Mr. Krieger said that he finds the centered approach of the Island option to have greater ceremony; if visitors are facing the sculpture, they will have to make a decision about which direction to move. He reiterated that a scrim is merely a secondary aspect of the project and he sees no benefit to including it. Ms. Griffin disagreed, saying that the scrim’s importance has to do with the perception of water, and the U + Scrim would retain an expanse of water closer to the scale of the original pool. Mr. Krieger responded that the perception of water would be greater in the Island scheme. Ms. Griffin commented that both the perception and the real extent of water would be greater with the U + Scrim configuration. She recalled that when the earlier L-shaped walk configuration was proposed, the Commission members had expressed concern about all visitors having to pass through a single point, but now the Commission may be supporting an option that is even more constricted; she discouraged a Commission decision that would result in difficulties that were previously identified in another version.
Mr. Shubow expressed his preference for the Island option because it would provide visitors with a choice after they enter the plaza to decide which direction to follow for viewing the sculpture wall, rather than forcing them to choose a direction before entering the plaza. He said that with the Island, visitors would be more likely to proceed in a clockwise direction and follow the sculpture’s narrative sequence in the correct order. Vice Chairman Meyer added that this option would also obviate the need for directional signs. Mr. Krieger seconded the motion for the Island, which was approved with four members in support and two opposed. The Commission members agreed to accept the proposed changes to the access ramps. Mr. Krieger then offered a motion to support the proposed refinements to the sculpture, with the expectation that the Commission will review its further development; he emphasized that the next presentation of the sculpture must include its relationship to the base and the pool. Ms. Gilbert added that a side view of the sculpture and base would be helpful. Upon a second by Ms. Griffin, the motion on the sculpture was adopted. Vice Chairman Meyer thanked the project team for what she called a very productive collaboration.
2. CFA 15/NOV/18-2, National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial. West Potomac Park at the southwest corner of 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue. Concept. (Previous: CFA 21/JUN/18-1, Site selection.) Secretary Luebke introduced the concept proposal submitted by the National Park Service (NPS) on behalf of the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association. He noted that in June 2018, the Commission approved the memorial sponsor’s preferred site at the southwest corner of 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue, NW, in West Potomac Park. The current submission is a concept design that places the memorial in the northeast corner of this lawn panel, close to the street intersection. In plan, the design is based on a series of three arcs comprising walls and paths, along with opposing curved walls that partially enclose a plaza to form three commemorative areas dedicated to the memorial’s themes:
• unity, reflecting the thirty-four-nation coalition;
• service, honoring those who fought; and
• heroism, symbolizing the historic pivot in American attitudes toward the military away from the hostility engendered by the Vietnam War.
He asked Peter May, associate regional director for the NPS, to introduce the project.
Mr. May said that this presentation marks the beginning of a thorough exploration of the memorial’s design. He introduced Scott Stump from the memorial’s sponsoring association. Mr. Stump said that the project team, led by landscape architect Skip Graffam of OLIN, has incorporated the Commission’s prior guidance to coordinate the design with the site and nearby existing memorials. He asked Mr. Graffam to present the concept design.
Mr. Graffam noted that the design team includes designers from OLIN, CSO Architects, AECOM, and VHB Engineers. He summarized the memorial’s purpose to celebrate the union of 34 nations in a U.S.-led coalition to enforce a United Nations resolution and liberate Kuwait, which he characterized as a significant international moment of the twentieth century. He said this coalition represented a new approach to resolving conflict that united the world and signified the end of the Cold War.
Mr. Graffam presented existing conditions, the concept design, and site considerations, illustrating reciprocal views of the site, particularly in relation to the Lincoln Memorial and along the Constitution Avenue sidewalk to the west. He noted the importance of pedestrian access and said that this corner location will provide easy connections to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, Constitution Avenue, and the State Department.
Mr. Graffam said that an arborist’s report on the existing trees has identified a range of conditions, from those likely to live 25 years or more to those not expected to live beyond another 5 years. Existing underground utilities include a sewer line, expected to be incorporated into DC Water’s planned improvements to the stormwater system. To the south near the Lincoln Memorial Circle, existing infrastructure includes electrical conduits and an extensive communications duct bank that emerges at the site’s south edge and is causing some problems for trees in this area. He described the topography of this lawn panel, noting that the site lies outside the 100-year floodplain but within the 500-year floodplain. From a high point at the Lincoln Memorial Circle, the panel descends to the north and more gradually to the west. At the far northwest edge, the topography rises along the off-ramp from the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge.
Mr. Graffam summarized the comments received from the review agencies. The Commission of Fine Arts emphasized that the memorial should be low, with a minimal visual presence; its design should rely on shaping the landscape rather than on large vertical elements. Comments from the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) were similar. In addition, NCPC emphasized that the memorial should maintain existing views to and from the Lincoln Memorial; NCPC asked about the memorial’s relation to enhancements planned for Constitution Avenue, as well as to future memorials, and requested information on the accommodation of recreational use of the lawn panel. The NPS commented that the landscape-based approach is consistent with its mission and goals, requesting that existing open space and recreational opportunities be maintained as much as possible and that any potential effects on the Lincoln Memorial and West Potomac Park be minimized.
Mr. Graffam said that the design is intended to provide a rich and meaningful experience through the creation of a human-scaled landscape with low commemorative walls. The memorial would connect to adjacent memorials and institutions, including those that will be built in the future. The design is intended to enhance its context and pedestrian circulation, add trees to the existing allées, and spur improvement of the pedestrian connection westward along the Constitution Avenue alignment to the Potomac River. Open space would be preserved for public recreation through careful siting and grading. He emphasized the importance of keeping the memorial’s visual presence restrained because of its proximity to the Lincoln Memorial.
Mr. Graffam said that a particularly important feature for veterans of this conflict is the formal representation in the memorial of the American military movement through Iraq into Kuwait, known as the Left Hook maneuver, which was fundamental to keeping the war short and the number of casualties low. Another key idea is evoking elements of the battlefield’s desert landscape, particularly by using the image of a particular kind of sand dune typical of Kuwait as a sculptural landform to shape space, create enclosure, and direct views. This sand dune has a form known as “barchan”—elliptical or crescent-shaped, with a high point at the apex of the arc that tapers down on either side in arms that create an almost elliptical enclosure. He said that the barchan dune form has inspired the commemorative walls of the concept design. He presented an array of early sketches that illustrate the evolution of the concept from a three-wall scheme to the current two-wall design.
Mr. Graffam described the geometries of the elliptical form that would underlie the memorial, shaping a defined central area from which all elements would be visible. The two walls framing this central area would be appropriate locations for interpretive elements. From a subtle point of arrival point near the 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue intersection, a visitor would move into the memorial by walking around the back of the north wall to entrances on either side. A curving central path through the memorial would connect the two entrances. The central area would be the memorial’s internal focus, commemorating the Left Hook; it would be a dynamic space meant to encourage visitor movement.
Mr. Graffam described how the memorial site would incorporate the last missing segment of the flood-control levee that is being established along the northern side of West Potomac Park. The existing datum elevation at the northeast corner of the memorial site is approximately 16.3 feet; the minimum datum height required for the top of the levee is 20.6 feet. The proposed site grading would allow the levee to coincide with the memorial’s maximum point of elevation at the apex of the south wall, which would rise to 21.5 feet, or approximately 6.5 feet above ground level. From this high point, the wall would slope down to grade on each side in a form suggestive of a barchan dune. The path through the memorial would slope slightly down to a level interpretive area before sloping up again; the adjoining central area would be slightly raised above the interpretive area, giving visitors a point of prospect for views of the west end of the Mall—a visual connection that is intended to emphasize that the memorial is an outward-looking and celebratory space, and to remind visitors that the conflict helped secure American freedom. The rear wall to the north will reach a high point of approximately five feet before also sloping down to grade at either end.
Mr. Graffam said that the presence of the levee will allow the memorial to be set within landforms so that, when viewed from areas beyond the memorial, only the top six inches of the south wall would be visible. The continuation of the levee could be routed across the Constitution Avenue sidewalk, potentially affecting adjacent trees; the memorial could also embed the levee to a greater extent, saving these trees and not affecting the sidewalk grade. To maintain recreational uses, the land beyond the levee could be graded to maintain a two-percent slope.
Mr. Graffam described how the site design is affected by a planned DC Water project for a major stormwater tunnel that will pass beneath the lawn panel. The tunnel’s ventilation shaft must extend to or above the floodplain level; if the grade level at this location is at an elevation below the floodplain level, then the top of the shaft will require a collar or structure to maintain the necessary flood protection. Alternatively, embedding the top of the shaft within the levee berm would provide sufficient elevation for an at-grade design. He added that the DC Water shaft could also be located elsewhere on the lawn panel for the least impact.
Mr. Graffam said that the reestablishment of the Constitution Avenue alignment westward to the Potomac River is a long-term goal of the NPS. The memorial project could contribute to this through enhancement of the historic staggered allée of trees along the sidewalk that follows this alignment; the extended sidewalk may also lead to future memorial sites to the west. Mr. Krieger asked if these improvements would be part of this memorial project, or if Mr. Graffam is only suggesting that some other project will address this in the future. Mr. May confirmed that these improvements are aspirational and are not required for this project. He emphasized that placing a memorial here requires considering the future of the entire area; for example, if a visitor attraction is ever built at the Belvedere, visitors will have to be able to walk there. A more challenging long-term project would be to reconfigure the highway ramps to the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge. Mr. Krieger asked if the NPS would be committed to replacing any trees affected during memorial construction; Mr. May responded that some trees would be affected by construction of the memorial and others by the subsequent construction of the levee.
Mr. Graffam presented the historic 1931 planting plan for this lawn panel. It shows three concentric, staggered rows of trees at the south end of the panel, adjacent to the Lincoln Memorial Circle; these were planted by 1935. Street trees along 23rd Street were in place by 1927, and a 1951 aerial photograph shows the mature tree canopy in this area. The memorial project proposes enhancing the street allées and beginning to replant the staggered rows at the Lincoln Memorial Circle.
Mr. Graffam concluded by noting that artists have recently been interviewed to join the project team. A Kuwaiti artist, who creates works based on her experience of the war, will serve as a consultant.
Vice Chairman Meyer invited questions from the Commission members. Ms. Griffin asked why the outer memorial wall shown in the previous version of the project has been omitted, and whether this results from the Commission’s comments in July 2018. Mr. Graffam responded that this evolution is unrelated to the Commission’s comments; the previous version was thought to be more complicated than necessary, and the revised design with its two interlocking forms would be simpler, focusing attention on the central idea of international unity.
Ms. Griffin asked about the dimensions of the memorial and the raised elements indicated on the plan. Mr. Graffam said that the affected site is now shown as slightly more than a quarter-acre, with the memorial itself occupying approximately three-tenths of an acre. The memorial’s extent would be 134 feet east–west and 165 feet north–south. He clarified that the raised elements are placeholders for commemorative elements that have not been designed. The general idea is that the memorial would have an interactive sculptural art piece, such as a low water feature or table, that a visitor could touch; it would be an anchor for the memorial’s internal space, creating an inward focus that would be juxtaposed with a particular point where a visitor could look out to the Mall.
Ms. Meyer acknowledged that some answers might not be known until after an artist has been selected. She asked about the difference between the memorial path and the entry path identified on the diagrams, in order to better understand the proposed spatial sequence into the center. Mr. Graffam responded that the design would not prescribe a specific circulation route. The entry sequence would start at the corner of 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue, tying the memorial into the geometry of the McMillan Plan, and visitors could then move along either side to enter the memorial. The path would lead directly to the center, its route resulting from the form of the memorial interacting with the two adjoining streets. Ms. Meyer asked about the difference between the commemorative and interpretive spaces. Mr. Graffam responded that the central commemorative space would focus on the international unity represented by the 34-nation coalition; surrounding it would be two arcing spaces, one interpreting the conflict and soldiers’ service, and the other interpreting the pivot in American attitudes toward the military. Ms. Gilbert asked if the future artist would look at the walls as well as the center element; Mr. Graffam said that the concept design has provided a necessary starting point, but the artist will be a collaborative team member who will be involved in the design of the entire memorial.
Mr. Shubow asked to what extent the design has been influenced by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Mr. Graffam said that the location near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was the key reason this site was selected. A core idea of the design is how this conflict marks a pivot in the relation between American citizens and the military that had resulted from the Vietnam War. He emphasized that this memorial will create a contrast to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial: it will not list the names of the dead but will celebrate international unity; and it will be optimistic in nature, as suggested by its outward focus. Ms. Meyer suggested that the question may be more specifically about the form of the wall in this design and the path’s descent to the center. Mr. Shubow agreed, and he asked if the ground plane would be flat. Mr. Graffam responded that to accommodate the levee, the ground plane would rise from a datum height of 15 to approximately 20.6 feet; the memorial would be embedded in the levee berm to reduce its visual impact. Ms. Meyer summarized the comparison: at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial a visitor walks down into the center, while at this memorial the ground plane would be relatively flat while the wall would rise.
Ms. Meyer raised several concerns with the design. She cited a disparity between the stated desire to protect the tree allées and the siting of the memorial, which is proposed to be set so far back into the corner of the site that it would actually disrupt the allées; she also noted that the plan shows a tree placed on an earthwork and another at an incorrect location. She recommended moving the memorial further from the street intersection so that the allées can be arranged in a true staggered pattern, creating a regular framework to re-establish the continuity along the Constitution Avenue alignment to the river. She added that nothing prevents the memorial from being moved to the southwest or from having its angle shifted away from a perfect 45 degrees.
Ms. Meyer said a second problem is that the wide path crossing laterally through the central space would compromise the quality of the memorial as an important place. This path reads too strongly because of the tree plantings that reinforce its extraneous arc, which is unrelated to the memorial’s representational form. She encouraged using tree planting to reinforce the central space and the two intersecting barchan ellipses, shaping the path as a gesture moving through this corner; the entrances into the memorial could remain at the same points even if the path is more subtle.
Ms. Meyer said that her major concern is that this design process is repeating a problem encountered in the design process for the World War I Memorial: the failure of a landscape architect and a sculptor to collaborate from the beginning. She emphasized that the success of this memorial likewise depends on artistic collaboration. While the proposed concept design presents a spatial scaffold, she said, this is different from a concept design that develops from an understanding of the respective roles of the artists.
Mr. Dunson supported the recommendation to shift the memorial and reinforce the allées, but he asked how this might affect the scale of the project and whether it would require moving the levee or reducing the footprint to maintain the two-percent slope. Mr. Graffam responded that the allées depicted on the plan show the current location of existing trees, which are not in evenly staggered rows because their placement over the years has depended on varying circumstances. He said that the idea is to minimize disruption to the lawn panel by placing the memorial as tight to the corner as possible while maintaining the existing configuration of trees. Moving the memorial farther out from the corner would increase its visibility, although the levee could be accommodated with such a shift. Ms. Meyer acknowledged that the exact placement of trees has some flexibility, but she said the existing trees would not survive construction, and she reiterated the advice to reposition the memorial to avoid affecting the allées.
Mr. Krieger commented that another way of handling the trees would be to create a grove at the corner where the north–south and east–west allées meet, so that the third arc represented on the plan—the memorial path—would pass through a grove, which he called a less disruptive solution; Ms. Meyer agreed. Mr. Graffam responded that related solutions have been explored although they were not included in the submission booklets; he illustrated a plan that would make more room for the allées by creating a smaller memorial with a circular grove of trees in the center. The Commission members expressed enthusiasm for this approach.
Ms. Griffin observed that if the two barchan walls are set too far apart, they will not have a dialogue with each other, adding that the elliptical form itself suggests harmony more than discord. She said that the tension inherent in the idea of the pivot needs to be visible; she recommended moving the walls closer so that the very notion of coming together is understood. Mr. Graffam responded that this is the intent of the design, and he acknowledged that the current configuration may be too open, although he added that the focus is meant to be outward.
Ms. Griffin commented that crucial choices will have to be made: will the memorial be a gallery space, or will it be a commemorative place that can include other functions? She advised that it should have a primary purpose, while observing that an emphasis on openness may mean diminishing the opportunity to dramatize the story. She said that she has been impressed by the barchan dune form, but the current version has lost some of the strong iconography of the previous design. Ms. Meyer agreed that the current iteration appears to have altogether lost the dune form, and she recommended re-emphasizing the barchan shape to better express the historic events. Ms. Gilbert suggested unlocking the elliptical shape by twisting and shifting it, making the form slightly off-kilter. Ms. Griffin agreed that the current shape is too static; she reiterated the Commission’s guidance that collaboration between the landscape architect and artist will be vital.
Mr. Shubow enumerated several concerns. His primary objection is that the concept is obscure: neither the dune form nor the Left Hook is evident, and the elliptical form does not imply movement in any particular direction. He said the design appears more like a trench: visitors will look out over the recreational field to the south, while people approaching from the Lincoln Memorial will see heads protruding above a wall, and the memorial would appear to be underground, essentially invisible from the outside. He said that an above-ground memorial could be designed that would not detract from views of the Lincoln Memorial. He described this memorial as being treated too much like the World War II Memorial, which had to be essentially invisible because of its location on the Mall’s primary axis; the proposed design would continue the unfortunate trend of building twentieth-century war memorials on the Mall below ground. He called this an inappropriate treatment for any war other than Vietnam—particularly if the goal is to celebrate the result of the conflict. He added that this site is inherently different from the site of the World War II Memorial, and a small memorial here could include vertical elements.
Vice Chairman Meyer responded that the proposed memorial would not be underground but would actually be at the same grade as the adjoining sidewalks; the design also has to address the mandate from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that the grade be raised to meet the levee requirements. She added that the project team had requested this site knowing its constraints, and the Commission had agreed to it on condition that the memorial would not include any large vertical elements. She acknowledged that newer members joining the Commission in the middle of a lengthy sequence of reviews may have to accept earlier decisions they would not have agreed with had they had been involved in the earlier stages of the process.
Ms. Meyer supported the concerns raised about such issues as the representation of the Left Hook and the tension between forms; she agreed that the project appears too static, lacking the dynamism that might result if these forms are given a somewhat more asymmetrical relationship. She emphasized the difference between a wall and a barchan dune, which is a three-dimensional sculptural form with slopes on both sides. She observed that the project has moved away from that image to using shapes only as signifiers—simple walls instead of the actual dune form. Mr. Dunson added that the involvement of a sculptor will lead to other ideas of how to shape this space.
Mr. Krieger commented that the design has reached the point where such ideas will have to be explored. He commended the proposal’s modesty, a quality encouraged by the Commission. He observed that the model makes the memorial appear somewhat too large, and the central space would appear empty in the absence of some special event. He supported the recommendations to fracture the form and tighten the space while shifting the memorial away from the corner to give it room. He also agreed that the design is confusing: the purpose of the center is not clear, and he is puzzled by the juxtaposition of an angled wall with steps that lead in the opposite direction. He expressed hope that the intended collaboration with an artist will clarify or reinterpret the design.
Ms. Griffin commented that the design is confusing because the culmination of the historic event, the unification of nations, happens in the center; Vice Chairman Meyer and Mr. Krieger agreed. Ms. Griffin suggested further exploration of how to express this culmination, whether at the center or repositioned; she added that the image of the barchan dune might root the memorial in the specifics of place and event. Mr. Krieger observed that the memorial’s visibility could be increased if the trees were reconceived as a grove.
Ms. Meyer spoke of the power of using a table as a metaphorical image for the central sculpture. She said that the philosopher Hannah Arendt has written about public space as being like a table—the thing people that gather around—although she acknowledged the current challenges facing the ideal of an uncontested public realm. She asked what would happen if the form of the barchan ellipse would transform sculpturally into a table that would become part of the ellipse instead of a separate object in the middle, suggestive of how the international coalition came together; this could be a powerful metaphor for imagining the center of the space.
Noting that the memorial is described as outward-looking, Mr. Shubow asked if visitors would be encouraged to view anything in particular. He observed that much of the view would be toward a recreational field, whereas at the Vietnam Memorial, as visitors ascend the walk, their view is directed toward the Washington Monument. Mr. Krieger commented that it may be possible to see a little of the Lincoln Memorial from this Memorial. Mr. Graffam clarified that the memorial spaces would be at grade while the wall would rise; at its highest, the wall would obstruct views of the lawn panel before tapering down. He emphasized that the idea is to have a moment when a visitor’s attention is directed into the central commemorative space before it is shifted to seeing the entire sweep of the Mall.
Vice Chairman Meyer summarized that the project team has received good advice about ideas to explore. She emphasized that approval of the concept may need to wait until an artist is involved: despite the promising start, the concept will remain too neutral without an artist’s voice. Mr. Krieger observed that the Commission’s suggestions indicate conditional approval. He said the concept holds great promise but has not yet come together; it is not clear what the memorial would be, especially in the center and in the relation of the tree planting to the corner of the panel. Mr. Dunson added that the sketch suggesting a grove, which had not been included in the presentation materials, is promising.
Vice Chairman Meyer said the Commission’s concerns are not a criticism of the work to date but a recognition that the project team does not yet have all the necessary collaborators. She anticipated that the Commission would be able to approve a concept design that is developed by the full project team.
Mr. Stump expressed appreciation for the Commission’s comments, noting the difficulty of balancing the creation of a significant memorial with its required small size. He said that the intention was to bring an artist onto the team after a concept has been identified. Vice Chairman Meyer responded that finding this balance has been an issue in Washington for decades; the city has many examples of sculpture being added to memorials after their construction, as well as sculpture driving a memorial design, and neither approach has been satisfactory. She commented that this project could be extraordinary with the right project team, and a clear direction has now been provided about how an artist can contribute to the team. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
3. CFA 15/NOV/18-3, Rock Creek Park and associated sites. Numerous locations. Wayfinding, interpretive, and identification signage guidelines. Concept. Ms. Collins introduced the concept proposal for signage guidelines for Rock Creek Park and the smaller parks in the Rock Creek Park administrative unit, including several within the Old Georgetown historic district. She said that the proposal was presented to the Old Georgetown Board (OGB) on 4 October 2018; the OGB’s report, distributed to the Commission members, generally supports approval of the concept submission and recommends further refinements to the scale and placement of signs. The OGB also requests full-size mockups and an additional design development review prior to the final design submission. She introduced Peter May of the National Park Service (NPS), who asked Michael McMahon, the NPS landscape architect for Rock Creek Park, to begin the presentation.
Mr. McMahon said that the NPS and the Rock Creek Conservancy have been working on a signage plan for the park with the firm Hunt Design, which specializes in wayfinding, signage systems, and environmental graphics for public spaces, museums, and parks. Hunt Design has developed signage plans for several NPS sites such as Zion National Park, Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, the Gateway Arch, and the National Mall. He asked Wayne Hunt, founder of Hunt Design, to present the proposal.
Citing his work on the National Mall signage program, Mr. Hunt said that the signage for the parks under control of the Rock Creek Park administrative unit present a different challenge. He said that the guidelines under development would provide the NPS with an approved catalogue of standard sign types available for use in parks of varying size and context. The guidelines describe ten prototypical sites representing these various conditions, which include statues, circles, and neighborhood parks, in addition to Rock Creek Park itself. He said that a goal is to use signage to unify the parks and make the visitor experience more predictable and inviting. Several scales of signs would be used, including those intended for drivers and for pedestrians. The proposal also addresses regulatory signs, which currently contribute to visual clutter; he said that for the National Mall signage, several mismatched regulatory signs were consolidated into singular pylons.
Mr. Hunt described the varied existing signage, some of which dates from the 1960s and 1970s, seen throughout the parks. The sign types include: road guide signs; identification signs; pedestrian wayfinding signs; trail signs; and rules, regulations, and information signs. He noted the mismatched typefaces, colors, and iconography seen on these signs, which gives the impression that the parks are not related or administered by the same agency. He said that the NPS UniGuide system for identification, wayfinding, and visitor information signs is not easily adapted to constrained urban sites, especially those with statuary. The proposal would therefore modify this system for challenging sites; for instance, road guide signs along Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park would generally conform to the UniGuide system, but the standard brown color would be adjusted to a more “federal-looking” gray. Road guide signs with redundant directional arrows would be simplified and could include icons for a more unified message. He indicated the types of identification signs that would be available for use in the guidelines, including horizontal monument signs and vertical pylon signs, both with stone veneer bases, and more modest two-post secondary identification signs. The locations for the large horizontal signs would include the main entrance to the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway and the Thompson Boat Center. In constrained areas without space for a horizontal sign, a vertical sign would be used, and the smaller two-post signs would be used at sites such as the Old Stone House in Georgetown. He said that the width of adjacent streets and the presence of trees and vehicular traffic would also be considered in determining the type of sign.
Mr. Hunt presented photographic simulations of the signs for several parks. He described Meridian Hill Park as not well identified by signage, making it appear to be a private park; he said that adding signs—especially with NPS iconography such as the arrowhead symbol—would encourage the public to visit the park. The guidelines propose vertical signs at the park’s northwest corner and at the entrance at 15th and Chapin Streets, NW; a horizontal sign is proposed for the park’s southwest corner, at 16th and W Streets. He said the bases of these signs would be an exposed-aggregate concrete similar to the distinct concrete used throughout the park.
Mr. Hunt then presented the sign proposed for the small triangle park bounded by Connecticut Avenue, Columbia Road, and California Street, NW, featuring an equestrian statue of Civil War Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan. He said that the many monumental statues found in Washington are largely ignored by the public, and adding a sign would help identify the statue for drivers and pedestrians. A horizontal sign would be placed at the southern tip of the site, set on either a stone base or on two posts.
Mr. Hunt then presented the sample signs within the Old Georgetown historic district. He said that the draft guidelines had shown Georgetown Waterfront Park with one vertical and two horizontal signs; however, the OGB expressed a preference for one sign format per park, and therefore the guidelines will be revised to show all three signs as vertical. The new sign for the Old Stone House on M Street would be of a similar scale as the existing sign, but would consolidate the current information to reduce clutter; he noted that the OGB requested a full-scale mockup of this sign. At the Francis Scott Key Memorial Park, the proposed guidelines call for a new sign to be placed at the park’s western end near Key Bridge, which would be visible to the many people who use the bridge. The existing inscribed stone sign at the corner of 34th and M Streets, NW, dates from 1993 and is difficult to read; however, he said that the NPS will follow the OGB’s recommendation to leave this sign in place. In general, he said that a single, modest identification signs in a smaller park of this size would be a reasonable solution. He described Montrose Park, also within the Old Georgetown historic district, as a beloved neighborhood park with much community involvement. A new entrance sign would be hung from a single post mounted to a base and sited behind the hedgerow along R Street, NW; he added that this sign may be smaller than the existing one, but would still be legible to both pedestrians and motorists. At some other parks, the guidelines would specify a horizontal sign on two posts; this simple and conventional sign would sometimes require careful siting, such as at Fort Slocum where it would be located in an open field. Circle parks such as Grant Circle would be identified with a similar sign displaying the park’s name.
Mr. Hunt concluded with a proposal for trail signs, noting that the existing markers have the appearance of handicraft or informal signage. As a compromise, the new proposed signs would have carved wood headers at trailheads, with more formal markers along the trails; the precise design is still being developed, but these signs would be the smallest in the guidelines.
Mr. Krieger expressed support for the overall iconography proposed in the guidelines; he asked how the different sign typologies would be selected for each location. Mr. Hunt acknowledged that this would be difficult, and the guidelines would be prescriptive: for example, circle parks would have horizontal signs mounted on two posts; smaller monumental signs would be appropriate for small formal parks such as the Francis Scott Key Memorial Park; and a horizontal format would be used unless the available ground area for the sign is too small. Ms. Meyer observed that the result appears to be a predominance of horizontal signs. Mr. Hunt confirmed that horizontal signs would be the default, while citing several precedents for vertical signs, such as Metro entrance pylons and his firm’s design for the pylons on the National Mall. Mr. Krieger asked why vertical signs are not the default, given that they can fit in both large and small spaces. Mr. Hunt said he believes that design review bodies are generally not supportive of vertical signs, with horizontal signs perceived as a more appropriate ground-based approach; however, vertical signs may still be selected on a case-by-case basis and could be very effective in urban spaces, relating to the existing vocabulary of vertical streetscape elements such as signs and lampposts. Mr. Krieger commented that using mostly vertical signs would make them more prominent and offer greater visual consistency. Mr. Hunt responded that the Old Georgetown Board expressed a similar opinion favoring vertical signs, and he could accept this approach as well.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the larger signs would create a tension between being scaled and oriented for traffic, compared to the pedestrian experience of these signs. Mr. Hunt responded that Washington is a walkable city with a pedestrian scale, but nevertheless has a large amount of vehicular traffic. Therefore, the proposed design approach is to have signs be legible for both motorists and pedestrians; he cited the example of the sign proposed for the Francis Scott Key Memorial Park. He added that on-site mockups would help in evaluating the designs. Ms. Gilbert commented that the signs proposed for small parks could compete with the sculptures within the parks, such as the presented example of the McClellan statue. Mr. Hunt responded that the signs are intended to be simple informational labels for the artworks or parks, not monuments themselves. Ms. Gilbert recommended that each site should be individually evaluated to determine the suitable type, scale, and location of each sign, taking into account the proportion of the proposed sign relative to the park size, tree canopy, and any other vertical or horizontal elements.
Ms. Meyer observed that the lettering size on a sign would vary according to its intended reader, such as people walking or driving, and she asked if the lettering on signs within small parks would be sized for motorists or pedestrians. Mr. Hunt responded that at the McClellan statue, the sign’s lettering would be scaled at the smaller end of the size range intended for motorists, and this scale would also allow the sign to be legible to pedestrians across the street from the park. In general, he said that the smallest lettering size appropriate for drivers would also be appropriate for pedestrians. He emphasized that the overall goal is to establish a family of consistent identification for the parks and memorials, for visitor amenities such as restrooms, and for the NPS presence.
Ms. Griffin suggested that the guidelines should address how the priority would be determined in designing signs to be legible to motorists or pedestrians. As a related issue, she asked if an emphasis on legibility to motorists would include reflective lettering to be seen with headlights at night. Mr. Hunt responded that the guidelines encompass a range of signs, with strictly vehicular or pedestrian signs at each end of the range. He said that his firm has experience designing roadside signs to be legible for drivers, and the guidelines are intended to present a universal system that benefits a wide audience; Ms. Griffin expressed appreciation for this aspect of the proposal.
Mr. Krieger asked Mr. Hunt to clarify whether he would prefer horizontal or vertical signs to be the default orientation prescribed in the guidelines. Mr. Hunt said that as a graphic designer he prefers vertical signs, but communities often prefer horizontal signs. Mr. Krieger noted that the guidelines include both sign orientations, and he asked how this would ultimately be decided for each sign. Mr. Hunt said that if the Commission prefers vertical signs, this approach could be incorporated into the guidelines. Ms. Meyer commented that vertical signs may be preferable for many reasons, including the existing vocabulary of vertical elements within the streetscape such as lampposts. She added that the two posts often used to support horizontal signs present maintenance issues: grass surrounding the posts is difficult to mow and is therefore neglected, leading to the planting of insubstantial annuals that clutter the ground plane and end up being eyesores. Mr. Hunt added that vertical signs can also be interesting architectural elements.
Mr. Shubow expressed strong concern about the sign proposed for the small park containing the McClellan statue, commenting that the sign’s text would be distracting and draw attention away from the statue. Ms. Meyer agreed, noting that many similar conditions could be found throughout Washington. Ms. Griffin said this would an instance where a horizontal sign would be preferable. Mr. Krieger suggested that no sign be placed in this location; Mr. Shubow and Ms. Meyer agreed. Ms. Griffin responded that an acceptable design may be possible for this location based on the options included in the guidelines; she expressed support for including both horizontal and vertical signs in the guidelines to allow for flexibility. Mr. Hunt responded that the sign proposed for the park with the McClellan statue appears prominent in the photo simulation, but he believes that the sign would fade into the background when viewed in its context; the recommendation in the proposed guidelines is to add signs to sites with statues, thereby making them more interesting for the public. However, he acknowledged that a sign may not be desirable at some locations; Ms. Griffin agreed. Mr. Krieger acknowledged that the simulation may not accurately convey the appearance of this sign, but he questioned the prominence of any potential signage, as well as whether the statue needs additional identification with a sign. He added that visitors would likely be interested in knowing more about the people depicted in a statue, such as McClellan. Ms. Gilbert noted that this statue already has a plaque, but she acknowledged that that the statue is surrounded by plantings that restrict access to it. Ms. Griffin said that the statue’s limited visual and pedestrian access due to plantings is not uncommon, and people may be more inclined to visit a sculpture if it is identified. Mr. Hunt said that the public could learn about American history just from seeing the names of figures depicted in these sculptures; Ms. Meyer noted that this would likely be Civil War or military history, not broader American history.
Ms. Meyer expressed strong dissatisfaction with the sign proposed for Meridian Hill Park, commenting that the exposed-aggregate concrete developed by John J. Earley seen throughout the park is considered technologically innovative and contributes to the historical significance of the park design. She therefore advised against attempting to replicate the exposed-aggregate concrete for the base of any new sign for this park, suggesting a more neutral base treatment.
Ms. Meyer said that the C&O Canal National Historic Park, which is currently slated for improvements, should also be considered when developing the options available in the guidelines. Mr. Hunt responded that the C&O Canal is not administered as part of the NPS’s Rock Creek Park unit. Peter May of the NPS acknowledged the challenge of seeking a common visual language to identify the varied NPS parks while also having distinctive signs for parks with different characters. He noted that the signage plan for the National Mall, which has its own unique character, has been largely implemented, but he agreed with the undesirability of using a different signage design for the C&O Canal simply because it is administered as a different NPS park unit. While noting instances where unique signage is required, such as the large parkway signs proposed for the entry to Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, he said that the broader goal is to have a consistent signage system. He agreed that additional coordination between this proposal and other projects is required.
Ms. Gilbert asked for more information about the various types of bases that are illustrated for the signs. Mr. Hunt said that the project team would appreciate a recommendation for the bases, noting the challenge of deciding whether they should vary or have a common design. Ms. Gilbert observed that the guidelines seek to streamline the existing sign types, and a similar approach may be appropriate for the bases as well; she suggested that the signs have a relatively unobtrusive base. Mr. Krieger said that this approach could be appropriate in most cases; however, having a simple concrete base for the horizontal signs would not be desirable. Ms. Gilbert clarified that her suggestion is for vertical signs, which would appear fussy with overly detailed bases; Mr. Krieger agreed. Mr. Hunt asked if the recommendation is to have both a stone base and a concrete base as options; Ms. Gilbert supported this approach, emphasizing that concrete would be preferable for the vertical signs. Ms. Griffin said that this topic is relevant to the question of which signs would follow a standard specification and which would be exceptions; she requested that the next submission clarify this issue.
Vice Chairman Meyer summarized the consensus of the Commission to support the OGB’s recommendation to approve the concept submission, along with the OGB’s suggestions for further refinement to the guidelines and its request to inspect mockups. She summarized the Commission’s additional comments regarding the signs adjacent to the McClellan statue and Meridian Hill Park; the request for further study of the feasibility of specifying more vertical elements, especially for urban sites; and the recommendation to simplify the base of these vertical elements. She added that information identifying a park as part of the Fort Circle Parks should be included on signs where appropriate, and that the Commission would like to review a final version of the guidelines. Upon a second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted this action.
4. CFA 15/NOV/18-4, Reservation 399, northwest of Tenley Circle at Nebraska Avenue and Yuma Street, NW. New landscape and pedestrian amenities. Final. (Previous: CFA 20/SEP/18-2, concept for Reservations 398 and 399.) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
5. CFA 15/NOV/18-5, Reservation 183, New York Avenue at North Capitol and N Streets, NE. Temporary public art installation of The Chicken and the Egg. Concept. Mr. Fox introduced the proposal for a temporary installation of a two-piece sculpture grouping, titled The Chicken and the Egg, by architect Harry Mark of RSM Design. The two sculptural pieces would be installed in the two small parks that comprise Reservation 183 at the intersection of New York Avenue and N Street, immediately east of North Capitol Street. He asked Peter May of the National Park Service (NPS) to begin the presentation.
Mr. May said that this project, when considered in combination with the other NPS submissions on today’s agenda, illustrates the broad range of local NPS initiatives and close relationships with outside organizations. This sculpture proposal results from a partnership with the NoMa Business Improvement District (BID), one of several neighborhood BIDs across Washington that have been working with the NPS in developing projects. He introduced Robin-Eve Jasper, president of the NoMa BID, to present the proposal.
Ms. Jasper acknowledged the assistance of the NPS and the Commission staff in developing and refining the proposed sculpture, which is the first of several that the BID is planning to install at the neighborhood’s gateways and focal points. The larger program has two purposes: to beautify several neglected, highly visible locations for the benefit of NoMa and adjoining neighborhoods; and to convey the neighborhood’s cultural and natural history to a modern audience, sometimes with a sense of whimsy. The artworks would serve to link the modern neighborhood to its past, which includes special connections to music, sports, rail transportation, and industry. Interpretive signage would also be included, intended for the benefit of pedestrians rather than people in cars. The sites for the larger program would include existing NPS reservations, traffic islands, and new open spaces that are being created to enhance the neighborhood.
Ms. Jasper said that one inspiration for The Chicken and the Egg is the printing industry, which was an important feature of the area’s 19th-century history—most notably as the home of the Government Printing Office (GPO), as well as private-sector printing facilities. She noted GPO’s recent renaming as the Government Publishing Office, paralleling the neighborhood’s broader modern-day role in the dissemination of information, which extends to the current facilities within NoMa for National Public Radio and CNN broadcasting. She also cited GPO’s somewhat uneven history of diversity in employing neighborhood residents: African-Americans, including Frederick Douglass’s son; women, who often worked as bookbinders; and deaf or hard-of-hearing printers, connecting to the history of nearby Gallaudet University. She said that another historical inspiration for The Chicken and the Egg is the city’s wholesale food market, Union Market, located several blocks to the east.
Ms. Jasper described the context of N Street and New York Avenue at North Capitol Street, emphasizing this area’s recent transformation from an industrial character to a welcoming, mixed-use neighborhood. The location has a large number of pedestrians as well as a heavy volume of vehicular traffic. The sculpture’s subject of a chicken and an egg relates to the historical food market and also to the neighborhood’s continual change and regeneration. The bright color of the sculptural pieces and the chicken’s pedestal would use the standard printing colors of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, known in the printing industry as CMYK; she noted GPO’s assistance and enthusiasm in developing this feature of the proposal. Additional use of this color palette is envisioned for planned sidewalk pylons that would be located in front of the GPO on North Capitol Street and at the southern terminus of the Metropolitan Branch Trail adjacent to Union Station.
Ms. Jasper indicated the minimal existing landscaping of Reservation 183; the two small parcels are separated by a traffic lane that currently connects N Street to New York Avenue but which may be closed in the future. The three-foot-tall sculptural chicken would be placed on a pedestal within the western triangle of the reservation, facing east toward the much larger egg on the semicircular eastern parcel; the egg would be tilted toward the east in the direction of the wholesale market. The chicken’s pedestal would conceal an existing traffic signal control box; the pedestal would have horizontal banding in the CMYK colors, and the chicken itself would be magenta. The chicken would be constructed of architectural foam; the fabricator often works on permanent sculptures and has provided assurance that the material will be sufficiently durable and colorfast for this three-year temporary installation, and for longer if the sculpture is subsequently relocated for continued display. The egg would be an open lattice sculpture of cut metal, black on the outside with views to the CMYK colors on the inside. It would be illuminated at night, using a solar-powered LED panel on top of the egg. Both artworks would be placed on temporary concrete bases that do not penetrate the ground plane. The site would be landscaped with grasses rising as high as four feet, perhaps suggesting the image of nests. She concluded by noting that the NoMa BID will be responsible for maintenance and landscaping associated with this installation.
Vice Chairman Meyer expressed appreciation for the presentation, particularly the discussion of the larger planned program of neighborhood artworks as context for the current proposal. She asked if the same artist would create all of the planned sculptures; Ms. Jasper responded that the artist’s firm, RSM Design, has been commissioned to develop all six of the sculptures in the neighborhood-wide program.
Ms. Gilbert asked how the sizes were determined for the chicken and the egg; she said that the chicken appeared to be surprisingly small in one of the presented drawings. Ms. Jasper responded that the size of the chicken is constrained by the traffic signal control box within the pedestal, by the NPS requirement not to penetrate the ground plane on this park reservation, and by the NoMa BID’s limited budget for the project. Mr. Dunson questioned whether Union Market is near enough to the sculpture site to be meaningfully related. Ms. Jasper responded that the market is four blocks to the east, which Mr. Dunson described as a significant distance. Ms. Jasper emphasized that the reference is not just to the market itself but also to the neighborhood’s broader historical role in the movement of goods, including rail spurs and warehouses. Mr. Dunson supported this broader meaning; he recalled the entire neighborhood’s past importance in distribution, including a grocery warehouse in the immediate vicinity that has now been replaced by a parking lot. He acknowledged the appropriateness of the egg sculpture as depicting a food product, but he questioned the literal depiction of a chicken; he said that the heavy traffic volume along the site would prevent a contemplative character for the site, and the subject of a chicken may not relate well to the changing character of the neighborhood.
Mr. Krieger commented that if the traffic lane dividing the reservation is removed in the future, then the site condition would be very different. With the current site configuration, he described the proposal as whimsical and interesting, including the absurdity of the scale relationship between the big egg and the relatively small chicken. He added that awareness of the food market several blocks away is not necessary for the appreciation of the sculpture, and he encouraged implementation of the proposal.
Ms. Gilbert supported the landscape proposal for the reservation parcels, commenting that the intended character of a nest appears successful; she added that the plane of grasses would help to ground the artwork and link the two parcels. She compared this proposal favorably to other sculpture submissions that simply place artwork within a minimal setting. Mr. Krieger noted the importance of adequate maintenance of the landscape by the NoMa BID.
Mr. Shubow compared the chicken sculpture to others seen in London’s Trafalgar Square and Washington’s National Gallery of Art. He said that the effect of the sculptures, with their unexpected scale relationship, would be whimsical or even comical. Ms. Meyer questioned whether the proposed material of architectural foam would be sufficiently durable, comparing it to the foam used by design students in preparing studio models. Ms. Jasper responded that the fabricator has described the durability as a minimum of ten years; she offered to obtain more detailed specifications for the Commission’s review. Ms. Meyer said that she would be more comfortable in approving the project if the Commission staff is given the opportunity to inspect a sample of the material and an actual installation that has been exposed to several years of weathering, including consideration of the color durability in a setting that is widely exposed to car exhaust.
Ms. Meyer commented on the overall program of neighborhood artwork that was described in the presentation. She supported the conceptual basis of the program, and she described two of the illustrated examples—a pylon at the GPO and another at Union Station—as more interesting and better scaled than The Chicken and the Egg, with better relationships to their sites. She said that the pylon at the GPO, which would feature a graphic of the Emancipation Proclamation that was printed there, would have a suitably monumental character notwithstanding its modest size. She commented that the pylon marking the endpoint of the long-distance recreational trail adjoining Union Station would be a welcome and clarifying addition to the confusing network of movements at this location, which includes cars, bicycles, and pedestrians. She expressed regret that these other projects in the larger program are not the first to move forward, while offering support for The Chicken and the Egg as a humorous addition to the neighborhood. Mr. Krieger supported implementation of all of these proposals; Ms. Meyer agreed, and Mr. Dunson joined in supporting the proposal.
Vice Chairman Meyer summarized the consensus of the Commission to approve the concept for The Chicken and the Egg, with the request for follow-up coordination with the staff on the adequacy of the proposed materials. She added that review of the final design submission could be delegated to the staff. Upon a second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted this action. Mr. Krieger requested the opportunity to see the sculpture after installation; Secretary Luebke offered to arrange a future site visit for the Commission.
(Ms. Griffin departed for the remainder meeting.)
C. U.S. General Services Administration
CFA 15/NOV/18-6, Southeast Federal Center (The Yards), Parcel I, bounded by N, Canal, and 1 1/2 Streets, and N Place, SE. New eleven-story mixed use building (residential-retail). Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the concept design for development of Parcel I of The Yards, noting that this would be the first new building on the western side of The Yards. He asked Mina Wright, director of the Office of Planning & Design Quality at the regional office of the General Services Administration (GSA), to begin the presentation.
Ms. Wright said that the Commission has reviewed several other projects at the Yards, which is the redevelopment of the government-owned Southeast Federal Center that was initiated in 2005 as a public-private partnership with the developer Forest City. Under the review process established in a Memorandum of Agreement between GSA and the Commission, this project is submitted at the 35% design phase. She asked Sarah Forde, development director at Forest City, to continue the presentation.
Ms. Forde thanked the Commission staff for its advice during consultation meetings. She said that the previously reviewed projects of The Yards were in the more historic eastern area of the Southwest Federal Center, which is subject to more robust design guidelines; projects in the western area need to conform to the master plan and the L’Enfant Plan. The current submission for Parcel I proposes a rental apartment building with ground floor-retail and two levels of underground parking; twenty percent of the apartments would be designated as affordable. She introduced architect Brett Swiatocha of Perkins Eastman DC to present the design.
Mr. Swiatocha presented a context plan for Parcel I, which is located northwest of DC Water’s historic main pumping station. The proposed building would overlook Tingey Square, an open space intended to link the east and west sides of The Yards, and would also have views over the low pumping station to the Anacostia River and the Nationals Park baseball stadium. The proposed building’s ground floor would be organized around a small central courtyard, sunken within a larger central court at the second-floor level. The ground floor would include a residential lobby space on the west side of the building along 1½ Street, and retail space on the north side along N Street; he noted that N Street is intended to be the primary retail street for the western side of The Yards. Duplex loft apartments would be located on the east side along Canal Street, with private ground-floor entrances and enclosed yard space along the sidewalk. The building’s upper floors of apartments would be organized around the central court in a U-shaped configuration, open to the west and topped by an occupied penthouse. At the eighth floor, a wide glazed bridge structure on the west would connect the arms of the U; it would contain exercise facilities and other amenities for the residents, and on its roof would be an outdoor swimming pool and additional outdoor space. He said that the glazing on this bridge would enhance visual connections between the ground floor and the residents’ amenity spaces.
Mr. Swiatocha presented a rendering of the proposed west elevation along 1½ Street, indicating the prominence of the amenity bridge and its placement between the two residential bars of the building. He said that the egress stair in the north bar would be configured to protrude from the courtyard facade and would also be enclosed in glass, with the intention of making a fitness amenity out of a utilitarian element that would more typically be concealed within the building. He said this glazed stairwell would also help to visually connect the public spaces on the ground floor with the amenities on the upper levels. On the north, the block-long N Street facade would be broken up by a series of projecting glass bays above the ground-floor retail spaces. The eastern facade along Canal Street would be detailed with glass, precast concrete, and metal panels. The south facade would continue the vocabulary of the residential bars, with the ground-floor storefront system wrapping from the west; loading and garage entrances would also be on this side.
Mr. Swiatocha presented detail drawings depicting the proposed material palette for the building, which he said would establish the architectural language for the new development area. The exterior would be primarily light-colored brick, which would relate to the limestone architectural elements of surrounding buildings; the base would be dark precast concrete. Projecting rectangular window bays and balconies with laser-cut metal panels would add to the modeling of the facades. He added that the Commission staff had recommended coordinating the materials of the facades with those proposed for the amenity bridge, as well as reducing the expression and complexity of the bridge.
Mr. Swiatocha indicated the reflective metal panels that are proposed for the soffit of the bridge structure; he said these panels would reflect the activity and greenery of the courtyard and street below, helping to lighten the expression of the bridge. He concluded with views of the building depicting the projecting window bays on N Street, the duplex loft units proposed along Canal Street, and the reflective effect of the bridge soffit material.
Mr. Krieger asked for additional information about the two proposed brick types in relation to the scale of the building facades. Mr. Swiatocha responded that the two brick types would have the same color and finish; standard utility brick would be used for larger expanses of the facade, and long-format Norman brick would be used around the windows. Alternating projecting courses of the Norman brick would provide shadow and visual interest. Ms. Meyer asked if the courtyard spaces have been designed, and Ms. Gilbert asked about their size. Mr. Swiatocha responded that the two courtyard spaces are currently under design; the sunken, kidney-shaped courtyard carved out of the ground floor space would be approximately 50 to 70 feet wide, which would be sunken within the larger second-floor court, which is approximately 100 by 130 feet.
Vice Chairman Meyer invited additional comments from the Commission members, noting that this review is the Commission’s only opportunity to comment on the design of this building due to the Memorandum of Agreement described by Ms. Wright. Mr. Dunson asked for more information about the bridge structure, commenting that it does not appear to fit the character and materiality of the overall building vocabulary. Mr. Swiatocha responded that the private residential components of the program are contained within the simple masonry bars, while the shared spaces, such as the ground-floor lobby and the bridge, are intended to have a different articulation with a more open appearance. He confirmed for Mr. Dunson that the bridge would have a reveal at its intersections with the building, acknowledging that this detail is still being developed. Ms. Meyer commented that the detailing of the projecting egress stair, as it meets the bridge and the building facade, is also important; Mr. Swiatocha said that these details are similarly still under development.
Mr. Krieger said that most of his questions and criticisms regard details that have not yet been developed; the submission is therefore difficult to evaluate at this stage in the design process. As a general concept, he expressed support for the massing and said this will likely be a fine urban infill building, but the quality of the detailing will determine whether the building appears pedestrian or innovative. He commented that the glassy ground floor-lobby appears jarring compared to the overall design of the building, giving the appearance of a second bridge structure that has collapsed onto the street; he recommended further study of this element.
Ms. Meyer commented that one of the conceptual problems of the design is that the north and south wings of the building are being described in Modernist terms as “bars.” She noted that Modernist building bars are not commonly designed with bases or other connecting elements, contrary to this building’s architectural concept. She suggested that the arms of the U-shaped massing should instead be understood as parts of a single urban building connected by a unifying base. She observed that the base along Canal Street is defined by the duplex apartments, a strategy that takes into account the type of residential unit and street frontage in the design of the elevation; she suggested considering a similar conceptual strategy for the lobby facade along 1½ Street.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the proposed material palette—with two types of brick, decorative metal screens, and reflective aluminum panels—appears overwrought and should be simplified. She also suggested further expressing the lobby’s green roof with generous plantings; this character could be extended to the bridge and projecting egress stair, bringing further consistency to the design. She said that without additional refinements, the bridge element would appear as though it fell from the sky and got stuck. Mr. Krieger expressed support for the concept of using the egress stair for residents’ exercise, but he suggested that it could be more exuberant in its shape or project more from the building to better emphasize its role as an amenity for the building.
Mr. Krieger recommended further study of the high contrast between the dark precast concrete proposed for the base and the light brick of the building’s upper volumes, as well as further integrating the appearance of the lobby with the rest of the base. Ms. Gilbert asked how the affordable housing units would be distributed throughout the building. Mr. Swiatocha said that they would be distributed equally, although the plan is still being developed; he confirmed that all the residents would use the same entrance and have access to the building’s amenities.
Mr. Dunson commented that the building essentially has three parts, but their connections have not been adequately studied. He said the bridge appears to be floating in space, acknowledging that this may be intended in the design. Mr. Krieger recommended that the bridge have a more definitive design to make it appear either less or more connected to the residential wings. Mr. Dunson added that the base also requires a higher level of detailing, since it will be an important element in the design—for instance, the depth of the windows and the base’s connections with the upper volumes require further development. Ms. Meyer emphasized that because this new building will establish the architectural and urban character for the area, it should have a high quality of design; she expressed hope that the building will be a model worthy of emulating for the rest of the new development.
Vice Chairman Meyer summarized the consensus that the massing and articulation of the building are acceptable, and that the development of the detailing will be vital to the overall quality of the design. She noted that the Commission has provided several comments for the development of the elevations, particularly on the west including recommendations for relating the bridge, egress stair, green roof, and ground-floor lobby space. Mr. Krieger offered a motion to approve the concept submission with the comments provided for the refinement of the design. Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted this action.
D. District of Columbia Department of Transportation
CFA 15/NOV/18-7, Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge (South Capitol Street at the Anacostia River) and South Capitol Street corridor from I-295/Suitland Parkway interchange to P Street. Replacement bridge and redesign of the approaches. Final. (Previous: CFA 21/JUN/18-3.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposed final design for replacement of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge and redesign of its approaches. She noted that the Commission’s previous review of the bridge itself was in November 2017, and of the landscape design for the approaches in June 2018. She asked Delmar Lytle of the D.C. Department of Transportation to begin the presentation.
Mr. Lytle summarized the lengthy development of this bridge replacement project: the first study in 1998; the 2015 record of decision from the Federal Highway Administration as part of the environmental review process; and the selection of a design-build team in July 2017. The design has been refined in consultation with stakeholders and the community. He introduced planner Alan Harwood and landscape architect Ignacio Bunster of AECOM, the firm serving as engineer of record on the design-build team, to present the proposal.
Mr. Harwood summarized the large scope of the project, which encompasses 82 acres. The project is an important transition within the arrival sequence from Andrews Air Force Base to central Washington, a route used by visiting dignitaries. Suitland Parkway establishes the character from the Air Force base to the vicinity of the Anacostia River, and South Capitol Street then provides an urban-scaled connection to the U.S. Capitol. The project is intended to provide an improved connection between these segments, and to create better connections between neighborhoods on both sides of the river and to the river itself. He presented a diagram of the many points of connection and the sequence of open spaces along the riverfront. He described the broad concept of the “green river” of the Suitland Parkway corridor, and continuing with the open spaces of the Buzzard Point neighborhood, intersecting with the “blue river” of the Anacostia River itself. In addition to addressing urban connections, the design addresses ecological functions such as stormwater runoff, while also providing new recreational spaces. The project is designed to allow fur future connections to adjoining areas that are likely to become more intensely used, including underused parkland and undeveloped building sites.
Mr. Harwood presented the recent changes to the landscape design on the southeast side of the river, intended as an informal landscape with an open and natural character. At the request of the community, the design now includes more color with the addition of more ornamental and shade trees and the extensive planting of wildflowers. He noted that the challenges in this area include below-grade utility lines that impose significant weight restrictions, and the need for a levee rising six feet above the prevailing grade near the river. The placement of trees is intended to frame views toward the new bridge, and to open views more broadly among groves instead of creating a more formal view corridor. Within the oval landscaped area at the southeast bridge landing, the configuration of braided paths remains; in response to the community, a second gathering area has been designed at the southern convergence of the paths, with shaded provided by an adjacent specimen tree. The use of pollinator species has been expanded so that the area would serve as a butterfly garden. The historic shoreline of the river would be marked within the landscape, and an amphitheatre area would be defined by a terraced seating area and a stage area. Additional groves of trees have been added, which will address the community desire for more shaded areas for picnics. In the future, a large area of underused adjacent land is proposed to be transferred from the National Park Service to the D.C. government, allowing for improved use of open space and new building development. He said that the oval, as well as the esplanade extending to the south, would be available for passive recreation and could also be programmed with such activities as art installations, outdoor classrooms, sporting events, concerts, movies, or festivals; the riverfront area beneath the bridge provides an additional space for programming and would be protected from rain.
Mr. Bunster presented additional details of the proposed landscape on the southeast side of the river, which he said constitutes a majority of the project’s open space area. The scope includes meadows, rain gardens, bioswales, and more than 1,700 new trees, some of which are associated with the system of roads and vehicular ramps. He characterized this landscape as a transition from forest to meadow to lawn, with a corresponding transition of habitats. The design includes pedestrian crossings and a primary path that leads directly onto the bridge. Areas of pedestrian refuge are provided at the crossings of heavy traffic areas near the oval. Secondary paths would be surfaced with crushed stone that is compatible with experience the meadow and forest environments of the landscape. He indicated the extent of curved seating walls along some of the paths, conveying the sense that people can linger in this landscape as well as pass through it; the curves would serve to relate the landscape to the design of the bridge itself. Flowering trees would provide for seasonal interest, while canopy trees would provide more extensive shade. Within the southeast oval, a small bridge would be provided where the path crosses a bioswale. He said that this landscape would be a family-friendly environment, with views of the bridge and the cityscape. For the riverfront esplanade beneath the bridge, the materials would include repurposed stone from the piers of the existing Frederick Douglass Bridge. He emphasized the broad extent of the landscape on the southeast side of the river, with the potential to accommodate a lot of activity.
Mr. Harwood presented the design updates for the northwest side of the river, which he characterized as being defined by the surrounding urban character. The general form remains as previously presented, with an oval space aligned north-south within the city grid and providing a direct visual connection to the U.S. Capitol along South Capitol Street. The landscape character is more formal, in keeping with this context and emphasizing the visual focus on the Capitol. The design is also intended to recognize the diagonal alignment of Potomac Avenue, partly through the placement of trees, which would be used extensively on this side of the river to shape views and define street alignments. Within the oval landscaped area at the northwest bridge landing, a plaza near the north end would serve as a gathering place, and a lawn would extend southward. The placement of trees has been revised to define views and to provide a visual transition from the north–south axis of South Capitol Street to the diagonal axis of the new bridge. The design of the bioretention area has been revised to be more naturalistic, and the esplanade beneath the bridge has been widened to accommodate a wider boardwalk and additional activity. A small park reservation to the west of the northwest oval, currently neglected, would be landscaped as a bowtie park of the L’Enfant Plan; similar bowtie parks nearby have been improved in conjunction with other projects. The oval, as the largest open space on this side of the bridge project, would be the location for most of this side’s programming; he said that it would serve as an urban park for the Buzzard Point neighborhood. Sample activities could include eating lunches bought from food carts; temporary art installations; a farmers market; informal sports or related festivals, perhaps inspired by the proximity to the neighborhood’s baseball and soccer stadiums; and special events when these stadiums are in use, perhaps including outdoor screening of games that are sold out.
Mr. Bunster presented additional details of the landscape proposal for the northwest side of the river, which provides an interesting contrast to the landscape for the southeast. The landscape is designed to be occupied, with extensive seating walls around the plaza, and with low walls with benches alongside the lawn to the south. The emphasis at the northwest is on formality and framed views; most of the trees would be elms. He indicated a proposed grove of locust trees that would create dappled light for an event area, and a smaller grove of tupelos that will provide a strong red color in the autumn at the southern end of the South Capitol Street axis. He described the dissipation of this axis at the river, with the focus shifted to the bridge alignment and the transition toward the area of the city to the southeast. He said that the proposed grading has been adjusted to enhance the sense of arrival and the views. Bioretention areas would be placed toward the edges of the oval and in the meadow to the south.
Mr. Bunster said that the crosswalks connecting to Potomac Avenue on each side of the northwest oval are not directly aligned, resulting in an uneven configuration of approaches to the plaza; the loosely circular form of the plaza is intended to resolve this geometry without drawing attention to the non-alignment. He said that even without a large number of occupants, this area would be enjoyable to visit with the inspiring view of the U.S. Capitol, comparable at a smaller scale to the view along the National Mall. He presented the proposed paving materials of concrete and gravel; seating walls would be precast concrete. He noted that the progression southward from the oval is designed as a transition from formally organized spaces through bioswales to the riverfront, celebrating the presence of the river in the landscape. He said that fifty trees have been added to the design to strengthen the southern terminus of the South Capitol Street axis, as previously suggested by the Commission. The planting plan includes flowering trees and meadows to serve as wildlife habitat, although not as extensively as on the southeast side of the river. He indicated the boardwalk near the riverfront that would connect with other open spaces along the river; the stepped profile along the boardwalk would provide improved sightlines for events on the river or at more distant locations such as the Navy Yard. Mr. Krieger asked if the boardwalk is a separate project. Mr. Bunster clarified that the 350-foot-long segment within the site boundary would be implemented as part of this bridge project; the illustrated connections include existing and planned segments that are not part of this project. He added that the design envisions less ambient noise directly beneath the bridge than in the riverfront areas alongside it, and the boardwalk is therefore deflected and widened beneath the bridge to accommodate activities such as music performances.
Mr. Harwood indicated a detail of the planting plan to open a narrow view to the U.S. Capitol as people traverse a path leading up from the riverbank. Ms. Meyer asked if this view would be blocked by the rising topography; Mr. Harwood said that at least the top of the dome would be visible. Ms. Meyer expressed skepticism and requested a section drawing to clarify the sightline; Mr. Harwood said that even if the dome is not seen, the view would extend to the people gathered to enjoy the view from a higher elevation.
Mr. Harwood presented the recent design revisions and details for the bridge itself. He said that the arching forms of the bridge symbolize the unity of linking the areas of the city on each side of the river, as well as relating to a traditional form in Washington’s design vocabulary and a reference to the river’s curving path. The arches would also extend into the landscape. He provided samples of the proposed materials and colors for the bridge: white concrete, white steel, light gray girders and sheathing for the support cables, and dark blue for the bridge deck to provide a darker plane paralleling the lighter sky. Ms. Meyer asked about the material for the underside of the bridge, which would be prominently visible as the ceiling of the esplanade on each side of the river; Mr. Harwood responded that the underside would be a light-colored steel. Ms. Meyer asked if the lighter steel colors would match; Mr. Harwood said that they would be similar, but the colors for the cable sheathing are very limited, with only one gray tone available. He summarized the general design strategy of using lighter colors toward the sky and darker colors toward the water. He added that the nighttime lighting of the arches is a particular design concern, and the effect will be a thin blue line across the river with little light spill; a dimmable white LED system would be used, and the actual lighting level would be an operational issue.
Mr. Harwood described the four cantilevered belvederes along the bridge’s pedestrian and bicyclist paths; these would serve as places of respite with the special experience of being on a platform above the water. The belvederes would have benches made of the same materials as the bridge—concrete and steel—and plaques with quotations and images commemorating the life of Frederick Douglass. He illustrated a sample plaque, indicating the use of Douglass’s handwriting style for the text of the quotation. He said that the two plaques commemorating the earlier part of Douglass’s life would be at the two belvederes closest to the U.S. Capitol, relating to his government service as an ambassador; the two plaques relating to his later years would be closer to the Anacostia neighborhood where his home, Cedar Hill, is now a National Park Service site. He noted that the content of the plaques was developed by cultural historians working with information provided by the National Park Service. The plaques would be approximately 15.5 feet long, and their shape would echo the lozenge shape of the belvederes themselves; the surface would be chemically etched, and the plaques would be attached to the belvedere railings.
Vice Chairman Meyer invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Ms. Gilbert asked about the depiction in the drawings of a strip of granite cobbles along the northwest end of the bridge; Mr. Harwood clarified that this is needed as an apron for the bridge and is not intended as a pedestrian crossing or amenity. Ms. Meyer asked about the size of the two large oval spaces. Mr. Harwood said they would be nearly identical in size, approximately 500 feet north–south and 240 feet east–west, equivalent to 2.7 to 2.8 acres. He added that their shape is not truly oval: the north and south ends are semi-circles, and the east and west sides are straight lines.
Ms. Meyer questioned why the seating in the southeast oval is concentrated toward the bridge landing, where traffic would be most intense. Mr. Bunster responded that the northern end of this oval is envisioned as a potential location for a significant object, perhaps artwork that could be temporary or permanent. The seating is therefore concentrated in this area in anticipation of people’s desire to enjoy being near the artwork as well as being near the bridge itself. He noted that the seating would face southeast, away from the late-afternoon sunlight on a summer day, and with some shade in the area. Ms. Meyer also questioned the proximity of the pollinator garden to the roadway, commenting that car exhaust may discourage the presence of butterflies and other pollinators; she suggested that this garden may end up being ornamental rather than serving its intended purpose as a habitat. Mr. Bunster acknowledged this concern and agreed that it may become simply ornamental; he said that it is included to at least provide the potential for a future functioning pollinator garden, in response to a community request. Mr. Harwood added that this garden is approximately 100 feet from the roadway, a substantial distance that may not be apparent in the drawings of this large-scale project.
Mr. Krieger commented that the drawings show the project’s open spaces as being filled with people, which is easily illustrated with modern rendering techniques. He repeated his concern from previous reviews that potentially few people would be willing to cross the heavy traffic surrounding the ovals in order to reach these open spaces, and people might instead choose a simpler route directly to the riverfront and amphitheatre areas. He continued to question whether the northwest oval is in the tradition of a formal, axial public space intended for occupation or a parkway median intended to be seen from vehicles. He acknowledged that the proximity of the baseball stadium would generate some activity for this oval, but generally the ovals would likely not be heavily used. He therefore questioned why the design seems to be oriented toward accommodating a large number of people, instead of choosing a different design approach for these landscapes. He described the proposal as beautiful but based on questionable assumptions. He added that he supports the proposed commemorative plaques honoring Frederick Douglass; his dissatisfaction with the design of the bridge itself remains as stated in previous reviews, although the nighttime beauty of the bridge is apparent from the presentation.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the design has progressed favorably through the addition of more trees and meadow landscapes; Mr. Krieger urged continued effort at developing the design in this direction. Ms. Gilbert said that her initial reaction, as in past reviews, is to question why the two ovals have such different design characters; the presentation has demonstrated the design team’s expectation that they would be used very differently. She said that regardless of whether Mr. Krieger’s prediction of low occupancy is accurate, both ovals would be frequently experienced by people moving through them, such as bicyclists, and this experience would be very good. She supported the new topographic manipulation to create a viewing mound in the northwest oval, although she anticipated that the open spaces directly along the river would draw more people. Mr. Krieger added that drawing people to the river’s edge would be a desirable outcome. Ms. Gilbert agreed, citing the special experience of being near the water; she summarized that the ovals may not be the main destination for users of the landscape.
Ms. Meyer recalled Mr. Harwood’s introductory description of this project as extending Suitland Parkway’s best qualities to the Anacostia River and across it; she described this as a great strength of the design, citing the large-scale drifts of woods and meadows that reach toward the river. She said that the best spaces are the areas under the bridge on each riverbank, describing these as more interesting and effective than the ovals. She suggested that the intended expenditure for the southeast oval would be better allocated with less money for benches and more for plants, in order to build on the strength of the proposed meadow, improve the landscape’s performance for water absorption, and potentially attract additional wildlife. She agreed with Ms. Gilbert that the landscape serves an important role as a setting for people to move through, by walking and biking, instead of designing it for people to sit and look at a sculpture. For the northwest oval, she commented that the mound at the southern end would be the biggest draw, providing a spectacular vantage point for seeing the U.S. Capitol while enjoying cool breezes from the river; she continued to question the project team’s claim that other sightlines would be viable. She therefore suggested that the expenses for the northwest oval be shifted to provide more trees that give shade to the mound. Mr. Krieger agreed, citing the design team’s apparent confusion in designing the open spaces with occupancy features such as plazas when they will actually serve more as part of a transportation system; Ms. Meyer supported this analysis. Mr. Krieger summarized the Commission’s criticism as placing too much emphasis on creating beautiful monumental spaces reminiscent of the City Beautiful era, rather than focusing on human comfort and nature.
Ms. Meyer supported the proposed interpretive elements on the life of Frederick Douglass, but she discouraged the proposed location, commenting that the belvederes should be places for enjoying the expansive views across the river. She said that the interpretation would be an excellent addition to the esplanade areas under the bridge, where performances and concerts would occur; she added that this location would not be disrespectful of Douglass. She said that at the proposed location along the bridge, the plaques would not be seen by enough people, they would be subject to weather damage, and their proposed lozenge-shaped configuration would be too fussy in comparison to the elegance of the bridge arches. She added that she dislikes the design of the benches for the belvederes, which have an off-the-shelf character that seems to be the wrong design vocabulary in comparison to the minimalism of the bridge. She summarized that a more thoughtful allocation of resources would improve the project. Mr. Krieger said that he feels less strongly about challenging the proposed location for the plaques. He acknowledged that the number of people seeing them may not be large, and other places for memorialization could be viable; but he cited New York’s Brooklyn Bridge as attracting many pedestrians, and he said that some people would spend time enjoying the belvederes.
Mr. Dunson commented that the quality of experience at the belvederes would be improved by a more clear distinction between these restful spaces and the adjacent bicycle path. He said that the presentation drawings appear to show a convergence at these areas, and careful detailing will be important in providing an appropriate separation. He said that one solution could be to extend the boardwalk across the bridge, making use of a calming material. He said that the bridge’s vehicular traffic would be moving quickly, notwithstanding the posted speed limit, and the choice of materials and details will be important in creating a comfortable environment from this potentially unpleasant situation. He criticized the proposed seating as appearing to be uncomfortable, perhaps intended to be used for only short periods of time; he agreed that the materials for the benches should be considered further. He suggested further effort with the project’s detailing to improve aesthetics, comfort, and the sense of place. He added that the belvederes should be attractively designed if the goal is to encourage people to gather in these spaces; he described the character of the current design as merely a bridge with a couple of nice amenities.
Mr. Dunson said that he is not bothered by the proposed location for the plaques, while agreeing that the best places in the project will be the riverfront areas beneath the bridge. He emphasized that the material selections at these locations is important, and the boardwalks with a subtle stepped profile will be an important contribution. He suggested that comparable design gestures should be included at the belvederes to make them more pleasant spaces with a greater sense of separation from the roadway and bicycle path. He clarified that he is not necessarily recommending the use of wood at the belvederes, but he would be interested in having this considered.
Mr. Lytle responded that this project is constrained by the need for coordination with the Federal Highway Administration and the decision-making that emerges from the environmental review process. One result is a requirement that this long-term investment—planned to last for 100 years—must reserve a twelve-foot strip along the roadway edge on each side of the bridge as the potential location for adding a traffic lane in the future. This requirement has resulted in the proposed materials and design character for the bicycle paths. Ms. Meyer questioned the bias of this constraint in favor of cars, particularly as car use seems to be declining.
Mr. Dunson agreed that the design process may lean too much toward accommodating cars; he said that this bridge could be a beautiful place which drivers are willing to experience at a slow speed, instead of choosing an alternative higher-speed route. He said that the long-term future of car use beyond the next half-century is uncertain, and the design for this bridge should emphasize current needs and comfort. He added that people may increasingly want to cross the river as pedestrians or bicyclists, and the design should accommodate this trend. Ms. Gilbert added that the landscape design is very successful in providing amenities for pedestrians.
Ms. Meyer amplified her concern with the proposed plaques by describing the situation of a person facing toward the south, attempting to read the interpretive information on the horizontal surface of the plaque. The glare of the sunlight may make the plaques unreadable, and she said that the plaques may end up simply being used as tables. Ms. Gilbert agreed that the effects of weather and glare may be problematic at the proposed locations for the plaques, while a more powerful solution may be to choose an unexpected location that serves as a quiet place of pause. She emphasized that even without the plaques, the belvederes would be attractive due to the river views.
Vice Chairman Meyer observed that the submission is intended as a final design, while the Commission members have raised many concerns that involve design issues that are insufficiently developed. She suggested that the Commission could approve the components of the project that are satisfactory, while requesting a further submission of the areas identified for further study. Secretary Luebke said that this could be framed as a conditional approval, with specific elements excepted and perhaps with relatively minor comments for adjustments to the approved elements. He acknowledged that the D.C. government may be reluctant to pursue an additional review, but he noted that the design has changed little during the review process, while the bridge itself has been presented relatively few times and not in the past year. Vice Chairman Meyer said that this 100-year project deserves an adequate review process.
Vice Chairman Meyer suggested an action to give a conditional approval of the final submission, with the request to consider adding more trees—potentially offset in the project budget by reducing the extent of benches—and to reexamine the design of the belvederes to make them more comfortable in relation to the nearby bicycle and car traffic, with consideration of moving the commemorative plaques to another location where they would be more legible and seen by more people.
Mr. Lytle responded that the outcome of the environmental review process has imposed requirements and constraints on the project. Each of the ovals is required to be designed to accommodate a future memorial, which precludes placing anything in the current design at these future sites. The D.C. government also has a commitment to ensuring that the amenities are comparable on each side of the river, including the provision of equal amounts of seating. He said that the design has to strike a careful balance between establishing different design characters on each side of the river while maintaining this equitable balance of amenities. He said that community meetings are continuing in order to ensure that the desired balance is being attained.
Vice Chairman Meyer acknowledged the importance of these concerns; she emphasized that the Commission’s guidance is to add more plants where beneficial, and to cover the cost of this revision by not building seating that is unnecessary. Mr. Luebke said that a workable solution may be to eliminate the same small amount of seating from each side of the river. He expressed confidence that adding trees near the mound would not violate some legal constraint or entitlement process. Ms. Meyer added that a future memorial, in perhaps ten or twenty years, could involve removing some near-term landscape features; memorials can also be more horizontal. She noted that the request for added shade at the mound was included in the Commission’s previous review and remains an important concern. She said that for the near term, before any memorials are added, the southeast oval would be more enjoyable by providing the opportunity to walk through a large grove of trees to reach the bridge, and the northwest oval would be more enjoyable if unshaded sunlight is not discouraging people from ascending the mound for much of the summer. She said that removal of seating is optional, but the Commission’s other suggestions should be firmly included as part of her motion. Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted this action.
E. District of Columbia Department of General Services
CFA 15/NOV/18-8, Ward 1 Short-term Family and Permanent Supportive Housing, 2500 14th Street, NW. New six-story building with 50 residential units. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the concept submission for a new building for the dual program of short-term family housing and permanent supportive housing. Brian Butler, project manager with the D.C. Department of General Services (DGS), said that the new building is part of the effort to close the city’s centralized housing facility at the former D.C. General Hospital and create short-term facilities in each of D.C.’s eight wards. The 75,000-square-foot, six-story building would contain 35 short-term family housing units as well as 15 permanent supportive housing units for senior citizens. The new building would be located next to the existing Rita Bright Recreation Center in Columbia Heights. He said that engagement with the community has been ongoing for almost a year and has generally been positive. He asked architects Ralph Cunningham and Heather Daley Rao of Cunningham Quill Architects to present the design.
Mr. Cunningham indicated the steeply sloped building site at the southwest corner of Clifton and 14th Streets, NW. The site is currently used as surface parking for the adjacent recreation center, which dates from the 1970s; the neighborhood context consists primarily of multifamily housing from various periods. He presented the proposed site plan for the new building, which would be divided into two sections with separate entrances: short-term housing would be in the eastern wing of the building, close to 14th Street, with the permanent housing in the western wing toward the middle of the block. The courtyard space between the two wings would contain a playground for the children living in the short-term housing; this playground is required to be separate from play facilities located at the recreation center.
Ms. Rao indicated on axonometric drawings the prominence of the building at the corner of 14th Street. She said that after assessing feedback from the community and DGS, this highly visible corner of the building would be carefully detailed; discussions with the community have also resulted in generous barrier-free access and accommodations for pedestrians, such as angling the building elevation and creating an overhang at the plaza adjacent to the recreation center. To break up the large building mass and differentiate the two housing programs on the exterior, brick would be interwoven with fiber cement panels and another infill material surrounding the windows; the specific pairing of materials with regular and irregular fenestrations patterns is being studied. She said that window bays may be used to further break down the scale of the facades, as seen on some of the surrounding apartment buildings. She indicated the two building entrances, reiterating that the two housing programs would operate separately although they would share certain building services. She asked Joe Chambers of Landscape Architecture Bureau to present the landscape design.
Mr. Chambers said that the building’s street frontages would have as many plantings as possible; some of the planted areas would serve to fulfill stormwater management requirements, and the building would have green roofs where feasible. A small seating area would be located at the building entrance on 14th Street. He said the primary feature of the landscape design is the playground in the courtyard space, and the sight and sound of playing children would animate the building. The primary community space within the building would have a glass wall looking out to the playground, allowing guardians to watch children while remaining inside.
Ms. Rao then presented the proposed building plans. The P1 level, which includes parking spaces for both the recreation center and the new housing facilities, emerges partially above the ground as the grade slopes steeply down to the south along 14th Street; the entry lobby for the short-term housing facility would be located on this level at the building’s southeast corner, adjacent to the interior parking area to the north and west. The next level up would be at the grade of Clifton Street; this level would include the entry lobby for the supportive housing facility on the west, six of the short-term housing units on the east, and the primary community space on the south adjacent to the courtyard playground. The building’s upper levels would be divided for the two housing programs, with controlled access between the two sections; the top floor above the supportive housing would have a terrace to provide a separate outdoor space for this facility.
Ms. Rao said that the building’s elevations are still under design, with elements such as window size, layout, and combination being discussed with the project’s advisory team. Along the 14th Street elevation, areas with an irregular window pattern would have fiber cement panels; areas with a more regular window pattern would be brick and another material to be determined. On the south elevation, she indicated a wall area that would be windowless due to building code restrictions; the design for this wall will be further articulated to add visual interest. She concluded by describing the proposed gray and tan color palette, which is intended to fit the context of 14th Street; this palette will likely be studied and discussed with the community in the coming weeks.
Mr. Dunson expressed appreciation for the presentation. He commented that the building’s facade along 14th Street would require the most design development since it would give distinction to the building and connect it to the wider context of the street corridor. He added that the character of the north facade would also be important, and the materials and further detailing of the new building should relate to the existing nearby apartment buildings. He said that the fenestration of the top floor and the termination of the building at the roofline appear underdeveloped; he recommended that these areas be further studied to tie the bottom, middle, and top of the building together. He requested that these details be included in the next presentation of the project.
Ms. Meyer expressed support for the intention to differentiate the two housing programs with architecturally distinctive wings; however, she said that this differentiation should not come at the expense of a coherent building expression. She suggested that the two wings be more related in appearance, and she commented that the north elevation along Clifton Street appears overly institutional. She observed that the courtyard and playground design has not yet been developed, while expressing support for the intention to have the community space located adjacent to this area. She commented that the playground space would be defined by the three courtyard facades, the open side to the north, the ground plane, and the sky; although this space is located between the two programmatic wings of the building, the design should be detailed to create a safe, calming, and welcoming place for the children living in the temporary housing.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the entrance to the courtyard space appears narrow; she suggested opening up the entry sequence and courtyard to avoid creating the sense of an enclosed, constricted space. Mr. Dunson added that the entrance for the short-term housing, adjacent to the recreation center, is also an important threshold for the building; he advised careful selection and organization of materials in this area. Ms. Meyer expressed support for the ramp and stair configuration proposed for this threshold, commenting that it would successfully mediate the microtopography; she suggested that Ms. Gilbert’s concerns regarding the courtyard could be resolved by using a similar treatment.
Mr. Dunson summarized the consensus that the concept is progressing in a good direction; he offered a motion to approve the submission with the comments provided, with particular emphasis on the north facade, the courtyard, the 14th Street entrance, window sizes and patterns, and the relationship of glass to the building facades. Upon a second by Ms. Gilbert, the Commission adopted this action. Ms. Meyer confirmed for Secretary Luebke that the Commission would like to review a final design submission for this project.
F. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
SL 19-042, 601 D Street, NW. Office building, renovation and additions. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept design for the revitalization of the Patrick Henry Building, a private office building that forms part of the architectural frame of large buildings surrounding the Judiciary Square precinct. The existing building was designed by Vlastimil Koubek and was built in 1973. The proposal is to entirely replace the facade, add an 11th floor at the top of the building, and reconfigure the entrances and lobby. She asked Rustom Cowasjee, managing director of developer Tishman Speyer, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Cowasjee said that the purpose of the project is to reposition this rental building by upgrading the facade, improving the ground plane including added permeability, establishing a relationship to the nearby 7th Street retail corridor, and adding a level at the top of the building. He introduced architect Joey Shimoda of Shimoda Design Group to present the design.
Mr. Shimoda described in more detail the five goals of the project: to create memorable architecture, to enhance the pedestrian experience, to refresh the facade with warm and lasting materials, to improve neighborhood amenities with retail space, and to develop the roof level with shared amenities and indoor and outdoor spaces that take advantage of the views. He presented an aerial photograph of the wider context, indicating the very active 7th Street corridor to the west; the project is intended to move some of this activity toward this building. More directly, the project would enhance the character of 6th Street. Other key features of the wider context include the Capital One Arena to the north and Judiciary Square to the east.
Mr. Shimoda then described the immediate context of this block of the city. The buildings to the west along D Street include a mix of two- and three-story facades of varying color and historical periods; immediately to the north along 6th Street is a larger modern building, comparable in scale to 601 D Street. The design goal is to balance this wide-ranging context. Loading access would continue to be from the northwest, where a service yard for two buildings is reached through the existing alley system along the west side of the site. The vehicular ramp to the building’s below-grade parking would remain at the western end of the building’s D Street frontage. The main lobby would remain at the center of the D Street frontage, although reduced in size and updated in appearance. A bicycle entrance would be created on the east along 6th Street, leading down to an extensive bicycle storage and maintenance facility.
Mr. Shimoda described the existing facade of precast concrete as reasonably successful, but he noted that the building’s long-time occupant has been offices of the U.S. Department of Justice, and public access was not emphasized in the exterior treatment. With new tenants now anticipated, the facade would be changed to have a friendlier character that relates to more public uses in the building and to the brick tones of nearby buildings. The southeast corner of the site at 6th and D Streets would be emphasized.
Mr. Shimoda presented perspective views of the proposed facade, which would be primarily glass with copper anodized mullions. He indicated the expanded top floor, which would be set back one-to-one from the primary building faces and would therefore not be readily perceived as part of the building mass. This level would contain mechanical rooms, office space, amenity areas for building tenants, and outdoor terraces on the south and east. He emphasized the more open character for the building’s base at the corner of 6th and D Streets, giving a sense of porosity at the sidewalk level and establishing a two-story base for the building that diminishes as the grade rises nearly a full story along 6th Street. To address the problem of windowless first-floor office space along this rising grade, the 6th Street facade would also include a new recessed lightwell.
Mr. Shimoda described the subtly angled treatment of the proposed glass facades, intended to avoid the character of a flat-walled modern building. The glass panes would be slightly tilted in plan, alternating between two directions; the overall pattern would be somewhat randomized, which he said would help the building to sparkle and reflect light differently over the course of the day, rather than being perceived as a monolith. The mullions would project four to six inches in front of the glass, adding depth and shadow to the facade. The materials at the base would be bronze and fluted glass, and the overall tonal range would be brown to red.
Mr. Shimoda presented an exterior perspective of the proposed lobby treatment, indicating the transition from copper mullions to closely spaced copper fins. The entrance canopy, also of copper, would establish a more modest scale at the sidewalk. New retail spaces along the street frontages would have sliding glass doors that would allow the storefronts to be open to the sidewalk during good weather. Some of the street frontage would also be designed with built-in benches, helping to address the grade variation. The lintels above the storefronts and at the building columns would be curved bronze that gives a scalloped effect framing the openings, encouraging people to enter the shops; the curved bronze would reflect light differently than the adjacent fluted glass. He presented larger-scale drawings of the facade details, photographs of the proposed materials, and a sample board of materials. He added that the back of the fluted glass would be painted, using a color that is compatible with bronze.
Mr. Shimoda presented the proposed floorplans, indicating the carving out of the second story to allow for double-height spaces along much of the street frontage. He noted the altered lobby plan, reduced in width from three to two bays. He concluded with elevations of the street and alley frontages. The lengthy west elevation faces a relatively narrow alley; at the two-story base, the two bays closest to D Street would be open to the parking ramp, while the remainder of the base on the west and along the service yard would retain the existing precast concrete panels; the upper stories would have a continuation of the new glass facade. He offered to receive comments from the Commission at this point or show further details of the proposed construction.
Vice Chairman Meyer noted the Commission’s satisfaction with the level of detail presented, and she invited questions and comments. Mr. Dunson asked if the illustrated seating built into the facade along D Street would also extend along 6th Street. Mr. Shimoda responded that this feature is not included along 6th Street, because the constriction of office window exposure from the rising topography would be worsened by adding benches along this frontage; in contrast, the sidewalk level along D Street is slightly below the interior floor level, and the proposed benches along this edge would therefore not block views from the interior. Mr. Dunson asked for clarification of the treatment along the street edges; Mr. Shimoda described each of the entrances and double-height spaces, including the open southeast corner where a guardrail along the 6th Street sidewalk would protect pedestrians from the drop-off as the grade rises. Mr. Dunson commented that the small gesture of opening this corner has a substantial impact on creating a more open character for the facade.
Ms. Meyer expressed surprise that the Department of Justice would want such a transparent facade, and she asked for clarification of the future tenancy; Mr. Shimoda said that the Department of Justice will be vacating its office space in the building. Mr. Shubow observed that the neighboring buildings along D Street and in the wider context are masonry; he asked how the proposed exterior is intended to harmonize with this context. Mr. Shimoda responded that the intention is to give the building a fresh appearance, rather than to use materials similar to the existing limestone and precast concrete facade. The proposed use of copper and bronze is intended to relate to the earth tones of the brick exterior of nearby buildings, especially along both 6th and D Streets; he noted that some nearby buildings have yellow brick, which he characterized as being in the same family of warm colors. Mr. Shubow asked if the copper would oxidize; Mr. Shimoda responded that the proposed material, included on the sample board, is an anodized aluminum copper that would not oxidize. He added that the oil-rubbed bronze would also probably not change in color. Ms. Meyer commented that the tilting window panes may reflect more of the nearby terra cotta colors than if the building simply had a glass wall. She asked for clarification of the direction of the tilting; Mr. Shimoda said that the tilt would occur only in two directions, forming a pattern of projecting and recessing triangles along the facade.
Mr. Dunson expressed support for the concept design, commenting that the palette of materials is very strong and has a sense of richness while also being compatible with the context and the building type. He acknowledged that not all buildings from this period are great, but he appreciates Mr. Shimoda’s recognition of this building’s strengths. He said that this proposal will help to reconcile the disparity between buildings from several decades ago and the more recent construction and restoration in the vicinity. He said that the proposal will bring this building up to the quality that is needed to enhance the neighborhood; he added that this location is important, with Federal Triangle only a block away. He said that the proposed double-height spaces would serve to lighten the building’s character and improve the pedestrian experience in contrast to the building’s current character as a “blockade.” He summarized that the richness of the materials would benefit the neighborhood, and he looks forward to the review of further detailing—especially at the base, where pedestrians will see the building most closely. He asked if replacing the adjacent sidewalk pavers is included in this project, providing the opportunity to ground the building with a different paving material. Mr. Shimoda clarified that precast pavers are used on the existing 6th Street sidewalk, but the D Street sidewalk is entirely brick. Mr. Dunson said that the brick along this edge would help to link the building to 7th Street on the west and improve the experience as pedestrians round the corner from 6th Street; nonetheless, he suggested careful study of the sidewalk materials as the concept design is developed.
Ms. Gilbert asked for further information about the proposed expansion of the building’s top floor. Mr. Shimoda confirmed that none of the proposed expansion would rise higher than the existing mechanical space. The uniform roof edge of this level would be set back fifteen feet from the building’s primary street faces; the perimeter wall of this level would be set further back from the roof edge, sometimes substantially as at the southeast corner to accommodate an enlarged terrace area. The curtainwall and copper mullions would be a taller version of the same system proposed for the main office levels; he said that this level would therefore continue the exterior rhythm of the levels below. The soffit beneath the roof overhang would be the same treatment of copper as at the soffit of the building’s entrance canopy, providing a cohesive appearance for the top and bottom of the building when seen from a distance. He added that the terraces would be located where views are available to the U.S. Capitol on the southeast and the Washington Monument on the southwest; the layout of the expanded interior spaces is intended to be flexible to accommodate use by one or several tenants.
Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation for the subtle manipulations that will add life to the facade; she said that the design would enrich the experience of the building without being self-conscious or calling attention to itself. Focusing on the ground level, she acknowledged that the allowable work in the sidewalk area may be limited to replacement of street trees where needed. She noted that without soil improvement, street trees in the U.S. have an average lifespan of only seven years; she therefore recommended total replacement of the soil as a worthwhile investment for healthier trees, avoiding the need for frequent replanting or the loss of adequate shade and air pollution mitigation. She supported the inclusion of long benches along the building’s D Street frontage, but she discouraged the scalloped profile of the seating surface that is shown in the renderings due to the potential discomfort for some users. Mr. Shimoda responded that the width of the scallops could be varied to accommodate people of different sizes. Ms. Meyer instead recommended a simple, flat surface; she said that the proposed sculpting of the columns and soffit contributes to the experience of the public realm, but the sculpting of the bench surface would be perceived as an anti-public gesture that is intended to exclude some people, including the homeless. She added that if having members of the public sit at this location is problematic, then seating should not be provided; but if people are invited to sit, then the design of the seating should not be mean-spirited.
Mr. Shubow cited his recent study of the Commission’s history since being appointed as a member; he noted a comment attributed to Commission member Michael McKinnell from 2011, warning about the proliferation of glass buildings in this predominantly masonry city. Mr. Shubow commented that the situation has grown worse in recent years, with more glass buildings and especially glass boxes. He acknowledged the facade manipulations of the current proposal but said that it is nonetheless essentially a glass box, which could be harmful to the goal of retaining Washington’s character as a masonry city. He said that he therefore does not support the proposed concept.
Mr. Dunson said that despite his roots in Modernist architecture, he had similarly opposed the construction of glass buildings for many years. However, he urged that the merits of a glass facade be considered from its benefit for the building’s interior and the occupants, not just from the exterior appearance. He acknowledged the desirability of maintaining Washington’s design traditions, including the prevalence of masonry exteriors, but he also supported greater consideration of how people experience a building from within. Mr. Shimoda added that this building has a large floor plate, resulting in the design challenge of bringing adequate daylight to the interior; the increased transparency of the facade will help to improve the interior environment.
Ms. Meyer said that European design standards would likely not allow for such deep office space without daylight, but American office buildings are more likely to place higher-ranking employees near windows while lower-ranking employees have no daylight. Mr. Shimoda agreed that office layouts can be very hierarchical. Ms. Meyer acknowledged the importance of Mr. Shubow’s concern but said that the choice between masonry and glass facades should not automatically be decided in favor of masonry. She suggested that the Commission should instead consider the specific qualities in each project; for this proposal, the benefits include the introduction of interior lightwells and double-height spaces along the street level, the modulation of the proposed facade to create a faceted rather than monolithic volume, and the use of high-quality materials, including copper that will provide a beautiful tonal reference to masonry. Ms. Gilbert added that the proposed design highlights and amplifies the nearby buildings, including their materials; the effect will be a sense of flickering and shadowing.
Mr. Dunson offered a motion to approve the concept submission with the comments provided; he added that the next submission should include further development of the exterior detailing, particularly at the sidewalk level and at the top floor. Mr. Shimoda offered to present additional detailing that has already been developed but was omitted from the presentation drawings; Vice Chairman Meyer said that this information should be reviewed by the Commission in the future as part of the final design submission. Upon her second, the Commission adopted Mr. Dunson’s motion for approval, with Mr. Shubow opposed.
G. United States Mint
CFA 15/NOV/18-9, 2019 American Veterans Medal Program. Design for a silver medal and bronze duplicates. Final. Mr. Simon introduced the proposal for a medal honoring American military veterans; the medal would be available for purchase from the U.S. Mint, in contrast to other medals that are awarded by the government. He provided samples of a comparable recent silver coin and bronze medal for the Commission’s inspection. He asked April Stafford of the Mint to present the design alternatives.
Ms. Stafford said that this medal is intended to honor the service and sacrifice of the nation’s veterans. It would be produced in silver in 2019, with a diameter of 1.5 inches, to be sold as part of a special set that would include the 2019 commemorative coin honoring the American Legion. From 2020 onward, the medal would be produced in bronze at two sizes: a three-inch and 1.5-inch diameter. She noted that this medal is not limited in quantity nor production year; it is intended as a permanent offering to supplement the Mint’s other medals that honor particular branches of the military or special anniversaries.
Ms. Stafford said that the design alternatives were discussed the previous day by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC), and the resulting preferences will be noted during the presentation. This medal is not associated with an official outside liaison, which would ordinarily be designated in the authorizing legislation, but the Mint has been consulting with representatives of the American Legion, and their preferences will also be noted during the presentation.
Ms. Stafford presented fifteen alternatives for the medal’s obverse and twenty designs for the reverse. She said that the CCAC supported obverses #3 and #4, and reverse #8; the American Legion representatives supported obverses #3, 5, 6, 8, and 9, along with reverses #1, 4, 11, 15, and 18. She noted that the American Legion generally preferred designs that do not depict a specific person or military uniform, relying instead on more generalized symbols; the CCAC’s recommendations are also consistent with this design approach.
Ms. Meyer expressed support for reverse #8, depicting a field of stars with one star missing, along with a single incused star in the center. Ms. Stafford said that the field of stars is intended to symbolize all American veterans, while the single star symbolizes the veterans who have died in military service, and the missing star within the field conveys the nation’s sense of loss. Ms. Meyer described the concept as a moving idea; she asked if the missing star would be noticeable. Ron Harrigal, the manager of design and production for the Mint, responded that the relief and finish on the medal could be used to heighten the sense of contrast; the incused treatment of the central star would provide further emphasis. Ms. Gilbert, Mr. Dunson, and Mr. Shubow agreed that reverse #8 would be powerful.
For the obverse, Ms. Meyer offered several comments on alternatives #3 and #4, the CCAC’s preferences. She said that the design motif of an eagle, seen on obverse #3, has been frequently used for coins and medals, or at least for those that have been reviewed by the Commission in recent years. She said that the inscription on alternative #4—“Honoring America’s Veterans”—is preferable to the phrase “Celebrating America’s Veterans” on alternative #3. She expressed support for the depiction of an allegorical female figure in alternative #4, citing her sense of strength and the dramatic perspective of the extended left arm holding a wreath; she contrasted this powerful depiction with the overly sexualized allegorical women that have been included in past submissions from the Mint. She added that both sizes of the medal should be sufficiently large for the legibility of the details of the wreath and the allegorical figure’s wings. Ms. Gilbert commented that the figure in alternative #4 combines classical iconography with a modern gesture.
Mr. Dunson suggested consideration of obverse #10, depicting a varied group of saluting veterans; Ms. Meyer recalled the preference of the CCAC and the American Legion to avoid designs depicting people and uniforms. Mr. Dunson said that he could also support obverse #3, commenting that the eagle is always an appropriate design motif. He said that the five stars on obverse #3, intended to symbolize the branches of the U.S. military, may be too subtle for many people viewing the medal. In contrast, he said that the military reference in obverse #10 is much more obvious; he added that the personalization of depicting specific people and uniforms can sometimes be acceptable.
Ms. Meyer said that she could support obverse #3 with the substitution of the inscription from obverse #4. Ms. Gilbert reiterated her support for obverse #4, commenting that its design is unique and dramatic. Mr. Shubow acknowledged the attempt at an unusual perspective in obverse #4, but he said that the result is strange due to the large size of the figure’s left hand and the wreath. He offered support for obverse #12, citing the composition’s inclusion of air, land, and sea, as well as the beautiful Latin inscription. Representatives of the Mint reported that the CCAC gave a low score to obverse #12, and the Latin text would require a spelling correction. Ms. Stafford added that the Mint might choose to substitute an English translation of the phrase—“In Defense of Liberty”—for easier understanding than the proposed inscription in Latin.
Secretary Luebke noted that the Commission could choose to support more than one alternative, such as obverses #3 and #4, if opinions are divided. Ms. Gilbert agreed with Ms. Meyer that the Commission has seen many coin designs that are similar to obverse #3, and they are difficult to differentiate. Mr. Dunson reiterated his willingness to support an eagle as the design motif; Ms. Gilbert acknowledged the design clarity of obverse #3.
Ms. Stafford requested further guidance on the inclusion of wings in obverse #4, if it goes forward as the selected design. Ms. Meyer encouraged including the wings as part of the allegorical figure; she also acknowledged Mr. Shubow’s concern that elements such as the wings and fingers could result in a confusing design at the modest scale of the medal. Mr. Shubow added that the flowers woven into the wreath are an additional complication of the design; Ms. Stafford responded that the CCAC has suggested consideration of omitting these flowers. Ms. Gilbert said that a simpler laurel wreath would be appropriate. Ms. Meyer asked Mr. Harrigal to address the concerns about design legibility. Mr. Harrigal responded that the available depth for relief on a typical silver coin of this size would be 0.015 inches; translating the drawing into a small sculpture with this limited relief would be very difficult. He said that the challenges include conveying the perspective, providing adequate detail for the head of the woman at this scale, and detailing the projecting arm that is layered against the wing seen directly behind it. Ms. Gilbert asked if the sculpting would be more feasible if the figure’s pose were adjusted, perhaps turned to be more in profile and with a less problematic perspective of the arm and large hand; Mr. Harrigal agreed that these modifications would be helpful, such as using a three-quarter pose. Ms. Gilbert also suggested adjusting or eliminating the wings; Ms. Meyer reiterated that the wings should be included to ensure that the woman is understood to be an allegorical figure. She concluded that the multiplicity of design elements in obverse #4 may be infeasible for the scale of this medal, and she suggested that the Commission simply encourage future proposals from the artist of this design. Mr. Shubow agreed that the face of this allegorical woman should be incorporated into a future design from the Mint; Ms. Gilbert agreed. Ms. Meyer also encouraged future exploration of a foreshortened perspective when it could be more effective with the subject matter of a coin or medal.
Vice Chairman Meyer suggested a consensus to recommend obverse #3, substituting the phrase “Honoring America’s Veterans” instead of “Celebrating America’s Veterans.” Mr. Dunson supported this recommendation. Ms. Gilbert observed that stars are included in both obverse #3 and the consensus choice of reverse #8; she suggested a special treatment to differentiate the stars on each side of the medal. Mr. Harrigal responded that greater relief or faceting could be used; Ms. Gilbert supported this detailing. Ms. Meyer added that the fonts should be coordinated between the selected obverse and reverse designs. She summarized the recommendation for obverse #3 and reverse #8, with the comments provided. Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted this action.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:39 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA