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 9:05 a.m.
Hon. Elizabeth Meyer, Vice Chairman
Hon. Edward Dunson
Hon. Liza Gilbert
Hon. Toni Griffin
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
(Due to the absence of the Chairman, the Vice Chairman presided at the meeting.)
A. Approval of the minutes of the 15 November meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the November meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the minutes.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 21 March, 18 April, and 16 May 2019.
C. Report on the cancellation of the 17 January 2019 meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the Commission’s January meeting was cancelled due to the partial shutdown of the federal government from 22 December 2018 to 26 January 2019. Since resuming operations, the Commission staff has been processing the backlog of submissions, particularly the more time-sensitive referrals by the D.C. government under the Shipstead-Luce Act and Old Georgetown Act.
D. Confirmation of the approval of the recommendations for the December 2018 Old Georgetown Act submissions. Mr. Luebke asked the Commission to take a formal vote to confirm the Old Georgetown Board recommendations that were circulated and endorsed in December, when no Commission meeting was held. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Ms. Griffin, the Commission confirmed its approval. (This confirmation is a normal action for cases reviewed by the Board in December each year, unrelated to the subsequent shutdown of operations.) (See Appendix III under agenda item II.A for the February 2019 appendix of Old Georgetown Act submissions, including cases submitted for the cancelled January 2019 meeting.)
E. Report on the approval of a gift of 261 objects from the Mary and Cheney Cowles Collection, proposed for acquisition by the Freer Gallery of Art. Mr. Luebke reported Chairman Powell’s approval on 17 December 2018 of the Smithsonian Institution’s acceptance of 261 artworks as part of the permanent collection of the Freer Gallery of Art. He said that the gift is one-third of the large and important collection of Mary and Cheney Cowles, which focuses on Japanese painting and calligraphy. The artworks in this gift will be particularly helpful in filling two gaps in the Freer’s holdings: the “literati” painters of the 17th to 19th centuries, and works by modern masters of the later 19th and 20th centuries. He noted that the remainder of the Cowles collection is being donated to the Portland Museum of Art in Oregon and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
F. Report on the staff inspection of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum facade mockup. Mr. Luebke reported on the staff inspection of a facade mockup for the National Air and Space Museum renovation, held at a curtainwall testing facility in Pennsylvania on 27 November 2018. The mockup included the proposed curtainwall and granite. He expressed overall satisfaction with the proposed materials, noting that the tone of the granite is similar to the building’s existing exterior limestone that will be removed. He said that the issues identified in the inspection were the scale and gradation of the frit on the glass to be used for the curtainwall and roof, and the color of the caulking for the stone joints to avoid a tone that is too pink or too gray. Based on subsequent conversations with the Smithsonian staff, the fritting pattern will be small dots that become denser toward the top of the building, with the base having a more transparent treatment of the glass.
G. Election of two Commission members or staff to serve on the jury for the 2020 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Obverse Design Competition. Mr. Luebke reported that the legislative authorization for a commemorative coin requires an open competition for the selection of an artist for the obverse, with the Commission to provide two people to serve on the selection jury. The other jury members would be the Mint’s chief engraver and two people from the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee. The jury’s work would take place from approximately mid-April to early May 2019. He noted that the resulting obverse design would later be presented to the Commission for review; the reverse design, depicting a basketball, is anticipated for the Commission’s review in April 2019. He said that a similar process has been used for other recent coins. He added that one of the Commission’s designees could be a staff member.
Vice Chairman Meyer suggested considering this matter during the lunch break, when the Commission members will be able to consider more carefully their availability during this time period. [Following the meeting, the Commission selected Mr. Dunson, with Ms. Gilbert as his alternate, and Mr. Lindstrom of the staff, as members of the selection jury.]
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that the only change to the draft appendix is a minor format draft adjustment. Upon a motion by Ms. Griffin with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the revised Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler noted the unusually long appendix with 48 projects, including those submitted to the D.C. government in anticipation of the Commission’s review in January—postponed due to the shutdown—as well as the projects submitted on the normal schedule for review in February. She reported that two recommendations from the draft appendix have been changed: case number SL 19-073 was withdrawn at the applicant’s request and will be resubmitted with a revised scope; and SL 19-093 now has a favorable recommendation based on the receipt of adequate documentation. Six cases listed on the draft appendix have been removed; these cases are being held open for review in a future month. An additional case, SL 19-088, was changed to this status earlier this morning after the printing of the revised appendix that has been distributed; similarly, it will be removed from the appendix. The favorable recommendations for thirteen projects are subject to the anticipated receipt of supplemental materials; she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations when the materials are received. Vice Chairman Meyer expressed appreciation for handling the large caseload; Mr. Luebke added that each of these months had a heavy caseload, and the need to process both months simultaneously required exceptional effort. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Ms. Griffin, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act appendix.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Luebke noted that the Old Georgetown Board meeting scheduled for early January was cancelled; the Board met in early February on its normal schedule, and it reviewed the cases submitted for both the January and February meetings. Ms. Stevenson reported that the resulting appendix has 28 projects; the only change to the draft appendix is to note the receipt date for the revised drawings for two projects. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the revised Old Georgetown Act appendix.
B. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 21/FEB/19-1, National Native American Veterans Memorial. Maryland Avenue at 3rd Street, SW, on the grounds of the National Museum of the American Indian. New memorial. Information presentation. Secretary Luebke introduced the information presentation on the proposed National Native American Veterans Memorial, to be located on the grounds of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) at Maryland Avenue and 3rd Street, SW. He said the memorial, authorized by Congress in 1994, will honor Native American veterans from throughout the United States along with their families. A juried two-stage design competition was held in 2017, and the unanimous selection was a proposal titled “Warriors’ Circle of Honor” by Native American artist Harvey Pratt of Oklahoma. The design features a vertical stainless steel ring illuminated with a flame. Mr. Luebke said that the Smithsonian is requesting the Commission’s support for the proposed location near the northeast corner of the museum grounds, along with comments to assist in the design development. He asked Ann Trowbridge of the Smithsonian Institution to begin the presentation.
Ms. Trowbridge emphasized the importance of this memorial to the NMAI, noting that it had been established by the museum’s founding legislation. The memorial was originally authorized for a location inside the museum building; further legislation enables it to be placed outside on the museum grounds and for the NMAI to accept donations for its construction. Before the competition, the Smithsonian conducted extensive consultation with Native American veterans across the country to develop goals and guidelines for the competition.
Ms. Trowbridge introduced Kevin Gover, director of the National Museum of the American Indian. Mr. Gover emphasized that this memorial, established under Congressional direction, is the most important project the museum has undertaken since its opening in 2004. He noted that the objective changed slightly over time, in response to the project team’s meetings with Native American veterans, and he expressed satisfaction that Mr. Pratt’s design will meet the veterans’ expectations.
For the design presentation, Ms. Trowbridge introduced artist Harvey Pratt, architect Hans Butzer of Butzer Architects and Urbanism, and landscape architect Elliot Rhodeside of Rhodeside & Harwell. Mr. Pratt said that he served with the Marine Corps in the Vietnam War, and he described himself as a Native American artist as well as a forensic artist, with a fifty-year career in law enforcement. He said that his role as a Southern Cheyenne peace chief involves participation in many ceremonies; the memorial design recognizes the many sacred places in the world where ceremonies are enacted, and he emphasized that it would be more than a piece of sculpture. He added that Native people are the same and also different, walking the same road in individual ways, and this design is intended to create a timeless place for Native Americans from all tribes.
Mr. Pratt described the design’s features, which will be familiar to all Native Americans: the circle, compass directions, and natural elements. A circle also avoids the use of a representational image that would soon appear dated; the timeless circle would look the same to people today and a century from now. The large circle of the sculpture represents the hole in the sky where the Creator lives; it also represents life and the cycle of seasons, and the roundness of tree trunks and of the moon and sun. Because Native ceremonies are enacted in circular spaces, the sculpture would occupy the center of a circular enclosure where visitors would pray for their warriors and ancestors. He said that the path leading through the memorial represents the “red road,” or path of harmony. The memorial would mark the cardinal directions of north, south, east, and west, along with up, down, and the point where an individual stands. He elaborated that the east represents the beginning of the day, always a new start; the memorial would also recognize the belief that the Creator comes from the southwest, Mother Earth comes from the northwest, and ancestors are associated with the northeast. The memorial would incorporate the elements of earth, air, fire, and water, used in Native ceremonies: it would be located on the earth, near sacred waters, and a fire would burn at the base of the circle. He said that he had envisioned the fire burning constantly but this has proved infeasible, and the fire will only burn for specific ceremonies and dates. Additional elements include four lances outside the central enclosure, to which families can attach prayer cloths that carry a prayer for a veteran; when the wind blows, the prayer flies out. Finally, the seal of each branch of the U.S. military will be carved on the outer stone wall. He expressed hope that ceremonies at the memorial would encourage non-Native visitors to ask questions of the Native people.
Mr. Rhodeside presented views of the site from various directions, notably from the corner of 3rd Street and Jefferson Drive, SW. He observed that the ecological zones defining the grounds have grown substantially since they were installed fifteen years ago. The new memorial would be inserted next to the freshwater wetland zone, near the upland hardwood forest. The memorial’s design would protect the adjoining natural resources, including the wetland and the large grove of birch trees whose canopy would frame the memorial and a view of the museum. He described the two approaches that lead to the entrance point of the site—one from the northeast along the River Walk, leading from the corner of 4th Street and Jefferson Drive; and the other from Maryland Avenue on the south to the Welcome Circle, a large plaza to the east of the museum entrance. The existing “grandfather” rocks on the northeast side of the Welcome Circle would mark the beginning of the memorial’s immediate approach path.
Mr. Butzer said that the existing site features near this entrance area define a threshold that brings together visitors arriving from different directions; the memorial and its approach path would adjoin an existing series of outdoor program areas that include the grandfather rocks and a prayer circle named for the late Senator Daniel Inouye. He described the planned approach path as a “winding seam” that would navigate between woodland and wetland, gradually introducing the memorial, which would be a focal element of views from the museum entrance and the Welcome Circle; seen from the corner of 3rd Street and Jefferson Avenue, the memorial would frame the museum. He said that the design team has observed how the site changes through the seasons, and as a result the planting palette is being reconsidered; in the renderings, the palette has been abstracted to explore relationships of solid and void, as well as translucency and transparency.
Mr. Butzer described the memorial sculpture and precinct in more detail. The memorial would be positioned along the edge of the wetland so that it appears to hover or float on the water’s edge. The large vertical ring of the sculpture would occupy the center of a circular enclave formed by a ring of benches; this precinct would serve at times as a place for solitary contemplation, and would also be a place where people gather for ceremonies. The sculpture would be supported on a cylindrical ribbed black stone drum, with the fire element incorporated into the ring’s base. The sound of water cascading over the ribs on the drum would help to define the intimacy of this space; the unique character would also result from the scents of the plants, the cooling effect of the wind passing over the wetlands, and the sound of the wind blowing the prayer cloths.
Vice Chairman Meyer opened the discussion by observing that the memorial’s location, and the relationship between the circular precinct and the perimeter path, appear appropriate and correctly scaled. She observed that the installation of the memorial would eliminate part of the existing water and vegetation in this area; she asked how the design would ensure that this existing composition retains its intended effect. She also asked for more information on the appearance of the approach path and its termination at the circle containing the memorial. Mr. Pratt responded that his concept is based on the premise that Native American people share a heritage while also being different from each other; in certain ceremonies, people enter from different directions, and some then walk clockwise while others walk counterclockwise. The approach path is the “red road to harmony” because a person walking within the circle is in harmony with all elements and the Creator, and is thus able to pray.
Mr. Dunson observed that a series of pickets is depicted at one point along the walk, presumably to allow a visual connection between path, water, and woodlands; he asked if the pickets would remain in the design. Mr. Rhodeside responded that pickets would be used to provide a visually porous seam between the memorial and its surroundings.
Ms. Griffin thanked Mr. Pratt for describing the underlying inspiration for the design. She agreed with Ms. Meyer and Mr. Dunson that the site is excellent, adding that it also relates well to the museum building. However, she observed that some renderings of the memorial precinct suggest a competition for space between the outer walk, the inner walk, and the central drum; she questioned whether sufficient room would be available for prayer and contemplation. While acknowledging the need for multiple entrances to the inner walk, she said that the redundant circles and the tight scale present a conflict, and she urged continued study of these spatial relationships. She summarized that the design is attempting to do many things in a very small space while also trying to respect the existing landscape, and it may be necessary to prioritize the best ways to approach and use this space. She added that the design of the memorial will begin with the approach path, and the materials of the path and memorial need to be closely related.
Ms. Griffin noted that the memorial space would be sacred, serving as a place of prayer and remembrance; in such a space, visitors would not want to be looking at the tops of people’s heads, and she therefore recommended studying the height of the seat wall and its back. Also, because it would be a sacred space, she suggested that visitors might want to see the forms more clearly, both from a distance and up close. She encouraged the design team to continue adjusting the diameters of the three circles around the memorial, and she suggested that the drum supporting the sculpture may be a lesser priority than the walks.
Ms. Gilbert agreed that the proportions are tight; she asked if the memorial precinct could be designed without a bench circling its entire perimeter while still being understood as a circle. She suggested that the location for seating might be determined through further consideration of how visitors would interact with this sculpture—such as whether they would be able to touch the sculpture or the water, and whether the presence of the fire would require visitors to stay at a greater distance. Visitors would see the existing water of the wetland from the approach path; if the intention is also to have visitors see the water when seated at the memorial, then perhaps part of the seat wall could be omitted, or the circles of the paths and bench could twist or interlock. She emphasized the importance of understanding and resolving such relationships. She agreed the setting is perfect, and the memorial would fit well within its site.
Mr. Dunson asked for a comparison of the memorial’s appearance during ceremonies and when there is no ceremony; both conditions would affect the design of the seating. He questioned whether the tightness of the space would be an issue; he observed that the Welcome Circle is large in relation to the memorial circle, but the memorial circle itself appears relatively large within its landscape setting. He advised looking at the memorial in this context and considering the proportion of woodland to water to walk; balancing these factors will be as important as how many visitors the memorial can accommodate at one time. He observed that the memorial will be about feeling, which cannot always be determined; he added that sometimes having a dense occupancy is more important than having a lot of room.
Ms. Meyer said that, like her colleagues, she feels touched by the proposal’s thoughtfulness and beauty. She said the Commission is often asked to think about issues of scale relative to everyday or ceremonial use, and the comments of Mr. Dunson and Ms. Griffin about the design of the surrounding walls and seating have addressed some of her concerns; she acknowledged that the design proposes many layers in a small space. She agreed on the importance of entering the inner precinct from several directions but asked if another design gesture could be used to define the thresholds, so that the scale is not so tight; the concern is to assure that the memorial space has a comfortable character rather than feeling overly confined. She suggested that the bench might at some point become the perimeter wall; or its back could be raised in areas where people would be walking immediately behind it; or the material, color, or texture of the plaza could change to signal that a significant threshold has been passed. She recommended working on the articulation of each zone, and getting the scale correct before moving on to detailing. Lastly, she recommended designing the bench so that a person in a wheelchair could be part of a group, perhaps through creating gaps in the bench.
Secretary Luebke summarized the Commission’s comments about the design and strong endorsement of the site. He said that no action is required for this information presentation; the project will return as a formal concept submission for the Commission’s review. Ms. Trowbridge added that the intention is to submit the concept in the spring and the final design in the summer, with the expectation that construction can begin in fall 2019 for opening on Veterans Day 2020.
C. National Park Service
CFA 21/FEB/19-2, National World War I Memorial. Pershing Park, Pennsylvania Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets, NW. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 15/NOV/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 the Commission last saw this project in November 2018 to review options for the freestanding sculpture wall, associated water elements, and the overall landscape design; at that review, Commission members expressed strong support for the planting plan and recommended that the sculpture wall be designed as a lighter element on a monolithic base. He said that these reviews follow the Commission’s approval in July 2018 of the revised concept with a request that topically related elements be presented together. He asked Peter May, associate regional director for lands and planning at the National Capital Region of the NPS, to introduce the project.
Mr. May said that the project team looks forward to receiving the Commission’s approval of the final design in the spring. He asked Libby O’Connell of the World War I Centennial Commission to begin the presentation. Dr. O’Connell introduced landscape architect David Rubin of Land Collective to present the concept designs for lighting, furnishings, and finishes. She added that the next submission, scheduled for March, will focus on interpretation.
Mr. Rubin presented a plan identifying the location of existing lighting elements, such as circulation and memorial lighting. The existing lighting includes the historic lightpost known as the Washington Globe, which supports an urn-shaped lamp that is commonly referred to as an “acorn”; this lamp, with an added finial, is used along Pennsylvania Avenue. He said that the proposal is to remove the existing streetlights, the lighting for the Pershing Memorial and the ice rink, and the ornamental fixtures on the upper plaza. The fixtures to remain include the Washington Globe lights along Pennsylvania Avenue and historic 1970s lighting along park circulation paths, some of which will be relocated within the park.
Mr. Rubin said that the general approach to lighting corresponds with the memorial’s site design, which is composed of four zones: an outer zone comprising the public space and the three corner entrances; the upper plaza on the west and south; the lower plaza off Pennsylvania Avenue on the north; and the World War I and Pershing Memorials. Circulation would be reinforced by installing the Washington Globe lights in the public area and the standard park “circulation” light, which features a small shade with battered sides, throughout the upper plaza. Lighting would be installed under benches and handrails. In addition, in-ground uplighting would illuminate the Pershing Memorial walls, and uplighting would also be used to light the cascade of water falling over the west side of the sculpture wall, which will be called the “Peace Fountain.” Puck lights in the riser of the lowest step would cast a more general illumination around the Peace Fountain and its quotation. He said that the memorial zone would have circulation lighting, under-bench lighting, wall and stair lighting for safety, and lighting for the new flag. Other new lighting elements include four tall poles supporting lights that would be focused on the sculpture wall and the Pershing statue. He said that tall poles are necessary to cast light down on a specific object and to reduce glare. These poles are intended to be discreet; in two locations on the north side, they will be installed in existing planters in order to disappear within the trees. Further locations for proposed lighting will be selected in late February.
Ms. Griffin observed that three different alternatives for illuminating the sculpture are proposed; she asked Mr. Rubin if they represent different positions or types of lighting. Mr. Rubin responded that the project team will work with sculptor Sabin Howard to determine the position and elevation of the light poles, as well as the quality or temperature of the light. The intent is to highlight strategic gestures in the sculpture while also providing enough light in the evenings to give visitors a general understanding of the sculpture.
Ms. Griffin asked if the locations indicated on the rendering for tall poles represent vertical poles of different heights. Mr. Rubin responded that many options for poles are still being explored, with the aim of balancing their location with the need to illuminate the sculpture effectively; the intent is to avoid having the poles become features in themselves that would conflict with the sculpture or the park design. Observing that illustrations of the existing Pershing Memorial wall show lighting from the ground plane, Ms. Griffin asked if lighting for the new sculpture wall would be from the ground only, or a combination of ground lighting and vertical lighting. Mr. Rubin said that this question has not yet been explored. He added that in-ground uplighting would distort the appearance of facial features in the sculpture, possibly undermining the artist’s intent; additionally, the space in front of the sculpture wall will likely be too limited to accommodate in-ground lighting.
Ms. Gilbert discouraged the proposed placement of proposed tall light poles in small planting beds, commenting that in winter these poles would look exceptionally large and out of scale; she asked if these poles or fixtures could be moved out of the planting beds. She said that the Commission needs to see a plan depicting the minimum of light required, with an overlay of the more powerful lighting needed to dramatize the memorials and ensure the site will be welcoming at night. Mr. Rubin acknowledged the challenge of lighting a memorial that is open at all hours.
Ms. Meyer commented that she too is trying to understand the concept underlying the overabundance of lighting information. She noted that nothing has been presented about the impact of lighting on adjacent buildings, but with poles proposed to be thirty and forty feet high, the Commission members will need assurance that the park’s surroundings will not be degraded by the new lighting. Mr. Rubin responded that this height for the poles, in conjunction with shrouds, would enable them to cast light down and avoid lighting anything outside of the park.
Ms. Meyer said that the presentation has not addressed the reason for removing one of the park’s character-defining features, the ornamental lights on the upper terrace, and replacing them with a more generic fixture. Mr. Rubin responded that the design of these lights—a pole bearing a cluster of identical lamps, which he said resemble sticks of rock candy—makes them a focus of attention; the dilemma is whether they are valuable as remnants of the historic park or inappropriate for the current rehabilitation of the park as a memorial.
Mr. Dunson observed that the lighting plan shows many lights distributed in different layers. He asked Mr. Rubin to provide further information on such decisions as the exact number of tall poles in the planters, and why an asymmetrical arrangement of lights is proposed around the symmetrical memorial plaza. He commented that the intent seems to be that light fixtures within the park should be largely unnoticeable, but the perimeter lights would need to be visible to fit within the overall design of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Mr. Rubin said that he appreciated Mr. Dunson’s understanding of the challenge facing this plan—that light fixtures should not appear as objects in the park but only as sources of illumination. He said that the plan for perimeter lighting proposes using the standard historic lamps for safety and to employ the common urban vocabulary of D.C. street lighting. The design’s focus therefore is on the upper level, and finding a balance there as a transition zone between the historic condition and the new memorial. Some types of proposed lighting, such as the under-bench lighting, were used in the original park design, and they provide for both safety and an artistic effect; such lights have little physical impact, and the lighting they cast will accentuate seating areas in the evenings. He reiterated that fixtures illuminating the sculpture need to be high enough to focus the light down and keep it contained within the park.
Ms. Griffin suggested that all future presentations on the World War I Memorial should present the overall conceptual idea before getting into details, an approach the Commission had recommended in prior reviews. She commented that this presentation delved first into specifics such as pole height while avoiding larger ideas such as the hierarchy and levels of illumination; this oversight has made it difficult to understand the details. Ms. Meyer supported this recommendation, agreeing that the overall concept must be defined. She gave the example of first defining a concept idea about lumens, including lumen level and whether the temperature would be warm or cool, before proceeding to details.
Ms. Griffin said that she is trying to figure out a logical way to reduce the visual presence of the high pole; she asked whether the historic ornamental lights on the lower plaza could be adapted to light the sculpture wall. Ms. Gilbert commented that the existing unusual ornamental lights resemble trees; she suggested replacing their smoked gray glass globes with clear globes to provide brighter light.
Ms. Meyer requested clarity concerning the project team’s philosophy on adapting and changing a historic landscape. She emphasized out that the ornamental lights are character-defining features, as defined by the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties; but Mr. Rubin’s description of them as remnants of a Modernist landscape suggests a lack of concern for this site and an attitude that they would stand in the way of realizing his design. She reiterated that this project would set a new memorial within an existing landscape that possesses historically significant qualities, and these qualities should be part of the concept. She emphasized that concepts should be presented so that the Commission members can understand the ideas, the site, and the character-defining features being described, with clarity about what will be removed, what will be altered, and what will be preserved. Mr. Rubin responded that the project team has been careful to consider the balance between preservation and the insertion of new elements within the historic landscape. Ms. Meyer said that nothing had been said in the presentation about the existing site, so this is the only conclusion she could make.
Mr. Dunson suggested providing north-south and east-west sections of the lighting proposal to address the concern with the height of fixtures relative to the height of objects and spaces. Sections would also show how the lighting would appear from adjoining buildings, and how the park’s berms would affect spillover. Mr. Rubin suggested that a nighttime illumination plan would answer Ms. Meyer’s questions about focus and lumens and Ms. Gilbert’s questions about edges and the transition from street to park.
Ms. Griffin commented that she has studied the plans to understand what the historic lighting pattern had been, and she now perceives a rationale for the selection of zones and the placement of some fixtures. She observed that one difference is that the historic design used ornamental lighting to frame the center in an “L” configuration, and the circulation lights had been used at the entrances; the historic lighting design did not emphasize uplighting and feature lighting as now proposed. The proposed design also appears to give more attention to illuminating paths and benches as well as the new sculpture wall. She suggested that if the project team could help the Commission understand the design at a conceptual level such as this, the members would understand how the new intention differs from the original. She acknowledged the progress that has been made and said that the Commission will necessarily have many questions as details are presented.
Mr. Rubin then presented the concept for site furnishings. Existing furnishings include the Pennsylvania Avenue benches, which are built into planters, and metal mesh benches; the Bex Eagle sculpture; trash receptacles and the trash alcove; the picnic tables in the lower plaza; two drinking fountains; and the Pershing bench at the Pershing Memorial. The proposal is to remove the picnic tables, the trash alcove, and the drinking fountains. New picnic tables would be located within the grove off Pennsylvania Avenue, the most convenient shaded place for visitors to rest. The new tables and chairs would be light enough to move but heavy and bulky enough to discourage theft. The proposed layout for seating within the grove places it adjacent to circulation but not dispersed throughout the lower plaza. The drinking fountains would be replaced with new NPS standard handicap-accessible fountains in two new locations, one on Pennsylvania Avenue and the other at the southwest corner.
Mr. Rubin then presented the proposal for entrance signs. The design team has identified four locations for new signs, with a primary sign to be located at the park’s northeast corner and three secondary signs at the other corners. A common signage vocabulary would identify all the entrances. The sign at the northeast corner would have a vertical element while the other three would flank the entrances with a tilted plane bearing the park’s name that would connect a curb to the cylindrical form marking the corner. A standard NPS interpretive wayside would be located along the sidewalk at the north.
Mr. Luebke asked for comments on the signs, noting that the staff had recommended including a metal pylon as an option in addition to the low granite wall, which they found intrusive; although the pylon option is not part of the proposal, it is illustrated in the appendix. Ms. Griffin said that she supports the design team’s preferred alternative of the horizontal stone wall. Ms. Meyer agreed, suggesting that the park design already has too many vertical elements. Ms. Gilbert also agreed; she recommended ensuring that the lettering is large and dark enough and has the correct depth to be easily legible. Mr. Luebke asked if the Commission has a preference among the presented options. Ms. Griffin said that each entrance is slightly different, requiring a sign that suits each condition of the site perimeter; Ms. Meyer agreed. Ms. Gilbert asked what typeface would be used; Mr. Rubin responded that it has not yet been selected.
Mr. Rubin presented the proposed material finishes for stone and metals. Showing samples of granite, he said that the site’s existing stone includes a light granite, probably “Stony Creek,” and a reddish mid-tone granite known as “Carnelian.” Other masonry includes stone fines in the grove and the brick used along Pennsylvania Avenue. The walls of the existing Pershing Memorial are Carnelian granite in a honed finish, and the paving and existing vertical park walls are light-gray Stony Creek granite in a thermal finish; these would be retained. Carnelian granite is proposed for the surround of the new bronze sculpture wall and the new belvedere at the site of the existing kiosk; black and dark-gray granites would pave the redesigned pool and the viewing platform.
Mr. Rubin presented additional details of the proposed stone treatment for the sculpture wall. The plinth supporting the wall would be honed Carnelian granite. The Peace Fountain on the west face of the wall would also be Carnelian in a horizontal “modified corduroy” finish, a loosely striated treatment that is also proposed for the interior of the trough on the top surface of the sculpture wall from which the cascade would flow. He said that the horizontal corrugations of the Peace Fountain wall would agitate the falling water, creating turbulence. Ms. Griffin asked why the stone finish would change from thermal on the wall to honed on the plinth; Mr. Rubin responded that the plan proposes an increasing refinement of stone surfaces as they progress to the sculpture. Ms. Griffin asked why all surfaces except for the Peace Fountain would not have the same thermal finish; Mr. Rubin responded that they could, but the proposed concept is a subtle gradation. Ms. Griffin responded that a desire for subtlety may not be consistent with using multiple finishes; she suggested using a consistent finish throughout so that the bronze sculpture would appear to be sitting within a monolithic block of stone.
Mr. Rubin said that the viewing platform would be composed of both dark gray and black granite. When the water scrim is turned off, the difference between the two tones would be subtle, but when the scrim is on, the intensity of the darker stone beneath would make the water appear more reflective. The darker stone would also help guide visitors as they move around the plaza. The brick associated with Pennsylvania Avenue would extend into the ground plane of the belvedere, and a ring within this plane would be composed of a different brick laid in a contrasting pattern. The north berm wall, made of the lighter granite in a thermal finish, would carry an important quotation that has not yet been selected.
Mr. Rubin said that the metals currently used in the park include the bronze of the existing signs, the Pershing statue, the bronze and gold Bex Eagle statue, the gold inlay in wall inscriptions, and a few stainless-steel handrails. The intent is to increase the number of bronze elements by using this material for the new sculpture wall, the lettering of the Peace Fountain, the flagpole, and various new interpretive objects, such as a small cast site model at the belvedere. Existing handrails would be replaced in bronze, and three new handrails would be installed along the park’s south edge. New interpretive signs at the belvedere would be porcelain enamel.
Ms. Gilbert asked for further information about the position of the pedestrian bridge leading to the viewing platform. Mr. Rubin responded that further study is needed of how visitors should enter the plaza and approach the platform, along with whether the emphasis should be on symmetry or asymmetry. He said that the proposal is for a centrally located bridge that would extend from the center of the plaza to the center of the platform, allowing visitors the choice to move left or right; it is assumed that most would move left toward the beginning of the sculptural narrative. He presented options showing the bridge at various positions in relation to the plaza: to the north, to the south, and in the center.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the option to move the bridge further south seems best because it would orient visitors to the beginning of the sculpture, like a pointing arrow. Mr. Rubin responded that a shift south would entail changes to a couple of planters; Ms. Gilbert said the decision should not be made just to accommodate planters, and she reiterated her support of moving the bridge south. Ms. Meyer observed that even with the bridge in the center location, the proposal would change the planter located in the middle of the plaza. Ms. Gilbert commented that shifting the bridge southward would allow the two planters to form a threshold through which visitors would pass. Ms. Griffin asked the design team’s preference; Mr. Rubin supported the center approach.
Mr. Luebke said that the issue of the bridge’s location had been raised on staff. He noted that the historic park design is fundamentally asymmetrical, an L-shaped composition with a diagonal; axiality is therefore somewhat alien to the design spirit of the park. He said that the staff has strongly supported shifting the bridge slightly south, which would create more of the characteristic dynamic connection between the elements.
Ms. Meyer said that the Commission members have also strongly expressed this preference, which is consistent with the essential spatial character of the park as a Modernist design: while the design has local symmetries, as a whole it is asymmetrical. She added that one benefit of shifting the bridge is that it would be more removed from the belvedere, visually countering this large circular form and further emphasizing balance over symmetry. She added that the change would also appear to help with circulation for the site as a whole and in relation to the sculpture wall. She agreed with Ms. Gilbert to encourage exploration of how far south the bridge could be moved while still resembling a bridge rather than a large extension of the pavement. Ms. Gilbert said the shift would also strengthen the connection between the Pershing Memorial and the sculpture wall; Ms. Meyer agreed. Ms. Griffin added that the southward shift would help orient the viewer to the sculpture and understand its narrative progression. Mr. Rubin cautioned that the circulation space could be tight around the central planter, requiring changes to its design. Ms. Meyer suggested that the next submission include drawings showing the circulation sequence, and Ms. Griffin agreed that changes should not be made without considering the consequences to circulation. If circulation is compromised, she would support keeping the bridge in the central position, but if the bridge can be moved south without compromising circulation, she would support this change. She added that she does not support moving the bridge to the north. Mr. Rubin asked if the Commission members prefer the use of alignment or of no alignment, neither center nor edge; Ms. Meyer expressed a preference for positioning the bridge to align with other landscape elements in the park.
Ms. Meyer said that the Commission supports the simpler and more recessive option of using the same dark stone for the bridge and the plaza. Mr. Rubin added that the dark stone would demarcate these areas as an insertion within the historic park related to the new memorial. Ms. Meyer agreed that the historic preservation principle is to avoid simulating historic elements, and instead to distinguish what is retained from what is added, which should be clearly different but respectful of the original design. She added that the dark stone would look better but would make the plaza slightly warmer in temperature than a lighter stone; however, a lighter stone would not be as effective in increasing the reflectivity of the scrim.
Ms. Meyer said that she respects the detailing of plaza and bridge; however, she expressed surprise and strong concern that the Commission has not yet seen a design clarifying a relationship between the sculpture and its base to make them appear integral. She emphasized that the Commission has discussed this issue from the beginning of the review process and has been told repeatedly that these have not yet been designed. However, she said that Ms. Griffin’s comments on stone finishes for the sculpture wall have made clear that the Commission needs to see this soon. Ms. Meyer expressed hope that this would be the subject of the next presentation, instead of the planned topic of interpretation. Ms. Griffin agreed with the desirability of seeing the sculpture surround and base at the next presentation; she added that this could be reviewed at the same time as interpretation. Mr. Dunson and Ms. Meyer agreed.
Secretary Luebke said that no action is required because these elements are still being designed; a summary of the comments will be sent to the National Park Service emphasizing the Commission’s support of the design development. Vice Chairman Meyer summarized that the Commission is comfortable with the detailing of the pavement, walls, and signage, and will look forward to more information clarifying the proposed lighting design. Ms. Griffin added that the next submission should include an update on the lighting proposal and detailing of the sculpture wall, along with a discussion of interpretation. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
D. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
CFA 21/FEB/19-3, Metro canopy project, Phase IV. Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter, Arlington Cemetery, Judiciary Square (North), Smithsonian (North), and U Street/African-American Civil War Memorial (East) Metro station entrances. New canopies to cover exposed escalator entrances. Concept. (Previous: CFA 17/APR/14- 3, Phases II & III.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced a concept submission of design alternatives for placing canopies above the escalator wellways at five Metrorail stations that had previously been excluded from the system-wide canopy installation program. He said that National Park Service park reservations in Virginia and Washington, D.C., provide the setting for each of the submitted locations. He asked Jeff Winstel, an architectural historian with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), to introduce the presentation. Mr. Winstel said that the proposed canopy designs are based on the prototypical canopy developed in 2001; he introduced architect Jon Lourie, a co-designer of the 2001 prototype and the architect for the current submission, to present the design alternatives.
Mr. Lourie noted that this is the fourth phase of canopy installations, which began in 2003. The canopies are mandated by safety standards in all three of the jurisdictions in which WMATA operates, intended to protect escalators from becoming slippery from precipitation; protecting the escalators from the weather also improves their reliability. He said that the canopies are usually installed on wellways when escalators are replaced; if a canopy is not installed at this time, stairs are required to be installed instead. He presented an overview of the lengthy stair runs that would be installed at each station if a canopy is not approved.
Mr. Lourie noted his work with architect Richard Chenoweth on the prototypical canopy design—the result of a national competition in 2001. He said the prototypical design was intended to give Metrorail entrances the dignity and elegance appropriate for the public transportation system of the nation’s capital. The previous phases of the canopy program were reviewed by the Commission, and that the design won an award for design excellence from the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
Mr. Lourie said that the canopy prototype is an interpretation of the coffered ceiling vaults of Harry Weese’s original Metrorail stations. The tilting, vaulted torus-section form of the canopy provides a directional cue for pedestrians entering Metrorail stations, with the benefit of uniformly shedding rainwater away from the wellway. In addition, the diagonal strut system allows for installation on existing wellway parapets without additional footings or substructure; it also gives the canopies a light and dynamic appearance. He said that the modular design has been adapted for wellways ranging from 12 to 37 feet wide, and from 29 to 90 feet long, while maintaining the canopy’s iconic image and form. The canopies are modular—prefabricated offsite and bolted together onsite, with no painting and limited welding performed during installation; the entrances also remain open for pedestrians during this time. He said that WMATA has undertaken an extensive review of canopy design alternatives for the five stations currently submitted, including consultations with the staffs of the Commission and the NPS. After rejecting several atypical design options, the submission includes three canopy alternatives for each station: a standard implementation of the prototypical design as the first option in each, and modified versions with reduced height are the second and third options.
Mr. Lourie presented the first site, the Archives / Navy Memorial / Penn Quarter station, located near the intersection of Pennsylvania and Indiana Avenues and 7th Street, NW. For Option 1, the profile of the prototypical canopy would be relatively unchanged, with some fine-tuning of the proportions to fit the wellway; the highest point would be 20 feet above grade. Option 2 would lower the highest point to approximately 17 to 18 feet, and Option 3 would further reduce the height to approximately 15 to 16 feet. He indicated the side beams of the canopy that would be more exposed in Option 3 due to the adjustments of several dimensions and the overhang of the canopy form.
Mr. Lourie then presented designs for a pair of canopies at the second site, the Arlington Cemetery station in Arlington, Virginia, a symmetrical pair of entrances flanking Memorial Avenue. He presented a photo simulation of the elevated view from Arlington House, looking along Memorial Avenue toward the Lincoln Memorial. He observed that the canopies are difficult to discern in the image; Ms. Meyer commented that the unobtrusiveness of the canopies is desirable. Mr. Lourie presented a similar view from above the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, again noting that the canopies, while more visible in this image, still appear relatively light and unimposing. A third view, from Memorial Circle looking southwest toward Arlington House, shows that the canopies would be partially obscured within the existing hedge line along Memorial Avenue. He presented the three design alternatives for this station: Option 1 using the prototypical design, and Option 2 and 3 as successively lower versions of Option 1. Each option would maintain a minimum eight-foot clearance above grade at the rear of the canopy; in Option 3, the sides of the canopy would be pulled in to provide this clearance while still fitting the existing wellway.
Mr. Lourie then presented design alternatives for the Judiciary Square station’s north entrance, immediately south of the Pension Building (National Building Museum) and within the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. He noted that the escalator wellway for this station is longer than those of the two previous stations, and therefore requires an additional pair of diagonal struts to support the canopy structure. Option 1 is a slightly modified prototypical canopy; Option 2 has a modified longitudinal radius and module to achieve a more compact profile; and Option 3 is the lowest of the three options—17 feet at its highest point. As with the lowest canopies presented at the other stations, the extent of the overhang in Option 3 would be reduced to allow for the required minimum clearance of eight feet above grade at the edges, resulting in the visual effect of exposed side beams of the canopy roof structure. He presented views looking toward the Pension Building from the bottom of the wellway with Option 1 and Option 3; he indicated that the cornice of the Pension Building is more visible with Option 1 due to the greater curvature of its arch, while Option 3 may reveal more of the building due to the elimination of the canopy’s side overhangs.
Mr. Lourie then presented design alternatives for the fourth site, the Smithsonian station’s north entrance on the National Mall. As with the previous sites, the three options are successively lower and more compact. He presented photo simulations of each option installed over the wellway, indicating the differences in height and form.
Mr. Lourie concluded by presenting design alternatives for the fifth site—the east entrance of the U Street / African American Civil War Memorial / Cardozo station, adjacent to the African American Civil War Memorial. He said that the wellway for this entrance is shorter than is typical. He presented the three canopy design options, with a maximum height ranging from 19’-3” in the slightly modified prototypical design of Option 1, to 16’-2” in Option 3.
Peter May, associate regional director of lands and planning at the National Park Service (NPS), said that WMATA and the NPS have a long-standing relationship dating to the original design and construction of the Metrorail system, since many portions of the system were constructed on or beneath federal parkland; ownership agreements between the two agencies stipulate NPS review of modifications, such as the current proposal. He noted the strong collaborative process between the NPS and WMATA, and said that WMATA has listened to NPS concerns; for example, at the urging of the NPS, WMATA has investigated the possibility of replacing escalators with stairs at each entrance, as well other creative options for the designs of the canopies in response to the unique location of each entrance. He said that after reviewing many of the options, the NPS believes that the three options presented for each site would be fitting in each location. In general, the NPS prefers lower canopies in the park settings. Specifically, Option 3 would be preferable for the canopies at Judiciary Square and on the National Mall. Option 2 could be acceptable for the other three locations; for example, this greater height at the Arlington Cemetery station may be preferable because it would allow for horizontal views beneath the canopy. In addition, the highly symmetrical composition of Memorial Avenue and large standing structures along the avenue would mitigate the visual impact of the canopies. He said that in comparison to Option 3, the greater height of Option 2 at both the Archives and U Street Stations would be mitigated by the proximity of tall buildings.
Ms. Gilbert asked if the NPS prefers Option 1 in any location. Mr. May responded that it does not, but the moderately reduced height of Option 2 captures the spirit of the prototypical design with the benefit of a lower profile. Ms. Meyer asked if other Metro canopies are located on the Mall; Mr. Lourie responded that canopies are proposed for stations near the Mall, including Gallery Place, Metro Center, and L’Enfant Plaza, but the north entrance of the Smithsonian station is the only entrance on the Mall itself.
Ms. Griffin asked if the geometry of the canopy’s arc differs between Options 1 and 2. Mr. Lourie confirmed that the geometry of the arc is slightly different; the design alternatives attempt to retain the iconic form of the original prototypical design with some modification, allowing them to be recognized as a family. He added that the change in the arc is more apparent between Options 1 and 3, and he agreed with the NPS that Option 2 is an appropriate compromise. He said that the prototypical design is intended to appear light and uplifting, and the additional canopies that have been designed and installed over the years attempt to maintain this welcoming character. He acknowledged the sensitivity of these NPS sites and said that WMATA is working to achieve the NPS goals.
Ms. Griffin noted that the height of the back end of the canopy was described as eight feet in all options, but in some of the presented drawings this dimension appears much taller than eight feet. Mr. Lourie confirmed that this dimension at the rear corners only would be eight feet in all options; he clarified that Option 3 for each location removes the overhang detail to achieve a lower profile while still retaining the eight-foot minimum pedestrian clearance requirement. He said that the resulting canopy is not as appealing and appears as though it has had a “haircut”; however, it is a viable solution. He reiterated his preference for Option 2 as a good compromise.
Ms. Griffin agreed that Option 2 may be an appropriate compromise for certain locations. But she said that her preferences, based on an understanding of how the canopy options would perform within the context of each site, are different from those of the NPS. For example, Option 2 would provide more transparency than Option 3 for horizontal views beneath the canopy; this option could therefore be used in sites where maintaining viewsheds is important. Option 1, based on the unmodified prototypical design, could be used in more spacious locations when viewsheds are not as critical. She acknowledged that using the lowest canopy of Option 3 on sites with tighter dimensions may make intuitive sense, but she said that the lowered canopy appears visually oppressive and should seldom be used. Overall, she expressed appreciation for the way in which the prototypical canopy creates a strong image for the aboveground Metro entrances by interpreting the iconic coffered ceilings of Harry Weese’s station interiors. Mr. Lourie reiterated that the NPS is recommending using Option 3—the lowest canopy—at the Judiciary Square and Smithsonian stations; Ms. Griffin confirmed that she disagrees with these recommendations.
Ms. Meyer observed that the side beams of Option 3 are more exposed than in the other options, giving the canopies a heavier profile. Ms. Gilbert said that the elegance of the arc profile in Option 1 is not apparent in the other options, which do not emphasize the desirable directional cues of the prototypical design. Mr. Lourie added that the prototypical design is successful because its diagonal struts create a dynamic composition and light appearance for the canopy. Secretary Luebke asked if the Judiciary Square wellway or its granite cladding would be modified in the proposal. Mr. Lourie said that an earlier proposal to decrease the size of this wellway, which had been questioned by the NPS and CFA staff, is no longer being considered.
Vice Chairman Meyer invited public comments regarding the proposal. Davis Buckley, the architect of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial at Judiciary Square, said that he and the memorial’s sponsoring organization heard about this presentation to the Commission only a few days ago, and they have not yet reviewed the proposal. He said that this memorial is a place where those who died in service are honored, and it is viewed as the “heart and soul” of the law enforcement community. The memorial is complex, being situated within a park, and visiting the memorial should be an enjoyable experience. He said that WMATA has not consulted with the memorial organization regarding the project, and he requested such a consultation to develop a reasonable solution for this canopy design. He characterized the presented canopy designs as ponderous, heavy, and derivative of Harry Weese’s work, and he wants a design that moves beyond this derivative form used for the other canopies. He described the proposed canopies for Judiciary Square as out of proportion and not consistent with the importance of the site or the elegance of the structures within the memorial itself, including its trellis structures. He requested that the Commission ask WMATA to work with the memorial organization to develop a solution that is acceptable for both groups. He thanked the Commission and introduced Pat Montuore, Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund. Secretary Luebke noted that a comment letter from Mr. Montuore has been distributed to the Commission members.
Mr. Montuore said that his organization is not trying to stop the proposed canopy installation at Judiciary Square; however, it would like the opportunity to review the proposal, of which it was only recently made aware. He said that the Memorial Fund is seeking to expand and make other alterations to the memorial, and would like the canopy to look appropriate for the people that visit the memorial. He said that the Fund’s concerns include the timeframe of the proposal, the inability to review drawings, and the potential impact of the canopy on stormwater drainage. He noted that part-time maintenance workers help maintain the memorial, and the canopy design should be evaluated for its affect their work. He said that if the Fund had been included earlier in the design process, it would have been better able to coordinate with the NPS in responding to the proposal. He expressed confidence in Mr. Buckley’s ability to work on a compromise design with the other stakeholders. He reiterated that future communications with the NPS and WMATA would be important because this site is considered a living memorial, with typically more than 300 names added each year for law enforcement officers who are killed in the line of duty. Planning is underway to alter the memorial for the long-term accommodation of additional names by raising the memorial’s side walls. He said that he is in charge of the memorial operations and has been involved with it since its inception, and that he has a very strong emotional attachment to it as a retired police chief from New Jersey with thirty years of service. He summarized the goal of his testimony to ensure the integrity of the memorial, and he emphasized that he wants to communicate clear information to the law enforcement community and other citizens about plans for alternations to the memorial, including designs for the canopy.
Vice Chairman Meyer expressed appreciation for the design process undertaken by WMATA to develop the canopy options. She said that cities in Europe have similar subway entrances, but the weather in these locations does not require the use of canopies; unfortunately, the weather in Washington affects the reliability and safety of Metro escalators, and canopies are therefore needed. She said that she is impressed with the aspirations of the project team and looks forward to providing advice on these five sites. The Commission then provided comments for each of the five stations.
Archives / Navy Memorial / Penn Quarter station
Ms. Griffin said that she supports the NPS recommendation of Option 2 for the Archives station. Mr. Dunson commented that the wellways at the stations adjacent to memorials—Archives, Judiciary Square, U Street, and perhaps Arlington Cemetery—appear integral to the overall design of the memorial itself, and asked if these sites were considered differently from the others. Mr. Lourie responded that the Navy Memorial is located to the west of the Archives wellway. Ms. Meyer clarified that Mr. Dunson is observing that these three stations have similar settings, and that the other two are similar in other ways. Mr. Dunson asked if Mr. Lourie considers the canopy designs independent from the context, such as at the three memorial locations, or if he would consider developing a more integrated design. Mr. Lourie responded that the prototypical canopy design uses a classical vocabulary, which is consistent with the designs of some of the adjacent memorials; he cited the coffered and curved trellis structure of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. He said that the canopy designs are intended to be respectful and not imposing, and he confirmed for Mr. Dunson that he considers the canopy to be a “universal piece” across the transit system.
Ms. Griffin said she endorses the approach that considers the canopies integral pieces of the iconic Metro system, and the canopy designs should not attempt to respond to another aesthetic or design. She emphasized that the strength, beauty, and integrity of the system is in its uniformity and iconography, and she understands the proposed design alternatives as intended to be a part of the iconography of the Metro system. She said that the canopy design could be adjusted to consider the scale and certain views within the sites, but a custom design for each site should not be attempted. Ms. Meyer noted that Mr. Dunson’s comments had been related to the scale of the context, not a suggestion that each canopy be redesigned. Mr. Dunson said he agrees with Ms. Griffin that the canopies should have a uniformity to make them consistent with the system, and this uniformity is a strength of the Metro system that should be considered as important as the individual sites.
Ms. Meyer said that she supports approving Option 2 for the Archives station, noting that the flattened arc of Option 3 lacks the desirable qualities of the prototypical design. Ms. Gilbert suggested that Option 1 could be appropriate, citing the openness of the view for pedestrians through the canopy; she said Option 1 appears as though it is floating like a cloud, and its porosity allows views of the neighborhood and surrounding buildings. Mr. Dunson agreed, commenting on the airy character of Option 1. Ms. Meyer added that nearby Pennsylvania Avenue is quite wide; Ms. Gilbert agreed that there is ample space around the Metro entrance. Mr. Dunson said that he could support Option 1, and Ms. Griffin said she could support Option 1 or 2; she asked if WMATA has a preference. Mr. Lourie responded that WMATA is trying to defer to the NPS’s preferences. Vice Chairman Meyer summarized that the Commission supports approving Option 1.
Arlington Cemetery station (both entrances)
Ms. Griffin said that she supports approving Option 2 for the Arlington Cemetery station. She added that Option 1 has more visible coffering detail and a more open design than Option 2 but could be disruptive to the viewshed of Memorial Avenue. She said that she does not support Option 3. Ms. Meyer said that Option 2 would make the most sense for the linear space of the avenue. Ms. Gilbert also supported Option 2, citing its relationship to the height of the adjacent hedgerow; Mr. Dunson agreed.
Judiciary Square station (north entrance)
Ms. Meyer first provided general comments regarding the Judiciary Square site. She said that James Urban’s extraordinary landscape design for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial creates a space that is defined by curving walls and pleached trees; in turn, the memorial landscape defines the large open space between the surrounding buildings. She recommended that the canopy design be informed by this context. She added that the Commission is not involved in the communication between WMATA and the Memorial Fund, and this communication should be improved. Ms. Griffin said that WMATA could appropriately consider future plans for the expansion of the memorial in deciding which of the three canopy design options to select, and she expressed support for giving the two groups time to reach a consensus regarding the design. Ms. Meyer commented that the presentation lacks drawings that would help understand the potential impact of the canopy on the memorial, and the character and scale of the memorial’s trellises would be important to consider. She added that current planning for increasing the height of the memorial’s curved walls should also be considered and documented. Mr. Lourie said WMATA is concerned that the near-term schedule for installing the new canopy is not aligned with the longer-term planning process for modifications to the memorial. Ms. Meyer clarified that the Commission is advising the two groups to meet within the next month to reach a consensus, with the pending modifications as context; the advice is not to delay the canopy installation until the construction of the memorial modifications.
Mr. Dunson emphasized the importance of the iconic design of the Metrorail system and its canopies; Ms. Meyer reiterated that the Commission is not asking to review a custom design for this location. Ms. Griffin agreed, emphasizing that the Commission would only like to consider the three options presented. Mr. May said that the NPS is planning to bring forward the proposal to modify the memorial in the coming months. Ms. Griffin summarized the consensus that the Commission would postpone its comments regarding the canopy in this location until the stakeholders meet and provide feedback.
Smithsonian station (north entrance)
Ms. Meyer said that she disagrees with the NPS recommendation of Option 3 for the Smithsonian station, commenting that the lower canopy design options appear undersized and unwelcoming within the large open space of the National Mall. She recommended selecting Option 1, the largest option for this large site. She requested further documentation of the relationship of the canopy options to the Mall’s carousel and service kiosks, which she said are likely of a comparable size to the canopy. Ms. Griffin agreed and said she could support Option 1 or 2 as appropriate for the Mall; she added that the billowing appearance of Option 1 would complement the surrounding flat topography. Ms. Gilbert agreed that Option 1 appears fitting for the Mall.
U Street / African American Civil War Memorial / Cardozo station (east entrance)
Ms. Gilbert asked for additional information regarding the context of this location; Mr. Lourie described the large building immediately west of the site, and the memorial’s accompanying museum across the street to the east. He noted that the presented renderings may appear distorted, but the dimensions of the canopies noted on the drawing are accurate; he confirmed for Ms. Griffin that the canopy struts would have the same diameter in each option, and each would utilize the same structural framing system. Ms. Meyer said that she could support Option 1 or 2; the other Commission members agreed. Secretary Luebke noted that the NPS prefers Option 2 for this location. Ms. Griffin commented that the benefit of Option 2 is the relative openness of the view through the rear of the canopy. She said that the iconic coffering of Option 1 is more apparent, which would have a different effect on the surrounding context. She summarized that these considerations could help in deciding between the two options.
Vice Chairman Meyer expressed appreciation for the rigor of the design exploration process. She summarized the Commission’s action for each station:
- Archives / Navy Memorial / Penn Quarter station: Option 1.
- Arlington Cemetery station: Option 2.
- Judiciary Square (north entrance): no action, with the advice that WMATA and the Memorial Fund meet to discuss the three presented options, followed by a new concept submission with the additional information requested. She added that the Commission only wishes to consider designs that are within the architectural language of the three presented options.
- Smithsonian station (north entrance): Option 1.
- U Street / African American Civil War Memorial / Cardozo station (east entrance): Option 1 or 2.
The Commission adopted this set of actions.
E. District of Columbia Department of General Services
CFA 21/FEB/19-4, Ward 1 Short-term Family and Permanent Supportive Housing, 2500 14th Street, NW. New six-story building with 50 residential units. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 15/NOV/18-8.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the revise concept submission for a new building that will provide permanent supportive housing for adults and short-term housing for families. He asked Rob Tate, the project manager for the D.C. Department of General Services, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Tate said that this Ward 1 building will be the last of the short-term family housing facilities in the current city-wide program to establish a facility in each ward; he described this program as a national model for addressing homelessness. He introduced Ralph Cunningham and Ana Baker of Cunningham Quill Architects and Joe Chambers of Landscape Architecture Bureau to present the design.
Mr. Cunningham summarized the context of the site at 14th and Clifton Streets, NW, on rising topography several blocks north of the U Street commercial area. He described 14th Street as a major artery of the city, with many buses and pedestrians; Clifton Street is generally characterized by five- to six-story apartment buildings. He noted the program for two types of housing, which would be accommodated in two building wings configured around a courtyard that opens toward Clifton Street on the north; in the previous review, the Commission had expressed interest in developing the design of this courtyard. The site includes the parking lot and part of the entrance plaza for the adjacent Rita Bright Center to the south, a D.C. recreation facility; the proposal includes a replacement for this parking and a relocated ramp to provide access to the entrance plaza, in addition to creating two new entrances for the two types of housing to be constructed. He said that a goal of this project is to improve the public visibility of the Rita Bright Center; he indicated its separation from the sidewalk by an existing fence that would be removed.
Ms. Baker presented comparisons of the current revised concept proposal with the previous concept submission from November 2018. She indicated the cornice that has been added to the design in response to the Commission’s previous concern with how the building meets the sky. The facades have been modified to use brick more extensively in order to unify the building, addressing the Commission’s concern that the two wings would be too disparate; contrasting facade areas of fiber-cement panels would be used to highlight the two entrances, and the window feature at the street corner would be visually supported by a brick base. She presented additional elevations within the courtyard to illustrate the improved relationship of the facade materials. The number of window types has been reduced, which she said would result in a more residential scale and character for the building; the detailing has been refined to include metal frames around the windows that would cast a shadow line. She presented previous and proposed perspective views along 14th Street, indicating the angled east facade that would define the edge of a nearly flat walkway leading from the corner of 14th and Clifton Streets to the Rita Bright Center’s entrance plaza. She said that the courtyard’s grading, ramps, and stairs have now been simplified after careful study of the constraints of the sidewalk grade and interior floor levels; the result is to maximize the outdoor play space available for children.
Mr. Chambers presented additional details of the project’s landscape areas, which include the courtyard, the streetscape edges, and the green roof. Along 14th Street, the diagonal walkway from the corner has been moved toward the building face, providing access to the two utility room doors that result from the consolidation of several utility rooms to this edge of the building. This has allowed for a simplified configuration for the planting beds along 14th Street, which would be sloped to accommodate the descending grade of the sidewalk. He described the appearance from the south as a typical landscape frontage for a Washington apartment building, with an elongated curb-edged landscape zone that is interrupted by the building’s entrance steps. From the north, the walk branching off from the sidewalk would be more prominently visible, and he said that the planting beds would be perceived as an island or “sculptural piece.” South of the family housing entrance, the low wall between the planting bed and the walkway would serve as a bench that would be visible from staff areas on the interior; earlier versions of the design had included benches toward the corners of the building, but these were eliminated because they could not be monitored by staff. He presented a landscape elevation along 14th Street, indicating the proposed plantings of robust shrubs and perennials along with four understory trees.
Mr. Chambers presented the revised design for the courtyard along Clifton Street, which serves as a play area for the family housing. Access to the courtyard would be from the building interior, but a ramp to the Clifton Street sidewalk is provided for emergency egress. The lower segment of the ramp sequence would also provide access to the entrance for the permanent supportive housing, in conjunction with adjacent entrance stairs leading to the Clifton Street sidewalk. The eastern part of the courtyard’s Clifton Street frontage would be a bioretention planter; a six-foot-high fence within this planter would secure the courtyard, with a gate for egress along the ramp. The remainder of the courtyard would be the children’s play space, designed as three separate areas for different age groups. A series of low concrete walls, either thick or thin, would extend through the courtyard; the thicker walls would have wood benches on top to provide seating. He presented two sections through the courtyard, indicating the play equipment, the bioretention planters, and the ramp.
Mr. Chambers concluded with a presentation of the design for the green roof, which would meet much of the project’s requirement for stormwater retention, thereby allowing more flexibility in the design of the ground-level landscape. He also indicated the top-floor terrace that would be provided for the staff of the permanent supportive housing. Ms. Baker noted the samples of proposed materials and color selections for the Commission’s inspection.
Ms. Griffin observed that the ground-level elevation along 14th Street has changed from the previous submission: the current design has a more extensive area of blank wall leading south from the Clifton Street corner, relieved only by two doors for utility rooms. She characterized the change as stark and asked why it was made. Ms. Baker responded that recent utility coordination has helped to identify the best points of connection to the electrical and water service that runs under the streets. The refinement of the utility room locations suggested the opportunity to move the 14th Street walkway to the building face, which resulted in an improved configuration for the planters between the building and the sidewalk. Ms. Griffin said that the resulting design for the ground-floor facade is unsatisfactory, which is problematic along such an important mixed-use street. Noting that the previous design included windows in this area, she asked if the intention was to revise the facade treatment for these utility rooms, or if the utility rooms were previously located elsewhere in the building. Ms. Baker said that the utility rooms were previously shown in this part of the building, but their exact location has been refined after further study of the utility connections. She agreed with the design concern and offered to work further on the elevation for this area; she said that the design team has been discussing the appropriate balance for this prominently located corner. She noted the Commission’s previous concern that the building did not have an appropriately residential character, perhaps due to too much vertical emphasis and glazing at this corner; the intention in refining the design was to provide a stronger base for the building, but she acknowledged that the resulting ground-floor solidity may be excessive. She said that the potential further revisions could include brick recesses, additional windows or planters, or other elements to add interest near the ground, while retaining the feature of corner windows for the residential levels above.
Ms. Griffin clarified that the proposed treatment of the upper floors is not problematic; the concern is with the facade at the ground level along the walkway, which has drastically changed in character from the previous submission. She said that this blank area detracts from the rest of the building, which she described as well-composed. She said that generally the design has improved, but a further review may be needed to consider the resolution of the design for the 14th Street facade. Mr. Dunson commented that the some of the changes are subtle, such as the removal of some horizontal banding that results in a perception of the ground-floor wall seeming taller. Ms. Baker agreed that this part of the facade appears more like a wall than a base for the building. Ms. Griffin and Mr. Dunson observed that the facades are articulated with distinct areas, and a traditional base may not be necessary. Mr. Cunningham agreed, describing the facade composition as a tan-colored square plane and a horizontally oriented rectangular plane. Ms. Griffin said that the concern is with resolving how the tan plane reaches the ground, and the solution should be better than simply having two metal doors for utility rooms.
Ms. Meyer noted that the problem may involve terminology: the presentation emphasized the use of a cornice in the design, suggesting an intention to have a three-part composition of a base, middle, and cap, but the proposed design is not really relying on this traditional approach. Instead, the presented design approach uses a language of overlapping planes. Mr. Cunningham agreed, acknowledging that the cornice is actually a relatively minor feature of the design. The cornice would simply be a recess with a metal fascia; a traditional cornice of a large projecting element would not be consistent with the planar emphasis of the facade design.
Ms. Griffin questioned the proposed material colors for the facades, acknowledging that the dimmed light of the meeting room may be affecting the perception of the samples provided. She said that the green tint of the glass may be excessive, and the brown color of the brick may be too dull within the mix of brick colors in the neighborhood. Mr. Cunningham responded that the intention is to use a standard clear glass, which may not be conveyed well by the provided sample. Ms. Meyer confirmed that the glass is labelled as clear but appears to have a tint. Mr. Cunningham said that the appearance of the materials is quite different in outdoor daylight; the brick appears to be brown in the meeting room but is actually gray.
Ms. Meyer commended the revisions to the site plan, commenting that the ramp configuration is greatly improved and would be appropriate for the scale of the street instead of being broken into a series of short segments. She said that the courtyard appears tightly designed with many elements; she acknowledged that the program for this area is challenging, with the need to support the short-term residency of families with children of varied ages. She suggested that the separation of designated areas for different age groups may be too fixed, and the design could instead be opened up with some features that are less age-specific. As an example, she questioned the effort to create distance between the area for teenagers, designed primarily for seating and socializing, from the play areas for younger children; she said that the distance would not be substantial within the modestly sized courtyard, and the teenagers may be comfortable enough being near the younger children. Loosening such separation could allow for more generous open space for playing, with the seating provided along the beautiful low, thick walls. She expressed appreciation for the effort to design the courtyard with careful consideration of sun angles, detailed coordination of the ramps with the topography, and the avoidance of excessive vertical elements. Mr. Cunningham responded that part of the topographic refinement has been to achieve a relatively flat plane for all of the play space; at a previous stage of the design, the different play areas were on different planes, which he said was less successful. The current configuration allows children to run around among the play areas without having to use ramps to reach each one. Ms. Gilbert said that resolving this difference of a couple of feet has substantially improved the courtyard design; parts of the landscape had previously been configured in small fragments along the sidewalk, while the current design provides a more interesting landscape to move through.
Ms. Gilbert asked if the courtyard’s seating and tables could be moveable to respond to sunlight and shade. Dwayne Gentry of the D.C. Department of Human Services responded that fixed furniture has typically been more successful so that the furniture does not end up moved inside the building. Ms. Gilbert observed that the planting plan calls for robust plants, which she supported within this urban setting that includes exposure to car exhaust. Mr. Cunningham added that the soil depth in the courtyard would be generous, resulting in the landscape character of a garden rather than a planted plaza. Ms. Gilbert agreed that the plantings could be lush.
Vice Chairman Meyer asked whether the Commission members would like to see the project again, particularly for the resolution of the ground-level façade near the corner of 14th and Clifton Streets, or whether the resolution of the comments could be delegated to the staff. Secretary Luebke said that an additional option would be to place the next submission on the Commission’s agenda, with the possibility of the Commission approving it without a presentation if the submission materials are satisfactory; Ms. Griffin supported this procedure. Mr. Luebke added many different solutions are possible for addressing the Commission’s concern with the facade. Vice Chairman Meyer summarized the consensus of the Commission to approve the revised concept submission with the comments provided, and to encourage close consultation between the design team and the staff in revising the ground-floor facade. Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted this action.
F. D.C. Office of Planning
CFA 21/FEB/19-5, Public Space Program. City-wide initiatives, guidelines, and regulations for public space. Information presentation. Ms. Batcheler introduced a presentation on the history and regulation of Washington’s public space, which is often a component of projects reviewed by the Commission. The presentation includes the history of Washington’s Highway Plan, the planning principles affecting public space, and the specific regulatory framework of the D.C. government. She introduced Chris Shaheen of the D.C. Office of Planning to provide the presentation.
Mr. Shaheen said that, perhaps unsurprisingly, the history of regulatory systems in Washington is long and complex. He described the creation of the Highway Plan, which serves as an extension of the L’Enfant Plan for the core area of modern Washington. The Highway Plan has had a piecemeal implementation, and like the L’Enfant Plan it has some less well-known features that require careful study to understand. He noted that the term “highway” is used in its broad historical sense of any public roadway, not limited to the more common modern meaning of limited-access roads. Washington’s Highway Plan was created to guide the layout of streets beyond the established layout of the L’Enfant city; the Highway Plan designated the location of new streets and their connections to the existing street system. At the request of Congress, the Highway Plan was developed between 1893 and 1898 under the direction of the three D.C. commissioners; the work was contracted to the firm of Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., and Congress requested that Olmsted himself be personally involved in the project. Olmsted’s son, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., carried on the firm’s work and served as a member of the Senate Park Commission (McMillan Commission) of 1901–02; components of the Highway Plan were incorporated into the McMillan Plan, although the exact relationship is complex.
Mr. Shaheen said that the study of the Highway Plan has required original research into such sources as newspaper articles and subdivision plats; unlike the McMillan Plan, the Highway Plan was not published as a single document of narrative and illustrations. He presented a map illustrating the areas beyond the L’Enfant city that were subdivided and developed between 1854 and 1893, prior to the establishment of the Highway Plan. In some of these areas, such as Columbia Heights, the streets do not line up with the L’Enfant streets; later in this period, a requirement was established that new streets align with those of the L’Enfant city, as seen in the Petworth neighborhood, but the result was not satisfactory. He indicated the later subdivisions, typically in more outlying parts of D.C., that incorporate the guidance of the Highway Plan.
Mr. Shaheen described five design principles that the Olmsted firm used in addressing the challenges of creating the Highway Plan: incorporate natural scenery; respond to existing context; create parkways to connect parks; extend parks into neighborhoods; and give precedence to big ideas. Ms. Meyer asked if these principles were enumerated in contemporary reports or articles; Mr. Shaheen responded that this list is derived from scholarly research on the Olmsted work.
Mr. Shaheen described a specialized topic of this planning work—the treatment of “public parking,” a term coined in 1870 to describe parkland; he emphasized that this meaning is separate from the typical modern meaning of places to place vehicles. The specific meaning of “parking” in Washington is the area between the public sidewalk and the private property line. Dating from the L’Enfant Plan, Washington’s street rights-of-way are unusually wide, and the local government could not reasonably maintain the entire width. Untended areas became problematic, filled with mud or dust; eventually, Congress gave authority to treat part of the right-of-way as parkland within these rights-of-way. The configuration of the street and park space was debated—whether to establish park-like medians, as preferred by Congress, or to place the parkland along the private property framing the right-of-way. In order to minimize the public maintenance burden, the local government preferred placing the parkland at the edges, where it would be subject to public regulation but maintained by the adjacent property owners; this was the solution that was generally implemented. The Highway Plan then extended this system beyond the L’Enfant city to the rest of D.C., treating this public parking as part of the city’s open space system. An initial proposal was to require a generous minimum street width of 90 feet; this was modified to allow subdivisions with 60-foot-wide streets, subject to establishing a building restriction line within the private lots that would effectively result in a 90-foot-wide street width between building fronts. The result is that on some streets, a part of the front yards is a strip of private property that is regulated as if it is part of the public space, while on other streets the front yards are entirely within the public space that extends directly to the building fronts. He noted that the regulatory framework for this open space, including the allowable placement of sidewalks and utilities, is generally the same regardless of the property ownership configuration. He presented a diagram indicating the typical zones within a street right-of-way: the roadway between the curbs; the sidewalk zone, which includes the sidewalk itself and curbside planting areas such as tree boxes; the public parking, extending from the sidewalk to the property line; and, where applicable beyond the right-of-way, the park space between the property line and the building restriction line. He added that the relationship of property lines and building restriction lines can be complex, such as where lots have been further subdivided.
As an example of Washington’s open space system, he presented a map illustrating the various types of open space in the vicinity of Taylor Street, NW, between Arkansas Avenue and 13th Street; in recent years, the Commission has reviewed two houses near the intersection of Taylor and Arkansas. He emphasized the prevalence of landscaped space in this typical neighborhood example—public parking, schoolyards, and community gardens—that result in a distinctive gardenesque character for Washington, with wide streets and a vast network of interconnected green space. He described the typical regulatory restrictions within the public parking area: the extent of pavement is limited; a walkway is permitted between the sidewalk and the building entrance, with a maximum width of six feet; the grade cannot be changed; and fences, hedges, and walls are subject to restrictions such as design requirements and height limits, typically 36 to 42 inches. He said that the historic regulatory system is equivalent to a modern form-based code. He added that the city-wide consistency for treating this parking suggests that more requirements were once enforced than are now known; much institutional knowledge was lost during the late 20th century when development in Washington stagnated for several decades and many employees left the D.C. government. The current research effort has involved re-educating the D.C. staff on the past regulations and how they were applied, including consultation with related agencies in the federal government.
Mr. Shaheen described several special features of the Highway Plan. Landscaped medians were established on specified streets, often as a connection between major parks. Some of these medians still exist with landscaping, while others have been paved; examples include Piney Branch Road and 16th Street, NW Circles were sometimes created where major streets intersect, such as Randle Circle at Minnesota Avenue and Branch Avenue, SE, as part of a city-wide boulevard system. Some less-prominent streets were established to be wider than the typical dimension of 90 feet, such as 110-foot-wide Fessenden Street, NW; typically these were streets connecting parks, although the relationship is not always evident today.
Mr. Shaheen described the well-known design work of Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., and his firm. In addition to New York’s Central Park, Olmsted’s major works included the park system for Buffalo in 1868; the town plan for Riverside, Illinois; and the “Emerald Necklace” park system for Boston. His work typically includes curving streets along with linear connections between parks, and Washington’s Highway Plan is consistent with the firm’s subsequent work. For the principle of incorporating natural scenery, Olmsted worked with the city’s topography as well as special features such as the Potomac River, Anacostia River, and the valley of Rock Creek, which had already been protected through the establishment of Rock Creek Park. Olmsted’s initial proposal made extensive use of curvilinear streets, but the D.C. commissioners preferred an urban grid; Olmsted argued successfully for curvilinear streets in some areas with challenging topography, such as the Palisades along the Potomac River and the Anacostia hills.
Mr. Shaheen described Olmsted’s connections to the existing context, such as bringing new arterials to the edge of the L’Enfant city where they would connect to existing arterials. Five of these extensions were given special treatment with medians and additional park reservations, notably Rhode Island Avenue that served as a prominent gateway to the city. Other examples include 16th Street, NW, and East Capitol Street; New York Avenue, NE, was planned for a similar extension but the implementation used a different alignment. He indicated significant open spaces along these arterials such as Anacostia Park; or marking endpoints, such as those at the D.C. boundary including Westmoreland Circle and North Portal Circle, and incorporating parks within or near the L’Enfant city such as Logan Circle and Sheridan Circle.
Mr. Shaheen illustrated some of the Highway Plan’s other connections of parks across the city using parkways; these include Nebraska Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard, NW; South Dakota Avenue, NE; and Alabama Avenue, SE, along the Anacostia ridge. Some of these have been only partially realized, such as Montana Avenue, NE; the originally planned alignment for Arizona Avenue, NW, was not implemented. A system of landscaped circles was established for key intersections. Many of these are extant, sometimes in modified form such as Ward Circle and Tenley Circle. Others were not implemented, such as along Tilden Parkway, or exist in property lines but not in the street pattern, such as Hamilton Circle at the intersection of Massachusetts and Idaho Avenues, NW.
Mr. Shaheen described how the Highway Plan called for extending parks into city neighborhoods, providing the example of Rock Creek Park, which has many connecting roads that often are diagonals across the grid; these connections typically terminate at small neighborhood parks or circles. A similar pattern is seen east of the Anacostia River, with a network of new and pre-existing arterials that connect major open spaces with neighborhoods, often terminating at circles.
Mr. Shaheen described the Olmsted firm’s emphasis on giving precedence to big ideas, notably the McMillan Plan’s concept of a parkway ringing the city that would connect the Civil War fort locations. The effort to implement this vision extended over 60 years, but funding was scarce, and only fragments of the vision were implemented through the subdivision process. He illustrated the original mapping of Fort Circle Drive and the extant segments that carry related names, such as Fort Drive, Fort Place, and Fort Davis Drive. He illustrated the strong design character of Fort Drive alongside Wilson High School, leading from Fort Reno toward Tenley Circle.
Mr. Shaheen presented a summary map of how Washington’s various open space systems come together in the Highway Plan, including major arterials, local parks, and connections among the components. He indicated the many small parks of less than an acre in size that are managed by the D.C. government; the D.C. Office of Planning has been working on a study of small parks, which is related to the research in this presentation. He emphasized that the aggregate amount of open space in these small parks is substantial. He noted that the small parks result from the Highway Plan in outlying areas of the city, just as many triangular parks result from the L’Enfant Plan within the city’s core.
Mr. Shaheen said that the implementation of the Highway Plan usually involved applications to the D.C. surveyor’s office for subdivision of land; the subdivision would be required to comply with the Highway Plan and conform to the specified range of 90 to 160 feet for street widths. The process for making changes to the Highway Plan involves the National Capital Planning Commission.
Ms. Meyer commented that she is familiar with the work of the Olmsteds but did not know of their involvement with Washington’s Highway Plan, so the presentation has been very informative. She noted that the presentation related the Highway Plan to other Olmsted projects involving parkways, but an additional topic of comparison might be Olmsted’s work on designing the U.S. Capitol Grounds. She said that the Capitol Grounds were influenced by the French picturesque style of landscape, which has a more clear geometry than the English picturesque; the language of curves is different than seen in other Olmsted projects such as Riverside, Illinois. She said that some of the staff in the Olmsted office were sent to Paris to work with Haussman’s engineers and landscape architects who were redesigning Paris, and they therefore would have had a deep understanding of Washington’s design. She said that precedents such as the Emerald Necklace and Buffalo are related to Washington features such as Rock Creek Park and the circle of Civil War forts; but the Highway Plan also shows the influence of the firm’s understanding of how to work with Washington’s classical layout. She said that the Olmsted firm was involved in the Capitol grounds over a 20-year period; she recalled from her own research that when she unrolled the archival Olmsted drawings for the Capitol, a copy of the L’Enfant Plan was bundled with them. At that time, the Mall was laid out in the differing style of Alexander Jackson Downing, but clearly the Olmsted firm was focusing on the French origins of the city plan. She suggested incorporating this line of thought into the presentation; although Olmsted, Sr. was elderly and less involved with the firm at the time of the Highway Plan, his staff would have been very familiar with the design language of the French precedents. Mr. Shaheen said that the limited research to date has included examining lists of the holdings at the Olmsted archives, which includes correspondence directly related to the Highway Plan; and additional correspondence is at the National Archives and the Library of Congress. As additional time and resources become available, the research will extend to searching for the primary documents.
Mr. Shaheen proceeded to the second part of his presentation, on the D.C. regulations for building projections beyond the general limits. He said that such regulations, remarkably comparable to modern form-based codes, were initially established in 1878; they relate to the architectural design and embellishments of buildings. The study of this topic by the D.C. Office of Planning was requested by the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs as it was updating its regulations in 2015. The regulations on building projections are contained within the D.C. construction code, which has not been comprehensively reexamined in recent years. The update process begins with working groups of practitioners who may not be considering the origins of the regulations and the design impact of changes.
Mr. Shaheen summarized several of the defining design characteristics of Washington, including its skyline, iconic buildings, public spaces, wide streets, and also the building projections such as bay windows, oriel windows, towers, and porches. He acknowledged that these features appear in many cities, but he said that their appearance in Washington in conjunction with public space is distinctive, and people can often recognize a streetscape photograph as being from Washington.
Mr. Shaheen said that the regulated building projections include those that extend beyond a property line into the public right-of-way, or those that extend beyond a building restriction line within private property. Washington allows 25 different types of above-grade projections, far more than any other city that has been studied. These projections are allowed through compliance with the D.C. regulations and an over-the-counter permit process, slightly more complicated than a matter-of-right process, but less stringent than some other cities that require a special exception for embellishments such as a retail canopy. He said that unusually large projections, such as at the Shakespeare Theatre’s nearby Harman Hall, still require approval from the D.C. Council, but this additional step is rarely required.
Mr. Shaheen said that the local government has historically used building projection regulations to achieve larger urban design goals for Washington. A review of the construction code from 1871 to 1940 showed that every revision included a change to the building projection regulations. In the 1870s and 1880s, tower projections were specifically allowed at certain intersections along Pennsylvania Avenue, apparently intended to create a picturesque view corridor toward the U.S. Capitol. This allowance was later extended to other avenues at intersections with streets that had public parking. The regulations at one time limited bays to stopping below the window level of the uppermost floor, while tower projections had to extend above the roofline. Bay windows were initially allowed to project five feet from the property line. This was later reduced to four feet, and a rectangular projection was limited to three feet; as a result, builders trying to gain the four-foot allowance used angles or complex corner embellishments to avoid being regulated as a rectangular bay. He said that this regulation, during the Victorian period of architecture, was intended to generate more embellishment of the city’s buildings. He said that people tried to take advantage of these regulations to the greatest extent possible to expand their building size; this sometimes led to complaints and lawsuits from neighbors about views being blocked, resulting in further changes to legislation and regulations. He gave the additional example of porches being limited to a height of five feet above the adjacent grade, which had the effect of establishing a human scale for the relationship of the porch to the street; the result was that the private porches help to activate the public space. He noted more recent types of allowable projections such as pilasters, dating from the early 20th century as part of the City Beautiful movement.
Mr. Shaheen summarized the different types of building projections that are covered by the regulations:
- Enclosed spaces, such as bay windows, which reach the ground; oriel windows, which do not reach the ground; towers; balconies; porches; and retail display windows.
- Unoccupied above-grade features, such as awnings, colonnades, canopies, marquees, and entrance steps.
- Below-grade projections, typically more functional, such as areaways that serve as window wells or contain steps leading to a below-grade entrance. Vaults are another feature in this category; current design standards require solid tops and, in commercial areas, landscaping around the vaults.
Mr. Shaheen noted that the architectural embellishments are sometimes now seen in a stripped-down modern style, but historically they would have been more ornate and added more visual interest to the streetscape.
Mr. Shaheen described the current regulations for allowable projections, which can be complex and confusing. The factors in the calculation include the zoning of the adjacent property, the width of the street, and the depth of public parking if it is present. As an example, in a residential zone on a street whose width is 60 feet or less without public parking, an areaway would not be allowed. As the street width increases, and depending on the width of the landscaped parking, the areaway could be allowed to extend forward as much as seven feet. He noted that the formula is intended to be proportional to the depth of green space, so that the areaway will not unduly detract from the street’s park-like character. Other rules involve proportions related to the building width; a minimum width of 16 feet is required to allow a projecting window bay. The maximum width of the bay would be nine feet on such a facade; this maximum increases as the facade width increases. The formula is complex, giving a less generous allowance for substantially wider facades; he said that this has the effect of encouraging an overall design strategy that breaks down the mass of the building into moderately scaled pieces. He said that very narrow buildings, which may occur with alley dwellings, cannot have bay windows but can have balconies or porches that have a more open appearance. He added that the regulations allow for balconies and porches to have unlimited width, except that an adjoining bay window results in a more stringent calculation; the result is to promote multiple separate projections that break down the building mass.
Mr. Shaheen described additional requirements related to the functioning of the public space, with a minimum distance required from the curb to the projection; this minimum varies with the width of the street. He gave the atypical example of Bladensburg Road, NE, which has a relatively wide roadway within a 90-foot-wide right-of-way; the sidewalks are only 10 feet wide, while the regulations for building projections require a minimum 12-foot distance from the curb to the projection within a 90-foot-wide right-of-way, so no projections are allowed along this street.
Mr. Shaheen said that the D.C. government is constantly facing new challenges in applying the regulations to the proposals of architects and developers. For example, proposed facade replacements could include new insulation technology that requires extending into public space, perhaps several inches or several feet. The regulations ordinarily wouldn’t allow this, because they are intended to promote embellishments instead of the entirety of the facade; but a broader interpretation could be that the entire facade serves as an embellishment. With a recent revision to the regulations, facades can project up to six inches into public space in limited circumstances, which is intended to avert the proposals for larger dimensions that have been seen in the past. Another challenge is how to calculate the building width for purposes of applying the regulations. This is straightforward for a traditional building form that occupies the full width of the lot; but recently, more sculptural massings have raised questions of whether wide bay windows should be permitted on relatively narrow segments of a facade. He said that such proposals do not support the intent of the regulations to allow bay windows as a means of breaking down a larger massing. As a result, the D.C. Office of Planning has recently been working to clarify these regulations, with the building width to be measured at each floor, and each segment to be allocated separately for calculating the allowable width of bay windows.
Mr. Shaheen summarized four defining characteristics of the allowable building projections: creating a contrast within the generally horizontal character of Washington with verticality; an appearance of being secondary elements of the facade; serving to break down the mass of the building; and activating the street. This list was developed to assist in evaluating requests for modifications of the building projection regulations. Notably, the list does not include the relationship of the projection to the interior layout of the building; the reason must involve embellishing the exterior, not merely enlarging the interior. He said that requests for modifications had been routinely approved by the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, which did not have the expertise to evaluate them carefully; these requests are now referred for a more thorough review by to the D.C. Department of Transportation and the design division of the D.C. Office of Planning.
Mr. Shaheen acknowledged that the study of this topic has primarily been backward-looking, as an effort to understand the existing regulations and their historical evolution. This analysis is then used to evaluate new proposals for code modifications or building projects. He said that the next step is to be more forward-looking, such as reconsidering the regulations in relation to modern trends such as the green building movement; this could result in regulating projections in a manner that promotes sustainability while also achieving the traditional intent to embellish the building’s appearance. Another issue is to weight the importance of maintaining Washington’s distinctive visual identity compared to a more varied approach to the regulations. He said that such topics will be considered further, and the analysis will be shared with the Commission.
Ms. Griffin commented that the presentation is of special interest because of her own work on the staff of the D.C. Office of Planning nearly 20 years ago, when she worked with Mr. Shaheen to rebuild the staff. The pace of development in the city was increasing at that time, but the new buildings tended to follow the traditional Washington language of previous decades, with generically similar-looking boxy buildings that formed a background to the city’s architectural jewels. She recalled the goal of elevating and inspiring the city’s design language, and she observed that the many buildings from the recent period of increased construction provide examples—good or bad—for the topics described in the presentation. She summarized that the analysis appears to be based on both the more recent and the more distant history as the D.C. government tries to gain a greater understanding of these issues and develop welcome new tools for the various government agencies that need to evaluate design questions.
Ms. Griffin cautioned that a potential concern is to use the regulatory process in a manner that does not stifle innovation and creativity, particularly in this city that has a tradition of background architecture. The goal should be a regulatory system that allows designers to do innovative and sustainable work in Washington. She encouraged using the presented research in developing forums and collaborations that involve architects and developers, to continue testing the ideas. She recalled that she had once convened a group of well-known and lesser-known architects to test a set of design guidelines; the combination of more pragmatic and more innovative design approaches was helpful in identifying the best combination of stricter or more relaxed guidelines that would allow for a range of design and development. She summarized the concern with avoiding the problems that sometimes result from regulations and guidelines, while providing tools that can be used effectively by those concerned with the character of the city, such as the Commission of Fine Arts.
Mr. Shaheen acknowledged this advice but noted that the building projection regulations involve allowances rather than requirements; the regulations are intended to offer flexibility, although some designers perceive them as restricting creativity. Ms. Griffin said that both of these interpretations of the regulations are valid. For example, some designers will use the regulations exactly as written, even though the resulting design is not as good as it could be; other designers may work more freely and seek waivers of the regulations if needed. She emphasized that a delicate balance is required.
Mr. Shaheen added that another issue is the scale of buildings, which has grown to encompass entire city blocks. He said that development in some areas of the city is taking advantage of the allowable building projections, and the building mass is being broken down as intended, but the resulting buildings are unspectacular and simply become part of the background. Ms. Griffin acknowledged this tendency; she commented that Washington’s height limits tend to produce buildings with uninteresting massing, and the design effort is limited to manipulating the facades, as conveyed by the photographs in the presentation. She suggested looking beyond the regulation of isolated building components to consider the design of larger buildings with long facades; the solution may involve encouraging a more sculptural treatment of the massing, which is typically not feasible because the project’s economics require making full use of the allowable building envelope. She said that the resulting guidance could involve scale, texture, variety, and adornment.
Mr. Shaheen said that one solution being considered is to leave the regulations substantially as they are, while developing guidelines on how to review a request for modifications to the regulations. He said that the challenge is the subjectivity of identifying a great building design; a greater consistency of evaluation could be based on the broader discussion of the design goals to be achieved by allowing private use of public space. Ms. Griffin supported this approach.
Ms. Griffin said that the presentation images would be helpful if shared with others, including the students in a class she is teaching. Mr. Shaheen said that the D.C. Office of Planning is in the process of uploading extensive related information to its website, including a tool that will calculate the allowable width of a bay window for a specific building.
Ms. Meyer said that the presentation suggests many comments to offer and has been a valuable learning experience. For example, she said that she now understands better why a Washington building—whether a town house or a much larger building—is easily identifiable. But she noted the apparent misapprehension about what a Washington building could be, because of the excessive focus on height instead of the sculptural possibilities of how the facade relates to the property line. She suggested that the testing of the guidelines be expanded to include parametric testing by people skilled in parametric design. Topics to consider could include maximizing or minimizing solar radiation to control heat gain, depending on the direction of the facade; she emphasized that sustainable design should extend beyond materials to consider solar conditions such as summer afternoons or winter mornings. She suggested engaging with people who are interested in exploring such topics, such as by working with regional architecture schools or bringing in summer interns.
Ms. Griffin added that the analysis should also include the financial issues of a building development, because every gesture in the massing involves a cost that needs to be carefully calibrated when pursuing innovative architecture. She recalled that when the pace of D.C. development was beginning to accelerate during her service at the D.C. Office of Planning, the conflict was intense between private-sector financial concerns and the public goal of achieving inspiring architecture. She said that this conflict is less strong now due to the more robust development market, but in the future this situation will vary. She summarized that the analysis of the regulations should be both an economic and a design exercise, because these issues are intertwined in a city with a constrained development envelope such as Washington. Mr. Shaheen agreed with the issues raised, noting the many factors that need to be considered. He added that the additional occupiable space in towers and bay windows beyond the property line is not counted toward a building’s maximum floor area, so the incentive is strong for developers to take advantage of this opportunity; he acknowledged that the treatment is different for projections beyond a building restriction line, which are located within the private property.
Ms. Meyer commented that many similar projections of bay windows, oriel windows, and entrance stairs are seen on the small residential buildings in Alexandria, Virginia; she asked if Alexandria adopted the same regulatory parameters. Mr. Shaheen responded that the research has not included Alexandria; he said that each city tended to develop its own building regulations, and finding them within a city’s wider regulatory system can be a challenging research task. He said that a general observation was that in cities that do not allow projections—or during periods when projections were not allowed, such as in Washington before 1871—the buildings are sometimes set back from the property line to allow room within the property for features such as bay windows or porches. As a more complex example, where the allowable projection of a porch is five feet, a town house would often be set back two feet to allow a more desirable total depth of seven feet for the porch depth. He said that the regulations in Alexandria may depend on the street widths; Washington’s generous widths provide greater flexibility. Mr. Luebke added that some local architects designed buildings in both Washington and Alexandria, which may explain the similarity of some design features.
Mr. Luebke said that the Shipstead-Luce Act projects are where the Commission is most likely to see issues involving building projections; these can include bay windows or facade replacements. Ms. Batcheler confirmed that such issues arise frequently in Shipstead-Luce projects, such as the Arkansas Avenue house whose site was included in a neighborhood map presented by Mr. Shaheen. She recalled that Mr. Shaheen had advised the designer of that house to use building projections to create more relief on the facade, which was incorporated into the design. But she said that some of the regulations are less familiar to the Commission staff, and the Commission sometimes approves designs that cannot be approved by the D.C. government; this concern are partly addressed through communication between the staff and the D.C. government on issues involving public space.
Mr. Shaheen said that some of the confusion and complexity arises from revisions to the regulations. For example, the regulations previously had a clear distinction between what was allowed in commercial versus residential zones: bay windows, porches, and towers were allowed only in residential areas, with the intention of creating a domestic scale for the streetscape, whereas projections in commercial areas were limited to awnings and show windows with the intention of activating the ground level along retail streets. Approximately ten years ago, as more residential buildings were being constructed in commercial zones, the developers wanted to include bay windows. The D.C. Office of Planning supported this change, and the code was revised to allow bay windows in commercial zones. However, the revision referenced commercial zones in general, without specifying that bay windows would only be allowed on residential buildings. The result in recent years is a new typology of large office buildings with projecting bay windows, which is not in keeping with the historic scale of the city. He said that these buildings are not necessarily bad, but they are using public space in a manner that was probably not intended or may not have been fully considered.
The Commission members summarized their appreciation for the presentation, emphasizing that they have learned from it. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:49 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA