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 9:10 a.m.
Hon. Earl A. Powell, Chairman
Hon. Edward Dunson
Hon. Liza Gilbert
Hon. Alex Krieger
Hon. Justin Shubow
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
Mary Catherine Collins
A. Approval of the minutes of the 21 February meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the February meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Ms. Gilbert 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: 18 April, 16 May, and 20 June 2019.
C. Report on the 2019 National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs grant program. Mr. Luebke reported on the federal grants program administered by the Commission to support cultural institutions in Washington, D.C. The enacted funding for 2019 is $2.77 million, which will be divided among the eligible organizations in accordance with an established formula. He said that 25 applications have been received, including three new organizations and all 22 organizations that received grants in the previous year. The program’s review panel will be convened to consider the eligibility of the new applicants; he noted that the panel includes Chairman Powell and the chairs of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that no changes have been made to the draft appendix. Mr. Luebke noted that relatively few projects from the federal government are included on the appendix, likely due to the lingering effects of the federal government’s partial shutdown in late December 2018 and January 2019. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported several substantial changes to the draft appendix, in addition to minor adjustments of wording and dates. One project has been withdrawn by the applicant (case number SL 19-079). Three additional projects listed on the draft appendix will be held open for review in a future month (SL 19-111, 112, and 113); these have been removed from the revised appendix. Two recommendations have been changed to be favorable: for SL 19-100, based on additional documentation and a change in the project scope; and for SL 19-101, based on design revisions. The favorable recommendations for nine projects are subject to the anticipated receipt of supplemental materials; she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations when the materials are received. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act appendix.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Collins said that no changes have been made to the draft appendix, which contains seventeen projects; all supplemental drawings were received prior to issuing the draft appendix. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the Old Georgetown Act appendix.
B. United States Mint
CFA 21/MAR/19-1, 2021 to 2025 American Eagle Platinum Proof Coin Program (five-year series). Designs for obverse. Final. (Previous: CFA 18/OCT/18-9, information presentation; and CFA 15/SEP/16-7, for 2018, 2019, and 2020 issues.) Mr. Simon introduced the alternatives for the obverse design of a high-value platinum coin that is issued annually for purchase by investors; he distributed images of the current reverse that will remain unchanged, depicting an eagle in flight. He said that the Mint sometimes organizes the designs as a thematically related multi-year series, and the current submission anticipates a five-year series based on the freedoms protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He noted that the submission is adapted from the information presentation given in October 2018; similar to October, the submission includes several options for a five-year sequence designed by a single artist, in addition to several designs for a single coin. He asked April Stafford of the U.S. Mint to present the designs.
Ms. Stafford introduced Joe Menna, the Mint’s newly appointed chief engraver, who is available to respond to the Commission’s questions. She cited the text of the First Amendment and the resulting themes for each coin in the series: freedom of religion, of speech, of the press, of assembly, and to petition the government. She emphasized that the Mint asked the artists to create designs that will work together harmoniously for the five-year series, while also representing the specific theme for each year. She said that the Mint welcomes the Commission’s advice on either a five-year series or on any of the individual coin designs in the presentation, which could serve as the basis for developing other coins in the series. She noted the required inscriptions on the obverse of this coin: “Liberty,” “In God We Trust,” “E Pluribus Unum,” and the minting year.
Ms. Stafford presented three five-year sets, followed by nine separate coin designs that addressed a single theme, primarily the freedom of religion theme for 2021. Mr. Krieger commented that set #3 is descriptive, with three figures acting out the protected activity on each coin obverse; in contrast, he described set #2 as more lyrical and contemporary, using the motif of the development stages of an oak tree to symbolize the freedoms. He offered support for set #2, observing that the motif of a tree corresponds to society’s current emphasis on environmental concerns. Ms. Gilbert added that the symbolism of set #2 is timeless and elegant; Mr. Powell and Mr. Dunson joined in supporting this set. Ms. Gilbert recalled that the Commission had also supported this set when it was presented in October 2018, and Mr. Krieger agreed that it remains a strong proposal.
Ms. Stafford confirmed that the Commission’s support for this set of five designs would make further submissions unnecessary for the five coins. Secretary Luebke therefore suggested that the Commission consider providing more detailed comments for any of the obverse designs in set #2. Mr. Powell said that all of the designs in set #2 are commendable in different ways. Ms. Gilbert commented that the circumferential text along the top of each design, enumerating the specific freedom, should be strengthened while remaining in the same font as the other text on the obverse; Mr. Krieger agreed, commenting that this circumferential text is somewhat difficult to read on the submitted drawings. Ms. Gilbert suggested that this concern be addressed in the engraving process, perhaps by incusing this text. Mr. Menna responded that this can be resolved in various ways: the lettering could be thinner to improve legibility, or the lettering could have a different finish or polish for added contrast with the background, which would be feasible for the special production process for these coins.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to recommend set #2, with the additional comment concerning the treatment of the text. Ms. Gilbert reiterated her support for the beauty of this set of designs.
C. National Park Service
1. CFA 21/MAR/19-2, Peace Corps Memorial. Louisiana Avenue at C and First Streets, NW. Concept. (Previous: CFA 20/NOV/14-4, site selection.) Mr. Luebke introduced the concept design for a proposed Peace Corps Memorial, submitted by the National Park Service (NPS) on behalf of the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation. The memorial will be located on Reservation 727, a small triangular park bounded by Louisiana Avenue and First and C Streets, NW, facing the northwestern edge of the U.S. Capitol Grounds; the Commission approved this site for the memorial in November 2014. He said that the sponsoring foundation held a two-stage design competition, but made the decision not to proceed with any of the entries; the current submission is a concept that was subsequently developed by artist Larry Kirkland with landscape architect Michael Vergason. He noted that the authorizing legislation states that this memorial should commemorate the mission of the Peace Corps and the ideals on which it was founded; the concept design attempts to convey this through a composition comprising an oval plaza featuring a map of the world in the pavement, surrounded by several sculptural elements meant to express the idea of embracing.
Mr. Luebke asked Peter May, associate director of the National Capital Region of the National Park Service, to begin the presentation. Mr. May said that this project has been in development for several years; while the site selection process went smoothly, the design process has been more complicated. He introduced Roger Lewis of the sponsoring foundation to continue the presentation.
Mr. Lewis introduced himself as the president of the foundation, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Tunisia, a retired architect and planner, and an emeritus professor of architecture at the University of Maryland. He noted the presence of four other foundation board members, all former Peace Corps volunteers; two members, Aaron Williams and Carrie Hessler-Radelet, are former directors of the Peace Corps. He emphasized the importance of conveying the qualities of America that led to the creation of the Peace Corps in 1961, as well as what is important to know about the Peace Corps for coming generations. He said that the memorial is not intended to commemorate the Peace Corps as a federal agency, nor to commemorate its volunteers, its first director Sargent Shriver, or President John F. Kennedy; instead, it is more broadly a memorial about the nation. He emphasized the challenge of finding a visual form that can convey these ideas.
Mr. Lewis said that the memorial was authorized by federal law in January 2014. The site was then selected; although small, it has an important location near the Mall and the U.S. Capitol. The subsequent design competition resulted in almost 200 submissions; however, none were thought to capture the meaning, so the foundation solicited other concepts from individual artists, architects, and landscape architects; eventually, the foundation selected sculptor Larry Kirkland and his frequent collaborator Michael Vergason. Mr. Lewis showed images of three of their collaborations in Washington, including the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, along with Mr. Kirkland’s series of carved granite portals at the Paul L. Foster College of Medicine on the campus of Texas Tech University; he said that the creation of a promenade through these portals is particularly intriguing. He also cited Mr. Kirkland’s skill at sculpting human forms, notably hands. He described the concept proposal for the Peace Corps Memorial as original, appropriate for its urban context, and possessing visual charisma. He concluded by quoting Sargent Shriver: “Peace Corps volunteers go overseas as representatives, as living examples of the most powerful idea of all, an American idea, that free and committed men and women can cross, even transcend boundaries of culture and language.” He said that the memorial will be about America’s outstretched hand, not its clenched fist, and this is the ideal time for it to be built.
Mr. Vergason provided an overview of the site context, which was altered by the insertion of Louisiana Avenue into the L’Enfant Plan street pattern in the early 20th century. He presented a 1915 plan of the Capitol Grounds that showed an unrealized alignment for Louisiana Avenue, and a 1928 plan showing the avenue’s current alignment and the creation of Reservation 727 as a fragment of a former built-up city block. He emphasized Louisiana Avenue’s importance as a corridor connecting Constitution Avenue to Union Station, as well as the site’s importance as an edge to Louisiana Avenue and the Capitol Grounds. He noted the site’s complex jurisdictional overlay, which includes shared oversight by the Architect of the Capitol, the National Park Service, and the D.C. Department of Transportation. The site’s modest area of 7,200 square feet is dwarfed by surrounding roadways and is small in comparison with the larger triangular park a block to the northeast, now the location of the Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism during World War II. The site also lies directly west of the Senator Robert A. Taft Memorial and Carillon, located within the Capitol Grounds. He indicated the site’s role in completing the corner of a larger block that is mostly absorbed into the Capitol Grounds, and the contribution of the tree canopy in defining the grounds. He added that when the trees are without leaves, the Capitol dome is visible from the site. He said that the small site has several mature oaks in fair to good condition; those along Louisiana Avenue would remain, except for one unhealthy tree that would be replaced, while the other trees on the reservation would be removed to accommodate the new memorial. He summarized that the proposal embraces the limitations of the small scale, and the improvements to the site will make a significant contribution to Louisiana Avenue.
Mr. Kirkland described his conceptual approach to public art. He emphasized the importance of collaboration with other professionals, from designers to historians, in his efforts to create unique public environments containing meaningful and artful spaces. He said that he considers content and context to be equally important. He observed that the site is surrounded by pavement, and it is defined on one side by the U.S. Capitol and on the other sides by office buildings. He said that the new memorial must reflect the mission of the Peace Corps—Americans interacting with people of other nations in mutual respect and trust to create a better and more peaceful world. He added that the board of the sponsoring foundation also wants the memorial to be perceived as a park, offering respite in a busy part of the city.
Mr. Kirkland said that the concept is meant to be joyful and uplifting, with a clear composition creating an inviting outdoor room. He described the general elements of the design. An arcing path would lead from the two Louisiana Avenue corners into an elliptical center plaza, which would be paved with a map of the world without political boundaries. Instead of presenting to visitors a single object in the middle, the design would create a space intended to reflect the Peace Corps mission by encouraging visitors to talk with one another. The plaza would be framed by three sculptural benches of carved granite; each bench would be stone that is rough-hewn at one end, and which becomes gradually more refined to culminate in an outreaching hand. While the granite has not yet been selected, it would be a figured stone rather than monochromatic. The benches are meant to be understood initially as geological stone, belonging to the earth, with the hands then emerging out of the rock. Appropriate quotations and text are being studied for locations at the two entrance points and on the back of the longest bench, which would be seen from Louisiana Avenue on the southeast.
Mr. Kirkland said that because the site is so small, the memorial needs a vertical expression; this would take the form of a metal-and-glass pergola or canopy that would wrap the site’s north and west sides, defining an outdoor room and forming a visual scrim to shield the park from surrounding streets and parked vehicles. The pergola would be formed of vertical metal posts, with glass pieces affixed to their tops to form a colorful undulating canopy that would transmit sunlit colors onto surfaces within the memorial, inviting people to enter. The canopy is meant to suggest conversations among visitors, the overlapping of ideas, and political debates, reflecting the experience of Peace Corps volunteers that conversations lead to increased understanding. He said that the glass would be made by Mayer of Munich, a 250-year-old German firm that is a leading manufacturer of art glass. Permanent colors result from chemicals that are brushed, screened, or sprayed onto sheets of glass and then fired in high-temperature kilns. One end of each glass piece would be lightly sandblasted to be translucent, while the other end would be transparent to permit light to shine through. At night, ambient street light would light the canopy and the park, and the translucent ends would glow. He added that he will collaborate on the lighting plan with lighting designers from SmithGroup.
Chairman Powell invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Mr. Dunson asked how the designers had determined the scale of the proposal for this small site, particularly the large scale of the embracing arms and hands relative to the map in the plaza’s paving. Mr. Kirkland acknowledged the difficulty of fitting the map, benches, and canopy on the site while creating desired setbacks from the site’s edges. He said that the map has been made as large as it could be without encroaching on the other elements. Mr. Dunson commented that the space still appears very tight, and he suggested reconsidering the area between the line of vertical posts and the rear of the benches, which is proposed to be planted. He said that this area should be large enough to give the map and benches enough breathing room; if too narrow or eliminated entirely, the outdoor room would lose clear definition. He emphasized that because of the small scale, the composition must be just right both horizontally and vertically. Mr. Kirkland responded that the sidewalk along Louisiana Avenue is wider than the other two sidewalks bounding the site, and it may be possible to take some of that width for the planted verge. Mr. Vergason added that the general concept for the plantings that frame the back of the memorial is a mix of groundcovers, grasses, and perennials; he emphasized that the project team will strive to achieve the right balance between planting, paving, and open space. Mr. Dunson observed that the planted verge should make the transition from the vertical line of posts to the flat and open plane of the plaza closer to Louisiana Avenue; he suggested careful consideration of the height of the plantings. He emphasized the need to return to the Commission for the next review with specifications for proposed shrubs, trees, or groundcovers, because the plantings will contribute to the design’s sculptural effect. Mr. Kirkland responded that the memorial is intended to be an extension of the Capitol Grounds and therefore needs to be in a park setting. Mr. Dunson summarized that the composition is strong and is close to being correct.
Ms. Gilbert asked for further description of the transformation along the length of the benches, and she suggested consideration of a more abstracted treatment of the hand. Mr. Kirkland responded that each bench would begin at one end as rough stone, becoming more refined along its length until it terminates in the hand. He added that the two shorter benches to the west and north would not represent the joining of two hands, suggesting a romantic couple, but instead the entire composition of three benches would symbolize people collectively coming together.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the design seems to have too many hands. She asked Mr. Kirkland if he has considered treating the two smaller benches as abstracted forms that would merely suggest hands instead of depicting them explicitly. She observed that the benches appear to be just sitting on the ground; she questioned their connection to the plaza and the map, commenting that they appear segmented and disconnected. She suggested more connection of the benches with the ground plane, and more integration of the composition. Mr. Kirkland responded that the choice of a figured granite should make the benches appear more connected; the intent is for the benches to be both figurative and to be perceived as stone. He added that his concern with using a monochromatic granite is that the benches may appear to represent a particular race of people, and he wants to avoid any possibility of this interpretation. He said that the backs of the benches and hands would be less refined, but he emphasized the need for a clear resemblance to human hands.
Ms. Gilbert agreed that the concept of the granite is right for the benches. She reiterated that they need to be seen as a unified sculptural ensemble; she said that she finds them beautiful, but in the renderings they appear too much as separate pieces. Mr. Vergason observed that one of the most difficult things with creating oval spaces is defining them clearly; the repetition of the hands will create an implied movement that will subtly help to establish that space. He added that the renderings do not show the trench drain and the skateboard deterrent that will wrap around the base of the benches, nor the slightly convex treatment of the map plane for drainage; these details would also help to define the space.
Mr. Krieger suggested that the project return as a revised concept. He expressed strong support for the presented concept, the “beautiful and ethereal” watercolor renderings, and the sculptural hands, but emphasized that the detailing of these elements is critical and will make the memorial look either cartoonish or refined. He said that he has few comments about the overall composition but many specific expectations for its development. For example, the specific shape of the posts is only suggested in the renderings: if they are simple square posts, they will resemble a fence, especially from the rear. The connection between the glass blades and the posts is also unclear. He said that commenting on the composition will be easier after seeing details; the current state of the design could be called either wonderfully aspirational or somewhat crude.
Mr. Kirkland emphasized that partnerships with fabricators and the successful resolution of the myriad details are key to the success of the project. He said that if this concept is approved, the details will be further refined—for example, the structural engineering of the pergola will largely define how its details are resolved. Mr. Krieger objected that the pergola should not recall border-wall fencing or any similar image, which would convey a meaning opposite to that intended. Ms. Gilbert agreed, suggesting that the glass pieces at the tops of the posts be made larger and of varied sizes so that they look less like blades and more like flags. She asked what colors are proposed for the glass; Mr. Kirkland responded that they would be somewhat calming colors, and he wants to avoid the combination of red, white, and blue. He said that the palette is limited by how transparent or opaque certain colors can be; for example, orange tends to be opaque and blues tend to be transparent. Lighter colors would be used at the ends, building up to more intense hues in the center. In addition, he said that he intends to play with transparency and translucency: one end of each blade—the end toward the memorial’s plaza—would be transparent, allowing light to go through and project the color onto the ground or objects, while the other, translucent end would prevent light from passing through. At night, light fixtures attached to the outside face of the poles would illuminate the translucent glass. He said that he would study these effects with Mayer of Munich.
Mr. Shubow asked if the color scheme for the glass would mostly comprise yellow and red, as suggested by the renderings; Mr. Kirkland responded that one end of the array is shown as beginning with yellow and the other with green, and they would come together in the center as red, but the color choice will evolve through study. Mr. Shubow asked what metal is proposed for the pergola posts. Mr. Kirkland said that he had first considered stainless steel but is now thinking about cast bronze; collaboration with structural engineers will help determine the choice. He said that the pergola elements would resemble street signs in that the glass blades will extend behind the posts; the posts may need to be tied together, or strengthened with larger bases. Mr. Krieger observed that pergolas often have plants growing on them; Mr. Kirkland clarified that this is not intended here, and the form could more accurately be called a glass canopy.
Ms. Gilbert strongly recommended overlapping the forms and colors of the canopy. She said that the idea of the colors is compelling but she wants to see them intermingled, with glass of different sizes, longer pieces, and more irregular shapes to create interesting reflections and refractions and to avoid monotony. Mr. Kirkland responded that he has thought of the blades as being identical, but he agreed that these are good suggestions.
Mr. Shubow noted the comment during the Commission’s discussion concerning the similarity of the canopy and posts to a metal border fence or slats. He said that this resemblance would be especially unwanted in comparison to the plaza’s map depicting a world without borders; he asked how the design might be changed to avoid this similarity. Mr. Kirkland responded that he has envisioned the posts as trapezoidal in plan, so that people walking along the sidewalk can gain increasingly wider views into the site. If the posts are made of stainless steel, their interior planes would be made more reflective to pick up colors so that as the daylight fades, the array of posts would become increasingly enlivened; with a different material, this concept would probably change.
Mr. Krieger commented that the shape of the posts will be one of the most important design decisions, critical to keep the array from resembling a fence; he strongly advised not leaving the decision on their shape to an engineer. He recommended thinking about how the spacing between posts could alter as the line of posts curves. He reiterated that he finds the concept design very promising but emphasized the necessity of seeing the details. Ms. Gilbert asked if the posts have to be straight or if they could they be slightly bowed. Mr. Kirkland responded that they could be bowed; straight posts are simply more straightforward and economical.
Mr. Shubow raised several objections to the concept. He said that the canopy will be interpreted as a border fence, while the glass blades appear sharp and could be interpreted as representing switchblades; a fence and a switchblade are the wrong images for the Peace Corps Memorial. He said that the glass blades also appear fragile and ephemeral, which he finds to be inappropriate qualities for a permanent memorial. He expressed concern about using a color palette that is primarily red and yellow, colors typically representing a specific country such as China. He said that because of these concerns, he would not vote to approve this concept.
Mr. Powell asked if visitors would be able to walk through the line of posts; Mr. Kirkland said they would not. Ms. Gilbert observed that the line would mark an edge along two streets. Mr. Krieger asked how high the plantings between the posts and the street edges would be; Mr. Vergason answered that they would be high enough to discourage walking through them. He added that the site is intended to be approached from the two corners of Louisiana Avenue.
Indicating a rendering in which the posts resemble a wall, Mr. Powell emphasized the need to refine the design. Mr. Dunson agreed, observing that in one rendering the posts resemble a border fence, but in another drawing they suggest a backdrop to the composition. He concluded that the array of posts does suggest a barrier to prevent passage into the memorial; he recommended a varied spacing, which might help the array to resemble a series of openings or windows rather than an impenetrable wall. He said that these concerns will need to be resolved before approval of a final design, but this would not require changing the concept.
Mr. Krieger said that although he has raised concern about perceiving the posts as resembling a fence, he does not think this is likely; the flowing colored glass panels at the top of the posts would prevent this interpretation. Ms. Gilbert agreed, adding that fences do not undulate as the array would. Mr. Shubow commented that some fences do have a projection like the glass blades to prevent people from climbing over. Mr. Krieger said the problem is with how thick and square the posts appear; they should have some other shape to avoid the resemblance to a fence.
Mr. Powell agreed with the concerns raised by the other Commission members. He observed that the bench hands have a surreal appearance that does not suggest embracing; he also commented that the drawing makes the benches look like soap sculptures, and so the choice of the stone will be critical. Mr. Shubow added that the giant scale of the hands will make visitors feel small in comparison. Mr. Kirkland asked if the other Commission members agree that the hands are too big. Ms. Gilbert responded that she does not share this concern; the hands are at the scale of a bench, the size necessary for someone to lean back on. Mr. Powell supported the scale but questioned whether three are benches are necessary. Mr. Krieger also did not object to the scale but emphasized that the benches should be carefully sculpted. He commented that both hands seem to gesture to visitors to enter; Ms. Gilbert agreed that they gave this impression. Mr. Krieger suggested that the hand not located next to an entrance could be sculpted with a different gesture. Ms. Gilbert asked if the opening between the two shorter rear benches could be eliminated by combining them into one piece, helping to unify the composition; Mr. Kirkland said this would be possible.
Ms. Gilbert recommended placing light fixtures on the rear of the posts, facing toward First and C Streets. She also suggested extending the glass panels to the rear of the posts so the composition would be more in the round. Mr. Kirkland clarified that on the sidewalk side, a small bit of glass would extend down and would be illuminated at night; Ms. Gilbert and Mr. Krieger agreed that this feature would help lessen the resemblance to a fence.
Mr. Dunson noted the importance of symbolism and interpretation. He said that while he sees a large sculpted hand as a symbol of acceptance, another person might easily see it as authoritarian; similarly, the glass blades could be interpreted as razors or as something benign. He said these conflicting interpretations need to be taken into consideration because this memorial is about peace, embracing the world, and helping to solve common problems; the symbolism must respect these meanings. Mr. Krieger agreed on the importance of this issue, although he added that all art is subject to differing interpretations, which can never be avoided entirely.
Chairman Powell summarized that the overall idea and layout of the concept design are good but the details need revision. Mr. Krieger offered a motion to approve the concept design, taking into account the comments and suggestions provided. Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted this action; Mr. Shubow voted against the motion.
2. CFA 21/MAR/19-3, U.S. Park Police Stables H1. West Potomac Park, 2000 Independence Avenue, SW (Ash Woods, west of the DC War Memorial). Replacement stable and paddocks. Concept. Mr. Fox introduced the concept proposal for a new horse stable complex for the U.S. Park Police, submitted by the National Park Service (NPS) in partnership with the Trust for the National Mall. The stables would be on the site of the existing complex located in the Ash Woods area of West Potomac Park, located between the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the D.C. War Memorial. He said that the existing complex dates from 1976; it was meant to be temporary and is now in poor condition. The new facility is intended to be compatible with its context and distinctly secondary in character to the adjacent memorials; the submission includes several options for the layout and visual screening of the site. He asked Peter May of the NPS to begin the presentation.
Mr. May emphasized that the NPS wants the stables to remain in this location on the Mall because of its centrality and proximity to the iconic memorials, which attract large numbers of people. Mounted police officers are needed to provide for law enforcement and crowd control, ensuring safety during demonstrations and for the many daily visitors. He added that proximity to the White House is also desirable because occasionally the Park Police need to respond to incidents there.
Mr. May said that in 2003, when the Commemorative Works Act was last modified, Congress requested a report from the NPS examining whether other locations for the stables might be better. The resulting report looked at several additional sites, including locations in East Potomac Park and across the Potomac River near Memorial Avenue, but concluded that this central location remains vitally important. The report cited a 1980 Commission of Fine Arts review of alternative sites, in which the Commission concluded that the existing site would be acceptable if a permanent building were constructed. He quoted the Commission’s letter from 1980: “There is ample precedent for stables in urban parks where the buildings actually contribute to the setting.” He noted that many visitors do not realize that the stables are there since they are largely hidden in Ash Woods, and the NPS believes that a new complex can be placed strategically on the site. He asked Teresa Durkin of the Trust for the National Mall to continue the presentation.
Ms. Durkin said that for the past nine years the mission of the Trust has been to support the NPS in its implementation of the 2010 National Mall Plan; the replacement of the temporary stables is one of the projects identified in that plan. She introduced the design team of architect Tasos Kokoris, who specializes in equestrian facilities, and landscape architect Skip Graffam of OLIN, a firm with extensive experience working on the National Mall.
Mr. Graffam described the context for the stable complex, which he said occupies a strategic location on the Mall. The site is within Ash Woods, located north of Independence Avenue and south of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool; the Korean War Veterans Memorial is on the west, and the D.C. War Memorial is on the east. From directly north, the stable complex is visible through a large gap in the tree canopy where the access road enters from Ash Drive. He noted that many visitors walk onto the site, and the NPS considers public interaction with the mounted officers as part of the visitor experience on the Mall. He indicated the four major pedestrian crossings of Independence Avenue along the western part of the Mall; one of these is immediately southeast of the stables site, connecting to the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial, and many visitors walk through Ash Woods between this memorial and the Mall. This has resulted in a social trail being worn through the woods immediately east of the stable complex; because foot traffic is expected to increase, this trail would be paved.
Mr. Graffam presented photographs of the existing stable complex, which includes several stable buildings, an office trailer, and a storage building, all grouped around a small paddock; parking is on the west, and to the southwest within the site area is a water treatment plant serving the Reflecting Pool that is connected to underground utilities running north beneath the access road. He indicated the area for sawdust storage and a manure dumpster; these require vehicular access. The stable complex is enclosed by a stockade fence; the site is largely flat, and it drains to a single low point. He said that the stable complex is situated 325 feet from the D.C. War Memorial to the east across Ash Woods, and the new complex is required to maintain a distance of at least 315 feet; the distance to the Korean War Veterans Memorial is slightly greater, but with more visibility. Wooded buffers must be retained between the stable complex and these two adjacent memorials, as well as between the complex and the two adjacent roads. He added that the water treatment plant is a major constraint; the NPS does not permit any major structures or footings to be built above its underground utilities, and it is surrounded by a buffer for safety reasons.
Mr. Graffam described several design strategies for the new site plan. The stable complex would have a compact footprint within the site, even with an increase from the current program. The access road from Ash Road on the north would be replaced by a short access road from Independence Avenue on the south, allowing for a greater emphasis on Ash Road as a pedestrian space. The pavement of the existing access road would be replaced by reinforced turf that could accommodate emergency vehicular access; when seen from the Mall, this area would resemble lawn. New plantings would reconnect the tree canopy at the opening from Ash Road and would generally respect the character of Ash Woods.
Mr. Kokoris presented the proposed architecture, outlining three guiding principles of the design: room to maintain the health of the horses, which require open space, especially if they are confined in stalls for long periods; well-designed police facilities that are secure and functional for both officers and horses; and recognition that this complex is a utilitarian facility and not a memorial. He said that the design needs a certain mass, but it would be condensed as much as possible without creating a disjointed structure.
Mr. Kokoris described the challenging physical conditions of the existing complex: the stalls are much too small for the health of the horses; with no covered interior aisle, the horses are exposed to the elements when being moved around; the deteriorated trailer housing the police officers’ facilities is very cramped, with too many functions contained in too small a space; and the exterior fencing is deteriorated.
Mr. Kokoris presented a diagram of programmatic spaces and adjacencies, indicating the areas that require full heating and cooling. He said that the design will conserve energy to the extent feasible; for example, the stables and the storage and delivery areas would not be heated or cooled beyond perhaps limited forced ventilation or radiant heating.
Mr. Kokoris said that visitors arriving from Ash Road on the north would enter an area dedicated to public education, including the opportunity to view horses in the public paddocks. Within the complex’s secure perimeter, a private training paddock to the south would be out of public view. A major design challenge within the stables is providing sufficient height for ventilation above the stalls; he presented several section drawings of alternatives that were studied. An initial concept had a roof height of approximately 31 feet, with open clear-space trusses; however, this was determined to be too high and prominent. The design was revised with a lower-pitched roof, but this too was felt to have a negative effect on the building’s appearance, and it would not entirely solve the ventilation problem. A design with a flat roof also was considered aesthetically poor. The proposed design separates the structure into two gabled configurations with a post-and-beam structure between them; this solution creates a spatial cavity as large as or larger than in the highest-roof version. A flat roof between the gables would have translucent skylights to bring daylight into the stables. Photovoltaic panels on a south-facing roof, as well as areas for stormwater collection, are under consideration. Stalls would open on both sides, and high vents and ventilators would ensure sufficient natural vertical convection to maintain a healthy environment. Walls would have durable masonry bases, which will help prevent rodents from getting in.
Mr. Graffam presented four massing and siting alternatives using this double-gable roof form, each with subtle variations. He said that all four options accommodate several basic requirements: public access for pedestrians at the north, with an indoor education area including public restrooms, as well as areas to view horses; vehicular service access from Independence Avenue, for both the stable complex and the water treatment plant; and a secure perimeter with visual screening that encompasses a service area, staff parking, a private paddock for training horses, and a medical paddock for veterinary use. He noted that all options include a slight increase in pervious surfaces. The opaque fencing for the secure perimeter would be six to eight feet high. Around the public paddocks, where visibility is desired, a common type of board fence is proposed; a five-foot-high inner fence would keep the horses within the paddock, and a four-foot-high outer fence at a distance of eight feet would keep visitors far enough away from the horses that they could not touch or feed them. In all four options, the ridge line of the roof would be at a height of 24 feet, which is below the height of the D.C. War Memorial.
Mr. Graffam presented Option 1, a symmetrical building that he described as a traditional barn, with the high point of the gable roof in the center. The building would include horse stalls to the east and west, with administrative and support functions located in the middle. Two paddocks for public viewing would be located on the north, near Ash Road, in addition to the secured paddocks on the south. He described the advantages of Option 1 as having an identifiable stable form, a clear public entrance on Ash Road, and efficient circulation for horses between stalls and paddocks.
Mr. Graffam said that the other three options are variations to reduce the apparent massing and to mitigate any visual impact of the new building on the Mall and the nearby memorials. These options would shift the administrative and service functions from the center to the western end of the building, resulting in an asymmetrical plan that groups all of the horse stalls together. Mr. Kokoris said that initial comments on Option 1 included the suggestion to break up its continuous roof volume into separate gabled pavilions connected by lower-roofed structures. The higher roof would still be needed over the stalls, the staff area, and the public education area. He said that these options would be functional but would present some architectural challenges, such as loss of the building’s visual identity when the volume is broken up into pieces; he described the appearance of these options as less clean than Option 1.
Mr. Graffam presented Option 2, which would have an asymmetrical massing while maintaining a building alignment that is parallel to Ash Road as in Option 1. The site plan would be similar to Option 1, although the service and parking area would have a slightly different configuration. Option 2 would provide the greatest distance between the new building and the D.C. War Memorial—335 feet, compared to 320 feet for Option 1 and 315 feet for Options 3 and 4.
Mr. Graffam presented Options 3 and 4, which would rotate the asymmetrical building away from the orthogonal geometry of the Mall in an attempt to reduce its visual impact. This rotation would shift the public entrance to the east and would create a larger, single public paddock, instead of the two public paddocks in Options 1 and 2. The site plan for Options 3 and 4 would have a slightly larger parking and service area due to the less efficient angles for vehicle turns, although he said that the configuration of the access road from Independence Avenue could be studied further. He noted that the alignment of underground utilities prevents the building from being shifted further west. Option 3 uses the same building layout as Option 2, but in a rotated configuration, while Option 4 has the same rotated siting as Option 3 but would remove the public education space into a separate pavilion in order to break down the building mass. The detached public pavilion in Option 4 would have its own presence on the Mall but would not provide direct views into the interior stable operations areas, which would be available in the first three options. Mr. Graffam summarized the benefits of the rotated siting in Options 3 and 4: it would disconnect the complex from the geometry of the Mall; the massing would typically be seen at an angle; and the site plan would accommodate public access from the newly paved north-south walkway as well as from Ash Road. A negative result is that Options 3 and 4 would be slightly closer to the D.C. War Memorial; in addition, the separate public pavilion in Option 4 would result in a greater extent of total building frontage when seen from the D.C. War Memorial.
Mr. Kokoris summarized the comparison of the four options. All would be improvements on the existing conditions, providing more efficient circulation, similar building mass and aesthetics, and a slight increase in pervious surface. He said the clean profile of Option 1 would present the most identifiable form. Options 1, 2, and 3 all respond to the program well; the weakness of Option 4 is the separation of the public area from the workings of the stable.
Mr. Kokoris presented several alternatives for the exterior materials, which are selected for durability and ease of maintenance. The first combination would have a fieldstone base with granite coping; above would be a fiber-cement rainscreen and stuccoed concrete block. He noted that the colors for this alternative have not yet been selected. The second alternative would have a brick base with limestone coping and the rainscreen above. The third alternative proposes a monochromatic palette comprising an ashlar granite base with granite coping and a gray fiber-cement rainscreen. Although a variety of grays would be used, this alternative would have less visual presence behind the trees. In the building configuration of Options 2, 3, and 4, the massing concept of separate pavilions would be accentuated by using a different exterior material for the lower-height parts of the building. A metal standing-seam roof would be used for pitched surfaces, and the flat roofs would be coated in polyurethane.
Chairman Powell invited comments from the Commission members. Ms. Gilbert asked about the presence of evergreen trees as part of the intended visual screening. Mr. Graffam said that a few evergreens are present in this largely deciduous woodland, along with a small grove to the west, but they are in generally poor condition; evergreens would be planted in scattered locations.
Mr. Krieger dismissed the concern about the new building potentially overwhelming the D.C. War Memorial, observing that the distance between them is greater than the length of a football field. He called Option 1 elegant, with a strong identity that recalls fine horse stables from the era when such buildings were considered important rather than subsidiary structures. He added that it would also be less visible. He said that consideration of the other three options is not even necessary, particularly Option 4 because it would deprive the public from direct proximity to the stable’s operations. Ms. Gilbert agreed; she commented that Option 1 is appealing and clearly a stable, with a clear program—visitors would be able to enter the viewing area and see everything. She supported the proposed double fence around the public paddock because it will prevent children from feeding the horses, and she questioned the need for a separate visitor center as shown in Option 4.
Mr. Krieger discouraged the exterior design approach of making the stable monochromatic to try to make it disappear into its surroundings; he said that the contextual material palette with some color range seems appropriate. Chairman Powell summarized the consensus to approve Option 1, describing it as a practical and elegant solution. Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted this action.
3. CFA 21/MAR/19-4, Franklin Park (Reservation 9), bound by 13th, 14th, I, and K Streets, NW. Rehabilitation of park. Final. (Previous: CFA 18/OCT/18-2.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposed final design for the renovation of Franklin Park (Reservation 9) bounded by 13th, 14th, I, and K Streets, NW; he noted that the Commission approved a revised concept design for the park in October 2018. He asked Peter May of the National Park Service (NPS) to begin the presentation.
Mr. May noted that Jeff Reinbold, acting superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks unit of the NPS, is present in the audience. He said that the newly proposed treatment of Franklin Park’s central fountain, developed in consultation with the D.C. Historic Preservation Office and other agencies, is a departure from the previously presented alternatives. He said that the NPS acknowledges being essentially a preservation organization, and the NPS therefore would prefer not to significantly modify or demolish the beautiful and elegant historic basin. The proposed design would therefore rebuild the historic basin and introduce a different method of activating the plaza, a solution that addresses concerns regarding the character of the plaza and the form of the fountain while adapting it for contemporary use. He asked landscape architect David Rubin of Land Collective to present the design.
Mr. Rubin said that this large and heavily used park in downtown Washington is in need of refurbishment, and the revitalized park will have a great impact on this area of the city. He described the design as a 21st-century interpretation of the existing 1930s Beaux-Arts character of the park; the proposal is a further development of the 2015 master plan, balancing the aspirations of the design with historic preservation concerns, available funding, and other issues. He provided an overview of the major elements of the proposed design, which include a new service pavilion at the south of the park, a new children’s garden at the northeast, the central fountain plaza, and the refurbished statue of Commodore John Barry on the west. He noted that an overlook in the children’s garden would be one of the highest points in the park, and that people-watching is an integral component of the park design. He introduced architect Ashton Allan of Studios Architecture to present the design for the pavilion.
Mr. Allan said that the one-story pavilion would be subservient to the overall park design, a design strategy established in the memorandum of understanding between the parties involved in the park rehabilitation. The pavilion would serve as a visual termination for the view downhill from K Street and the central fountain plaza; it would be sited asymmetrically, off the central north–south axis of the park, to avoid blocking reciprocal views toward the fountain. He noted that the pavilion would be sited within a stormwater catchment area. He described the history of previous pavilions within the park: an 1880 lodge that was essentially a gardener’s shed, near the central plaza; and the larger lodge shown in the park’s 1913 plan, located at the east edge of the park. The main cafe structure of the new pavilion would be similar in size to the 1913 design, with a canopy-like structure extending over an outdoor area to the east, intended to relate to the park’s tree canopy. The restroom functions for the pavilion would be housed in a connected structure on the west, similar in size to the 1880 shed.
Mr. Allan said that the material palette for the pavilion, largely carried over from the master plan concept, is intended to balance durability, sustainability, and cost. The restroom structure would be clad in gray stone with some veining; radius corner detailing is being explored to soften its appearance. Fiber-reinforced concrete, less expensive and more durable than stone, is also being considered. The canopy structure would be supported by columns and topped with a planted roof. The soffit would be wood; the specific type is still under discussion with the NPS. A recessed well would conceal rooftop mechanical equipment, allowing the green roof to be the visually dominant plane in the composition. He said that the restroom facility would have entrances from both the exterior and the cafe interior; it would have gender-neutral toilet stalls with a shared sink area, and would be topped with a skylight. The interior materials for the restroom facility would be simple, durable, and natural, such as gray stone and weathered wood that are intended to impart a warm character; vinyl graphics depicting NPS sites across the country would decorate the interior. He noted that the exterior deck for the cafe would have an entrance from the I Street sidewalk, but the pavilion is intended to have an overall quiet presence on the street. Mr. Rubin added that the design would facilitate pedestrian movement from I Street into the park. He indicated the position of the deck above the rainwater catchment area. He described the deck’s guardrail as transitioning from a simple rail to a wider table or surface to lean on, depending on its location; conventional tables and seating are also proposed for the deck.
Mr. Rubin said that the children’s garden, nestled within the landscape, is intended to create a joyful and non-traditional play experience. He described the proposed sloped topography, noting that a slide and rock ledges would connect different levels of the garden, while clear sightlines would be maintained to ensure children can be supervised. The garden would include a gathering space that could facilitate storytelling, and children would be encouraged to explore the garden while still remaining sequestered from the larger park because of the topography. Stone steps and a sloped curving pathway would provide access to the “nest” area at the upper part of the children’s garden; the play areas would also feature surfaces compliant with universal access principles. Other proposed play features would encourage unconventional play across the garden, including animal tracks cast within the pavement, and “talking” or “whisper” tubes. He said that the material palette for the play structures, site furnishings, and other sculptural elements within the children’s garden would consist primarily of rough-hewn wood.
Mr. Rubin then presented the proposal for the central fountain plaza. He said that that the design would rebuild the historic basin as requested by the NPS, while adding contemporary, engaging water features within the plaza. He noted that water is the reason that this standard city block was converted into a park in the early nineteenth century—the original wellspring within the park supplied the White House with fresh water—and the central fountain will continue to serve as the symbolic and conceptual focus of the park. He said that the extant fountain is the second iteration; the first version had a single water font. He described the fountain itself as needing significant repair; most of its coping is disintegrating and would need to be rebuilt. The material for rebuilding the fountain is still being studied—either a match of the existing bluestone, or a more durable stone that resembles it. He noted that the basin would be made shallower than the current eighteen inches when it is rebuilt; the treatment of the bottom surface, which is currently painted, is still being determined. The rebuilt fountain would feature a single jet d’eau, recalling the single jet of the earlier fountain, while two new sets of four water jets would be installed within the plaza, flanking the historic basin, to recall the two secondary fonts now found in the basin. These new jets in the plaza are intended to engage and bring joy to the public, reminiscent to experiencing the original wellspring; the jets would undulate, creating new water expressions and bringing a significant level of animation to the plaza. He said that one set of jets would move symmetrically opposite to the other set; water would drain through the surrounding pavement. He presented aerial renderings of the proposed design to demonstrate the intended scale of the plaza and the proposed furnishings for the space, which include moveable tables and chairs, as well as four pairs of fixed benches with a single tree planted between each pair. He illustrated temporary ten-foot-square tents that could be installed around the perimeter of the fountain plaza to support programming; he indicated the eight-foot distance between the tents and the fixed benches, which would still allow for sizeable gatherings of people when the tents are up.
Mr. Rubin said that the park’s existing path and paving system would be reconfigured to allow for barrier-free access and encourage connections between areas of the park. He indicated the proposed pathway that would lead from 13th Street toward the center of the park, essentially paving the existing desire line between the food trucks often parked along 13th Street and the interior of the park; the sidewalk along 13th Street would also be doubled in width. He said that the proposed paving and ground surface materials include exposed-aggregate concrete for the sidewalks and internal paths, bluestone at the central plaza, precast brick pavers at the cafe plaza, and stone fines in the children’s garden. Because the park serves as an important hub for busy bus lines, the perimeter of the site would have bus shelters and benches where appropriate.
Mr. Rubin described the proposed interpretive program for the park, which would be informed by the park’s hydraulic and social histories. In addition to serving as the source of fresh water for the White House, the site has also served as an important place of social engagement and public assembly. The site’s interpretive elements, intended to be placed on the expanded curbing surfaces surrounding the central space, would include information on significant periods in the site’s history: its pre-urban use as farmland to 1851; the early park design from 1851 to 1933; the modern park design from 1933 to 2020; and a blank panel intended for future interpretive elements. The wayside exhibit for the Barry statue would be refurbished; additional locations for wayside signs are being studied.
Mr. Rubin described the proposed site furnishings and lighting for the park. He said that the standard form of the 1930s-era quarter-round curbing found throughout park would be adapted for site walls and seating surfaces. In some locations, wooden slats would be constructed over the curbing to form benches. The supports for new double-sided benches would be informed by the traditional ironwork bench detailing now found throughout the park. In addition, the new NPS standard bench would be used throughout the site, along with standard water fountains and trash cans; some existing benches would also be refurbished. He noted that durability is an important factor in selecting the other types of furniture that would be used, such as the chairs for the deck area adjacent to the pavilion. He said most of the existing Saratoga lighting standards would be refurbished and returned in their current locations, with some modifications to reduce glare. Many of the new benches and handrails would include underlighting, and the children’s garden would have significant canopy illumination mounted on poles.
Mr. Rubin presented the planting plan for the site. The revised stormwater retention areas on the south side of the park would be planted with herbaceous and woody species with year-round blooming characteristics; he said that a goal of these plantings is to create a horticulturally rich environment, particularly along the paths in this area. The plantings for the central plaza would be more traditional and would include species selected for rich olfactory and blooming characteristics. He said that the sloping topography around the plaza would enhance the feeling of embrace within the space. The children’s garden would have resilient plantings able to withstand boisterous play activity; the selected plantings would have an idiosyncratic, “Seussian” quality. The plantings along the perimeter of the park are intended to separate the park from its surroundings, while maintaining a welcoming presence for the public; these woody and perennial plantings would mostly be no taller than three feet. He said the tree canopy would be modified to make it more resilient. Ailing trees and those nearing the end of their lives would be removed; new trees, including those with blooming characteristics, would bring year-round visual interest to the park. Mr. Rubin concluded by expressing appreciation for the contributions of the other members of the design team; he acknowledged the firms Studios Architecture, Fluidity Design Consultants, EHT Traceries, and Lee and Associates.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the proposed central fountain plaza would be very hot in the summer without additional trees; she suggested substantially increasing the mid-story tree canopy in this area, perhaps by creating a bosque of trees that would outline the space and provide needed shade. She said the trees would create a favorable dappled light around the fountain, bringing a new type of light to the space. She asked how often the proposed tents would be used in the plaza; Mr. Rubin said they would be used temporarily for events, but they are a requirement of the program. Ms. Gilbert expressed concern about the appropriateness and feasibility of the new water jets proposed for the central plaza, commenting that the space would feel barren during the months when the jets are off. She also questioned the apparent large scale of the plaza, comparing it to the size of a large urban square; she asked for more information on the scale of the plaza and the proposed water jets. Mr. Rubin said that the jets would arc to a height of three or four feet, and the shape of the arcs is intended to encourage play within the water streams; he confirmed that engagement with water is a component of the program stipulated by the client. Ms. Gilbert said that too many elements are being proposed for the plaza, and she suggested including a different type of engaging water feature, such as a cooling mist emanating from the historic basin. She emphasized that shade from trees would be the most important addition to the plaza.
Mr. Krieger supported Ms. Gilbert’s comments; he described the character of the central plaza shown in the renderings as “lunar” and overly large, and he said that the plaza would likely be excessively hot under the summertime sun. He strongly encouraged additional plantings around the benches, and perhaps the inclusion of an inner ring of benches with additional shade cover. Mr. Rubin agreed, suggesting that three trees instead of one per pair of benches would be appropriate. Ms. Gilbert suggested clustering trees throughout the plaza and not restricting them to locations adjacent to the benches. She said that the attempts to keep open views to the fountain have left the plaza barren, and she suggested that limbing up additional new trees would help maintain some of the views. Mr. Rubin noted that the tree selected for the plaza is honey locust, which would bring dappled light and create an airy space.
Ms. Gilbert commended the proposal for the children’s garden, noting that its sophisticated plantings and organic furnishing materials would be a beautiful, imaginative, and popular addition to the park that does not rely on bright colors or other similar methods commonly used for a children’s play area. She suggested consideration of how to keep children out of the plantings, such as adding a low cable with wooden posts. Mr. Rubin responded that the specification of resilient plantings in this area is challenging without using lawn, and he acknowledged that the garden may need continued maintenance.
Mr. Krieger commented that the subtle and elegant design of the cafe would be an appropriate addition to the historic park. Observing that wood is proposed throughout the main pavilion volume, he suggested exploring the use of wood cladding on the restroom facility to alleviate its austere, bunker-like appearance. Mr. Allan said that the NPS has concerns about the durability of vertical wood cladding, but other configurations of exterior wood could be considered. He noted that the original memorandum of agreement mandates the use of glass, wood, and stone for the pavilion, but the concept does not rely on stone for this structure; he said he would appreciate the warmth of wood on this volume of the pavilion structure. Mr. Krieger commented that the edge of the pavilion’s roof appears overly thick, especially when compared to the thinness of its support columns. He said that the ideal solution would be to make the roof profile thinner at the edge, as often seen in designs by British architect Norman Foster, but he acknowledged that this may be more expensive. To refine the detailing, he suggested moving the columns inward or extending the roof overhang.
Mr. Shubow agreed with the concerns regarding the new water jets, commenting that the effort to preserve and restore the historic fountain would be undermined by the installation of the contemporary jets. He noted that the food trucks often parked along 13th Street bring many people to the east side of the park, and he asked if any type of fencing would be installed to keep pedestrians on paved paths instead of trampling the grass or other plantings in this area; Mr. Rubin said that the proposal includes a significant volume of plantings along the 13th Street sidewalk, serving as a barrier to people entering the park outside of the formal pathways. Mr. Allan reiterated that the sidewalk’s current width of ten feet would be doubled to twenty feet.
Ms. Gilbert observed that the existing tree canopy has a somewhat consistent appearance, and she asked if the tree planting plan would ensure against an undesirable hodgepodge appearance. Mr. Rubin responded that the plan would delineate areas for shade trees and floriferous understory trees. For instance, the trees ringing the central plaza would likely be fringetrees, which are of modest size and have an expressive character in the spring; their blooming would coincide with the seasonal activation of the fountain. Broader canopy trees would be planted in the lawn areas, providing areas of both shade and sun for visitors. He noted the desirability of creating a successional tree canopy with an age differential between trees; some specimens would therefore be planted at the three-inch caliper measurement, while others would be planted at six inches. Ms. Gilbert agreed that this would establish a hierarchy; she then asked why honey locust trees are specified for the plaza. Mr. Rubin responded that this species would create a broad canopy with dappled light, rather than isolated shade. Ms. Gilbert reiterated her recommendation to increase the number of honey locusts within the plaza; Mr. Rubin agreed.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to approve the final submission, conditional on the resolution of the issues identified; this includes further study of the proposed water jets and the number of trees in the central plaza, as well as the design of the pavilion roof, columns, and restroom facility. Upon a second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted this action.
D. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
CFA 21/MAR/19-5, Metro canopy project, Phase IV. Judiciary Square (North) Metro station entrance. New canopy to cover exposed escalator entrance. Concept. (Previous: CFA 21/FEB/19-3.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the follow-up submission for a canopy to protect the escalator wellway at the north entrance to the Judiciary Square Metro station. He noted that the Commission reviewed canopies for five locations the previous month, in February 2019, and provided recommendations for four of these locations; the Commission did not take an action on the Judiciary Square location, instead requesting further consultation between the project team and representatives of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which manages the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial (NLEOM) located adjacent to the Metro station entrance. He asked Ivailo Karadimov, the director of architecture for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), to begin the presentation.
Mr. Karadimov summarized the Commission’s comments on this location during the February 2019 review, including the request for additional drawings and further consultation with the NLEOM’s architect and the National Park Service. He reported that coordination meetings have taken place, and the current submission responds to the Commission’s comments as well as to the discussion among the various involved parties. He said that the purpose of the project is to comply with a current requirement of the construction code to provide a cover that protects exterior escalators from precipitation. He added that the proposed canopy would also protect Metro riders from rain and, as part of the ongoing program of canopy installations, would provide a wayfinding element that assists people in identifying the Metro station entrance. He introduced Jon Lourie, a co-designer of the 2001 prototype for the canopies and the architect for the current submission, to present the design alternatives.
Mr. Lourie said that based on the competition-winning prototype of 2001, he has worked on the implementation of thirty canopies throughout the Metro system, with ten more under construction. The design goal throughout the process has been to reflect the design tradition and strength of forms established in the original Metro system design by Harry Weese; he described Washington’s Metro as one of the world’s best-known subway systems. He reiterated the dual function of the canopy as providing rain protection for the escalators and riders, as well as serving as a wayfinding feature. He described the prototypical canopy design as a tilting, vaulted torus-section form that rises toward the wellway opening at the top of the escalators; its shape drains water toward the sides and rear. The typical canopy is supported on diagonal struts bearing on a Metro entrance’s existing parapet wall, with no need for additional footings. The prototype has been adapted to wellways that vary in width from 12 to 37 feet, and in length from 29 to 89 feet. The construction process is relatively simple, with off-site fabrication and on-site assembly with bolting and limited welding, with no interruption of access to the station.
Mr. Lourie noted the Commission’s previous request for additional perspective views of the proposed canopy in relation to the plaza and pergola of the NLEOM, including consideration of a planned alteration to increase the height of the memorial’s walls of names. He indicated the Metro station’s two existing access elevators, which are integrated with the memorial’s two pergolas and are balanced by two gazebo structures that terminate the opposite end of each pergola. He said that the presentation includes additional information about the context as well as an additional design alternative for consideration, supplementing the three alternatives that were presented in February 2019.
Mr. Lourie provided height information on existing features of the NLEOM. The tree hedges framing the memorial space are approximately 25 to 30 feet tall; the memorial’s flagpoles are 60 feet tall. The existing pergolas are 12’-8” tall, slightly below the 13’-8” height of the Metro elevator enclosures, and the Metro entrance pylon near the F Street curb is 12 feet tall. The planned height increase for the memorial’s walls of names would add fifteen inches to the existing walls.
Mr. Lourie described the three previously presented alternatives for the Metro canopy, with varying heights and curvatures. Option 1, the most direct application of the prototype design, would have a high point of 21 feet at the top of the escalators, curving downward to 15 feet at the sides of the front end; the high point at the rear 14 feet above grade, descending toward the low points at the rear corners, which would be at the required minimum clearance height of 8 feet that would be maintained for all options. Option 2, a partially modified version of the prototype, would be slightly lower in profile; Option 3, described as a fully modified version of the prototype, would be the lowest, with a maximum height at the front of 17 feet. He presented newly drawn longitudinal site sections and additional photographic simulations to illustrate the relationship of each option to the existing memorial and site features, as well as photographic simulations of the view from the escalator to the facade of the National Building Museum (Pension Building) across F Street. He noted the Commission’s previous comment that a lower profile, as seen in Option 3, tends to result in an excessively heavy appearance for the canopy.
Mr. Lourie said that in response to a request from the National Park Service, an additional option has been prepared, labeled Option 3A. This option would use the canopy profile of Option 3, raise it slightly higher to match the front height of Option 2, and extend the overhangs to reduce the visual prominence of the canopy’s girders; the overhangs are present in varying dimensions for Options 1 and 2 but were eliminated for Option 3 to maintain the required minimum clearance at the canopy’s low points. He said that a follow-up meeting the previous day with NLEOM representatives has resulted in a request to consider a further variation, raising Option 3A by an additional foot; the result would be a height of ten feet above grade at the rear corners, allowing the memorial to have a more open sightline across the escalator wellway. He said that time was not available to prepare any drawings illustrating this requested variation, but he said that this change would require a further flattening of the torus shape. He noted that an additional issue of discussion has been water drainage from the canopy, which will be coordinated further as the project is developed.
Secretary Luebke noted that only two of the Commission members present today were also present at the February presentation; he noted the Commission’s guidance in February to focus on modest variations of the prototypical design, which has resulted in an iconic system of canopies that also relate to the distinctive coffered vaults of the station interiors. Chairman Powell questioned the significance of the relatively minor dimensional differences being considered.
Mr. Dunson commented that Option 3A and Option 1 appear to maintain the conceptual form of the prototype, while Options 2 and 3 appear compromised. He supported the proportions and raised canopy position of Option 3A, but he said that raising this by an additional foot as requested by the NLEOM representatives would be excessive in comparison to a person’s height, with little benefit to any important sightlines. He added that an important advantage of Option 3A is the inclusion of overhangs, which results in a design that is compatible with the prototype, comparable to Option 1. Mr. Krieger asked why Option 1 wasn’t selected at the initial presentation. Mr. Lourie responded that this wellway is unusually long; Option 1 is a direct application of the prototype to this length, whose more compact torus form creates the highest profile, while Options 2 and 3 provide alternatives with a lower profile.
Mr. Krieger asked if the reason for considering a lower profile is to reduce the cost. Mr. Karadimov responded that the issue is aesthetics; he said that the National Park Service had requested minimizing the visual impact of the canopies on the memorials adjacent to several of the locations that were submitted in February. Ms. Gilbert said that the result of the lower profile is that the canopy has the appearance of a helmet; she said that the lower profile tends to restrict horizontal views, the opposite of the intended effect of improving aesthetics, while a higher profile allows for more open sightlines. Mr. Lourie clarified that the National Park Service staff was in agreement with this comment in its request for developing Option 3A. Peter May of the National Park Service said that the issue involves balance, attempting to avoid a single structure visually dominating the NLEOM site. He recognized the importance of the canopies as iconic features and wayfinding aids, while noting that this wellway is unusually large. He expressed appreciation for the project team’s effort to explore design variations that would reduce the profile of this canopy. He said that the request for development of Option 3A was intended to address the shortcomings of Option 3, which was initially preferred by the National Park Service. He offered support for Option 3A, while criticizing Option 1 as excessively tall and large. Secretary Luebke noted that in the previous review, the Commission did not support Option 3—the lowest, flattest profile—for any of the five submitted locations.
Ms. Gilbert suggested consideration of how each option would appear as riders exit the station on the escalator, with the canopy intruding on the view of the National Building Museum facade. She said that Option 2, although not illustrated with a photographic simulation, would be the best of the originally presented options, avoiding the heavy appearance of Option 3 and the extensive blockage of the view in Option 1. Mr. Dunson observed that Option 3A would lift the profile of Option 3 to a higher position; Mr. Lourie clarified that the somewhat flattened form of Option 3 would nonetheless be present in Option 3A.
Mr. Krieger said that these dimensional distinctions might be important in some circumstances, but the analysis here seems comically excessive for the issues involved. He said that if other agencies prefer Option 3A, then the Commission should simply support this choice.
Pat Montuore, the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, asked to address the Commission. He expressed appreciation for the opportunity to meet and walk the site with representatives of the WMATA project team and the National Park Service, and for the professionally drawn elevations that illustrate the canopy options. He said that the meeting has helped to address the frustration at learning of the canopy project late in the design process, which has required the memorial’s staff to compress the coordination process into a very short time period. He added that the meeting has resulted in a helpful agreement, years overdue, for more frequent meetings and improved communication among the organizations as projects arise; an example of potential efficiencies is sharing of engineering studies on water drainage issues to avoid duplication of work.
Mr. Montuore cited two reasons for requesting a one-foot-higher mounting of Option 3A, using a minimum clearance height of ten feet: to relate better the memorial’s pergolas, and to improve sightlines for ceremonies held at the memorial, which can include honor guards marching into the plaza. He requested the Commission’s approval of this variant. Ms. Gilbert asked if this support is for Option 3A; Mr. Montuore clarified that his support is for a modification that would raise the canopy of Option 3A by one foot. Mr. Luebke suggested that this variant could be called “Option 3B,” but it is not documented in the presentation.
Mr. Lourie expressed reluctance to move forward with an option that has not been adequately studied; he said that Option 3A, developed only in the past week in response to a suggestion from the National Park Service, still needs further study in three-dimensional form. Mr. Powell and Ms. Gilbert suggested that more time for study and comparison of the options may be helpful; Mr. Lourie agreed, citing the numerous dimensions that need to be coordinated. Mr. Karadimov said that WMATA would prefer to have the Commission’s decision today, without taking time for additional renderings and studies. He said that any of the options could likely be engineered successfully, so the important issue is the difference in appearance; Mr. Krieger added that this difference is actually minimal. Mr. Karadimov cited the need for efficiency in WMATA’s process of bringing this project to completion, as well as efficiency for the Commission’s review process, and he offered to respond to any remaining questions from the Commission. Mr. Montuore reiterated that he is advocating for the immediate approval of a raised version of Option 3A; he added that if a raised version were demonstrated to be infeasible, then he would be satisfied with approval of Option 3A, in the spirit of cooperation in moving the project forward. Mr. Luebke noted that the problem with approving a different version of Option 3A is that it has not been documented in the submission, and its appearance within the context is conjectural.
Mr. Krieger emphasized that the variation in dimensions under discussion, such as a height of nine feet versus ten feet, sounds important but would hardly be perceptible at the site. He said that lifting a version of the canopy design by one foot should be straightforward and would not require extensive time to draw. Mr. Lourie clarified that Option 3A is the result of exactly this process, using a modification to the canopy design of Option 3 and raising it by a foot; he said that Mr. Montuore is requesting an additional option that is raised by an additional foot, which is not drawn.
Mr. Dunson offered a motion, seconded by Mr. Krieger, to approve Option 3A as the appropriate solution that would allow the project to move forward. Ms. Gilbert expressed reluctance to take this action, citing Mr. Lourie’s request for additional time to draw the proposal. Mr. Luebke clarified that Option 3A is already drawn, as shown in the presentation; the undrawn version, which would raise Option 3A by an additional foot, is not part of Mr. Dunson’s motion. Chairman Powell noted the apparent agreement to approve Option 3A, and the Commission adopted this action.
Mr. Karadimov reported to the Commission on WMATA’s decisions for the other four Metro canopy sites that were presented for review in February 2019, based on consideration of recommendations from the Commission of Fine Arts, the National Capital Planning Commission, and the National Park Service. For three of these sites, WMATA received consistent advice and is proceeding with an option that was supported by the Commission of Fine Arts. For the entrance to the Smithsonian station on the National Mall, he cited the Commission of Fine Arts support for Option 1, the tallest version; however, the National Capital Planning Commission and the National Park Service prefer Option 2, a slightly lower version, and WMATA is proceeding with this design. Chairman Powell asked if any further action on this issue is required from the Commission; Mr. Luebke clarified that Mr. Karadimov is simply reporting WMATA’s decision not to follow the Commission’s advice for the canopy on the Mall.
E. Events DC (Washington Convention and Sports Authority)
CFA 21/MAR/19-6, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place, NW (Mount Vernon Sq. at Massachusetts and New York Avenues). Streetscape improvements, building alterations, and art installations. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/MAR/18-3.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposal for a phased program of streetscape improvements, building alterations, and art installations for the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, located north of Mount Vernon Square at 801 Mount Vernon Place, NW. The project is intended to improve both the building and its surrounding streetscape for visitors and residents. She noted that the Commission had approved the concept design in March 2018, with recommendations regarding the extensive alterations and additions; the current submission includes refinements to this design and adjustments to the project’s scope and phasing. She asked Ryan Conway of Events DC, the organization that operates the convention center, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Conway said that the convention center has functioned well since its opening more than fifteen years ago. The current need is to modernize the building exterior and the public space around it, in response to the increased development in the surrounding area and the lack of pedestrian activity on the building perimeter. He said that the project scope includes exterior lighting, public artwork, retail kiosks, wayfinding signage, improved planter boxes, a new rooftop terrace on N Street, and, in a later phase, improvement of the Metro station entrance plaza. He anticipated that these improvements will also bring a greater sense of identity to the adjoining Shaw community. He introduced architect Yuval Zohar of the Office of Metropolitan Architecture to present the proposal.
Mr. Zohar provided further details of the project’s scope. It encompasses the perimeter of the convention center building and adjacent streetscapes, including Seventh Street to the east, Ninth Street to the west, Mount Vernon Place to the south, and N Street to the north, with L and M Streets passing through the building. He said that researching the site history has helped the design team to recognize how the building could be reconnected to its neighborhood, overcoming the existing sense of separation. While the facades currently suggest transparency and variety, empty windows create a poor atmosphere for retail; the monotonous paving fails to create enough of contrast with the building to define public space; the health of the street trees is challenged by the small size of the tree boxes; and street lighting is inadequate. The project will address these concerns by creating new retail uses for empty spaces; activating underused sidewalks; replanting trees in better growing conditions; and integrating lighting into the design, all to create a more vibrant public environment. He added that the retail insertions around the building’s periphery would encourage greater engagement with the streetscape and the urban fabric. He said the presentation will compare images of the previous submission with new illustrations that show updated architectural details. He noted that previously presented improvements for some areas of the site have been omitted from the current scope but are shown in the comparison drawings; these include retail along Seventh Street and the proposal for a new canopy above the Metro entrance at the corner of Seventh and M Streets, which is now deferred to the project’s second phase.
Mr. Zohar described the configuration of the convention center as three buildings—south, middle, and north—connected below-grade and by bridges. Areas for intervention include the insertion of kiosks into the large niches on the Ninth Street facades of the south and middle buildings; new landscape elements; a rooftop terrace on the north building; and frames surrounding segments of the north facade of the north building, along N Street. He said that currently, pedestrians can glimpse the interior below-grade concourse from the Ninth Street facade niches, but these have no other function. The first of the planned retail spaces would be glass boxes inserted into three niches on the Ninth Street facade of the south building; they are planned to house pop-up stores. Kiosks for six facade niches in the middle building would be similar. He said that four of the kiosks could be multi-season retail zones, with folding doorways that could be shut or opened to the street, depending on the weather. He added that the insertion of these kiosks would break down the long facade of the middle building.
Mr. Zohar described the proposed new roof terrace at the north building, which would be entered by a new exterior stairway at the corner of Ninth and N Streets. He said that this roof area is a leftover space adjacent to a truck circulation ramp, and it is not currently used for any activities; the proposal is to develop this roof as a public event space with a bar. The building’s north frontage along N Street is not viable as a location for retail use, due to the truck ramp behind; the facade is a series of framed blind windows that serve only to hide the ramp. The proposal is to create an undulating row of balconies in these frames at the second level that would extend from the roof terrace. Instead of using channel glass on the facade, as in the previous design, the current proposal is to use polycarbonate, which would better capture the light behind it. New planters and seats around the entrance to the stairway would invite visitors to ascend to the roof terrace. The alterations at the terrace level would include support space and a public bathroom. The stairs would be made of blackened steel and would be located to avoid interfering with the building’s structure.
Mr. Zohar said that a bright material color palette has been selected to contrast with the building’s gray tones: blackened steel with red-tinted glass in the kiosks, different types of metallic application on surfaces, and red and yellow baked-enamel plates at the roof terrace. This palette would be extended throughout the project to unify its different parts.
Mr. Zohar presented the proposed changes for the streetscape, including a new paving pattern and planter benches. Proposed plant species now include recommendations from the D.C. urban forestry office. The new planter design would be better integrated with the proposed new seats, and the planters would be larger to hold a greater volume of an improved planting soil. He said the currently proposed pavement pattern is simpler than the previous proposal to allow for more flexibility of use on the sidewalks.
Mr. Zohar briefly described the earlier plan for the Metro entrance, which is currently located within a dark, bulky pavilion on a small plaza. The previous proposal had recommended extruding a tall glass volume from the escalator wellway, adding three blackened steel frames interlined with red as a canopy. The current plan, deferred to a second phase, would align the geometry and materials of the new structure with the other design changes around the site.
Mr. Zohar described the current site signage as an unconnected series of poles that lack any reference to the larger context of the convention center. The proposal would integrate signage into the six building corners that face heavy traffic, using a folded geometry that would imply direction of movement. The network of signage would work at three distances: super graphics for farther away; directional signs to local landmarks for medium distance; and maps listing details such as retail stores for close inspection. The new proposed color of red would correspond more closely to the new materials. He added that the design team is working with a signage consultant to refine these ideas.
Mr. Zohar said that a series of public artworks remains as a major part of the proposal. The project team with Events DC will likely select artists to create works for several prominent locations, and may also work with a curator to determine how to relate artworks effectively. Artworks are planned at the two street passages through the building. Currently, a series of lamps hang from the soffit of the building’s span over L Street, but these do not signify the importance of the entrances into the convention center; additionally, M Street occupies a long, dark passage that is unpleasant to walk through. The previous proposal for M Street was an installation that would have included lighting and art pieces placed in existing frames along the sidewalk facades, involving the collaboration of an artist and a lighting designer; the current proposal is to incorporate lighting directly into the art, and the project team is working with a lighting consultant. Other proposed locations for art installations include a 65-foot-long bare brick wall along Ninth Street between M and N Streets, where a sculpture might be placed, or a mural to relate to the vibrant tradition of murals in the Shaw neighborhood. Another blank facade that is being considered as a possible mural site is along N Street; in addition, a hanging sculpture could be installed above the new stairway to the roof terrace to draw attention to the new public space on the roof.
Mr. Zohar described the intent to sensitively integrate lighting throughout the site. He said that the current prominent pylons marking the south entrance along Mount Vernon Square do not emit light but have light projected onto them; these would be altered with translucent glass and strip lighting to achieve a range of effects. New LED strips would be integrated into frames throughout the project, such as at the projecting balconies and the kiosks; lighting strips beneath the new kiosks on Ninth Street would cast an even light inside the convention center itself. Landscape lighting would be integrated into the design of benches and planters on the roof terrace. Street lighting would be added at important locations, for safer and more comfortable walking at night. He added that comments by the National Capital Planning Commission last year recommended further examination of the impact of the lighting proposals on the adjacent neighborhood; an in-depth lighting study is therefore underway. He noted that streetscape construction would be sequenced to minimize disruptions of convention center operations.
Chairman Powell recognized Ivailo Karadimov, director of architecture at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). Mr. Karadimov said that WMATA has not been consulted with for coordination of proposals at the Mount Vernon Square Metro station entrance.
Chairman Powell the proposal for its thoroughness, and he invited comments from the Commission members. Ms. Gilbert asked for further information about how the proposed color palette of red and yellow would be used. Mr. Zohar responded that red would be the dominant color, appearing in the tinted glass and baked enamel panels of the kiosks and the Metro canopy, while yellow would only be used in the corner occupied by the roof terrace, specifically on surfaces and benches.
Mr. Krieger commented that the proposed interventions appear clever and artistic, but he observed that the current proposal includes fewer components than the previous version, perhaps due to budget constraints. He asked if this loss of program items would continue, resulting in the next version having even fewer components. He also raised the concern that the proposed alterations will require a substantial amount of additional maintenance and programming responsibilities for Events DC, from finding vendors for the kiosks to maintaining the planters. He emphasized the necessity for a commitment that these ongoing tasks will be performed, because otherwise more changes may be necessary in just a few years. Mr. Conway responded that the design process is nearly complete, and no further changes in scope are anticipated. He acknowledged the maintenance required for non-standard tree boxes in public space and said that the project team is working with the D.C. Department of Transportation on a maintenance agreement. He said that Events DC has been successful in leasing all current retail spaces in the convention center. He emphasized that it is regarded as a world-class convention center whose condition reflects on the city, and he said the additions would be maintained to the standard of the building.
Ms. Gilbert asked about the type of retail envisioned for the kiosks, such as small coffee shops or magazine stands. Mr. Conway responded that the smaller kiosks might contain retail businesses such as these, and the deeper kiosks, which are large enough for people to enter, might include sit-down food service; he confirmed that these deeper kiosks would not contain kitchens. Mr. Dunson asked if any of the proposed retail kiosks would be located along Seventh Street; Mr. Conway responded that the currently proposed kiosks are only along Ninth Street. Mr. Dunson asked about the schedule for improvements to the Metro plaza on 7th Street; Mr. Conway said this work would be undertaken soon, and the presentation illustrates the design team’s initial ideas.
Ms. Gilbert asked how an art curator would be involved in the project. Mr. Conway summarized several options: the M Street passage might have rotating art installations from local artists or schools; Events DC can also commission art, which it expects to do for the murals and the hanging sculpture over the roof terrace stairway. Ms. Gilbert asked if this sculpture could incorporate light that would also light the stairway, which she said would draw attention to the terrace; Mr. Zohar responded that lighting in the frames would provide light for the stair; he said that this area will be well lit, although the details of the lighting design are difficult to finalize before the art has been created. Ms. Gilbert asked about public access to the roof terrace; Mr. Zohar confirmed that it would be open to the public. Mr. Conway added that this space would be used for various events related to the convention center, and probably for other special events; he added that security and operations will have to be worked out.
Mr. Krieger commented that the entire tradition of shopping is undergoing change, and throughout the country many street-level shop spaces no longer have retail occupants. He expressed appreciation for the project’s ambition to create retail spaces at street level, and commended the great skill and reputation of the design team. However, he said that he doubts whether enough businesses will be found to fill all the small spaces, and he strongly recommended designing the spaces to look good if they are not occupied, such as a big red frame with lights all around it. Mr. Powell added that empty niches might collect trash. Ms. Gilbert said they should be attractive spaces so that even without a retail vendor people would want to occupy the spaces for public activities, such as playing music. Mr. Conway reiterated that Events DC has been successful in leasing the larger spaces in the convention center and is optimistic about being able to lease the kiosks; he nonetheless offered to consider the recommendations concerning design options for these spaces.
Ms. Gilbert commented that the presentation had not provided much information on the signage program, and she strongly recommended more clarity about this component of the design. Mr. Zohar responded that the project team has just begun working with the signage consultant, and more information will be provided. Mr. Krieger observed that the submission is intended as a final design, and further review will be the responsibility of the staff. Chairman Powell summarized the consensus to approve the final design subject to the comments provided, and the Commission adopted this action.
F. District of Columbia Department of General Services
CFA 21/MAR/19-7, Eastern Market Metro Park, 8th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, SE. Modifications to and renovation of park. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept proposal for renovation of the park at the intersection of Pennsylvania and South Carolina Avenues at 8th and D Streets, SE. She noted that this park occupies one of the open city squares that were articulated in the L’Enfant Plan, and it was later depicted as a rectangular park in the Senate Park Commission (McMillan) Plan. The location has been an important transportation hub from the early days of the city—initially for stagecoaches, then streetcars, and now with a Metro station and as a transfer point among bus lines. She noted that the park design is constrained by a Metro tunnel and underground utilities. The wider context is a vibrant commercial and residential neighborhood that includes Eastern Market located a block to the northwest, and the Marine Barracks two blocks to the south. She said that this park has been the subject of numerous designs over the past decade; the current proposal is intended as a 21st-century town square with sustainable features, gardens, and recreational facilities, along with improved pedestrian safety, circulation, and wayfinding. She asked Cassidy Mullen of the D.C. Department of General Services to begin the presentation.
Mr. Mullen said that this project is a great opportunity to transform the park, which is centrally located within the Capitol Hill neighborhood but suffers from underuse. The submitted design results from years of effort by community members. He said that the proposal would enhance the park through new hardscape, fountains, and a playground, along with trees and other plantings, to create a place where people can spend time at this neighborhood hub instead of just passing through the park to reach the Metro or other destinations. He noted that the project also encompasses the medians of Pennsylvania Avenue. He introduced architect Paola Moya of Moya Design Partners and landscape architect Susan England of Land Design to present the proposal.
Ms. Moya said that the current design effort began in 2015 as a community-led project; the D.C. government then hired her firm in 2018 to develop the design. She said that the project team has met with the Commission staff and numerous stakeholders, and the current design proposal has been improved by the comments that have been provided.
Ms. England acknowledged that the design team has inherited extensive information and ideas from previous design efforts for this park. She presented an overview of the context, indicating the site as the middle of the three L’Enfant Plan open spaces along Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, between the U.S. Capitol and the Anacostia River. She indicated how each of these three parks responds differently to the converging rights-of-way of diagonal avenues and grid streets. She said that nearby historic features include Eastern Market to the northwest and the Hill Center (the Old Naval Hospital) to the southeast, although no designated historic features are located within the park itself. Ownership and management of the park is complex, involving the National Park Service, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, and the D.C. Department of General Services; additional open spaces of the site are within street rights-of-way. She said that in addition to the modes of transportation described by Ms. Batcheler, the site has heavy pedestrian traffic and a bike-share station. She noted that historically, a coherent park plan has been intended but never implemented for this site.
Ms. England described the existing condition of the park, which is rectangular in overall shape but is divided into several parcels by Pennsylvania Avenue and 8th Street. The two largest parcels, to the northeast and southwest, are offset from each other, resulting in a visual as well as physical separation. She indicated the Metro station entrance, the park’s primary destination, within the large southwestern parcel; the adjacent plaza is amorphous and unorganized, and this parcel contains a small historic marker. The primary feature of the northeastern parcel is a large spruce tree; she said that this tree is important to the community and is typically decorated for Christmas. She described the context of the northeastern parcel as more residential in character, while the edges of the southwestern parcel include retail uses and a public library. She indicated the two smaller triangular parcels to the north and south, known as “bow ties” or “pork chops,” which have paving and very limited areas of landscaping; she said that they serve primarily as pedestrian refuges within the vehicular roadway system. She also indicated the Pennsylvania Avenue medians, which apparently had once been planted with trees that were removed for construction of the Metro tunnel; current plantings include roses and hedges to discourage jaywalking. Mr. Krieger asked if trees could again be planted within the median; Ms. England said that the Metro tunnel and a large water main continue to be constraints for larger plantings. She presented a diagram of underground utilities, including a water main along the abandoned alignment of South Carolina Avenue beneath the southwestern parcel; she noted that the large northeastern parcel is not constrained by underground utilities.
Ms. England said that the park’s topography is relatively flat, with a grade change of three feet across the entire site; several low spots have been identified as locations for bioretention to manage stormwater. She said that a goal of the design is to improve the relationship between the park and the adjacent public library branch, which dates from the era of Carnegie library buildings; she described this as one of the smallest but most-used branches in the city, and its planned renovation will begin soon. She said that the park design would include more expansive views to the library, and possibly extending library functions into the park. She described the street circulation pattern as relatively straightforward, but the pedestrian circulation is not well defined; the plaza areas have little definition, and the position of trees provides only slight spatial definition.
Ms. England presented other key goals of the project, which would be updated to 21st-century standards including a sustainability certification that is given to parks and infrastructure. The project is intended to improve the park’s programming, materials, safety, sustainability, circulation, and wayfinding. A playground would be introduced, in response to requests from the community. The southwestern part of the park, closest to the library, is envisioned as the neighborhood’s town center with a concentration of civic uses.
Ms. England described the specific design interventions that would achieve the project’s goals. Additional trees would be placed around the park’s edges, and streetscape materials would be used to better define the edges and to establish a sense of arrival at a special place. The historic alignment of South Carolina Avenue would be respected as a view corridor; this diagonal, in conjunction with the diagonal of Pennsylvania Avenue, would generate interesting geometries for the park’s layout. The design is intended to accommodate critical pedestrian circulation routes across the park. The large tree on the northeastern parcel would be set within a circular plaza, with a lawn and play area adjacent. A similar circular plaza would be created as the focal point of the southwestern parcel, adjacent to the Metro station entrance; a public sculpture, not yet selected, is envisioned at the center of this plaza. Additional plaza space to the southwest could accommodate community events and library-related activities. A bosque of trees would be located to the south, incorporating some existing trees in this area, possibly set within crushed granite and with site furniture. She presented a diagram of the bosque layout, intended to provide a balance of sun and shade. Additional features of the southwestern parcel include a fountain across from the library, and possibly a kiosk that could be used for selling food and beverages.
Ms. England provided additional details for the park features to the northeast, a relatively quiet area fronted by housing. The play area would include a shade structure and seating. Adjacent would be a splash pad and, at the far northeast corner of the site, an additional seating area with movable furniture. A large open lawn would extend between a shade structure on the east and the spruce tree and plaza on the west; the lawn would be suitable for community events, and a stage could be placed in front of the tree. She said that the lawn may be graded to rise on the east, improving sightlines toward the west; the grading would be designed to allow for barrier-free access. The bioretention area along the Pennsylvania Avenue edge would provide a buffer from the avenue’s noise and contribute to the aesthetics.
Ms. England said that the southern bow tie parcel would be expanded by closing the cartway of a short segment of D Street between 8th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue; this would expand the pedestrian space and allow for the placement of a rain garden. The northern bow tie parcel would also be enhanced by a small rain garden. For the two Pennsylvania Avenue medians, the National Park Service has requested continuing the avenue’s line of street trees; due to underground constraints, this likely cannot be achieved on the eastern median, and may be possible using trees with shallow roots for the western median. She said that the intention is for the medians to help bring together the park’s two larger parcels, rather than serving as a barrier between them. Plantings would be minimized at the ends of the medians to allow for greater continuity of views across the park and the streets, which would contribute to wayfinding.
Ms. England presented diagrams of the proposed circulation. The street pattern would largely remain unchanged. The pedestrian circulation would be changed more extensively to become more clear and direct. The proposal also includes a potential configuration for bike lanes along the Pennsylvania Avenue medians, which would be implemented by the D.C. Department of Transportation.
Ms. England summarized the design intent to provide a variety of spaces that would provide maximum flexibility and attract a large number of visitors. She presented studies of how the spaces would work together, such as in the area to the southwest between the Metro station entrance and the public library. The project team has also considered how the parcels could be programmed, including everyday use and special events. Solar orientation has also been considered as a factor in the design. She presented a series of perspective views to illustrate the proposal.
Ms. England described the proposed materials, which would generally be traditional in character but simple rather than strictly historic. Due to the lack of a historic park design for this location, the inspiration is drawn from the history of the neighborhood, such as wrought-iron fencing. Some of the site’s existing brown-toned brick paving would be reused, perhaps forming a pattern that is mixed with new red-orange brick that is more in keeping with the neighborhood context; she said that the paving pattern could be developed to improve wayfinding, community identity, or recognition of the neighborhood’s history and people.
Ms. England said that many of the trees are in fairly good condition but may not be appropriate to retain; for example, smaller ornamental trees are blocking views and obstructing wayfinding. The proposed landscape plan therefore shows some trees that may be removed as well as new trees to be planted; she said that this proposal is being coordinated with the D.C. urban forestry office and other agencies, with consideration of the impact of trees on stormwater runoff. She presented a separate diagram of street trees; some of the younger ones may be relocated to allow for increasing the number of trees to define these edges. The specification of trees for the bosque will depend on the tree spacing that is ultimately chosen, using either a medium-size or slightly larger shade tree. The bioretention areas would have a variety of trees that would provide seasonal interest.
Ms. Gilbert called the project an example of democratic design, with extensive consideration of the park’s users, stakeholders, and existing conditions. She described the study as exhaustive, and she encouraged the willingness to use information developed by others who have been involved with design efforts for this park. She said that at this point in the design process, the need is to distill the information; the proposed design is overly busy, and the goal now should be to find the bigger ideas that unify the project. She said that the circular form could be a useful example: the broad goal is to bring together the two larger parcels that are separated by Pennsylvania Avenue, and each of these parcels is focused on a circular plaza area. But she observed that the lawn area adjoining the maple tree cuts deeply into the circle in the northeastern parcel. She suggested that this circular form be made more prominent, perhaps affecting the layout of the adjacent play area more significantly. For the circular plaza space adjacent to the Metro station entrance, she questioned the proposal to place a sculpture at its center rather than adding design features to reinforce the circular shape. She suggested that the narrow wedge of the fountain could instead be configured to more strongly define the circular plaza. More generally, she said that the shapes in the design do not appear to have a strong idea. She suggested a design approach of creating a hierarchy centered on important spaces at each parcel, and then developing the design outward from there, with careful consideration of the appropriate scale and number of elements. She said that the result could be a pair of park spaces that would be understood as related but different.
Ms. Gilbert suggested that the bow tie parcels could be treated more integrally with the rain gardens, rather than planting these small parcels with street trees that will likely die from lack of maintenance. She suggested generally that the plantings be chosen for ease of maintenance and for the actual conditions of the site. She expressed appreciation for the consideration of many important issues, but she encouraged paring back the proposal to the necessary elements. For example, she supported the intended relationship of the park to the library, while she questioned the proposal for small shade canopies. She said that the reuse of existing trees as part of the bosque is admirable, but a simpler solution may be to design a regularly spaced bosque, planting new trees as needed. She summarized that the project needs editing.
Mr. Krieger said that he supports Ms. Gilbert’s comments but describes the issues in a very different way. He observed that this site has never been a unified park, which would normally be expected to interrupt the street grid; although a McMillan Plan drawing suggested a unified park, this idea was not implemented. Just as in Boston, many open spaces that are not actually square are called “squares,” the label of this site as a “park” should not distract from the actual configuration of the site, which is essentially two large triangular open spaces that are separated by Pennsylvania Avenue with its wide median. He said that each of these open spaces could be designed as a wonderful park, without needing to be closely related as a single larger park. The remaining design issue would then be the treatment of the smaller open spaces, which Ms. Gilbert has addressed. He said that the drawings perpetuate this problem by trying to illustrate a single park that is actually spread across numerous parcels. He suggested that each parcel have its own identity, such as a library square or a South Carolina Avenue playground, and each should have its own special amenities. After this exercise, the thinking could go back to how these parcels come together as Eastern Market Park, which will only be a loose organizing concept as long as Pennsylvania Avenue and 8th Street continue to divide the site. Ms. Gilbert agreed that these comments are consistent with her own, while being framed in a different way.
Mr. Dunson supported these comments, including the strong separation established by Pennsylvania Avenue. He observed that the alignment of South Carolina Avenue suggests another line of separation, with a more landscape-oriented character to the southeast and hardscape to the northwest. He acknowledged that neighborhood parks interrupt the street grid in some cities, such as Savannah and Charleston, but the reality here is that Pennsylvania Avenue and 8th Street will continue to divide the site. Ms. Gilbert said that the benefit of this separation is the ability to emphasize a different type of use and character on each parcel, such as hardscape versus lawn; the goal should be to accommodate all of the desired programming elements somewhere in the design, but not necessarily to have every type of use on each of the parcels. Mr. Dunson agreed, summarizing the Commission’s concern that the design of each parcel is compromised by trying to unify them artificially as a single park comprising one larger space. He supported the recommendation to improve the design by subtracting elements, which he said will enable the designers to see the proposal more clearly. Mr. Shubow added that he supports the comments that have been provided.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission that the proposal has many good ideas but needs further study. He said that the Commission could approve the concept with the expectation of further development, or could provide the comments discussed without taking an approval action. Mr. Krieger said that the Commission’s concerns are a criticism of the fundamental concept of designing one park for the entire rectangular site; Ms. Gilbert agreed that the diagram and concept need further consideration. Mr. Krieger acknowledged that the Commission may be delaying the project by not approving the concept, but he said that an additional step of conceptualizing the project is necessary. Mr. Dunson agreed, noting that the Commission’s advice would free the design from the rectangular framework and allow for more freedom in designing each parcel. Secretary Luebke noted that the comments would be summarized in a follow-up letter; Chairman Powell said that the Commission looks forward to further review of the project’s development. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:16 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA