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 9:11 a.m.
Hon. Earl A. Powell, Chairman
Hon. Elizabeth Meyer, Vice Chairman
Hon. Edward Dunson
Hon. Liza Gilbert
Hon. Alex Krieger
Hon. Justin Shubow
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
A. Approval of the minutes of the 21 March meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the March meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the minutes.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 16 May, 20 June, and 18 July 2019.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that no changes have been made to the draft appendix. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the revised Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler said that one project listed on the draft appendix (case number SL 19-111) has been removed and will be held open for review in a future month. Other changes are limited to minor wording adjustments. The favorable recommendations for four projects are subject to the anticipated receipt of supplemental materials; she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations when the remaining issues are resolved. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act appendix.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Stevenson reported that the appendix has 29 projects; the only change to the draft appendix is to note the receipt date for the revised drawings for two projects. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the revised Old Georgetown Act appendix.
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider items II.B.2, II.E, and II.F.2. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission may wish to act on these submissions without a presentation.
B. National Park Service
2. CFA 18/APR/19-2, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, East Basin Drive, SW. Accessibility improvements. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/FEB/18-2.)
E. D.C. Water
CFA 18/APR/19-5, Sewer Services Field Operation Group Facility, 3101 Ames Place, NE. New two-story operations building, truck storage shed, materials bin, and vehicle parking lot. Concept.
F. District of Columbia Department of General Services
2. CFA 18/APR/19-7, Ward 1 Short-term Family and Permanent Supportive Housing, 2500 14th Street, NW. New six-story building with 50 residential units. Final. (Previous: CFA 21/FEB/19-4.)
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved these three projects.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B.1.
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 18/APR/19-1, National World War I Memorial. Pershing Park, Pennsylvania Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets, NW. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 21/FEB/19-2.) Mr. Luebke introduced the submission from the National Park Service on behalf of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission of a revised concept for several components of the National World War I Memorial, to be located in Pershing Park. At the last review, in February 2019, the Commission provided guidance concerning the scrim water feature and the walkway, and requested further development of the sculpture wall. He said that the design team has revised these elements and will present new information on the sculpture wall's length and the scale of its figures. He asked Peter May, associate director for lands and planning at the National Capital Region of the National Park Service, to begin the presentation. Mr. May noted that design review of the World War I Memorial is approaching its conclusion, and he asked Libby O'Connell of the memorial commission to provide an overview of today's presentation.
Dr. O'Connell introduced the presentation's speakers: landscape architect David Rubin, lighting consultant Zack Zanolli, and architect Joseph Weishaar. She said that Mr. Rubin will summarize the numerous past reviews and will then present the revisions to the walkways; Mr. Zanolli will discuss the lighting design and its technology; and Mr. Weishaar, author of the initial competition-winning design, will present the new modifications to the scale and composition of the figures on the sculpture wall. She said the presentation will conclude with two videos illustrating a "fly-through" of the memorial during the day and at night.
Mr. Rubin summarized the Commission's recent reviews of the project. In July 2018, the Commission approved the freestanding sculpture wall and a U-shaped configuration for the central walkway and viewing platform. In October 2018, the Commission expressed a preference for a cantilevered treatment of the sculpture supported by a monolithic stone wall with a cascade on the west side, and approved the general strategies for interpretation and planting. In November 2018, the Commission endorsed the "island" alternative for the area in front of the sculpture wall, requesting further study of materials and of the configuration of the water scrim; it also supported accessibility improvements and encouraged greater historical accuracy in sculpture details, requesting revised maquettes. In February 2019, the Commission requested more information on the proposed lighting strategy, including technical details; expressed support for low signs at the entrances, dark stone for the walk and pedestrian bridge, and a single surface finish for the granite sculpture wall; and advised shifting the bridge southward to reinforce the overall landscape aesthetic.
Mr. Rubin said that the project team now seeks approval of an adjustment to the walkway configuration at the pedestrian bridge, the lighting strategy, and refinements to the composition and scale of the sculpture wall. He said that in addition to the videos, the presentation will include the display of full-scale printed images of figures from the sculpture so that Commission members can assess issues of scale.
Mr. Rubin described the proposed adjustment to the walkway configuration: the south edge of the pedestrian bridge would be aligned with the south edge of the water scrim which, in addition to reflecting the asymmetrical composition of the site, will improve visual access from the Pershing Memorial and other circulation issues.
Mr. Rubin introduced Zack Zanolli of Fisher Marantz Stone to present the lighting design. Mr. Zanolli said that lighting played an important role in the park's historic design, with qualities that are important to retain. However, all of the existing lighting elements need to be repaired, rehabilitated, or even replaced. He finds that two particular lighting fixtures will be key to the character of the new lighting: the iconic Washington Globe light and a low pedestrian light with a drum-shaped shade; both will provide diffuse lighting, giving a soft wash cast on the ground plane without shining directly into eyes or creating areas of glare.
Mr. Zanolli presented a lighting diagram illustrating the visitor's journey through four zones of illumination, with a gradual reduction of glare: the outside perimeter of roads and sidewalks, with tall poles supporting bright lights; the park perimeter of berm and grove, lit by Washington Globe fixtures; the "contemplative" walkway, with soft lighting of the ground plane from the drum fixture and from light sources beneath benches; and, finally, arrival at the memorial area in the center of the park. He observed that the site possesses a generosity of scale that is rare in contemporary urban planning, which is dependent on keeping development compact.
Mr. Zanolli characterized the historic Pershing Park as a brightly lit, celebratory space that was focused on the horizontal expanse of the public ice skating rink in its center, surrounded by landscape and illuminated at night by large floodlights on tall vertical poles, and with an east-west view across the ground plane. This central area is being reinterpreted as a contemplative memorial space, and the rink will become a viewing area from which visitors will see the vertical elements of the Pershing Memorial to the east and the World War I Memorial's sculpture wall to the west. He said that the new design lessens the importance of the ground plane, instead focusing on the verticality of the two memorials. The central plaza will no longer be a place for visitors to see and be seen; instead, visitors there will become part of a community that is collectively viewing the memorials—a different emphasis within the same footprint.
Mr. Zanolli enumerated several characteristics of the surroundings that interfere with seeing into the park. All of the surrounding streets have thirty-foot-high lampposts on at least one side of the roadway, creating a much greater level of brightness than what would be ideal for the memorial. He described the park's south side as representative of the common problem of how to establish a contemplative space adjacent to an active urban area. He said that the shift from this busy streetscape into the memorial park will be assisted by the presence of the large south berm, which establishes a sense of arrival and of moving away from the street. He noted that the south terrace has an important historic lighting fixture—the simple pedestrian-scale single light with a drum-shaped shade that emits a soft light from the top and bottom, casting a soft glow above and below eye level. Calling this fixture a modest but useful tool, he proposed retrofitting existing fixtures and producing new copies to replace the extant large poles and glaring lights.
Mr. Zanolli said that the lighting design is intended to allow time for eyes to adapt to the memorial's lower light level. Moving from the brightness of the streets, this will require about three minutes of walking through gradually dimmer spaces to the center. On the north, visitors will enter the grove of willow oak trees and from there get their first view of the sculpture wall through a "veil" of trees. In Friedberg's original design of the park, visitors entering the grove would arrive at a bright area, which he called "decorative." In the current proposal, trees on the north will shield light sources in the same way as the south berm blocks glare from the street lights. He noted that Pennsylvania Avenue on the north side of the park has the unfluted cast-bronze light fixtures developed especially for the roadway by the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation (PADC). Shorter than most park light poles, these twin-shaded fixtures illuminate the ground plane only and establish a human scale. He described the grove's original character as a shaded place for visitors to watch the activity in the brightly lit skating rink below. The grove is now poorly lit and underused; the new design will create low-level light through the addition of Washington Globe lights.
Mr. Zanolli described various other proposals for lighting the park's ground plane. The belvedere will be given a new handrail that is compliant with modern regulations; it will have an integral lighting feature, and additional lights will be mounted into the steps and incorporated into the frames around the interpretive panels. A light will be installed beneath the bench in the Pershing Memorial and under benches throughout the park. He discussed the poor night lighting of the Pershing statue, which has a light pole placed directly in front of it, blocking a clear view; this pole will be relocated.
Mr. Zanolli described the lighting strategy for the park's center. The existing pair of cobra-head lights on thirty-foot-high poles have metal halide bulbs that emit a cold white light; these will be retrofitted with digital lighting that has a warmer light color. The new flagpole will be lit on three sides to accentuate its appearance as a moving sculpture and to avoid distortion. On the west side of the sculpture wall, lighting fixtures within the water will animate the cascade, while fixtures within the ground will illuminate the inscribed text. He noted that the usual problems with lights installed in a ground plane—where they get damaged by temperature variations and moisture—will be avoided here since this corner of the memorial site is elevated, and new in-ground lights will be placed in raised pavers, allowing water to drain quickly.
Mr. Zanolli described the challenge of lighting the sculpture wall. He said that lighting cast from the front tends to flatten a sculpture, while lighting set too far to the side can cause figures in a sculpture to throw shadows on other figures. To determine the best locations for lighting, he worked closely with sculptor Sabin Howard, who has designed the sculpture with particular lighting angles in mind. If set too high, lights would be harsh and visible to the eye, while if set too low, they would generate too much glare. Mr. Zanolli said that to correctly reveal the figures, the light should come from both sides at particular heights. Two primary lights will be used, one at the north and the other at the south. The light on the south will be integrated into the design of the existing berm, set about twenty-five feet from the ground plane of the scrim water feature. On the north, to achieve the same effect, the light will be on a forty-foot pole placed farther away.
Mr. Zanolli said that the proposed digital lighting provides more control and allows the use of smaller light fixtures that are easier to hide or disguise. The five-degree spread of their beams is also easier to shield and dim; he showed an example of a typical fixture. Using a cluster of small-scale digital fixtures instead of a single large light can accentuate figures without overemphasizing the back wall. Light will be composed to emphasize the sculpture's narrative for viewing at night.
Mr. Zanolli emphasized that the sculpture wall would be the culmination of the journey through the park and would also function as an important landscape element. When visitors arrive at this contemplative space, they will not see the memorial surrounded by darkness; instead it will appear to be set within a green landscape environment created by lighting, suggestive of a theater proscenium.
Mr. Zanolli acknowledged concern about the multi-globe light fixture that is an original element of Pershing Park; he described it as a pretty, decorative pole-mounted chandelier-like light, a style popular in the 1980s, featuring the lights as sculptural objects. Six of these fixtures would be visible directly above the sculpture wall, where they would create distracting points of light, antithetical to the desired effect of arriving in a calm space. Even if the incandescent bulbs were replaced with another type of bulb, he said that they would still be a distraction. The proposal is to remove these lights and replace them with the drum-shade light fixture. In conclusion, Mr. Zanolli presented diagrams and studies of light intensity, and the video animation depicting an evening fly-through of the memorial.
Following a brief recess, Chairman Powell opened the review for questions from the Commission members on the lighting proposal.
Ms. Gilbert observed that some of the pedestrian-scale light poles with the drum-shaped shade would be placed in planters near the fountain. While acknowledging the need to locate them at the correct distance and angle, she said that placing them in planters so close to the trees might make them more noticeable; she asked if they could be moved out of the planters. Mr. Rubin responded that these lights will illuminate the plaza for safe movement, and they have been located in planters to avoid having the poles be an obstruction; other lights of this type will be focused on the sculpture, so they will not be a source of glare. Ms. Gilbert clarified that her concern is the proximity of these fixtures to the trees.
Ms. Meyer asked about the park's context, including the spacing and illumination levels of lights on the surrounding streets; she asked for clarification of the impact of the bright, varied, and chaotic perimeter lighting on the proposed concept. She noted that little information had been provided about designing the new lighting with consideration of the existing illumination of the opposite sides of the surrounding streets. She asked if the location and spacing of Washington Globe lights is the same or different on the three sides of the site other than the north with its PADC lights; she suggested that the existing lighting level may be much lower on the west, which faces President's Park, than in the more commercial context on the east. Mr. Zanolli responded that the standard practice is that both sides of a city street are uniformly lit. He emphasized that a primary goal of the lighting plan is to create more uniform lighting around the green perimeter, and also to enhance the grove with the Washington Globe, because the grove now appears quite dark in contrast to Pennsylvania Avenue on the north.
Ms. Meyer said that she is not convinced that removal of the multi-globe light is either necessary or desirable. She objected to the characterization of it as "pretty" and "decorative" when it is actually one of the character-defining features of the historic Pershing Park landscape within which the World War I Memorial will be sited. She said that the only real argument against it is glare, but more glare may actually be coming from outside the park, and this may be no more than is typical of any city. She emphasized that she admires the general lighting strategy but reiterated her concern about removing these lights.
Ms. Meyer said she would have more confidence in the proposal if the design team had tried to solve the problem of light levels while retaining the existing multi-globe standard, such as by studying the effect of frosting the bulbs. She objected to the use of deprecating descriptions of this light, including the characterization that it is a pretty little chandelier from the 1980s. Mr. Rubin responded that the design team has gone beyond simple description to discussing the emotional aspects of lighting; he emphasized that the team is trying to work with those elements they can control, and they do not have control over glare from outside.
Referring to a nighttime rendering of the new memorial from the east, Mr. Shubow said that in the absence of information about whether other light sources will create glare, he would find glare from the multi-globe lights to be an issue. He added that the fixtures look very dated and would not be appropriate for the new design.
Mr. Zanolli clarified that in his presentation, he had tried to be descriptive and not judgmental. He agreed that when the sculpture wall is seen from some vantage points, bright lights will be visible beyond the park's boundaries, but this will be seen through the trees; the glare from the multi-globe lights would be much closer and directly above the sculpture, where it will contrast with the surrounding darkness. Although frosting the bulbs would make the light dimmer, it would also make the lights appear larger, which he thought a more important consideration than whether the fixture appears dated. He emphasized that the goal is to create a suitable composition of lighting for the memorial rather than use lighting just to enliven the park.
Ms. Meyer asked if consideration was given to leaving these fixtures in place but with a different level of illumination, questioning whether conservation of the lights had ever been seriously considered. Rather than choosing whether to keep or remove the existing lights, she said that the better solution may be to keep the fixture but with a different bulb. She emphasized that this is not simply a park composed of a green landscape and decorative light fixtures—it is a spatial organization with a coherent architectural concept. She said she would not pick apart a building in this way, saying that this part counts and this part does not; similarly, this project should not reject a particular light because someone does not like this historic element, while keeping all the rest. She emphasized that the ongoing, multi-year conversation between the Commission members and the design team has focused on figuring out how to add new things while keeping the important qualities and elements of the existing site.
Mr. Krieger asked if the proposal is to remove all the multi-globe lights; Mr. Rubin confirmed that all twelve would be removed. Mr. Krieger agreed that their glare above the sculpture wall would be a distraction, but he questioned the necessity of removing the lights on the south as well. Mr. Zanolli responded that the intent is to create a soft, glowing light on the landscape plantings so that they act as a frame in front of the bronze sculpture wall. The multi-globe lights, with their small points of light and their contrast and sparkle, would distract visitors from the moment they arrive at the center of the park, undercutting the idea of the sculpture as the destination. He said that in the original park design, these lights were a decorative fixture that animated the space; but in the new treatment of the park as memorial, the landscape will be as important as the sculpture.
Mr. Krieger said he does not feel as strongly about the issue, but he agreed that the new design should not be intended to erase the old, a viewpoint that has been made clear over the years of consultation and review; instead, the design team should be trying to find the most compelling way to overlay the new concept on the original. He emphasized that the Commission members appreciate how successfully this has been achieved in many other respects, although in this case more of a compromise may be called for. He suggested consideration of moving the multi-globe fixtures to other locations in the park.
Mr. Dunson commented that he finds the lighting design compelling, and the issue is whether the historic multi-globe lights would detract from the integrity of the new design at night; Ms. Meyer agreed. Mr. Dunson added that another question is how the new design will look in daylight.
Acknowledging the relationship between the multi-globe lights and the U-shaped benches, Mr. Zanolli asked if this would be damaged if some of the lights were removed. He observed that their decorative nature would affect the experience of entering and walking up the south berm. He suggested the poles could remain without bulbs to keep the architectural expression, but more lighting fixtures would then be necessary for safety, and it would not be desirable to leave some of these fixtures and remove others. He said that using the drum-shaped lights in the same spacing would unify the site and retain that architectural relationship, but more lights would need to be added.
Ms. Meyer emphasized that the multi-globe light poles play a structural and not a decorative role. She explained that M. Paul Friedberg had used geometry to structure the landscape of Pershing Park, and the suggested redesign would probably not be as successful. The original pole was used to establish an important geometric rhythm along the seating areas; using the same fixture in a different condition, as proposed in the adjacent planted areas, would fail to differentiate the new design from the old rhythm. She said that confusion about the old spatial structure and the new is evident in the indiscriminate use of the drum light on both sides of the path. Mr. Dunson added that the proliferation of vertical elements breaks down the clarity of the overall plan.
Mr. Rubin responded that the proposal is not capricious, and the structure of the Friedberg landscape was itself irregular in spite of its geometries. Ms. Meyer said the multi-globe lights had only been used in a few limited areas; using the drum light to replace them, and also for additional lighting, would change the rhythm of the upper walk and indeed the geometry of the entire park. Mr. Rubin said that the design team has done an extraordinary job of preserving as much of the original Friedberg design as possible; Ms. Meyer commented that design happens at every level. Mr. Rubin agreed but said that in turning this park into a memorial, the design team has tried to balance many concerns—from safety to emotive quality to historic preservation.
Ms. Meyer said that if the design team truly understood the significance of the existing site, a different light fixture would have been chosen to replace the multi-globe lights at the ends of the semicircular benches instead of the drum light, which is already proposed to be used in too many places. Mr. Rubin asked if a third light fixture, different from the historic multi-globe light and also from the drum light, would be acceptable; Ms. Meyer responded that her preference would be to keep the existing multi-globe light; but if it cannot be used, another should be chosen. Mr. Rubin thanked the Commission for its guidance.
Mr. Rubin then presented the design team's continued refinement of the details of the sculpture wall. He noted that the Commission had endorsed the option for a cantilevered shelf to support the bronze relief sculpture above the recessed linear cascade, and it had recommended developing a light and ethereal quality in the sculpture wall, in part by making the shelf as thin as possible and further recessing the cascade beneath the sculpture. Mr. Rubin provided samples of proposed granite, bronze, and lettering, along with a detailed scale model of the wall. He then asked Joseph Weishaar to present the proposed refinement of the bronze sculpture.
Mr. Weishaar said that the design team has begun working with a foundry, Pangolin Editions, to determine the production process. He noted that the Commission had recommended certain refinements to improve the sculpture's historical accuracy, ranging from details of helmets to the depiction of African-American soldiers. He said that the presentation images have been developed using an exceptionally large photogrammetry machine that facilitates the overlay of proposed changes on the previous version of the sculpture. An important consideration with this equipment is that distortions appear as the scale increases, because of changes in perspective; an additional consideration is that figures in a bas relief become flatter if they are set more deeply into the background. The design team is trying to maintain a high degree of accuracy, such as by aligning features in relation to datums around the edges, while keeping the handcrafted quality of the sculptor's work. As an example of using a visual datum, he referred to the Grant Memorial on the west side of Capitol Hill, which has a very straight line on the base that acts as a datum for all the sculpture groups above.
Mr. Weishaar said that one important issue is an adjustment to the scale. The Commission had approved a proposed length for the relief sculpture of 56 feet 6 inches, resulting in the human figures standing an average of 6 feet 6 inches tall. If the modified design has figures of this height, the length would need to be increased by 11 inches on each end. Alternatively, in order to fit the modified design within the previously approved length, the height of the figures would need to be reduced to 6 feet 2 ¼ inches.
Mr. Rubin then played the video animation of a daytime fly-through. Ms. Meyer commented that after seeing the video she does not object to the small light poles in the tree planters. Noting the presence of two large American flags across Pennsylvania Avenue to the north, she asked Mr. Rubin if the display of the American flag at a national memorial is required, commenting that adding a third flag at the memorial seems unnecessary; Mr. Rubin said this is a question for the National Park Service. Mr. Krieger commented that the video has demonstrated that the lighting of the park's surroundings will, in fact, affect the memorial.
The Commission then recessed briefly to view full-size photographs of two figures from the sculpture at the two different scales under consideration, as well as full-scale markings for the proposed adjustment to the length of the sculpture wall; these were displayed on the balcony outside the Commission's meeting room.
Upon reconvening, Mr. Powell and Mr. Krieger expressed support for the larger-scale figures. Mr. Krieger observed that the difference is most evident when the photographs are seen from a distance. He commented that the sculpture continues to improve, adding that the proposed design for its lighting appears extremely sophisticated.
Mr. Krieger indicated a problem with the design of the sculpture's base, which he said is too complicated: the bronze figures are depicted standing on the ground supported by a stone shelf, which forms one base; the cascade of water emerges some distance below, a second base; and between shelf and cascade is another stone base, the third, which seems too thick. He suggested having the cascade emerge directly below the shelf; Mr. Rubin said that a design for this configuration had been shown to the Commission. Mr. Powell agreed with Mr. Krieger, suggesting further exploration of a more effective way to integrate the sculpture and base.
Ms. Meyer defined the problem as the use of three different vocabularies—the stone base of the bronze sculpture, then a classical torus profile and base molding, and then a simple stone wall—that appear to have been designed by three different people. She agreed with Mr. Powell that a more coherent language is needed: the intermediate band has to relate either to the simple stone or to the roughness of the bronze. She said that in the current design, the molding looks flimsy, and it appears more like a frame rather than a base. Mr. Powell acknowledged that the compromise of the current design arose because of the Commission's comments, but he emphasized that this detail deserves more study. Ms. Gilbert suggested looking at the simple and monolithic language of the Pershing Memorial for a solution. Mr. Powell observed that the Pershing Memorial does not include a cascade; Ms. Meyer said the problem is the profile. Dr. O'Connell responded that the cascade requires a slight overhang, but she expressed confidence that the issue with the base could be worked out.
Mr. Dunson expressed appreciation for the informative discussion about lighting and for the illustration of vertical and horizontal elements in the park. He offered a motion to approve the lighting plan, with the recommendation to consider retaining the multi-globe lights; and to approve the larger scale of the sculpture wall, with the request to study better integration in the design of the base. Ms. Meyer added that the operative principle for the multi-globe lights is that they structure as well as illuminate space, and the light and its spacing should be differentiated from other nearby lights. Upon a second by Mr. Powell, the Commission adopted the motion.
2. CFA 18/APR/19-2, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, East Basin Drive, SW. Accessibility improvements. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/FEB/18-2.) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
C. U.S. Department of Agriculture
CFA 18/APR/19-3, U.S. National Arboretum, 3501 New York Avenue, NE. Replacement perimeter fence. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal for perimeter fencing around the U.S. National Arboretum. This project would replace the black-painted steel fence dating from the 1960s on the northwest and southwest sides of the Arboretum; much of the fence is severely corroded at the base. He said that the new fence would be eight feet high—two feet higher than the existing fence—to discourage deer from leaping over it, and the pickets would be more closely spaced at four inches to reduce the risk of a deer's head being trapped between pickets. He added that near the Anacostia River, the existing chain-link fence on the south and east sides of the Arboretum will remain. He introduced Greg Ninow of STV Architecture, who presented the submission with his colleague from STV, engineer Sham Billah.
Mr. Ninow said that the Arboretum has had to abandon some structures because the low maintenance budget is insufficient; because of these budget limitations, the fence project will be implemented in phases. Ms. Billah noted that although the area of the Arboretum is over 450 acres, it has only four maintenance employees. This project would replace approximately 2.4 miles of fence; the phasing is still being worked out in coordination with the budget.
Mr. Ninow described the extent of the existing fencing, primarily constructed of steel pickets, that would be replaced along the more public sides of the Arboretum, including the long New York Avenue frontage to the north. He indicated the endpoint of this fencing at the northeast corner of the Arboretum, where a building housing the Washington Times newspaper is located just outside the Arboretum's property line. From this corner, the picket fence extends westward along New York Avenue to a point just short of its intersection with Bladensburg Road, where the fence turns south behind a small gas station, then runs along several residential streets and west on R Street to reach Bladensburg Road. The fencing extends south along Bladensburg Road and then southeast on a diagonal alignment along residential property to reach M Street, NE. The fence continues eastward along M Street past Maryland Avenue, including an abandoned dead-end block of M Street that has been closed to traffic. Further east, the Arboretum has chain-link fencing along the Anacostia Park Golf Course on the south and then the Anacostia River.
Mr. Ninow said that the existing picket fence along New York Avenue has minor variations: from the northeast corner to the Arboretum's New York Avenue entrance gate, the fence stands on a low curb; from this entrance to Bladensburg Road, the fence is set on a three-foot-high concrete wall. The existing segment of chain-link fence along Bladensburg Road would be replaced with the new picket fencing.
Mr. Ninow indicated the locations of the numerous entrance gates into the Arboretum. Gates 2, 3, and 7 are no longer used, and these would be eliminated to save on maintenance costs; the intention is to leave their masonry brick gateposts in place, and to reuse the metal gates elsewhere in the Arboretum. Ms. Billah said that Gate 1, by the Washington Times building, is a vehicular gate that is usually kept locked; a pedestrian gate was formerly located there, and the proposal is to make this entrance for pedestrian access only. Because there is no parking lot within the Arboretum at Gate 1, many visitors park in front of the Washington Times building.
Mr. Ninow said that Gate 4 along New York Avenue is notable for the presence of four historic stone gateposts that were originally designed by architect Charles Bulfinch for the U.S. Capitol Grounds. The gates would be relocated; the Bulfinch gateposts are in poor condition, but the Arboretum lacks funds for their conservation. Ms. Billah said these gateposts would be retained in place; she added that Gate 4 is used mostly by Arboretum staff and school buses, which park in a lot at this gate.
Mr. Ninow said that Gate 6, located at the end of R Street, is currently the main public entrance to the Arboretum; it has a small guardhouse. Ms. Billah added that a future public entrance gate is planned along Bladensburg Road; when this is built, it would become the main entrance, and Gate 4 would be used only for bus and truck traffic. She said that this future entrance would decrease traffic through the residential neighborhood along R Street; this gate will be brought for Commission review as a separate project.
Ms. Billah said that Gate 7, at the corner behind the gas station, would be closed and its abandoned guardhouse would be removed. Mr. Ninow added that some gates have a decorative grillwork similar to a grille used on the Arboretum's administration building. He continued that Gate 10 would become a pedestrian-only entrance, while Gates 8 and 9 have been abandoned and no longer have gates but are blocked by a stone wall. Ms. Billah added that local residents and public officials have been discussing the possibility of opening a pedestrian gate on the south that would be for the exclusive use of the M Street neighborhood.
Mr. Ninow presented the proposed new fencing, which would have solid steel black-painted pickets with square tops, similar to the existing picket fence, but with a height of eight feet instead of six feet and with the pickets more closely spaced at no more than four inches on center. He said that these modifications are intended to address the problem of injured deer; Ms. Billah added that the Arboretum donates more than a ton of venison yearly to soup kitchens. Mr. Ninow said that new pedestrian entrances would have pairs of sliding gates set within a three- to four-foot-wide opening. Ms. Billah said that the only location for new, black vinyl-coated chain link is a small segment in the wooded area near the Washington Times building.
Ms. Billah described the proposed adjustments to the fence's alignment; in some areas, the existing fencing lies just within or outside of the Arboretum property line, and all new fencing would be realigned to correspond with the property line. Ms. Gilbert asked what trees would be removed for the realignment. Ms. Billah responded that most of the areas affected do not contain trees, but any specimen trees would remain, along with existing planting beds; Mr. Ninow confirmed that no significant trees would be removed.
Mr. Ninow noted that the firm Gray & Pape has conducted historic research on the Arboretum fences; he illustrated historic drawings of the Bulfinch gateposts and some of the gates. He said that some pickets have I-shaped cross-sections, and different types of decorative finials have been used for gateposts and pickets. He clarified that finials would not be used on the new fence; the tops of the square pickets would be flat.
Ms. Meyer asked for more information on the spacing and dimensions proposed for the pickets, in comparison to the existing fence design. Ms. Billah answered that these questions are still being studied; because this is a federal project and a particular manufacturer cannot be specified, the Arboretum wants to be able to use a standard product in order to be able to quickly repair damaged segments of the fence, which is often damaged by cars. Mr. Ninow added that the picket size would remain nearly the same, three-quarters to one inch in diameter, and the fence posts would be approximately three to four inches wide.
Ms. Gilbert asked if more of the replacement fence could be chain link to save money that could be redirected for other purposes, such as conservation of the Bulfinch gateposts. Mr. Ninow responded that the Arboretum wants picket fencing installed along all public sides of the property. Ms. Gilbert observed that not all sides are the same; for example, chain-link fence might be acceptable along the abandoned block of M Street. Ms. Billah emphasized that the fencing proposed for replacement is very visible to the public, and the picket fence is the desired option; she reiterated that the only place where it would be replaced with chain link is adjacent to the Washington Times building. Mr. Ninow said that one option discussed for the Bulfinch Gateposts is to relocate them within the Arboretum, as was done with the Capitol Columns; but currently no money is available for this. He added that the issue will also be discussed with the National Park Service to generate additional options for the Bulfinch Gateposts; Ms. Gilbert expressed support for this.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the concept proposal for new replacement fencing at the National Arboretum with the comments provided.
D. U.S. General Services Administration
CFA 18/APR/19-4, Southeast Federal Center—The Yards, Parcel G, bounded by New Jersey Avenue and Quander, 1½, and N Streets, SE. New eleven-story office building. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept design for development of Parcel G of The Yards. Under the review process established for The Yards in a Memorandum of Agreement between GSA and the Commission in July 2005, this project is submitted as a concept at the 35% design phase, and no final design submission will be required. She noted that Forest City Washington, the previous development company in this public-private partnership, has now been replaced by Brookfield.
Ms. Batcheler said that Parcel G is the second site being reviewed in the western zone of The Yards, west of New Jersey Avenue and outside of the designated historic zone; the western portion contains a total of eight development sites, and the first proposal was for Parcel I in November 2018. The proposal for Parcel G is an 11-story commercial office building with approximately 300,000 square feet, with an occupiable penthouse, ground-floor retail space, and two levels of below-grade parking. She asked Mina Wright, director of the Office of Planning & Design Quality at the regional office of the General Services Administration (GSA), to begin the presentation.
Ms. Wright noted the Commission's previous review of development proposals for eight parcels in the eastern side of The Yards, where design guidelines are more extensive. In the western zone that includes Parcel G, the limited guidelines call for consistency with the L'Enfant Plan and meeting the urban design guidelines for The Yards. She introduced architect Jeff Barber, the design director at Gensler, to present the design.
Mr. Barber presented an overview of the context and its relationship to the proposed site plan and architecture. He indicated the east and west sides of The Yards, and he noted that Parcel G may be the first development to be constructed in the west side, although Parcel I was reviewed first. He presented the land use plan for The Yards, which provides guidance that Parcel G should be developed with office and retail uses, including continuous retail frontage on the south along N Street; the proposal satisfies this guidance. Although retail use along the other sides is not required, the proposal includes some additional retail frontage on the east along New Jersey Avenue and on the west along 1½ Street. He indicated the open space of Tingey Square to the southeast, as New Jersey Avenue shifts from a diagonal alignment on the north to a north-south alignment leading toward the Anacostia River; the other sides of the site are orthogonal.
Mr. Barber presented additional factors that have been considered in the site plan and building design, including prevailing winds and solar orientation. Several views outward from the future building are an important consideration: an extensive eastward view across open space and above low-rise historic buildings; a view to the southeast toward a large, historic water pumping structure, with the view from the upper floors extending above this structure to the distant Anacostia hills; and a view south along 1½ Street from the building's southwest corner, extending to the Anacostia River and beyond. He added that the view above the 11th floor would be open in all directions. He noted that the building will be particularly prominent when seen from the open space to the east. The materials and colors of nearby buildings were studied, with the intention of selecting materials for the new building that are different from but compatible with the context. The U.S. Department of Transportation headquarters to the northeast has a warm-colored terra cotta and tan precast; recent buildings in The Yards have used various types of brick as well as precast; for example, the building to the east has a dark, charcoal-colored brick with iron spot.
Mr. Barber described the proposed massing for the new building. The street level and second story would generally extend to the perimeter of the large site, serving to define the street edges as called for in the master plan for The Yards. Above this base, the massing would step in various ways. The facades would pull back with long curves toward the south, east, and northwest at levels three through nine, resulting in a volume that projects southeast toward the expansive Anacostia River view. This southeast volume would step back at the tenth level, resulting in a simpler, curved floor plate for the uppermost levels. He indicated the relationship of the sculpted eastern curve to the important view toward the building from the east. He noted that this massing results in a series of outdoor terraces and green roofs at various levels. He described the seven-story-high rectangular projection at the southeast as an "urban window" that would serve as an iconic feature for the company Chemonics, which will be the tenant for all of the building's office space and part of the street level. The tenth-level terrace above this volume would be the building's primary outdoor space, enjoying views to the east and southeast.
Mr. Barber indicated the proposed lobby entrance, which will be approximately centered along the New Jersey Avenue frontage; he said that this location is aligned with an east–west sidewalk along Tingey Square to the east. He indicated the areas of retail space along the south and at the northwest corner. The building's parking and loading access would be to the north along Quander Street, intended as a relatively unobtrusive location.
Mr. Barber said that the building's maximum height is 130 feet; the stepping back at the tenth level would be consistent with the planned height for neighboring buildings. He presented the proposed elevations, emphasizing the effort to avoid having a broad facade directly fronting a street. He said that the upper curved facades in the daylight would have an interesting, constantly changing appearance as a person walks in the area, while the two-story base would provide a consistent definition of the street edges. He noted that the facades at the base would have large openings that appear to relate the retail frontage to the second level, although the retail space would only be at the street level.
Mr. Barber presented the proposed materials, which include various colors of metal, brick, and precast concrete. The main volume of the building would have an exterior of gray, heathered brick and charcoal-colored metal spandrels; he described the overall emphasis on a warm color palette. At the base, the top of the tall windows would be accented with metal that has a warm finish.
Mr. Barber concluded with several exterior perspectives of the proposal, including aerial and pedestrian-level views. He indicated the modest scale and differentiated design character of the building's two-story base at the corner of Quander and 1½ Streets; he said that 1½ Street is intended as a pedestrian-oriented street with a lively retail character in this western area of The Yards. He acknowledged that the experience of the aerial views would only be from the upper levels of some nearby buildings, but the drawings help to illustrate the proposed design. He said that the facade detailing of the urban window is intended to emphasize verticality and the interior space. In the perspective view of the lobby entrance, he indicated the curved projection of the brick spandrel to provide a canopy that appears to extend naturally from the building.
Chairman Powell noted the unusual review process for this project, which is submitted as a concept but will not be reviewed at the permit phase. Secretary Luebke said that the staff has met several times with the project team, although relatively little of the staff's advice has been incorporated into the current submission.
Ms. Meyer questioned the logic for the proposed massing; notwithstanding the presented analysis of the context, the massing appears to respond primarily to views outward rather than views toward the building. Similarly, the issue of solar orientation was discussed but does not appear to have influenced the massing. She asked about the proposed use of the upper rooftop space at the northwest, which would be exposed to the summer sun during the warmest part of the day; she noted that the solar diagram in the presentation showed the equinox condition but not the more northwesterly setting of the sun during the summer. She also observed that the sidewalk along New Jersey Avenue widens into a substantially sized plaza along the northern part of the site's east frontage; she suggested a site design that improves the quality of this space, such as a bosque of trees to provide shade and dappled light. She summarized her concern not only with the design's appearance, but with how it performs.
Mr. Barber responded that the presented landscape plan is not fully developed. The curb alignment of New Jersey Avenue may be adjusted to provide a simpler shape for the space that Ms. Meyer described as a plaza. The paving plan would be adjusted to continue the pattern from the block on the north, resolving to a simpler pattern as the width of the sidewalk space becomes narrower toward the south. He also clarified that the green roof on the northwest side of the penthouse level is not intended for occupancy; the paved terrace area for the building's tenants would be on the southeast side of this level, sheltered from the late-afternoon sun. Ms. Meyer said that this configuration addresses her concern.
Mr. Dunson commented that the proposal looks better in the perspective views looking upward from the pedestrian level rather than in the aerial views. He suggested that concerns with the massing of the upper part of the building may be of lesser importance because the public will primarily experience the building from the nearby streets and open spaces. He said that the choice of materials would be more important, and he observed that the proposal appears to weave various types of brick and various colors. In considering the entire facade, he suggested that the volumes—particularly the two-story base—be further differentiated; he suggested experimenting with darker or lighter tones for the base that would improve the grounding of the building, and he anticipated that a lighter tone would be the best solution. He also questioned whether brick is the appropriate material for the building's base, which he said would define the pedestrian experience and the desired sense of activity along the sidewalks. He expressed general support for the detailing of the upper part of the building that helps to separate the volumes and stratify the building into layers, subject to further consideration of using different materials. He added that the fins and other details at the windows could provide a greater sense of color and variety. Mr. Barber said that the presented renderings may slightly over-emphasize some of these distinctions in material and color, which are still being developed; the intent is to rely on the interplay of sunlight and shadow. He clarified that the brick patterning would include a blend of brick types, and the larger geometric gestures of the building would play off of each other.
Mr. Krieger offered a reaction that he acknowledged may seem insulting: the architect's description of the design is better than the manipulation of forms that is actually proposed. Despite the eloquence of the presentation, the design appears to be a jumble of forms; the appearance of each part appears to be unrelated to anything else. As an example, he cited the entrance to the main lobby, which was described as having subtle architectural emphasis while having no relationship to the geometry of the seven-story-high volume above. He said that the design gesture presented as an "urban window" could instead be described as a carbuncle that is stuck awkwardly against a curving form. He acknowledged the intention to differentiate this project from the boxy forms of existing and future buildings in the area, as well as the desire to impress prospective tenants with interesting spaces and views, but he said that the building would be awkward as a presence in the urban grid. He said that his remarks are particularly blunt because the Commission's opportunity to influence this project is limited, and the project might proceed without the Commission's support. He summarized that the design seems to be a weird combination of curved and square forms, inconsistent with the more poetic description. He agreed with the comments of the other Commission members concerning the detailing, which he said could likely be resolved during the remainder of the design process; but he said that the overall form is trying too hard and should instead be more thoughtful.
Mr. Shubow agreed with this criticism. He suggested that the underlying cause of the problem is that this design is intended to create an "object" building, while a "fabric" building would be more appropriate for the site. He said that the L'Enfant Plan and subsequent regulations encourage buildings that rise directly from the property edge at the sidewalk; instead, this proposal has an unusual form that would set a bad precedent for the neighborhood. He said that the questionable design process is revealed by the emphasis on the views outward from the proposed terraces, rather than on the viewsheds looking toward the building as would be experienced by most people; he noted that the presentation did not include a view looking along the length of New Jersey Avenue. He acknowledged that the Commission's role may be limited, but he suggested that a complete redesign of the project would be the best solution.
Mr. Krieger offered a more specific criticism of the project, commenting that the two-story base is too low and gives the project a suburban character; he said that a base of three to five stories could be more appropriate for this urban setting. He acknowledged that this revision may not be consistent with the internal space needs of the tenant, who is apparently satisfied with the design.
Chairman Powell asked the Commission members how they want to act on this submission; one option would be simply to send comments. Ms. Meyer said that the Commission is in an awkward position due to the memorandum of agreement that was executed more than a decade ago for projects at The Yards. She noted that the comments have addressed not only this building, but its possible use as a precedent for other development parcels, and she suggested that the Commission take a vote on the proposal; even if the design for Parcel G cannot be improved, the Commission would be sending a strong message that it does not support this design approach. She offered a motion to disapprove the project, based on the comments provided. Upon a second by Mr. Shubow, the Commission adopted this action.
E. D.C. Water
CFA 18/APR/19-5, Sewer Services Field Operation Group Facility, 3101 Ames Place, NE. New two-story operations building, truck storage shed, materials bin, and vehicle parking lot. Concept. The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
F. District of Columbia Department of General Services
1. CFA 18/APR/19-6, Capitol Hill Montessori School (formerly Logan Elementary School), 215 G Street, NE. Building modernization and additions. Concept. Mr. Fox introduced the submission for the Capitol Hill Montessori School, located to the east of Union Station and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission headquarters. The proposal includes side and rear additions to the school as well as a new site design. The existing two-story brick school is in the Colonial Revival style, composed of three connected wings totaling approximately 50,000 square feet; it was built in two phases, with the west wing completed in 1935 and the center and east wings completed in 1949. He asked project manager Joe Olmstead of the D.C. Department of General Services to begin the presentation.
Mr. Olmstead said that this school serves pre-kindergarten to eighth grade. As a Montessori school, it has a different pedagogical system from other schools, especially regarding the connections between the school's interior and the landscape. He said that the landscape design is a high priority, and a landscape architect has therefore been included on the project from its early stages. He introduced architect Ronnie McGhee of R. McGhee & Associates, architect David Bagnoli of Studio MB, and landscape architect Bryan Hanes of Studio Bryan Hanes to present the design.
Mr. McGhee requested the Commission's advice regarding the massing and siting of the new additions, emphasizing that the design of the facades is at an early stage. He described the location of the site on the northern portion of the block bounded by F, G, 2nd, and 3rd Streets, NE; the surrounding building context includes row houses to the north and east, and larger apartment and commercial buildings to the west. A temporary structure on the southwestern part of the site, currently used by the school, would be demolished. This part of the site is under the D.C. government's jurisdiction but a portion is owned by the federal government, resulting in a restriction that a building cannot be put back on this location; this area will therefore be incorporated into the landscape design. He noted that the school is attended by children from across the city, and they arrive by many methods of private and public transportation. He indicated the large extent of existing paving on the site; the current surface parking lot has spaces for more than 80 cars, accommodating pick-up and drop-off of students.
Mr. McGhee said that many of the character-defining features of the existing school would be retained. The existing configuration consists of a center wing flanked by two larger wings set further to the north, linked to the center wing by connecting corridors. He noted that this phased three-part massing was a common design approach for D.C. schools of this period, although this school is unusual in having all three wings executed. He said that this configuration was designed to accommodate further expansion on either the side or the rear of the building. Accordingly, the current proposal is to construct two southern additions behind the two flanking wings of the historic building, along with a glass structure extending across the rear of the existing center wing to connect these two new additions. A larger addition would be sited to the west of the existing building, connected by a hyphen and a bridge. He said that the current formal entrance at the center wing would be retained in the proposal, and the new hyphen would have entry points on its north and south sides. He indicated the new playground that would be located at the south of the site, as well as the proposed smaller parking lot; loading and service areas would continue to be accessed from 2nd Street, at the rear of the new westernmost addition. He said that the lower grades would occupy the lower floors of the school, allowing for easy access to the outdoor classroom and play spaces—an important component of the Montessori program—while the upper grades would be on the upper floors.
Mr. McGhee said that the design team is continuing to study the compatibility of the new additions' massing and materials with the historic building. He said that the new western addition would be set back several feet from the 2nd Street property line because of the building's size, although in historic districts one would potentially site a new building at the property line to maintain a consistent street wall. The two southern additions and the associated glass hyphen structure would be as tall as the eave line of the existing school and would have flat roofs to maintain the dominance of the existing pitched roofs. He asked Mr. Bagnoli to present the program of the new school.
Mr. Bagnoli said that his firm has designed Montessori schools across the country. The original school in Rome established by Maria Montessori was called the "Casa dei Bambini," and Montessori school buildings are therefore typically called a "Children's House." He said that the pedagogical model includes multi-age classrooms: the primary classrooms serve three- through five-year-olds; the lower elementary rooms serve six- through eight-year-olds; and the upper level classrooms serve nine- and ten-year-olds. He noted that a middle school program was not clearly defined by Montessori, but many schools have developed their own programs, which often have different levels of oversight of students compared to the younger students, as well as differently sized rooms, which are usually larger for the younger children. He said that putting these larger Montessori classrooms into the historic building would require reconfiguring the interior corridors; therefore, the existing wings would house the lower and upper level students, with the larger classrooms for primary students clustered in the new southern and western additions. He said that co-locating a middle school and a traditional Children's House within the same facility is uncommon; the middle school would be in the upper floors of the historic building to separate these older children from the younger children. He noted that the historic main entrance would serve as the formal entry and social space for the middle school. The library would be housed in the former auditorium space in the existing center wing, adjacent to the middle school rooms, where it would be most used. The proposed structure that would enclose the southern portion of the center building, connecting the new rear additions, would serve as a common space for the school. Historic interior details throughout, such as terrazzo floors, would be kept where feasible.
Mr. Bagnoli said that approximately 500 students would be accommodated at the expanded school complex. The dining and gym spaces would be located in the southern part of the westernmost addition, easily accessible to the loading and service area; dining would be on the ground level and open to the surrounding landscape, while the gym would be on the upper level and have views of the U.S. Capitol and Union Station. He noted that in a Montessori school, most primary- and lower-school students eat in their classrooms, but the D.C. government wants to include a cafeteria space in case the Montessori program leaves the school building. He indicated the rooftop gardens for the lower- and middle-school students.
Mr. Bagnoli cited Montessori's comparison of conventional schools to factories or warehouses for children, who move from one classroom to the next like an assembly line. He said that the existing school resembles a factory; the proposed additions would therefore have more irregular window arrangements to appear less like factory-like. The Montessori program emphasizes connection to the outdoors, but traditional windows are too high for younger children to see out of; the new additions would therefore have windows with lower sills to allow for better outdoor access—an additional reason to locate the younger grades in these additions. He reiterated that the landscape architect has been involved in the project since its early conception because of this important aspect of the Montessori program. He said that due to the limited open space on the site, a playing field would be located on the roof of the westernmost addition, and he noted that this aspect of the program has influenced this addition's massing. He said that the exterior space at the south of the site would have play space for each grade grouping; the service area would also be used as a basketball court.
Mr. Hanes presented the site plan and additional details of the proposed landscape design. He said that the existing 6,000 square feet of available open space would be increased by 250 percent through the creative use of the paved areas on the site. He indicated the areas designated as outdoor learning spaces, noting how the limited space affects their configuration. The spaces along the edges of the site would be connected to form a multipurpose lawn space. The low point of the site at the south would be planted with a rain garden, and would also be occupiable to serve as an educational tool. Adjacent to this bioretention area would be productive gardens, with the potential for an orchard. He indicated the classrooms that would have direct outdoor access. He said that the historic entry plaza, to be used as the main entrance for the middle school, is a relatively large area that would feature hard surfaces to facilitate socializing among these older students. Its historic character would be maintained, although the lawn is proposed to be sloped upward toward the steps; he suggested that several of the existing steps might be buried to accommodate this new slope and allow for a reduction in the extent of new ramping. He presented a rendering to convey the intended character of the proposed exterior play spaces, which are envisioned as nature-based areas that do not rely on traditional play structures; natural materials would be used to accommodate play and education. Mr. McGhee added that the porous soils on the site and the proposed rain garden would be able to accommodate stormwater runoff without the need for additional depressed catchment areas.
Mr. McGhee described the proposed irregular window arrangement on the new rear additions, in line with the existing windows but differentiated from their regular patterning. The exterior of the rear additions would be a textured brick, which is intended to be differentiated but compatible with the historic building; he said that the mullion pattern and specific brick is still being studied, and the color of the brick is intended to be similar to the historic brick to make them appear as though they had all been built at the same time. He said that the intended size and extent of the perforated metal rain screen on the westernmost addition is shown in the presentation, but its appearance is still being designed; one issue is the relationship between the framework of the rain screen and the windows behind, with the intention to provide the interior spaces with a dappled light, similar to light through a tree canopy. He said that the type and configuration of this addition's other cladding materials are also still being considered; the current drawings indicate glass, metal panels, and a banded, textured-brick base. The character of the glass structures is also being studied, with the current iteration suggesting a conservative, regular scheme. He concluded by presenting the intended color palette, which would have a variety of light and dark tones, including a potentially warm color for the rain screen, as well as the new brick for the southern additions that is intended to closely match the color of the existing brick.
Mr. Krieger said that he generally supports the organization of the classrooms, but he questioned using different architectural vocabularies for the new western and southern additions. He also asked for more information about the rain screen system proposed for the westernmost addition, as well as the design of the building facades behind the screen. Mr. McGhee responded that the presentation does not show the building facades without the rain screen, but the current proposal is to clad this addition in dark brick, with the rain screen placed in front of the building's fenestration; he noted that the configuration of the openings in the rain screen shown on the renderings is still under development. He said that the design of the westernmost addition is intended to differentiate the Montessori school from traditional school design and reflect its unique pedagogy; features that reinforce this concept include the easy access from the new building to the courtyard garden space created between this addition and the existing western wing. He said that the scale and massing of the old and new construction are similar, but the new western addition uses a different architectural vocabulary. He confirmed that the entire school, including all of the proposed additions, would have a Montessori curriculum. Mr. Dunson joined in questioning the differing characters proposed for the additions; Mr. Krieger observed that the southern additions seem to reinterpret without mimicking the existing brick buildings. Mr. McGhee responded that earlier studies for these southern additions had a more differentiated expression from the historic building; however, because they would be closely appended to it, they have been subsequently designed to be more compatible. He added that the design of the connecting structure has also been moderated.
Mr. Krieger reiterated his question of why the additions have differing architectural vocabularies, and he described two conceptual approaches for their design. One line of reasoning is that the Montessori philosophy is set in opposition to traditional, factory-like brick buildings, and therefore all of the new additions should have a strongly contemporary expression as presented for the westernmost addition. Another line of reasoning is that a new, innovative building fit for a Montessori program could also have a design compatible with the historic buildings; the westernmost addition would therefore resemble the proposed design for the two southern additions. He continued to question why the current conceptual approach—with different architectural vocabularies for the different additions—is being pursued, especially since the entire school complex would house the Montessori educational program. Mr. McGhee said that the close proximity of the rear additions to the historic buildings is one reason for their proposed design; in contrast, one could consider the westernmost addition to be a glassy, open, and fully contemporary expression for a Montessori school that would address the public in a new way.
Ms. Meyer acknowledged the logic, based on the history of this building typology in Washington, of extending the historic three-part building to the rear with additions of comparable massing. However, she said that these southern additions could retain this massing while still having the more contemporary expression of the western addition. As a result, just two architectural vocabularies would be apparent: the historic red brick wings and the new glass and metal additions. Mr. Krieger agreed, advising that all of the new additions should have a common aesthetic, whether panelized red brick or an enclosure system of metal and glass. Mr. McGhee acknowledged that the proposal has been influenced by close consultation with the D.C. Historic Preservation Office, resulting in the proposed use of a closely matched panelized red brick in this historic district. Mr. Krieger responded that the proposed rear additions appear to successfully reinterpret the architecture of the historic school while still being differentiated from it. He said that both of the proposed architectural expressions for the additions are of interest to the Commission, but the question is why both are proposed for use in this project. Mr. McGhee said that the design team would continue to study this issue.
Mr. Shubow noted the irony of describing the historic building as resembling a factory, when in fact most people would clearly identify it as a typical American school. Instead, it is the large proposed western addition—with a glass curtainwall and metal screen—that appears much more like a factory or a building in an office park, rather than a school. He expressed support for a more contextual appearance for the additions.
Ms. Meyer commented that the vocabulary of the rear additions, with their compatible fenestration proportions and color palette, could still accommodate the programmatic need for easy access to the outdoor spaces. She agreed with Mr. Krieger that either conceptual approach he described could be feasible, and that the rear additions appear compatible with the rhythm set by the historic buildings while successfully accommodating the program. Mr. Dunson agreed that the design vocabulary shown for the rear additions would be more successful; he said that the D.C. Historic Preservation Office would likely support the attention to the height, glass connecting structures, and abstraction of the facades of the new rear additions in relation to the historic buildings. He said that if the rain screen concept is pursued, then more of the building facades should be revealed. He noted that the proposed garden spaces would establish a sense of a campus for the school.
Ms. Gilbert expressed appreciation for the resourceful use of the site's limited open space. She noted that the historic main entrance plaza is particularly wide and would be one of the largest open spaces on the campus, while the rest of the site design is composed of edges and remnants. She recommended further developing the design of this entry to create an accommodating social place that is more than a walkway, perhaps by adding seating. Ms. Meyer commented that the green spaces appear residual in the proposed design for this plaza, which would benefit from clearer spatial hierarchy between the planted and paved areas; she noted that the proposal already includes altering the topography of the plaza, and she therefore suggested moving the stairs or ramps to the edges.
Ms. Meyer commented that that the large parking area is too close to the play area at the south of the site, negatively affecting the play area's safety and character. She said that the proposed design apparently reflects the current requirements for accommodating vehicles on the site, while car use might change in the future; she therefore recommended reducing the number of parking spaces to improve the design of the play area. Mr. McGhee responded that the number of proposed parking spaces is the minimum required by zoning regulations; Ms. Meyer suggested seeking a variance. Additionally, she observed that the proposed topography in this area is used to create mounds as discrete objects; she suggested instead that topography be used as a datum to connect components of the landscape and provide a sense of enclosure for the play area, separated from the parking lot. She discouraged the use of an unappealing fence for separation, as shown in the presentation. Mr. McGhee commented that the drainage in this area might be of concern, but the design team will consider the suggestion.
Mr. Krieger asked if the historic buildings are sited closer to the street edges than the proposed siting of the westernmost addition. Mr. McGhee responded that while the historic school is built up to the property line, the new addition would be set back five feet from the 2nd Street property line. Mr. Krieger and Ms. Meyer recommended moving this addition closer to the property line in order to increase the width of the courtyard space between this addition and the west face of the existing school. Mr. McGhee said that the sloping of the site would have to be considered, but he acknowledged the importance of making the courtyard as wide as possible. Mr. Krieger and Ms. Meyer agreed that any additional width for the courtyard would be beneficial.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus to support the general siting and massing proposals, as well as the landscape design as presented, with the recommendation to consider using a common aesthetic for the new additions and to revise several aspects of the landscape design. Upon a second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission adopted this action.
2. CFA 18/APR/19-7, Ward 1 Short-term Family and Permanent Supportive Housing, 2500 14th Street, NW. New six-story building with 50 residential units. Final. (Previous: CFA 21/FEB/19-4.) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
G. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
1. SL 19-128, 601 D Street, NW. Office building, renovation and additions. Revised concept. (Previous: SL 19-042, 15 November 2018.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the revised proposal for the revitalization of the Patrick Henry Building, a private office building that forms part of the architectural frame of large buildings surrounding the Judiciary Square precinct. The existing building, built in 1973, was designed by Vlastimil Koubek. The previous proposal, reviewed in November 2018, included the complete replacement of the facade, the addition of an 11th floor at the top of the building, and reconfiguration of the entrances and lobby. Subsequently, the owners have secured a major tenant who intends to occupy the building as soon as possible. The project scope has therefore been reduced to shorten the schedule: the current proposal is to modify the existing precast facades instead of replacing them. The remainder of the scope remains similar to the previous proposal. She asked Chris Schoer of Tishman Speyer, the building's owner, to begin the presentation. Mr. Schoer indicated the material samples available for the Commission's inspection, and he introduced architect Joey Shimoda of Shimoda Design Group to present the design.
Mr. Shimoda said that the reduction in the project scope and timeline results from the securing of a major tenant, with the added benefits of improving the project's sustainability and addressing a comment from the Commission's previous review about the prevailing masonry character of buildings in this area. Nonetheless, the project's previous goals continue to guide the project: to create memorable architecture that improves the perception of the building; to enhance the pedestrian experience; to refresh the facade with warm and lasting materials; and to improve neighborhood amenities with retail space.
Mr. Shimoda described the wider context, indicating the Capital One Arena to the north, Judiciary Square to the east, and the proximity of public transit. The immediate context includes a varied architectural character. He said that the location of the main lobby entrance and of the vehicular ramp to below-grade parking will remain unchanged. Loading access would continue to be from a service yard on the northwest, with access from the existing alley system along the west side of the site. The building facades include areas of limestone at the lower stories, some of which will remain, and the predominant precast panels of the facade, which will largely remain with alterations. The top-floor addition would be slightly smaller than was proposed in November 2018, and the existing cornice line would remain but would be painted to relate to the building's base. The previously filled arcade at the sidewalk level would be opened up, extending to openings at the second level. New windows at the building's base would have projecting copper frames, intended to improve the pedestrian experience. The corner of 6th and D Streets would be emphasized by a visually and physically porous treatment at the sidewalk level, possibly serving as the entry point for a retail space. He presented perspective views of the building's base, indicating the shadow lines that would be created by the asymmetrical, copper-colored detailing of the window framing. He also indicated the use of copper to frame the wide glass facade of the main lobby, defining an exterior area that he likened to a front porch. Additional highlights at the entrance lobby would be made of cast glass and fluted glass; he said that the provided samples do not fully convey the intended thickness and color of the glass. The detailing of the glass will include curves, and it will be lit for dramatic effect. Some areas of sidewalk frontage would include public seating, using a combination of stone and ipé wood. He summarized that the base of the building would have a hand-made character, in contrast to the heavy character of the precast panels above.
Mr. Shimoda noted the substantial grade change of twelve feet along 6th Street; secondary access to the building would be provided where feasible, and some of the retail frontage could be designed with extensive openings along the sidewalk. A separate access point and lobby for the major tenant would be provided along 6th Street, helping to activate this frontage with pedestrian activity. He also indicated the access points for bicyclists, as well as the double-height openings along the facade that will give the sense of the retail space extending to the second story. At the top of the building, the existing mechanical core would remain at its current height, and the proposed addition at this level would provide amenity space for tenants adjacent to outdoor terraces. He said that as the building becomes occupied, the extent of landscape and furnishings for the roof and terraces will be increased. He emphasized that none of the roof elements would exceed the height of the existing mechanical penthouse. He presented a section detail of the proposed glass guardrail that would be set back from the existing cornice.
Mr. Shimoda concluded by describing the proposed alterations to the precast facade panels along 6th and D Streets. Selected mullions would be removed to create a staggered effect, giving the facade a more varied and kinetic appearance, with the added benefit of increasing the area of glass and allowing more daylight to reach the interior. He described the effect as a more decorative treatment of the mullions. He noted that the alley facade on the west would be largely unchanged.
Ms. Meyer noted her continuing support for the proposal presented in November 2018, and she expressed hope that it could be executed in the future. Mr. Krieger observed that removing some mullions would result in a more horizontal character for the exterior, but the effect may not give the kinetic character that is intended. Mr. Shimoda acknowledged that the perspective renderings may not convey this effect well; when seen in motion from below by a pedestrian walking along the sidewalk, the horizontality would be less evident, and the dynamism of the window framing at the base would be more prominent. He added that the street trees in the renderings may be obscuring the visual effect of the facade treatment; the proposal includes replacement of unhealthy trees. Mr. Krieger acknowledged that the rendering itself may be the problem.
Mr. Dunson commented that the November 2018 proposal was more successful in its vertical expression, due to the use of slightly projecting glass panes. He suggested exploring how to bring more of this vertical expression to the current design proposal. He expressed support for the proposed detailing, particularly at the building's base where it would be seen most closely; he said that the building would be very successful in meeting the street.
Mr. Krieger asked if the alterations to the mullions include the variation in thickness that is seen in the drawings; Mr. Shimoda clarified that the existing facade panels have this alternation of thicker and thinner mullions. Mr. Krieger suggested that the proposed change to this pattern could be more imaginative, such as repositioning some of the mullions off-module rather than simply removing them, with the goal of establishing a more varied rhythm. Mr. Shimoda said that the exact pattern of alterations is still being explored.
Ms. Meyer reiterated her concern from the previous review that the soil for the street trees should be replaced in order to improve the likelihood of good health for the new trees being planted; she described this as a worthwhile investment in the long-term quality of the public space. She said that the use of chiseled limestone at the base is admirable but may be undesirable adjacent to seating areas, where the stone finish could be uncomfortable or may damage clothing.
Chairman Powell offered a motion to approve the revised concept with the comments provided; the Commission adopted this action unanimously.
2. SL 19-109, 5906 17th Street, NW. New single-family house. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept design for a new single-family house on a recently subdivided vacant lot located along the eastern edge of Rock Creek Park, one block south of Military Road and adjacent to an unimproved continuation of the Manchester Lane right-of-way that is perceived as part of the park. The trapezoidal lot slopes gently down toward the west, and new construction would be prominently visible from Joyce Road within the park. She described the architectural context as a mix of modest 20th-century, one- and two-story brick houses in styles ranging from Colonial Revival to split-level ranch to more contemporary. The proposed house would contain approximately 4,400 square feet on three levels, with a stepped footprint and massing to accommodate the irregular site. She asked architect Jonathan Harden of Studio 207 to begin the presentation.
Mr. Harden said that the neighboring lots along 17th Street are wider than the lot under consideration. The narrow street-facing facade of the proposed house would therefore have an appearance similar to the houses built on the narrower lots seen on Manchester Lane. He characterized these houses as having narrow profiles with strong vertical elements above the garages, with a variety of window sizes and configurations facing the street. He reiterated that the site slopes down toward Rock Creek Park, and he noted that the landscape design is still in an early conceptual phase. He introduced architectural designer Kyle Seaton, also of Studio 207, to present the design.
Mr. Seaton said that the landscape design is intended to preserve the natural green space of the site, in deference to its proximity to Rock Creek Park. Hardscape would be minimized through the use of grass pavers on the driveway and parking area, helping to achieve a pervious surface ratio of 82 percent for the total site—far exceeding the required minimum of 50 percent. He said that the design team has referred to information from the non-profit organization Casey Trees for the planting selections, which would include crape myrtle and blackhaw; crape myrtles are being favored because they would provide color and visual interest, and they are unappealing to deer, which are prevalent in the park. He indicated the property lines and the setback along 17th Street; planters would be installed in the interstitial space for both aesthetic and stormwater management purposes. The open green space at the northern and western areas of the site would be retained to preserve existing drainage patterns.
Mr. Harden described the proposed massing of the new house. The front and rear masses to the east and west would be mediated by a central vertical circulation space; this flat-roofed central mass would serve as an anchoring element between the two lower masses, which would have pitched roofs and contain the living spaces of the house. He indicated the proposed stucco facade finish for the central circulation mass; this would be a lighter color than the gray-brown brick proposed for the two larger masses. The exterior chimney projections would also be clad in the lighter gray stucco. The main entrance would be at the southeast corner of the east facade along 17th Street. Large windows on this elevation would allow for interior-exterior reciprocal views, making the house appear inviting. The south elevation, facing toward the park, would have larger windows. He indicated the deck and the garage entrance proposed on this side of the house, as well as the balcony and covered patio on the west. He described the proposed mullion arrangement on the windows within the brick masses; the windows in the central circulation space would not have mullions.
Mr. Harden concluded by describing the location of the major spaces on each level of the house. The basement level would contain the garage, a recreation room, and a bedroom suite. The street level would contain the kitchen, dining room, and family room; he noted that the park would be visible through large windows upon entering at this level. The upper level would contain bedrooms.
Mr. Dunson asked if any other buildable lots exist between this one and the park. Mr. Harden confirmed that there are no other buildable lots, and he indicated the unimproved street right-of-way that abuts the southern edge of the site. Secretary Luebke confirmed that the house would be surrounded on three sides by public space. Ms. Meyer asked if the right-of-way is grass or wooded; Mr. Harden responded that it is mostly grass with a few trees, and he indicated the existing wooden fence along the right-of-way in one of the site photographs. Ms. Meyer asked for further information about the site's topography. Mr. Harden said that the two-foot contours on the drawing indicate a drop of seven feet from the eastern edge of the site to the basement level, with an additional seven-foot drop between the basement level and the western edge of the site. He added that precise site surveys are still needed.
Ms. Meyer expressed concern that the design team does not fully understand the implications of the topographic manipulations proposed for the site. She said that a seven-foot drop is not uncommon from the front to the back of a house; a proper grading of the site would move water away from the foundation more effectively than the planters proposed for the east side of the house. In addition, she said that the conceptual approach for the landscape design should be to connect the property to the large-scale woodland of Rock Creek Park. She suggested adding large canopy trees to the edges adjacent to the parkland, and using native small-scale ornamental trees such as blackhaw and amelanchier instead of the proposed crape myrtle. She also recommended eliminating the insubstantial planters and planter walls, in favor of an improved grading plan for the site. She expressed support for the porous grass pavers, but she said that they would not be sufficient in moving water off the site during an extreme weather event; she advised adding trench drains at the low areas close to the house.
Ms. Gilbert observed that the house would be sited close to the neighboring property on the north, and she suggested using plantings to provide privacy. She said that if Casey Trees had conducted a specific evaluation of this site for the selection of plantings, the organization would likely have surveyed existing trees within the park and specified the same or similar species. She suggested using site walls to integrate the plinth of the house with the rest of the landscape. She agreed that a topographic study must be completed, and she suggested creating a small topographical model to study the site.
Mr. Krieger expressed concern that the drawings presented are not technically rigorous; for example, fireplaces are shown in the floor plans, but the elevations do not show chimneys. He also commented that the design of the house is not particularly elegant; he noted that the central mass would already be legible as a linking element because the configuration of the plan is staggered, and its differing color and material therefore seem unnecessary. He questioned why one of the bedrooms would have a closet located in front of windows that have the best views of the park; he also questioned the decision not to include a terrace on an area specified as a flat roof in the drawings. He said he could provide additional examples of concerns, but in general the plan and facades do not seem carefully considered. He added that the exterior design—particularly for the southern facade, which he said should be considered the front of the building—would make the house look like a small apartment building, rather than an elegant house overlooking Rock Creek Park.
Mr. Dunson emphasized that nothing can be built on three sides of this property, and the house should therefore be reconceived as fronting on Rock Creek Park; the flow of interior spaces should then be reconfigured to take advantage of the site. Regarding the site plan, he suggested studying how the ground plane of the house could be integrated into the park, with particular focus on the transition between the two, and how the design could give prominence to the house on this site. He summarized that these considerations could help the house address the park in a more respectful way.
Secretary Luebke asked for further guidance from the Commission members on the extent to which the project should be redesigned. Mr. Krieger noted that the proposal is for a private residence, and he said he is unsure of how much change to ask for in the design. He suggested that both the Commission and staff could continue to offer advice; however, he said that he does not think that the Commission should reject the proposed design.
Mr. Dunson said that he does not see any major technical problems with the design of the house itself. Ms. Meyer said that the site plan appears to have technical deficiencies. She described the current proposal as irresponsible in directing water runoff toward the house, and she emphasized that the federal interest of Rock Creek Park calls for a beautiful, dignified house that has a well-performing site that appropriately accommodates stormwater. If this not addressed, then this property could be adversely affected, especially after a few heavy thunderstorms. She said that the proposed location of the garage is creating some of the project's drainage issues; she suggested exploring other locations for the garage, such as facing the street, or revising the grading of the parking court to slope toward a central drain. Ms. Gilbert said that an appropriate site and grading plan would reveal the building size that the site can technically support, and she suggested that the answer might be smaller than the proposed house.
Ms. Meyer emphasized that her comments relate to the basic health, safety, and welfare issues for the proposed house adjacent to the federal parkland. She added that the proposed 20 percent slope for the driveway is extremely steep, and even a 10 percent slope would be quite steep. Mr. Harden responded that putting the garage at the front of the house would result in additional problems of grading and massing. Mr. Dunson said that the designers have made a choice about the aesthetics, but the site issues must be considered.
Chairman Powell suggested that these comments could be transmitted to the applicant, with a request for the project to be submitted for further review. He summarized that the Commission has provided expert advice to the applicants, and incorporating this advice would improve the project. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
(Chairman Powell departed at this point, and Vice Chairman Meyer presided for the remainder of the meeting.)
H. United States Mint
Mr. Simon introduced the two submissions from the U.S. Mint, noting that they are for non-circulating items. He asked April Stafford of the Mint to present each set of design alternatives.
1. CFA 18/APR/19-8, 2020 Mayflower 400th Anniversary Program. Designs for a 24K gold coin and silver medal. Final. Ms. Stafford described the sizes of the two Mayflower commemoratives: a quarter-ounce gold coin, approximately the size of a nickel; and a much larger one-ounce silver medal, equivalent in size to a sample silver medal that she provided to the Commission members. She added that the coin and medal would have different designs, and the Commission's recommendations are sought for the obverse and reverse of each.
Ms. Stafford summarized the historical context of the Mayflower voyage, with the Pilgrims seeking religious freedom and sailing to Massachusetts Bay, resulting in a complex interaction between the two cultures of the Pilgrims and the native Wampanoag people. She said that the themes and designs have been developed in consultation with experts on the history of the voyage, including its impact on the Pilgrims, on the Wampanoag people, and more generally on American history. The experts included representatives of the Wampanoag tribe, the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, the living history museum of Plymouth Plantation, and the Plymouth 400 organization that is overseeing the 400th anniversary commemoration. She said that the British Royal Mint will also be producing a coin to commemorate the Mayflower anniversary, and collectors will have the option of purchasing the British coin in conjunction with the American coin or medal; she anticipated that the British coin's reverse will feature a dramatic depiction of the Mayflower at sea, paired with a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse.
Ms. Stafford presented the design alternatives, highlighting the six newly developed pairings of obverse and reverse designs for the coin and medal as recommended by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC), which met earlier in the week. She noted that any of the designs could be adapted for either the coin or medal, and for either the obverse or reverse, with adjustments to the inscriptions as needed, although the small size of the gold coin may be a limiting factor. She described how each recommended pairing would tell the story of the Pilgrims' arrival in the Wampanoag homeland; in conjunction with the British coin, the story would extend to the departure of the Pilgrims from England.
Vice Chairman Meyer expressed concern that all of the designs may be too complex for the nickel-size gold coin; Ms. Stafford responded that this issue was discussed extensively, and the Mint is confident that the design alternatives presented for the gold coin will be suitable for its size. She acknowledged that the issue of size is compounded by the requirement to include additional inscriptions on the small coin that are not necessary for the larger medal. She said that the Mint has flexibility in placing these inscriptions on either the obverse or reverse; for example, the phrase "In God We Trust" may be more appropriately placed on a side depicting Pilgrims, if such a design is selected.
Ms. Meyer suggested that the Commission begin with consideration of designs for the gold coin, with a focus on consideration of the first two pairings recommended by the CCAC; she noted that the third pairing recommended by the CCAC for the coin—alternative 09-GC-R for the obverse with 10-GC-R for the reverse—would be redundant due to its depiction of a Pilgrim and a Wampanoag on both the obverse and reverse. Ms. Stafford added that a further concern with this pairing is that no women are depicted.
Ms. Gilbert asked about the significance of the large cooking pot at the lower right of the obverse designs in the CCAC's first two pairings, shown with smoke rising in alternative 05-GC-O and without smoke in 06-GC-O. Ms. Stafford responded that this design element is intended to suggest the comfort of the Wampanoag people in their homeland, in contrast to the difficulties faced by the Pilgrims in learning to survive in their new environment. She said that this element could be removed to accommodate the inscriptions and improve the legibility of the small coin. Ms. Gilbert asked about the symbolism of the flower at the bottom of alternative 05-GC-O. Ms. Stafford responded that this is a mayflower, symbolizing the ship's name; if this symbol is used on the British coin, the U.S. Mint would like to include it as well.
Ms. Meyer questioned the perception of alternative 09-GC-R, the reverse design in the CCAC's second recommended pairing, which depicts a Pilgrim and a Wampanoag together but looking in opposite directions. Mr. Krieger discouraged the placement of the inscription "Liberty" above the obverse designs depicting a Wampanoag family watching the Mayflower's arrival, observing that the Wampanoags would soon lose their liberty; Greg Weinman, counsel for the U.S. Mint, responded that the inscriptions could be moved between the obverse and reverse after selection of the desired pairing of designs. Mr. Krieger said that a more historically appropriate pairing could be the CCAC's second choice for the silver medal: obverse design 04A-SM-O depicting a vulnerable Pilgrim family bracing against the wind, paired with reverse design 11-SM-R depicting Wampanoags harvesting abundant crops. Ms. Stafford noted that these designs are more complex and are therefore suggested for the larger medal. Ms. Gilbert commented that the border ring in this obverse design is nonetheless overly busy, with depictions of numerous animals and plants; Ms. Stafford responded that the border detail could be simplified or removed. Ms. Gilbert supported the pairing cited by Mr. Krieger for the silver medal, perhaps simplifying the obverse border to just a ring of mayflowers, while suggesting further discussion of how his thematic concerns could be addressed in a recommendation for the gold coin.
Ms. Stafford reiterated the thematic concept for the gold coin in the first two pairings recommended by the CCAC, which the Commission is continuing to consider. The similar obverses in these pairings depict the Mayflower arriving as a Wampanoag family watches; the intent is to continue the narrative of the British coin, with the Mayflower voyage bringing the Pilgrims across the ocean from the rule of the British monarch to the land of the Wampanoags. The reverses in each pairing would feature a double portrait of—either a Pilgrim husband and wife, or a Pilgrim and Wampanoag man—to represent the new cultural situation. Mr. Krieger supported this general thematic approach; he offered support for the obverse in the CCAC's second pairing, alternative 06-GC-O, due to its inclusion of a Wampanoag child pointing at the Mayflower. He suggested combining this with the reverse of the CCAC's first pairing, depicting a Pilgrim couple.
Vice Chairman Meyer supported the recommendations discussed, adding the general advice to simplify the designs as appropriate for the size of the coin or medal. Ms. Stafford confirmed that any redundant inscriptions, such as "Liberty" in the recommended coin pairing, would be adjusted; Mr. Weinman added that the appropriate location for this inscription would be carefully considered. Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted these recommendations: for the gold coin, 06-GC-O for the obverse and 07-GC-O for the reverse; and for the silver medal, 04A-SM-O for the obverse and 11-SM-R for the reverse.
2. CFA 18/APR/19-9, 2019 American Innovation One Dollar Coin Program. Reverse designs for the first set of coins: Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. Final. (Previous: CFA 20/SEP/18-4, introductory coin and common obverse.) Ms. Stafford summarized the authorizing legislation for the program of commemorative coins that recognize significant innovation by individuals and groups. She provided samples of one-dollar coins of the same size as the American Innovation coins, including the newly issued initial coin for this series; its obverse features a depiction of the Statue of Liberty, which will continue throughout the series, and its reverse features the signature of George Washington on the first patent, which will be replaced by a design for each of the states and territories. She said that the themes for the designs have been developed in consultation with the state governor as well as the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. Each state has identified one to three themes, which have subsequently been developed with design alternatives; she encouraged the Commission to recommend a single design for each state, regardless of whether multiple themes are presented. She said that the design alternatives have undergone further review, including by subject matter experts; the presentation will highlight the preferences of each governor's office and the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC).
Ms. Stafford presented seventeen reverse alternatives for Delaware; the selected themes are the invention of nylon in 1940 and the work of astronomer Annie Jump Cannon (1863–1941), who developed a seven-category system for classifying stars. Ms. Stafford highlighted five design preferences of the governor's office and the single preference of the CCAC—alternative #5, also the first choice of the governor's office. This design features Cannon's silhouette dividing the field of the coin; the left side of the coin would have stars and a texture to represent the night sky.
Mr. Krieger commented that a design honoring Cannon's work should include her portrait, since her name is not well known; he said that the designs on this theme that feature only a telescope, an observatory, or a representation of the star classification system would be less comprehensible. Ms. Gilbert said that alternative #6 is effective, with Cannon looking upward into the eyepiece of a telescope; alternatives #1 and 1A, depicting Cannon working at a desk, could be confusing. Ms. Stafford clarified that all of these designs are among the preferences of the governor's office, but the first choice was #5, which was also the single preference of the CCAC. Ms. Meyer supported #5 as an abstract and elegant design. Mr. Krieger said that he was initially unable to discern the design's graphic boundary as a profile silhouette of Cannon; Ms. Meyer clarified that this abstraction is the reason for her support. Mr. Krieger acknowledged the elegance of #5 but said that a design with a more immediately legible portrait may be preferable. Ms. Meyer commented that alternatives #1 and 1A, with Cannon looking down intently at a desk, could be misread as depicting her doing needlepoint instead of scientific work.
Mr. Dunson offered support for alternatives #5 and 6. Ms. Gilbert suggested that the silhouette in #5 could be enlarged to give greater emphasis to Cannon's face, with the rest of the body occupying less area of the coin. She said that the design as presented appears more like a map of ocean and land; Mr. Krieger agreed. Joe Menna, the Mint's chief engraver, responded that too much enlargement of the silhouette would make the face overly abstract and illegible; the challenge is to understand the left and right sides of the coin as distinct forms. Ms. Meyer commented that the difficulty in the silhouette's legibility may result from the drawing format, which has a sharp contrast between the left and right sides of the coin; she anticipated that the lesser contrast in the sculpted form would result in a stronger reading of Cannon's profile. Ms. Gilbert asked how the night sky of #5, depicted as a dark tone on the drawing, would be achieved in the minting process. Ron Harrigal, the Mint's manager of design and engraving, responded that texture and a difference in relief would provide the contrast between the two sides of the design. He said that the provided sample of the first coin in the series includes a similar contrast between frosted and polished finishes; additional texture could be used to highlight certain features. Mr. Krieger reiterated that the field of the night sky, depicted as dark on the presented drawings, appears stronger than the silhouette portrait of Cannon. He said that the importance of this concern may somewhat depend on the intended audience of purchasers for this coin. Mr. Harrigal clarified that Cannon's portrait would be raised in comparison to the recessed plane of the sky. Mr. Krieger said that this separation of planes would likely address his concern about the portrait's legibility.
Vice Chairman Meyer said that the Commission could recommend two designs, such as alternatives #5 and #6, if a consensus is lacking for a single design. Mr. Shubow commented that #6 appears to be a puzzle, with seven letters spaced across seven stars—intended to represent Cannon's star classification system but also implying the spelling of an indecipherable word. He offered support for alternative #5, and also for #4 depicting the dome of an astronomical observatory set against the night sky; he said that this design clearly conveys the theme of astronomy. Ms. Meyer and Ms. Gilbert agreed that #4 is a beautiful and simple design. Noting that Cannon's work is not widely known, Mr. Krieger said that the coin design should convey her achievement with a straightforward inscription such as "Classifying Stars," which would be more clear than the cryptic lettering of the classification system itself.
Vice Chairman Meyer suggested a consensus to recommend alternatives #4 and #5, without including #6. Mr. Krieger observed that #4 lacks any portrait of Cannon, and he proposed recommending only #5; he added that this recommendation should include the suggestion that the sculpting process emphasize Cannon's silhouette portrait in contrast to the night sky. The Commission adopted this action.
Ms. Stafford presented nineteen reverse alternatives for Pennsylvania; the themes are the Pennsylvania Turnpike, an early limited-access highway that opened in 1940, and the development of a polio vaccine at the University of Pennsylvania in 1953. She highlighted four design preferences of the governor's office and the single preference of the CCAC—alternative #11, also the first choice of the governor's office. This design features a microscope in silhouette along with several geometric patterns relating to the structure of the polio virus.
Mr. Krieger and Ms. Gilbert supported alternative #11, acknowledging this as the preference of the governor's office. Vice Chairman Meyer noted the consensus to recommend #11, and the Commission adopted this action.
Ms. Stafford presented sixteen reverse alternatives for New Jersey; the themes are Thomas Edison's invention of the light bulb and of the motion picture projector. She highlighted two ranked design preferences of the governor's office—alternatives #7 and #9—and the single preference of the CCAC for alternative #2, depicting an early light bulb at the center of a radial array of tall buildings.
Mr. Dunson offered support for alternative #2. Ms. Gilbert asked if the buildings shown are all from New Jersey. Ms. Stafford responded that they are not specific buildings; they are intended to represent skyscrapers around the world from many decades, as a symbol of the growth that has resulted from electricity. Ms. Meyer and Mr. Krieger questioned the design's combination of the light bulb and skyscrapers; Mr. Krieger commented that the buildings resemble lipstick tubes, and he noted that electricity had become important before its association with skyscrapers.
Ms. Meyer asked about the filigree included with the light bulb in alternative #7. Ms. Stafford responded that this decorative motif was the artist's choice, probably intended to suggest the time period of the light bulb's invention. Secretary Luebke noted that alternative #5A prominently features a light bulb in a much simpler design.
Mr. Krieger commented that alternative #9, a preference of the governor's office, is an unusual design approach for depicting a motion picture projector, and the subject is clear. Ms. Meyer commented that the graphic design of #9 is better than in the alternatives with a light bulb, but she questioned the public's familiarity with the projector having been invented in New Jersey, compared to the more well-known history of the light bulb's development. Mr. Krieger suggested that the Commission recommend alternative #9, perhaps in conjunction with a design depicting a light bulb, which he said was the more significant invention.
Ms. Gilbert suggested including a recommendation for alternative #7 but with the filigree and other decorative linework removed to allow for greater emphasis on the light bulb. Ms. Meyer said that the graphic composition of #7 is better than #5A; Ms. Gilbert agreed, and Mr. Krieger said that #7 is the best of the designs depicting a light bulb, subject to further refinement. Ms. Meyer added that the filigree on #7 is not very meaningful, and a simpler version should be developed for consideration. Mr. Menna suggested leaving the filigree at the lower part of the coin, while pulling the filigree inward toward the middle of the composition and eliminating the scrollwork in this area, which has blank space that appears to be intended for a missing inscription. He added that if all of these decorative elements were removed, then the light bulb and its base should be enlarged. Ms. Meyer agreed that the blank scroll is a particularly strange element of the composition. Mr. Shubow expressed concern that the decorative elements toward the upper part of the composition appear to be connected to the light bulb; Ms. Meyer and Mr. Krieger agreed. Mr. Menna said that the light bulb could be sculpted more boldly to contrast with a very low relief for the decorative elements; the finishes could provide further differentiation between the light bulb and the decorative elements. Ms. Meyer and Ms. Gilbert reiterated that some of these elements could simply be removed, while also sculpting the design to provide greater emphasis on the light bulb; Ms. Gilbert added that the detailing could instead emphasize light emanating from the bulb. Ms. Meyer suggested that the filigree could be developed as part of the coin's field rather than being associated with the scrollwork.
Vice Chairman Meyer summarized the consensus of the Commission to recommend two designs: #9 as a strong composition featuring a movie projector, although this theme's association with New Jersey is less strong; and #7 as the best alternative featuring the more significant invention of the light bulb, subject to the revisions discussed. Upon a second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted this action.
Ms. Stafford presented six reverse alternatives for Georgia, all based on the theme of the Trustees' Garden, the nation's first agricultural experimental garden, established in Savannah in the early 1730s by James Oglethorpe. She highlighted three ranked design preferences of the governor's office—alternatives #1, #6, and #3—and the single preference of the CCAC for alternative #2, depicting a hand reaching in to plant seeds within a row of seedlings for various plants.
Ms. Gilbert offered support for alternative #2. Mr. Krieger noted that Oglethorpe had established the city of Savannah, whose urban form is an iconic image of early American cities; he added that Savannah's layout inspired Thomas Jefferson to focus on the grid as the basis for the nation's surveying system and for the urban design of Washington, D.C. He acknowledged the Trustees' Garden as an interesting theme but emphasized that the design of Savannah itself was more significant for the nation; Ms. Meyer agreed that Savannah's design contributed to the structuring of the U.S. as it spread across the continent.
Ms. Gilbert asked how the theme was selected; Ms. Stafford responded that the Mint staff worked with each governor's office to develop initial concepts, which were carefully reviewed and then forwarded to the Secretary of the Treasury for authorization to proceed with developing design alternatives. Mr. Krieger expressed regret that the governor's office did not appreciate more fully the significance of Oglethorpe's layout for Savannah on the history of Georgia and the nation. Ms. Stafford observed that alternative #1 includes a vignette of a gridded landscape receding into the distance; Mr. Krieger said that this might partially address his concern.
Ms. Meyer expressed further concern with the content of the designs. She said that the garden of experimental agricultural products is not typically associated with Georgia, which is better known for its cotton plantations and slave labor. She said that the disconnect between the Trustees' Garden and the state's wider history of horticulture and agriculture results in discomfort with all of the presented alternatives. Mr. Krieger added that the gridded layout of Savannah included garden space for the residents, providing a further reason to question the selection of the Trustees' Garden as the coin's theme. He agreed with Ms. Meyer in not wanting to support any of the alternatives due to discomfort with the theme. Greg Weinman, counsel for the Mint, said that the Commission's comments are being noted, and the Commission is not obligated to recommend any design.
Vice Chairman Meyer invited suggestions from the other Commission members. Ms. Gilbert supported the approach of not providing a recommendation. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission's concerns would be included in the follow-up letter. Ms. Meyer emphasized that the concern is with the thematic content rather than with the design quality of the alternatives; Mr. Krieger agreed. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:50 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA