The meeting was convened in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, at 9:05 a.m.
Hon. Earl A. Powell, Chairman
Hon. Elizabeth Meyer, Vice Chairman
Hon. Toni Griffin
Hon. Alex Krieger
Hon. James McCrery
Hon. Justin Shubow
Hon. Duncan Stroik
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
Mary Catherine Bogard
A. Administration of oath of office to James C. McCrery and Duncan G. Stroik. Secretary Luebke introduced James McCrery and Duncan Stroik, who were appointed by President Trump on 17 December 2019 to four-year terms on the Commission, and he administered the traditional oath of office to them. Mr. Luebke summarized Mr. McCrery's work as an assistant professor at Catholic University's school of architecture and planning, where he directs the concentration in classical architecture and urbanism. Mr. McCrery also has an architecture practice specializing in civic, religious, and institutional projects, with built works throughout the nation including installations at the U.S. Capitol and the Supreme Court, as well as a newly completed cathedral in Knoxville, Tennessee. Mr. McCrery holds degrees from Ohio State University and has served as a design peer reviewer for the U.S. General Services Administration. Mr. Luebke summarized Mr. Stroik's role as an architecture professor at the University of Notre Dame, with an architecture practice based in South Bend, Indiana; his firm's work focuses on civic and religious buildings. Mr. Stroik is a frequent lecturer on sacred architecture in the classical tradition, and he is a journal editor and book author on this subject. Mr. Stroik is a native of the Washington area and worked in Washington early in his architectural career; he holds degrees from the University of Virginia and Yale University.
Mr. Luebke welcomed the new members to the Commission. He noted that these appointments mark the end of service on the Commission for Mr. Dunson and Ms. Gilbert, and he expressed appreciation for their expertise and dedication.
B. Approval of the minutes of the 21 November meeting. Luebke reported that the minutes of the November meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the minutes.
C. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 20 February, 19 March 2020, and 16 April 2020.
D. Confirmation of the approval of recommendations for the December 2019 Old Georgetown Act submissions. Mr. Luebke asked the Commission to take a formal vote to confirm the Old Georgetown Board recommendations that were circulated and endorsed in December, when no Commission meeting was held. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger, the Commission confirmed its approval.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the two appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting. He noted that the Old Georgetown Board did not hold an early January meeting, and the customary appendix for Old Georgetown Act submissions is therefore not part of the Commission's agenda. (See agenda item I.D above for Old Georgetown Act submissions from December 2019.)
Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that no changes have been made to the draft appendix. He noted that the appendix includes the reporting of two approvals that were previously delegated to the staff, for the Cleveland Park streetscape project and the Eastern Market Metro Park. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler said that three unfavorable recommendations on the draft appendix have been changed to be favorable, based on the receipt of supplemental materials (case numbers SL 20-041, 20-047, and 20-054). An additional unfavorable recommendation has been changed to note the applicant's withdrawal of the project (SL 20-062), and two projects listed on the draft have been removed for consideration in a future month (SL 20-051 and 20-052). Two projects have been added to the appendix: a case previously removed from the November 2019 appendix (SL 20-014), and a case submitted erroneously by the D.C. Government (SL 20-058). The favorable recommendations for five projects are subject to further coordination with the applicants; 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. (See agenda item II.F for an additional Shipstead-Luce Act submission.) Mr. Luebke noted that the caseload of Shipstead-Luce Act submissions has been growing in the past decade, and particularly in 2019; he expressed appreciation for Ms. Batcheler's work in reviewing these projects.
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider item II.E.1. Secretary Luebke said that the Commission may wish to act on these submissions without presentations.
E. D.C. Department of General Services
1. CFA 16/JAN/20-4, Benjamin Banneker Academic High School, 925 Rhode Island Avenue, NW (former site of Shaw Junior High School). Site design. Final. (Previous: CFA 21/NOV/19-7) Mr. Luebke noted that the approval of the site design was not included in the Commission's action on the final design for this project in November 2019 due to issues being raised by the D.C. Government and local residents. These issues have now been resolved, with site revisions such as the realignment of the playing field. He noted the staff's participation in consultation meetings. Upon a motion by Ms. Krieger with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the proposed site design.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B.1.
B. National Park Service
CFA 16/JAN/20-1, Indiana Plaza (Reservation 36A), Pennsylvania and Indiana Avenues at 7th Street, NW. Temporary planters, tables, and chairs. Final. Secretary Luebke introduced the proposal from the National Park Service (NPS), in partnership with the Downtown Business Improvement District (BID), for the temporary installation of planters, tables, and chairs at Indiana Plaza, located on the east side of 7th Street, NW, between Pennsylvania and Indiana Avenues. He noted that this public space had been created by the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation in 1987 through the reconstruction of the two avenues and the closing of C Street, which formerly bisected the space. The proposed installation, called the Plants of Indiana, calls for the placement of eleven groups of planters containing different mixes of plants native to Indiana, selected to represent the five primary ecoregions within that state; other site furniture would also be installed. The temporary installation is intended to remain for five years. He asked Peter May, the associate area director for lands and planning with the National Capital Area of the NPS, to begin the presentation.
Mr. May said that this relatively small project would nonetheless play an important role by reclaiming and enlivening a small and underused space, which is often occupied by parked cars. He introduced Galin Brooks of the BID, which will fund and maintain the installation, to continue the presentation.
Ms. Brooks, the BID's director of planning and placemaking, noted that the BID was established twenty years ago to help make the downtown area safe, clean, and friendly. The BID's recent focus has been on public space improvements; since 2007, the BID has worked with the NPS on maintaining more than thirty such spaces. She said the Plants of Indiana installation will create an appealing, active outdoor space at a major intersection where people can sit, walk through, and learn about plants and regional biodiversity. She asked Jonathan Fitch of Landscape Architecture Bureau to present the design.
Mr. Fitch described the project's two main goals: preventing cars from driving onto the plaza from the east, and attracting passersby to visit this plaza from the adjacent busy street corridors. He said the existing planters on Indiana Plaza are so light that they can be easily moved to allow for cars to be parked; the proposed planters, while temporary, would be heavier and also more numerous to prevent parking. The proposal includes additional moveable red tables and chairs of the type already placed here by the BID, along with twelve chairs of a design called "Spun," produced by the modernist furniture company Herman Miller.
Mr. Fitch said the planters would be oriented to the diagonal alignment of Indiana Avenue, for which the plaza is named, to emphasize the relationship of both the plaza and the proposed installation to the state. The planters would be installed in groups of three, each of a standard stock size, and each group would contain of plants illustrating one of the five main ecoregions of Indiana; the plants would also be either native to the Washington area or well adapted to grow here. Each planter would contain a large central plant surrounded by smaller plants; the central plant, such as a grass or shrub with winter fruits, would have year-round interest, while the surrounding plants would be flowering perennials, chosen to provide flowers throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Signage on the planters would identify each plant with its common and botanical name, along with a general description of the installation's goals; graphics would present a map of Indiana, illustrating the location of that particular ecoregion.
Mr. Fitch concluded with a description of the proposed materials and colors. The site furniture and planters would be red, consistent with the existing tables and because "Hoosier" red is strongly associated with Indiana. The Spun chairs, made of fiberglass, shift their balance in response to a person's weight; the chair has been selected for its visual impact and the playful experience it provides.
Chairman Powell noted that this initial submission is proposed as a final design; Mr. Fitch explained that the compressed review process is due to the temporary nature of the installation. Ms. Meyer asked about the condition of the pedestrian corridor to the east of Indiana Plaza, designed a few decades ago by the landscape architecture firm OLIN; she noted that it includes a double row of trees. Mr. Fitch said this space to the east, also a remnant of C Street, is not part of the project scope; he added that its landscape design has not deteriorated. Ms. Brooks clarified that this is a well-maintained pedestrian space with large in-ground tree planters and some informal seating.
Ms. Meyer identified three distinct places within the project's immediate context: the circular area around the Temperance Fountain to the west, along 7th Street; the OLIN-designed pedestrian street to the east, leading toward 6th Street; and the space between them, Indiana Plaza. She commented that the orientation and site elements proposed for Indiana Plaza are powerful; however, she raised concern about the proposal to place two additional groups of planters in the ancillary spaces west of Indiana Plaza near the Temperance Fountain. Mr. Fitch responded that the intent of the two planters and the site furniture in this area is to draw people toward the nine additional planters within Indiana Plaza, an area defined by two office buildings. Ms. Meyer commented that the two outlying planters would appear small and isolated, and the impact of their scale would be lost outside the spatial enclosure provided by the two buildings; she advised focusing on the core group of nine planters, and perhaps replacing the two outlying planters with additional tables and chairs. Mr. Krieger asked the significance of proposing eleven groups of planters. Mr. Fitch said the intent is simply to have as many as possible, and reducing the number to nine would be acceptable. Ms. Meyer suggested an alternative of moving the two outlying planters to the first row of three within the plaza, if the goal is to create more enclosure for the plaza. Mr. Krieger agreed that the two planters would not be the right choice to occupy the larger space to the west, but it may look empty without some elements to replace them. Mr. Fitch said he would discuss with the BID whether the budget allocated for the two planters could instead be used for additional site furniture.
Ms. Griffin questioned the angling of the eighteen-foot-long groups of planters, arrayed in three rows along the plaza, commenting the angle would make this space appear disengaged from its immediate spatial context because no one standing here would understand the relationship to the diagonal alignment of Indiana Avenue. She asked whether the angle would actually be a useful device, or whether a better solution would be to arrange the planters in response to the actual space they inhabit.
Ms. Griffin commented on the attractiveness of the proposed planting palette, but she commented that the large, bright red planters would overpower the appearance of the plantings. She questioned whether visitors would be able to understand the size of the planters in relation to the exuberant plantings, and she noted that the submission materials do not include enough information to understand these issues of relationship and proportion. Mr. Krieger agreed with these concerns, and he indicated a sectional drawing depicting a child with a parent that illustrates the problem of scale.
Mr. Fitch reiterated that angling the planters would allow visitors to perceive the connection between Indiana Avenue, Indiana Plaza, and this display of Indiana plants. He said that the successful design of outdoor public space relies on the frequent repetition of a strong, clear idea. He acknowledged the viewpoint that the planters should relate to the architectural frame, but he maintained that the proposed angling would be more effective. He said that the proposed three-foot height of the planters was chosen for the visual impact in this somewhat anonymous, underused space, but two-foot-high planters could be used instead. Regardless, the large number of planters should be noticeable, especially during growing season, even though they would occupy a relatively small amount of the plaza's overall area; additionally, the visual impact of the plants should be greater because the planters would appear to overlap in the visual field. He added that the color red had been chosen because it is noticeable, as well as having cultural significance for the state of Indiana. Ms. Meyer asked about the relation of the color red proposed for the planters to the color of the proposed plants themselves, which range from pink to magenta; Mr. Fitch said the range also includes yellow to orange. Ms. Meyer emphasized that these colors may not work well with the bright red color; Mr. Fitch responded that the planters could be a neutral color.
Mr. Krieger expressed support for the proposed angling of the planters, especially if they are carefully placed, because otherwise they would appear related to the two office buildings instead of being part of a distinct open space. He cautioned that the planters appear to be too large, and if they are red they will seem even larger. He suggested making the planters lower, because the three-foot height would be too tall for children to see into, and using a more neutral color, limiting red to the site furniture. Ms. Meyer recommended using red in the graphics, such as the text and the map of Indiana; Mr. Krieger and Mr. Stroik agreed.
Mr. Stroik said that as a resident of Indiana, he appreciates the use of the state name for this plaza, especially because Indiana Avenue is the shortest of the state avenues woven into the city's plan. He agreed with his colleagues' comments, adding that he would like the center of the plaza to be understood as an open, occupiable space. Mr. Fitch responded that broadly speaking, cities have three kinds of landscape spaces—gardens, parks, and plazas—with plazas generally being places of activity rather than repose. He suggested that the designation of plaza might more properly belong to the Grand Army plaza, west of Indiana Plaza along 7th Street. Mr. Stroik commented that the proposed design does not create a plaza; Mr. Fitch agreed. Mr. Stroik questioned the appropriateness of the proposal, since it would involve a great deal of work and expense for an installation that may only exist for five years and would not actually contribute to the creation of a plaza, but instead would deny the existing access from the area around the Temperance Fountain. He suggested that the design should involve more than placing rows of planters down the middle of the space. Mr. Fitch said that plazas are created to serve ceremonial purposes and large numbers of people; but this anonymous, vacant space between two buildings does not serve these roles, and may not need to.
Mr. Krieger suggested moving on from questions of nomenclature; he emphasized that he is not concerned about which space is or is not a plaza, and he believes that this proposal would in fact animate the designated open space. He said that when this space is seen in three dimensions and not just in plan, it is strongly defined by trees and the two buildings; the proposed additions will add animation at the ground level. He emphasized his support for the proposal, while reiterating the advice to reconsider the height of the planters and to eliminate the two outlying groups of planters at the west, which he said would only create formal confusion.
Mr. Shubow agreed with the suggestion to reduce the height of the planters, and with the concerns about using red because it could overpower the color of the plants. He suggested using Indiana limestone for the planters instead of powder-coated metal.
Mr. McCrery asked for clarification of whether the proposed installation should be considered temporary or permanent. Secretary Luebke responded that the Commission usually considers installations to be temporary if they will exist for only ninety days or less; this installation would therefore be considered permanent, even though it is not likely to last beyond seven years. Mr. May added that the intention of the NPS is to have this installation remain for three to five years, at which point the NPS will assess whether it should be renewed, extended, or replaced. He added that the term of five years is longer than the NPS usually allows, but the installation is nonetheless called temporary because it will not require in-ground construction.
Mr. McCrery commented on the use of the word "play" in the presentation, observing that the presented graphics suggested that visitors to the plaza might have a playground experience, especially when sitting in the Spun chairs; he asked whether this is desirable. Mr. Fitch responded that the idea of playfulness has both visual and physical implications, and the Spun chairs are a suitable choice because they fulfill both. Noting the difficulty of using the color red, Mr. McCrery asked if all the proposed shades of red would match, and if the red of the Spun chair would be the same as Hoosier red; Mr. Fitch said that Hoosier red is slightly bluer. Mr. McCrery asked if the contrasting reds would work together; Mr. Fitch reiterated that the planters could be color other than red. Mr. McCrery asked about the red of the moveable tables and chairs. Mr. Fitch said that these are stock products, and their shade of red is similar to the red of the Spun chair; he added that he does not think these reds have to be identical to relate well. He suggested that the planters could be a neutral shade, such as white, black, or gray, although white may not be a good choice for an urban setting, and he did not recommend beige or green. Mr. Stroik observed that the design will have a lot of red, and he asked about the possibility of using Indiana limestone, as suggested by Mr. Shubow. Mr. Fitch responded that limestone would be prohibitively expensive for the project budget of $125,000, and it would also be difficult to install and remove.
Mr. McCrery asked who would be responsible for maintaining the plantings and what equipment would be used. Mr. Fitch answered that the BID would be responsible for watering the plants, using long hoses. Mr. McCrery expressed support for the suggestion to remove the two planter groups proposed at the west, and for the angled placement of the nine planters, which he said would work well within the existing composition of trees. He asked about the five additional single planters that are proposed to be placed across the opening at the east end of Indiana Plaza; Mr. Fitch confirmed that these are intended to form a barrier to prevent cars from entering the plaza at this end, which has been a problem ever since the plaza was built. Mr. McCrery acknowledged this programmatic need, but he commented that these five additional planters would detract from the formal pattern. Mr. Fitch responded that if these planters are not included, the installation of bollards would be necessary. Mr. McCrery asked if the three planters in each group would simply be placed against each other or shimmed; Mr. Fitch said that because the pavement is slightly uneven, shims would be used to keep the planters regular and vertical.
Ms. Meyer offered a motion summarizing the apparent consensus to support the angled orientation of the planters to align with Indiana Avenue, especially because this would not be a permanent installation and would be reassessed at some point. She also noted support for the placement of the nine primary groups of planters, observing that the proposed design would create a subspace within a space already defined by the existing tree canopy. The exception is the two groups of planters proposed at the west; she suggested that these spaces could instead be animated by planting new trees. She said the strong consensus is that the color of the planters should not detract from the beauty and color of the plants; the design team should reconsider the color and height of the planters, with consideration of the planters and plants as a total color composition. She said that the color should not be red—nor black, which would make the planters too hot for plants to grow. Upon a second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the project with these comments.
C. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
CFA 16/JAN/20-2, Marriner S. Eccles Building (2051 Constitution Avenue, NW) and Federal Reserve Board–East Building (1951 Constitution Avenue, NW—former Interior South Building). Modernization, alterations, and additions to both buildings. Concept. (Previous: CFA 21/NOV/19-2, Information presentation) Secretary Luebke introduced the concept design for the renovation and expansion of two of the Federal Reserve Board's buildings—the Marriner S. Eccles Building and the Federal Reserve Board–East Building (formerly known as the Interior South Building), located on Constitution Avenue between 19th and 21st Streets, N.W. He noted that the Commission had heard an information presentation on this project at the November 2019 meeting. The Commission members had commented that the most important consideration would be the massing of the new additions, and they had expressed a preference for Option B, which proposed a five-story addition behind the East Building and below-grade parking under its south lawn. He said that the Commission had also encouraged reducing the number of parking spaces, allowing public access to the formal landscapes surrounding the buildings, and coordinating streetscape and perimeter security installations to improve the public realm in this monumental context.
Mr. Luebke said the presentation includes architectural studies for additions proposed to the sides, roof, and courtyards of the Eccles Building, including metal-and-glass systems to connect the wings of the original masonry building in a design derived from the geometry of the historic facades. A main visitor entrance on 20th Street would lead into a remodeled courtyard newly enclosed with a skylight, functioning as the main arrival and circulation space for the building and, to some extent, for the complex as a whole. For the East Building, the five-story addition of Option B is being carried forward. The proposed landscapes surrounding the buildings would provide improved access and security. He introduced Tom Jester of Fortus, a joint venture of the architectural firms CallisonRTKL and Quinn Evans Architects, to begin the presentation. Mr. Jester said that others presenting would be Jeff Foltz of the Federal Reserve Board (FRB), architect Rod Henderer of Fortus, and landscape architect Alan Ward of Sasaki Associates. Prior to the presentation, the Commission members inspected the model of the proposal.
Mr. Foltz said that this project is critical to the FRB as it implements a long-range space plan to locate most FRB employees in proximity to each other. He said this consolidation should improve opportunities for collaboration and communication among divisions and, by reducing or entirely eliminating leased space, would demonstrate the FRB's commitment to fiscal responsibility. Both buildings require comprehensive renovation and expansion to fulfill this long-range plan, which will include new state-of-the-art technology infrastructure.
Expanding on Mr. Foltz's remarks, Mr. Jester noted that the project will mark the first major renovation and expansion of both buildings since their completion. It will result in a modern workplace that will be more energy efficient and sustainable, supporting the FRB's intent to make the buildings physically more transparent to employees and the public, which will suggest greater institutional transparency as well.
Mr. Jester outlined the specific design goals, which include respecting the historic character of the buildings and their context along the National Mall; the additions have been designed to be harmonious, restrained, enduring in value, and expressive of our own time. Because the Eccles Building is regarded as the more significant of the two buildings, it would be treated with a lighter touch and a high level of preservation, while the East Building would be rehabilitated with a greater amount of change.
Mr. Jester said the project site is bounded on the south by Constitution Avenue, on the north by C Street, on the east by 19th Street, and on the west by 21st Street. He indicated the location of the third building of the FRB complex, the Martin Building, directly north across C Street from the Eccles Building. Ms. Meyer noted that the Commission has reviewed a project for additions to the Martin Building; Mr. Jester said the additions, currently under construction, were designed by Shalom Baranes Associates.
Presenting contextual views and diagrams, Mr. Jester said that the Eccles and East Buildings are two in a series of five marble buildings along this segment of Constitution Avenue. He illustrated the relative heights of these buildings and of the buildings on the blocks north of C Street, and he showed an aerial photograph from c. 1940, emphasizing the original intent that the north side of Constitution Avenue would be lined with a series of buildings set back from the roadway by wide lawns to form a monumental frame for the Lincoln Memorial.
Mr. Jester said that the Eccles Building, designed by architect Paul Philippe Cret and completed in 1937, provides one of the best examples of Cret's stripped or modern classicism. He added that understanding Cret's original design and his general approach to the design of civic buildings had been an important starting point for this project. He said Cret had designed the Eccles Building in a simplified order, which he called the "Attic order"; he characterized the building as carefully proportioned, restrained in detail, calm, and austere—a character Cret believed was appropriate for its location near the Lincoln Memorial and to convey an appropriate dignity and a sense of permanence for the Federal Reserve Board. Mr. Jester said that the Eccles Building was listed on the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites in 1964, only twenty-seven years after its completion. The interior includes a magnificent stairway in a central two-story stair hall flanked by courtyards, which functions as an important organizing space in the building.
Mr. Jester said that the FRB had always had a goal to expand the Eccles Building; he presented a drawing by Cret of a possible expansion or infill of the building on its east and west sides that was never executed. He said the current proposed design is intended to respect the design of the building as constructed.
Mr. Jester said that the three-story FRB–East Building, designed by Jules Henri de Sibour, was completed in 1933 as the headquarters of the U.S. Public Health Service. This building was also planned with future expansion in mind; in this case, it would have been expanded on the north with another building wing parallel to C Street. This expansion was never constructed, and the stucco-covered north end walls of the building's north-south wings remain exposed; terraces wrap around the building's east, south, and west sides. He said that the interiors of the East Building are less distinguished than those of the Eccles Building; Mr. Stroik noted that the East Building has an attractive lobby facing Constitution Avenue.
Mr. Jester said that the landscape was designed to give the buildings an appropriate scale. Cret's formal terraced landscape design for the Eccles Building remains in good condition; lawns with fountains and surrounded by trees are located on each side of the central walk. The landscape of the East Building is somewhat less formal, although it includes important heritage trees. He asked Mr. Henderer to present the proposed design.
Mr. Henderer described the three options that had been presented to the Commission at the November information presentation. All three proposed an addition to the rear of the East Building: six stories in Option A, five stories in Option B, and seven stories in Option C. He said that Option B is the project team's preferred option because it is compatible with the urban design characteristics for this stretch of Constitution Avenue: the five-story addition, barely visible from the avenue, would maintain the image of marble pavilions set within wide lawns, while also maintaining the heights and alignments of buildings on C Street, and it would best meet the FRB program of accommodating 1,750 employees on the campus.
Mr. Henderer described the proposed changes to the East Building, which was acquired by the FRB in 2018. Under Option B, its center wing would be removed, allowing for a larger floor plate for the addition so that it could fulfill the FRB's program in five stories. The addition would connect with the existing building through completion of the north-south wings.
At the Eccles Building, the east courtyard—currently used as a service yard—would be converted into an atrium between the historic building and the eastern infill addition; this atrium would function as the circulation hub for all three FRB buildings. An existing tunnel connects the Eccles and Martin Buildings under C Street, and a new tunnel would be built under 20th Street to connect the Eccles and East Buildings. Mr. Henderer said the interior of the Eccles Building would be transformed from a workplace dominated by private offices to a predominately open office environment—60 percent open and 40 percent closed offices—to create a more transparent, collaborative workplace. To provide as much natural light to as many office spaces as possible, the open work stations would be set against the exterior walls, and the private offices would be placed around interior cores. The new atrium would connect with the grand stair hall of the Eccles Building, with a new stair rising from the atrium to grade level and then to the bottom of Cret's grand stairway. He emphasized that Cret had viewed this stair as both a means of circulation and a place for impromptu meetings, the "active unifier" of the building.
Mr. Henderer described the proposal for the new infill additions at the Eccles Building. New curtainwall facades would be inserted between the existing masonry wings facing 20th and 21st Streets, pushed back beyond the first window of the historic building; juxtaposed with its solid mass, they would function as "ligaments" connecting the wings. The curtainwall would be made as transparent as possible to emphasize the building's original massing, and also to reinforce the image of institutional transparency. The curtainwall would be constructed of high-quality contemporary materials, and is design would be derived from the proportions and restrained details of the original building's stripped classicism. Horizontal and vertical mullions would relate directly to the three- and six-foot spacing of the Eccles Building's side elevations, while subtle vertical fins and frit on the glass would be used for solar control and to maintain a unifying palette. An important new entrance for staff and VIP visitors would be centered on the east side. Masonry walls would provide visual screening toward the rear of the building; on the east side, these would be slightly widened and lowered to allow for better visibility of the new entrance, while the existing walls on the west side would remain unchanged.
Mr. Henderer said that, like the Eccles Building, the East Building is clad in Georgia marble; its addition, while a contemporary design, would respond directly to the original building. The east and north facades of the East Building would be wrapped with a mediating material: one that will be compatible with the historic building but will gradually make the transition to the more modern style of the addition on the north, which would have a curtainwall using glass treated with a white frit. The character of the mediating material would relate to that of the marble used on other buildings in the surrounding context, including the other two FRB buildings. He noted that the modernist Martin Building is also clad in white Georgia marble, with a taut, contemporary treatment that replicates the alignments and cadences of the Eccles Building; it maintains the spacings of the older building's pilaster and window openings, along with its cornice and eave lines, although embedding the marble behind glass. The addition would maintain the existing alignments of roof lines, cornice lines, and building faces extending for several blocks along the south side of C Street.
Mr. Henderer presented a series of watercolors that have been prepared to illustrate how the additions would integrate into their urban design context, respecting historic features and sharing similar virtues of calm and restraint. He illustrated views of the completed East Building from various angles. He indicated that the addition and its mechanical penthouse would disappear behind the roof ridge when seen from the southeast. When viewed directly from the south, or front, the penthouse would not be visible, and therefore it would not change the visual character of Constitution Avenue.
Mr. Henderer said that each side of the East Building would have a different expression corresponding to its use—for example, the east side would include the service entrance, and the west side would have an entrance for staff and visitors. He noted that the East Building's east side is much more visible than the west within the context. The transparency of the curtainwall on the west elevation would relate directly to the proposed infill in the Eccles Building, creating a dialogue between them. A balcony on the west facade of the East Building is proposed to signal the location of the staff entrance below, and it would also provide employees a vantage point for views over Constitution Gardens. The entablature line of the historic building would be carried across the west facade as the marble railing of a balcony, and then would run behind the curtainwall before reappearing in the white fritted glazing.
Mr. Henderer described the proposed changes to vehicular access and parking. He said that one of the current functions of the east and west courtyards of the Eccles Building is to provide vehicular service access, which would no longer be necessary after the rehabilitation because a single loading dock for all three FRB buildings would be located on the east side of the East Building. A new four-level parking garage would be built beneath 20th Street and the East Building's south lawn, with the entrance on the east along 19th Street and the exit on 20th Street. Beneath the south lawn, the parking garage would be configured to avoid affecting the heritage trees that line Constitution Avenue. Additional below-grade facilities would include a new auditorium, a conference center, and a fitness center. An elevator lobby in the west atrium of the East Building will bring people up from the lower parking levels; in the atrium, they would pass through screening and then proceed to the Eccles Building or the East Building. A new parking area for the Governors would be located beneath 20th Street, connecting to a secured entrance with a private elevator into the Eccles Building; the area of the Eccles Building now used for the Governors' parking would be reclaimed for office space.
Ms. Griffin asked about the area marked as "RDC" on the plan of the East Building. Mr. Henderer said that it identifies a room that would be located immediately adjacent to the staff entrance, where people from outside the FRB can examine confidential economic data. Mr. Foltz added that the FRB maintains alliances with the Commerce Department, universities, and other agencies that rely on its financial information; this room would have a secure computer system allowing people access to this data without having to enter the FRB proper.
Mr. Ward then described the proposed landscape design. He said the two sites of this project form part of a series of five classically inspired landscapes along Constitution Avenue that are raised above the level of the roadway and create a broad green space in front of each monumental building. Each landscape has a central entry walk flanked by lawns with gardens and fountains. This project proposes to rehabilitate the two sites to complement that series of five landscapes.
Mr. Ward said the existing landscape of the Eccles Building, including the two garden spaces with fountains, is in very good condition. Both the Eccles and East Building landscapes are currently closed to the public, and the design team is working with the FRB to allow public access to the two gardens of the Eccles Building. Minor adjustments are proposed for the plantings at the Eccles Building; overgrown plants would be trimmed back to increase visibility of the building and to create an appropriate visual connection between building and ground.
In contrast, Mr. Ward said that the landscape and gardens surrounding the East Building are in a deteriorated condition. The existing pattern of trees is not original and includes mismatched trees of different sizes. He said that construction of the parking garage beneath the East Building's south lawn would present the opportunity to recreate the pattern of the older formal garden planting. Some new, low fountains would be added in the garden spaces near the entry walk, following the FRB's request that the East Building landscape be consistent with the others in this series, which all have fountains as character-defining features.
Mr. Stroik asked who the original landscape architect was for the Eccles Building. Mr. Ward said this was not clear, although historic drawings suggest Cret had a strong influence on the landscape design. A series of plans and a single photograph indicate there were no plantings just after the building's construction, but a few years later, a grid of trees had been planted following the design of someone other than Cret.
Mr. Ward said that perimeter security is a significant site issue for both buildings. In 2005, a perimeter security system was installed around the Eccles Building, consisting of bulky, square bollards set in a staggered configuration among the trees. He said that these prominent elements compete with the classical building, so the proposal is to redo the entire perimeter landscape of the Eccles Building, installing a new post-and-chain barrier that would be better integrated with the site. The East Building currently has no perimeter security, and so a matching barrier system would be installed there also. He said that the design of these elements will be coordinated with similar systems at the State Department along 21st Street, and with a planned new system along the Virginia Avenue frontage of the FRB campus.
Mr. Ward said the new post-and-chain system would be set at the edge of planting zones, intended to match the height of shrubs and blend into the plantings. Bollards would be used in areas requiring permeability. The new system would present a cleaner, lighter expression along Constitution Avenue. Several segments of historic walls in the Eccles Building landscape would be incorporated into vehicular perimeter security; a similar system would be installed around the East Building landscape, where a new retaining wall would replace a slope to hold the elevated garden space, avoiding the need for bollards along the front.
Mr. Ward provided a further description of the retaining walls that would provide perimeter security along 19th, 20th, 21st, and C Streets, similar to the treatment recently installed around the Commerce Department Building. The darker color of the new wall would blend in with vegetation, and would almost read as a fence protecting plantings instead of as a major security barrier. A new barrier-free route to the gardens at the Eccles Building would be cut in behind this wall. At the East Building, sloping the grade downward to this wall, similar to a ha-ha wall, would provide the necessary height for perimeter security while lessening its appearance from the street.
Mr. Ward said the design for the Eccles Building includes a new entrance at 20th Street; set several feet below sidewalk level, this entrance would be reached by broad steps and landings, with sloping walks on each side. The new entrance to the East Building would also be from 20th Street, set down approximately five feet to match the ground floor level of the existing building; access would make use of an existing areaway behind the terrace. Two low fountain elements would be constructed between new tree plantings.
Mr. Krieger asked for clarification of the location of the proposed underground parking. Mr. Ward indicated the location beneath the south lawn, configured to avoid the root systems of the heritage trees; the garage would step around one particular tree and then extend eastward to 20th Street. He emphasized that the new landscape design would reclaim the historic planting plan. Mr. McCrery asked about the proposal to shorten the historic terrace on the east; Mr. Ward confirmed that this is to accommodate the vehicular access ramp to the garage. Mr. Stroik asked about the expected lifespan of the heritage trees; Mr. Ward responded that they are expected to live approximately twenty more years.
Mr. Krieger asked about the effort to work with the FRB to make the gardens publicly accessible. Mr. Ward responded that the Eccles Building landscape has a garden space to the southwest and southeast, which the FRB has agreed to make accessible. He clarified that the accessible spaces would be the gardens, not the central lawn; the FRB is still debating whether to open the central entrances on the south facades of the two buildings for employee entry. Mr. Krieger asked if access control is the reason for placing chains between the perimeter bollards; Mr. Ward confirmed that these chains would indicate that landscape areas are not open to the public. He added that the lawn areas flanking the entrance walks are meant to provide a more ceremonial civic appearance to the buildings. Mr. Krieger asked for clarification of the parking garage exit. Mr. Ward indicated its location on 20th Street just south of C Street, with a ramp ascending to street level. He added that a special paving may be installed on the street adjacent to the ramp, similar to what is used on C Street.
Mr. McCrery asked Mr. Ward to describe the water features proposed in the sidewalk adjoining the new East Building entrance on 20th Street. Mr. Ward said that because the street is sloping, the fountain level would probably be close to grade in some places, and a couple of feet above grade at other points; he said that the design is still at a very early stage.
Chairman Powell expressed appreciation for the design team's comprehensive concept presentation, and he opened the review to comments from the Commission members.
Mr. Stroik emphasized the importance of Paul Cret as an architect, and of Constitution Avenue as one of the great gateways to the city—symbolically leading from Virginia to the west end of the Mall and its series of important monuments of democracy, including the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Given the great importance of this site, he said that any work here should be done delicately. He observed that the proposal involves additions to two buildings by noted architects, and both buildings play a crucial role in defining Constitution Avenue; the architects therefore need to respect that these are civic and not commercial buildings, designed for a national and not simply a local purpose. He said that Cret was one of the best American architects, responsible for numerous buildings across the country, and that the Eccles Building is one of the best buildings in the city. He asked Mr. Jester if he was familiar with Cret's other work; Mr. Jester responded that he wrote his Master's thesis on Cret's design for the University Avenue Bridge in Philadelphia.
Mr. Stroik explained that he does not consider the Eccles Building to be concerned with expressing anything about the architect or any other individual; it is instead a building that expresses certain beliefs about Constitution Avenue, the Federal Reserve, and the United States. Any additions to it must respect this, and changes need to aesthetically defer to the existing architecture. He commented that although the presenters had said the right things, he does not think the proposed additions defer to the historic buildings as great marble edifices on an important street. He suggested that respecting the work of Cret requires trying to design as Cret would have, and it is not appropriate to design additions to these buildings in a contemporary mode; he reiterated that a more appropriate design approach, for buildings that form part of a gateway to the city and symbolizes important national meanings, is to defer to the existing buildings.
Commenting that he had expected tough questions, Mr. Henderer emphasized that the members of the design team are in complete agreement with Mr. Stroik but believe they are respecting Cret's work and its context. He said the Federal Reserve is going through a transformation from a private office environment to an open, modern, collaborative workplace, and these buildings need to reflect that. Mr. Stroik questioned the assumption that the additions need to reflect this new interior environment on their exteriors, and he asked whether this is a more important consideration than respecting the aesthetic of our society's civic architecture. Mr. Henderer responded that the two go together. Mr. Stroik disagreed; he said many historic buildings contain open office spaces, and this does not require a glass facade or a curtainwall. He maintained that nothing about the plan for the Eccles Building mandates a curtainwall that looks like an insertion; he said that the additions would look like an eyesore on a well-loved building, and that he believes the average person would see it that way. He asked if the designers want them to be considered eyesores; Mr. Henderer responded that he does not, nor does he consider the proposed design to be an eyesore.
Mr. McCrery expressed support for the proposed landscape design. He asked if the wood and brick planter walls notated on the site plan are existing; Mr. Ward responded that these refer to existing wood retaining walls at the northeast corner of the East Building site, which would be removed. Mr. McCrery commented that the landscape plans reflect a very carefully considered approach to the design. He supported replacement of the 2005 bollards but suggested that new elements along Constitution Avenue require a reference to a historic aesthetic, instead of the stainless steel system suggested in the renderings. Mr. Ward agreed that the design of new and smaller security elements needs further development. Mr. McCrery said he appreciates the decision to incorporate existing infrastructure into the perimeter security, while suggesting that the number of new bollards be minimized. He also suggested the new bollards could be designed to express base, shaft, and capital, rather than rising straight out of the earth like pilotis; Mr. Ward responded that this option could be explored. Mr. McCrery said the system should also have a well-designed connection between bollard and chain.
Ms. Meyer commended Mr. Ward for the careful development of the site plan; she expressed appreciation for taking into account that other significant sites nearby have also been dealing with security issues, and that this design is trying to create continuity among these landscapes instead of introducing something new. She said these issues, which had been discussed at the information presentation, will help with the larger landscape experience. She said she believes that both the site plan and the building additions share a similar sensibility of careful tactical decision-making in how they add to the historic designs. Acknowledging the large size of the buildings, she said the strategy would result in large areas of infill between the wings of the Eccles Building, but she believes the architects and the landscape architects share an attitude about making these careful insertions as small as possible.
Ms. Meyer observed that the buildings and their landscapes need further work on the transitions between old and new. Referring to her work rehabilitating the landscape at Bryant Park in New York City, she commented that it is one thing to make a cut behind a wall, and another to do it so it is clear where the old material ends and the new material begins. She said her philosophical approach is not about aesthetics, but rather about how to differentiate old from new, and is based on the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for additions to historic buildings—which advise complementing, instead of replicating, historic buildings with additions that are compatible in their continuity of geometry, massing, and rhythm. She said that the proposal appears to be compatible with these standards. Mr. Stroik asked if this means that a marble facade would be incompatible and the addition's facade should be glass and steel; Ms. Meyer clarified that she means a new facade does not have to be identical to the original.
Mr. Krieger observed that the appointment of new members will lead to lively debates about the Commission's responsibilities to the past versus its responsibilities to the present, and even about its anticipation of the future. He commented that he believes the design team has overall been very sensitive to the existing buildings, walking a fine line between being respectful and expressing the fact that these are additions. He said that throughout the world there are hundreds of thousands of old buildings with new additions, notably in Rome. He said that the proposed addition to the Eccles Building is conceptually good—it is infill, set back from the facade, and preserves the expression of the existing wings. He said the success will depend on the color and detailing of the infill, whether it is built of marble or some other material, and the Commission will need to be further convinced that the design is appropriate. He said he does not object to the contemporary style of the additions, but he indicated an area on the addition to the East Building where he said the design appears confused and contradictory. He noted that all the buildings along the south side of C Street have a continuity of expression along the length of their facades, and he questioned why the proposed East Building would have a sudden, distinct break, with one part of the addition representing more continuity with the original building and another part less. He said that regardless of whether the new facades have an old or new appearance, there should be a continuity of transition among all these buildings, with a formal aesthetic continuity instead of a sudden change. But overall, he said, the design is progressing well. He said that the interiors should matter as much as or even more than the exteriors, and he strongly commended the new arrival space in the Eccles Building, which would result from the new infill; he said this design will benefit both ordinary citizens and those who appreciate classical architecture.
Ms. Griffin observed that there may be a continuing debate in coming years about how to respect the historic context of Washington, D.C., and to build in a contemporary way, and there are a couple of different ways to interpret this issue: additions can align with a specific language, or pay deference to it by having the new work recede from the old. She said considering which approach is viable will be the work of this Commission, addressing the topic on a project-by-project basis. In the case of the Eccles Building in particular, she said that the historic structure is so strong, prominent, and beautiful that the proposal to recess the new infill is appropriate. She said the difficulty will be in the details of the curtainwalls, such as the density of the fins; she encouraged the design team to continue developing a calm and restrained curtainwall design. She commented that by respecting the massing, the design lets the strength of the historic architecture retain its prominent role. She added that she looks forward to seeing further development of how the ground level will be treated, and also the junctures between the old and new buildings, suggesting there may be places where the continuity of materials could be handled differently.
Ms. Griffin said she agrees with Mr. Krieger about the confusion evident in the sliced massing proposed for the addition to the East Building; she asked how the addition could be improved, especially when it turns the corner of 20th Street to C Street, observing that the addition's facades now appear very different on the two streets. She recommended reconsidering these facades, and how to resolve them at ground level; she advised considering how the addition could have a calmer, more restrained continuity, and how the entrance on 20th Street could be treated differently. She asked that the next submission include a sample of the proposed white fritted glass. Mr. Henderer clarified that this glass would appear very transparent to those on the inside looking out, although it would have a white cast. He said the intention on the Eccles Building is that a denser frit would be used where it is intended to imply the presence of a pilaster, while the frit in between these areas would be less dense. On the East Building, marble embedded in glass would be used for the entablature around the addition. He said these constitute two minor variations in material strategies between the two buildings. He added that both of the historic buildings are faced with Georgia marble, but they use different metals. The metal used on the Eccles Building is statuary bronze, and the intent is that this will be used for the Eccles additions as well. The security bollards on the Eccles Building site may be cast bronze. The materials used in the historic East Building include Georgia marble and cast aluminum; the addition to this building would use marble, probably with stainless steel, which would match the finish of the cast aluminum.
Ms. Griffin said she is intrigued by how the composite materials might incorporate and refer to the marble of the historic buildings, but she reiterated that the "slit massing" approach is not the most effective strategy. Mr. Henderer clarified the design team's rationale for this approach, based on the different roles of the East Building's side facades: the east side is the service entrance, while the west side is an entrance for employees. He said the design attempts to play off the west side against the infill of the Eccles Building's east side to create a dialogue between the two entrances on opposite sides of 20th Street. Although there will be an underground pedestrian tunnel between the buildings, he said the hope is that it would primarily be used in inclement weather, while in good weather employees will cross the street between the buildings. He said this would support the project goal of encouraging street life and activity.
Ms. Griffin emphasized the importance of using symmetry to respect the historical character of the buildings, rather than expressing interior functions on the exterior as seen on the proposal for the East Building. She suggested choosing between symmetry and the shifting of materials, adding that she did not find the proposed massing expression to be successful. She said that entrances should be clearly expressed; she agreed with the intent to encourage people to walk on the street, and encouraging this behavior will also involve the landscape design. However, she maintained that the addition to the East Building is confusing as proposed and is less successful than the Eccles Building proposal in fulfilling the core ethos stated in the project goals.
Mr. Krieger agreed with Ms. Griffin's comments. Indicating a perspective rendering of the northwest corner of the East Building, he identified part of the problem as the contrast between the treatment of its 20th Street and C Street facades; he said the rendering seems to exaggerate these differences rather than making them appear more subtle. He emphasized that in the classical tradition a facade has integrity along its length, which is not necessarily the case in modern architecture. However, he said, there is something odd about how the two facade treatments are depicted in this rendering that may exaggerate the difference in their design. He noted that it is easier to see continuity in the model because it is entirely white.
Mr. Stroik said that these concerns are exactly what he was reacting to, and he agreed with Mr. Krieger. He asked Mr. Krieger to explain more about why he considers it a problem to have such an exaggerated contrast between the original building and the addition. Mr. Krieger reiterated that it seems to be inconsistent with the historical way of treating a facade along this street. Ms. Griffin agreed that designing the addition with such varying expressions is a problem. Mr. Krieger said he believes it would be fine if this facade were entirely glass, although he anticipated that Mr. Stroik may object; Mr. Stroik responded that he does object to an all-glass facade. Mr. Krieger acknowledged that the proposed facade is not marble, but what he objects to is that it appears to be composed of two parts—a slice and a kind of setback—which makes the addition much more articulated than it needs to be.
Mr. McCrery observed that these moves might be an effort to introduce visual interest, because the selected language, materials, and forms are all very limited in their ability to do what is desired. Mr. Krieger said he is not bothered by this condition, nor by the fact that the addition looks very different from the existing building. He said his concern is with the abrupt difference between facade treatments as shown in this rendering; the addition does not clearly say that it is of the present and looks toward the future. He emphasized that there is a more delicate way to make connections between new and old without mimicking; Mr. Henderer expressed appreciation for the clarification.
Mr. McCrery said that, because the rendering is done well, it would be possible to imagine this facade as a big, long glass box, similar to the work of the 1950s by Mies van der Rohe, an aesthetic with which most people are familiar. He observed that because of the intentionally limited visual language of this architectural style, these designers have had to invent gestures to add visual interest, as seen in the proposed treatment of this corner.
Ms. Griffin said another way of looking at it is that Mr. Krieger is saying that there are too many palettes here; Mr. Krieger said he is advocating for a formal consistency. Ms. Griffin suggested picking one material treatment or the other for the entire facade, and designing the entrance as a distinct feature. She said if the objection is that there are too many architectural languages, and the desire is to see a unified street facade along C Street, the architect's job is to think through what that singular facade would be.
Mr. McCrery addressed the question of adding a new architectural vocabulary versus continuing an existing vocabulary. He noted that Cret had developed plans for the continuation of the Eccles Building, as architect Eero Saarinen had developed plans for the extension of his design for Dulles International Airport in Virginia. He said that when Dulles Airport needed to expand in recent years, these original plans of Saarinen were used without any editing, which he thinks was the perfect solution, because it would have been absurd to contrast the Dulles terminal with a completely different addition. Indicating the Cret rendering, he suggested doing the same thing with the Eccles Building, and asked if this had been considered.
Mr. McCrery discussed another example, the skylight addition to enclose the courtyard of the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum, creating an atrium. He said that the infill design for the Eccles Building emulates the successful design of that atrium, noting that one of its successful qualities is the element of surprise: a visitor enters through a collection of an early nineteenth-century building and its mid-nineteenth-century additions, which are completely cohesive even though they were built at different times, before entering the magnificent atrium. He called the enclosed atrium an improvement over the previous exterior garden that occupied this space, and he said this is partly attributable to the shock a visitor feels on entering. He suggested taking this approach with the Eccles Building, constructing the infill as drawn by Cret so that the exterior would be entirely his design, and letting the new work be restricted to the very good planning and magnificent changes to the three interior atrium spaces, which could similarly be an unexpected surprise.
Mr. Henderer responded that the design team had considered building the addition drawn by Cret, but actual historical evidence has not been found to confirm that Cret endorsed this design, or under what circumstances he was asked to produce it. He added that if this infill had been built as drawn, it would have been later than the original building, and it would have diminished the beauty of the original massing. Mr. McCrery responded that the clarity of the original massing could be saved by stepping the facade back farther than illustrated in the Cret drawing; he noted that the currently proposed design for the addition would step the facade back by one window bay. Mr. Henderer defended the team's decision about the massing; he said the infill would provide transparency that in certain lighting conditions would allow the historic building to be read through the new glass curtainwall, legible as a void between the two historic wings. He added that the intent is to use the clearest possible glass that will meet environmental requirements.
Mr. Shubow agreed with Mr. McCrery and Mr. Stroik that the Eccles Building is important as a design by Paul Cret and that new construction should be deferential toward it. He said he would support constructing the infill as shown in the historic Cret drawing. He commented on the particular desirability of the Federal Reserve headquarters appearing solid and permanent, as appropriate for a bank building, while glass can be interpreted as impermanent and fragile. He said there is a long history in American architecture of banks being designed to suggest fortresses or castles, conveying that they will stand for the ages. He said that the proposed infill does not appear deferential enough. He also questioned the viewpoint that the proposed additions are of our time, observing that they are reminiscent of Mies van der Rohe's work from the mid-twentieth century, and he finds nothing wrong in principle with building something more similar to the original architectural style. He maintained that it is not the role of the Commission of Fine Arts to enforce the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for historic preservation, in whatever way they may be interpreted, because such standards change over time and may include a history of building additions that are in concert with what the architect may have originally intended or which may be in the original style. He said that if the Secretary's Standards had been in place in the nineteenth century, the extensions to the U.S. Capitol would not have been designed as they were, but people would likely agree that those expansions are well designed.
Mr. Henderer offered two responses. First, he said, the goal of the current leadership of the Federal Reserve is that it should become a more transparent organization; second, the construction of the Cret addition as shown in the rendering would result in one large monolithic building, and Washington does not need any more such monolithic buildings. He said the proposed design better preserves Cret's original massing.
Mr. McCrery said he agrees with the proposed addition's setback, and the Cret infill design could be stepped back to the same plane; Mr. Henderer responded that this solution would nonetheless not provide the desired transparency. Mr. McCrery observed that glass is often reflective and not transparent. Mr. Henderer said that the team anticipates that at certain times of the day, such as early morning and late afternoon, the glass will be transparent and the historic facade will be visible through the glass curtainwall; he acknowledged that at midday or perhaps most of the day it will not be as transparent as desired.
Mr. Shubow commented that if glass or some other contemporary material is used, it is important to make sure these buildings appear to be civic and not commercial buildings. He said that the Federal Reserve is not a commercial bank; he referred to the conventional treatment of Washington's monumental core as a zone for masonry buildings, commenting that glass is somewhat foreign to this part of city. Mr. Henderer reiterated that the materials for these additions would be of high quality.
Mr. McCrery said that there are good examples of the type of building he called "the American glass box," especially when they are made with good materials. However, he said, a glass box has never been built on the Mall, and this site is on the north side of the Mall. He emphasized that these additions are a critical project, but what is being proposed for both buildings is glass boxes; he said that he is trying to be descriptive and not pejorative, but the addition proposed for the East Building in particular is a glass box. Despite the effort put into the massing, and the matching of cornice lines with a white strip along C Street, he said the proposed design is completely foreign to the area and alien to the existing architecture, notwithstanding Mr. Henderer's discussion about using this architecture as a means of making a transition between the historic buildings on Constitution Avenue and the more modern buildings to the north, which he called a facile and unconvincing argument. He said that in Europe and especially in the United States, there is a sense that the glass box is expressive of commercial speculative office real estate development, and this is what these proposed additions are.
Mr. Krieger said that Mr. McCrery's characterization is a matter of opinion. Mr. McCrery reiterated that glass boxes are used primarily for commercial, speculative types of buildings. Mr. Krieger responded that the architect Renzo Piano almost always designs glass boxes, but they are not perceived as commercial buildings; Mr. McCrery acknowledged that exceptions always exist, emphasizing that he was talking in general terms. Mr. Krieger suggested focusing on the proposed design and how the Commission can try to advance it, observing that designers and clients both can take a certain amount of liberty in interpreting history and the present. Mr. McCrery agreed, but reiterated that the proposed architecture is a glass box, typical of speculative corporate real estate and therefore inappropriate to use for this project. Mr. Krieger suggested that the project could be designed as a glass box inside the building but not outside.
Ms. Griffin offered two additional comments. She said the applicant has the extraordinary challenge and opportunity to demonstrate to the Commission what civic architecture is in 2020, embodied by the challenge of working with the lovely, historic Eccles Building, and creating a new civic architecture through infill. She agreed that it is a civic building and should clearly appear to be one, and the task of the design team is to create a civic architecture with whatever materials they choose—whether stone, steel, or glass. She expressed the hope that the Commission has given direction that will help in furthering the important ambition of creating a new civic architecture.
Ms. Griffin said the landscape proposed for the East Building would introduce new water features along 20th Street; she questioned the rationale for adding these, noting that the placement of water features on the front lawns of other buildings on Constitution Avenue is intentional, and she would not want fountains to be built just for the sake of being built. She cautioned that designing this sequence of water features would require great care, observing that it looks very tight in relation to the original terraces. She asked for further explanation of these water features at the next review.
Mr. Krieger offered a motion to support the general concept. He said the design must be further developed to ensure it communicates the idea of civic architecture, with reconsideration of whether the north facade of the East Building needs to be so differentiated from the historic building. He said the Commission members are encouraging the designers to advance their ideas and become more persuasive about their choices of where the additions will respect the existing buildings and where their essential differences will be expressed. Ms. Meyer added that, given the significance of the two buildings, the team is requested to return at concept level before final review, particularly in regard to the C Street facade and edge of the East Building. Mr. Henderer interjected that the team would like to know if the general massing is right, with the exceptions that have been noted; Mr. Krieger expressed support for the general massing.
Mr. Stroik proposed an amendment requesting that the next submission include an alternative design in white Georgia marble, the same material used for the five existing buildings along the north side of Constitution Avenue, and to express a civic architecture using this material.
Mr. Shubow said he supports the massing but finds the general concept vague. Ms. Griffin asked how the intersection between the top floor and the roof of the historic East Building would be treated; Mr. Henderer responded that the existing attic level does not have the height to accommodate the planned program for this floor, so the proposed expansion of this level would be slightly higher. Mr. Krieger said that this an example of the type of important details regarding joints and junctures that requires more study for the next submission.
Mr. McCrery suggested amending the motion to direct the design team to develop an architecture for both buildings that would result in a comprehensive whole, especially regarding the proposed infills to the Eccles Building, and the C Street facade of the East Building's addition, which now appears like a separate building attached to the rear.
Mr. Krieger restated his motion for the Commission to accept the general massing, design strategy, and landscape of the buildings, encouraging the applicant to return and present a persuasive argument concerning how the design represents civic architecture; to advance in greater detail the intersections between the old buildings and their new additions; and to reconsider whether the north facade of the East Building needs to be differentiated as much as shown in the current submission. Upon a second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission adopted this motion, with a split vote.
Secretary Luebke suggested consideration of the first amendment to the motion just approved: to request an option for a masonry version of the design that extends the language of the original buildings. Mr. Shubow seconded the amendment, which did not pass; Mr. McCrery, Mr. Shubow, and Mr. Stroik voted for this amendment, with the other four Commission members voting against. Secretary Luebke said the second proposed amendment, by Mr. McCrery, is to encourage the development of a design that conveys the sense of a comprehensive whole rather than focusing on differentiation. Upon a second by Mr. Powell, the Commission adopted this amendment unanimously.
D. D.C. Public Library
CFA 16/JAN/20-3, Lamond–Riggs Neighborhood Library, 5401 South Dakota Avenue, NE. Replacement library building. Concept. Mr. Fox introduced the proposal for the new Lamond-Riggs Neighborhood Library, which would replace the existing brutalist-style building completed in 1983. The new building would be slightly larger than the existing library; it would provide additional space for programming, better connections to the site, and more natural light to the interior of the building. He noted the changing neighborhood context, which includes a large new mixed-use complex planned for a site across the street. He asked Jaspreet Pahwa, assistant director for capital planning construction at the D.C. Public Library (DCPL), to begin the presentation.
Ms. Pahwah said that DCPL's goal is to strengthen its legacy as a vital community institution that serves the city through community-focused programs and services. She said this strategic vision has led to a community engagement process for the design of the new Lamond-Riggs library that includes focus groups, surveys, and multiple community meetings. She introduced architect Peter Cook of HGA and landscape architect Adrienne McCray of Lee & Associates to present the design.
Mr. Cook described the location of the Lamond-Riggs library along South Dakota Avenue, NE, between Jefferson and Kennedy Streets, close to the Maryland border. He characterized the surrounding neighborhood as a stable, historically African-American area, with many single-family and duplex houses. However, he said that the area is beginning to see large-scale mixed-use developments, such as a recently built Walmart store and the forthcoming Art Place at Modern project planned for a site across South Dakota Avenue from the library; he said that the large size of this development, which will include a grocery store and multimedia museum, will dramatically change the scale and appearance of the area, and this has influenced the approach for the new library's siting and design.
Mr. Cook said that the existing library site slopes down toward the south, while sloping upward toward the east, and he indicated how the building is set back 15 to 20 feet from the property lines. He indicated the existing thirteen-space parking lot to the northwest, noting that the community has expressed the desire to retain automobile parking at the library; he added that despite proximity to the Fort Totten Metro station, the area is automobile-centric. He said that DCPL and the community have criticized the existing building's uninviting entrance, inadequate landscape, poor natural light, and a lack of views out of the building. The design process for the new building has therefore included exploration of providing natural light and a visual connection to the outside. He noted that the front facade of the new building would be oriented along South Dakota Avenue toward the southwest, as with the existing building, and therefore the design would carefully balance the community's desire for outward views with the issue of solar heat gain from western sunlight. He said that other desires expressed by the community include the creation of a home away from home where children can do homework after school, and a place where people can find respite and quiet to read and study. A goal of the design is therefore to knit the library into the neighborhood.
Mr. Cook said that the new library would be sited toward the southeast part of the site, a choice that is influenced by the stepped rhythm of the residential facades along Jefferson and Kennedy Streets, as well as by the intent to retain the existing parking lot located at the northwestern end of the site along Kennedy Street. He said that several different locations for the parking lot were explored, including moving it to the rear of the building, but community feedback indicated that people would feel unsafe using the lot if it were secluded. In addition, the location of the parking lot and main entrance are influenced by the adjacent signalized intersection at South Dakota Avenue and Kennedy Street.
Ms. McCray said that the design approach for the landscape is similar to that of the building: to create a home away from home. The landscape design would create a series of small pocket spaces to allow for a variety of activities. A plaza at the main entrance would extend to the South Dakota Avenue sidewalk, with rectangular pavers to create a more formal rectilinear space; benches would be placed at the edges and large rocks set within the space for seating.
A curving pathway would lead to this plaza from the corner of South Dakota Avenue and Kennedy Street, bringing visitors off of the sidewalk and toward the main entrance; the concrete path would have vegetated buffers and would provide bicycle parking and wood benches. To the southeast of the entrance, along the front facade of the building, would be an outdoor front porch area accessible from both inside and outside the library. This space is intended to create a sense of community, and it would provide the opportunity for individuals and groups to sit and enjoy the outdoors, as well as for people walking along the sidewalk to engage with those on the porch. A planted area of groundcover, shrubs, and ornamental and shade trees would buffer the porch from the sidewalk and the avenue, and she noted that the shade from the trees would be important for this west-facing space. She indicated a Bradford pear tree near the south corner of the site that would remain because of its heritage designation, and she said that the building has been sited to ensure its preservation; nearby groundcover plantings would be low to protect this tree. She said that the remainder of the side and rear yard would accommodate the required on-site stormwater management facilities.
Ms. McCray presented several perspective and section drawings of the proposed landscape. She noted that the large rocks proposed at the entrance plaza would provide seating as well as a visual cue alerting children to the transition from the plaza to the street. She indicated the outdoor porch area that would feature several different seating types and arrangements; it would be separated from the sidewalk by a sloped, planted buffer. She also presented sections of the landscape along Jefferson Street and at the rear yard, noting that the bioretention area in this location would be visible from the children's room. She cited an arborist's report in noting that many trees would be removed from the site, with the exception of most street trees and the heritage Bradford pear; most of the removed trees would be replaced in kind. She also presented a sun study for the site, as well as the proposed plant palette, which is intended to provide year-round visual interest.
Mr. Cook continued the presentation, emphasizing that an additional goal of the design is to integrate the library into its neighborhood. He said the facades of the newer developments in the area have a planar quality, while the older row houses have a staccato appearance along the side streets. He noted that Jefferson and Kennedy Streets curve and slope up toward the east, which emphasizes the sawtooth or serrated building wall along the streets. While the proposed design for the library does not literally replicate its surroundings, it is intended to reference these forms to help integrate the new building into this context. He said that residents are proud of their community, and they have expressed a desire to preserve the memories of the site and neighborhood. To help realize this goal, the plan of the building has been adjusted accommodate the roots of the heritage Bradford pear tree to allow it to grow and thrive. Within the building's double-height lobby, a two-story "heritage wall" alongside an open staircase is conceived of as a metaphorical tree, rooted in the ground and growing upward toward the sky; as visitors ascend the stairs, they would see images of the neighborhood and members of the community on the wall.
Mr. Cook noted that the open, treed landscape across South Dakota Avenue would likely be lost to the large new development; the proposed library facade would incorporate the memory of this vanishing natural landscape in the design of a perforated aluminum screen extending across the second floor along the front of the library and wrapping around to the sides, reaching a height of 29.5 feet. The screen's abstract tree patterning would recall the nearby landscape, and the screen's folded configuration would relate to the staggered building line seen along the side streets. He presented the proposed floor plans for the building, noting the large meeting room at the front that would also support programming for the adjacent children's room. On the second level, he indicated a space called the "neighborhood living room," which is intended to be a place where people can sit down, read casually, and have conversations with neighbors; teenage and adult services would also be on the second level, and the rear area would have higher ceilings than the front rooms to allow for additional natural light. The balcony on the south side of the second floor is intended to further connect the library to nature and the community. He presented site section drawings to illustrate the scale of the library in relation to its immediate context and the large development planned across South Dakota Avenue. He then presented the proposed elevations, indicating the mechanical penthouse and the additional height at the rear of the library; he noted that the lobby's open stairway would be visible from the exterior.
Mr. Cook said the proposed materials are residential in quality and scale, but they would be used in unique ways. Fiber cement panels would clad the entry area, and a curtainwall would be installed behind the aluminum facade screen. Laminated wood panels would be installed on the northern and western facades, with polycarbonate panels used along the large ground-floor meeting room. He noted that the building's appearance would vary with the lighting conditions, such as at night when the interior lighting is filtered through the facade materials.
Chairman Powell thanked the project team for the presentation and invited comments from the Commission members. Ms. Griffin asked for more information about the building volume seen above the facade screen as depicted in the front elevation; Mr. Cook said this is an enclosure for the rooftop mechanical equipment, made of laminate panels. Mr. McCrery asked if the finish for the laminate would have a wood grain effect; Mr. Cook said this is one of many finishes available for this material.
Mr. Krieger asked for more information about the relationship between the facade screen and the curtainwall behind, as well as the opaque band at the top of the screen. Mr. Cook responded that these details have not been resolved at this conceptual stage, and the maintenance requirements for the screen are still under discussion with DCPL. The likely solution will be to fasten the screen to the building structure at ten-foot intervals, with the distance between the curtainwall and screen ranging from eight inches to two feet. Mr. Krieger asked about the continuous strip of glazing that appears to be drawn below the screen; Mr. Cook confirmed that this is the lower portion of the curtainwall set behind the screen, visible on the elevation because the bottom of the screen would be approximately two feet above the level of the second floor. Ms. Griffin asked about the alignment of the top edges of the screen and curtainwall; Mr. Cook confirmed that the glazing, including the spandrel glass, would reach the height of the top of the screen. Ms. Griffin observed that the proposal includes at least six different materials for the facade; Mr. Cook acknowledged the concern while noting that the spandrel could be considered a part of the curtainwall system.
Mr. McCrery asked if the tree branch pattern would extend to the top of the perforated screen; Mr. Cook confirmed this intention, while emphasizing that the screen design would appear abstract and not literally like trees with branches. Mr. McCrery observed that the model appears to show the screen as solid across the top; Mr. Cook clarified that the intent is for the screen to be perforated all the way to the top. Mr. Krieger agreed that the presentation materials do not accurately depict this design intent. Mr. McCrery emphasized that the screen is very important to the success of the design as proposed, and he advised giving priority to retaining this feature through the design process and budget evaluation.
Ms. Meyer commented that the proposed building would be the most recent example of DCPL's commitment to design excellence for its facilities over the last decade, and she asked what DCPL has learned from these projects as the libraries have been completed. Ms. Pahwa said that DCPL's strategic plan calls for incorporating the specific needs and aspirations of the local community into each branch library project; common themes include adult literacy efforts and providing services for children and teens. She said DCPL has learned the benefits of providing connections to the outdoors, and of designing spaces that stay vibrant over the long life of a library building.
Chairman Powell congratulated DCPL on its library design program. Mr. Krieger also complimented the agency for the positive evolution of each library design presented to the Commission. He said that the current proposal is very promising; however, he expressed concern that the screen would be eliminated from the design during the value engineering process. He questioned the decision to retain the surface parking lot in its current location, observing that the design concept shows great effort to provide continuity between the library and surrounding residences, but then retains a parking lot that disrupts this continuity. While acknowledging the safety concerns for the parking as described in the presentation, as well as the issue of stormwater management in the site design, he encouraged shifting the parking to the rear and moving the bioretention area to another location to avoid having the parking lot create an inhospitable sidewalk condition for pedestrians along Kennedy Street. Mr. Cook reiterated that the design team studied many different configurations for the parking lot; other locations considered included along South Dakota Avenue, at the southeast along residential Jefferson Street, and in the rear. He acknowledged that the initial thought was to move the parking to the rear, understanding that this location is considered to be dark and out of sight, as well as requiring an additional curb cut to the south. However, the neighborhood includes an older population that may have difficulty walking up the sloping site and around the building to reach the front entrance, as well as families with children and strollers for whom the proposed parking location would be more convenient. Ms. Meyer observed that a parking lot at the rear would also abut the yards of the neighboring homes. Mr. Cook added that a gas station is located across Kennedy Street from the proposed parking lot, which may make this location appropriate. Mr. Krieger disagreed, commenting that this proximity is another reason why the parking lot should be moved, because having two large paved areas at this busy corner would not be desirable. He acknowledged the difficulty of siting the parking, but he encouraged putting at least one or two spaces in the rear to reduce the number of spaces along the Kennedy Street sidewalk. He also encouraged extending the proposed landscape to mitigate the impact of the parking on the streetscape.
Ms. Griffin noted the significant stormwater management issues cited in the presentation, and she suggested reconceiving the parking lot as a part of the landscape, including plantings and pervious paving. She said that DCPL's exemplary precedent of progressive design should be carried through to this library's landscape, and a progressive approach to the site design would call for a different treatment of the parking lot. Ms. McCray responded that the proposal intends to retain the existing parking lot, while an assessment by civil engineers found that reconstructing the parking with permeable paving would require a much larger parking lot to offset the loss of the proposed rear bioretention area. Ms. Griffin and Ms. Meyer acknowledged that relocating the parking lot may be too costly. Mr. Stroik asked for the project's budget; Ms. Pahwa said that the budget is $20 million. She reiterated the assessment that using permeable paving would not fulfill the stormwater management requirements; however, she said that DCPL generally encourages including permeable paving beyond fulfilling the needs for onsite retention, and this is often the first additional option considered during the project contracting process.
Ms. Griffin acknowledged these constraints, but she reiterated her advice to treat the parking lot as a part of the landscape design, given its conspicuous location in the neighborhood. She also advised refining the proposed material palette, beginning with the landscape. She suggested using pavers for both the winding entry path and rectilinear entrance plaza, rather than a mix of pavers and concrete, to bring continuity to the relatively small space. She also noted that the winding path would likely be used by the majority of visitors, since it connects the library's entrance to the major intersection of South Dakota Avenue and Kennedy Street. She expressed support for the inclusion of wood in the material palette, and she suggested using wood more extensively for the site furnishings for the path, entrance plaza, and front porch to bring additional continuity to the landscape. She expressed strong support for the proposed front porch, particularly the bar-type seating at its front edge facing the sidewalk.
Ms. Griffin commented that the building's material palette would benefit from similar refinement. She acknowledged that the renderings may be preliminary, but she noted a lack of clarity in the presentation of the many materials and details of the building's exterior—particularly the facade screen—and she requested additional documentation of the screen and its connection to the curtainwall system, as well as the typical details for the various components of the facades. She noted that the concept for the screen is reminiscent of the design for the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, which Mr. Cook was involved in, and she advised that this library's facade will similarly need to achieve a level of refinement and sophistication.
Ms. Meyer noted the irony that the abstract trees depicted on the facade screen are intended to be reminiscent of the landscape across the street that will soon be lost to a new mixed-use development; she suggested extending this concept into the actual landscape of the library by planting additional trees on the site. For instance, while expressing support for the front porch, she noted its southwest orientation and observed that no overhang or large trees are proposed that would provide shade in the afternoon and make it a more comfortable place to be. She agreed with the advice to reduce the size of the parking lot and to plant additional large trees in this area; more generally, she encouraged the members of the project team to collaborate closely to ensure that the building and landscape both advance the goal of creating a place that people can enjoy throughout the year.
Ms. Meyer questioned the merit of basing the building and site design on the retention of the existing Bradford pear tree along Jefferson Street, citing this cultivar's exceptionally unsound structure and the arborist's assessment of this particular tree as already having breakage and decay. Ms. McCray acknowledged that this tree has weak branching; however, the project team would have to work with the D.C. Department of Transportation's urban forestry staff and the Mayor's office to authorize the removal of a heritage tree such as this. Ms. Meyer said that this is excessive consideration for a cultivar that most arborists, horticulturists, or landscape architects would assess as poor quality, prone to breaking in storms, lacking in visual interest, and incapable of achieving a satisfactory size. Mr. Krieger added that if this tree is removed, the site plan could be adjusted to allow for additional flexibility in the design of the entrance area.
Mr. Stroik agreed with Ms. Meyer's advice, and he suggested the installation of a fabric canopy above the porch to provide shade. He also agreed with Mr. Krieger's advice to give more importance to the experience along the street, and he suggested allocating curbside parking for the library to help reduce the size of the on-site parking lot. He also suggested extending the building's facade further northwest along the South Dakota Avenue frontage to help define the sidewalk and corner; a second entrance could also be included on the parking lot side of this extension to help address concerns regarding the safety and convenience of the lot. Mr. Cook asked if the consensus is to explore extending the landscape into the northwest corner of the site. Mr. Krieger agreed with the desirability of improving the project's design toward Kennedy Street; he clarified that if the Bradford pear tree were removed, the skewed building plan could be simplified and shifted slightly toward Jefferson Street.
Mr. McCrery suggested planting additional street trees; he cited the efforts of the Casey Trees organization to achieve a forty-percent tree canopy in Washington. Ms. McCray responded that the project team would ask the D.C. government to plant additional street trees. Mr. McCrery observed that only some of the presented site plans show the existing or proposed street trees, and Ms. Meyer suggested incorporating the planned locations of new street trees into the documentation to be presented at the next review.
Chairman Powell suggested a consensus to approve the concept design with the comments provided. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted this action.
E. D.C. Department of General Services
1. CFA 16/JAN/20-4, Benjamin Banneker Academic High School, 925 Rhode Island Avenue, NW (former site of Shaw Junior High School). Site design. Final. (Previous: CFA 21/NOV/19-7) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
2. CFA 16/JAN/20-5, DC Bilingual Public Charter School (former Keene Elementary School), 33 Riggs Road, NE. Building renovation and additions. Final. (Previous: CFA 21/NOV/19-5) Mr. Fox introduced the proposed final design for expansion of the D.C. Bilingual Public Charter School, which is housed in the former Keene Elementary School near Fort Totten. He summarized the Commission's previous review in November 2019, approving the concept with support for the siting of an addition and for the differentiation between the new construction and the historic school. He said that the Commission had recommended reducing the number of elements and materials in the design, and developing a common architectural language for the new facades on the south. For the site design, the Commission had recommended further articulation of the proposed spatial definition of the site. He said that the current submission incorporates many of the Commission's recommendations, including more unified facades and a reconfigured site plan. He asked architect Scott Walters of Hord Coplan Macht to present the proposal.
Mr. Walters said the general project goal is to double the school's capacity by the year 2027, which requires adding approximately 27,000 gross square feet to the existing school. The more specific goals include respecting the past while celebrating the future; creating a new entrance; and organizing and expanding the outdoor play space in accordance with the increasing enrollment.
Mr. Walters described the site, which he noted is a few blocks west of the library project that was presented earlier in the day. The school fronts on Riggs Road to the north, and Rock Creek Church Road extends along the west side of the site. The context includes single-family homes across Riggs Road and apartment buildings, typically four to five stories, along Rock Creek Church Road. To the east is a wooded buffer and larger commercial development; to the south is Fort Totten Park, a National Park Service reservation, which includes a playing field that is shared by the school. He said that half or more of the students are dropped off by car, while others arrive by public transportation; the Fort Totten Metrorail station is to the east, and bus stops are located on Riggs Road and nearby side streets. The site has a vehicular access point at the northeast corner, with a driveway leading south from Riggs Road to the parking area south of the school building. He presented photographs of the site and context, indicating the trees along the west, south, and east edges of the site. He said that the existing building is typical of the D.C. schools built in the early 20th century, although with less exterior ornamentation than seen at some other schools. The building has three wings connected by hyphens, with facades of red brick, a granite base, and quoining; the two side wings contain classrooms, and the center wing contains shared-use spaces and the original main entrance facing Riggs Road to the north. He said that the site configuration is unusual because many of the students are dropped off by car on the south side of the school, using a secondary entrance that now functions as the main entrance; additional access from the south is via a recently added elevator adjacent to the eastern wing, providing barrier-free access to the building.
Mr. Walters summarized the proposed new configuration, as previously presented at the concept review. A new wing would be added near the western edge of the site, oriented at an angle from the existing school to respond to the alignment of Rock Creek Church Road; he said that the proposed positioning of this wing would maintain the visibility of the existing west facade, and the alignment with the site's western edge would maximize the amount of usable play space within the site. The proposal also includes a new entrance and other shared spaces, to be positioned to the south of the existing western wing. The interior spaces would connect to outdoor play areas and, via walkways, to the playing field at Fort Totten Park.
Mr. Walters said that the new wing accommodates twelve classrooms, a multipurpose room, and a library. The two special rooms would be expressed on the north facade toward Riggs Road, and the south facade would also have strong articulation; the long classroom facades on the east and west would be designed with a lighter character. The further extension along the south side of the school, including the new entrance, has been revised to be in the architectural language of the added classroom wing. He indicated the internal circulation at the new entrance, reconciling the six-foot grade change between the parking lot and the school's first floor. Infill construction between the historic school's center and western wings would allow for expansion of the gymnasium and cafeteria spaces to accommodate the larger number of students. He said that the site design has been refined with careful consideration of how students will move between the building and the adjacent playground spaces, and to provide legible walking routes to the playing field.
Mr. Walters said that the new facades would relate to the existing building, extending the lines of the water table course and the cornice, and referencing the configuration of the window bays and the size and patterning of the windows themselves, while not replicating the historic architecture. He presented a comparison of the previous and current proposals for the facades, highlighting the revisions to the materials, clerestory windows, and screening enclosure of the rooftop mechanical equipment. The facade detailing would include a herringbone pattern to relate to the themes of weaving and textiles, which are connected to the charter school's origins.
Mr. Stroik asked if the new south entrance would function as the school's primary entrance. Mr. Walters clarified that it would be the only available entrance after the school day begins; the historic main entrance on the north would be available at the beginning of the day as an additional entrance, but afterward would be used only for exiting. Mr. Stroik asked if the lower grade of the south entrance lobby would result in taller ceiling heights in the new construction; Mr. Walters responded that the ceiling heights have been kept modest to reduce the project cost. Mr. Krieger asked if the new south lobby would be viable as a main entrance despite the school's existing elevator being located in a different part of the building; Ms. Taylor clarified that a lift within the new lobby would provide access from the new entrance to the first floor of the school, from which all other parts of the school would be accessible.
Mr. Walters presented additional details of the proposed facades for the classroom wing. He provided samples of the three colors of ground-face concrete block; the darkest color would be used for the water table course. The facades would also contain metal panels with wood-grain patterning, set in a herringbone pattern; perforated metal panels would project one foot in front of the primary facade to give a sense of depth and wrapping. Vertical fins would provide solar shading for the classroom windows, most of which would face toward the east or west. The end facades would include fritted glass framing a center bay of clear glass; the perforated panels would extend beyond the north end of the building to provide screening from the late summer sun. Mr. Stroik asked about the wood-grain patterning; Mr. Walters clarified that it is a simulated effect, not actual wood. Mr. Stroik asked why a simulation was chosen; Mr. Walters said that the reasons include maintenance, longevity, and initial cost. Mr. Krieger asked about the edge of the panels; Mr. Walters said that they would be set within aluminum frames. Secretary Luebke noted that the south facade was an area of concern during the Commission's concept-level review, with the advice to simplify the composition. Mr. Krieger said that the current design is greatly improved.
Mr. Walters said that several design features will improve the usability of the outdoor play spaces. Concrete walls have been avoided alongside these areas; plantings and stormwater management installations would be kept low to maintain a sense of openness; and play spaces would be located where they will be convenient for student access. He introduced landscape architect Alison Taylor of Hord Coplan Macht to present the landscape design.
Ms. Taylor said that the site is currently characterized by an excess of asphalt. The access drive on the east and the parking lot on the south do not have sidewalks, nor any separation between pedestrian and vehicular zones other than cones. This project provides an opportunity to clarify the driving and parking areas, addressing the safety issues on the site and improving connectivity. She said that the important connections are to the Fort Totten Metro station to the east, reached via Riggs Road; to the bus stops and pedestrian routes on the north; to the playing field on the south; and along the access drive on the east side of the site to connect between Riggs Road and the south parking area. Another issue in the site design is to provide adequate on-site play space for the increasing number of students, with the intent to accommodate a wide age range and varied activities such as play structures and space to run around.
Ms. Taylor indicated an existing garden on the east that would be maintained; it is used for growing food and other school-related activities. She described the open space on the north side of the site, currently a lawn that serves as a formal landscape setting for the historic school; she indicated the walks leading from the Riggs Road sidewalk to a door centered on each of the building's three wings, with the middle walk leading to the school's traditional entrance. The walks include steps because of the sloping grade of the street and the site, and she said that the community has expressed concern that barrier-free access to this side of the building has not been available. The proposal is to construct a curving ramp to connect the Riggs Road sidewalk with the center entrance; the curve would define an amphitheater-style seating area and lawn abutting the existing center walk. She said that this space would be useful for students exiting the building at the end of the school day to socialize before they head home or are picked up by parents. On the opposite side of the center walk from the amphitheater, a play space is proposed; it would have a net structure on a safety surface of engineered wood fiber. Additional play spaces would be located at the northwest corner of the site and on the east side of the new classroom wing adjoining the parking area.
Ms. Taylor said that in response to the goals and philosophy of the charter school, the play areas are intended to provide a connection to nature, rather than having many colorful metal play structures; design features include logs, boulders, ropes, and planted buffers. Mr. Stroik noted that new theories about play space have been publicized recently, which may have inspired this design directive. Ms. Taylor said that the design goal of the play spaces is to spur the students' imagination, encouraging them to experiment and be creative. Ms. Meyer cited an additional concern that metal play equipment can be 25 to 30 degrees hotter than a sand or wood surface.
Ms. Taylor indicated the direct access and visual connection between the interior spaces and the exterior play areas, with adjacency between the classrooms and play areas for particular age groups. She said that the older students, in third through fifth grade, would primarily use the playing field to the south in Fort Totten Park; their classrooms would adjoin an exit leading to a sidewalk connection to the playing field, passing alongside the parking area. She indicated the large shade trees that are proposed along this sidewalk and at several locations in the parking area. An additional route to the playing field would be provided by a raised walkway across the parking area, leading from the school's gymnasium and cafeteria in the historic building's center wing. Adjacent sidewalk areas would accommodate bicycle parking, which she said is an important concern for the school community. A special paving pattern would be used for the sidewalk at the new south entrance to the school; the pavers would relate to the concrete block at the base of the building addition. She emphasized that the proposed site design would provide clear, safe pedestrian routes that are distinct from vehicular areas; as an example, a sidewalk would be added along the vehicular access drive on the east side of the site, eliminating the current situation of pedestrians and vehicles sharing the drive. Mr. Stroik asked if students could use other building doors to exit more directly toward the Riggs Road sidewalk; Ms. Taylor said that the other exits could be used.
Ms. Taylor said that bioretention is another important consideration in the site design, with the goal of improving on the existing conditions. The existing and proposed planters around the parking area would all serve as bioretention areas. She presented several site sections, indicating the grade changes that have been addressed. Ms. Meyer asked for clarification of the height of the rain gardens; Ms. Taylor said they would be essentially at grade but with a six-inch-tall curb, although the section drawings may not convey this clearly. She presented the proposed planting plan, which emphasizes native species, and she noted that many of the plants would be located in the bioretention areas. Mr. Stroik asked if bicycle parking could be provided on the north side of the site along Riggs Road, instead of only on the south side of the building. Ms. Taylor responded that this could be feasible; she clarified that aside from the access drive on the east, additional pedestrian and bicycle access is available to the south side of the site via a path on the southwest that leads from the Rock Creek Church Road sidewalk to the school's parking area, and she said that many of the students arriving by bicycle would come from this direction.
Mr. Krieger recalled the Commission's previous advice to improve the design of the walkway across the parking lot, connecting the school to the playing field on the south. He acknowledged that the current design is responsive, with the walkway slightly elevated and partially edged by low shrubs, but he suggested adding a row of shade trees alongside to improve the pedestrian experience. For the pedestrian connection at the west side of the parking area, he suggested reconfiguring the fenced play area and adjacent sidewalk to provide a more direct, attractive, and generously scaled route to the playing field, instead of requiring students to detour around the play area. Ms. Taylor responded that the constraint for such modifications is the layout of the parking lot, which is very tight; Mr. Krieger acknowledged this as a typical concern in site planning. Ms. Taylor said that the parking area is also constrained by the need for bioretention areas and the desire for a buffer space along the boundary with Fort Totten Park, although the ideal setback line has not been feasible in some locations. She noted that the program calls for the addition of only two parking spaces to the existing total, despite the intended doubling of the school's student population. She said that an additional constraint toward the southwest corner of the site is the proposed outdoor location of a generator and transformer; these require access for service vehicles. She added that the charter school is currently pursuing a partnership to place additional play equipment in the nearby parkland. For the walkway crossing the parking lot, Ms. Meyer suggested that the space constraint could be resolved by consolidating the flanking narrow planting strips with shrubs into a single, wider planting strip on one side of the walkway, where trees could be planted to provide shade and visually reinforce the walkway alignment. Ms. Taylor and Mr. Walters offered to pursue this revision, expressing appreciation for the advice.
Mr. Krieger commented that the design and site planning have improved since the previous review, and he particularly cited the improved design of the south facade that serves to reinforce the new entrance. He observed that the proposed facade detail for the classroom bays, with masonry mullions set within a wood-grain wall system, is an unusual reversal of the typical use of materials; he said that this treatment is odd but perhaps acceptable, particularly with consideration of budget constraints. Mr. Walters responded that the intent is to extend the concrete block from the base into the upper facade. Mr. Krieger asked why the masonry mullions are asymmetrically arrayed, with no mullion at one end of the window grouping; Mr. Walters responded that the intent is to suggest a sense of movement that will draw the eye across the facade. Mr. Krieger reiterated his support for the proposal; Mr. Powell agreed.
Ms. Meyer offered several suggestions for refinement of the design, particularly at the approach to the school's historic main entrance at the center of the Riggs Road frontage. She supported the proposal to introduce a ramp in this area and to design it with consideration of creating a gathering place for students and families. She emphasized the importance of resolving the joints among the design elements in this area, commenting that the presented perspective view was not satisfactory. She said that the ramp, seating, steps, and topography should be understood in combination, rather than being treated as separate elements; she said that the details and the landform should be beautifully designed at this prominent entrance area. She criticized the proposed play structure set on a circular base near this entrance, commenting that its large size would compromise the quality of the entrance space. She said that the base appears to be competing with the historic facade and the proposed amphitheater space; she acknowledged the purpose of a safety surface beneath the play structure, but she suggested that, if needed at all, it should be extended to replace the lawn as the primary surface of the entrance area. She said that the proposal may be retaining the lawn in this area as a traditional American ground treatment, but some public spaces are successfully surfaced with decomposed stone. Ms. Taylor acknowledged that the design of this area has been a challenge; the competing priorities, still being resolved by the charter school, include whether to emphasize a play structure or open recreational space. Ms. Meyer said that the design for this area would be stronger without the play structure, resulting in a more beautiful entrance that would still be a fun place for students to gather or play. Ms. Taylor said that more modest features could be included, such as logs, that would not require a special safety surface.
Ms. Griffin supported Mr. Krieger's comments, offering support for the improvements to the design while questioning the detailing of the materials. She commented that the proposed herringbone pattern seems out of place. She also questioned the extension of the wall panels to form wrappers at the end of the new classroom wing; she observed that the precedent images for this material were for cladding a solid volume rather than as exposed projecting panels, and she recommended careful detailing of how the materials meet and terminate.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus to approve the submission with the comments provided. Secretary Luebke noted that the proposal is intended as a final design, and he requested clarification of which concerns require design modifications. He said that the guidance for the walkway across the parking lot is clear, while the comments on the north entrance area and on the facade's materials and patterning are more open-ended. Mr. Krieger suggested that the designers reverse the use of stone and wood if feasible, but otherwise the disposition of materials could proceed as presented. Mr. Stroik supported the possibility of reversing these materials; Mr. Krieger cautioned that this change could be expensive, and Mr. Walters confirmed that this would require a major revision to the design. Mr. Krieger suggested simply accepting the unusual use of materials, which he said could proudly be described as mannerist. Chairman Powell confirmed this conclusion as the consensus of the Commission.
3. CFA 16/JAN/20-6, St. Elizabeths Single Men's Shelter. St. Elizabeths East Campus, 2700 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, SE (east of the Barn and Stables Complex). New four-story building. Revised Concept. (Previous: CFA 21/NOV/19-8) Ms. Batcheler introduced the revised concept submission for a new shelter to be located on the historic St. Elizabeths East Campus. The Commission reviewed this project in November 2019, approving the concept with recommendations for the development of the entrance canopy design, the facades of the residential floors, and the character and use of the site. The shelter would be located at the edge of the ravine on the east side of the campus, immediately east of the historic barn and stables of the old St. Elizabeths Hospital farm complex. She noted that the new building, planned to include several different residential and supportive programs, would replace the existing nearby men's shelter. She noted that the shelter is being contracted as a fast-track design-build project, and asked Agyei Hargrove, program coordinator for the D.C. Department of Human Services (DHS) capital construction portfolio within the D.C. Department of General Services (DGS), to begin the presentation.
Mr. Hargrove said that the previous concept design, as reviewed by the Commission in November 2019, was subsequently not approved by the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB), which instead provided several recommendations for the development of the design. He asked architect Carl Skooglund of Wiencek + Associates to present the revised proposal.
Mr. Skooglund said that the design is substantially revised from the previous version. He indicated the limits of the proposed work on the site, known as parcel 2, which may be expanded in the future to include a larger portion of the adjacent landscape. He noted that a Metrorail tunnel runs beneath the site; he also indicated the nearby locations of a proposed new hospital and associated parking garage. He presented photos of the existing site and context, noting the open and wild quality of the landscape and the window details of the historic barn and stables. He described the proposed shelter program. The upper floors of each wing would contain dormitory housing: four floors for a low-barrier dormitory at the northern wing; two floors for a working population at the center wing; and one floor for senior citizens and medically frail residents at the southern wing. The ground floor would contain respite care, a health clinic, and a day center, which would allow residents to remain at the facility throughout the day. The basement would contain back-of-house functions and the dining room, which would have access to the outdoors.
Mr. Skooglund described the major revisions to the design. The wings, previously splayed, have been reoriented to be orthogonal to Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, corresponding to the orientation of other nearby buildings on the campus. The extent of the building's driveway has been reduced to create a better entrance experience. Trees would be planted along either side of the driveway to differentiate the shelter from the unrelated D.C. government facility that shares the vehicular access point at Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue. A newly added guardhouse along the driveway would help security officers monitor the vehicular and pedestrian traffic entering and leaving the shelter. He said several stakeholder comments have suggested consideration of opening a larger portion of the landscape to residents for them to linger outdoors; however, this would be in conflict with DHS's desire to monitor residents on the site. Instead, a planted buffer of tall, dense grasses would edge the walkway to the shelter building, keeping residents off of the larger grounds; residents would be sent directly to the building entrance when arriving. He also indicated the locations of potential outdoor terraces. Mr. Stroik asked if residents would be given any access to the larger landscape. Mr. Skooglund responded that this is being negotiated with the D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development; he said that DHS has expressed interest in having outdoor space for the residents, but it needs to be within the facility's controlled area. Mr. Krieger asked if the outdoor space accessible from the building would be fenced. Mr. Skooglund said this would need to be considered, as securing these areas is a high priority; he confirmed that the outdoor space connected to the building would be covered. Mr. Stroik asked if solid fencing is being proposed; Mr. Skooglund said this element of the design is still under consideration.
Mr. Skooglund described additional revisions to the design. He said the previous version had a base of red brick and masonry stair towers, with the upper stories of each wing clad with different colors and patterns of cement board to differentiate them. He said this differentiation was intended to help achieve the goal of eventually transitioning the short-term facility into permanent housing. The revised design would retain the red brick base, but would now use brick instead of the cement board on the upper levels. In addition, the color palette across all three wings has been simplified to dark and light gray, along with red. Lanterns have been added to the stair towers, with the intention of having them lit at night to help distinguish each wing. He said that the mechanical systems have been internalized, allowing for the elimination of the exterior vertical projections that were previously proposed; while this revision increases the building footprint and project cost, it eliminates an architectural detail that had little support from stakeholders. He clarified that the louvers on the facade would be edged with mustard-colored composite metal; this material would also be used for other accents on the facade. He said the fenestration has been refined from the previous version, with windows added to the dormitory areas, and translucent panels added in the stair towers. In addition, the design of the entrance canopy has been revised, with apertures added to introduce light into the area under the canopy.
Ms. Meyer and Ms. Griffin asked for clarification of the HPRB's comments. Secretary Luebke read a summary of the December 2019 review by the HPRB, which recommended:
1) more compatible exterior materials in smaller modules, perhaps responding to the campus's predominant red brick, the barn's board-and-batten siding, and the stable's upper-story shingles;
2) that the design and extent of the external HVAC equipment be improved upon;
3) that the wings be parallel to and perpendicular to Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue;
4) that the approach to the building be more pedestrian-oriented;
5) that the paving be minimized and tight to the buildings, partly by orienting the driveway loop and parking perpendicular to the drive leading from the avenue;
6) that the canopy not be a fourth building mass, but be integrated better into the buildings;
7) that the buildings be massed more toward the north end of the site with wing C pulled farther from the stable;
8) that the wings perhaps step down the ravine slope, rather than being supported over it;
9) that consideration be given to combining the bioretention swales, perhaps behind the building;
10) that consideration be given to putting the generator behind the building; and
11) that the applicant address the comments of the Commission of Fine Arts and Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
Secretary Luebke said that most of these comments have been addressed in the revised design. Mr. Skooglund noted that the project team is in the process of consolidating all of the comments from various stakeholder agencies, which include the National Capital Planning Commission and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
Mr. Stroik asked about the response to the HPRB's request that additional red brick be used for some part of the design. Mr. Skooglund said that red brick has always been included in the design, and it is proposed for the base; he added that the HPRB also expressed concern about the exterior-mounted mechanical equipment and vertical projections
Ms. Griffin expressed support for the revisions to the design, and she agreed with the advice that additional red brick be used in the design; she cited the legacy of this material's use on the St. Elizabeths campus—a place that has historically housed people in need—and said that this material would help the new building relate to the historic function of the campus and would provide additional richness to the design. She commented that the presented black-and-white elevation drawings are more convincing than the color renderings; she questioned whether the proportions of the areas depicted with each color on the renderings are accurately representing the intended design. She suggested that the red brick of the base perhaps would appear less institutional if it were not paired with the proposed white brick and yellow trim; Mr. Stroik agreed. Ms. Meyer commented that the strong contrast between the light and dark colors on the facade contradicts the well-proportioned facade design depicted in the black-and-white elevation drawings. Mr. Krieger asked why three brick colors are proposed. Mr. Skooglund responded that the design seeks to express the facility's program by distinguishing each wing with a different color; he said this differentiation could possibly be achieved by other methods, which can be discussed with DHS.
Mr. Stroik observed that several entrance doors are proposed, and he asked for more information about the entry sequence for residents. Mr. Skooglund said that most people would enter through the northern entrance, connecting to the large queueing area in the lobby that leads residents to the low-barrier dormitories. The southern entrance would be for residents in the working and senior dormitories.
Ms. Meyer expressed support for the improvements to the site plan, particularly the shift of the vehicular drop-off area to the north. She suggested that the site design could help differentiate the individual building wings, thereby reducing the need to express this differentiation on the building facades. She commented that the entrance plaza appears to be very large and disorganized; the long canopy and multiple entrances would create confusion for a first-time visitor to the facility. To provide residents a more orderly and dignified entrance sequence, she suggested creating two separate sidewalks leading from the drop off area: one leading to the low-barrier dormitory entrance, and another leading past the historic stables to bring working and senior residents to their entrance. She also advised that the plantings proposed to edge the sidewalks should help shape the space, rather than being conceived of as simple buffers. She said a hedge would help visitors orient themselves along the path as they approach the old stables building and then turn left into the appropriate facility entrance; visitors would otherwise feel disoriented within the paved, amorphous entry plaza. She suggested planting the hedge with sumac, a rhizomatic loose shrub or small tree that grows at the edges of meadows, which would spread quickly and fill out the space well, providing an urban rather than suburban edge to the path and fitting in with the meadow landscape that predominates.
Mr. McCrery agreed that the proposed canopy is very large, and he questioned the extent of the paving at the approach and entrance. Mr. Skooglund said that the entrance area needs to accommodate ambulance access to the entrance for each wing. Mr. Shubow asked why the yellow frames would be used around the ventilation louvers, noting this would draw unnecessary attention to them; he suggested instead focusing attention on other details, such as the windows. Mr. Skooglund said the use of yellow for the louver surrounds is intended to break up the mass of the facade; this detail could instead be used for the windows.
Mr. Krieger said the design team seems not to have confidence in the basic composition of the building, and is therefore compensating by adding additional colors and accents to the facade. He said that a reasonable design approach would be to make this a largely red brick building with a well-designed fenestration pattern and entry experience. He said the proposed design is resulting in the facility looking like a caricature of a building, or perhaps a children's hospital. He said the additional colors and details are not necessary, and he recommended revising the design to be simpler and more straightforward; otherwise, the result may be a cartoonish building, as suggested in the renderings. Ms. Griffin said that with the black-and-white elevation drawings, one could imagine the building clad in red brick, with lighter and darker brick used thoughtfully for details and accents. She said that the elevations show promise and could be developed with additional experimentation in their detailing.
Ms. Griffin commented that having a separate entrance for the low-barrier facility would stigmatize a group of people already experiencing societal stigma, and she questioned whether each wing needs its own identity. She suggested the need for some equalizing gesture to indicate that people visiting the facility are entering a comfortable, safe place, with a bit of anonymity and discreetness. She asked representatives from the D.C. government to provide additional information on the decision to visually differentiate each wing.
Mr. Skooglund asked Lisa Franklin, capital and operations manager for DHS, to respond to this issue. Ms. Franklin said that her role is to help the design team incorporate DHS's goals and objectives into the design; she noted that her agency is tasked with achieving the Mayor's plan to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-reoccurring. She said that the proposed building would operate very differently from the existing shelter. Ideally the new facility would accommodate no more than 150 residents; however, because of the current crisis in people experiencing homelessness, the facility will have a 400-bed capacity. She said that research of other jurisdictions has shown that a smaller facility is more effective at offering needed resources, and it is easier to manage from a security standpoint. In addition, DHS has consulted with stakeholders that include advocates for the homeless and organizations that run similar shelters, and their feedback has been incorporated into the design. She said that the proposed shelter would provide more than just a place for people to sleep. For example, the day program would allow people who may not sleep at the shelter to take advantage of resources such as a laundry, barber, and food service; having a separate entrance would aid in the operation of this program. She said that having residents from the working, senior, or respite care dormitory use the entrance where people queue for the low-barrier shelter would be inconvenient and would not accommodate how they are expected to use the facility. People seeking to use a low-barrier facility will often queue several hours before it opens, which often creates problems in the communities in which the shelters are located. The proposed shelter would therefore bring a substantial portion of the queue indoors; the large canopy would accommodate an overflow crowd. She said that the design also seeks to achieve a hierarchy in the facility to create something for which residents can strive. She added that the longer-term goal is to convert a portion of the facility into permanent housing in the future; therefore, having a visual distinction among the wings would help differentiate a potential new permanent residence from the continuing shelter function in another wing.
Mr. Krieger commented that DHS's approach to the facility planning is very sophisticated; however, it is unrelated to the design's use of three different brick colors and the yellow louver surrounds. He noted that expensive homes in Boston are clad in red brick, and this material should not be objectionable for this facility. He clarified the criticism that the facility would have the appearance of a fairly large institutional building that happens to have many different colors, which is not equivalent to distinguishing each wing. He advised the design team to work harder to find ways to distinguish the wings. Ms. Griffin noted that the issue also stems from the different size and configuration of each wing. She agreed that the programming and layout of the building would successfully achieve the project's goals; however, resolving the design should include clarifying and bringing more unity to the color palette, with brick adding richness to the composition. She summarized the concern that the design of the entry sequence and canopy still appear unresolved, and more attention to these areas would help manage the experience and use of the facility by the different resident groups. She also encouraged using the meadow space between the facility and the barn to help refine the entry sequence leading to the canopy and to the separate entrances, in order to bring additional clarity to the design. Mr. Krieger said he believes the entrances work reasonably well.
Chairman Powell asked if the Commission members would rather approve the concept with comments, or simply provide the comments to assist with developing the design. Secretary Luebke said that the Commission does not necessarily have to take an action, since the project has already received concept approval. Chairman Powell suggested that the Commission just provide comments; he summarized that the project team has made good progress on the design, while several details still need to be resolved. Mr. Krieger said that the unresolved issues with the material and color palette are more than just details, as they substantially affect the image of the building. He said the proposed method of differentiating the wings is unconvincing, and he advised the project team to reconsider the three brick colors and the yellow louver surrounds. As a possible solution, he suggested using different combinations of red and gray brick to differentiate the wings; Ms. Griffin advised that the predominant color should not be white. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
F. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
SL 20-049, The Harrison Apartment Building, 704 3rd Street, NW / 333 G Street, NW. Renovate historic building and construct a 12-story hotel addition. Concept. (Previous: SL 18-043, January 2018, redevelopment proposal for mixed-use) Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposed redevelopment of an L-shaped site on the north side of G Street between 3rd and 4th Streets, NW, on the block to the northeast of the Commission's offices in the National Building Museum. She noted that the Commission previously approved a similar concept proposal to redevelop this site for a hotel and apartments; the current proposal, with a different owner and architect, is for a hotel with related restaurant and lounge space. The existing Harrison Apartment Building at the corner of 3rd and G Streets would be preserved; this designated D.C. landmark was completed in the late nineteenth century and is the city's oldest remaining purpose-built apartment building, designed to resemble a series of large brick row houses with projecting bays and a projecting corner tower. The proposal would largely retain and restore this five-story building and construct a twelve-story addition that would include hotel and residential uses. She noted that the project would form part of the visual frame of Judiciary Square, along with the government and private-sector buildings in the vicinity. She also noted the ongoing construction of the Capitol Crossing commercial project to the east, which includes reestablishing G Street above a sunken highway; the proposed hotel will therefore be at the heart of the redevelopment of this area of the city. She asked Amir Setayesh of Quadrum Global to begin the presentation.
Mr. Setayesh said that his New York-based company owns and operates the Arlo hotel brand, and the company looks forward to becoming part of the Washington community. He said that this site is appropriate for an Arlo Hotel due to its proximity to the Judiciary Square Metro station and its location along the emerging G Street corridor.
Mr. Stroik asked if Quadrum Global has previously worked with historic buildings. Mr. Setayesh responded that his firm recently completed a comparable project in Chicago, the Julian Hotel, and will soon commence a project in Denver which includes an early hi-rise building. He clarified that the firm's brand emphasizes projects that have a special character and history, producing interesting projects that can relate to our culture; the firm typically deals with projects having unusual difficulties such as contaminated sites or, as with this project, a dilapidated building that requires stabilization as a first step toward rehabilitation. He introduced Gene Weissman of Architecture Incorporated to present the design.
Mr. Weissman said that the site has recently been cleared to leave only the Harrison Apartment Building, sometimes known as the Harrison Flats or the Canterbury. The project occupies most of the southern third of the block between G, H, 3rd, and 4th Streets, in the area south of the east-west alley, but the site excludes the Fraternal Order of Police building located mid-block along 4th Street; this private club would remain. The goals for the project, as established by Quadrum Global, are to renovate the Harrison Apartment Building, to create an addition that is sympathetic yet distinct, and to activate the full-block frontage along G Street as well as the largely abandoned streetscape.
Mr. Weissman presented diagrams of the historic components of the Harrison Apartment Building to be preserved. The southern part of the building has a wood floor system that is in poor condition, requiring replacement; the street facades would be restored. The northern part of the building has a floor system of brick arch vaults that will be restored, along with the street and alley facades. Much of the west facade, internal to the block, would also be restored; and a hexagonal ventilation shaft and exterior walls between the north and south wings would be restored. Within the north wing, a stair and elevator core would be restored along with four cast-iron columns ringing the core, extending through all levels of the building; the roof of the entire building would be replaced. Mr. Stroik expressed support for the extensive preservation that is proposed.
Mr. Weissman indicated the L-shaped footprint of the proposed addition, wrapping around the two-story Fraternal Order of Police building; its site would not be rebuilt to a greater height because the air rights have been transferred. He indicated the planned location of the hotel's main entrance, mid-block along G Street; he noted that G Street leads to the Capital One Arena several blocks to the west, and to Union Station several blocks to the east. He also indicated the 90-foot-high office building of the Government Accountability Office across 4th Street to the west, and the 130-foot-high buildings of the new Capitol Crossing development across 3rd Street to the east; he confirmed that 130 feet is the applicable height limit in this area, plus a penthouse of up to 20 feet for a total of 150 feet. Secretary Luebke noted that the height is regulated by federal law and D.C. zoning regulations, but the Shipstead-Luce Act allows for a more stringent height limitation, which the Commission has pursued in the past. Mr. Weissman indicated the 20-foot-wide alley on the north edge of the project site, the recently built large apartment buildings to the north reaching 130 feet, and the FBI office building to the south across G Street, with a height of 120 feet. He presented photographs of the context, emphasizing the diversity of architectural styles and periods. He also presented historical photographs of the Harrison Apartment Building, noting the pediments at the roofline that are no longer extant, along with multiple entrances. He said that the building was originally residential, but some ground-floor commercial use emerged, and the north wing was used for a time as a filing facility for the U.S. census, making use of the strong vaulted floor structure; the building has been vacant for the past decade or more. He said that the exterior detailing of the building would be restored; an old exterior fire escape stair on the G Street facade would also be restored, although it would not be functional. He presented interior photos, indicating the brick vaults, the exposed cast-iron columns, and the deteriorating plaster. He confirmed that the hexagonal light well would remain as an exposed feature within the hotel; the details of its treatment are still being developed.
Mr. Weissman asked Jonathan Fitch of Landscape Architecture Bureau to present the streetscape design. Mr. Fitch said that the streetscape would follow the standards established by the D.C. Department of Transportation. Some street trees and most of the tree boxes would remain; trees that are in poor condition or missing would be replaced. Planting areas along the historic building's areaway would have safety railings along the dropoff edge. Mr. McCrery asked what the sidewalk paving material would be; Mr. Fitch responded that two-by-three-foot precast concrete pavers would be used, in conformance with the D.C. government standards.
Mr. Weissman noted that the historic building has a full basement story, and the proposed building will also have a full basement. The northern end of the north wing would have a food and beverage location extending into the basement, designed to be reminiscent of a "speakeasy" with a small back entrance leading downstairs; he said that the remainder of the basement level would be back-of-house functions for the hotel. Mr. Krieger asked about parking; Mr. Weissman responded that no parking garage is included in the project, and guest parking would be by valet.
Mr. Weissman described the ground-floor treatment in greater detail. The floor level of the historic building is more than three feet above the sidewalk grade; the historic entrances and steps would remain. The hotel lobby and lounge area would be in the addition; he noted that Arlo hotels make extensive use of these spaces for guest activities, but do not include traditional meeting rooms. The building's southeast corner at 3rd and G Streets would have a cafe, using the historic retail entrance and with additional access from the hotel lobby; the southwest corner at 4th and G Streets, diagonally across from the National Building Museum, would also be activated with a restaurant space, which would extend to an outdoor patio along 4th Street. A small retail space would be at the north end of the 4th Street frontage, abutting the Fraternal Order of Police building. The loading dock, at the first floor level, would have access from the existing alley on the north side of the site. Within the proposed addition, much of the second floor would be carved out to provide double-height spaces along the street facades. An exterior courtyard would be located above the loading dock, taking advantage of the daylight from above the Fraternal Order of Police building; he said that this courtyard would be heavily programmed as part of the hotel, and the second floor contains additional flexible spaces within the addition as well as guest rooms within the Harrison Apartment Building, corresponding to its historic residential use.
Mr. Weissman described the interior features of the Harrison Apartment Building in greater detail. The historic staircase and freestanding columns would be exposed within the circulation space; the elevator within this core, still retaining its old door, would remain but would not be functional. Most exterior walls would remain, with the rear of the building exposed along a corridor where feasible. Mr. Stroik asked how the renovation would relate to fire safety regulations; Mr. Weissman said that the construction classification is still being determined, and additional fire-safety doors may be added to separate the areas with different fire ratings. Mr. Stroik asked about the ceiling heights; Mr. Weissman said that the first floor is approximately thirteen feet, and the upper floors vary from ten to twelve feet. The floor levels within the addition would be aligned with those of the historic building; above the fifth floor, the addition would have 9'-8" floor heights. Mr. Stroik observed that the generously tall spaces within the historic building would be part of the project's character; Mr. Weissman added that the character would extend to exposing the historic features to the extent feasible. He presented the plan of the sixth floor, indicating the small guest room terraces on the roof of the historic building; these would be set back from the parapet and would not be visible from the street. Other areas would be green roofs to provide the required stormwater management. He indicated the extent of overlap for the upper floors of the addition extending above the western side of the Harrison Apartment Building. The addition would have projecting vertical bays, serving as a reference to the bay windows of the historic building; the addition's bays would be wider on the east facade but only a single hotel room width on the south and west facades, and they would be expressed as balconies on the top two floors, receding to reduce the perception of the building's mass.
Mr. Krieger questioned the unusually long dead-end configuration of the corridors within the hotel. Mr. Weissman said that doors may be added within the corridors if needed; he also clarified that the historic interior stair would be exposed to the corridor on all sides, and the new egress stair in this part of the building would be placed in the historic south wing to avoid altering the viable floor vault system of the north wing. He acknowledged that the configuration results in some unusually shaped rooms; he said that the Arlo brand typically emphasizes activities in the hotel's common spaces while having small, efficient guest rooms.
Mr. Weissman described the penthouse level, which would include a large lounge and bar and a roof deck; the penthouse mechanical space would extend down into the uppermost level of guest rooms, and the outdoor swimming pool at the roof deck would similarly extend down into the building. Mr. Fitch said that the design of the roof deck would be comparable to a residential amenity terrace; the pool would be small, and covered lounge seating would be placed on each side. Small flowering trees would separate the pool area from other parts of the roof deck. The design includes a trellis and 42-inch-high planters, matching the height of the building's parapet and serving to define the small scale of the lounge spaces. The roof deck areas along the south and east facades would be narrower, and a green roof would be located around the mechanical space. Mr. Weissman noted that an additional equipment enclosure would be located above the lounge room, staying within the twenty-foot maximum allowable height for the penthouse. Mr. Stroik asked about the setback for the penthouse; Mr. Weissman responded that the design would conform to the requirement for a 1-to-1 setback along the street facades, and a 1-to-0.5 setback along the rear facade at the alley.
Mr. Weissman presented additional details of the facades and streetscape. The 3rd Street sidewalk would include large planter beds; the sidewalk on G Street would be kept clear in the area around the hotel's main entrance. The historic exterior doors would be functional although reached only by using stairs; barrier-free access would be provided through the main entrance.
Mr. Weissman provided samples and photographs of the proposed exterior materials, including a dark iron-spot brick for most of the addition's facades, with the intent to differentiate the addition from the historic building; he contrasted this approach to the apartment building on the north side of the block, using orange-colored new construction above a historic orange brick building, which he said gives an undesirably washed-out effect. He noted that the selected dark brick, while clearly contemporary, has many flecks of orange. A lighter brick, with a marble gray color, would be used for the upper floors to lighten the mass of the building; he said that this color would relate to the Government Accountability Office on the west and the FBI building on the south. The lighter color would extend downward to mark the hotel's entrance on G Street, avoiding the need to add an elaborate entrance feature; he said that Arlo hotels typically have very minimalist entrances, with simple signage comparable to an understated residential building. Awnings would be located along the ground-floor facade at several retail bays, with a slightly larger awning at the main entrance. He noted that the outdoor dining patio along 4th Street would be comparable to similar outdoor dining areas further north on the block. At the penthouse level, the enclosure would be large metal panels with a medium gray color.
Mr. Weissman acknowledged that the proposed window types are varied, partly due to the alignment of the addition's floors with the varying floor heights of the historic building; he said that the design team has made an effort to bring these varied windows into a coherent design. The windows in the addition would have dark anodized frames; the historic building's windows would have wood frames, painted medium gray as seen in historic photographs, which he said is more sympathetic to the building's stonework than using a harsh white color for the frames. The original patterning of the historic mullions would be used, and the doors would also be wood. The decorative terra cotta panels of the historic building's facades provide an inspiration for the recessed panels in the brick facades of the proposed addition. Toward the top of the addition, the balconies would have a glass railing to help the mass of the building to visually recede; at the roof deck, the addition's parapet would serve as a railing to avoid introducing visual clutter. He said that the four-foot-deep projecting bays would provide more interesting window configurations for some of the guest rooms, with narrow windows on the sides of the bays; he clarified that this projection beyond the property line is allowed by D.C. regulations. He noted that the projections would not extend down to the first two floors, which would conform to the property line. Mr. Stroik asked if the bottom of these cantilevered bays—perhaps 100 feet in height—would be expressed with visual support; Mr. Weissman responded that the design team has been considering this issue, which had also been raised during staff consultation. The proposed solution is a corbel to terminate the base, so that people on the sidewalk do not look up to a simple flat panel beneath the bay. At the top of the building, the bays would terminate with a heightened parapet that serves as a guardrail, along with a decorative panel element. Mr. Stroik suggested looking at the brick and limestone detailing of the triangle-shaped early-20th-century Dupont Circle Building on the south side of Dupont Circle, serving as a very attractive local precedent; he said that although this building's projections are very shallow, it shows how projections can be articulated through the interplay of colors.
Mr. Weissman concluded with elevation drawings and several additional perspective views of the exterior, along with more distant perspective views of the building within the context. He said that the material samples may be more effective than the renderings in conveying the intended color relationships. He said that the provided samples may be more effective than the renderings in conveying the intended color relationships. He indicated the banding on the west facade that relates to the design of the adjacent Fraternal Order of Police building. On the north, the facades along the courtyard would be the lighter-colored brick to help give a light character for this space. Mr. Stroik asked for clarification of the purpose of the historic fire escape; Mr. Weissman reiterated that it would not be available as an egress, but its retention was requested by the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board during review of the earlier version of this project in 2017.
Mr. Krieger commented that much of the proposal is commendable, particularly the sensitive preservation and repair of the historic building, and the interior planning of the hotel lobby and guest rooms. He said that the proposed dark brick is beautiful; he has used it himself on some projects, and it would be very appropriate for an addition to Chicago's Monadnock Building. But he questioned its use for this project, commenting that it makes the addition appear to hover over the historic building and diminish it. Mr. Weissman acknowledged that the color selection has been a challenge for the design team; for example, an alternative design has been developed that would use red brick in place of the presented lighter brick, although this would not address Mr. Krieger's concern with the darker brick. He added that an initial study had a much lighter brick as the primary material for the addition, but it didn't read strongly; he clarified that the contrast with the red brick of the historic building was excessive. He said that the reflectivity and flecks of the proposed brick would complement the historic building while being clearly differentiated from it. Mr. Krieger said that the effort at differentiation is unnecessary because the addition will be much taller; the distinction between the new and old construction will be obvious. He also observed that the context photographs seem to make the nearby buildings appear darker than they actually are, apparently due to being in shadow; he said that in actuality, the proposed dark brick addition would stand out strongly from the context, and he reiterated his skepticism of this material selection. He said that the image in the presentation of a nearby modern orange facade rising above a smaller historic orange building, offered as a problematic example, is actually a perfectly reasonable design approach; he said that the historic building was clearly legible in that image. He noted the stated intent of a modest design approach for Arlo hotels, in contrast to the immodest effect of the proposed large dark box for the addition.
Mr. McCrery supported this criticism of the dark-colored brick. While acknowledging the subtle color effect of the brick's specks, he said that the proposal would nonetheless result in an overwhelmingly and powerfully dark building; its foreboding appearance would not help the city nor the Arlo brand, although the Commission's concern is only with the city. He recommended further exploration of an alternative color palette, using red brick as seen in one of the samples, in place of the proposed dark brick, and with a second color somewhere between the presented samples of gray and buff colors.
Ms. Griffin offered a differing opinion on how to revise the colors, noting that notwithstanding the different advice, the Commission's guidance is clearly that this topic needs further study. She suggested that the gray color is problematic in the proposal, giving the appearance of a hat sitting on top of an interesting building. She said that such a treatment is typical of D.C. office buildings but may not be suitable for a higher-quality hotel. She urged consideration of combining the dark and red brick colors, while eliminating or reducing the use of the gray brick. Mr. Weissman acknowledged the need to study further color combinations. Ms. Griffin said that the more general problem with the color combination is that the addition will be perceived as an office building instead of a hotel or residential building. She suggested further study of how the top of the building is designed, particularly the upper termination of the projecting bays; she observed that the thick cornice seen in some of the renderings may be an effective design approach. She added that the detailing of the historic building's projecting bays—including the historic roofline embellishments that were removed and would not be replaced—may provide further inspiration for how the bays are detailed on the addition. She said that the historic building uses sills and other details to introduce different colors, but this is not being done on the facades of the proposed addition.
Mr. Stroik asked to see the alternative color configuration that had already been prepared; Mr. Weissman presented this image, but Ms. Griffin said that it does not address her concerns. Mr. Krieger said that the reconsideration of color needs to extend beyond the treatment of the top of the building. He said that his dislike of the darker color may in part be a personal preference, but the issue also involves an appropriate respect for the city. He observed that the historic building has various design gestures in its coursing, while the proposed addition would just be monolithically dark; he said that some sort of varied coursing, perhaps involving a course that is set back or protruding, might make the darker color more acceptable. He acknowledged the effort to use projecting bays and other design gestures on the addition, but he said that these are insufficient to overcome the aesthetic of a dark box as presented. Ms. Griffin noted that some of the newer nearby apartment buildings along Massachusetts Avenue use coursing creatively. Mr. Weissman said that the design already includes some soldier courses and stacked coursing, as seen in the facade panels, but he acknowledged the Commission's response that the darkness is excessive. Mr. Krieger suggested that some of these varied courses could be in another color.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus that the proposal is a handsome building but it needs further work on the color; he agreed with Ms. Griffin that the lighter color on the top of the building is more problematic than the dark color. He suggested approval of the concept with the request to review a reconsidered color design; Mr. McCrery agreed that the Commission should support the overall concept. Secretary Luebke noted that the treatment of the penthouse and various rooftop embellishments is a concern for Shipstead-Luce Act cases; with this project, in addition to trellises, the proposal includes rooftop trees that may reach a height of fifteen feet. He suggested that the approval include guidance that this issue will need to be addressed further. Ms. Meyer said that this may involve code compliance; Mr. Luebke clarified that beyond the code requirements, this issue is more broadly part of the Shipstead-Luce Act review. Chairman Powell agreed that the appearance of the roofscape is a concern for the Commission. The Commission approved the concept submission with the comments provided.
G. United States Mint
CFA 16/JAN/20-7, 2020 75th Anniversary of the End of World War II commemorative coin and medal. Designs for a 1/2-ounce gold coin, a 9/10-ounce silver medal, and bronze duplicates. Final. Mr. Simon introduced the presentation for a coin and medals of similar design to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. He noted that these would be available for sale from the Mint; the coin would not be circulating, and the medal would not be a military award. He provided samples from the Mint of recent coins and medals to illustrate the size and materials. He said that recommendations are not yet available from the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, which will meet later this month. He asked April Stafford of the Mint to present the design alternatives.
Ms. Stafford listed the required inscriptions for the coin, noting that more flexibility is allowable in the inscriptions for the medal; aside from these inscriptions and related adjustments, the coin and medal designs would be the same. She clarified for Mr. Stroik that the result of the design process will be to select one design—including an obverse and reverse—as the basis for minting the coins and medals.
Ms. Stafford presented ten alternatives for the obverse design, featuring either an eagle, a dove, or the Greek goddess Nike. Ms. Meyer expressed a preference for the theme of an eagle, as seen on alternatives #1, 2, and 3; she said that the eagle symbolizes the strength that was required for the wartime effort, a more appropriate choice than the dove featured in several other alternatives. Of these, she recommended alternative #1 as the best design, describing it as a beautiful composition; she observed that the olive branch in the eagle's talons is clearly legible in alternative #1, while in alternative #2 the branch overlaps confusingly with the eagle's tail feathers. Mr. Stroik agreed, describing alternative #1 as a powerful composition that is classic and well composed; he cited the strong depiction of the olive branch and the cropped image of the eagle's head and wings. Mr. Powell joined in supporting obverse alternative #1.
Mr. McCrery agreed with the focus on alternatives featuring an eagle, but he suggested further consideration of alternative #2. He said that alternative #2 gives greater prominence to the words "Liberty" and "World War II," and the text has a serif font, which he prefers. The eagle is also more fully depicted in alternative #2, and it is ascending in comparison to the eagle's descending flight in alternative #1. He summarized that both of these alternatives are good designs.
Mr. Powell acknowledged the merits of alternative #2, as cited by Mr. McCrery, but said that the confusing depiction of the olive branch is a problem; he reiterated his support for obverse alternative #1 as a cleaner design. Mr. Krieger agreed with this conclusion, and Mr. Shubow offered support for both alternatives #1 and #2. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission recommended obverse alternative #1.
Ms. Stafford presented fourteen alternatives for the reverse design, each paired as a coin and medal version to show the compositional effect of the differing text. Ms. Meyer urged removing alternatives #6, 7, and 8 from consideration, describing them as cartoon-like; Mr. McCrery complimented the reference in these designs to a classical war helmet. Mr. Stroik observed that several alternatives feature the prominent letter "V" representing victory, as included in World War II references to V-E Day and V-J Day, although it is also known as a symbol for the University of Virginia. He suggested alternatives #2 and #14 as the best designs featuring a "V" symbol.
Mr. Shubow supported selecting a design with the "V" symbol, but he suggested that it not be in a Roman-style serif font; he recommended alternative #11, which has a bold sans-serif "V" that is partially obscured by an American flag, commenting that this design strongly conveys a design aesthetic from 1945. Mr. Powell supported this choice, and Mr. Stroik said that it effectively conveys the theme of victory. Mr. McCrery observed that the sans-serif "V" on reverse #11 would be consistent with the font of the recommended obverse design, alternative #1. He added that the pairing of the palm branch and olive branch at the bottom of the composition is also a strong feature. Upon a motion by Mr. Shubow with second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission recommended reverse alternative #11.
Ms. Meyer commented on the beauty of the silver medal commemorating the World Trade Center site, provided by the Mint as a sample; she described the medal as spectacular. Ms. Stafford acknowledged the influence of the Commission in selecting the design for this recent medal, and she said that the Mint's staff is pleased with the result.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:34 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA