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 9:13 a.m.
Hon. Elizabeth Meyer, Vice Chairman
Hon. Toni Griffin
Hon. James McCrery
Hon. Justin Shubow
Hon. Duncan Stroik
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
Mary Catherine Bogard
In the absence of Chairman Powell, Vice Chairman Meyer presided through agenda item II.D.3, and Mr. Shubow presided for the remainder of the meeting.
A. Approval of the minutes of the 16 January meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the January meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Ms. Griffin, the Commission approved the minutes.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 19 March 2020, 16 April, and 21 May 2020.
C. Report on the approval of objects proposed for acquisition by the Freer Gallery of Art. Mr. Luebke reported the approval earlier in the day by Vice Chairman Meyer, on behalf of Chairman Powell, of the Smithsonian Institution's proposed acquisition of 23 artworks for the permanent collection of the Freer Gallery of Art. Seven of the artworks are being donated, including a drawing, books, and calligraphy folios, dating from the 9th to 19th centuries, primarily from Iran. Sixteen artworks would be transferred from the Freer's study collection, including a Japanese scroll and neo-Babylonian seals dating from antiquity to the 19th century. He noted the wide geographic, cultural, and historic range embodied in the Freer Gallery. Vice Chairman Meyer described these artworks as remarkable objects that were a pleasure to see. Mr. Luebke said that a visit to the Freer by the Commission could be arranged in conjunction with a future submission.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that no changes have been made to the draft appendix. He noted that the appendix includes the reporting of three approvals that were previously delegated to the staff, for the Native American Veterans Memorial, the D.C. Bilingual Public Charter School, and the John Eaton Elementary School. Upon a motion by Ms. Griffin with second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission approved the Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler said that two unfavorable recommendations on the draft appendix have been changed to be favorable, based on the receipt of revised drawings (case numbers SL 20-065 and 20-080). The recommendations for three projects are subject to further coordination with the applicants; she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations when the remaining issues are resolved. Other changes are limited to minor wording adjustments. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Stroik, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act appendix. (See agenda items II.D.1, II.D.2, and II.D.3 for additional Shipstead-Luce Act submissions.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Bogard reported that the appendix has 39 projects; two listings have been updated to note the receipt of revised drawings. Upon a motion by Ms. Griffin with second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission approved the revised Old Georgetown Act appendix.
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider items II.B.3 and II.B.4. Secretary Luebke said that the Commission may wish to act on these submissions without presentations.
B. National Park Service
3. CFA 20/FEB/20-3, National Mall walkways between 3rd and 14th Streets. Temporary installation of eight poles with security cameras. Final. Mr. Luebke noted that this project is incorrectly listed on the agenda as a concept submission. Vice Chairman Meyer suggested that the Commission approve the submission with the condition that the installation not include any identifying logos or text associated with the company supplying the equipment. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Ms. Griffin, the Commission approved the proposal with this condition.
4. CFA 20/FEB/20-4, Rock Creek Park and associated sites, Numerous locations. Wayfinding, interpretive, and identification signage guidelines. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/NOV/18-3.) Mr. Luebke noted that the locations for this sign system include parks in Georgetown, and the proposal has therefore been reviewed carefully by the Old Georgetown Board; he noted that the Board's report has been distributed to the Commission. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission adopted the Board's report and approved the proposal.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B.1.
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 20/FEB/20-1, Peace Corps Memorial, Louisiana Avenue at C and First Streets, NW. New memorial. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 19/SEP/19-2.) Secretary Luebke introduced the new revised concept design for the Peace Corps Memorial, submitted by the National Park Service (NPS) on behalf of the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation. The site is Reservation 727, a small triangular park bounded by Louisiana Avenue and First and C Streets, NW, on the northwestern edge of the U.S. Capitol Grounds. He noted that in September 2019, the Commission had reviewed a revised concept design for the memorial and did not take an action, commenting that the project team should develop a more convincing logic for the design's elements, and recommending that the artist and the landscape designer collaborate to create more clarity in the proposal. He said that specific issues cited by the Commission included a lack of integration among thematic elements that would potentially compete with each other—the glass canopy, the world map, the overscaled bench-hands, and the character and scale of the glass fins—with the suggestion that these could be more integrated with the central plaza as part of the pedestrian experience. The Commission had also suggested that the formal rigidity of the site plan could be modulated to accommodate existing landscapes.
Mr. Luebke said that the design team, which includes artist Larry Kirkland and landscape architect Michael Vergason, has returned with a new revised concept design, and he asked Peter May, Associate Area Director for Lands and Planning at the National Capital Area of the NPS, to begin the presentation. Mr. May said he is pleased to return with the design for the commemorative park, for which the Commission has already granted general concept approval. He introduced Roger Lewis, an architect and president of the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation, to continue the presentation.
Mr. Lewis expressed the foundation's gratitude for the guidance provided by the Commission since the first discussion of this site in 2014. He noted that the NPS has been a constructive partner in the process, along with the National Capital Planning Commission and the Architect of the Capitol, and the revised concept reflects the comments of all these groups. He reviewed the years-long process of producing this memorial, beginning with five years to obtain bipartisan congressional authorization, followed by site selection, then the exploration of design ideas, including holding a design competition. He noted the challenges faced by this project because it is not, strictly speaking, a "memorial" but instead concerns commemoration of the idea behind the Peace Corps and an exploration of what that idea means about America's relationship with the larger world. Finding a design to express this has proved difficult, and it was not until 2018 that the foundation chose the team of Larry Kirkland and Michael Vergason.
Mr. Lewis described the site as a small remnant of Indiana Avenue, which was part of the 1791 L'Enfant Plan for the city. He noted that Louisiana Avenue was not part of the L'Enfant Plan; its construction in 1930 resulted in the formation of this triangular site, which has an area of less than 9,000 square feet. He presented photographs of the site in winter and summer, illustrating how its vegetation and tree cover changes through the seasons. He asked Mr. Vergason to present the proposed design; Mr. Vergason said that he is also presenting on behalf of Mr. Kirkland, who was unable to attend the meeting.
Mr. Vergason summarized the site's history and existing conditions. He indicated a plan from 1915, before the creation of Louisiana Avenue, which first appears on a 1928 plan as a connection between Union Station and the Mall. Louisiana Avenue defines this site, which serves as the northwest corner of the U.S. Capitol Grounds. He described the site as being one of a series of open spaces providing an episodic quality that enriches the Louisiana Avenue corridor. The site has panoramic views to the southeast, with direct sightlines to the Taft Carillon and the Capitol.
Mr. Vergason said that the current design responds to the Commission's previous comments in its more fluid circulation lines and the smaller, attenuated plaza at the center, defined by the opposing bench-hands. The primary entrances would be from the Louisiana Avenue corners on the southwest and the northeast; a third entrance would be from the northwest at the intersection of First and C Streets. The glass pergola would be aligned with the approaches, and it would help to shape and provide shade to the plaza. He said that the current design presents a better interweaving of park and plaza within lush plantings. The design also reestablishes a long-term tree canopy that would strengthen this corner and its connection to the U.S. Capitol Grounds; the addition of more street trees along First and C Streets would make occupying those edges more comfortable.
Indicating a design sketch, Mr. Vergason illustrated how the bench-hands would shape the oval plaza and would frame the map set within the plaza's pavement. The proposed location of the plaza has been shifted slightly to the northeast to better accommodate the site's grading that slopes down to the south and west; this adjustment allows for a new path from the corner near the intersection of First and C Streets, and also provides a more extensive planted area to the south, on the lowest area of the site, to absorb stormwater. The plaza would be aligned with the site's southeast view to the Capitol dome. He presented drawings to illustrate that the hands of the benches are smaller than before, and the space they define has also been reduced in scale, improving the ability to conduct a conversation between the two benches. The bench on the southeast has also been lowered to give the space a stronger orientation to the Capitol Grounds.
Mr. Vergason said that the design team has been exploring the sculptures of the oversized hands, including their degree of abstraction and the nuances of their positions. He illustrated other sculpted hands created by Mr. Kirkland, such as at the national headquarters of the American Red Cross, describing them as gentle, open, and giving—qualities that he said are also present in the sketches for the Peace Corps Memorial. He said the design team is inclined toward a particular sketch showing a hand in a relaxed position. On a sectional perspective looking to the northeast, he indicated how the open hand of the bench on the southeast would help orient the space.
Mr. Vergason said that the configuration of the pergola along the edges of the path and plaza provides space for the addition of a line of ginkgo trees that would wrap around the rear of the memorial along First and C Streets. He noted that ginkgos have many desirable features, including the nearly consistent angle formed by the limbs meeting the trunk; the slight variability of the pergola's large glass panels, or "leaves," is meant to resemble this natural pattern of the ginkgo branches. He said that the ginkgos will be seen in combination with an overcup oak anchoring the south part of the site and will be balanced by an American elm. In addition, a series of red and scarlet oaks lining Louisiana Avenue would be complemented by a proposed palette of low shrubs, grasses, and groundcovers in shades of blue and green that would relate to the colors of the pergola's glass leaves, enriching the site's seasonal changes in appearance. Approximately forty percent of the site would be covered by evergreen plants, giving the landscape a strong presence in winter. He noted that the preliminary selection of plants will be further refined in coordination with the NPS maintenance requirements. He presented simulated views from within and outside the site during different seasons; a view in December suggests mottled shadows cast by trees onto the bench-hands.
Mr. Vergason observed that since the site is visually porous, the pergola would play an important role by identifying the memorial's presence. He described the structure of the pergola: a series of paired elliptical columns would support a continuous beam of stainless steel, which in turn would support a series of glass panels, or leaves, that would vary in their proximity to each other as well as in their elevation above ground; the panels would lift up and be placed closer together where they pass over the plaza and behind it. In winter, the pergola would allow sunlight into the park, while in summer the cooler, dappled light would create a more comfortable environment for visitors.
Mr. Vergason described views of the pergola from outside the site. The canopy of the glass panels would rise from ten feet to more than fifteen feet at the highest point; views from all directions would reveal the pergola sweeping over the memorial. The panels would be in varied shades of blue and green, suggesting sky and earth. The name of the memorial and the layering of the two benches would be visible from the sidewalk along Louisiana Avenue, and Union Station would be visible to the northeast along Louisiana Avenue. In the evening, the pergola would be lit by LEDs set within a stainless steel frame on top of each glass panel. The existing Washington Globe streetlights would remain. He summarized that the pergola is a unified artistic composition of diverse elements symbolic of the Peace Corps, and serves as an announcement of the site in the city.
Vice Chairman Meyer opened the discussion to questions and comments from the Commission members. Mr. McCrery asked about the design details of the pergola lighting; Mr. Vergason responded that the lighting element would be sealed within the stainless steel enclosures framing the top of each panel. The panels themselves would be three-quarters of an inch thick, laminated in three layers, with color embedded in the glass. Light would appear as a line running along the top edge of each panel, allowing the white light to pass through the internal glass color to illuminate the entire panel. He confirmed that each glass panel, slightly more than ten feet long, would have a stainless steel connection to the armature; two planes of stainless steel would frame the glass on either side, providing support and structural strength for the panel. Mr. McCrery observed that the renderings suggest stainless steel plates covering the entire surface of the glass; Mr. Vergason clarified that the steel would extend only along the edges of the panels, with the steel's dimension diminishing as the need for support lessens toward each end of the panel. He presented samples of the glass, noting that these do not show the full laminated depth but represent the glass and its color variation.
Mr. Stroik asked what material is proposed for the benches; Mr. Vergason responded that a light gray granite with light veining is being considered, although the specific stone has not been selected. Mr. Stroik asked about the merits of choosing granite for the benches; Mr. Vergason said that granite benches would be more durable than marble. Mr. Stroik asked whether "Peace Corps 1961" would be the only inscription; Mr. Vergason said that additional text would include quotations and would probably be located on the curbs running along the approach walks, but the text has not yet been chosen.
Ms. Griffin observed that the concept of the memorial is to represent the ethos of the Peace Corps; this intent is understandable for the hands and the map, but she questioned how the pergola would represent this idea. Mr. Vergason responded that the pergola would be composed of many different colored panels arranged in varied angles and densities along the horizontal beam, with the parts adding up to a unified composition; this design reflects how the Peace Corps creates unity out of diversity. Mr. Lewis added that these elements are not actually meant to represent the Peace Corps, but to say something about the symbolic meanings and messages of the Peace Corps. He said the pergola would be an integral part of the park and also a unified work of art composed of different elements. It would express the desirability of seeking peace through understanding; of helping different people to live and work with one another across the world; and of moving closer to peace through the recognition that, although we are all different, we are all part of humanity.
Mr. McCrery acknowledged this aspiration, but he said he does not find the explanation of the pergola persuasive. He said the idea of diversity applies to innumerable things that are not particular to the Peace Corps. Noting the comment in the presentation that the pergola would be present primarily to identify the site of the memorial, he observed the difficulty of seeing the elements that are actually serving the role of commemoration—the bench-hands and the map. While the pergola would serve as a vertical element that draws attention to the memorial, many other ways could be developed to identify the site. He questioned the idea of representation in relation to the pergola, commenting that people seeing this highly conceptual, individualized design from a distance without knowing what it represents will naturally assign their own meaning or interpretation to it. He emphasized that the pergola does not look like a feature commemorating the Peace Corps or like anything to do with the Peace Corps. He described this as a problem faced by all art and architecture: if people do not know what a design represents, they will ascribe an identity to it based on what they think it looks like. He said the pergola resembles the spine of a very large aquatic mammal erected on poles, like a display at a natural history museum. He summarized that he is simply wrestling with an essential difficulty of representative art that needs to be addressed; the pergola is a very difficult piece on its own, even without addressing questions about the quality of the sculptural benches and other elements. He added that he strongly opposes illuminating the pergola at night, something that is not seen in the monumental core and seems foreign to the Capitol Grounds.
Ms. Griffin said she would like to comment on this issue before the smaller elements are addressed. She expressed appreciation for Mr. Vergason's acknowledgement that this is a complex design problem on a small site, but she said the challenge is even more complex than this. She noted the presented intention to commemorate the ethos of the Peace Corps, and at the same time to create a welcoming public space; she said the Commission has often identified the challenge of how those two things work together and what gets prioritized. She suggested that Mr. McCrery's comments might be a concern that the pergola and the more sculptural elements are still not in dialogue with each other. She said that in the refinement of the design since the last review, the bench-hands seem to have become more visible from outside the site, which suggests that this feature may become the best means of expressing the Peace Corps ethos; this may inform how the design team works to find a balance between literal and abstract treatment of the hands. Observing that the pergola seems disconnected from representation of the Peace Corps, she suggested that it could become more of a shading element that would create a comfortable space rather than serving as a commemorative element, although it could still indicate that something significant is located here. She suggested that the pergola might be reduced in length or height while still providing a sense of verticality in relation to the benches. She agreed with Mr. McCrery that the pergola should not be lighted, and she suggested consideration of lighting the bench-hands instead, which would bring more attention to the commemorative area. She said the lighting concept still needs to become connected to the idea of commemoration. She added that lighting may also fulfill the role of signaling the memorial's presence; if the bench-hands become more visible, the design will not need to rely as much on the pergola for this purpose.
Ms. Meyer prefaced her remarks by acknowledging the difficulty of having new Commission members appointed during the concept review phase, as well as her own absence from the previous review of this project. She agreed with the concern of a continuing lack of connection between the pergola and the benches, and she suggested possible directions for further exploration. First, she noted that the presentation had referred to this site as conceptually part of the Capitol Grounds, and she recommended thinking about the great inventiveness displayed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Jacob Wrey Mould in their many sculptural forms for the Capitol Grounds' copings, walls, piers, lights, bus stops, and benches; their work was extremely original without replicating what already existed on the grounds at that time. She suggested one strategy would be to think about the pergola in closer relation to the bench.
Ms. Meyer described a second approach, one that Ms. Griffin may have been suggesting. She observed that the site is in a good location but is not actually a great site because it can be noisy and hot. Because of this, the site will have to be constructed and improved to create a successful memorial, requiring shade from both the pergola and trees; the pergola will be a valuable element because the trees will provide little shade until they mature. She suggested eliminating any symbolic meaning attached to the pergola and dealing with it simply as a site strategy; in this way, all the meaning embedded in the bench could potentially be broadened to the site itself. She questioned the need to accommodate visitors gathering on both sides of the central plaza; especially if the budget is constrained; she suggested putting funds toward making the bench longer, extending to the edges of the site, so that the reaching arms would be easier to perceive. She also suggested better defining the corners and edges of the site instead of focusing on a central gathering place; she observed that visitors will be drawn to see the map.
Ms. Meyer said her last comment concerns the cartography of the map. She said that it should represent the world without reinforcing any apparent dominance of North America, and it should depict the real size of continents instead of the distorted shapes caused by the manipulation of latitude and longitude. Mr. Vergason responded that Mr. Kirkland has a strategy for developing the map.
Mr. Shubow said he thinks the design would represent the ethos of the Peace Corps, observing that the hands and the map would be the most legible parts of the memorial. He supported the comments of Ms. Griffin and Mr. McCrery about the relation between the pergola and the memorial, and he said the addition of the ginkgo trees would help define the site.
Mr. Stroik agreed with the concern about the pergola; while acknowledging why it has been proposed, he asked if other ways could be found to achieve the same goals. He suggested that the pergola might use elements employed in the benches, such as granite instead of steel supports; he also suggested the design might be stronger if the pergola was eliminated. Mr. Vergason reiterated that the important roles of the pergola are to announce the site, define the principal entrances, and provide shade; the space is porous, and the pergola would define the site and orient it toward the Capitol Grounds. He agreed that these goals may be accomplished some other way.
Ms. Griffin commented that the further development of the benches could include lengthening one of them. Additionally, if the benches become more visible and are lit at night instead of lighting the pergola, the issue of the corners may be less important, and the pergola could be developed simply as a shading device, which may be more important than using it to announce the corners. Some representation of the Peace Corps ethos could then be given a vertical expression; she suggested consideration of other ways to achieve this instead of the long, skeletal form of the pergola. She observed that due to the steel structural caps and the lighting equipment, the panels do not appear as light as they had before, which further erodes the concept of the pergola. She emphasized that the Commission members are questioning the role and design of the pergola rather than necessarily eliminating it—asking if its location, length, size, scale, and shape could be changed, and if different vertical elements could be used to achieve the same goals. Mr. Vergason clarified that the steel framing had been designed in tandem with the glass panels from the beginning because it is essential to the structure of the panels.
Mr. McCrery questioned the adequacy of the glass pergola to perform as a shade structure, observing that it would rise to a height of fifteen feet, far above head height; it would also be located toward the northwest corner, and therefore much of the site would be in direct sunlight most of the day, including the area under the pergola. Mr. Vergason responded that the plaza's principal exposure is to the southeast, so it would get morning sun that is desirable for most of the year, except in the height of summer. As the sun rises higher into the southern sky, the pergola would begin to provide shade; as the afternoon progresses, the pergola would cast more shade as the sun position moves westward; and toward the end of the day, the site is shaded by adjoining buildings. The pergola location is therefore advantageous in allowing for morning sun while maintaining views to the southeast. Mr. McCrery reiterated the concern that the pergola would not provide useful shade due to its height and design. Mr. Vergason responded that while the glass panels would let some sunlight pass through, they would be spaced so closely together that they would provide some shade and cooling in the middle of the day.
Ms. Meyer noted the similarity of this review to a recent review of the concept design for the Desert Storm Memorial, which also had issues with scale and with design elements whose symbolic meanings did not add up to a great place; the Desert Storm proposal raised concern that too much had been proposed for a small memorial. She said that with a small site, the Commission may quickly focus on design elements that in bigger projects may be developed more gradually between concept design and final; small memorial sites do not permit this luxury, because on a small site everything matters.
Vice Chairman Meyer summarized the comments that have been provided. She said the Commission members clearly still have substantial concerns about the pergola: it appears to be something different from what it is supposed to symbolize, and the reading of its form as another object, such as the spine of a fish or an animal, will always interfere with any intended symbolic meaning. She noted the shared concern that the pergola is not materially integrated with the element that seems strongest, the bench-hands, and their relation to the map of the world. While acknowledging that the pergola may help in constructing a site that people would want to occupy, she observed that its particular shape and character are not satisfactorily related to the creation of a comfortable site. She described two approaches for developing the design: either provide shade through a planting strategy and then focus on the bench-hands for symbolic meaning, or integrate the pergola more with the material and language of the bench-hands. She said that using a bench to create a bounded place is not necessary; instead, the bench could be extended along the outer perimeter to make a welcoming gesture. If the budget is tight, treating the bench more like an edge and less like a gathering place might be a stronger strategy.
Mr. McCrery agreed with Ms. Meyer's comments about the bench. He observed that Mr. Kirkland understands the human form and is committed to using it in his sculpture. He expressed praise for the artist's other sculptures illustrated in the presentation, such as the large marble hands created for the Red Cross. However, he said that the strength of the sculpture is weakened by treating the human arm as a bench, and he suggested making the hands a separate element from the benches. Ms. Griffin agreed that this approach might work; she also suggested, based on comments from an earlier review, that as the hand merges into the bench the piece could become more abstracted, and perhaps one bench could be longer than the other to vary the degree of enclosure. She questioned whether this sculpture should look like Mr. Kirkland's other work or should instead have its own distinctive character. She also noted the tension between treating the arms and hands with more abstraction versus using them as functional elements. She added that another issue is how best to address the question of representing gender in the two hands.
Responding first to Ms. Meyer's comments, Mr. Lewis said that from the beginning an integral part of the concept has been the idea of a journey to a sacred space. He emphasized the importance of a map depicting the continents without political borders, while noting that the map does not preclude extending the sculptural bench, particularly along the outer perimeter. He noted that many commemorative works and works of art juxtapose elements that contrast in material and language. He maintained that the design team has always believed there is something powerful and significant about having these two contrasting elements, and using stainless steel and glass juxtaposed with granite is not an arbitrary decision. Likewise, he said that the pergola is not just set in the space to signal its existence, although a vertical expression has always been a desirable design feature to draw visitors here. He emphasized that this design is not meant to commemorate the Peace Corps as an agency; the Peace Corps may not always exist, but this memorial will remain here for generations, commemorating the American ideals that led to the creation of the Peace Corps. He recalled that when the idea was presented to the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission in 2014, many questions were raised about whether this would just be a memorial to a federal agency and whether every other federal agency would want one; but he emphasized that the site will be about ideals that transcend the federal agency.
Vice Chairman Meyer said the discussion has been very helpful, and she offered two further comments. First, she observed that the response concerning the importance of juxtaposing the different design elements was not conveyed in the presentation as the conceptual motivation. She said that when a project under review has two elements that appear unrelated, the Commission's perception can be that two different people designed them and then failed to bring them together, or that the two aesthetic and formal languages are clearly a bad juxtaposition. If the use of these two contrasting elements is intentional, she said that the Commission would want to see very different drawings that would explain the stone and its massive character in relation to the lighter element, in order to make clear that these two things are not simply placed adjacent to each other but are intentionally juxtaposed. She observed out that the two elements reflect two different spatial and material conditions that artists have always worked with; to demonstrate the stated importance of juxtaposing these conditions, the Commission needs to see a design where contrast is actually intensified. In addition, the presentation needs to address the concern about the pergola resembling the spine of a fish and being burdened with too much symbolic meaning, which she said would be less of a problem if the primary idea is about juxtaposition of different elements.
Ms. Griffin summarized her support for the intention to commemorate the ethos of the Peace Corps, which she called a powerful idea. She commented that some elements of the concept design address that intent well, but the pergola as designed works against it. She said the Commission as a whole supports the intent, and the comments provided could direct the project team to think more about how the pergola can better serve the intent.
Mr. Lewis suggested that the Commission members look at the sponsoring foundation's website, which includes language about the design that may not have been presented. He emphasized that Congress and the foundation's board have always believed this commemorative work needs to transcend the existence of the Peace Corps as an agency. He added that each glass panel of the pergola would shift from clear to frosted, which would create the play of light and shadow pictured in the rendering.
Vice Chairman Meyer said the Commission's comments have given guidance on how the project can be developed, and the Commission looks forward to the next revision of the concept design. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
2. CFA 20/FEB/20-2, Edward J. Kelly Park, Virginia Avenue between C and 21st Streets, NW. Replacement landscape and new entrance pavilion associated with renovation of below-grade parking garage (managed by the Federal Reserve Board). Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the submission from the National Park Service (NPS), on behalf of the Federal Reserve Board (FRB), for the rehabilitation of the underground parking garages to the north and east of the FRB's William McChesney Martin Building. The garage rehabilitation requires the design of a replacement landscape for Edward J. Kelly Park, encompassing NPS Reservations 105 and 378, which was built at street level on top of the garages. Named for a former NPS superintendent of National Capital Parks, the current landscape was designed in 1977 by the prominent local landscape firm of Oehme, van Sweden (OvS). He said its design introduced the innovative "New American Garden" style, a departure from conventional institutional landscapes that uses mass plantings of perennials and ornamental grasses to highlight the year-round beauty of the natural landscape. The project scope includes the replacement of the garage roof waterproofing and the construction of a new security screening building for pedestrian access into the north garage; this work leads to the larger question of how to develop a new landscape design that recreates much of the existing character. The proposed design reworks the general idea of paths, lawn panels, and plantings, slightly reconfigured into more diagonal geometries with rounded corners instead of the stepped forms characteristic of the 1977 OvS design. He noted that the FRB manages the underground parking garage and the park's maintenance through agreements with the NPS and the Department of the Interior. He asked Peter May of the NPS to begin the presentation.
Mr. May observed that he often brings somewhat unusual projects to the Commission; this project is unusual even for the NPS as a park built on top of parking garages that are managed by another agency. He noted that Kelly Park is much more highly developed than many of the other small parks in the city; he said that the NPS is satisfied with its current condition and looks forward to a project that reconstructs as much of the existing landscape as possible while meeting the long-term operational needs of the garage. He added that the NPS has been pleased to work with the FRB on its development, and he introduced Chris Haulsey of the FRB to continue the presentation.
Mr. Haulsey noted the importance of this project to the operation of the FRB because the garage is in need of repair; the FRB's expectation is that the improvements to the garage and park will help with their maintenance and long-term usability, making the landscape in particular more inviting for years to come. He asked architect Shalom Baranes of Shalom Baranes Associates to present the design.
Mr. Baranes said that the Martin Building is one of three large office buildings for the Federal Reserve on this downtown campus. Completed in 1974, the Martin Building was designed by H2L2 of Philadelphia, the successor firm to Paul Cret, who was the architect of the first FRB Building, which is located directly south of the Martin Building. He said that his firm has designed the renovation and expansion of the Martin Building that is currently in progress, including the rebuilding of the interior and the construction of three new pavilions extending to the east, west, and south of the building. Rehabilitation of the parking garage and of Kelly Park above it will constitute the second phase of the overall Martin Building work.
Mr. Baranes indicated the location of the Martin building along C Street, NW, between 20th and 21st Streets, with Kelly Park to its north and east. An existing fountain is located where the park extends across the axis of 20th Street, and different built elements are scattered throughout the site, including stair pavilions, shafts, air intake, the garage ramp, and a tennis court. The project will consolidate some of these features to provide a less cluttered landscape. He asked landscape architect Eric Groft of OvS to present the landscape design.
Mr. Groft described the firm's long history with Kelly Park, noting that OvS has been involved with the site for nearly forty years; he said that he has been engaged with it since joining OvS in 1986. The original version of the park, built almost fifty years ago, was one of the first roof gardens in Washington, when the notion of on-structure planting was a radically different technology.
Mr. Groft described the project goals and the existing conditions. He said that Kelly Park has been a place for respite as well as a park for people to enjoy as they walk between buildings; he noted that the underground garage provides parking for employees of several surrounding federal office buildings. He said that all existing paving and planting will be removed; the proposed replacement park would use a more current palette of plants adapted for the changing climate. The plan will also incorporate current D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) and other city standards for roadways and streetscapes. The design team has studied the existing land use, including pedestrian circulation, and the proposed design has been adapted to address these issues. Studies have also been conducted on the site's hydrology and on shade, which has shown that much of park is in shade most of the year.
Mr. Groft said that members of the design team have reviewed the archives of OvS and of the Federal Reserve, and have also located a 1970s drawing at the University of Pennsylvania of the original park design by landscape architect George Patton, who earlier in his career had been a frequent collaborator with Cret. Patton's design included a central lawn, evergreens, and the existing fountain. Unfortunately, the soil depth did not allow the plants to develop a proper root structure, and most of them died in the winter of 1977. The FRB learned of the young landscape architects of OvS and their use of native plant material, and OvS was hired to create a new planting plan for the park. James van Sweden and Wolfgang Oehme reworked the original plan's geometry, completely redesigned the planting, and introduced so-called "placemaking" garden areas with distinct identities on the north and east sides. The completion of the new garden in the early 1980s marked the birth of the New American Garden, the translation of a residential gardening type to a public space, featuring a palette based on ornamental grasses and perennials that provides interest throughout the year. This garden remained largely intact until recent decades, when OvS was engaged to redesign perimeter security for the FRB campus.
Mr. Groft recounted his first visit to Kelly Park as a landscape architecture student and the impact of seeing its massed perennial plantings: instead of the typical two or three specimen plants, a mass of 2000 black-eyed Susans was used. He emphasized the dramatic effect this garden had on the field of landscape design; as a result of Kelly Park, perennial and four-season gardening is now a standard practice in landscape architecture.
Mr. Groft said that the hardscape as well as the plantings will be updated, with an eye to what previous designers might have done with this opportunity. Review of the early drawings, along with recognition of encroachments on the landscape spaces, has suggested starting with a more streamlined geometry. A new hierarchy of primary, secondary, and tertiary paths would improve the circulation; the existing four-foot-wide sidewalks would be widened to meet the current DDOT standard of ten feet; and the two placemaking gardens would have additional seating. The proposed screening facility would consolidate pedestrian entrance and egress for the garage within a single glass pavilion in a garden, situated in the site's northwest corner. Ms. Meyer asked why the security pavilion would be in this location; Mr. Groft responded that it will be used by people working for other federal agencies in nearby buildings who cannot access the garage directly from the lower level of the Martin Building. He said that in the proposed design, some of the entrances into the park are defined in response to pedestrian traffic flow along Virginia Avenue, as well as the daily congregation of food trucks along this frontage. He added that pedestrian routes in this area have resulted in a compacted landscape where the lawn cannot grow; the proposed design introduces an eighteen-inch-high seat wall along a segment of the Virginia Avenue frontage to help control compaction, allow for more soil volume above the roof structure, and provide a place to sit along the sidewalk.
Mr. Baranes presented an overlay of the 1970s OvS design and the proposed layout of the park, indicating the differences in the geometry as well as the general retention of the earlier design, including the central lawn. Granite piers at two new entrances to the park would be incised with the name of the park, and new curbs along the paths would be eight inches high. The new tennis court would occupy almost the same footprint as the existing court, shifted several feet west to abut the property line along 21st Street, thereby providing more space for the garden to the east. The black chain-link fence around the court would be replaced with a stainless steel wire-mesh fence. The existing deteriorated wood benches would be replaced; new seating would include granite seat walls, with integral lighting where possible, and stainless steel benches. He noted that the total capacity of seating would more than triple to 220 people. Existing original light standards would be rehabilitated, as would the fountain from Patton's design, the sculpture by John Dreyfus of baseball players, and a copy of the Discobolus of Myron statue.
Mr. Baranes said the new pavilion would consolidate the functions of several existing structures. By placing egress at the north end of the garage, it is necessary for the structure to emerge through the landscape. He described the proposed design for the pavilion as two intersecting volumes, one solid and the other glass. In the solid volume would be two elevators, a small holding area, a fire stair with egress into the lobby or outside, and security screening equipment. He noted that the garage is not open to the public, and the pavilion entrance will therefore face south, toward the Martin Building, instead of toward the Virginia Avenue sidewalk. He presented site sections and renderings showing the pavilion in relation to the Martin Building.
Mr. Baranes presented a comparison of the proposed garage entrance structure to the existing structure, which would be removed. The new entrance pavilion would be slightly larger than the existing; it would resemble the new pavilions currently being built at the edges of the Martin Building, not identical but recognizably in the same family. The pavilion would be set at a slightly lower level than the Virginia Avenue sidewalk. The solid volume would rise three feet above the glass volume; seen from within the park, the glass-walled pavilion, supporting a light metal canopy and built without mullions, would appear transparent.
Vice Chairman Meyer invited questions from the Commission members. Mr. Stroik asked for clarification of the planting palette of the New American Garden. Mr. Groft responded that the 1974–1977 OvS design retained some of the original evergreens, adding flowering trees for spring color, and perennials and grasses to provide year-round color. Ms. Griffin asked about the route people follow when they come up from the parking garage. Mr. Baranes responded that most people are walking to one of the Federal Reserve buildings, although some cross Virginia Avenue to the Department of the Interior; he clarified that FRB employees can walk into the Martin Building directly from the garage, and the users of the pavilion will primarily be people who are not FRB employees.
Noting that the east fountain would be rebuilt, Mr. McCrery asked if this would be a complete restoration or a new design based on the original fountain. Mr. Groft responded that the original fountain would be restored, with the addition of modern pump technology. Mr. McCrery asked about what appears to be a connecting sidewalk northeast of the new pavilion. Mr. Baranes said it is simply a path from the stairwell to the sidewalk, for egress and maintenance workers. Mr. Stroik asked if the park site would ever be built on. Mr. May responded that it is federal parkland, and no large building will ever be constructed in this park; Mr. Baranes added that the parking garage is not designed to support a building above.
Ms. Griffin expressed appreciation for the description of the park's history; she also commended the design team's enthusiasm, acknowledging Mr. Groft's personal connection with the park. She asked if a new planting plan has been prepared; Mr. Groft said that a more detailed planting plan will be developed after obtaining the Commission's approval for the redesign of the park. Ms. Griffin asked how the new design would continue the robust quality of this New American Garden landscape. Mr. Groft responded that the park would continue to have shade trees, which attract people to the shaded areas, along with an overlay of perennials and grasses on the ground plane; these will maintain this garden's unique character.
Ms. Meyer emphasized the enormous impact of OvS in adapting perennials that were perceived to be strictly for residential gardens, using them as a component of beautiful, biodiverse public landscapes; she said that OvS created a new conception of the public landscape. She asked about the extent of the ground plane to be planted for the proposed landscape in comparison to the earlier OvS design, noting that the character of this garden is not just its plant palette but the impact of the overall volume and mass of plantings. Mr. Groft responded that the proportions would likely be about the same; the area of paving would be reduced by slightly repositioning the tennis court but increased by widening the Virginia Avenue sidewalk, and additional planting alongside the central lawn area would make the park feel even more lush and intimate.
Ms. Meyer emphasized that this landscape is historically significant not for the geometry of its ground plane but because of its plant palette, and the innovation of this palette results from its material specificity. She said that the documentation of the design should demonstrate how the proposal preserves the character—such as showing the proportion of the ground plane occupied by plantings—so that people will not be arguing that the changes to the plan will destroy the original OvS design. This is one reason why changing historic landscapes is tricky: the plan is not always the key thing, and for this landscape, it is the experience of the perennials. She also emphasized that adapting and rehabilitating historic landscapes needs to include recognition of how much their context has changed. She therefore asked the design team to prepare a clearer diagram showing the amount of change that is happening to the garden because of widening along the street and the need for a new security pavilion, which changes the area available to work in; the diagram could also address the proportion of the ground plane occupied by plantings. She said that she is raising these issues because Mr. Groft's presentation conveyed both a real respect for the original project and a seemingly casual disregard for it by proposing extensive changes; she said the design team needs to be very clear about the components that are important to retain and those that are not.
Mr. Stroik asked how long the perennial plantings would live; Mr. Groft responded that the perennial masses grow to the same height every year and, unlike shrubs, do not need to be shaped and pruned. All the perennials in this landscape are cut down once a year, mulched, and fertilized, and then they grow again. The FRB has occasionally updated the garden, such as responding to the extent of shade as trees reach mature size; but over the past forty years, few updates to this garden have been necessary.
Mr. Stroik asked about the proposed new fence around the tennis court; Mr. Groft described the proposed stainless steel as a frame more than a fence. Ms. Griffin asked whether the new stainless steel seating would become hot; Mr. Groft responded that it is actually a better material than others, including stone, because it is reflective and does not absorb as much heat. Ms. Meyer noted that stainless steel is also better than painted metal.
Ms. Griffin expressed appreciation for the new geometry but suggested that the experience of a person walking through the landscape may be inconvenient, particularly for someone exiting the garage who would have to walk farther because the consolidated paths require odd little turns instead of following a straight route; she asked if the sequence could be straightened and the flow improved without disrupting the proposed new geometry. Mr. Groft responded that most pedestrians exiting the pavilion would walk directly to a crosswalk at Virginia Avenue to reach other federal buildings, and most FRB employees would walk into the Martin Building directly from the garage. Mr. Baranes confirmed that the security screening inside the proposed pavilion is intended for non-FRB employees who are returning to the parking garage.
Mr. McCrery asked if the pavilion could be smaller; Mr. Baranes responded that it has been reduced to a minimum size to accommodate people waiting for the elevators and those waiting to go through the metal detector, which will be staffed at all times. Mr. McCrery asked the purpose of the holding area; Mr. Haulsey responded that this room provides a location outside the FRB security perimeter to temporarily hold people who improperly attempt to enter the FRB or are otherwise subject to arrest.
Ms. Meyer expressed her great appreciation for the work, and she described the Commission's comments as involving only small adjustments to the design. She said that her own advice involves asking the design team to return for the next review with a better developed argument for what will be preserved or lost in the new configuration. She suggested that the submission for this project should include not only the routine site plan and planting palette, but also elevations of the plantings in different seasons in order to convey the powerful quality of OvS's work—the understanding that plants are spatial and material, and they need to be understood for their seasonal change in color and how they create enclosures. She said that a striking quality of the existing OvS design is the annual cyclical change in how a space is opened up or enclosed by the plantings. She emphasized that these requested drawings will be vital for showing the proportion of perennials in the original design versus the proportion in the proposed design, and for comparing the old palette with the new.
Ms. Meyer noted the intention to update the planting palette in response to current climate conditions; she emphasized that the local plant zone has changed from what it was in the 1970s and 1980s, and the palette needs to respond to the current zone as well as the anticipated zone in the next thirty to fifty years. She said that this information will be important for the final design submission and also important for other conversations about the legacy of this firm. She noted that Mr. Groft is in a unique position to shape this legacy, and she encouraged him to take on this responsibility.
Ms. Griffin noted the care that has been taken in the design of the site furnishings as part of the landscape, she encouraged having the architect also design the security desk inside the screening pavilion, commenting that this beautiful transparent building should not be outfitted with random furniture. She urged the project team to treat the pavilion as a jewel in a garden; Mr. Haulsey agreed.
Mr. Stroik asked if this project could incorporate security systems for the parking ramps that are more aesthetically pleasing than those typically seen for parking garages; Mr. Baranes said that the existing security apparatus at the ramps will be reused rather than replaced, but in other projects he tries to include security systems with a better appearance. Mr. Stroik observed that ugly and forbidding barriers can be seen all over the city. Mr. Baranes said that the most pleasing design may be a series of simple cylindrical bollards that sink into the ground. Mr. May commented that the NPS frequently uses bollards, and he also reviews them as a member of the National Capital Planning Commission. He said that the pop-up bollards described by Mr. Baranes look attractive but are operationally problematic; for example, their use was abandoned at the U.S. Capitol because they often malfunctioned and had to be lifted out by crane. He noted the availability of other innovative vehicular security solutions, such as turntables, but not all of these solutions are useful for a daily parking garage. He said this issue is a constant struggle: bollards have to be big, bulky, and brightly colored, and the NPS is always looking for something better. Ms. Meyer and Mr. Stroik thanked Mr. May for the information.
Mr. Stroik offered a motion to approve the concept design for Kelly Park with the comments provided. Upon a second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission adopted this action.
3. CFA 20/FEB/20-3, National Mall walkways between 3rd and 14th Streets. Temporary installation of eight poles with security cameras. Final. The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
4. CFA 20/FEB/20-4, Rock Creek Park and associated sites, Numerous locations. Wayfinding, interpretive, and identification signage guidelines. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/NOV/18-3.) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
C. Events DC (Washington Convention and Sports Authority)
CFA 20/FEB/20-5, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place, NW (Mount Vernon Sq. at Massachusetts and New York Avenues). Metro Station canopy, building alterations, and signs (Phase II of the streetscape project). Concept. (Previous: CFA 21/MAR/19-6.) Mr. Fox introduced the concept submission for the second phase of streetscape improvements, building alterations, and art installations at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The Commission approved the first phase of the initiative in March 2019, requesting additional development of the wayfinding program and suggesting further refinements to the art installations. The currently submitted second phase includes reconfiguration of the plaza and canopy at the Mount Vernon Square Metro Station entrance, a new wayfinding sign system, and additional building facade frames. He asked project manager Chad Manhertz of EventsDC to begin the presentation.
Mr. Manhertz said that work has commenced on the first phase of the project, which includes exterior lighting elements, retail kiosks, a rooftop terrace, and streetscape planters. He said that the goal of overall project is to enhance the convention center for event sponsors, attendees, and the surrounding community. He noted that EventsDC has discussed the proposal with stakeholder agencies, including the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT). He introduced architect Jason Long of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) to present the proposal.
Mr. Long said the firm Beyer Blinder Belle is serving as the project's executive architect; other firms on the project team include landscape architects OLIN and Wiles Mensch. He said that OMA has been working for several years with EventsDC to enhance the streetscape and facade of the convention center, which occupies several blocks north of historic Mount Vernon Square, from Mount Vernon Place to N Street, NW, between 7th and 9th Streets. He said that the large convention center is a relatively porous building, but its design could be further improved.
Mr. Long summarized the improvements from the previously approved first phase: primarily the introduction of retail kiosks along the 9th Street facade, with secondary interventions along L, M, and N Streets that include facade enhancements, new public art, and an upper-level terrace. These improvements will be executed in three stages, beginning with the north building and continuing south. The current submission for the second phase would mostly affect the convention center's 7th Street frontage: the facade modifications would resemble those along N Street; the Metro entrance canopy at 7th and M Streets would be replaced; and new wayfinding elements would be sited around the building.
Mr. Long presented the proposal to alter the existing Metro station plaza and canopy, located within a recess of the convention center. He said that large numbers of people use this entrance, making it a hub for the convention center and the neighborhood; the proposed modifications would help realize its potential to bring additional life and activity to the street. He acknowledged that the existing precast concrete canopy structure has a formal relationship to the architecture of the convention center and provides shelter from the weather; however, it dominates the entrance with its heavy, Brutalist appearance, keeping the plaza in relative darkness throughout the day and creating an unwelcoming appearance that does not effectively signal entry to Metro. In addition, the existing canopy requires large structural columns set within the plaza near the street edges, which restricts pedestrian circulation. He said the proposed entrance concept envisions three distinct zones on the ground plane: to receive pedestrians from the corner, to allow passage to the escalators descending to the Metro station, and to provide access to the public art along M Street. The existing canopy would be replaced with a projecting structure supported by four columns situated along the existing Metro escalator well and also attached to corner columns of the convention center, eliminating the structural columns set within the open space of the plaza. The canopy would be composed of black metal frames with triangular skylights set in red tetrahedral frames, bringing light to the plaza below while still providing a structure to properly terminate the convention center facades. He said this color and material palette, which was selected to provide contrast to the existing building, is consistent with the previously approved alterations for the convention center. The paving for the plaza would be similar to the new paving for the sidewalks around the convention center. He said that the canopy design has been refined since its initial conception, with the outer bottom edge raised 2.5 feet to lighten the canopy's appearance and better align it with existing and proposed elements on the building facades. This change would further expose the geometry of the canopy, providing a better sense of their shape and red color. He presented elevation drawings illustrating the alignment of the revised canopy design in relation to the facade infill proposed along 7th Street. He said that a glass screen around the escalator well would be added at the request of WMATA, as well as armrests to assist people in using the new benches.
Mr. Long said that the building facades on 7th Street would be altered with black metal frames and inset polycarbonate panels similar to those approved for the N Street facade; the panels would incorporate lighting elements. He said this facade currently appears and functions similarly to the N Street facade, serving to enclose an upper-level loading area with screening walls that resemble a fenestrated building enclosure. While a remnant of upper-level space at N Street is being converted into an occupiable terrace, this opportunity does not exist along 7th Street, where loading operations immediately behind the facade will remain. He added that the 7th Street facade alterations would help the proposed Metro canopy to be perceived as a part of the building.
Mr. Long said that the wayfinding signage program has also been refined, resulting in a better relationship to the building; based on previous advice, a signage designer was consulted for the proposal. He said the existing signage on this large building does not adequately orient pedestrians, nor does it provide information leading to businesses in the surrounding community. The major corners of the building have been identified as the locations for new signage. The previous proposal would have attached accordion-folded panels to the building at these corners, but this did not work successfully with the existing architecture; instead, the signage at the corners would be installed on eight-foot-tall cylindrical pylons, allowing information to be viewed from multiple directions. This information would include street maps and identification of prominent landmarks and surrounding businesses. The material and color palette for the pylon would match the black metal facade panels, with the addition of perforations. Most of the pylons would be within the property line of the convention center, keeping adequate clearance for the sidewalk; just one pylon would be located within the public right-of-way for better visibility, subject to DDOT approval. In addition, one pylon at the Metro entrance would incorporate a digital screen providing real-time train arrival information.
Vice Chairman Meyer invited questions from the Commission members. Mr. Shubow asked if the skylights in the Metro canopy would be colored, and if colored LED lighting would be used anywhere in its design. Mr. Long said that the skylight glass would be clear and that lighting, currently proposed for just the plaza, would not be colored. Mr. McCrery asked for more information on the supergraphics reading "MT VERNON SQ" proposed along the 7th Street edge of the canopy. Mr. Long said that the graphics would be rendered using perforations in the fascia to reveal the red color behind, rather than the words being depicted using colored lightbulbs or applied materials. Mr. McCrery asked about any new uses and programming envisioned for the redesigned Metro plaza; Mr. Long said that musical performances or a small market could take place on the plaza.
Ms. Griffin asked for more information on the inspiration for the proposed color palette. Mr. Long responded that many color options were explored, with the selection of dark red and black because they would complement each other and also the beige color of the existing convention center. Ms. Griffin noted that yellow is proposed to ring the black metal facade frames along N Street; Mr. McCrery also observed that white polycarbonate panels are proposed for the new infill. Mr. Long clarified that the polycarbonate panels would be translucent and would appear similar to patterned glass. He added that the facade frames for the northernmost part of the convention center were previously reviewed and approved by the Commission. Ms. Griffin asked if the frames at the north are similar to those in the current proposal; Mr. Long confirmed that the frames are similar, although the frames at the north would have a yellow-colored channel around their edges that would be lit.
Mr. McCrery asked if the proposed canopy was developed for WMATA to use as a prototype for future canopy designs. Mr. Long responded that the design was developed by his firm and EventsDC, intended for this location only. Ms. Griffin asked whether this station is used primarily by area residents or convention center visitors. Mr. Long said the ridership is likely a mix of both residents and visitors; Secretary Luebke noted that new development in the blocks to the south and east is likely increasing ridership at this station.
Vice Chairman Meyer suggested that the Commission consider the components separately, beginning with the proposed design for the Metro entrance. Ms. Griffin commented that although the typical convention center is usually a massive, impenetrable building that is incompatible with low-scale or historic residential neighborhoods, this convention center's design is innovative in its successful control of scale through massing and facade articulation, fitting in with this historic area comprised of the Shaw neighborhood and Mount Vernon Square. She said that the integrity of this approach should be retained in any modernization effort. She commented that the large scale of the Metro canopy has the effect of moving the convention center back into the typical convention center paradigm of a massive building, and the canopy would make the Metro station feel as though it is no longer a space shared with the neighborhood. She said that the typical Metro station entrance is usually a simple, open-air space, and she noted that the Metro system is one of the best examples of Brutalist architecture in the world. She expressed concern that the proposed canopy may feel oppressive even with the proposed skylights, and it would bring a very different aesthetic to a typical marker of the Metro system. She expressed support for opening up the plaza space to improve the entry experience and allow for programming; she observed that the current structure's curved shape does keep the entrance area somewhat open, but its structure creates difficulties for using and programming the plaza space. She emphasized that the proposed canopy appears foreign to the context and does not resemble the aesthetic of either the convention center or the neighborhood.
Mr. McCrery described the existing convention center as a very successful design that blends Modernist and traditional architectural language; he also expressed support for opening up the Metro entrance plaza. He questioned whether the existing canopy could be considered Brutalist in its design, as it was termed by Mr. Long, and said that the proposed canopy would in fact replicate the negative aspects of Brutalist architecture. He said that the design approach for the new canopy appears aggressive and contrary to the architecture of the existing convention center, as well as contrary to the iconic glass and steel Metro entrance canopies that are recognizable throughout the system, which creatively reinterpret the Brutalist coffering of the stations while being adapted to many different entrance conditions. He expressed concern that the supergraphics of the station name may invite confusion with the historic Mount Vernon Square, which is located two blocks south of this station entrance. He said that the black and red canopy appears deeply forbidding as it hovers over the space; he suggested development of a design that warmly embraces the plaza instead. He found that the proposed entrance design would not be an improvement to the architecture of the convention center nor to the established and iconic system of Metro canopies, and he encouraged development of a design that is more closely related to these two precedents. He noted the several existing canopies on the convention center, citing their quality of indicating an entrance, reaching out, cantilevering, protecting, and providing clear open space beneath; he suggested that one of these existing examples, particularly the handsome canopy at the main entrance facing Mount Vernon Square, could be adapted for the Metro entrance, and he emphasized that the successful existing architectural language of the building should be embraced rather than set aside.
Mr. Shubow said he agrees with the comments of Ms. Griffin and Mr. McCrery, finding that the black metal and dark red color of the canopy makes it appear unwelcoming; in addition, the projection appears to be a heavy mass that is not a welcoming entrance to the Metro station. He added that the red color may be confusing to Metro riders, as Metrorail's Red Line does not serve this station. He described the canopy as generally too futuristic in appearance and too contrasting with the existing convention center, as well as alien to the historic Shaw neighborhood. Mr. Stroik said he agrees with the comments of the other Commission members, and he reiterated Ms. Griffin's comment that the existing convention center successfully mediates its large scale within the context. He said that if the convention center were of a lesser design, then perhaps he could support the radical addition proposed.
Ms. Meyer agreed with the consensus that the Metro entrance design needs more work. She said that the previous presentations were compelling in their recognition that small insertions and interventions were necessary to reduce the large scale of the convention center, even with its excellent existing design. She emphasized the difference between an insertion and a large addition such as the canopy, which uses the visual language of the smaller insertions for a much larger mass. She suggested collaboration with other organizations and the neighborhood to discuss the type of programming that could take place on the plaza, in order to ensure that the canopy design supports the acoustical requirements of programming such as musical performances. She also expressed strong support for the benches proposed to be installed around the escalator well, but she recommended designing the proposed armrests to be more welcoming for all people, as they may appear to be mean-spirited, anti-loitering measures.
Ms. Griffin acknowledged the goal of bringing a more modern language to the building, and she suggested reconceiving the design approach for the canopy as a reconfiguration of the plaza for use by convention center visitors and the community. She noted that the typical Metro canopy is a much subtler gesture than the proposed canopy, and the consensus of the Commission seems to be that the proposal goes too far in the opposite direction. She encouraged studying the treatment of the perimeter of the escalator well, as well as the material selection of the surfaces, to make the plaza more welcoming.
Ms. Griffin commented that the proposed facade frames along 7th Street are similar to the panel system that was approved by the Commission in its previous review for other parts of the building. She said that the facades to be altered were originally designed with sensitive articulation to create the appearance of a background building, while actually shielding views to the loading docks behind; the building mass was foregrounded in other locations. She said that the proposed frames may be drawing more attention to these background facades than is appropriate; although the frames themselves have been previously approved on other facades, perhaps the proposed color and lighting could be studied further. She noted that large-scale building elements with a black color are not predominant in the neighborhood, with small-scale ironwork on some of the historic properties being the most common occurrence of black. She observed that black is also present in the color palette of the wayfinding, and she questioned how this proposed palette is connected to the convention center and neighborhood. She noted that the earlier proposal to have outdoor balconies in some of the locations of the former facade screens is a welcome gesture, especially in a convention center, and perhaps this strategy could be studied further.
Mr. McCrery and Ms. Griffin asked why the existing facade screens are proposed to be replaced, noting that they are a successfully designed feature of the building. Mr. Long said that nothing in particular is wrong with the current design, but EventsDC wants to refresh and bring more contrast to the building. He added that since improvements were previously proposed for the 9th and N Street facades, there is a desire to bring enhancements to the 7th Street facade so that it is not neglected. Mr. McCrery suggested that the alterations to the smaller and less prominent facade on N Street should not determine the design for the larger and more prominent panels on the 7th Street facade. He said that although he would not have personally designed the convention center in this style, the existing architecture is better than what is proposed, and he noted how the scale of the larger facades and individual bays is skillfully broken down using horizontal and vertical elements. He suggested consideration of using lighting behind the existing translucent panels, designed by a lighting designer or artist, to enliven the existing facade instead of implementing the proposed modifications.
Ms. Griffin reiterated that consideration should be given to moderating the scale of the proposed frames and panels, citing the ingenuity of the existing architecture's negotiation of scale in a sensitive neighborhood context through design elements such as changes in plane and mullion detailing. She advised studying the issue of where the building should announce its large scale, and where it should recede into the neighborhood streetscape.
Ms. Meyer said that she is not opposed to the proposed suite of various frame designs; but when they are used in repetition, they appear oppressive in comparison to the existing architecture. She said the issue might be where and how frequently the frames are used. Ms. Griffin agreed that the location, number, color, and scale of the frames and inset panels should be further studied. Mr. McCrery reiterated that any proposal to replace the existing high-quality architecture needs to be of exceptionally high quality.
Regarding the wayfinding component, Ms. Meyer recalled that the previous design turned out less elegant than expected; however, she expressed concern that the current proposal would place a large number of signs on the sidewalks around the convention center, making the area feel more like a tourist destination and less like a neighborhood. She asked if flat information panels affixed to the exterior walls have been considered as an alternative to the previous proposal for folded signs on the building's corners. Mr. Long said that a flat panel has not been explored; he emphasized that the pylon signs would be located within the property line, maintaining a clear public right-of-way. Ms. Griffin asked if the pylons would have a lighting element; Mr. Long said that parts of the pylon would glow with white light, including the supporting post. Mr. McCrery suggested working with DDOT to place street signs on poles at all of the corners surrounding the convention center to aid in wayfinding. Mr. Stroik expressed support for the effort to provide real-time train arrival information on the information pylon at the Metro entrance. He asked for clarification of how signage would be displayed on the other pylons; Mr. Long said that signage would be on two sides of the circular pylons. Ms. Griffin said that the proposed pylons are an improvement over the previous proposal. She asked for more information on the retail signage, particularly whether it would be uniform and if it would be lit. Mr. Long said that the retail signage is still being developed, and it is not a part of the scope for the current wayfinding submission.
Vice Chairman Meyer suggested a separate conclusion for each component of the submission. She offered a motion to approve the wayfinding component; upon a second by Ms. Griffin, the Commission approved the wayfinding proposal.
Vice Chairman Meyer then summarized the Commission's concerns regarding the proposal for the facade frames and inset panels, noting that their location, number, color, and scale should be studied further with consideration given to the comments provided; consideration should also be given to eliminating them from the project, with more modest efforts used to achieve the desired visual interest on the facades. The Commission did not take a formal action on this part of the submission.
Vice Chairman Meyer summarized the consensus not to support the proposal for the Metro entrance, suggesting that this feature be reconceived as a plaza and public space project rather than a canopy project, and that the new canopy be derived from the existing language of either the Metrorail system's canopies or those of the convention center itself. Mr. McCrery added that the black color of the various elements should also be reconsidered. The Commission did not take a formal action on this part of the submission.
Ms. Meyer said that the Commission looks forward to seeing the evolution of the project. Mr. Long added that he did not want to give the impression that he has disdain or disrespect for the existing building, and he agreed that it is perhaps one of the best examples of a convention center that is integrated within its existing urban context. He said its integration of loading and other functional uses is also remarkable, as is its aesthetic appearance. He said the intent of the project is to provide more amenities for the convention center while also better integrating the building into the neighborhood.
D. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
1. SL 20-067, Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 East Capitol Street, SE. Building renovation and additions. Final. (Previous: SL 19-145, May 2019.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposed final design for alterations to the Folger Shakespeare Library, constructed in 1932 and designed by noted architect Paul Philippe Cret [CFA member, 1940–1945]. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered one of Washington's most significant buildings of the early 20th century. She noted the Commission's previous approval of the concept for the alterations, with recommendations to clarify the pedestrian access routes. Both of the building's existing main entrances, facing East Capitol Street from each end of the north facade, are reached via the terrace atop a plinth extending across the north facade, which requires using stairs or a temporary aluminum ramp at one of the entrances. The proposal would provide barrier-free access and improve the visitor experience by creating new lower-level lobbies and exhibition spaces below the existing plinth; the approach to the two new entrances would be through new sunken gardens near the site's northwest and northeast corners, at the plinth's west and east ends. Barrier-free access to the plinth terrace would be provided through a site ramp; the existing entry doors facing the plinth would no longer be used except for emergency egress. She noted that the project involves significant modifications to this important historic building, as well as substantial construction in public space; coordination is ongoing with the D.C. Historic Preservation Office and the D.C. Public Space Committee. She asked architect Stephen Kieran of Kieran Timberlake to begin the presentation.
Mr. Kieran said that the presentation will include remarks by Michael Witmore, director of the Folger; an overview of the architectural proposal, which he will provide with his associate Johann Mordhorst; a presentation of the landscape design by Hallie Boyce of OLIN; and Abbott Miller of Pentagram to describe the graphic design components of the building and site, extending beyond signage to Shakespeare-related text.
Dr. Witmore said that the Folger building contains an important collection of books and manuscripts related to the English Renaissance and European history from 1470 to 1700. The building provides a unified vision for a living institution that brings scholars and visitors to the historical sources; the building supports research, exhibition, performances, and humanities programming. He noted that Cret and the Folgers conceived of the building as a representation of Shakespeare's First Folio, published in 1623; the Folgers assembled a notable collection of 82 copies of this rare book, the source for half of Shakespeare's plays. The design philosophy is conveyed in the building's inscriptions, sculptures, and the modern interpretation of the classical style, resulting in an inspiring design that houses the Folgers' public gift of history and poetry in close proximity to the U.S. Capitol. However, the challenges of the building include the lack of barrier-free access and the excessive daylight in the exhibition gallery, which is problematic for the display of fragile materials. He said that the Folger has been working with Kieran Timberlake for six years to develop a proposal that addresses these issues. The proposal would bring visitors through a thoughtfully designed landscape to the new entrances, with access to more than 5,000 square feet of new low-light gallery space, where some of the collection's treasured items can be displayed. He added that the design has been revised in response to the Commission's concept-level review.
Mr. Mordhorst provided an overview of the Folger's context and existing conditions. The Folger shares its block with a building of the Library of Congress to the south; the main Library of Congress building is to the west across 2nd Street, and the U.S. Supreme Court building is located diagonally to the northwest. The smaller-scale buildings of the Capitol Hill neighborhood are to the north and east, and the Folger is at a threshold between the institutional and residential scales of the area. Buildings in the residential neighborhood are generally built to the property line, with front gardens extending to the sidewalk, often with kneewalls, fences, and hedge plantings. The Library of Congress buildings generally have low stone curbs along the site edges; the Supreme Court has a continuous line of bollards along the curb edges of its block. Sidewalk paving in the residential neighborhood is typically brick; along the institutional buildings to the west and south, the sidewalks are typically exposed-aggregate concrete. He indicated the service drive south of the Folger building, shared with the Library of Congress, that provides access to staff parking on the south side of the Folger's property. The north side of the Folger site is largely occupied by the plinth and terrace, raised approximately 2.5 feet from the surrounding grade; the side walls are marble, and the paving includes marble and bluestone in addition to a large lawn panel at the center of the terrace. The east side of the site has an ornamental garden enclosed by a tall iron fence; the west side of the site has a U-shaped driveway, no longer in use, along with an ornamental fountain and a heritage magnolia tree set within a lawn panel. He presented photographs of the building, noting that its exterior was recently cleaned as part of a comprehensive facade restoration project. He indicated the reading room addition from the 1980s, which filled the original recess on the south side of the building.
Mr. Mordhorst described the building's access challenges. Steps lead up from the East Capitol Street sidewalk to the terrace, and additional steps lead from the terrace to the two main entrances, each leading to a small lobby space that has more steps to reach the main public spaces of the interior. Barrier-free access is provided by the temporary ramp at the theater entrance, bypassing the terrace, or through a lower-level staff entrance along the south service drive and parking area that leads to an elevator ascending to the research area.
Mr. Kieran presented the architectural components of the proposal, noting that they are integral with the landscape design that will be presented by Ms. Boyce. He summarized the design principles that have been developed in conjunction with the review agency staffs and the Folger's board: common access and entry for all; public space to be public; civic streetscape; preservation of historic elevation; continuity of ground plane; and geometric simplicity. He emphasized that common access is a fundamental goal of the project, with the intent to shift the Folger's emphasis from being primarily a research collection to more broadly sharing its resources with the general public. The goal of public access would extend to the site design, with the removal of the existing fencing on the east and the vehicular driveway on the west; the civic streetscape would be emphasized, particularly along East Capitol Street. The site design along the side streets would respond to the differing contexts. He noted that the proposed interventions are generally below the existing ground plane, minimizing any disruptions to views of the historic building. In keeping with Cret's design aesthetic, the proposal emphasizes geometric simplicity; the design for sunken areas includes visual references to the continuity of the ground plane, and the new sloped walks would mostly be shallow enough to avoid the need for handrails. The interior expansion would occur entirely beneath the existing plinth, avoiding disturbance to the appearance of the Cret building. He described the additional interior amenities provided by the project in the proposed lower-level space: an education lab, improved bathrooms, more lobby space, and support space for docents. He noted that the Folger already hosts approximately 50,000 D.C. public school students visiting annually.
Ms. Boyce presented the landscape design, which she described as being inspired by Shakespeare's love of nature as expressed in his writings; she presented several nature-related quotations from his work. She noted that many of Shakespeare's plays are set in a landscape, which can serve as a key component of the drama. Later artists depicting Shakespeare's plays have developed images of rich, immersive landscapes that serve as further inspiration for the proposed design. She also cited the design of the Little Sparta garden by artist Hamilton Finlay of Scotland, which incorporates text in the landscape; this approach is used in the proposed Folger design to relate the site to the written treasures within the building. She said that the landscape design has resulted from careful study of plants mentioned in Shakespeare's work, along with consideration of Washington's climate and the specific growing conditions around the site. She presented a photograph of the site from the time of the building's completion, with evergreen plantings extending to the edge of the sidewalk edge, helping to shape the entrance experience for visitors; she compared this to the current landscape that is primarily lawns. She summarized the design goal of a layered landscape that enriches the experience of coming to the Folger, providing color and texture throughout the year, and serving to greet people as they arrive at the site and move toward the building entrances. She noted that the site's existing sculpture of Puck would be incorporated into a new fountain design.
Ms. Boyce provided further details of the landscape proposal, which she described as a series of outdoor rooms that flank the building and the open space of the central terrace along East Capitol Street. The proposed ramps and sunken gardens at the northwest and northeast corners of the site have been refined to follow the orthogonal geometry of the building. The center of each garden would be a "tapestry panel" of seasonal plantings that emphasize color and texture, with evergreen plantings used to frame the spaces. Flowering shrubs would include some evergreens to ensure visual interest through the winter; she presented plan diagrams of the landscape in different seasons to illustrate the range of the proposal, as previously requested by the Commission. In keeping with D.C. regulations, large existing trees would be maintained to the extent possible, including an elm tree along East Capitol Street, several magnolias on the east, and a heritage magnolia that would be relocated on the site; red maple trees would be added for additional shade. The extent of bench seating on the site would be tripled as part of the goal of welcoming the public into the landscape. She concluded with several perspective views of the landscape, including the approach routes from the East Capitol Street corners at 2nd and 3rd Streets; she indicated how the descending steps and ramps would draw people from these corners to the new sunken entrances, with open sightlines to the sunken gardens and entrance doors, as well as orientation signage at the street level and poetic text inscribed along the curb of the descending ramps. She said that people within the gardens would feel immersed in the plantings and would be able to enjoy the fountain, the sculpture of Puck, and text inscriptions. Mr. Kieran indicated the shallow "Juliet Balcony" that would overlook the east sunken garden, adjacent to the theater lobby; it would be located above an existing exterior egress stair that would remain along the east side of the building.
Mr. Kieran presented a comparison of the current design with the concept submission from May 2019. The sunken gardens have been refined, with greater attention to the seasonal appearance and historical associations of the plantings, and with the addition of text along the curb of the descending ramps, resulting in adjustment of the curb design to an angled profile for legibility. In the garden at the northwest, tablets have been added with quotations from Shakespeare, and proposed signage at the street level has been moved away from East Capitol Street to mark the entrance point along 2nd Street.
Mr. Kieran presented the proposed ascending ramps from the sidewalk level to the raised terrace, which the Commission had questioned in the previous review. After further consideration, this component remains in the proposal, as a supplement to the existing stairs; he indicated the limited visual impact of this addition, with no handrails required due to the shallow slope of the proposed walkways. He presented comparative elevations of the site's East Capitol Street frontage, with and without the ascending ramps; signage is proposed to clarify for visitors that access to the building is not available via the terrace. Dr. Witmore addressed the issues raised in providing this access to the terrace; he noted that the terrace allows for close viewing of a series of stone bas-reliefs, Scenes of Shakespeare by sculptor John Gregory, in the lower part of the building's north facade. This artwork is an important part of the building's design as a total work of art devoted to Shakespeare, and barrier-free access to the terrace is therefore important to the broader goal of providing universal access to the Folger, consistent with Shakespeare's universal appeal. He acknowledged the Commission's previous concern with the potential frustration of people ascending to the terrace and finding the historic building entrances closed, requiring a return to the sidewalk level and then descent to one of the sunken gardens for access into the building; he said that this concern involves the deeper sincerity of wanting to provide universal access to the Folger's resources. He subsequently consulted with several experts on accessibility, with the conclusion that people who are unable to use stairs, as well as the general population, will understand the limitations of the site design and will appreciate the access to the terrace for viewing the facade sculptures, notwithstanding the need to use a different route for access into the building. All visitors would have comparable ability to navigate the site, which is the important principle. To better communicate the different access routes, the design includes a series of visual cues for orientation.
Abbott Miller of Pentagram presented the signage and wayfinding components of the proposal. He noted the building's extensive use of text, notably in the building name that is prominently incised into the marble of the north facade. This lettering has been studied carefully and has been determined to most closely resemble the Haarlemmer font, which has a slightly more modern character. Haarlemmer would be used for some of the proposed new inscriptions, including those etched into the glass railings to be added at the east and west ends of the raised terrace; he noted that these railings would rise above the two new lower-level building entrances, relating them to the historic north entrance facade. The railings would also have a subtle frit pattern, with more opacity toward the bottom and full transparency toward the top. A vertical pylon along 2nd Street would mark the primary access point to the west sunken garden and building entrance; the eight-foot-high pylon of stainless steel would include a 55-inch-diagonal digital display and engraved, paint-filled lettering for orientation. A similar pylon would be located along 3rd Street. At the top of the steps leading from the East Capitol Street sidewalk to the terrace, an open metal rail would display text directing people away from the terrace to reach the building entrances; similar visual cues would be provided at several locations to assist people with wayfinding. Lighting for the site's text and walkways would be coordinated with the design of railings. The new installation of the Puck statue would use the quotation and font of the statue's existing base; the same font would be used for several additional inscriptions along East Capitol Street. The concrete walls beside the new sunken entrances would have niches with applied metal lettering; the east entrance would be identified as the access point for the building's theater.
Mr. Miller described the proposed use of text along the curb of the walkways to the new sunken gardens and building entrances. Dr. Witmore said that the Folger is discussing this proposal with several prominent poets; the goal is to develop new poems, approximately 600 characters long, that would establish the importance of the landscape as part of the exploration of Shakespeare's work. Additional quotations in the gardens would reinforce the Shakespearean theme that language is everywhere, and nature speaks directly to us; Mr. Miller noted that these quotations would use the typography of the First Folio of Shakespeare's work.
Vice Chairman Meyer invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Mr. McCrery asked about the proposed metal for the railings; Mr. Kieran said that they would be stainless steel. Mr. McCrery suggested consideration of aluminum, noting that cast aluminum is used in the historic design. Mr. Mordhorst responded that aluminum was considered but rejected due to concerns with durability and potential reactivity with the adjacent stonework; the proposed stainless steel with a brushed finish is intended to replicate the dull patina of the aluminum. Mr. McCrery acknowledged these considerations but noted that this choice results in the loss of the beautiful oxidation that results from using aluminum, which was part of Cret's conception for the building design.
Mr. McCrery asked about the proposed stone palette for the curbs and walls in the sunken gardens. Mr. Mordhorst responded that the curbs and tablets containing quotations would be marble to be salvaged from the existing terrace that will be demolished as part of the proposed construction. The terrace would be reconstructed in its existing dimensions but with new stone, due to the deterioration of much of the existing stone. Other curbs, as well as some of the new wall surfaces, would be concrete; the paving within the gardens would also be concrete, with a slightly different color than the sidewalks but similar in texture.
Mr. McCrery expressed support for the Folger's strong effort to protect and transplant the heritage magnolia tree on the site. Dr. Witmore noted that it was planted by Mrs. Folger, who signed a leaf from the tree at the building's dedication; the signed leaf remains in the Folger's collection. Mr. McCrery asked about the hedge planting; Ms. Boyce responded that it is currently specified as boxwood.
Mr. McCrery asked whether the existing setting of the Puck statue will be reused in the new design; Mr. Kieran said that the statue's base would be reused, although this is not depicted clearly in the drawings. He also clarified that the benches would be a sustainable hardwood, and the area around the fountains would be concrete.
Mr. Shubow asked why the glass railings are being added at each end of the terrace. Mr. Kieran clarified that they are necessary as guardrails along the dropoff to the new sunken entrances at each end, for the safety of people occupying the terrace to view the facade sculptures. He said that the proposed material of glass is intended to allow for views through the railing to the Cret building. Mr. Shubow asked for clarification of the railings along the descending ramps. Mr. Kieran responded that these railings would also be glass, and they would occur only where the dropoff height exceeds thirty inches; similarly, the use of glass would allow for views of the gardens and building. Mr. Mordhorst noted that the design for the railings has been modified: the concept submission showed the handrail supported entirely by the glass panels, while the current submission has separate twinned posts to support the handrail, using design details drawn from the historic aluminum detailing of the Cret building.
Ms. Griffin asked for clarification of the multiple configurations and typography of the proposed signage, questioning the logic for the different systems. For example, she asked if the pylon sign along 2nd Street would be a unique type or would be consistent with the existing pylon signs along the National Mall. Mr. Miller responded that the proposed signs are unique to this project. The proposed system would replace the inadequate existing signage, which includes a low marble sign in the lawn at 2nd and East Capitol Streets that provides the only current exterior location for displaying information about the Folger's special programs such as rotating exhibits. He said that the proposed use of several fonts is intended to distinguish general directional information from text associated with the building itself. Directional text, such as a label for an arrow pointing to a building entrance, would use the sans-serif Mallory font; Haarlemmer would be used for important building text; and quotations on the exterior would be displayed in a particular typography derived from the base of the Puck statue.
Ms. Meyer said that the most incongruous element is the small sign at the upper end of the entrance ramp sequence; Mr. McCrery said that this resembles a National Park Service sign. Ms. Griffin suggested that the design vocabulary for this sign should be coordinated with the pylon sign that marks the top of the stairs leading into the same entrance sequence. She reiterated that the profusion of sign types is confusing, and she cited the potentially illegible text on the glass railing, as well as the additional lettering with the building address. Mr. Miller said that the address would replace existing text in approximately the same location, using a different font. Mr. McCrery suggested using Cret's original font; Dr. Witmore clarified that the address, along with the nearby aluminum railings on the steps leading up to the terrace, had not been part of Cret's design. Ms. Griffin commented that the signage confusion is exacerbated by the documentation that focuses on the northwest corner of the site, leaving the Commission unable to understand the full range of signage in other parts of the site.
Dr. Witmore noted that the building already has a variety of exterior lettering: the large engraved letters for the building name have a distinctive appearance with elongated curving strokes, while the quotations on the facades are in a more traditional Roman font, and the inscription for the Puck statue is a third font. He added that the proposed directional signage is deliberately placed at multiple locations to assist visitors where they have the opportunity to enter the site—at the two primary corners, or along East Capitol Street where ramps ascend to the terrace.
Ms. Griffin continued to express concern about the lack of clarity in the variety of fonts and sign types, questioning whether the intended distinctions would be understandable. Mr. Miller described the proposal in relation to the building's existing text: Haarlemmer would relate to the existing building name on the facade, and sans-serif Mallory would relate to directional signage that exists inside the building. A different sans-serif font would be used for other signs that are not shown clearly in the presentation images, such as signs further south along 2nd and 3rd Streets. The typography derived from the Puck statue's base would be used for more decorative or ornamental gestures, such as for the fountain and interpretive text.
Mr. McCrery asked why the more modern Haarlemmer font is proposed as a substitute for replicating the existing font seen in the building name. Mr. Miller responded that the special character of the existing lettering for the building name, with its elongated curves, is dependent on its form of being incised into marble; translating the elongations of this font into prismatic lettering applied to glass would not be successful. Mr. McCrery asked if the font used by Cret could be replicated for new text that is carved into stone. Mr. Miller responded that another important feature of the building name is its large size, with lettering approximately fourteen to sixteen inches high; the elongated curves would be problematic at a reduced scale. Mr. McCrery acknowledged these issues but emphasized his concern with the apparent assumption that a more modern font would be a desirable change.
Mr. McCrery asked if the existing primary entrances facing north toward East Capitol Street would have any future use. Mr. Kieran responded that they would not ordinarily be used; they would be available for emergency egress, and the eastern door might be used occasionally for bringing large scenery into and out of the theater, due to a lack of other large-scale loading facilities for the building. He confirmed that all routine access to the building would occur through the proposed lower level.
Mr. Shubow questioned why the side walls for the terrace would be fritted glass; Mr. Miller responded that the lower fritted area would provide a quiet visual backdrop for the applied lettering, particularly important in daylight, while the more transparent upper area would prevent the railing from becoming an entirely opaque barrier. He said that the design team has tested the proposed design, concluding that it works well for the legibility of the lettering. Mr. Kieran added that the surface of the terrace may generate some splash and dirt along the bottom of the railing's inner face, and clear glass would be hard to keep clean; the fritting would therefore be a pragmatic advantage for maintenance. Mr. McCrery acknowledged the need for a safety barrier along the sides of the plinth, but he questioned whether glass is the best choice; he asked if white marble has been considered. Mr. Kieran said that a low safety wall of marble was studied, but the required minimum height of 42 inches—on top of the plinth that is already elevated 30 to 36 inches above the sidewalk level—would obscure the facade in a manner unsympathetic to the Cret design, with the sculptures on the lower part of the facade not being visible to people approaching the corners of the site.
Mr. McCrery asked if the proposed height of the glass wall is exactly 42 inches; Mr. Kieran responded that the terrace has a slight slope, while the top of the railing is proposed to be horizontal in order to achieve visual consistency with the facade geometry; as a result, the height of the railing will vary in relation to the plinth, with a minimum height of 42 inches. He noted that clients for other projects have sometimes requested a taller height for safety railings, such as 48 inches. Mr. McCrery suggested consideration of achieving the desired height with a low solid wall topped by a railing, which would resemble the design vocabulary for the proposed ramps descending to the sunken gardens. Mr. Kieran said that this suggestion would require pickets leading up to the railing, which was studied, but the pickets would have the problematic effect of obscuring views of the facade when seen from oblique angles.
Vice Chairman Meyer observed that some of the questions raised by the Commission members would have been addressed by a more thorough presentation of the intended palette of materials, including samples for the Commission's inspection; she said that a clear proposal for materials is normally needed for the Commission to approve a final design submission. Mr. McCrery agreed, noting that most of his questions have concerned the proposed materials. Ms. Meyer said that this review is hindered by the inability to compare samples of the existing aluminum and proposed steel, or to see the relationship between the proposed glass and concrete. Nonetheless, she expressed support for the design decisions that have been made, including the approach to providing barrier-free access and to designing the site railings for visual transparency. She said that having solid walls around the sunken gardens would be detrimental to the desired open and welcoming character for these major entrance features. She cited the well-resolved layout of the ramps, which she said would feel generous and not convoluted.
Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation for the response to her previous skepticism about providing ramped access to the terrace, deferring to the project team's resolve that this feature is important. She said that the current design may be overcompensating for the concern that people might inadvertently reach the terrace when seeking to enter the building; she discouraged the placement of signage in front of the historic doors that would direct people elsewhere for an entrance, comparing this to the jarring signage "This is not an entrance" at the large, unused front door to the University of Virginia's Rotunda building that is obviously designed to be the principal entrance. She said that eliminating this signage on the terrace may begin to address the Commission's concern with the proliferation of signage across the site. Mr. Kieran asked if the advice to eliminate signs would extend to the signs along East Capitol Street directing people to the top of the descending ramps; Ms. Meyer noted that the Commission has already questioned the necessity of these signs and their compatibility with the remainder of the signage program.
Ms. Meyer said that she supports the idea of including text as part of the sunken gardens, but she is concerned that the low placement of the text along the ramp curbs would make it difficult to read. She acknowledged that the legibility may vary with the age and ability of the viewer, but she suggested that the newly written poetry might better be displayed at a higher location, such as along a perimeter wall; additionally, the special character of the gardens might be improved if they are not also serving as settings for the display of text. Mr. McCrery suggested that the new poetry could be placed inside the building. Mr. Miller responded that the design team has carefully studied the design of the curb and text to ensure legibility; he expressed confidence that the angled profile of the curb and the size of the lettering would be very comfortable for reading, and the placement of the text would be in a person's natural sightline while descending the ramp. He said that the ankle-height poetry would serve to activate the needed curb, and the meandering sequence of the curbs provides an exciting opportunity to work with a poet in crafting the words. He added that the lighting for the path would seem even more compelling because of how it falls on the curb letters, resulting in a gentle, domestic character along the ramps at night.
Ms. Griffin said that she does not object to the proposed curb poetry, which may serve to encourage people to enter the sunken gardens. She suggested that the font for this poetry be consistent with other poetry and quotations on the site, using a single serif font for all the text that is intended for people's close reading and reflection. This could be contrasted with a single sans-serif font for routine wayfinding and building information, resulting in a simplified range of fonts for the site and easier comprehension for visitors. She expressed dissatisfaction with the entrance signs to the garden and with the pylon signs, which she said appear to combine metal with a white edging; Mr. Miller said that the white indicates marble that forms the core of the pylons. Ms. Griffin discouraged this combination of contrasting materials as excessive, commenting that the pylons would compete for attention with the gardens and building entrances and would confuse the process of arriving at the building. She said that a more horizontal configuration or a different location might be better for these signs; if they remain as vertical pylons, the variety of materials should be simplified. Mr. Miller agreed to study this further; he said that the use of marble was intended to associate the pylons with the Cret building, while the stainless steel would provide a surface for signage text. He added that the proposed location responds to the configuration of the nearby boxwoods; the verticality could be adjusted, but he emphasized that a contrast is desirable to distinguish this information signage from the primarily horizontal elements of the surrounding landscape and to ensure the visibility of the signs along the street frontage. He noted that earlier design studies included placing the pylons near the top of the ramps along East Capitol Street, but the result was to compete with the sightlines to the building's front facade, so the proposed locations are along the side streets.
Mr. Shubow suggested further discussion of the glass walls and safety railings. He observed that the proposed design for these is purely utilitarian, not decorative. He contrasted this design approach to the beautiful aluminum metalwork of the balcony railings along the west facade of the Cret building, and he asked if consideration was given to a metalwork design for the new railings. Mr. Kieran responded that this aesthetic was considered in early design studies but was not successful. The aluminum railings on the Cret building are ornamental decorations for windows, not safety railings for occupiable balconies, and the historic railings were therefore not designed as safety barriers. The design team explored options for new metal railings that would meet the modern safety requirement for a maximum open width of four inches, but the result was excessive interference with the important views of the Cret facade from oblique approach angles.
Mr. Shubow questioned the presented description of each central planted area of the sunken gardens as a "tapestry panel." He said that a tapestry typically refers to a figurative object, while the reference here is more abstract—in contrast to the much more formal presence of the Cret building. Ms. Boyce responded that the intent is for very textural plantings that would display color throughout the year, as illustrated by the seasonal diagrams. She said that the concept for these panels began with more figurative forms, but the design was developed to be more abstract in order to give them a more contemporary expression. The visual interest would result from the continual cycle of changing colors, with spring bulbs at the edges, summer blooms enlivening the center, and deeper hues in the fall. The initial design also had more grasses, but the proposal has evolved to more evergreens, including some flowering shrubs that would provide winter color. She noted that the Folger has many winter events, and the appeal of the garden throughout the year is important. Mr. Kieran added that the design of the gardens has been considered extensively by the design team and the Folger staff. The use of plants mentioned in Shakespeare's work has been an important feature for the Folger; these plants would be located in the central area of the panels, and they would serve as an extension of the building's interior exhibits. He said that displaying these plants in a more figurative arrangement, such as an Elizabethan knot garden, would not be feasible. He described the proposed gardens as outdoor rooms that serve to introduce people to Shakespeare's appreciation for the variety of plant life in his world; this design goal has been more important than any reference to a specific tapestry pattern. He acknowledged that the presentation's reference to a tapestry may have incorrectly suggested the intention of creating a geometric form.
Mr. Stroik asked if the project includes any sculpture of Shakespeare himself. Dr. Witmore responded that Shakespeare's likeness does not appear at all on the building's exterior; the most authoritative portrait of him is on the title page of the First Folio, which is displayed inside the building. He emphasized that the entire Folger institution is intended as a memorial to Shakespeare, uniquely in the form of a living library instead of as a sculptural memorial that can be found in many other locations such as New York's Central Park.
Mr. Stroik said that he recently attended the performance of a Shakespeare play in the Folger's theater, and he asked about the theater's capacity; Dr. Witmore said that the seating with unobstructed views has a capacity of 230. Mr. Stroik asked for clarification of how the two primary building entrances are now typically used. Dr. Witmore said that the use of the doors varies with operational needs; typically both entrances have been open during hours when the building is open to the public, including when the theater is in use. He said that the temporary ramp draws many people to the east entrance even when the theater is not in use, because this entrance better accommodates elderly visitors and those with strollers. He said that the concept of two separate entrances, as embodied in Cret's design, continues to be functionally important for the building. He noted that the building is now generally closed to the public because the collection is being moved in anticipation of this renovation project, requiring a secure environment.
Mr. Stroik asked about the length of ramp that visitors would traverse to reach the proposed entrances through the sunken gardens. Mr. Mordhorst and Ms. Boyce estimated the total length of ramps and shallower sloped walkways in each garden as nearly 200 feet. Mr. Stroik described this as a long ramp, while acknowledging that the design includes descending steps to provide the helpful option of a shorter route. He asked if visitors to the terrace would be required to use the new ascending ramps or would have access to the existing stairs connecting to the East Capitol Street sidewalk. Mr. Mordhorst responded that both sets of existing stairs would continue to provide access to the terrace, although the unobstructed width of each flight would be greatly reduced by the addition of signage, the glass safety railings, and handrails. Mr. McCrery asked why the handrails would be configured to obstruct the stairs; Mr. Mordhorst said that they would block the axial path to the closed historic doors while still accommodating public access to the terrace. Mr. Stroik suggested that the new building entrances be identifiable through greater design clarity instead of by constraining the convenience of the open stairs leading to the terrace.
Mr. McCrery expressed appreciation for the design principles that were described at the beginning of the presentation, but he said that uneven consideration is being given to the principle of respecting the integrity of the original building. He said that the proposal raises many questions; for the stairs to the terrace, a question is why the welcoming design of the historic stairs would be compromised by an obstructive configuration of the railings. Mr. Kieran noted that the original Cret design did not have railings at these stairs; Mr. McCrery said that they are nonetheless present now, and they serve to assist people in using the stairs for access to the terrace. Mr. Kieran clarified that railings would continue to be part of the design for these stairs, as required by regulations.
Mr. Kieran emphasized the desire to avoid confusing people by welcoming them to the terrace with the mistaken expectation of finding an entrance to the building. The proposal therefore has three layers of features at the terrace to communicate that the building entrance is elsewhere: a partial blockade of railings on top of the steps with signage and an arrow pointing toward the nearest entrance; a bench placed across the approach to each historic door; and an additional sign at each historic door to inform people that it is not an entrance. He said that these multiple layers would be preferable to an unobstructed route that would leave many people to learn that the entrances are closed only upon reaching the small signs at the closed doors. He acknowledged the Commission's earlier suggestion to remove the signage from these railings, but he said that this limited information should not even be categorized as signage. He added that the design team is more agreeable to the Commission's advice on removing other signs from the project; Mr. McCrery agreed that some trade-offs of signs and priorities could be pursued in refining the project, and he noted that not all of the sign types were described in the presentation.
Vice Chairman Meyer summarized that Cret's design of the main facade and terrace plinth makes the location of the original entrances very clear, but they cannot remain in use due to modern concern with barrier-free access. The solution might ordinarily be to restrict or eliminate public access to the terrace leading to these entrances; but for this building, the terrace provides a location for viewing the facade's exhibit of sculptures. She said that the design team has done a good job in trying to reconcile Cret's design with the Folger's current needs and with the desire not to aggravate people by encouraging them to climb up to a closed door. She acknowledged that the project presents a difficult design problem, and she urged the Commission to focus the current final review on issues that can still be resolved instead of issues that have been addressed previously or today, many of which have been answered. She summarized the emerging consensus to reconsider the signage proposal and clarify the hierarchy of graphic elements. She asked for further specific suggestions, noting her own request for material samples; she added that the review of the materials is necessary for the final design approval but could be delegated to the staff.
Secretary Luebke said that the process for developing this submission has been problematic: the project has not been presented to the Commission for nearly a year, nor was the Commission staff consulted about the submission, resulting in the presence of conceptual issues that still need refinement. He said that the Commission's concerns with the materials and the signage could perhaps be resolved as conditions to approval of the final design, but some more substantive questions have also been raised. He noted that this project is submitted through the Shipstead-Luce Act as a permit application; unless the Folger requests to place the application on hold, the Commission will be required to provide a prompt response to the D.C. government, which will likely have to be a negative recommendation for denial of the permit. He described this as an unwanted stance for the Commission to take, particularly in dealing with such a major institution as the Folger.
Vice Chairman Meyer suggested hearing further comments from the Commission members. Mr. McCrery asked about the Juliet balcony that was presented for the east facade overlooking the new sunken garden. Mr. Kieran clarified that a doorway on the east facade is an existing feature that would remain; he confirmed that the east facade design does not resemble the railing at the windows on the west facade. The proposed Juliet balcony would be added at the east facade, related to the need to provide an exit pathway from the existing doorway. He said that the design is intended to clearly distinguish the new construction from the historic features of the Cret building. Mr. McCrery acknowledged the thoughtfulness of naming this a Juliet balcony but said that it is unbecoming of Juliet, observing that it would be exposed concrete. Similarly, all of the exposed wall surfaces at the sunken garden would be concrete with a very limited use of wood, and the paving in the garden would also be concrete. He contrasted this material palette with Cret's design, which he described as a magnificent marble building; he suggested that the budget might allow for the selection of beautiful stone for the new construction.
Mr. McCrery offered further observations on Cret's design skill, best seen in the views toward the building's northwest corner: the architecture has a beautiful play of solidity and openness, with solidity emphasized at the building's corners in contrast to a series of large window openings across the north and west facades. Although the particular treatment of the openings is different on each facade, the overall organization and the strength of the corners is consistent. He said that the proposed construction is unsympathetic to the Cret building, with concrete walls at the newly excavated corners, giving the appearance of exposed underpinning construction at the points of entrance; he described this treatment is unbefitting the seriousness of this magnificent building. Mr. Kieran responded that the design is intended to differentiate the new construction from Cret's work, and to reference the original ground plane of the Cret design; he noted that these principles were established in cooperation with the D.C. Historic Preservation Office. Mr. McCrery commented that the desired differentiation could be achieved with a contrasting type of stone, such as granite. Mr. Kieran agreed that such a solution would be possible; he noted that underpinning is actually necessary for this project, and he said that the proposed concrete would have a very refined appearance, which will become apparent with the material samples to be provided. He said that the design team has studied using marble for the new wall surfaces, but this would weaken the understanding of the original ground plane for the Cret building. Mr. McCrery said that the ground plane could be expressed as a line, which does not require the material choice of concrete that is proposed; he reiterated his recommendation to use a more noble material for the new walls. Mr. Kieran responded that the intention to use exposed concrete was included in the concept submission, and the project is now at the permit stage with the Folger already emptying out the building for the anticipated construction.
Mr. McCrery expressed support for the design emphasis on how people will experience the site when approaching from the corners, consistent with the building's original architecture; he agreed that people will generally not approach the site at the center of the East Capitol Street frontage, nor would this be desirable for Cret's design. He observed that people reaching the northwest and northeast corners will become aware of the new entrance locations, which the proposal successfully achieves through the design of the sunken gardens. The proposal therefore seems overly concerned with people reaching the access points to the terrace while remaining unaware of the new entrance locations, resulting in the partial closure of the terrace stairs with the proposed railing design. He said that the design logic seems to lack consistency, with partial explanations offered to justify each move without helping to advance the discussion. Mr. Kieran clarified that while pedestrians would approach the site from the corners, many people do arrive mid-block at the front of the building, often by taxi; the entire East Capitol Street frontage serves as a drop-off and pick-up area.
Mr. Stroik returned to the question of ramps and the logistics of using the building and theater. He said that the proposed ramp sequence demonstrates the talent of the architecture and landscape architecture firms working on the project, including the ramp to the terrace that he said would be an improvement on the existing temporary ramp; he acknowledged that the proposal appears to work. But he recalled his recent attendance at a performance in the theater, when perhaps 200 audience members were able to enter and exit the theater, quickly and comfortably, through the large door in the north facade. He suggested a greater appreciation for how the building is already being used, and he suggested that a ramp from the terrace to the existing main doors may be a more desirable solution. Dr. Witmore asked if the suggestion is to retain the temporary aluminum ramp; Mr. Stroik clarified that a modest new ramp could be designed, similar to the proposed ramps leading from the sidewalk level to the terrace, which he described as well designed and subtle. Dr. Witmore recalled a comment from the Commission in the previous review, that the design team has taken an impossible design problem and solved it illogically. He emphasized the difficulty of figuring out how to bring people into this building and reconcile the various changes in level, particularly while not harming the appearance of the Cret building's primary facade; he said that achieving this while continuing to use the main entrance doors has proven to be impossible. He acknowledged the helpful advice of the Commission in questioning the sincerity of the proposed entrance solution, resulting in the opportunity for refinement of how visitors are made aware of which entrances are open or closed. He also agreed that the Commission's advice on simplifying the signage and typography is helpful and can be addressed, noting that many people at the Folger are deeply interested in the character of typefaces. He expressed appreciation for Mr. McCrery's comment that the design successfully makes clear the location of the new entrances for visitors approaching the site's corners. As the Folger's director, he summarized his willingness to address the Commission's suggestions for refinement of the design, but reluctance to reexamine the overall circulation problem that has been carefully studied over many years, resulting in a solution that is as elegant as it can be although admittedly illogical at some moments. He requested that the Commission support the Folger's permit application with the understanding that the recommendations for refinements will be addressed.
Ms. Griffin expressed appreciation for Dr. Witmore's summary and his commitment to the project. Acknowledging the complexity of the project, she suggested that the Commission honor the previous approval of the concept, notwithstanding the many thoughtful concerns raised during today's discussion that may require the substantial redesign of some elements. She noted that the design challenge is not simply to provide better access to the building, but to provide for an expansion of the interior space as well as preservation of the historic architecture. The proposal for lengthy ramps is therefore not merely an access solution to the existing building, but also a way to bring people to the new interior space. She said that the many criteria for the design necessitate some compromise in the solution, and she noted the Commission's acknowledgement that the design needs have been skillfully accommodated. She said that seeing the material samples will be important; the Commission's discussion has continued to make clear that some of the design choices cannot be evaluated from the current submission. She also summarized the Commission's guidance to be more strategic about the proposed signs, perhaps eliminating some signs to avoid redundancy, and the concerns raised about the treatment of the steps leading up to the terrace. Mr. Kieran confirmed that the proposed railing configuration at these steps could be adjusted, with the railing turning to become a handrail that is functionally necessary. Mr. McCrery noted that the regulatory requirement for the number and placement of handrails could be waived for a historic setting; Mr. Kieran agreed but said that some handrail would nonetheless be needed, although perhaps not as shown in the design. Mr. Shubow emphasized that the proposed benches blocking the historic entrance doors would provide a sufficiently strong visual cue that these doors are no longer in use, and the other design cues are therefore not necessary. Mr. Kieran offered to study this area further.
Mr. Stroik reiterated his suggestion for providing ramped access from the terrace to the historic doors, noting that designers can find a way to insert ramps in a wide variety of conditions; he emphasized the convenience of the eastern door for theatergoers. Mr. Kieran clarified that a ramp solution on the terrace could be achieved, but the problem would remain of how to move people from the small entrance lobbies to the different levels of the adjacent interior spaces. Mr. Stroik observed that the interior circulation is already proposed to be solved with elevators, although the presentation materials do not illustrate this clearly. Mr. Kieran clarified that even if ramped access could be provided to the historic doors, with some intrusion on the building's exterior appearance, the interior elevators would not be in the right locations to connect the entrance lobbies to the other interior levels. Mr. Stroik said that access might be achievable by considering the entrances and elevators in combination; Mr. Kieran said that the needed public access would still not be sufficient. Mr. Stroik asked how this would be solved in the new proposal; Mr. Kieran indicated the new elevator near the theater that would have doors facing in different directions to address the slight changes in level among the major interior spaces. Mr. Stroik suggested a similar solution on the west side of the building, but Mr. Kieran said that the layout of the building is very different on each side, and a beautiful historic staircase is located on the west where a new elevator would optimally be placed. He added that the creation of a public lower level allows for the desired new exhibition space as well as unimpeded movement between the west and east sides of the building, allowing the new elevator on the east side to solve the circulation problems. He emphasized that the proposed solution solves several problems while avoiding substantial negative impacts on the historic facade and significant interior spaces. He summarized that the proposed design is a more clear and economical solution than trying to resolve the internal access issues while continuing to use the two historic entrances. Mr. Stroik asked if the cost savings is significant; Mr. Kieran said that the more important benefit is that the proposed solution would not obstruct the historic facade, which would be the result from adding ramps to reach the historic doors. He recalled Dr. Witmore's description of the building itself as a memorial to Shakespeare. He added that the existing stairs to the historic entrances are framed by planter boxes that would be retained and restored; their location would force an awkward configuration for any new ramps, pushing the ramps into the open space of the terrace.
Vice Chairman Meyer asked for clarification of the Commission's options in taking a vote. Secretary Luebke said that the Commission could approve the submission, perhaps conditional on the resolution of certain comments such as adjustments to the signage. The Commission could instead determine that fundamental requirements for a final approval, such as inspection of material samples, remain unresolved; the solution would then be to ask the Folger to request a hold on the application to allow time for addressing these requirements. Alternatively, if the Folger declines to request a hold, the Commission could return a negative recommendation to the D.C. government. He added that the Commission could also delegate further review of outstanding issues to the staff. Vice Chairman Meyer suggested that holding the project open would be the best solution, allowing time for a response to the Commission's advice and for the submission of material samples. She enumerated the issues of signage, typography, and the terrace steps; Mr. McCrery suggested adding information about the reuse of the Puck statue's base and reconsidering the design of the Juliet balcony to relate better to the Cret building's ground plane. Mr. Stroik emphasized the talent of Mr. Kieran's firm, as seen in other projects, and he requested a further effort at providing access through the historic doors; Ms. Meyer expressed reluctance to include this request as part of the Commission's action. Noting the apparent consensus on most issues, Secretary Luebke suggested a vote on Mr. Stroik's request; it was not adopted, with Mr. Stroik voting in favor and the others against. The Commission then voted to support the recommendations summarized by Ms. Meyer as amended by Mr. McCrery, with four votes in favor and Mr. Stroik voting against.
Mr. Luebke and Ms. Batcheler clarified that the Commission is not approving the project as submitted, and therefore the response to the D.C. government must be in opposition to the project, unless the Folger requests a hold. Dr. Witmore said that he does not want to force the Commission to take an up-or-down position, and he agreed to request a hold on the project in order to address the issues that have been identified. He said that the Folger would return soon with a follow-up submission, noting that preparation for the project is already underway. He added that the concern with the Juliet balcony and the extent of exposed concrete in this area is worth exploring further, particularly due to the prominence of the building corner; he offered to reexamine how the design for this area was presented at the concept-level review. Vice Chairman Meyer encouraged the staff to look carefully at the record of the previous review to address this issue. Mr. Kieran said that the current design for this area was part of the previous submission; Dr. Witmore said that this issue may not have been discussed during the concept review. Mr. Luebke noted that the staff had advised using a higher-quality material for the exposed base, but the project team has not consulted further with the staff as the project has been developed. He noted that some issues may not be discussed in the initial concept review, but projects of this complexity would typically return for a further review of the concept development, rather than only returning for a second review at the final stage of permit application. Vice Chairman Meyer noted that Mr. McCrery has raised an issue of whether the design for the Juliet balcony and the northeast corner is consistent with the project's design principles and the treatment of the northwest corner; she said that this question should be addressed, regardless of whether this part of the design was in the approved concept submission.
Ms. Griffin suggested that the Commission assist in expediting the process by focusing the next review on those issues that the Commission has agreed upon for further study; Vice Chairman Meyer agreed, suggesting that the next presentation target to those issues. She also suggested using the extra time to strengthen the project and clarify the material palette. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
2. SL 20-072, 411 New Jersey Avenue, SE. New residential building. Revised concept. (Previous: SL 20-037, November 2019.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposal for two new row houses on an undeveloped lot at 411 New Jersey Avenue, SE. The site is located at the north end of a row of five houses in the Capitol Hill Historic District, approximately one block south of the Longworth House Office Building, and it overlooks a portal of the railroad tunnel on the north leading to Union Station. She noted that the Commission last reviewed this project in November 2019, when it approved the concept design with the recommendation to improve the transition from the articulated Victorian style of the front facades to the simpler modern treatment of the rear portions. She asked Mateusz Dzierzanowski of DZ Architecture to present the design.
Mr. Dzierzanowski illustrated the site's context, including views of the existing streetscape on New Jersey Avenue. He said that two considerations have been driving the design: the character of the adjoining row houses on New Jersey Avenue, and the utilitarian, industrial appearance of the buildings and parking lot abutting the railroad tracks at the rear of the lot. He described the juxtaposition of these two environments as distinctive; the site is also notable for the change in grade descending from New Jersey Avenue, and the jagged property line on the north.
Mr. Dzierzanowski said that he developed the initial diagram after studying the front facades of houses along New Jersey Avenue, diagramming sightlines, the proportions of fenestration, and elements such as bay windows and porches. The proposed design treats the front facade of the two houses in a clean, rectilinear manner, with fenestration that is proportionally similar to the adjoining historic houses. The previous design included a two-story brick bay window on the front facade of each house, a characteristic design feature of the neighborhood; however, to avoid an overly crowded appearance, this has been revised to a one-story brick bay window on the southern house and a corner tower on the northern house. The front facades would incorporate some of the brick detailing used at the adjoining historic houses, such as patterned brick for the window headers and stepped brick coursing at the edges of the bay and the tower, which he said would lighten their appearance; corbelling, trim, and other details would accentuate key elements. Above, the front facades would have dormer windows and mansard roofs with hexagonal slates. Three new trees would be planted in the front yards, which would be enclosed by cast-iron fencing; both houses would have cast-iron entrance stairs.
Mr. Dzierzanowski presented the revised proposal for the exposed side facade of the northern house, which presents a transition in the architectural language, volume, and fenestration to distinguish the more traditional front of the houses from the more modern and industrial character of the rear. Simpler versions of the front facade details would be used on the eastern part of the side elevation, such as fenestration similar in size, proportion, and alignments. At the middle of this facade, a clean break is proposed between the more traditional treatment of the front and the more modern style of the rear; the mansard roof would terminate at this point. He said that he is exploring ways to connect the rear facades of the two houses, such as aligning overhangs and extending the horizontal banding across both facades.
Mr. Dzierzanowski said that the plan of the southern house would have a conventional rectangular row house configuration. The northern house, at the end of the row, would have a more irregular massing that responds to the inflections of the north property line along the railroad; the interior stairway would shift from the rear to the middle of the house, and an elevator would be placed toward the middle to provide convenient access for guests to a third-floor recreation room and roof deck at the rear.
Mr. Dzierzanowski presented the materials proposed for the exterior. He showed samples of the brick, which is proposed to be painted in two or three different shades of gray, with accent colors used for headers, sills, and trim. Window frames would be painted in dark oil-rubbed bronze or black; metalwork would be steel or cast iron, painted black. On the exposed side facade, the material toward the rear would be cement board panels with a rough finish, almost like concrete; the recessed center area, where the elevator would be located, is proposed to be covered in charcoal gray cement panels.
Mr. Dzierzanowski summarized that the revised design responds to the Commission's previous comments. Double doors are now proposed on the front facades, and the fenestration pattern is now more similar to the other houses in the row. On the side facade, the volumes had been crowded by an eight-foot-wide span of glass along the stairwell; now the materials, fenestration, and volumes are cleaner, with a more clearly defined break between traditional and modern.
Ms. Meyer asked for clarification of the brick color; Mr. Dzierzanowski responded that the brick, which would have a slightly rough, textured surface, would be a light gray, with trim in a medium gray, and a third color to accentuate details. He said that a Capitol Hill neighborhood preservation group has suggested using a paint palette for the brick that would match the cement board more closely; he proposes a slight contrast, such as medium gray or charcoal with light gray, for the brick and cement board. Mr. Stroik asked if the light-gray painted brick would be true to the color used elsewhere along New Jersey Avenue; Mr. Dzierzanowski said it would. Ms. Griffin asked about the presented samples of blue, green, and red paint; Mr. Dzierzanowski clarified that these are colors under consideration for the two front entrance doors, which would probably each have a different color.
Ms. Meyer commended Mr. Dzierzanowski for his simplification of the design since its prior review, noting that the Commission staff and the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board have probably provided good advice on such matters as the appropriate scale for a Victorian building; she said the revised design for the more traditional facades will make a stronger connection with their historic neighbors. However, for the side facade, she commented that she is not convinced by the height of the rear block adjacent to the mansard, and these volumes appear to meet awkwardly. She also expressed concern about the proposed color palette, commenting that different grays have either warm or cool tones, which can conflict with each other. She recommended further refinement of the palette, emphasizing that adding a different color with a slight contrast may be worse than using the same color. Mr. McCrery agreed, suggesting using only gray for greater unity. Ms. Griffin observed that the warm or cool tones of gray are significant qualities; because a cool gray can look greenish, she suggested using a gray closer to a clay tone and varying its saturation. She added that paint eventually wears off a brick surface, and so a gray that works with the natural color of the brick would look better as the paint starts to weather. She agreed with Ms. Meyer about the confusion concerning heights on the side facade, and the difficulty of understanding the interior ceiling heights. Mr. Dzierzanowski responded that, because of height restrictions, the top floor of the end house would have a ceiling height of 8 to 8.5 feet; in both houses, the other floors would be taller.
Ms. Griffin emphasized the importance of carefully determining the scale of the cement board panels; she suggested continuing the horizontal band all the way across, and using smaller coursing so that the siding relates better to the scale of the brick and appears less like a panel. Mr. McCrery asked for clarification of the elements shown in white toward the middle of the north facade. Mr. Dzierzanowski said they are window openings along the elevator shaft that would either be glass covered by a white film or white opaque glass; if they are white glass, they would have the same framing as the facade's real window openings, and would continue the language of the fenestration. Mr. McCrery commented that this center volume is being treated as a big glass box, which is an inappropriate treatment for an elevator shaft. Mr. Dzierzanowski responded that he considered using black or charcoal gray panels on this volume but wants to accentuate it. Ms. Griffin suggested reversing the location of elevator and stairs so that these proposed openings could be actual windows that would let daylight into the stairwell; she said that the false window openings do not improve the facade composition.
Mr. McCrery observed that the architecture of Capitol Hill does not have much pretense—elements and materials are what they seem to be—but he finds that the proposed side facade of the northern house has a false quality that runs contrary to everything else about the design. He commented that while the west half of this facade may be characterized as industrial, the small horizontal bathroom windows on its rearmost volume resemble windows in a prison. He advised making these openings square, as they were before, or at least more vertical than horizontal; if necessary, an opaque material could be used on their lower portions. He questioned the decision to create a sudden break in style from Victorian to Modernist on the side facade, calling it an unnecessary change; he noted that railroads predate modern architecture, so a Modernist design should not necessarily be equated with the railroad. He said the only reason for the change is the architect's preference; but for this building located in a historic district, personal preference should not be relevant to the decision. Mr. Dzierzanowski said the new houses would not exactly be Modernist, but their design would explore a more industrial appearance through the use of modern materials and fenestration, and he said the proposal would appear compatible with this area. He noted that the design has received concept approval from the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, which was mainly concerned with ensuring the two houses are single-family residences and not offices for nonprofit organizations; he added that he believes the presence of nonprofits and commercial organizations has made the neighborhood more commercial and industrial.
Indicating the facades of the adjoining houses in the row, Mr. McCrery said that these constitute an entire series of wooden one-story bay windows. He observed that the Capitol Hill Historic District has few, if any, examples of one-story brick bays; instead, brick bays are always taller. He said if the bay is brick, it should be a full two stories high; otherwise, it would look like an oddity. Ms. Meyer agreed, adding that the one-story brick bay window would look dumpy. Mr. Dzierzanowski noted the challenge presented by the elaborate trim and different alignments of the other houses. He said he had wanted to use a two-story brick bay, but the height made the contrast too great; however, he offered to explore it again.
Vice Chairman Meyer summarized the Commission's comments, particularly concerning the color and relationship of the exterior materials. Specific issues include the size of the panels and windows, improved alignments among the facade elements, the location of the northern house's elevator in relation to the exterior treatment, and the material and height of the southern house's front bay window. She suggested that these issues could be addressed in the final design submission. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Stroik, the Commission approved the revised concept design with the comments provided. Vice Chairman Meyer urged Mr. Dzierzanowski to meet again with the Commission staff before submitting the project for final review.
At this point, Mr. Stroik departed the meeting.
3. SL 20-078, 1908 Quincy Street, NW. New single-family residence. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept proposal for a single-family house to be located on the east side of Rock Creek Park, adjacent to the heavily wooded parkland along Piney Branch. The existing one-story house on the property, in poor condition, would be demolished. She introduced architect David Jameson to present the design.
Mr. Jameson said that the house would be for the resident of an existing neighboring house: the acclaimed artist Sam Gilliam, who became prominent in the late 1960s in association with the Washington Color School movement. Gilliam's work includes painted canvas that is draped, rather than attached to a frame, resulting in a three-dimensional sculptural effect. Mr. Jameson noted that Mr. Gilliam, now in his 80s, continues to create artwork and is the subject of several upcoming gallery and museum shows.
Mr. Jameson described the context, including a modern-style house, a large estate, and Mr. Gilliam's current house, which would remain. The proposed one-story house would have a walled entrance court along Quincy Street; a low, largely solid bar of support spaces along the entrance court, providing a sense of spatial compression; and a large glazed room opening toward the park at the rear. The large room would have splayed walls of glass with pivoting doors, and it is envisioned conceptually as a tent, a reference to Mr. Gilliam's works of draped canvas. Within the large room, a small space would be enclosed to serve as a greenhouse. He said that the materials are intended to convey a sense of authenticity and the passage of time; they would include self-weathering steel, wood windows, and a stainless steel fascia, and the interior would have acoustical plaster. The house's basement level would have mechanical space and art storage. The entrance court would be surfaced in bush-hammered basalt; the edges of the site would have stone and would be planted with mazus, and one sculpture would be installed on the site. He noted that the project does not include a driveway.
Mr. McCrery asked for clarification of the proposed roof forms. Mr. Jameson indicated the inverted pyramidal slopes of the roof over the house's main room; the roof above the support spaces would be flat, with a minimal slope as necessary for drainage. Ms. Meyer asked for clarification of the proposed greenhouse space. Mr. Jameson said that Mrs. Gilliam enjoys gardening and makes use of a greenhouse at the existing house; the proposed greenhouse space would be visible from the new house's sleeping area.
Ms. Meyer described the proposal as a beautiful project; she supported its approval and suggested that the Commission would enjoy visiting the house upon completion. Mr. Jameson requested that the Commission consider delegating review of the final design to the staff; Secretary Luebke said that this would be feasible since no major issues have been identified in the current concept review. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Ms. Griffin, the Commission approved the concept and delegated review of the final design to the staff.
Vice Chairman Meyer and Ms. Griffin departed at this point, resulting in the loss of a quorum. Mr. Shubow presided for the remainder of the meeting.
E. United States Mint
Mr. Simon introduced the continuation of the Presidential One Dollar Coin program to include President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush. A one-dollar coin would be issued with President Bush's portrait on the obverse; as with the other coins in the series, the reverse would have a depiction of the Statue of Liberty. He said that many past coins in this series have been in public circulation, and he provided samples for the Commission's inspection; however, he noted that the Mint has recently been producing these one-dollar coins only for sale to collectors. Barbara Bush would be honored as part of the First Spouse series, with a gold coin and bronze medal having similar designs; the obverse would feature a portrait of Mrs. Bush, and the reverse would have a design relating to her life and work. He provided samples from the Mint of previous coins and medals that are packaged for collectors with explanatory material. He introduced Megan Sullivan of the Mint to present the design alternatives.
1. CFA 20/FEB/20-6, 2020 Presidential One Dollar Coin Program. Obverse designs for the George H.W. Bush coin. Final. (Previous: CFA 19/MAR/15-6, Ronald Reagan.) Ms. Sullivan said that recent legislation authorized the extension of the presidential series to include George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush. The one-dollar coin for President Bush would follow the established design format for the obverse, along with the Statue of Liberty design for the reverse. She presented nine alternatives for the obverse portrait of President Bush, noting that the family's preference is for alternative #1.
Mr. McCrery observed that the drawing technique for alternative #1 differs from the others, using a dark black for his jacket, tie, and hair; he asked how this appearance would be rendered in the production of the coin. Ms. Sullivan responded that the alternatives were developed by different artists, and the artist for alternative #1 has used greater contrast in the drawing; however, the process of sculpting the design for minting the coin would be the same for any of the alternatives.
Mr. Shubow supported the family's preference for alternative #1 as the best portrait. Mr. McCrery expressed his willingness to support the family's preference, but he noted that this is the only design that shows President Bush's teeth, which may not be appropriate. He offered support for alternative #3, commenting that this portrait conveys a sense of seriousness. Mr. Shubow reiterated his support for alternative #1, which he said looks most like President Bush. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Shubow, the Commission recommended obverse alternative #1, subject to confirmation by a quorum.
2. CFA 20/FEB/20-7, 2020 Presidential One Dollar Coin Program–First Spouses. Designs for the Barbara Bush First Spouse ten-dollar gold coin and bronze medal (obverse and reverse). Final. (Previous: CFA 17/SEP/15-a, Nancy Reagan.) Ms. Sullivan described the standard template for the First Spouse gold coins and the bronze duplicates; she noted that the coin requires additional inscriptions, resulting in the inclusion of a border ring to organize the text on the reverse of the coin; this border ring would be omitted from the bronze medal. She said that the Mint worked with the family foundation and the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy in developing the alternatives for the reverse design.
Ms. Sullivan presented eleven alternatives for the obverse portrait of Mrs. Bush, noting that the family's preference is for alternative #1. Mr. McCrery supported the family's preference; Mr. Shubow agreed, commenting that it is the best likeness of her. Mr. McCrery said that alternatives #1 and #2, possibly by the same artist, are best at capturing her likeness as well as her personality. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Shubow, the Commission recommended obverse alternative #1, subject to confirmation by a quorum.
Ms. Sullivan presented twelve design alternatives for the reverse, based on the theme of Mrs. Bush's work in promoting literacy during her public life. This work was based on her son's diagnosis of dyslexia, and it led to the creation in 1989 of a foundation to promote family literacy with educational opportunities for young children and their parents; Mrs. Bush saw this effort as key to solving many of the nation's social and economic issues. She noted that the family's preference is for alternative #6, depicting a person holding a book; the background shows a winding road receding into the distance toward the sun at the horizon, symbolizing the journey of life and the promise of a brighter future.
Mr. McCrery offered support for reverse alternatives #2 and #3, differing from the family's preference; these designs depict the spines of several stacked books, with the top book open. He said that the composition of alternatives #2 and #3 is more suitable for the coin and medal than the pictorial, perspectival space of alternative #6. He noted that alternatives #2 and #3 also appropriately include the phrase "Family Literacy," which is not included in alternative #6. Mr. Shubow agreed to support reverse alternative #3. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Shubow, the Commission recommended the coin and medal versions of reverse alternative #3, subject to confirmation by a quorum. Secretary Luebke confirmed that the Commission is free to comment on any of the alternatives, and is not constrained by the preferences of other people or organizations.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:19 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke