The meeting was convened by video conference at 9:03 a.m.
Hon. Earl A. Powell, Chairman
Hon. Elizabeth Meyer, Vice Chairman
Hon. Toni Griffin
Hon. Alex Krieger
Hon. James McCrery
Hon. Justin Shubow
Hon. Duncan Stroik
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
Mary Catherine Bogard
A. Approval of the minutes of the 16 July meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the July meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the minutes.
B. Dates of next meetings. Secretary Luebke presented the dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 15 October 2020, 19 November 2020, and 22 January 2021. He noted that no meeting is scheduled in December, and the January meeting is scheduled on a Friday to avoid conflicting with the Presidential inauguration events earlier in the week. The public meetings of the Commission and the Old Georgetown Board have recently been held by video conference due to the public health emergency; if the video conference format continues through January, the Commission could consider whether returning to the regular Thursday schedule, meeting on 21 January 2021, would be preferable.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Secretary 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 reported that the appendix has fifteen projects, with no change from the draft that was circulated. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler said that the draft recommendations for three projects were changed to be favorable based on the receipt of supplemental materials, and one recommendation was changed to note that the project has been withdrawn. One item from the draft appendix has been removed (case number SL 20-179); it is being held open for review in a future month. Other revisions are minor wording changes and the notation of dates for the receipt of supplemental materials. The recommendations for twelve projects are subject to further coordination with the applicants, and she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations when supplemental materials are received. She noted that one project at the end of the appendix (SL 20-173) is the record of an action that was previously delegated to the staff. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act appendix. (See agenda item II.G for an additional Shipstead-Luce Act submission.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Bogard reported that the appendix has 43 projects; the only change to the draft appendix is an updated recommendation for one project to note the receipt of supplemental materials. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, 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, II.D.1, II.D.2, II.H.1, II.H.2, and II.H.4. Secretary Luebke said that the Commission had identified these as submissions that could be approved without presentations.
B. National Park Service
3. CFA 17/SEP/20-3, Korean War Veterans Memorial, West Potomac Park, French Drive and Independence Avenue, SW (southeast of the Lincoln Memorial). Modifications to the memorial for a Wall of Remembrance—Name panels graphics and text. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/APR/20-1 and CFA 21/MAY/20-j) Secretary Luebke said that the overall project was previously approved by the Commission and other review agencies, and this submission concerns a small part of the scope—the layout of names on the new memorial wall panels. He noted the Commission’s support for the project team’s preferred layout. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the proposal.
D. U.S. General Services Administration
1. CFA 17/SEP/20-5, St. Elizabeths West Campus (Department of Homeland Security), 2701 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE. Master Plan Amendment 2 for the Department of Homeland Security Headquarters Consolidation. Final. (Previous: CFA 17/OCT/19-7) Secretary Luebke noted that the redevelopment process for the West Campus has been underway for approximately fifteen years. The proposed master plan amendment, previously reviewed at the concept stage, provides for two large buildings and other adjustments to the master plan in response to program changes for the relocation of federal agencies to the campus. He said that upon completion of the planning process, the proposed designs for the buildings will be submitted in the future for the Commission’s review. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the master plan amendment.
2. CFA 17/SEP/20-6, New Executive Office Building, 726 Jackson Place, NW (on Lafayette Park). Alterations to east entrance and courtyard. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/APR/20-2) Secretary Luebke said that this project will accommodate security screening in the formerly open passage facing Jackson Place for access to the New Executive Office Building and the mid-block courtyard. He described the proposal as responsive to the Commission’s previous comments. Several alternatives are shown for the configuration of mullions within the proposed glazing of the existing tall portals along Jackson Place; he noted the Commission’s preference for Alternate 2, which includes both a vertical and horizontal mullion within the upper part of each portal. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the final design including Alternate 2 for the mullions.
H. United States Mint
Secretary Luebke noted that the Commission may want to act on three of the Mint’s four submissions without a presentation. For two of these submissions, preferred alternatives have been selected by the honoree’s family members or the Mint’s liaison organization, as illustrated in a list from the Mint that has been distributed to the Commission members; one submission includes only single designs for the obverse and reverse. The remaining submission, for the National Law Enforcement Museum Commemorative Coin Program, would stay on the agenda for presentation and discussion. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission approved the preferred designs listed by the Mint for three submissions, as noted below.
1. CFA 17/SEP/20-11, Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medals honoring: Mary W. Jackson; Dorothy J. Vaughan; and the women who served NACA and NASA between 1935 and 1970. Design for three gold medals with bronze duplicates. Final. The Commission approved alternatives MJ-O-06 and MJ-R-02 for the medal honoring Mary W. Jackson, and alternatives DV-O-11A and DV-R-06A for the medal honoring Dorothy J. Vaughan. For the medal honoring the group of women collectively, the Commission approved alternatives HF-O-01 and HF-O-10 for the obverse, and alternative HF-R-04 for the reverse.
2. CFA 17/SEP/20-12, Armed Forces Military Medal honoring the United States Army. Obverse and reverse designs for a silver medal. Final. (Previous: CFA 18/JUN/20-8 – U.S. Marine Corps) The Commission approved alternatives ARM-O-04 and ARM-O-13 for the obverse, and alternatives ARM-R-02 and ARM-R-06 for the reverse.
4. CFA 17/SEP/20-14, Director of the U.S. Mint Medal for David J. Ryder. Design for a bronze medal. Final. The Commission approved the submitted designs: DJR-O-01 for the obverse, and DJR-R-01 for the reverse.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B.1.
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 17/SEP/20-1, Peace Corps Memorial. Louisiana Avenue at C and First Streets, NW. Design for new memorial. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 20/JUN/20-1) Secretary Luebke introduced the submission from the National Park Service, on behalf of the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation, of a revised concept design for the Peace Corps Commemorative Park. He said that when the design was last reviewed in June 2020, the Commission did not take an action but strongly recommended reconsidering the inclusion of the canopy structure of glass and metal, advising that the design should instead focus on the composition of a central plaza, pavement map, and sculptural stone bench-hands, perhaps defining the plaza space with a living canopy of trees. He said that in the current submission, the glass and metal canopy has been eliminated; the plaza, now shown as circular instead of oval, has been made the focus; the world map in the paving is contained within this shape, and the plaza is surrounded by a canopy of shade trees. He added that the project team is seeking approval for the concept design with the understanding that details remain to be worked out for elements such as the inscriptions, paving patterns, map projection, and lighting. He asked Peter May, deputy director for lands and planning with the National Capital Area of the National Park Service, to begin the presentation.
Mr. May said that the design changes are responsive to the Commission’s comments from the previous review; he asked Roger Lewis of the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation to continue the presentation. Mr. Lewis introduced the design team of landscape architect Michael Vergason and artist Larry Kirkland to present the design.
Mr. Vergason presented a map of the site and context. He emphasized that the design team believes the strength of the site lies in its contribution to the adjacent U.S. Capitol Grounds across Louisiana Avenue, as this site completes the northwest corner of the original square. He said that the revised concept shows the replacement of the glass and metal canopy with a living canopy of trees; the design also includes refinements to the articulation of the bench-hands. The canopy of large shade trees would include native species such as oak, elm, and black gum; with an understory of perennials and groundcovers, a rich green park-like setting will be created to frame the central space. There would be lower understory plantings along Louisiana Avenue, growing to height of 18 to 24 inches, and higher on the C Street and First Street sides, growing from 24 up to 42 inches. He presented an early sketch showing the canopy of trees after approximately twenty years of growth.
Mr. Vergason said that the design now includes three bench-hands that would be placed around the central plaza, composed in an overlapping spiral that generates a dynamic movement outward from the center of the space. The bench-hands would frame the plaza, which features a map of the world set within the paving. He said another significant change from the previous design is that access to this plaza would be from three short paths leading in from new locations: two mid-block paths from Louisiana Avenue and from C Street, and a path from the intersection of First and C Streets. Each path would lead to the rear of one bench, where inscriptions would be located; the path from Louisiana Avenue would lead to the name of the site, the Peace Corps Commemorative Park. All three paths would slip between the benches to enter the plaza.
Mr. Kirkland presented the design refinements to the hand-benches and the current stud of potential map projections. He said that the bench-hands have been vital to the concept from the beginning. The original plan had called for three benches, which were then reduced to two; now, with the elimination of the glass and metal canopy, a third bench has been reintroduced. He said the design team believes three benches will better represent people collectively, and this composition also relates better to the site’s triangular geometry. Illustrating his other sculptural work featuring hands, he said he would continue to refine the bench design. He illustrated a rough layout of the text proposed for the rear of each bench; the font, scale, and size of text is still to be determined based on consultation with the sponsoring foundation’s board of directors.
Mr. Kirkland described the challenges of selecting a map projection, most of which create some inappropriate distortion of land masses. He illustrated four of the options: the familiar Mercator projection; a polar projection, which fits the circular plaza well but distorts the shape of the land masses; a polar projection with less landmass distortion designed by Buckminster Fuller; and a projection submitted in a competition sponsored by the Japanese government to create a map with accurate land projections, which is similar to the Fuller projection. The design team is continuing to explore options for the map.
Mr. Vergason presented a series of ground-level views of the site as it would be seen when approached from various directions; he said the memorial plaza would appear as a clearing within the overall tree canopy. From across Louisiana Avenue, there would be a sense of the layering of the foreground planting, the bench-hands, and the canopy of trees; from C Street, the subtlety of the topography would be evident. He noted that the entrance from the First and C Streets intersection would have three steps instead of the single step depicted. An advantage of the mid-block location for the other two path entrances is that the mid-block points of the Louisiana Avenue and C Street sidewalks are at the same elevation, making it possible to eliminate the long sloped walks shown in the previous version, resulting in less impervious surface and more green space. The proposal is to raise the plaza slightly, emphasizing its character as an important place; the shortened walks would rise at a slope of approximately 3.5 percent. The width of the walks where they pass between benches would be six feet four inches, which he described as comfortably wide while allowing for the plaza to be clearly defined. He presented a final view looking southeast from the intersection of First and C Streets, emphasizing that the commemorative work should appear as a clearing within a park setting that is also continuous with the wider landscape of the Capitol Grounds.
Chairman Powell thanked the design team and noted the important changes that have been made. He opened the review for questions and comments.
Mr. McCrery commended the improvements to the design. Thanking the design team for exploring the different map projections, he suggested that a polar projection may be the best solution because it supports the circular geometry of the plaza. He said it would be readily recognizable while also appearing unusual, almost otherworldly, and it would not prioritize any one continent over another. He asked what paving materials would be used, and how the paving would distinguish land from water. Mr. Kirkland responded that the material would be granite, but the varieties have not yet been selected. Mr. Vergason added that regardless of the map projection, the background paving would likely be composed of concentric rings of unit pavers.
Mr. McCrery recommended giving a slight but noticeable variation to the articulation of the hands on the benches so they will not appear to have been mechanically produced. He suggested further study of how the benches meet the ground, observing that one illustration shows a four-inch-high recess at the base; while acknowledging the need for some articulation of the base, he said that the vertical, almost machine-edge cut that is depicted looks antithetical to the sculptural form. He commented favorably on the landscape design.
Ms. Meyer acknowledged the difficulty of eliminating pieces from a design, but she said she appreciates the editing because the revised proposal with the living tree canopy is now elegant and moving, and it will create a space for contemplation. As the design of the bench-hands is further refined, she encouraged creating seats at different levels in order to accommodate people of different heights and ages. She suggested enlarging the lettering of the park’s name so that it will be easily legible from the sidewalk; she also suggested consideration of shortening the name, perhaps by eliminating the word “Commemorative,” to allow for larger lettering. Finally, she said she is pleased the design team has considered how the trees would appear in twenty years, but she emphasized that enough trees should initially be planted closely together to create a decent place to inhabit in the short run; the National Park Service can then remove a few trees later as they mature.
Mr. Krieger expressed support for revising the plaza to be circular instead of oval and for the other improvements, and he said he supports approval of the concept design. However, he acknowledged that he now understands the initial inclination for a vertical element; while not suggesting a return to the previous canopy design, he said that a vertical structure probably would have helped people identify the site as a special place. He said that within the space, all of the elements would work together well; but from outside, if a person is not walking toward those intersections, the design may be too subtle to be recognizable as anything but a continuous tree canopy. Nonetheless, he reiterated his support for the revised concept as presented.
Ms. Griffin said she wants to reinforce Mr. Krieger’s comments; she expressed appreciation for the effort to revise and improve the design in accordance with the Commission’s previous comments. She agreed with Mr. McCrery’s recommendation to vary the articulation of the three sculptural hands terminating the benches, and she expressed support for further exploration of how to differentiate them. She also agreed with Mr. Krieger that the replacement of the manufactured canopy with a living canopy of trees may result in the site being more difficult to perceive from a distance; as the landscape and planting plan is developed, she advised exploring how this tree canopy could be given more emphasis, such as through greater height or a more formal shape. She requested including the development of this idea in subsequent submissions.
Mr. Stroik suggested trimming or pollarding the trees in the canopy to reinforce their definition; as examples, he cited the clipped aerial tree hedges at Dumbarton Oaks Garden and the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. He said he supports the typography shown for the title inscription, but he questioned the need to write out the name of the park; he suggested consideration of a simpler design approach, such as by sculpting a bas relief of the Peace Corps emblem on the back of the bench, in order to allow the identity of the park to unfold gradually through exploration of its sculpture and landscape. Ms. Meyer referred to image 13 of the presentation, showing the text inscriptions proposed for all three benches; she noted that the other two benches would have text concerning the mission of the Peace Corps, which may provide sufficient context if the title text were eliminated.
Mr. Shubow commended the design improvements. He said that of the four alternatives given for the central map, he prefers the simple polar and the Mercator projections. However, the polar projection also has the problem of distorting the land masses; with the three surrounding benches, it would also be very similar to the emblem of the United Nations, which uses a polar projection surrounded by olive branches. He added that the Buckminster Fuller and the Japanese polar projections may be so unfamiliar that they might appear simply as collages of the continents; he said that he therefore favors the Mercator projection. He agreed that the hands of the benches should be more differentiated, observing that they appear more masculine than feminine due to the thickness of their fingers; he encouraged exploring alternatives showing more variation among the hands.
Mr. McCrery asked about the procedure for approval at this point in the process. Secretary Luebke said this proposal is submitted as a revised concept design; approval would indicate that the general idea is right, and the pieces are largely right in general character and material, although certain details require further development. He observed that none of the Commission’s comments suggest the design has conceptual problems; it could be approved as a full concept now, with the understanding that a subsequent submission would address such issues as the modeling of the hands, the location and details of inscriptions, and the selection and delineation of a map projection. He noted that memorial designs typically have interim presentations as part of their design development.
Mr. Krieger offered a motion to approve the revised concept design with the request for consideration of the Commission’s suggestions for particular elements, such as the articulation of hands, the map projection, and the differentiation of the tree canopy. Upon a second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission adopted this action.
2. CFA 17/SEP/20-2, National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial. West Potomac Park at the southwest corner of 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue, NW. Design for new memorial. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 21/NOV/19-1) Secretary Luebke introduced the submission from the National Park Service, on behalf of the National Desert Storm Memorial Association (NDSMA), a revised concept design for the National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial. He said that this project was last reviewed in November 2019, when the Commission gave the design a general concept approval with recommendations for further development of its thematic elements and details. The Commission found that the design lacked a clear expression of the location in Kuwait and had requested redesign of the Transformation Wall (previously called the Pivot Wall) and reconsideration of the nature of the central element. There was also much discussion of the freestanding sculpture group of four soldiers, depicted somewhat informally as smiling and waving; the Commission members had suggested that these should be redesigned or eliminated. He said that the current revised concept design has substantially the same layout, with crescent-shaped berms based on the shape of a barchan dune as the fundamental feature. The Storm Wall represents the desert battle, with quotations along with sculptures of a bald eagle and a falcon flying off the top of the wall. The Transformation Wall, on the opposite side of the memorial plaza, represents the transformation in the perception of the American military; an additional series of bas-reliefs has been added, and it would have a quotation from President George H.W. Bush and additional bas-reliefs, serving as a backdrop for a group of freestanding, realistically rendered soldiers. The central element of the space would be a bronze fountain in a grove of trees; the fountain’s form would resemble an ancient battle shield, and its rim would be inscribed with the names of the 35 countries of the international coalition that fought the war.
Mr. Luebke asked Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation. Mr. May said the length of time since the previous submission of this memorial indicates the amount of effort invested in its design development, and the refinements are responsive to the Commission’s previous comments. He asked Scott Stump, president of the NDSMA, to continue the presentation.
Mr. Stump described the importance of the memorial’s purpose it will commemorate those who served in the battle to liberate Kuwait, and it will honor the successful and unprecedented cooperation of a large international coalition. He said the NDSMA is committed to a collaborative design for this memorial, and it will continue working with all parties to create a special place that will evoke a strong and meaningful experience for veterans of this war. He said the revised concept design responds to guidance from the Commission and its staff as well as other stakeholders and review agencies. The design retains the framework of the original proposal, now focusing on the elements most essential for commemoration; these include artistic features celebrating international cooperation and recognizing the epic scale, harsh conditions, and massive effort of the battle to liberate Kuwait. The memorial will also honor the more than one million men and women who risked their lives and transformed America’s perception of the military.
Mr. Stump said that the design includes three commemorative elements: a fountain, a pair of raptors in flight, and a group of comrades. He noted that the teamwork that had been essential to the war effort will be expressed through imagery depicting teams of soldiers instead of solitary individuals. Addressing one aspect of the Commission’s prior guidance, he said that the project team has considered the question of using figurative sculpture from several perspectives—exploring other locations for this group, other ways of expressing the same idea, and even eliminating the figures entirely—before concluding that the group is vital because the veterans are practical, mission-oriented people who prefer realistic artwork. He said that for centuries, the realistic portrayal of soldiers has been the conventional way to honor military service, and it provides a direct emotional connection that can help healing. Most importantly, a representative group of figures is necessary to ensure that the veterans of Desert Storm will never be forgotten by the American public, as happened with the veterans of the Vietnam War. He asked landscape architect Skip Graffam of OLIN to present the design.
Mr. Graffam presented several images that have provided inspiration, including photographs of the Kuwaiti desert and of barchan dunes. He said the intention is to convey the landscape where the conflict took place, to represent the geopolitical context, and to suggest the transformation in the American perception of the military. The form of the barchan dune inspired the two walls, which will shape the circulation through the memorial to imply the “left hook” battle plan that was critical to the mission’s success. He said the victory transformed the geopolitical sphere and marked the end of the Cold War. The dune dedicated to the theme of the desert storm will suggest the difficult conditions caused by dust- and windstorms faced by the soldiers; the power and dynamism of the conflict will be suggested by a sense of cyclonic rotation around the center, which will be treated as an oasis, a space for quiet reflection in the eye of the storm. The second dune, representing the transformation, will symbolize the outcome of the war and the healing of the persistent psychological wounds caused by the hostility faced by returning Vietnam veterans.
Mr. Graffam described the significance of this site within the context of the National Mall; the site is located near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the State Department, and Constitution Avenue. The new memorial would work with the existing Mall landscape: its new tree plantings would reinforce the allées along roadways, and its topographical forms would create enclosure and direct views outward. A grove of trees toward the center, called the Coalition Grove, would further contribute to shaping views. He indicated the locations for the proposed commemorative sculptures, with two on each of the two walls and one in the center of the space; each sculpture would be slowly revealed as a visitor walks clockwise through the memorial. He said the goal is to create a compact, focused, fully accessible memorial that will preserve most of the existing lawn panel in which it is located. Grading of the site would incorporate the planned extension of the Mall’s flood protection levee within the dune form. The memorial’s central plaza would rise approximately 2.5 feet above the nearby sidewalk grade; the highest point of the walls would be 6.5 feet above grade, and both walls would gradually rise from and then return to ground level. The first, larger berm, the Storm Dune, would represent the war’s international context and the speed and power of the battle that liberated Kuwait; the second, smaller berm, the Transformation Dune, would focus on the personal experience of the veterans.
Mr. Graffam presented the proposed artwork, which includes three freestanding sculptures: Time to Soar, a pair of raptors flying up from the Storm Wall; Sons and Daughters of America, a group of soldiers in front of the Transformation Wall; and the fountain, called the Unity Shield, in the center of the space. The surfaces of the two dune walls facing the plaza would be stone walls textured to suggest the desert landscape; the outer sides of the forms would be covered with turf to merge with the lawn to the south and west. The bas-relief panels by artist Emily Bedard would be integrated with the Storm Wall; as the wall curves, the illustrated action would intensify. The first bas-relief, depicting the air and ground war, would be accompanied by a quotation from General Norman Schwarzkopf’s address to the troops: “My confidence in you is total; our cause is just. Now you must be the thunder and lightning of Desert Storm.” Near the midpoint or “pivot point” of the Storm Wall would be Time to Soar, a dynamic composition of a bald eagle and saker falcon—representing the United States and Kuwait—shown flying together out of the storm, with the eagle turning for home and the falcon remaining in Kuwait as the country enters a new era of independence. A second bas-relief on this wall would illustrate Kuwait’s liberation through scenes of the celebration in Kuwait City. The Transformation Wall would serve as a backdrop for the sculpture group of four figures with a dog, titled the Sons and Daughters of America. This piece would celebrate the service of American troops by representing these four soldiers posing for a “buddy picture” before returning to the U.S., where they will march in the victory parade along Constitution Avenue and return home. The group was inspired by another quotation from Gen. Schwarzkopf: “You should never forget that the airplanes don’t fly, the tanks don’t run, the ships don’t sail unless the sons and daughters of America make them do it.” The four figures represent the all-volunteer force, the different branches of the military, and the role played by men and women, rendered in a realistic fashion to establish an emotional connection with visitors and to balance the more symbolic elements.
Mr. Graffam said that the final element, the Unity Shield, represents the international coalition engaged in liberating Kuwait; occupying the center of the memorial space, it would act as the focus around which the entire memorial flows. A masonry base would support a bronze fountain in the form of an ancient battle shield; the names of the 35 coalition countries would be inscribed around the outer edge of the base. Water flowing over the patterned bronze surface of the shield form would suggest the idea of a still, peaceful oasis; the shield’s surface would be irregularly battered to suggest the damage sustained by a shield in battle. He added that the sound of the water would provide a unifying auditory element.
Chairman Powell thanked the design team for its presentation and opened the discussion to questions. Secretary Luebke asked Mr. Graffam to clarify if other bas-reliefs are proposed for the Transformation Wall. Mr. Graffam said this wall would have two bas-reliefs: to the left of the freestanding sculpture group, the first relief would depict troops returning from the desert; the second bas-relief, to the right of the sculpture group, would depict the homecoming parade. As on the larger Storm Wall, these bas-reliefs are meant to set the context for the larger metal sculptures.
Mr. McCrery asked what material is proposed for the dune walls. Mr. Graffam responded that the walls and paving would be made a buff, sandy-colored stone to evoke the Kuwaiti desert; the paving would have a subtle patterning to suggest swirling storm winds. Mr. McCrery commented that the image of the shield fountain and the four precedent images of ancient shields are compelling, particularly the examples of shields; he said the shield is a particularly appropriate image to represent the ancient battlegrounds of the Middle East, which have been fought over for millennia. He added that although American soldiers no longer carry shields, the image of a shield is appropriate for their military role. He particularly commended the photo of a bronze shield-shaped fountain, observing that the flow of water over such an irregular, patterned metal surface would create varied sounds and effervescence. However, he noted that the proposed design lacks any such variation in patterning and would not create this liveliness in sound and appearance; he recommended redesigning the shield sculpture with an irregular surface pattern.
Mr. McCrery asked if water would flow from the circular area in the center of the shield form. Mr. Graffam responded that this area represents the boss of the shield; water would emerge in a circle from around the boss, which would remain visible when water is flowing, as would the masonry base. Mr. McCrery commented that the design of the boss will be critical to the success of the fountain. He said that the stone base appears too weak to support the apparent heft of the shield and the amount of water that would cascade over it; he urged the design of a much more substantial base. Mr. Graffam said that several designs for the base have been studied; the idea is for the stone ring to represent the outer rim of the shield; the shield itself would appear to be floating as an object above the base. The design has been studied without a base, but there was concern that the shield should read as an object on a base or table. Mr. McCrery agreed that the differing materials make the shield appear to be sitting on a table; he recommended making the fountain, including the base, entirely of bronze. He cited the historic Mellon Fountain, located at the intersection of Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues, just north of the National Gallery of Art’s West Building, as an example of a beautifully designed fountain that is completely bronze. Mr. Graffam agreed this would be powerful.
Ms. Meyer expressed support for the memorial’s overall site plan, materials, palette, and scale. She said she agrees with Mr. McCrery’s comments about the fountain base and shield, and her concerns extend to the other sculptures. She commented that little additional refinement has been made to the sculptures, including the bas-reliefs; more ideas are apparent, but not more refinement, and the designs are much too busy
Ms. Meyer made the general observation that the Storm Wall has been designed to recall the texture of the desert and, through the bas-reliefs, to represent the events that occurred there. However, she said effect seems dreamlike, not horrific; the sand looks like a magical space between events instead of the desert texture in which the events happened. She said that the wall has the wrong character: it looks saccharine and sweet, not like something that would be a memorial to a war or a battle. She commented that the most compelling part of the Storm Wall is the sculptures of the two birds, but the composition does not support the compelling narrative about the falcon now flying on its own. Instead, the falcon appears to be following the eagle; if the eagle is meant to be flying home, it should go on its own and not be followed by the falcon, which should fly in its own direction and not appear dependent. In regard to the Transformation Wall, she said she is not at all convinced by the freestanding statues, a comment that she had given at the previous review. She said that when seen from outside the memorial they would look odd, with their heads popping up above the wall. She emphasized that if the bas-relief sculpture on this wall is good enough, the freestanding figures are unnecessary. She added that Mr. McCrery’s analysis of how to integrate the fountain shield with its base was excellent, and she would restrict her own comments to what she does not find moving or persuasive about the art. She acknowledged that her comments are tough, but the memorial depends on the quality of the artwork, summarizing that using much less sculpture could result in a better memorial; but if the design team is committed to stuffing so much art into a small memorial, then the artwork has to be much better.
Mr. Krieger commented that he thinks the design team has set itself an almost impossible challenge: it is very difficult to combine a comparable quality of abstraction and of reality in the same space. He expressed strong support for Ms. Meyer’s comments that the pieces of the memorial that are more conceptual and abstract work very well, but there are parts that are too realistic, too saccharine, and even almost kitschy. He reiterated that he is not convinced that these elements have been combined successfully.
Mr. McCrery said he completely agrees with the concerns of Ms. Meyer and Mr. Krieger. He said this struggle is a fundamental difficulty of what has become the fashion for memorialization in Washington since the completion of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982; American culture has adopted the Vietnam Memorial model as the proper paradigm for memorializing war. He questioned why a one-off, brilliantly successful memorial cannot be recognized as unique, but instead is now regarded as the standard. He said Mr. Krieger has expressed well that this expectation of abstraction and realism being stuck together has become a fundamental difficulty that every war memorial since the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has had to deal with, and he said that most of them have not dealt with it very well. He added that it has even affected the design of presidential memorials—both the new Eisenhower Memorial by Frank Gehry and the earlier memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt. He said that one of the great problems with the Roosevelt Memorial, which he predicts will be a problem with the Eisenhower Memorial as well, is the custom of visitors lining up to pose with the statues. He said people would be all over the Desert Storm memorial, climbing up the rear of the dune to cavort with the birds, behavior he called entirely inappropriate at a memorial. He emphasized that memorials are built to be contemplated, and precisely because it is not possible to physically engage with the events, we should not be able to physically engage with their memorials.
Mr. McCrery said that he likes the design of the shield fountain because it is both abstract and realistic enough to work as a memorial to Desert Shield. However, he finds the Storm Wall component to be very problematic, and it raises the question of how the sculptors had been selected. Mr. Graffam responded that there was no design competition; instead, selection was based on interviews, portfolios, prior experience with the design of memorials involving veterans, and the artists’ understanding of Desert Storm. He added that the sculptors for the raptors and for the Sons and Daughters of America group are both veterans. Mr. McCrery commented that the artistic quality of the proposed sculpture, including the clay maquettes and the bas-reliefs, is not up to the necessary standard.
Mr. McCrery observed that another favored model for memorial design began with the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, the statue popularly known as the Iwo Jima Memorial, which is located directly across the Potomac River from the site of the Desert Storm memorial. He said that the Marine Corps War Memorial was based on a photograph, and since its completion in the mid-1950s, it has inspired a preference for basing commemorative sculpture on photographs. He called this an incredibly difficult and highly problematic task, further complicated by the expectation that such sculptures will be set at ground level, which invites people to approach them. He noted that the Marine Corps War Memorial avoids this problem by being raised on a podium and by using figures of heroic scale, both of which prohibit approach.
Mr. Stroik thanked the design team for its hard work, and he said he shares the concerns of his colleagues. He said he agreed with Mr. McCrery that it would be a welcome change to see future war memorials that are not composed of walls set partially underground. He said the designers are trying to achieve noble things in this proposal—telling a story, possibly in a new way, and they have given a sophisticated explanation of their ambitions. He said he finds the narrative impressive, but he doubts if every visitor would understand the story. He acknowledged the difficulties of incorporating bas-relief and freestanding sculptures with walls of varying height; he said the wall concept is a concern, and he hopes that future memorials will employ simpler typologies with fewer images.
Mr. Stroik acknowledged that the Commission members have expressed different opinions about how to clarify the memorial; he said that while many good ideas have been presented, they are difficult to connect. He agreed with the concern about placing the figural group at ground level, commenting that to honor veterans appropriately they should appear more heroic and noble. He agreed with Ms. Meyer that it would be disturbing for a visitor approaching the memorial to see these heads emerge above the wall, as if they had been cut off. He suggested placing the figural group on a podium and raising the wall behind as a backdrop, or moving it to another location, perhaps on top of the wall. Expressing strong support for the shield fountain, he said the center of the fountain could be another location to consider for the figural group, which would separate the group from the wall’s narrative; he noted that many great fountains incorporate a central sculpture as a visual focus.
Mr. Graffam responded that many different locations have been considered for the statue group—in the center, on the walls, at the exit, or entirely outside the walls—but he emphasized the intent to represent these figures as everyday heroes, at a life-size scale, supporting the idea that the all-volunteer force was made up of ordinary people that anyone can relate to. He added that their human scale would also keep the statues from interfering with the views. He said the smaller dune wall could perhaps be made higher to act as a backdrop. He also clarified that the illustrated fourteen-inch maquettes of these sculptures, by artist John Nance, were produced quickly to help understand how the group could fit within the composition; they do not indicate the quality of the final work. Secretary Luebke noted that if the maquettes do not reflect their final appearance, it is difficult for the Commission to evaluate them, adding that even a fourteen-inch maquette can be beautifully detailed.
Mr. McCrery said the central question of a memorial remains: Who is being memorialized? In this design, the answer is not clear. Since antiquity, in eras when memorials have been an important form of public art, they have been built to honor the dead—either soldiers who died in battle or the victims of tragic accidents—while the survivors were not so honored. He strongly supports the idea of a memorial to Desert Storm and Desert Shield, and he expressed admiration for the erudite presentation, but he reiterated that the central question of the memorial remains that it appears to be a memorial to the survivors and not to the men and women who gave their lives, even though they are the heroes. He asked the design team to consider this.
Mr. Krieger agreed with Mr. McCrery about the need to determine what this memorial will commemorate—the American soldier, the international coalition, or the change in public perception of the American military. He commented that it seems to want to do all three, in which case this design does not work. He said that if the memorial commemorates the coalition, it would not represent four American soldiers in the middle of the fountain; conversely, if the memorial commemorates the American soldier, the coalition would be secondary; and the design would be different if it is intended to honor the change in the public perception of the military. He added that another question still requiring deliberation is the design’s overlap of abstraction and representation.
Ms. Meyer agreed, summarizing that because the narrative is confused, the proposed design is too complicated; Mr. Krieger identified this issue as being whether the subject is the coalition or the American soldier, and Mr. McCrery identified it as whether the subject is those who sacrificed their lives or those who served with honor and survived. Ms. Meyer said the Commission has been discussing this design and these issues for years, and has consistently said that the narrative is complicated and confusing. She reiterated that the intent could be achieved with the bas-reliefs and the dune-shaped walls, and that the group of four soldiers is completely unnecessary; eliminating this group would make an enormous difference. She said that the design team has created a wonderful context for this memorial, predicated on the abstraction of the Kuwaiti landscape as a site; but the proposal confuses that brilliant idea through the addition of these extraneous pieces.
Mr. Stump said that because some members are new to the Commission, he wants to make clear the challenge that Desert Storm was not like most military conflicts—it was a very short but consequential period of time, and it has several narratives. He said this memorial is trying to commemorate both the coalition and the American service members; it will also include elements commemorating those who died. He emphasized that the NDSMA takes its job seriously and is thinking of how the memorial will appear a century from now. He asked the Commission to consider the message to future generations if it highlights only the deaths of fewer than 400 Americans—would visitors feel compassion? Other nearby war memorials commemorate a much larger number who died. This memorial is trying to tell an uplifting story composed of several different but clearly defined narratives; it is meant to honor the people who sacrificed their lives, and it is also meant to honor the unprecedented international coalition of countries. He said that telling positive stories is the challenge. The Vietnam War was a tragedy, and its memorial is a graveyard; but this conflict was a success, and this memorial is not a graveyard. He emphasized that these questions have been thought through; the design team has been careful and deliberative and did not try to include everything. He summarized that the memorial design presents three intertwined narratives for future generations.
Mr. Shubow agreed with the previous comments that the freestanding sculpture group is the weakest part of the memorial; he said he wants this group to possess emotional content, but it is unclear what it is meant to evoke. If it is simply a group meant to depict camaraderie, he questioned whether this is important enough for a memorial. While acknowledging that the memorial is meant to have a positive narrative, he expressed concern that it would be mundane. He said the portrayal of the two birds looks as if they are engaged in an aerial dogfight, because the birds of two different species are shown as if one is chasing the other. He asked if they could be represented in a way that would avoid this connotation, suggesting that the ideal might be placing them side by side to clarify that they represent allies.
Mr. Krieger suggested bringing the discussion to a conclusion. He reiterated his earlier comment identifying the dilemmas of combining realistic and abstract representations and concepts, and the questions about the intended audience; he said he understands and appreciates the need to have the three narratives overlap, but the Commission members believe the design has not yet achieve this, and so the challenge remains.
Chairman Powell said the Commission members agree that the overall design has evolved and is impressive, but the complicating factor is the freestanding sculptures and the birds. He agreed that the depiction of the two birds resembles a dogfight, and that a different configuration may solve this problem. Secretary Luebke summarized that the Commission members have strongly questioned all of the sculptures, and want the design team to consider either reconceiving the group of four figures or eliminating them altogether, as recommended in the previous review. Mr. Krieger added that the Commission is questioning the interplay between the representational sculptures and the overall configuration. He did not support a recommendation to eliminate all the sculptures, because this would be somewhat detrimental to the idea of conveying multiple narratives; however, the interaction between the very different artistic components needs to be reconsidered. Mr. Powell and Ms. Meyer agreed; Ms. Meyer said the design looks like three different sculptors have been working with one very good landscape architect. Mr. McCrery added that the landscape and sculpture should be integrated; he suggested that changes to the landscape design could improve the sculptures. He said that the Commission could take no action, while requesting that the design team reconsider these issues; this outcome could give the design team enough flexibility to return with another revised concept design. Chairman Powell agreed.
Ms. Meyer asked if the comments are clear enough; Secretary Luebke responded that they are, but he noted that these comments are not substantially different from the Commission’s previous advice: the Commission supports the design of the memorial—the overall landscape, the barchan dune walls, and the configuration of the plaza and fountain—except for the problem of the sculpture and how it can be integrated with the landscape and the walls. Ms. Meyer suggested that the comments could frame the Commission’s focus for future submissions of the concept design. Mr. Krieger noted that the presentation spent far too much time describing things that the Commission already supported; he said that none of this material needs to be covered in the next presentation, which should focus on the walls, the bas-reliefs, the other sculptures, and how they interact with each other. Mr. Stroik expressed support for the remarks of Ms. Meyer; he also requested the submission of options showing precedents for works that successfully integrate sculpture, architecture, and landscape architecture.
Chairman Powell summarized the Commission’s opinion that the landscape is elegant but the sculpture remains a problem, with no action to be taken. He thanked the design team for the presentation and the members of the Commission for their comments.
3. CFA 17/SEP/20-3, Korean War Veterans Memorial, West Potomac Park, French Drive and Independence Avenue, SW (southeast of the Lincoln Memorial). Modifications to the memorial for a Wall of Remembrance—Name panels graphics and text. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/APR/20-1 and CFA 21/MAY/20-j) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
C. U.S. Department of Agriculture
CFA 17/SEP/20-4, U.S. National Arboretum, 3501 New York Avenue, NE. Renovation of and additions to the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum and Garden. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the concept design for improvements to the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum and Garden, located on the campus of the National Arboretum. He said that in the July 2020 meeting, the Commission had approved the update to the Arboretum’s master plan, which included the renovation of the museum and garden that is now proposed. He noted that many of the museum’s buildings are deteriorated beyond repair. He said the design team of Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architecture and Trahan Architects proposes to renovate and rebuild the museum’s exhibition pavilions to the level of quality shown in the Japanese bonsai pavilion from the mid-1970s. The design combines new construction with renovation of the existing structures, reconfigured around a new central courtyard; the primary organizational concept is the idea of a field uniting the site, realized as a continuous grove of trees interrupted by spaces created within it and by a shared architectural vocabulary. He asked Richard T. Olsen, director of the National Arboretum, to begin the presentation.
Dr. Olsen said that the Bonsai Museum began in 1976, when the people of Japan gave the United States 53 bonsai in honor of the American Bicentennial, making it the first public museum in the world dedicated to the art and horticulture of bonsai. The museum has since grown through targeted acquisitions, donations, and fundraising through the National Bonsai Foundation; it now includes penjing, the Chinese equivalent of bonsai, and a comprehensive collection of other bonsai, including from North America. He expressed the expectation that this design will elevate the museum to the status that it deserves as an international cultural resource, and he introduced landscape architects Doug Reed and Joseph James of Reed Hilderbrand to present the design.
Mr. Reed said that this new garden experience will be consistent with the vision of the National Arboretum. He indicated the location of the museum within the Arboretum’s administrative core area that was identified in the master plan. He noted the complex of administration buildings along the north and west edges, the walk lined by cryptomeria that will lead to the entrance gates, and the Japanese Pavilion or Japanese Exhibit. He said that the museum’s program has grown since its founding without the benefit of a master plan, and as a result some important design relationships no longer work. One of the major difficulties is creating universal accessibility on a site that has a grade change of fourteen feet. In the past, the solution has been to terrace the land, which in itself makes accessibility difficult; such issues are resolved in the proposal. The intention is to bring clarity to the visitor experience by providing a well-defined circulation sequence, with clear entrances and exits. He asked landscape architect Joseph James to present the design.
Mr. James described the existing conditions of the museum complex, which is grouped around an outdoor courtyard. Adjoining the courtyard to the north and west are an enclosed museum support building and an exhibition gallery. Several unenclosed exhibition pavilions are also grouped around the courtyard: the Japanese Pavilion to the southwest; the North American pavilion directly south of courtyard; and the recent Chinese Pavilion to the north.
Mr. James said that the entire museum has been reconceived as a garden for the display of bonsai, penjing, and viewing stones. He enumerated the six design principles guiding the design:
o provide clear points of entrance into the museum complex:
o retain the existing entrance as the primary entrance;
o develop the central courtyard to unify the complex and to help with wayfinding;
o create a clear entrance into each exhibition area from the courtyard;
o develop an entrance to the garden exhibition that will prepare visitors for the experience of bonsai;
o develop a clear circulation route inside the exhibition pavilions; and
o separate and clarify entrances and exits in the different exhibition pavilions.
Mr. James described the new design as centered on the open courtyard; the grade change across the site would be accommodated by level terraces supported by a series of walls on the north and east sides. The primary entrance is meant to prepare visitors for the experience of bonsai; the approach to the entrance through the grove of cryptomeria takes its inspiration from the Japanese Stroll Garden that leads to the renovated Japanese Pavilion. In addition to the primary entrance, a new, secondary entrance would be located further down the promenade. A lush garden featuring a continuous field of understory trees would unify the complex and provide modulated experiences of shade and light for a visitor moving among the different exhibition pavilions; these trees would be chosen for their size and the characteristics of their trunks and may include gray birch, ironwood, sweetbay magnolia, and amelanchier. The pavilions would occupy open spaces carved out from this grove. The ground plane is envisioned as a tapestry of low evergreen plants with varied textures and shades of green, chosen to reflect the cultural association of each pavilion. He said that the vegetation and shade would create a comfortable environment for visitors as well as a cooler microclimate for the bonsai and penjing. Paths would delineate a spatial frame around the courtyard; new paths leading to the pavilions would be made of a different material from the existing paths.
Mr. James said the redesign would minimize the presence of the two support buildings at the north and west; however, because there will be additional public programming, the support area would be expanded to the north in order to include larger facilities such as workspaces, classrooms, and spaces for event preparation. A small secondary courtyard situated between the Chinese pavilion and the support area would serve as a forecourt to the gallery and an open-air setting for bonsai demonstrations. He said the reorganization would take advantage of views to the arboretum’s adjacent landscape, highlighting such features as the wooded ravine of Hickey Run and the Capitol Columns. He indicated the view that would allow visitors to see the connection between a bonsai beech tree within the collection and an American beech growing in the ravine.
Trey Trahan of Trahan Architects described the principles guiding the design of the exhibition pavilions. Emphasis would be on the garden rather than the buildings, and each pavilion would reflect the culture of its exhibits. While there would be a clear circulation route through the complex, spaces would be configured to suggest mystery and nuance, with apertures created to reveal glimpses of the broader landscape of the arboretum. The special horticultural needs of bonsai and penjing would be met through the creation of suitable microclimates; the garden and outdoor exhibitions would also address the environmental issues raised by the Covid-19 health emergency.
Mr. Trahan said that the new structures would be made of durable materials that patinate over time; the design will establish a rhythm that relates to the history and aging of the bonsai. He described the four components of the pavilions: walls treated as backdrops to plant specimens; columns or posts; overhead structures to support a protective covering of the bonsai and penjing exhibits in cold weather; and floating display stands to support these plants. Benches would be placed along the north side of the courtyard. Where the route moves from courtyard to paths, thresholds would serve as places to pause within the journey through the complex. He presented a series of views along the circulation route and indicated the first threshold that would be encountered at the east side of the central courtyard. Visitors approaching the Chinese Pavilion on the north would move toward a blank wall that suggests a sense of mystery. Moving through the pavilion, visitors would come to understand its orientation and relation to the central courtyard. He said that the Chinese Pavilion north is designed to recall ancient Chinese architecture; it would be framed by twelve-foot-high floating walls beneath a fourteen-foot-high overhead structure. Each surface of the floating walls would have a unique appearance resulting from the process of preparing and pouring its concrete, adding visual nuance. Slight apertures would be created by offsetting the alignment of the supporting posts. Exiting on its north, facing the classroom and service building, visitors would find themselves in the secondary courtyard, from which they can either enter the new International Pavilion to the west or return to the central courtyard on the south. The International Pavilion would have the same structural system as the other pavilions but would be glazed and covered with a roof for climate control. To the southeast, visitors could enter the North American Pavilion, following a meandering route through the structure; this pavilion’s serrated south edge would frame views out into the arboretum. He concluded the presentation with photographs of a three-dimensional model of the new museum complex with its garden.
Mr. McCrery asked if there are plans to expand the existing Japanese bonsai collection; Dr. Olsen responded that the Japanese collection will probably not grow as much as the North American collection because of restrictive import rules for large bonsai.
Mr. McCrery commented favorably on the use of steel for the supporting posts in the pavilions, and he asked if using steel plate in the wall systems had been considered. Mr. Trahan responded that the introduction of steel plate into the design of the floating walls may depend on how distinct and nuanced each pavilion’s design becomes as the project is developed. Mr. McCrery noted the poetic quality of steel, especially as it weathers, which may make steel plate an appropriate material for walls in certain places. Mr. Trahan agreed that weathered steel can be beautiful; he added that the thickness of steel, achieved through rolling and heating, affects the way the material ages and patinates. He said that a wall could be designed with steel plate on its top edge, allowing water to sit on this edge before it meanders down the wall’s face.
Ms. Meyer expressed strong enthusiasm for the plans to rejuvenate the bonsai museum, noting that when she last visited years ago it was already very dilapidated. She emphasized her appreciation for the clarity of the spatial sequence embodied in the new site plan, and for the coherent sequence formed by the courtyards, gardens, building thresholds, and building rooms. She said that the Commission rarely sees a design reflecting such close collaboration among the design disciplines, and she expressed her appreciation for this teamwork. She said it will be amazing to see the “surreal juxtaposition” of the tiny plants in relation to large specimens of the same species growing in the arboretum grounds; she called it a fantastic idea and encouraged incorporated it further, especially within the North American collection.
Ms. Meyer cautioned that the paramount consideration in the selection of materials must be the creation of an appropriate and carefully controlled microclimate to meet the finicky needs of bonsai, particularly in Washington’s hot and sunny climate. She expressed support for the intention to create variety in the wall sections but said this should always remain secondary to the creation of a suitable habitat for the plants. Mr. Reed responded that the existing Japanese Pavilion has provided the prototype for the new design, and has also provided valuable lessons since its recent renovation. For example, the replacement of forty percent of the pavement with groundcover plants and the creation of openings in the walls for ventilation have resulted in a huge cooling effect for the pavilion; these features will be incorporated into the proposed pavilions. Mr. James added that the introduction of a cooling irrigation mist in the Japanese garden has also been very beneficial and would be used throughout the new exhibitions.
Mr. Krieger asked if this submission is considered a master plan; Secretary Luebke clarified that it is a concept proposal for a specific project, not a master plan. Mr. Krieger commended the design team for the excellent presentation, commenting that all of the drawings support the ideas described. However, given the minimalist design approach, he stressed that the project’s success will entirely depend on the detailing of each element and material comprising the minimalist palette. He suggested that the Commission should request the submission of design details as they are developed, including landscape elements as well as architecture. Mr. McCrery offered a motion to approve the concept design for the buildings and outdoor areas, with the request for a design development submission prior to review of the final design. Upon a second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted this action. Ms. Meyer thanked the design team for an excellent presentation.
D. U.S. General Services Administration
1. CFA 17/SEP/20-5, St. Elizabeths West Campus (Department of Homeland Security), 2701 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE. Master Plan Amendment 2 for the Department of Homeland Security Headquarters Consolidation. Final. (Previous: CFA 17/OCT/19-7) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
2. CFA 17/SEP/20-6, New Executive Office Building, 726 Jackson Place, NW (on Lafayette Park). Alterations to east entrance and courtyard. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/APR/20-2) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
E. D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
1. CFA 17/SEP/20-7, McMillan Community Center, North Capitol Street and Channing Street, NW. New community and recreation center. Final. (Previous: CFA 18/JUN/20-6) Secretary Luebke introduced the final design submission for a new community center building on the southern portion of the historic McMillan Sand Filtration Site. He said that the Commission reviewed the project and approved the final landscape design at its June 2020 meeting, delegating to staff the resolution of several details; however, the Commission did not take an action on the building design, requesting more documentation of the exterior material palette and shade structures, as well as additional study of the potential to have more than one building entrance. He noted that the project is part of a larger redevelopment of the McMillan Sand Filtration Site, which was transferred from the federal government to the District in the 1980s. He noted that there has been continuing public controversy regarding the redevelopment, and several public comments have been submitted to the Commission regarding this project, but he emphasized that the role of the Commission is to provide advice on the proposed design, not to adjudicate other controversies involving the larger redevelopment. He introduced Gilles Stucker, Director of Strategic Initiatives at the D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, who asked Tom Jester of Quinn Evans Architects to present the design.
Mr. Jester said that the presentation would address the Commission’s comments from its previous review and include additional drawings and renderings documenting the material palette, projecting shade structure, and how the new construction would meet historic Filter Cell 28. He noted that the Commission had also expressed concern about the character of the building entrance at the South Service Court. He presented an earlier iteration of the project, which was designed by Perkins Eastman and approved by the D.C. Zoning Commission and the Mayor’s Agent for Historic Preservation as a planned unit development; the Commission of Fine Arts had approved this public part of the development, a park and recreation center, as a concept submission in September 2016. He said that a large mixed-use development is proposed for the northern part of the McMillan Sand Filtration Site, but the community center complex includes only the currently submitted building and the associated park development on Parcel 6, at the southern end. He presented a context map for the project, noting that it is bordered closely by the McMillan Reservoir to the west, and the Stronghold neighborhood and Glenwood Cemetery to the east. The South Service Court would provide vehicular access and drop-off to the community center entrance; pedestrians would likely come from the established neighborhoods nearby and the new development to the north. The site design includes a large public plaza to the southeast of the community center building, one level below the South Service Court; pedestrian access from the public space to the building entrance at the north would be provided by several stair and ramp routes.
Mr. Jester indicated on a rendering how the glass-walled building would be set back from the South Service Court and its historic masonry site wall. An entrance vestibule would project fourteen feet forward from the facade, approximately half the depth of the building’s setback; a small paved patio area would be located outside the entrance in the setback area. He presented the building plans, noting that they are largely unchanged from the review in June 2020; he indicated program areas such as the multipurpose room that would open to the west onto an outdoor plaza adjacent to a playground. The design includes numerous egress and service access points, but only the single entrance on the upper level. He acknowledged that the Commission had requested that the project team study the inclusion of multiple building entrances, supplementing the single entrance on the upper level; however, the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), the agency that will operate the community center, continues to request only a single entrance to facilitate security and check-in at the building. He said that the project team has studied adding a lower-level entrance at the public plaza, but this approach was deemed infeasible based on operational and budget considerations; however, DPR has agreed to evaluate the use of a temporary kiosk allowing entry at the lower level during peak times and special occasions. He said that the egress door on the south side of the lower level could be opened for use as a building entrance during peak times
Mr. Jester presented elevation drawings and perspective renderings of the building. He indicated the extensive glazing on the east side of the building, which contains the double-height space for the pool. On the building’s south side, a footbridge would provide an egress route from the building’s upper level to a large lawn above the historic filter cells; the bridge would span above the plaza level and the stairs and ramp connecting the plaza to the upper park level. He indicated on the west facade the doors of the multipurpose room that would open onto a terrace adjacent to the playground. He then presented section drawings illustrating how the structural truss system relates to the interior bays, how the historic grid is expressed in the building interior, and the entrance vestibule’s relationship with the South Service Court wall and portal. He indicated on a roof plan the proposed green roof that would be planted with a variety of sedum; this design would provide visual continuity between the planted roof and the park.
Mr. Jester presented details of the projecting shade structure in response to the Commission’s request for additional documentation of this building element. The shade structure would be aluminum supported by steel outriggers projecting from tapered steel columns; it would be finished in a bone white color. The exterior columns would be set fourteen feet on center, consistent with the structural grid of the historic filtration cells; light gray fiber-cement panels would be installed on the parapet above the shade structure. He indicated on an axonometric drawing the lateral bracing system of steel cables, steel tubes, and outriggers that would support the aluminum shading elements, which would be set 1’-4” on center. He noted that the shade structure would be shallower on the north facade, which would have less sun exposure.
Mr. Jester presented additional information on the material palette. The aluminum curtainwall system would have the same bone-white color as the shade structure; the glazing would be a combination of vision glass and opaque spandrel panels with a sandblasted finish, giving them a milky white appearance that would blend in with the overall color palette of the building. Various metals would be used for site elements, such as stainless steel for the railings. He presented drawings illustrating how the new interventions would meet historic Filter Cell 28, which is being exposed and preserved; a wire mesh system would allow for views into the cell while restricting public access. He said that a final design related to Filter Cell 28 still cannot be confirmed until geotechnical investigations are complete. He concluded by stating that he believes that the new community center and associated landscape have been carefully sited and detailed to blend harmoniously into the historic and urban context, and that the new facility would be an important resource for the community.
Ms. Griffin expressed appreciation for the additional information provided in the presentation, particularly documentation of the interface between the building and landscape. She commented that it appears a great deal of care has been taken in the relationship between the historic filter cell and the new architecture on the south side of the building. She questioned the solid appearance of the building entrance vestibule on the north and its close proximity to the historic brick wall and portal; she asked for a rationale for its dense appearance given this location. Mr. Jester responded that a vestibule is required, but the design’s adherence to the historic filter cell grid as an organizing element may be too strict; he suggested that the projection of the vestibule could be less than the full fourteen-foot module of the grid, providing more space between the new entrance and historic portal. Ms. Griffin said she supports the direction of the design, but advised further refinements of the entry sequence and vestibule design to ensure that they take full advantage of the entry experience provided by the retention of the historic portal. Secretary Luebke said that the staff has expressed similar concerns regarding the heavy appearance of the entrance, and agreed that the vestibule could be shortened or even placed inside the building volume.
Mr. McCrery commented that this design does help differentiate the entrance from the rest of the building, which has a more neutral appearance. Mr. Krieger agreed with Mr. McCrery, commenting that a typical building would have a transparent entrance set against the more opaque field of the facades; it therefore makes sense with this glass-walled building to give the entrance a more solid appearance, and he characterized the design as a clever solution. He added that it also makes sense to give the entrance a more solid appearance in relation to the historic wall and portal. He described the building architecture as elegant, and he said that he would support approval of the final design. However, he questioned whether the shade structure would be able to provide adequate solar protection and a comfortable interior temperature without additional window shades or curtains. Mr. Jester said that the depth of the shade structure projection would be related to the sun exposure of the adjoining facade; specialized glazing could also help control solar heat gain.
Recalling the previous review, Mr. McCrery said that the Commission members, particularly he and Ms. Griffin, had expressed strong concern about the building having only a single entrance, and he expressed regret that additional entrances are not included in the current proposal; he continued to question whether other buildings with such extensive perimeter exposures on two levels would have only one entrance. He said that the egress door on the south side of the building’s upper level, adjacent to the footbridge leading from the park to the building, would be extremely frustrating to visitors, who would think that this door could be used for entry into the building. For example, if people momentarily exit the building through the multipurpose room to enjoy the footbridge, they would find that they would not be able to get back into the building unless they walked the long distance back to the entrance on the north side. Mr. Stucker responded that this issue has been studied over several years, and a staffed desk would be required at each entrance. Mr. McCrery said he understands the issue, but nonetheless the building as proposed would frustrate visitors, and he asked if people would be able to reenter the building if exiting through the multipurpose room to the terrace; Mr. Stucker said that this would be possible only in select circumstances. Mr. McCrery expressed disappointment that the design does not respond to the Commission’s previous advice to include a lower-level entrance adjacent to the public plaza. Mr. Stucker said that his office has worked with DPR at length in trying to solve this issue; the proposal is that instead of physically altering the building, temporary kiosks or other methods could allow for visitors to enter through the egress doors to meet demand during peak times. Mr. McCrery said that this is an unpersuasive response; he reiterated that the intended enjoyment of the site and building as shown in the perspective renderings would not be possible, since visitors would have to traverse multiple sets of ramps and staircases to enter or reenter the building at the single upper-level entrance. Mr. Krieger added that these visitors would also have to pass multiple egress-only doors on their way to the entrance.
Mr. McCrery cited the design of the multipurpose room and the adjoining terrace as indicating a continuity of space between the indoor and outdoor spaces, but in reality, this would not be possible since the doors are exit-only. He said that the large and beautifully arranged park is undoubtedly engaged by the building, but the architecture’s promise of engagement and connectivity, as suggested by the facade transparency, cannot be realized because of the lack of entrances. This would result in an unintended isolation of the park, making it feel separate from the rest of the facility. He expressed appreciation that additional details of the architecture were presented, but he said that there does not appear to have been a real consideration of refining the design based on the Commission’s previous advice.
Mr. Jester said that the community center is comprised of the park that people can enjoy for recreation and respite, and the building itself, which connects and relates to various parts of the site and is a part of the activities that occur there. He acknowledged that integrating and connecting the community center with this historic and topographically complex site is difficult, and it would be particularly challenging for DPR to operate a facility with multiple doors on multiple levels. Mr. McCrery emphasized that the building does not appear to be integrated with the site, having only one entrance. Questioning the effort to minimize staffing, he suggested that DPR will need an additional staff member at the entrance to field community members’ complaints about the building having only one entrance. He reiterated that the architecture appears inviting from many vantage points, but once people approach the building they will be frustrated to find that they are unable to enter. He said that the footbridge would be a real draw for visitors, and people could reasonably expect that it would lead to a building entrance, but it ends at an egress-only door.
Mr. Stroik expressed disappointment that the design has not been further developed to solve the issues that have been raised. Regarding the overall site, he commented that the namesake of the reservoir and park, Senator James McMillan, is an important figure in the history of planning and architecture, along with the original designer of the sand filtration landscape, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. He said that he would have expected to see in the design a stronger connection to these two figures, particularly McMillan; the building and its poor connection to the site is not helping. He said that this is an amazing site that he remembers from his childhood in Washington, recalling the filtration towers as wonderful monuments of concrete that predated Louis Kahn’s work with the material; he also cited the brick buildings and the ivy covering the towers during that time as features that made the site attractive. While acknowledging that the Commission has supported the site plan in previous reviews, he suggested that the building may be located in the wrong place and could be moved to the area by the grand entrance, close to North Capitol Street but still within the park, which might be a more suitable location for a building with only one entrance.
Ms. Meyer said that Mr. Stroik has raised an interesting point, but she emphasized that the building location had been approved several years ago at the conceptual level. Secretary Luebke confirmed that the building location and site plan had been part of the concept approval in September 2016, and the Commission approved the revised site plan as a final design in June 2020; he added that the project is currently submitted as a final design, not for conceptual review.
Mr. Stroik said that he had not been previously aware of the neighborhood’s concerns regarding the project, which he considers valid; two-thirds of the amazing McMillan Sand Filtration Site is being given over to a fairly large and dense development. He suggested that at least one-third of the site should be conserved as dedicated parkland, with the community center building moved to a different location, perhaps into the planned mixed-use development area to the north. He reiterated that he believes the public outcry to be valid, considering that they are losing a substantial amount of green space, and that this amazing amenity named after McMillan should be respected, with one-third as parkland and with the building architecture reflecting McMillan’s legacy. He emphasized that a different location for the community center building should be considered out of respect for McMillan, Olmsted, and the neighborhood.
Mr. Stucker expressed appreciation for Mr. Stroik’s comments. He said that he has been working for several years with the community, its elected officials, and civic groups to address their concerns related to the McMillan Sand Filtration Site. The project attracted a substantial amount of litigation, which has largely been resolved. He said that one of the biggest community concerns was that the entire development would be privately constructed and operated. Based on these comments, the District ensured that the southern third of the site would be a public development—the project currently before the Commission. He said that this apportionment was well received by the community, which is happy that this will be a publicly available and accessible asset owned and operated by the District. Many of the other community concerns are being addressed through the appropriate forum of the courts. Mr. Stroik acknowledged that he may be interpreting the community comments through his own lens, but he suggested that there may by ways to ameliorate the concerns through design. He said that providing additional access to the building would be a clear way to help the park be more successful. He reiterated his preference that the architecture relate to the existing historic elements on the site, such as the concrete cylinders and brick buildings. He described the project as a missed opportunity to create an amazing work of art in the style of Olmsted or McMillan; instead, the park is divided into bits and pieces.
Secretary Luebke noted that the Commission has received written comments from several members of the public regarding the larger project to develop the McMillan Sand Filtration Site; these comments were forwarded to the members for their review before the meeting. Chairman Powell suggested that based on the direction of the Commission’s discussion, a summary of the comments would be appropriate at this time. Mr. Luebke said that the first comment is from a nearby resident, Joyce Paul, who writes that she is concerned about the scale of the development, that too much development is proposed for the site, and that the site should be like Meridian Hill Park with trees and space for families to enjoy; instead, it will be built on by developers who will become billionaires off of public land. Mr. Luebke said that the next comment is from Sarah Kate Jorgensen, who writes that the minimally sized park and so-called community center are not what are needed; she asks instead that the site be developed into a full park in the mode of Olmsted’s original intent. She also expresses concern that the development process has not been following the law. Mr. Luebke said that the final letter is submitted by Chris Otten on behalf of the Save McMillan Action Coalition. The letter comments generally that the process has been flawed and that the entire McMillan Sand Filtration Site development proposal should have been reviewed by the Commission. The letter asks that the Commission postpone any further decisions and requests that the staff consider these contested concerns about design review for the property as a whole. The letter also asks the Commission members to request that the staff coordinate with the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development to explain in writing how federally assigned historic preservation covenants are relevant to the Commission’s review and to the overall McMillan Town Center Project. It states that anything short of postponement is an injustice to the very man who mandated the creation of both McMillan Park and the Commission.
Secretary Luebke said there does not seem to be a particular regulation that requires the Commission to review the development project; the Commission advises the D.C. Government on the designs of projects that it submits. He said that there have been agreements to develop the property to which the Commission is not a party, and the District has not forwarded these developments to the Commission for review. He added that the staff does not usually provide comments on projects that are not expected to be submitted to the Commission for review. While acknowledging that there may be a larger administrative issue, he said that the Commission is not a body where such issues are adjudicated; instead, this concern is a matter between citizens and the District. He noted that the larger redevelopment project has been the focus of controversy for many years, while the Commission’s involvement has been limited to the southern third of the larger site. He added that the proposed eight-acre park for the community center is relatively large. The community center is the project before the Commission, and its site plan and landscape have already been approved; the issue for the Commission today is a final design review for the building architecture. Chairman Powell agreed that the design of the project is the matter at hand for the Commission, not the legal issues, and the members need to decide if they would like to approve the project with or without modifications.
Mr. McCrery made a motion to reject the architectural design of the building, citing its unresponsiveness to the approved landscape in which it is situated and the project team’s failure to respond to the Commission’s comments from the previous review. Mr. Stucker asked if the concerns regarding ingress are for both the lower and upper levels; Mr. McCrery responded that the concerns are related to ingress at all levels and exposures of the building. Mr. Stucker said that the easiest place to incorporate a second entrance would be on the south side of the upper level at the egress door to the footbridge, where there are no obstructions from mechanical spaces and which is within the sightline of the main entrance and reception desk on the north side. Mr. McCrery said that this observation could have been offered prior to his motion, and he reiterated his motion not to approve the final building design.
Ms. Meyer requested that Mr. Stucker indicate location of this potential new entrance; Chairman Powell agreed. Secretary Luebke asked Mr. McCrery if the motion could be reframed as an approval that is conditional on an entrance revision that accommodates his concern. Mr. McCrery said he is willing to accept an amendment to his motion related to the issue of ingress and egress; he asked about additional ingress on the lower level. Mr. Jester said that the configuration of the swimming pool and mechanical spaces on this level, which has been approved by multiple review agencies, would make it challenging to have an ingress door in this area. He suggested that a temporary kiosk could be used during peak times to allow ingress while still retaining the presented design. Mr. McCrery asked about additional ingress on the upper level at the multipurpose room. Mr. Jester said that the currently proposed egress doors for this room are intended to be opened during special community events requiring both indoor and outdoor access; he noted the concern that these doors are connected to a specific room, rather than to a public lobby area where DPR staff would be able to monitor an entrance.
Chairman Powell suggested that the Commission does not have a consensus to approve the final design, observing that the discussion seems to be centered on a concept-level issue of building entrances and exits; he suggested that the project team consider this issue further and then return with a revised submission. Mr. McCrery agreed and offered to withdraw his motion if the Commission is willing to accept Chairman Powell’s suggestion, but not if it were supplanted with a motion to approve the design. Mr. Krieger said that not approving the design would be terrible for the project, and he said that he would vote no on Mr. McCrery’s motion. Ms. Meyer suggested that the Commission vote on Mr. McCrery’s motion; Chairman Powell agreed. Chairman Powell requested a second to the motion; Mr. Stroik seconded the motion. The motion failed to win a majority vote.
Mr. Krieger said that he would like to provide additional comments that may lead to a second motion. He observed that the discussion has been very confusing; the proposed park is rather large, and the community opposition relates to issues outside the scope of what is before the Commission for review today. He said that if the scope of the project is changed to incorporate more of the larger site, the Commission would gladly review the revised project. However, the Commission must deal with the project as presented. He commented that the park design is lovely, the building architecture is exquisite, and the range of amenities provided to the community is exceptional. He said he would welcome a second entrance, but there would be no way to include several more entrances to the building, and in fact few such facilities operate that way. He said many buildings have a single entrance, and the conundrum must be acknowledged between the logistics of managing such a facility and the desirability of having more than one entrance. He added that changing the architectural style to make the facades more opaque would not be a good solution. He noted that the building is a community center that would have repeat visitors from the neighborhood; the users would presumably learn where the entrance is after perhaps struggling at their first visit. He said that the proposed use of the egress doors at the multipurpose room for ingress during special events makes sense, but a major entrance for everyday use should not be located there. He said that the biggest oversight may be that the footbridge leads to a locked egress door, and he supported approving the project if this door were made operational for both ingress and egress.
Mr. McCrery clarified that while he generally objects to the building’s architectural style, he has not made this a topic of his own discussion; rather, the utility of the building and its lack of access from the park has been the focus of his comments. He offered a motion to approve the final design of the building, contingent upon the addition of an open, continuously operating entrance at the footbridge on the south side of the building’s upper level; upon a second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission adopted this action. Secretary Luebke noted that the staff is continuing to work with the project team to resolve the issues the Commission raised in its delegated final approval of the landscape design.
2. CFA 17/SEP/20-8, Parcel 17, St. Elizabeths East Campus, 1201 Alabama Avenue, SE (at 12th Street). New six-story office building with occupiable penthouse. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 21/MAY/20-4) Secretary Luebke introduced the revised concept design for an office building and adjacent landscape on Parcel 17 of the historic St. Elizabeths East Campus. He noted that the Commission had approved the concept design at its May 2020 meeting and provided comments regarding the development of the building facades. The Commission had questioned the use of green terracotta as the primary cladding material, observing that this color is used only as a building trim element on the historic campus; the Commission had also supported the proposed mid-block park and requested the addition of shade trees along Alabama Avenue. He said that the development plan for Parcel 17 has now been reconfigured: the site for the currently proposed office building remains at the western end of the block, but the two planned office buildings to the east have now been consolidated into one future development site on the eastern end of the block, resulting in a larger size for the mid-block park between the building sites. This substantial change has resulted in the loading docks and parking garage entrances for both buildings being located on their facades that front the new park.
Ms. Meyer said that the landscape concept is fairly clear from the submitted drawings. She said that her concern is the presence of vehicular service access on the east and west sides of the mid-block park; this park would be an important public space, and therefore the design should ensure that people feel comfortable using it. She observed that the area appears very open, and people’s comfort would depend on feeling protected from vehicular traffic accessing the garages and service bays. She said that the character could possibly be resolved if the central lawn space were given appropriate edges to provide sound abatement and spatial enclosure between it and the wide service drives
Mr. Stroik expressed appreciation for the new design, and he agreed with Ms. Meyer regarding the importance of the park as a public amenity. He asked if the design team has explored having garage and service access at only one building and connecting them underground instead of having access at both buildings. Michael Winstanley of Winstanley Architects & Planners responded that the previous development plan for Parcel 17 had envisioned a single-level underground parking structure that extended beneath each building, but the current development plan calls for separate below-grade parking structures that cannot be connected.
Secretary Luebke suggested that landscape architect Jeff Lee of Lee and Associates briefly describe the changes to the landscape design. Mr. Lee said that the initially proposed 9,000-square-foot open space had been expanded to 27,000 square feet—allowing for the creation of a significant green space of approximately 13,000 square feet to benefit the neighborhood and the St. Elizabeths campus. He indicated a lawn area approximately 100 feet wide that would be ringed with planted areas and a wide, U-shaped paved area for vehicular access and pedestrians. The lawn’s east and west sides would be edged with planting strips and single rows of trees, with a double row of trees at the north planted within the lawn; benches would be located on paving that surrounds the lawn. He said that these elements would mitigate the effects of the garage and loading dock portals, which would be used only intermittently; the service bay doors would be closed when not in use.
Mr. Lee said that the design allows for the park to be programmed for different uses; while it would have fixed furniture, there would also be outdoor retail seating adjacent to the commercial storefronts. The lawn area would accommodate activities such as picnicking, movie screenings, concerts, or other gatherings, as well as seasonal structures such as an ice-skating rink and tents for festivals or markets. The surrounding paved drives could host food trucks, and the southern paved area could be closed to vehicular traffic to create a larger pedestrian space. He said that the selected tree species include elm, oak, and honey locust. The ground plane material palette includes light-colored granite blocks to the north at the Sycamore Drive curb planting strip, with a darker stone arranged in a herringbone pattern for the paving surrounding the lawn.
Secretary Luebke said that the staff does not see significant issues with the revisions to the building architecture; he suggested that further comments from the Commission members regarding the lawn edges or other elements of the landscape design would be useful, and Chairman Powell invited comments from the Commission members.
Ms. Griffin observed that the proposed park has prominent frontage along Alabama Avenue, across the street from the adjacent Congress Heights neighborhood, but the design seems to be oriented to the north. She emphasized that this is a neighborhood-facing public space, and she recommended careful design of the park’s southern edge along Alabama Avenue—particularly the relationship between the planted and paved areas and the pedestrian access—to ensure that the park, which would be surrounded by commercial buildings, is understood as a public place serving the neighborhood.
Mr. Krieger said that Boston has regulations stipulating when building service functions can take place, and he suggested similar restrictions for this project; for example, loading dock access could be restricted during the times of the day when the park would most likely be heavily used, ensuring that all-day service traffic and idling vehicles would not inhibit the public use of the park.
Mr. Stroik asked if the southern segment of the U-shaped service drive could be eliminated, allowing the lawn to be extended to the Alabama Avenue sidewalk, leaving only the two segments of the drive on the east and west for garage and service access. Mr. Lee responded that the design of the southern side of the park envisions cut-throughs from the street to the sidewalk and planted areas along the sidewalk to allow for a second row of trees. He said that the southern segment of the paved drive would tie the two buildings together and give the park the feeling of a courtyard or piazza; if the southern segment were eliminated and the lawn were extended, then it would appear as though there are two roadways coming into a service aisle. He reiterated that this southern segment could be closed temporarily for special programming or neighborhood use. Mr. Stroik suggested that bollards could be used to restrict vehicular traffic in this segment while retaining the paving.
Ms. Griffin said that she does not find the proposed design to be either a park or piazza, and she suggested a revised submission with a design that has reconciled the proportion of hardscape to softscape. Mr. Lee responded that the design is intended to have characteristic areas of generous open lawn and plaza to allow for flexibility in uses and programming that would be a neighborhood asset. He offered to return to the Commission with additional details on the plantings and furnishings intended to activate the public realm. He added that providing vehicular access to the retail stores on the ground floors of the building would be key to their success. Ms. Griffin reiterated that there is an opportunity to address the Commission’s comments regarding the park’s access, visibility, and continuity by finding the appropriate proportion of hardscape to softscape; she said that the park design appears to be simply a big green square surrounded by hardscape and a sidewalk, and that additional work is required to made the park design less bifurcated.
Ms. Meyer agreed that this is an important issue, observing that the paved areas at the east and west are very large. She encouraged further study of the park edges, suggesting that the edges of the southern segment of the drive could be porous or feather into the adjacent sidewalk and lawn areas, reducing the appearance of such an emphatic edge in the current design; she suggested using porous pavers with grass or a similar treatment that would differentiate this area from the east and west segments of the drive. She said that microtopographic refinements to the park would also reinforce the prominence of the central lawn; she cited the 1980s redesign of New York’s Bryant Park, in which the lawn areas were designed with substantial crowning so that they would appear flat. She advised using crowning and other similar methods for the proposed park’s lawn area to ensure it does not feel sunken and to improve its value and durability as a public space. Mr. Lee acknowledged the comments, and he suggested that a special paving material could be used within the public right-of-way to make the sidewalk feel part of the park area, subject to coordination with the D.C. government’s sidewalk paving standards. He said that the design team would continue to study the park edges to achieve a more comprehensive design.
Secretary Luebke summarized that the Commission generally supports the new landscape but requests that the design be further developed and submitted to the Commission at the design development stage before a final design submission. Chairman Powell said that the design is headed in a positive direction and that the Commission has provided thoughtful comments. Ms. Meyer agreed that an interim submission would be helpful, with additional development of the paving and edge details as discussed. The Commission approved the revised concept with these comments. Mr. Stroik and Mr. Krieger requested that additional documentation of the building facades facing the park be included in the next presentation.
(Chairman Powell and Ms. Griffin departed at this point; Vice Chairman Meyer presided for the remainder of the meeting.)
F. D.C. Department of General Services
1. CFA 17/SEP/20-9, Arboretum Recreation Center, 2412 Rand Place, NE. Renovation of existing building, new gymnasium addition, and site improvements. Concept. (Previous: CFA 16/JUL/20-5) Secretary Luebke introduced the second submission of a concept design for the renovation and expansion of the Arboretum Recreation Center. He said that in July 2020, the Commission had reviewed the project but did not take an action, instead providing comments regarding the new addition’s relationship to the site and historic recreation center building; the Commission had also commented on the addition’s architectural expression, expressing concern regarding its chaotic composition of angles and folded planes. The Commission had suggested that the design be simplified and that the design team be more rigorous in its methodology. He said that in the current submission, the addition has been simplified to be more orthogonal; the design also now includes a screen wall set against the bar-shaped portion of the addition, recalling the character of the adjacent U.S. National Arboretum’s administration complex and visitor center. Regarding the landscape, the Commission had requested the addition of planted screening along the site’s border with the National Arboretum on the east. He asked project manager Peter Nohrden of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to begin the presentation.
Mr. Nohrden said that the project is focused on providing additional amenities to the public, honoring the existing historic recreation center building, constructed in the 1960s by the National Park Service during its Mission 66 initiative, and making the recreation center’s grounds as green and resilient as possible. He asked landscape architect Mary Marcinko of AMT Engineering and architect Rick Schneider of ISTUDIO Architects to present the design.
Ms. Marcinko said that the goal of the landscape design is to preserve the large mature trees on the site while creating a lush landscape that relates to the National Arboretum through both the design and variety of plantings. The landscape at the front entrance—an island-like area surrounded by plantings—is intended to be representative of the existing plaza at the National Arboretum’s administration building. She indicated the low green plantings in front of the historic recreation center, which would help to maintain its visual prominence as visitors approach the expanded building. An allée of trees adjacent to the bar-shaped wing of the addition would soften its appearance and direct the eye to the entrance. A variety of plant species is proposed, with elements of repetition and geometric patterning in their arrangement to create a comprehensive planting composition; the species are native, drought-tolerant, and easily maintainable by DPR. She said that the project team is working with the National Arboretum to design and plant an evergreen screen on its property to screen views into the recreation center site.
Mr. Schneider presented the revisions to the building architecture, which he said are intended to maintain the prominence of the historic building in the new composition as much as possible by simplifying the volumes and rooflines of the new addition to give a calmer appearance. He said that the proposed screen wall is intended to provide visual and solar screening for the addition; he also indicated the new gymnasium volume’s roofline and photovoltaic panels, which have been lowered in the current design. He presented elevation drawings, noting that the previous emphasis on tilted massing and folded planes has been eliminated. He also presented perspective renderings, indicating the continued prominence of the historic building on the site. He said that the location and configuration of the addition has not substantially changed due to the constrained site and the need to avoid critical tree root zones; however, the bar-shaped wing of the addition has been rotated several degrees rearward to give the historic building more prominence. He noted that the rooflines of the addition are now shown as horizontal, and angles are now used only in plan. He presented the revised material palette, which incorporates bronze- and yellow-toned metals and light brown-, bronze-, and cream-colored fiber-cement panels. The screen wall is currently proposed to be a yellow-toned aluminum, while the rain screens would be the fiber-cement panels; he noted that the submission includes two design alternatives for the screen wall. The addition’s fenestration would be a combination of vision glass and translucent panels to control glare and solar heat gain, particularly in the gymnasium. The underside of the new roof would be painted as a reference to the similar condition on the historic building’s zig-zag roof; the paint color would be sky blue to resonate with the warmer bronze and brown tones in the material palette. He presented additional perspective renderings, indicating the allée leading to the building entrance, the screen wall, and the gym volume, which is depressed seven feet below grade. He noted the gym volume’s close proximity to the outdoor tennis courts at the rear of the site, and the relocation of the addition’s kitchenette to be adjacent to the community room and outdoor patio. Regarding the planted screening between the site and the National Arboretum, he indicated the existing deciduous trees on the recreation center’s side of the property line and to provide additional pine trees on the Arboretum’s property.
Ms. Meyer and Mr. Krieger asked for a description of the alternatives proposed for the screen wall and their effect on the natural light levels in the community room. Mr. Schneider said that one of the options is composed of custom-made rectangles, offset and oriented to give it a playful and textured appearance, that draw inspiration from the angles of the folded roof. Ms. Meyer clarified that the question is about the screen’s effect on the interior space. Mr. Schneider said direct sunlight would be filtered to appear dappled, similar to the screen that his firm designed for the Marvin Gaye Recreation Center. Ms. Meyer asked how the alternatives differ from one another. Mr. Schneider said that the alternatives provide different geometries and varying levels of opacity; the first alternative is a simple folded louver that is perforated, and the second is composed of vertical slats or fins. He said that the project team is continuing to study the level of opacity for each of the screen designs.
Mr. Krieger complimented the project team, commenting that the revisions are responsive to the Commission’s comments and have improved the overall design. He said that providing more information about the architectural and tectonic expression of the screen wall would be helpful to include in the next submission. While he acknowledged that the building is sited to avoid the existing trees, he said that the gymnasium volume is awkwardly situated against the tennis courts—perhaps even touching the surrounding fence—and asked if the building could be moved by several feet to avoid this condition. Ms. Meyer suggested that this may just be an issue with the graphic design of the site plan, and asked what the clearance is between the two; Mr. Schneider said that it may be three to four feet. Mr. Krieger said that the protruding corner of the gymnasium volume would be an odd visual distraction from the perspective of tennis players, and he suggested eliminating this angle, instead having the building itself serve as the back of the court or setting the building behind a fence. Mr. Schneider said that the building angle has been determined by the need to keep its footprint tight for budgetary reasons and to avoid critical tree root zones. He said that the project team would continue to study this area to ensure that there is adequate space between the court and building, suggesting that perhaps the extent of the upper portion of the building wall could be reduced to provide more space.
Ms. Meyer praised the design of the entry courtyard as a substantial improvement, commenting that the concept of a walkway passing through low plantings of ground cover and shrubs—evocative of a bridge over a water body—is a playful and thoughtful reinterpretation of the entrance plaza at the National Arboretum’s administration building.
Mr. Krieger offered a motion to approve the concept design with the comments provided, including the request to study the relationship between the tennis court and gymnasium and to provide addition documentation of the tectonics of the screen wall, especially its effect on the interior light conditions of the building. Secretary Luebke asked if the Commission wishes to provide direction on the presented alternatives for the screen wall; Mr. Krieger said the submission does not present enough information about the differences between the alternatives. Ms. Meyer agreed that the design of the screen wall must be further developed before a recommendation can be provided; she also requested that the next submission detail the areas of volumetric juxtaposition and change in material between the screen wall and the building. Upon a second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission adopted this action.
2. CFA 17/SEP/20-10, Smothers Elementary School, 4400 Brooks Street, NE / 1300 44th Street, NE. Building renovation and additions. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the concept design for modernization of Smothers Elementary School, which was constructed in three phases from 1923 to 1939. The school has received some minor improvements in recent decades but needs more extensive renovation of the building and site, as well as enlargement to accommodate the growing student population and expanded instructional programming. The existing configuration of the school is a long three-story building of classrooms with a center entrance on the south facade along Brooks Street, plus a double-height multipurpose room projecting north from the center of the building. The proposal includes two additions: an academic wing to the west, and an addition to the northeast for larger spaces such as a gymnasium, music room, and kitchen. A new entrance would be created at the southwest, marked on the facade by a large, two-story-high framed window; he noted the staff’s concern with this large window facing southwest. He added that the site is small and sloped, presenting challenges for accommodating the program and circulation. He asked Nicholas Williams of the D.C. Public Schools to begin the presentation; Mr. Williams introduced architect Edgar Moreno of DLR Group to present the design.
Mr. Moreno said that the school is being designed for a capacity of 318 students. The challenges of the project include the tightly constrained site; the historic character of the existing building, with some elements to remain based on consultation with the D.C. Historic Preservation Office; the modern educational program, which is being combined with the footprint of the existing building from nearly a century ago; and the goal of a high-performance building with net-zero energy consumption. The program includes nineteen classrooms as well as classrooms for special uses such as art and music, plus a gymnasium, media center, and dining area. The area for preschool children has special design considerations, including a ground-level location, a separate play area, and if possible a separate entrance for pick-up and drop-off.
Mr. Moreno described the historic elements of the school to be retained; he noted that the building is not landmarked, but it is considered eligible for protection. The south-facing front facade would be retained in its entirety with little alteration as well as a chimney stack to the northwest and a first-floor bay window on the east facade. The interior character of the multi-purpose room would be retained, although the D.C. Historic Preservation Office did not call for preserving its exterior; the room has windows on its east and west sides, decorative detailing at the ceiling, and a raised proscenium stage on the north. He added that this room is considered representative of the typical large multipurpose spaces from schools of its era. He noted that the decision to retain the multipurpose room has presented further challenges in the site design, preventing an east-west orientation for the additions that would be ideal for energy performance, and constraining the opportunities for locating the desired outdoor play areas.
Mr. Moreno presented the existing floor plans, indicating the center entrance on the first floor, as well as the adjacent administrative area that is not ideal in size, layout, and accessibility. He presented the proposed site plan, illustrating the locations for the two major additions. The bar-shaped addition to the west would primarily contain classrooms, with a configuration that allows for classroom sizes that meet modern requirements. He noted that this addition would extend to the southwest corner of the site at the intersection of 44th and Brooks Streets, which is the primary vantage point for viewing the school. He indicated the proposed main entrance on the first floor near this corner, noting that the sidewalk grade at the corner is approximately ten feet below the first floor, resulting in the proposal for exterior stairs and ramps leading to the new entrance. Vehicular access to the site would be provided by a one-way drive along the east and north sides of the school, combining service functions and access to parking; he said that the layout is intended to allow as much outdoor play area as possible on the site. The play area for preschool children would be at the northwest, in an open-air area beneath the upper floors of the classroom addition; this protected area would also serve as a zone for parents to pick up their children at the end of the school day.
Mr. Moreno presented the proposed floor plans. The new first-floor entrance would have secure check-in and a welcome center, with the adjacent administrative and health area extending north within the addition. The preschool classroom would be to the east, within the historic school building. The multipurpose room would continue to serve as a dining commons for the school; the addition to the northeast would contain the double-height gymnasium as well as the first-floor custodial and food service areas, with access to the service drive on the north. He noted the clustering of special-use spaces such as the gymnasium, media center, and music and art classrooms; this would allow for after-hours community access to these spaces while not providing access to the rest of the school.
Matthew Pickner, an architect with DLR Group, presented further details of the design. He said that a design goal was to provide large windows for the new classrooms in the western addition along 44th Street, comparable to the gracious large windows of the historic school’s classrooms. However, the windows of the new classrooms would face west, an orientation that is not consistent with the energy performance goal for the project; the proposed solution is a brick brise-soleil that would shade much of the west-facing window area. He presented a perspective view from the southwest, indicating the separated vertical panels of brickwork that would allow for limited areas of direct window exposure. The addition’s narrow south facade, adjacent to the new main entrance, was initially envisioned as having extensive glass within a large-scale frame, but this has now been modulated with alternating panels to add color and a sense of playfulness. He presented conceptual studies and elevations to illustrate the brise-soleil and its transparent character; the opaque wall surfaces behind it would be fiber-cement panels. On the south, the entrance would be articulated as a glazed hyphen between the historic school and the western addition. He noted that the exterior design of the addition to the northeast is still being developed as the program is being resolved; the intent is to continue the design vocabulary that is proposed for the western addition. Mr. Moreno noted that the roof of the gymnasium is being designed with a large lawn to serve as a rooftop play zone; he confirmed for Mr. Krieger that this would require a substantial fence around the perimeter of the roof, not currently shown on the plans nor the perspective views.
Vice Chairman Meyer invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Mr. McCrery asked for clarification of the exterior staircase adjacent to the pre-school play space. Mr. Pickner confirmed that the upper part of this staircase would be enclosed by a perforated screen that does not extend to the ground; he said that the screen is intended as a design feature rather than a security barrier. He also confirmed that people in the play area would have access to the staircase, which would be the continuation of the emergency egress staircase for the classroom levels above.
Ms. Meyer observed that the presentation described the design as resulting from a series of problems and challenges that had to be addressed. She asked what is motivating the design process for decisions that are not being made in response to the presented challenges, such as a philosophy of childhood learning or of relating an addition to a historic building. Mr. Pickner offered the example of the brick brise-soleil, which he said was designed as a contemporary feature that relates to the historic building. He described the western exposure as an opportunity to develop an interesting and playful design feature, rather than a problem. Ms. Meyer agreed that the brise-soleil would use the south facade’s historic material of brick in a new way for the west-facing addition.
Mr. McCrery asked how the projecting brise-soleil would be supported and whether the brickwork would have mortar joints. Mr. Pickner responded that the currently intended structural support is a system of steel shelves; he described it as similar to any contemporary brick rain screen although it projects farther from the facade than would be usual. A minimal framework system would be placed behind the brise-soleil to stabilize it, and stabilizing rods would go through each brick. Mr. McCrery asked about the orientation of the bricks; Mr. Pickner said that they would be laid horizontally, with their long dimension perpendicular to the face of the building. He added that the brise-soleil would result in some reflected light reaching the interior of the classrooms. Mr. McCrery asked if the extent of glass on the west facade has been reduced from the initial planning for the classrooms; Mr. Pickner said that the initially desired extent of windows for the classrooms has been maintained, and the brise-soleil was subsequently added as an energy-performance feature.
Mr. Krieger observed that this design does not appear to have the energy-related features that would normally be part of a net-zero project, such as a solar field; he asked if the school would actually achieve net-zero energy use, or if the design is intended only as a demonstration and a preparation for achieving this goal in the future. Mr. Pickner responded that the design includes special features such as geothermal wells and photovoltaic panels. Mr. Krieger expressed surprise that the net-zero goal could be achieved, and he said that this project may be demonstrating that the revolution in energy-efficient design is underway. He noted that the photovoltaic panels would apparently be laid flat on the roof, which he described as an interesting solution; the brick brise-soleil would apparently be the only visible feature to indicate a comprehensive approach to energy conservation. Mr. Pickner said that the design team is continuing to explore the possibilities for energy conservation, and the project is still at an early stage of that process; he emphasized the commitment to be aggressive in addressing energy use.
Mr. McCrery asked if the concern is that the net-zero goal will result in alterations to the design; Mr. Krieger said that this could be a concern and would be the inevitable result of a strong energy-conservation strategy. Ms. Meyer said that this concern relates to her question about the design philosophy for the school; she said a didactic building that teaches about energy usage could be exciting for the students. She added that beyond the technical issues of energy performance, these questions affect the character of the school’s design.
Ms. Meyer said that the question of a design philosophy also emerges at a smaller scale in the site design at the proposed main entrance. She said that the perspective view and the plan suggest that the ramps, staircase, and retaining walls are being designed purely to solve the grading problem of connecting the entrance door with the sidewalk. She suggested an alternative design approach of creating an amazing entrance, perhaps feathering and integrating the stairs and ramps to create a beautiful place. She observed that the staircase appears steep, but adequate space is available to make it gentler. She described the site treatment at this corner as having the appearance of a last-minute retrofit with a tight budget, and she instead encouraged designing a welcoming and accessible hangout space. Revisions could include a shallower staircase and wider ramps, or perhaps ramps of varied widths to avoid creating overly steep landscape areas that will be difficult to maintain. The staircase could also be oriented along Brooks Street to relate to the large pavilion at the south end of the western addition, perhaps in combination with the ramp; Mr. Krieger observed that fewer stairs would be needed with this alignment, and Ms. Meyer said that the entrance sequence could be developed as a large-scale front porch for the school. She emphasized the need for a radical redesign of this corner of the site.
Mr. McCrery agreed and suggested further options for the entrance. Noting that the grade difference between the proposed entrance and the nearby sidewalk is approximately a full story, he suggested developing a lower level at this corner that would have the main entrance at the sidewalk level, eliminating the need for the costly site ramps, stairs, berms, and retaining walls; the site area could instead be devoted to the hangout space envisioned by Ms. Meyer, or an outdoor classroom area or additional landscape. The historic entrance could also remain in use, providing the option of entering the school at the first floor or at this new lower level. Mr. Krieger agreed that this proposal would make a dramatic difference in the design, and he asked if it was considered. Mr. Moreno responded that the challenge would be in connecting the various floor levels on the interior.
Mr. Krieger added that if the western addition were set lower by an entire story, its roof would be accessible from the third floor of the existing school, providing a large area of potential play space. Mr. Moreno said that an array of solar panels is intended to fill nearly the entire roof area, and perhaps additional arrays would be placed above the parallel parking along the service drive on the north side of the school. Noting his recent experience with net-zero design, Mr. Krieger reiterated his skepticism that this project will achieve the net-zero goal, instead serving more as a demonstration of intent; Mr. Moreno responded that the project is being modelled to consider such factors as solar panels, thermal performance of the building envelope, fenestration, and the brise-soleil. Mr. Pickner said that early planning for this project had called the school a “machine for learning,” which could be a powerful direction for the design, and he said that the design team would give further consideration to the building’s energy performance as a teaching tool.
Mr. Shubow observed that the brise-soleil panels do not appear to follow a regular rhythm along the west facade, resulting in an irregular spacing of the exposed windows. Mr. Pickner said that the panels are positioned in relation to the modules of the building, and the gaps between panels correspond to the location of operable windows. Mr. Shubow said that the result appears random; Mr. Pickner clarified that the location of the windows, particularly the larger ones, is the result of the space requirements for the classrooms that are laid out within the addition. He clarified that the smaller windows correspond to smaller rooms that are generally located near the southwest corner, while the larger windows correspond to the classrooms.
Ms. Meyer observed that the preschool play area is illustrated without any indication of an enclosure, which would be necessary for such young children playing outdoors, particularly so close to two streets. Mr. Moreno said that that the project would include an enclosure for this play area as well as security fencing; these requirements will be coordinated with the D.C. Public Schools. Ms. Meyer said that the enclosure should not make the children feel caged; she suggested using a hedge to ensure a more comfortable play space.
Ms. Meyer noted that the school is named for Henry Smothers, an African-American who was a teacher for the city’s African-American children in the early 19th century. She suggested that this historical association be recognized and celebrated in connection with this school; she described this history as far more worthwhile than preservation of a bay window or ceiling details. She contrasted this school’s inspirational namesake to the many other historical figures whose names are being removed from other schools. Mr. Williams responded that the school community takes great pride in the school’s namesake, embracing the history of Henry Smothers as part of the school’s identity. He said that the public art process will be considered later in the renovation process, perhaps including recognition of Henry Smothers on the exterior for community awareness as well as on the interior of the school to inspire the education of the students. Ms. Meyer suggested involving an artist earlier in the process to integrate the commemoration of Henry Smothers with the design of an entrance plaza, rather than add an artistic element at a later stage.
Mr. Williams emphasized the commitment of D.C. Public Schools to universal design and access, including a main entrance that does not require a lesser access route for some users. This philosophy has resulted in the desire to accommodate the ramps and stairs within a small area, rather than extending the ramp further east to meet the rising grade along Brooks Street. Acknowledging the Commission’s guidance on reconceiving the entrance area, he offered to work further with the design team to improve the design. Mr. McCrery observed that repositioning the staircase toward Brooks Street would only slightly improve the situation of a steep climb to the entrance, and the ramp would remain unpleasantly lengthy—well over 100 feet plus the length of the necessary landings, which is not consistent with the spirit of universal design. He said that the suggestion for a lower-level entrance seems to be a better solution to address the concerns of the Commission members and of Mr. Williams. This revision would also allow for placing the pre-school play area in an open-air location, rather than underneath the classroom addition in a space that has a brutalist revival character. Mr. Williams said that the drawbacks of this solution include the cost of construction, with extensive excavation required, and the operational and circulation challenges of adding an additional floor to this three-level school. Mr. McCrery noted that if cost is a consideration, then the brise-soleil should be reconsidered; he described the proposed brick assembly as inventive but very expensive and likely problematic over time.
Mr. Stroik observed that the historic school’s existing main entrance at the center of the south facade is only a couple of steps up from the sidewalk level, and the secondary entrance at the east end is also close to grade; the drop in topography occurs to the west. He said that a simpler solution would be to continue to use the historic main entrance, with minor modifications to provide barrier-free access, instead of trying to solve the difficult grade problems of the proposed new entrance at the southwest corner. He also observed that the multi-purpose room is light by windows on both the west and east sides, but the proposed addition to the northeast would block these eastern windows. He said that the combination of concerns suggests the need to reconsider the site plan, including the placement of the additions and the location of the entrance. He suggested placing the gymnasium and other special spaces at the western side or southeast corner of the site, and placing the more heavily used classroom addition to the northeast. Mr. Moreno responded that this configuration was considered at an early stage of the design process; the proposed design was selected because it allows for better clustering of the pre-school spaces and maximizes the outdoor play areas.
Vice Chairman Meyer suggested an apparent consensus for general support of the project but with suggestions that may require further study before the Commission takes an action on the concept design. Mr. Krieger said that the Commission has provided numerous suggestions for design revisions, some of which may be feasible and others infeasible. He commented that the design process appears to be overly focused on the building’s appearance from the southwest, with insufficient consideration of other design elements such as fencing or ease of access. He agreed with Vice Chairman Meyer’s suggestion that the Commission take no action on the current submission, instead requesting another submission of the concept design; Mr. McCrery also agreed with this conclusion.
Vice Chairman Meyer acknowledged that some of the design choices may be settled at this stage, but she urged the design team to explore the issues that could still be addressed. She said that the exploration could be undertaken expeditiously, and the Commission looks forward to reviewing a new submission in the near future. She emphasized that resolving the issues at the concept stage would be helpful in avoiding any schedule disruptions later in the process. Secretary Luebke agreed that a concept approval would not be appropriate because fundamental design issues still need to be resolved. He observed that some design features appear to be shown differently on the various drawings, and the design of the northeastern addition may have changed from the previous version that was seen by the staff. Vice Chairman Meyer confirmed the need for a new concept submission, and she emphasized that the next presentation should begin with a statement of the intended design approach for the project. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
G. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
SL 20-196, 280 12th Street, SW. New 11-story hotel building. Concept. (Previous: SL 20-169, July 2020) Secretary Luebke introduced the concept design for a hotel building, its fourth time before the Commission, to be located on a vacant lot at 280 12th Street, SW. He said that at the most recent review, in July 2020, the Commission had reviewed a third concept submission and did not take an action, instead reiterating its comments on the site’s prominence and the building’s role in contributing to the architectural frame of the National Mall and the monumental core. Other comments from the July 2020 review included concern about the building’s apparent height, the logic and quality of the design within its context, the lack of architectural articulation, and the quality of the proposed building materials. Additional documentation was also requested on the design of the small park area at the north end of the site. He said that the project team subsequently met with the staff, and the design appears to be improved. The building height is unchanged in the current proposal, but the facades now draw inspiration from the architectural typology of hotels in the early 20th century, such as the Jefferson Hotel in downtown Washington, as suggested by the Commission. The exterior materials are also more substantial than in previous submissions, with two tones of precast limestone-colored concrete panels. Changes have also been made to the fenestration, cornice lines, and other details, resulting in a more traditional rhythm of building openings; the park on the north has been revised to consolidate some of the planting beds.
Mr. Luebke introduced several members of the design team for the presentation: Aria Mehrabi of Pacific Star Capital, the owner of the development parcel; architect Bahram Kamali of BBGM, the lead presenter; and landscape architect David Lesiuk of LD7 studio. However, at the start of the meeting, Commission staff members reported technical difficulties with Mr. Kamali’s connection to the video conference system, and he was unable to join the meeting for an extended period. Vice Chairman Meyer and Mr. McCrery suggested that the Commission proceed with its review based on the submitted drawings, with additional description provided by the staff.
Ms. Batcheler, the Commission’s Shipstead-Luce architect, presented photographs of the buildings that have served as inspiration for the proposed design: the U.S. Department of Agriculture South Building, located immediately west of the hotel site across 12th Street; the Cotton Annex building, located immediately south of the hotel site; and the Jefferson Hotel at 16th and L Streets, NW, in downtown Washington. She then displayed several perspective renderings of the proposal, including distant views to illustrate the design within the context.
Mr. McCrery commented that the building appears much more handsome from the south, and he described the south elevation as a huge improvement compared to the past submissions. He asked if the same design character could be achieved for the north side of the hotel, which faces the National Mall. Mr. Luebke noted that site constraints have necessitated an irregular shape for the hotel’s footprint, resulting in the north facade being narrower than the south facade. Mr. McCrery acknowledged the different number of bays on these two primary facades, but he questioned the choice of how to group the bays in the design. He observed that the eleven bays of the south facade are grouped in a 3-5-3 pattern, with the five central bays articulated as a unified group that is flanked by three-bay-wide groups; the eight bays of the north facade are grouped in a 3-2-3 pattern, with a narrower central group that he said is unsatisfactory. He suggested reorganizing the north facade into a 2-4-2 pattern instead. He acknowledged that this change would not relate well to the north facade’s large first-floor access door for maintenance, but he said the remainder of the building above the base would have a more handsome appearance, which is the more important part of the building for the distant views.
Mr. McCrery provided the additional recommendation to center the stepped-back penthouse level in relation to each of the hotel’s facades, observing that its eccentric profile as proposed results in too much prominence as seen on the elevation drawings. Mr. Krieger said that the irregular shape of the building’s plan may make this centering difficult to achieve; he also questioned the importance of this recommendation, noting that people would usually view the building from ground level, resulting in the penthouse appearing less prominent than it does in the elevation drawings. Mr. McCrery suggested that the rectangular plan of the penthouse be adjusted so that its exterior walls are parallel to the building’s more irregular plan; Mr. Krieger agreed that this change could be beneficial.
(After breaking from its review of this case due to the project team’s technical issues, the Commission later returned to this agenda item after the architect, Mr. Kamali, was able to participate in the meeting’s video conference format. Mr. Stroik departed the meeting prior to the continuation of the review of this agenda item.)
Mr. Kamali described the specific design features that are borrowed from the precedent buildings, including multiple cornice lines, punched and paired windows of varying proportions, differing sizes of joint lines, and the interplay of vertical and horizontal elements. The exterior of the penthouse level has been changed to metal so that it will not be perceived so strongly as part of the building mass, in order to mitigate the appearance of the building’s height. The concrete panels on the building’s main volume would have two slightly different colors, allowing for articulation of the facades; he said that the material would be lighter than conveyed in the renderings darker color and would have less contrast than is conveyed in the renderings. He noted that material samples have been provided to the staff, but he acknowledged that the lighting conditions with video conferencing are not ideal.
Mr. Kamali presented the plan and a perspective view of the park on the north side of the site. He said that the configuration of trees and planting beds has been adjusted in response to the Commission’s previous comments and a site wall on the south side of the park would screen views of the hotel’s service area and the Metro maintenance area.
Mr. Kamali presented side-by-side comparisons of the previous and current elevations, as well as perspective views of the building within the context. He emphasized that the new design has a very different appearance; the building is now better articulated, with improved detailing of the architecture, and the color is compatible with the surrounding area. The multi-story structural truss system, necessitated by the site constraints, was previously expressed with areas of curtainwall on the facade; the current design continues the regular window pattern without expressing the trusses. He said that the comparison of the previous and current west elevations shows that the design has become more elaborate and carefully studied; blind windows and niches extend the facade pattern across the side of the blank-walled Metro maintenance area. On the north elevation, he indicated the large opening required for the Metro access, which has been reduced to the minimum required dimension; a garage door is now shown to conceal the maintenance area when it is not in use. He provided site sections to illustrate the height of the proposed building in comparison to other buildings in the area, as previously requested by the Commission.
Mr. Kamali described the details of the facade’s precast panel system and embellishments. Due to the unusual structural system necessitated by site constraints, much of the building would have to hang from longer spans and cantilevers, requiring the accommodation of significant movement; the exterior panels would therefore be separated by three-quarter-inch caulk joints. Metal would be used for mullions and some panels as well as at the penthouse. Granite at the entrance door is intended to provide a sense of arrival; signage for the hotel would be located on one side of the entrance canopy, where it would be visible from 12th Street, and on a plaque at the wall adjoining the entrance door, which he said is typically seen at major hotels.
Mr. Kamali concluded by presenting the floor plans, which have not changed significantly. He noted that the uppermost floor of guest rooms has been set back four feet on each side; the penthouse level above would provide access to a rooftop terrace facing north to the National Mall. Mr. Luebke noted that the appendix to the presentation includes alternative facade treatments for the building’s upper floors, based on suggestions from the staff. Mr. Kamali presented an alternative to use a metal exterior for the top two floors of the building, but he said the design team’s preference is to continue the concrete panels through the uppermost floor of guest rooms, as illustrated in the presented design. Mr. Luebke noted that the appendix drawing also addresses the regularity of the window spacing.
For the landscape design, Ms. Meyer said that the previously presented plan seemed good but her concern had been with the confusing plant palette, which combined plants suitable for shade with plants suitable for hot, sunny conditions. Mr. Lesiuk responded that the plant palette has been developed to a preliminary, conceptual stage, with the intention to show a variety of colors; a more detailed analysis of the plant selections will be undertaken as the project is developed further, with consideration of the growing conditions as noted by the Commission. Ms. Meyer commented that even for purposes of plant colors, the proposed plant palette is inadequate, because it fails to consider the seasonal mix of colors that would be provided by the selected plants; she observed that the intended color effects would not actually be obtained with the specified plants, and she emphasized the need for a more carefully considered plant palette as part of the next submission.
Mr. McCrery questioned the design of the blind windows at the ground floor. He acknowledged that they are used because the space behind the facade is a mechanical room, but he recommended a more thoughtful treatment than simply the blocked-up rectangular openings that are illustrated. He suggested some sort of insert within the openings so that they will participate more strongly in the character of the facade. Noting that the building as a whole has now taken on the welcome appearance of a grand hotel, he commented that the entrance has become insufficiently grand for the building, seeming like merely a hole in the wall; he recommended giving the entrance a more robust character, perhaps by being wider or taller. Mr. Kamali said that the intent is to develop the design of the entrance much further beyond this concept-level submission.
Mr. McCrery reiterated his comment that the 3-5-3 pattern of bays on the south facade is a very successful composition, while the 3-2-3 pattern on the north facade is much less successful; he recommended reorganizing the north facade into a 2-4-2 pattern in order to resolve the problem of a weak appearance for the center grouping of bays, which is especially apparent when the building is seen from a distance. He said that the resulting misalignment of the upper facade pattern with the large ground-level Metro maintenance door would be somewhat screened by the proposed site wall along the south edge of the proposed park, and he expressed appreciation for the inclusion of this wall. He added that any necessary compromise in the design of this facade should be resolved in favor of the more significant distant views of the building. Mr. Krieger observed that a strong belt course would separate the base of the building from the upper levels, further reducing the significance of any misalignment of the upper facade organization with the large Metro door opening; Mr. McCrery agreed.
Mr. McCrery reiterated his earlier concern with the design of the penthouse, which seems like an unrelated hat perched on the top of a beautiful building. He recommended not changing to metal facades for this level, instead continuing the materials of the rest of the building. He also recommended aligning each of the penthouse’s exterior walls to be parallel with the facades of the building below, providing for a constant step-back distance on all sides; Mr. Kamali responded that this reconfiguration of the penthouse should be feasible. Mr. McCrery asked for clarification of the staff’s concern with the regularity of the window locations; Mr. Luebke responded that the concern is with the penthouse level, and the realignment of its walls may allow for addressing the problem.
Mr. Shubow said that he agrees with the comments that have been provided. Mr. Luebke said that Mr. Stroik, who has left the meeting, has provided a note saying that he is generally supportive of the project and favors its approval at the concept level. Mr. Stroik’s note also urges more careful consideration of the two types of precast concrete, including a mockup; Mr. Luebke said that the staff agrees with this concern and encourages consideration of varying the types of concrete by texture rather than by color. Vice Chairman Meyer agreed that an on-site, full-size mockup of materials would be important and is commonly done for buildings in this area; she said this would be preferable to approving material samples that are seen in an office setting, and she recommended a mockup of perhaps ten by fifteen feet that can be positioned to face both north and south.
Mr. Luebke noted that a comment letter has been provided by the Committee of 100 on the Federal City. He said that the letter cites the issues that the organization raised in the previous review of this project, including the importance of the site and the context, with criticism that the current design continues to fall short of the necessary standard of design for this location, as well as criticism that the proposal is too tall and would set a bad precedent for future development in the vicinity. The letter says that the building’s height and the perception of it are exacerbated by several factors: the hotel would be significantly taller than the nearest buildings when viewed from the National Mall, rising seventeen feet higher than the highest point of the adjacent Agriculture South Building; the hotel’s isolated location gives it the appearance of a monolith towering about the buildings on the south side of the National Mall; no other building is likely to be constructed adjacent to the hotel to soften the effect of its height; massing studies clearly show the negative effect of the hotel on the skyline; the taller buildings in the vicinity are located to the south, where they have less effect on the view from the National Mall; and the more appropriate height reference is the Cotton Annex immediately to the south, which has a height of ninety feet. He said that the letter concludes with a request that the Commission act to protect the viewshed from the National Mall and the horizontal character of the skyline.
Mr. Luebke noted that notwithstanding the improved design character, the currently proposed building is actually slightly taller than in the previous submission; Mr. Kamali confirmed that the height has increased by one foot due to resolution of the heights for the Metro maintenance door and the hotel lobby. Mr. Luebke also noted that the staff is aware of redevelopment proposals involving the Cotton Annex on the block immediately to the south, with heights for new construction of approximately 110 or 120 feet.
Mr. McCrery said that the Commission has repeatedly requested study of a reduction in the building height, yet the current submission is slightly taller; he asked if the design team has prepared drawings of a building that is perhaps two stories shorter, achieving the seventeen-foot reduction in height that was suggested by the Committee of 100’s analysis. Mr. Kamali responded that the hotel was originally proposed with a 130-foot height, but two stories have been removed to achieve the current design. He said that the project would likely not be feasible with a further reduction in the number of stories; the building’s floor area has already been reduced to 78,000 square feet, compared to the maximum of 166,000 square feet allowed by zoning regulations. He offered to study the issue further but said that eliminating additional floors would probably not be workable. Mr. McCrery noted that the financial viability of the project is not an issue for the Commission, but the design is an issue and the Commission has specifically requested drawings of the building at a reduced height. Mr. Kamali reiterated that the current drawings illustrate the result of removing two stories from the initial proposal; Mr. McCrery clarified that the Commission had requested study of a height reduction from the most recent submission in July 2020, only to receive the current submission that is slightly taller.
Mr. Krieger questioned whether the Commission had reached a consensus to request a significant reduction in the building’s height from the July 2020 submission. Mr. Luebke noted that the concern with height has been discussed at each review of this project, and a concept has not yet been approved; the most recent recommendation from July 2020 was to study either a reduced height or to employ techniques to reduce the apparent height. The challenge was left for the design team to demonstrate that the proposed height would be acceptable within the context, which has resulted in the current submission. Mr. McCrery said that in the absence of a vote or action by the Commission in the previous review, the various recommendations and requests of the Commission members constitute the Commission’s response, including his request to consider a significant further reduction in height. Mr. Kamali responded that the design team has focused on reducing the perception of the height through development of the design, such as adjustments to the cornice and stepping back the building at the upper levels; he emphasized that the current design has achieved this goal, resulting in a successful building that would not be improved by removing two stories.
Mr. McCrery noted his previous concern that the perspective view from the National Mall was drawn from a vantage point that does not fairly convey the visual impact and height of the proposed building, using a distant point that makes the building seem diminutive. He said that a view from the same direction but closer to the building, perhaps at Independence Avenue, would more accurately convey that this building would be significantly taller than those around it. Alternatively, a variety of views from the National Mall would better reflect the actual experience of people in this area and would reveal the hotel to be a very abrupt exception to the larger urban fabric in the vicinity.
Mr. Krieger emphasized that this guidance is not the unanimous view of the Commission, and that he does not find the height to be a major issue. He said that even if this building is ten or fifteen feet taller than its neighbors, it would not ruin the effect of the historic planning for central Washington. He said that over the course of four presentations to the Commission, the design team has done well in improving the building’s scale, minimizing the perception of height, and refining the treatment of the top story. He said that he does not support a recommendation to further reduce the height.
Ms. Meyer said that her own views on the height issue fall between those of Mr. McCrery and Mr. Krieger. She noted the Commission’s past guidance to reduce the height from 130 feet, which has been achieved, and to study the relationship of the hotel to nearby buildings and especially to buildings very close to the National Mall. She said that the modest size of the site suggests that the hotel will not be as intrusive as feared, compared to the larger scale of many buildings in the area. Additionally, the refinements to the design have resulted in a building that does not seem as heavy and ponderous compared to the previously submitted proposals.
Mr. McCrery clarified that he agrees in supporting the substantial design improvements that have been presented today. He emphasized his concern that the design team has not provided the drawings of a lower building that were requested in the previous review; he expressed frustration that his questions about this request have apparently been ignored.
Noting that a quorum remains present, Vice Chairman Meyer suggested that the Commission consider taking an action on the proposal. Mr. Krieger offered a motion to approve the concept with the comments provided by the Commission members, particularly those of Mr. McCrery. Upon a second by Mr. Shubow, the Commission adopted this action; Mr. McCrery abstained, citing the lack of response by the design team to the request by the Commission and by the Committee of 100 for additional height and view studies.
Vice Chairman Meyer advised the design team that the controversy over the height likely will continue as the project moves through the review process with multiple agencies, and she acknowledged that financing may be challenging for this unusually configured hotel in an economically challenging time. Mr. Luebke noted the staff’s appreciation for the opportunity to consult with the design team in developing the current submission; he encouraged further consultation as the details of the design are developed. Vice Chairman Meyer thanked the staff for its involvement, observing that the design has clearly become much better.
H. United States Mint
1. CFA 17/SEP/20-11, Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medals honoring: Mary W. Jackson; Dorothy J. Vaughan; and the women who served NACA and NASA between 1935 and 1970. Design for three gold medals with bronze duplicates. Final. The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
2. CFA 17/SEP/20-12, Armed Forces Military Medal honoring the United States Army. Obverse and reverse designs for a silver medal. Final. (Previous: CFA 18/JUN/20-8 – U.S. Marine Corps) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
(During the discussion of the following agenda item, Mr. Stroik departed for the remainder of the meeting.)
3. CFA 17/SEP/20-13, 2021 National Law Enforcement Museum Commemorative Coin Program. Designs for five-dollar gold, one-dollar silver, and half-dollar clad coins. Final. Secretary Luebke introduced the design alternatives for three coins commemorating the National Law Enforcement Museum, which opened in Judiciary Square in October 2018; the designs are intended to be emblematic of the museum and of the service and sacrifice of law enforcement officers throughout the nation’s history. Surcharges on the Mint’s sale of the coins will help to support the museum’s exhibits and outreach programs. He introduced April Stafford of the Mint to present the designs, noting the large number of alternatives to be considered.
Ms. Stafford said that the staff of the National Law Enforcement Museum has served as the Mint’s liaison for developing the design alternatives and for identifying preferences from among the alternatives. The three different coin denominations correspond to different metals and sizes, and the required inscriptions are different for the obverse and reverse; the alternatives have been grouped for a particular coin and side. She said that many of the liaison’s preferences use alternatives that were developed for a different denomination or side, and the Mint is still evaluating whether these designs can be adapted to the liaison’s preferred pairings; she invited the Commission to consider any of the design alternatives for any pairing.
Ms. Stafford presented seven obverse alternatives and seven reverse alternatives for the gold coin, noting that none of these designs is among the liaison’s preferences. She presented six obverse designs and eleven reverse designs that were intended for the silver coin. Two of the silver obverses were selected by the liaison: alternative LE-S-O-02 as the preferred obverse for the gold coin; and alternative LE-S-O-10 as the preferred reverse for the clad coin, requiring adaptation of the illustrated obverse inscriptions to serve as a reverse design. She presented twelve obverse designs and twelve reverse designs that were intended for the clad coin. Four of these were selected by the liaison: alternative LS-C-O-04 for the obverse of the clad coin, corresponding to its presented format; LS-C-O-12A for the obverse of the silver coin; LS-C-R-01 for the reverse of the silver coin; and LS-C-R-11 for the reverse of the gold coin.
Mr. McCrery asked for the customary side-by-side comparison of alternatives within each of the groupings; Ms. Stafford responded that these contact sheet-type images were inadvertently omitted from the presentation. Mr. McCrery said that these comparisons are helpful for the Commission’s review.
Vice Chairman Meyer suggested considering each of the liaison’s preferred pairings. For the gold coin’s obverse, alternative LE-S-O-02 depicts a male and female law enforcement officer, both saluting; at the bottom of the composition is a rose, representing a tribute to those who have served and sacrificed. For the gold coin’s reverse, alternative LE-C-R-11 features a U.S. flag folded into a triangle, framed by the inscription “Respect, Honor, Remember,” with three roses at the corners of the triangle. Vice Chairman Meyer asked about the size of the gold coin; Ms. Stafford said that it is the smallest of the three, approximately the size of a nickel.
Mr. McCrery expressed support for the liaison’s preferred obverse for the gold coin; he also suggested consideration of LE-G-O-03A, featuring a shield surrounded by roses. Ms. Meyer said that this design would be a suitable reverse in combination with the liaison’s preferred obverse, LE-S-O-02; she commented that the geometries of the compositions for the obverse and reverse would be too unrelated if the liaison’s preferred reverse, LE-C-R-11, were selected. Mr. Krieger agreed. Mr. McCrery noted that LE-G-O-03A is designed with obverse inscriptions; the design could be revised to have the required reverse inscriptions, including the coin’s denomination. Because roses are included in LE-G-O-03A, he suggested removing the rose from LE-S-O-02, where it is over-scaled in relation to the double-portrait. He said that LE-S-O-02 would then be a handsome and simple obverse design focused on the two portraits.
Mr. Shubow expressed dissatisfaction with the portraits in LE-S-O-02, commenting that the male figure appears to have a twinkle in his eye; Mr. Krieger suggested that the adjustment should be to the man’s smile. Noting the absence of other strong designs for consideration in this pairing, Vice Chairman Meyer suggested a tentative consensus to support the combination of LE-S-O-02 and LE-G-O-03A with adjustments to respond to the comments provided.
The Commission then considered the liaison’s preferences for the silver coin. For the obverse, alternative LE-C-O-12A depicts a law enforcement officer mounted on a horse, and another officer kneeling with a police dog and a puppy. For the reverse, alternative LE-C-R-01 features text including the museum name and a horizontal banner with the word “Service.” Ms. Stafford noted that both of these designs were presented as alternatives for the clad coin. Vice Chairman Meyer and Mr. McCrery noted the confusion of combining options from different groupings; Ms. Stafford responded that this is often an issue with multi-coin programs, and the solution is often to add presentation slides with side-by-side comparisons of the preferred pairings. Mr. McCrery asked if the designs are interchangeable among the different denominations and metals; Ms. Stafford responded that the differing sizes of the coins could be a concern, such as the advantage of selecting a relatively simple design to fit onto the small gold coin, but the Mint staff can usually resolve such problems if necessary.
For obverse LE-C-O-12A, Ms. Meyer expressed concern that people may associate police dogs with their past use against domestic protesters, such as in Birmingham, Alabama; she said that this association would be particularly problematic amid the nation’s heightened concern with law enforcement and racial bias in recent months. If the intent is for the animals to convey warmth and cuteness, she said it is unsuccessful, with many people not feeling protected by the police animals. Mr. McCrery observed that the artist is apparently trying to appeal to a sense of sentimentality, which he said is inappropriate for coinage; Ms. Meyer agreed. Mr. McCrery added that the depiction of a horse is poor and should show a better understanding by the artist of how horses have been depicted in the long history of statuary. Mr. Shubow suggested a consensus not to support alternative LE-C-O-12A for the silver obverse.
Ms. Meyer offered support for the liaison’s preferred reverse, LE-C-R-01, describing it as an elegant design. Mr. McCrery suggested consideration of the next two alternatives: LE-C-R-02 with text beside a rose, and LE-C-R-03 with text encircled by a laurel wreath. He noted that the wreath is an ancient symbol associated with memorializing death as well as triumph. Ms. Meyer joined in supporting LE-C-R-03 for the reverse.
The Commission members expressed frustration at the difficulty of finding a satisfactory obverse to pair with the reverse of LE-C-R-03. Ms. Stafford said that any advice from the Commission would be helpful to the Mint, whether in support of specific designs or identifying strong designs with potential; she said that the advice could be considered at next week’s meeting of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) and could also be discussed with the liaison organization. Vice Chairman Meyer noted the consensus that the designs with animals are not successful, due to their lack of elegance and their contested meaning; the designs that use text composed in relation to the coin’s geometry are generally more successful. Mr. McCrery observed that the alternatives emphasizing text are all shown as reverse designs; Ms. Meyer added that the wreaths tend to be more successful than the shields.
Mr. McCrery noted the Commission’s past encouragement for the Mint to attract better artists to develop designs; Secretary Luebke confirmed that this has been a recurring issue for the Commission. Ms. Stafford responded that the Mint works with the Commission staff in publicizing opportunities for artists and in developing the process and outreach plans for attracting artists. She said that the process of conducting a call for artists is quite cumbersome and is done at approximately three-year intervals; the most recent call for artists was a year ago, resulting in a large proportion of artists who are new to the Mint’s coin design program. She cited a past concern that the Mint’s staff culled designs excessively before presenting alternatives to the Commission and the CCAC; the current policy is to present as many designs as possible. She said that in the past, the Mint’s chief engraver position had been left unfilled, resulting in a lack of guidance for artists in the challenges of bas-relief sculpture and the appropriate design approach for U.S. coinage. The current chief engraver, Joe Menna, has been trying to work with the artists individually and as a group in developing the sets of alternatives. She acknowledged that the recent submissions have reflected the newness of many artists to the program; she noted that all of the artists would be evaluated at the end of this year to determine whether they should continue working with the Mint for an additional year. A representative of the Commission will be part of this evaluation process, and the designs seen by the Commission in the past year will be shown to those making the evaluations.
Returning to the search for a suitable obverse design for the second pairing, Mr. Shubow suggested considering some of the obverse alternatives that were presented for the gold coin. He offered support for LE-G-O-01 featuring the head of a lion; LE-G-O-02 with a male law enforcement officer holding a folded flag; or LE-G-O-02A with a double portrait that includes a female law enforcement officer. Mr. Krieger agreed in supporting the last two of these alternatives. Mr. McCrery recommended LE-G-O-02 as a simple composition focused on a single clear image. Mr. Krieger recommended LE-G-O-02A, because it depicts both a male and a female law enforcement officer; Ms. Meyer agreed.
The Commission then considered the liaison’s preferences for the clad coin. For the obverse, alternative LE-C-O-04 depicts a law enforcement officer kneeling to present his hat to a young girl. For the reverse, alternative LE-S-O-10 features a stylized view of the glass-enclosed entrance lobby of the National Law Enforcement Museum; this design is shown as an obverse and Ms. Stafford said it would require extensive adjustment to accommodate the required reverse inscriptions. Ms. Meyer commented that these two designs seem entirely unrelated and should not be selected as the two sides of a single coin; Mr. Krieger agreed. Mr. McCrery said that this combination of designs relies excessively on text, including the museum’s name on its facade, and he observed that the text “2021” beneath the museum lobby is placed on a shield that is oddly cut off at the bottom of the coin. Ms. Meyer agreed that LE-S-O-10 is problematic; she suggested that obverse LE-C-O-04 could be paired with a simple text design on the reverse. Mr. McCrery questioned the appropriateness of the policeman with the child in LE-C-O-04, describing the design as overly sentimental. He added that showing a badge or walkie-talkie to a child might be understandable, but the scene of a policemen showing his hat to a child seems odd. The Commission members concluded that they would not support any designs for a third pairing.
Mr. McCrery offered a motion to recommend the designs that were discussed, subject to the comments provided. Vice Chairman Meyer, in consultation with the staff and Ms. Stafford, summarized the Commission’s choices:
o The first pairing, intended for the gold coin, would have LE-S-O-02 for the obverse, subject to revision of the man’s facial expression and removal of the rose, and LE-G-O-03A for the reverse, subject to adjustment of the text for the required reverse inscriptions.
o The second pairing, intended for the silver coin, would have LE-G-O-02A for the obverse and LE-C-R-03 for the reverse.
Upon a second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted this set of recommendations; the Commission did not select a pairing for the third coin. Ms. Stafford expressed appreciation for the Commission’s recommendations and for its more general comments on the alternatives; Mr. Krieger noted the preference for reverse designs that are more formal with elements such as the laurel wreath, and Ms. Meyer summarized the concern with designs that are overly sentimental or have problematic symbolism. She added that the subject matter of law enforcement is particularly problematic this year; Mr. McCrery agreed.
4. CFA 17/SEP/20-14, Director of the U.S. Mint Medal for David J. Ryder. Design for a bronze medal. Final. The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
(The Commission then continued with the presentation and discussion of the hotel at 280 12th Street, SW; see agenda item II.G above.)
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:41 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA