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,
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
Mary Catherine Bogard
A. Approval of the minutes of the 15 October meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the October meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission approved the minutes.
B. Dates of next meetings. Secretary Luebke presented the dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 22 January 2021, 18 February, and 18 March 2021. He noted that no meeting is scheduled in December, and the January meeting had been scheduled on a Friday instead of the customary Thursday to avoid travel conflicts with the Presidential inauguration events earlier in the week. However, he said that the travel issue is no longer a concern during the ongoing use of a video conference format for Commission meetings in response to the public health emergency. He therefore suggested that the Commission change the date of the next meeting to Thursday, 21 January 2021, in keeping with the Commission’s regular schedule of Thursday meetings. Chairman Powell noted the consensus of the Commission to approve this change.
C. Change to the submission deadline date for the 7 January 2021 meeting of the Old Georgetown Board. Secretary Luebke noted that this submission deadline was previously published as Thursday, 3 December 2020, a week earlier than the usual monthly pattern, in order to allow time for staff to process the incoming cases in advance of the Christmas Day and New Year’s Day holidays. However, adjustment is needed to comply with the statutory 45-day response period in providing the D.C. Government with the Commission’s recommendations, which would be finalized on the newly revised Commission meeting date of 21 January 2021. He therefore asked the Commission to adjust the submission deadline to Monday, 7 December 2020, for the January cycle of Old Georgetown Act submissions. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved this change. Mr. Luebke noted that the adjustment will give applicants several additional days to prepare their submissions.
Secretary Luebke noted that the staff is continuing to work primarily off-site, with intermittent staffing of the office to process deliveries and correspondence. The video conference format for public meetings is also continuing. He said that the timing cannot yet be predicted for a return to traditional office staffing and in-person meetings.
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 only change to the draft appendix is to add a project (case number CFA 19/NOV/20-m) that had been omitted due to a database error. This project is for renovation of an outdoor stairway at Water Street, NW, at the head of the Capital Crescent Trail in Georgetown. It was reviewed by the Old Georgetown Board, and the Board’s advice has been incorporated into the recommendation. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler said that the draft recommendations for three projects were changed from the draft appendix (case numbers SL 21-016, 21-030, and 21-045). One project has been added to the appendix after resolving the applicant’s problems with the submission process (SL 21-046). One project from the draft appendix has been removed and is being held open for review in a future month (SL 21-017). Other revisions are minor wording changes and the notation of dates for the receipt of supplemental materials. The recommendations for nine projects are subject to further coordination with the applicants, and she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations when supplemental materials are received. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act Appendix. (See agenda items II.G.1 and II.G.2 for additional Shipstead-Luce Act submissions.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Bogard reported that the appendix has 31 projects. One project from the draft appendix has been removed and is being held open for review in a future month (case number OG 20-244). The recommendations for five projects have been updated 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.C, II.E.1, II.E.2, and II.F.1. Secretary Luebke said that the Commission had identified these as submissions that could be approved without presentations.
C. National Park Service
CFA 19/NOV/20-2, Second Division Memorial. Constitution Avenue, NW, southwest side of The Ellipse. Alterations to accommodate additional names and universal access. Final. (Previous: CFA 17/OCT/19-3) Secretary Luebke noted that the Commission’s comments in the previous review primarily involved the landscape design. Ms. Meyer said that the Commission members support the architectural elements of the current proposal, which respond to the Commission’s previous comments, but some concerns remain for the landscape elements. She questioned the proposed change from larger hollies to Japanese hollies, observing that their small size would give them an inconsequential appearance in the context of the memorial and the larger landscape of the Ellipse. Mr. Luebke noted that the project team is not able to provide a response at this stage of the meeting; Ms. Meyer suggested that the staff work with the project team to ensure that the scale of the landscape elements is appropriate for the larger scale of the setting between the White House and the National Mall. Chairman Powell suggested approval of the final design subject to resolution of this issue; upon a second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission adopted this action.
E. D.C. Department of Transportation
1. CFA 19/NOV/20-4, Pennsylvania Avenue from 17th to 21st Streets, NW. Street reconstruction, streetscape improvements, and new bicycle lanes. Concept. Ms. Meyer said that the Commission members support the proposal but want to ensure that accommodation of the project’s multimodal components does not compromise the elegance of the avenue. She acknowledged that this segment of Pennsylvania Avenue is different from the segment to the east that was carefully redesigned by the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation, but she emphasized the importance of this project due to its proximity to the White House grounds. She suggested that the design be developed to retain the avenue’s symmetrical character, the centerline of the cartway, and a sense of enclosure through the regular spacing of trees, even with the addition of the multimodal components. Mr. McCrery expressed support for this advice. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the concept submission with these comments.
2. CFA 19/NOV/20-5, Intersection of New York Avenue, Florida Avenue, and 1st Street, NE, including Reservation 185. New public spaces created at reconfigured intersection—“Virtual Circle.” Concept. (Previous: CFA 15/OCT/20-4) Secretary Luebke noted that the Commission provided extensive comments on this proposal at the previous meeting, and the current submission appears to be generally responsive to the issues that were raised. Mr. Krieger expressed appreciation for the simplification of the paving, geometry, and site furnishings, especially within the central public space of the grouping; he also supported the addition of more trees. He encouraged continued simplification of the streetscape as the design is developed. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the concept submission with these comments.
F. D.C. Department of General Services
1. CFA 19/NOV/20-6, Ferebee Hope Elementary School, 700 Yuma Street, SE. New high school building. Final. (Previous: CFA 21/MAY/20-5) Secretary Luebke said that the Commission had made only minor comments on this project at the previous review. He confirmed that an associated project on the agenda, the recreation center adjacent to the high school, will be presented later in the meeting; the design teams overlap for the two projects, and images of the school design will be available for reference during the Commission’s discussion of the recreation center. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the final design for the new high school building.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B. Mr. Luebke noted that the presentation for each project will be limited to fifteen minutes, at the Commission’s request.
B. U.S. Department of the Army
CFA 19/NOV/20-1, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. Southern Expansion Project. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/OCT/20-1) Secretary Luebke introduced the revised final design for the southern expansion of Arlington National Cemetery. He summarized the previous review in October 2020, when the Commission approved the landscape component of the final design but requested more information and further study of the architectural components. He said the Commission had generally supported the restrained design of the columbarium while expressing concern about the design and documentation of other architectural elements such as the committal shelter, with the suggestion that the modeling of the shelter be refined with more tectonic expression and detail. The design team, led by Hartman-Cox Architects and HNTB, has returned with an overview of existing committal shelters at the cemetery, and with further development of the proposed committal shelter and freestanding columbarium walls. He asked project manager Gregg Schwieterman of HNTB to begin the presentation. Mr. Schwieterman thanked the Commission for its continued thoughtful review and introduced architect Lee Becker of Hartman-Cox to present the design.
Mr. Becker said that the two-part presentation would focus on the design team’s response to the Commission’s comments from the previous review, with revisions to the committal shelter, the columbaria, and the service building. The presentation also includes an appendix of additional images, which can be presented at the Commission’s request. He began with an overview of precedents for the columbarium and committal shelter; existing examples at Arlington National Cemetery are at the east columbarium and the Millennium area. The east columbarium is configured as nine courts that are treated as outdoor rooms, enclosed on the sides and with limited vistas; each columbarium wall is constructed of a limestone surround containing niches for urns, with niche covers of Vermont marble. The two identical committal shelters at the east columbarium are treated as canopies to protect people from the weather; they are open on all sides to allow views of the caisson procession, the playing of “Taps,” and the gun salutes that are standard features of funeral services. He said that the columbarium at the recently completed Millennium area is also composed of outdoor courts, open to the sky but with enclosed sides. Its single committal shelter is similar to the two shelters in the east area, designed as a simple, open structure composed of a supported roof that appears to float above a paved floor; its ceiling is articulated in wood. He said the initial decision for the Southern Expansion area was to design a shelter that would be slightly smaller and would admit daylight through the roof canopy.
Mr. Becker described Arlington National Cemetery’s other major structures. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has a restrained design and great symbolic importance, commemorating all soldiers killed in battle who remain unidentified. He presented images of the two amphitheaters, the Tanner Amphitheater of 1868 and the Memorial Amphitheater of 1920; he described them as structures for events, appropriately given more exuberant architecture and ornamentation than the committal shelters. He also presented the John F. Kennedy gravesite, calling it a simple design adjacent to massive granite walls. He ended by illustrating views of the cemetery’s broad lawns covered by rows of gravestones marking individual burial places, which he said is the most important symbolic image at the cemetery. He noted that a variety of grave markers were used before 1947, and elaborate classical markers were interspersed with simple stones. After 1947, all new areas were required to use identical marble headstones; the inscriptions vary, but all the headstones share the same form. The uniformity and rigor created by the repetition of these simple headstones gives the picturesque burial grounds of Arlington National Cemetery enormous symbolic power.
Mr. Becker said the proposed design for the new columbarium at the Southern Expansion area has similarities to the cemetery’s existing columbaria, in which the individual columbarium structures are used like walls to create a series of rooms; however, this proposal treats the columbarium more as a group of objects in the landscape than as enclosed rooms. Each room in the Southern Expansion area’s columbarium would open to the primary vista over Arlington National Cemetery; within each room, a visitor would be able to sit and enjoy a sense of privacy while also looking north into the cemetery grounds. Like the cemetery’s in-ground gravestones, each of the columbarium units would be a separate element, and the individual niches would have unique identifying inscriptions.
Mr. Becker then presented the revised design of the committal shelter. Some features of the design have not changed: the shelter would remain open to the main vista northward, while the vista to the south—toward Columbia Pike and the sunken operations complex—would be screened by the columbarium walls and a backdrop of new landscape planting. He emphasized that the primary design goal for the committal shelter is to treat it as a simple service structure; the design team has carefully considered the Commission’s direction to add more articulation without losing the shelter’s sense of simplicity and restraint, and without altering its proportions. He noted the Commission’s previous suggestion to make each square column out of a single block of stone; he explained that because of seismic construction codes and wind loads, these columns cannot be truly monolithic, but they have been redesigned to resemble single pieces of stone by using single slabs to cover most of each side, with hairline joints at the edges. Groupings of paired columns have been placed at each corner to increase the sense of enclosure and to provide more flexibility in the adjustment of proportions; the column shafts are chamfered along their edges, creating the tapering effect of classical entasis. At the top of each column, the stone joints have been reconfigured to suggest a necking and a terminus in the form of a simple capital; these implied capitals are embedded within a horizontal stone course that he referred to as the architrave, traditionally the lower part of a classical entablature. Above the architrave is an unembellished frieze, and a cornice has been added above the frieze to provide a stronger visual termination to the entablature. He summarized that the reconfigured columns have a more refined proportional system and would increase the sense of enclosure within the committal shelter. He added that even with these design revisions, the shelter would still be open enough to allow clear views of the landscape outside, of the procession of the caisson, the playing of “Taps,” and the gun salute; he noted that the committal shelter will be used most often for urn ceremonies related to the columbarium, but it will sometimes be used for casket burials related to the cemetery landscape.
Mr. Becker said changes have also been made to the ceiling of the committal shelter: it has been raised to allow room for an architrave beneath it, and the central light monitor has been slightly enlarged and given more articulation. A subtle stepping of the ceiling plane indicates its thickness and plasticity in a manner reminiscent of the work of Paul Cret. The ceiling plane would be curved to bounce light, although the curvature has been revised to be slightly less than originally designed. He said that the increased articulation of the ceiling and monitor is intended to impart a sculptural quality. He noted that the committal shelter would be constructed of Chelmsford granite, with the cornice made of Georgia gray granite or a similar stone to provide contrast. Ledges would be sloped to discourage birds from perching. For the paving at the committal shelter, he noted that the bands of paving had been visualized as running beyond the columns to anchor the space and create a stronger sense of place; the pattern has been revised to relate to the ceiling design, with a circular pattern in the center corresponding to the monitor above.
Mr. Becker presented the proposed changes to the design of the small service building, located south of the committal shelter, which would house a storage area and public restrooms. The stonework’s original design was hard-edged and stacked; it has been revised with chamfered columns that appear monolithic and with a more defined architrave. The face of the trellis on the north elevation has been slightly carved to create a subtle entasis.
Mr. Becker concluded by presenting several adjustments to the design of the columbarium walls. The stone enclosures would be thicker with softer corners, making the individual walls appear slightly heavier. The vertical runnels or channels on the ends, which would drain rainwater from the top, have also been subtly tapered or chamfered to express the water’s flow.
Chairman Powell invited comments from the Commission members. Ms. Meyer thanked the design team for the revisions. Indicating a detail illustrated in slide fifteen, she noted that the examples of other committal shelters at Arlington National Cemetery show a strong correlation between the ceiling, floor, columns, and the pavement and ground plane. She encouraged the design of a paving pattern that is not a simple grid but would instead reflect the regulating lines of the column spacing; the result would be a tartan grid, with the geometry of the columns establishing the location of joint patterns within the pavement. She observed that the proposed grid appears to be just a generic pattern—neither presenting a field condition that the committal shelter sits within, nor defining a space within the shelter like an area rug. She said that this simple change would allow the paving design to respond to the real spatial and design innovation of this columbarium: it is not actually a room or a series of objects, but rather a composition of structures and landscape elements within a formal field that is very textural and more of a weaving. She said that the paving pattern should express the design as illustrated as well as support the description of the columbarium as a series of open rooms.
Mr. Becker responded that the pavement pattern used throughout the cemetery is a running bond rendered in two scales. For the paving at this new committal shelter, the proposal is to use a border with a field; he said that although the field may be too simple and generic, it is intended to relate to the simplicity of the ceiling design with its series of concentric bands. He said the paving pattern could be designed to connect the pairs of columns across the field, but this would not relate to the ceiling. He added that he does not want to change the proposed ceiling design such as by adding beams to it, emphasizing that he likes the ceiling’s simplicity and the power of the central circle; Ms. Meyer agreed. Mr. Becker acknowledged that the suggestions for the paving would not negate the ceiling’s design qualities, and he offered to look further at the paving design.
Mr. McCrery congratulated the design team on the great improvement of the committal shelter design, commenting that it is much more architectural and would now succeed as a building. He said that it had previously resembled a portable structure that could be moved anywhere in the cemetery, and the design of the ground plane will be central to the shelter’s success as a building occupying a particular place. He supported Ms. Meyer’s recommendations for the paving design. He said he is not opposed to a simple grid pattern but agrees that more is needed; a simple grid could be placed within a more complex tartan pattern, and the tartan pattern might not be a matter of simply drawing double lines across the field between the paired columns. He commended the addition of details, such as chamfering on the columns to create the effect of entasis, and detailing of the runnels on the ends of the columbarium walls. He added that the renderings, especially the aerial views of the Southern Expansion area, successfully illustrate the varying density and scale of the new trees that would be planted; he said it will be a magnificent place. Mr. Becker responded that it is always helpful to think more about a project’s goals, and he expressed appreciation for the Commission’s previous comments.
Ms. Griffin thanked Mr. Becker for providing the architectural context of the Southern Expansion project and for reconsidering the design of its structures. She expressed support for Ms. Meyer’s comments, in particular for her recommendation to reconsider the paving of the ground plane at the committal shelter.
Mr. Stroik commented that the perspective drawing of the area within the committal shelter conveys the impression of a central skylight, although the proposal is for a monitor with vertical clerestory window openings beneath its roof. He noted that a monitor may provide better shedding of rainwater but would admit less light than a skylight; he asked Mr. Becker to discuss the decision to propose a monitor. Mr. Becker responded that a monitor has been chosen because it admits sunlight from the side rather than from directly above. As the sun position changes throughout the day, the sides of the monitor will glow, and the monitor’s curved roof will bounce light around while preventing it from shining directly into the eyes of people attending services in the committal shelter. He added that the surfaces of the shelter, including the roof and monitor, will be entirely white to counter the heat-island effect. He said he considers the other committal shelters at the cemetery to be too heavy in appearance, and he wants the ceiling design of this shelter to have a lighter character, with daylight performing an active design role. He emphasized that he specifically does not want to use a skylight, which would create strong shadows on the paving, compared to the more natural lighting of a monitor.
Mr. Stroik agreed with the reasoning for designing a roof monitor. He commended the revised masonry details, which he called innovative, such as chamfering the edges of columns to imply entasis. He suggested refining other details of the stonework, such as locating the masonry joints of the entablature directly above columns instead of between them, in order to give the entablature a stronger tectonic expression and to have the columns appear to support the beams; the architrave could appear to span the long space between the pairs of columns and also the short space between the two columns of each pair. Mr. Becker responded that this detail had been explored; but because the shelter is relatively large, there is not much precedent for creating a literal tectonic expression, and a single monolithic piece of stone could not be obtained to replace the three stones proposed for the longest span of the frieze. He said the resulting proportions would look odd, but he offered to explore the question further. He emphasized that he is pleased with the proposed designs for the frieze and for the column capitals, which are embedded within the architrave; while it would be possible to make the frieze appear to span between the columns, he does not think the design requires it. Mr. Stroik observed that the proposed frieze is composed of three- or four-foot-long pieces of stone; he asked if the treatment of the frieze and architrave could be reversed, with the frieze having longer stones and the architrave shorter. Mr. Becker agreed to study this.
Mr. McCrery commented that the design of the cornice displays the same direct logic in its stone jointing as the frieze, which suggests the architrave should be treated as a true architrave instead of as a horizontal band incorporating the column capitals. Mr. Becker responded that this matter had been thoroughly considered by the design team; he reiterated his satisfaction with the scale of the entablature’s different elements and with the detailing around the openings. He emphasized that the design has a subtle tension arising from the ambiguities in the reading of columns and openings—specifically the extension of the chamfers from the edges of the columns into the architrave, which raises the question of whether the design is composed of columns with entasis, or of columns and an architrave, or whether the form of the column is actually carved away at the corners. He said the design nonetheless employs simple forms that do not appear out of character with the columbarium and the Air Force Memorial because they maintain an overall simplicity with just a little added detail.
Indicating the more distant perspective view of the committal shelter, which clearly depicts the monitor, Mr. Stroik observed that this element would be relatively small; he asked if a small, simple domed or peaked roof could be added on top of the monitor. Mr. Becker responded that he does not want to draw attention to the monitor by adding a dome; its symbolic power will be clear to someone who is beneath it, with its circular form being obvious as the monitor admits daylight. He reiterated that the committal shelter is not intended as a destination, in contrast to the amphitheaters where events take place; nor is it a temple. The shelter is instead intended as a support structure, and its light monitor is intended as an element that would appear in its profile from a distance but would not be a major feature.
Mr. Stroik clarified that by dome he meant a curved roof similar to the small monitors above the interior stairways of the U.S. Capitol, which he said are not noticeable up close but are attractive from a distance. Mr. Becker said he would look at the Capitol monitors and consider whether more could be done with this element, but he emphasized that the primary design feature of the shelter is intended to be its facades with the paired columns. He added that the design team had resisted changing the initial configuration of columns because of the desire to keep the shelter as open as possible; however, on considering the Commission’s previous comments, the decision was that the paired columns would provide an appropriate level of enclosure as well as a better relationship with the runnels of the columbarium walls. He said that the design of the monitor should not detract from this broader design relationship.
Mr. Krieger commented on the excellence of the proposal, although he suggested that the design team consider the Commission’s comments regarding the development of the details. He complimented the project for its substantial refinement, with its suggestion of an architrave and a slight entasis on the columns, while agreeing with Ms. Meyer’s comments on improving the paving design. He expressed strong support for the decision not to call attention to the light monitor by capping it with a dome, commenting that the monitor as proposed would create an amazing experience when people enter the shelter and suddenly find themselves within this unexpected and mysterious light. Although he characterized the new design details as elegant, he said he finds that there are now too many columns, which diminishes the power of the pavilion design; he described the doubling of the columns as an unnecessary elaboration, out of keeping with the simplicity of the paving, the architrave, and the subtle manipulation of the ceiling around the monitor, and he said that fewer columns would be better. Mr. Becker responded that the pairing of columns has allowed more flexibility in adjusting the proportions of all the elements. Mr. Krieger acknowledged this, but he asked if the design team has considered using just three columns grouped at each corner, with a heavier column at the actual corner, instead of the multiple pairs along the sides; he said this solution would strengthen the corners without adding extra columns. However, he described the proposed configuration of paired columns as an improvement over the previous design, and he said that he would support approval of the revised design.
Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised final design of the architectural components of the Southern Expansion with the comments provided.
C. National Park Service
CFA 19/NOV/20-2, Second Division Memorial. Constitution Avenue, NW, southwest side of The Ellipse. Alterations to accommodate additional names and universal access. Final. (Previous: CFA 17/OCT/19-3) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
D. U.S. General Services Administration
CFA 19/NOV/20-3, Southeast Federal Center—The Yards, Parcel F, bounded by First, Quander, 1-1/2, and N Streets, SE. New nine-story mixed-use retail/office building. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the concept design for a new building within the private-sector redevelopment of the former Southeast Federal Center. He noted that this 35-percent design submission is being reviewed in accordance with the 2005 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Commission and the General Services Administration (GSA) regarding the design review process for this redevelopment. While most of the Southeast Federal Center is located east of New Jersey Avenue, this is the third of the parcels west of New Jersey Avenue to be redeveloped which are located outside the historic zone. The building would have ground-floor retail spaces on the south, west, and east, with the office lobby entrance at the northeast corner. The design features a two-story podium topped by a nine-story upper rectangular mass, stepping back from the podium on the south, east, and west sides with a configuration of smaller volumes to create a series of outdoor rooms, green terraces, and courts that would provide access to daylight, green roofs, and views. He said this irregular massing contrasts with the strong horizontal expression of the northern block. Higher terraces on the west side would have views to the nearby baseball stadium; lower terraces on the southeast relate more to the pedestrian scale within The Yards. He described the design as highly horizontal in character, with butt-jointed ribbon windows and continuous spandrels of terracotta in a muted, neutral gray color, and with a more articulated base featuring wider bands of this terracotta. He asked Brett Banks, a capital investment manager at GSA, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Banks said he is the project executive for GSA's public-private partnership with Brookfield Properties to redevelop the former Southeast Federal Center, a 42-acre site that has been rebranded as The Yards. He described the redevelopment as a unique undertaking for GSA that is guided by a long-term development agreement for both the design and construction of the projects; as part of this long-term agreement, GSA and other federal and local review agencies provide comments to Brookfield at the 35 percent design phase for each parcel. Since 2008, GSA and the developer have developed more than 10 parcels and the associated infrastructure, and each has been presented to the Commission for review. He asked Toby Millman, senior vice president of development at Brookfield Properties, to continue the presentation.
Mr. Millman noted that Brookfield is the successor to Forest City, the firm that developed the first part of The Yards; he said that Brookfield is committed to Forest City’s legacy of developing The Yards into a beautiful and vibrant waterfront neighborhood. This vision has been achieved in part by developing the neighborhood over time and treating each block as distinct and special, and by ensuring that the new buildings stand on their own merits but still appear as a cohesive whole. He noted that Parcel F is the first site at The Yards that Brookfield is overseeing from start to finish. He said Selldorf Architects was selected for this project because of the firm’s demonstrated success in designing well-detailed buildings with quiet dignity that respect their context. The architects have led an intensive design process that helped reveal the importance and opportunities of this site, resulting in the design to be presented today. He introduced architects Annabelle Selldorf and Oliver Link of Selldorf Architects to present the design.
Mr. Link noted that Parcel F is bounded by significant streets and avenues that are a part of the original L’Enfant Plan, including New Jersey Avenue that is a radial of the U.S. Capitol. He characterized 1-1/2 Street, renamed as Yards Place, as a north–south pedestrian corridor characterized by pockets of landscape and slow vehicular traffic; it connects the eastern entrance of the Navy Yard Metrorail station to the north with the new developments along the Anacostia waterfront to the south. The proposed building would have 300,000 square feet of office space, 22,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, and two levels of below-grade parking with a total of approximately 170 spaces. He said the design began with an extrusion of the maximum building envelope allowed by zoning. The two-story podium has been kept at this alignment to express the datum of the street wall, while the upper floors were pushed and pulled, almost like a chest of drawers, stepping back as the building rises; the effect is to bring southern light into most floors, to enhance the efficiency of the floorplates, to enable the creation of unique interior and exterior spaces, to promote workplace health and wellness, to open the views of the site from the south, and to allow light and air for the adjacent parcels. The exterior courtyards and terraces would give building tenants access to private outdoor space, and the terraced green landscape would also be visible to the public. He said that the location of the lobby at the northeast corner of the building would be closest to the Metro station entrance and to a pedestrian plaza being developed in a separate project. Loading and parking access would be from Quander Street to the north, with retail on Yards Place and 1st and N Streets. He said the design provides several flexible ground-floor spaces that could house potential retail, building amenities, or tenant-specific lobby entrances. He presented section drawings and floor plans illustrating how the interior and exterior spaces would be configured as the building steps back on its upper floors.
Ms. Selldorf said that while the building is clearly designed to meet the requirements of a commercial office building, the design team believes that the building should also contribute to the urban environment by encouraging pedestrian activity. The podium is intended to be a scaling device, with a continuous solid and articulated appearance on all four sides, suggesting pedestrian access by appearing similar to traditional storefronts. She noted that the second floor of the two-story podium would be for office use, not retail. The upper floors are intended to have a simple massing and transparent appearance interrupted by the planted terraces. The north facade, with no setbacks, would have the simplest composition; its street level would have the loading dock, garage ramp, and windows of the office lobby, which is intended to be elegant and inviting.
Ms. Selldorf described several of the proposed materials. The podium would have shaped terracotta facade detailing in an “elephant” greenish-gray color to provide a tactile and satisfying visual appearance for the ground floor; these shaped pieces would also be used selectively on the upper floors, such as at the spandrels. The storefronts themselves would have generous shop windows with bronze surrounds, which are intended to be palpable and textural; bronze would also be used for the mullions on the second floor to emphasize the vertical plane. She added that the terracotta and bronze are intended to ground the building with weight and presence, reading strongly against the otherwise lighter and transparent building.
Mr. Link presented landscape plans for the third-floor courtyard as well as for the outdoor terraces located on levels four through seven and at the tenth-floor penthouse. Planters would be uniquely configured on each terrace, though all would be kept near the roof edge to allow the plantings to be visible from the adjacent buildings and from the public spaces below. He concluded with perspective views of the building’s corners, indicating the podium details and lobby entrance as described by Ms. Selldorf, as well as the step-backs and roof gardens.
Chairman Powell asked for clarification of the MOU between the Commission and GSA regarding the review process for this project. Mr. Luebke said that the 2005 MOU provides the opportunity for the Commission to provide advisory comments, up to and no further than the 35 percent concept design phase, which is the current stage of the design; the project would not return to the Commission at the final design phase.
Mr. Krieger expressed general support for the project, complimenting the elegant use of materials as well as the overall massing concept and the resulting roof terraces; he commented that that the building would be an interesting place to work. He said the design might be confusing due to using a material on the ground floor to form vertical pilasters that is otherwise used horizontally on the remainder of the facade. He also observed that the third floor is essentially the same size as the two below, and the podium therefore appears to be three stories rather than two; he suggested stepping back the third floor slightly to help clarify the intended appearance of the podium. In addition, he questioned the strong horizontal separation between the first and second floors, which further detracts from the intended perception of a two-story podium.
Mr. McCrery commented that design teams presenting to the Commission often describe glass as a transparent material, especially when seen from the exterior. However, if the glass of this building were seen from the south at midday, it would be seen as a solid, reflective surface; the interiors would have to be illuminated to an uncomfortable degree to achieve the transparency shown in the renderings. He emphasized that glass does not equal transparency; it is a much more difficult and complex material than is presented on a regular basis by people who wish to communicate the “transparency” of their architecture. He said that it is a confounding of the definition of the word transparent in its many different uses, and he discouraged future presenters from making this sort of claim.
Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation for the massing as it relates to urban design and landscape architecture. She praised the design for bringing light into the third-floor courtyard in the morning time and winter months, adding that there would be warm pockets on a sunny day. She also expressed appreciation for how the massing would provide shade from the particularly strong northwest summer sun, and she encouraged further study of the microclimates that would be created within the proposed landscapes. She commented that the intended scale of the vegetation as shown in the renderings would not be achieved by the proposed planting palette, and she encouraged revising the palette with a skilled consultant to ensure the desired immersive experience would be achieved; she suggested one- to two-foot-tall perennial grasses and three- to five-foot-tall shrubs. She noted that the plantings would also attract birds and advised that the glass be detailed to prevent bird strikes.
Chairman Powell offered a motion to approve the concept with the comments provided. Upon a second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted this action with a 4–3 vote: Chairman Powell, Ms. Griffin, Mr. Krieger, and Ms. Meyer voted for the motion, while Mr. Shubow, Mr. McCrery, and Mr. Stroik voted against it.
E. D.C. Department of Transportation
1. CFA 19/NOV/20-4, Pennsylvania Avenue from 17th to 21st Streets, NW. Street reconstruction, streetscape improvements, and new bicycle lanes. Concept. The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
2. CFA 19/NOV/20-5, Intersection of New York Avenue, Florida Avenue, and 1st Street, NE, including Reservation 185. New public spaces created at reconfigured intersection—“Virtual Circle.” Concept. (Previous: CFA 15/OCT/20-4) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
F. D.C. Department of General Services
1. CFA 19/NOV/20-6, Ferebee Hope Elementary School, 700 Yuma Street, SE. New high school building. Final. (Previous: CFA 21/MAY/20-5) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A. (See next item for a related project.)
2. CFA 19/NOV/20-7, Ferebee Hope Elementary School, 3999 8th Street, SE. New community recreation center building. Final. (Previous: CFA 21/MAY/20-6) Secretary Luebke introduced the proposed final design for a new community recreation center building associated with redeveloping the site of Ferebee Hope Elementary School, located in the Washington Highlands neighborhood of Anacostia. He noted that earlier in the meeting, the Commission approved the adjacent project for a new high school building that will share the Ferebee Hope site (agenda item II.F.1). He said that the Commission had reviewed and approved concept design proposals for both projects in May 2020. In its review of the community recreation center in May, the Commission recommended that the design of the front facade be refined, particularly the transitions between the building volumes and roof planes, and that the new buildings be more closely related in their materials. He said that in the current proposal, the front facade of the community recreation center has been simplified, with clearer and more distinct transitions. The proposed material palettes of the two buildings are now more closely related, although the over-scaled picture-frame detail that surrounds the community recreation center’s facade imparts a character that is different from the school. He asked architect John Burke of Studio Twenty-Seven Architecture, part of the design team for both projects, to present the design for the community recreation center.
Mr. Burke said that the ten-acre site’s existing elementary school and community recreation center date from the 1970s; the school has been closed for more than a decade. The D.C. Government’s development goals for this neighborhood include bringing a greater density of education, recreation, and community services, which would be provided on this site. As part of the agreement between the D.C. Government and the charter school organization that will occupy the new school building, the school organization is constructing the new community recreation center, which will then be operated by the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR). He said that the two projects are intended to be complementary, but DPR has also requested that the two buildings not appear too closely related, since the two facilities will be operated separately. The facilities to be controlled by DPR include the new 21,000-square-foot building, an outdoor basketball court, a playground, and a baseball field that will be managed and programmed by an outreach program of the Washington Nationals baseball team. Connected to the community recreation center would be a grouping of four 1,000-square-foot storefront spaces, which would be available for lease by non-profit groups and others who need space within the community.
Mr. Burke said that the material palette is proposed to match that of the adjacent school, including the same brick, glass, and storefront systems; however, the community recreation center’s metal panels would be a lighter color than those of the school. Mr. Krieger asked for clarification of where the materials would be used on the community recreation center. Mr. Burke said that brick would be used in the entrance area, such as on the column supports of the canopy structure, with some glazed brick used at the cap of the columns to transition to the metal panels on the canopy fascia. The facade infill panels would be either transparent glazing or a translucent material such as Kalwall; this would be used to prevent glare within the gymnasium and pool spaces. He confirmed that the framing element on the gymnasium’s exterior would also be metal.
Mr. Burke summarized the Commission’s advice from its previous review of the project, which included the suggestions to simplify the material palette and more clearly define the massing to create a hierarchy between primary, secondary, and tertiary elements. In the revised design, the massing of the center section of the building would have two parts—the canopy and entry—rather than three; he said that this revision would also improve the visual relationship between the community recreation center and the small two-story garden apartment buildings across the street.
Mr. Krieger commented that comparing the previous and current versions of the design is difficult because the perspective views are from different viewpoints. He asked what the material on the blank side of the building would be; Mr. Burke said that this area would be metal panels. Mr. Krieger asked for further description of the storefront facades. Mr. Burke responded that these have not been fully developed because the program for these spaces has remained under consideration, with the possibility of orienting them to face the field rather than the street. He said that the storefronts would be glass, and he clarified that the building base would be brick. He added that more glass has been added to the gymnasium volume, but the level of transparency had not been finalized. The rear of the building would be the same brick as the high school, and the predominant material at the two ends of this facade would also be brick. Mr. Krieger asked where glazed brick would be used; Mr. Burke indicated the locations where it would be used to suggest capitals on the canopy columns, providing a transition from the columns to the fascia and pediment above. Glazed bricks would also be mixed in with the field brick on the blank wall behind the canopy and on the facade facing the field. He also indicated the metal panels that would be used at the cornice of the rear facade.
Mr. Burke then presented the building’s interior. He indicated the large two-story spaces at either end of the building for the gymnasium and pool; the circulation and service spaces would be in the one-story center volume. He confirmed for Mr. Krieger that a facade system such as Kalwall would be used for the gymnasium and pool; fritted glass is also being considered, as is shown in some of the interior renderings, but he emphasized that the intention is for diffuse light in these spaces.
Chairman Powell invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Mr. Krieger said that the overall compositional strategy is unclear, particularly how the many materials—metal, clear glass, fritted glass, gray brick, and glazed brick—are composed on the facades. He said that the design seems busy for the relatively small building, but he acknowledged that the inclusion of fritted glass would help to diminish the ponderous appearance of the tall, blank facades of the two major spaces.
Chairman Powell requested further comments or a motion to approve the project; Mr. Krieger said that he is not ready to approve the final design. Mr. McCrery commented that this appears to be a collage approach to design; Mr. Krieger added that a collage approach can be good or bad, but this one seems unsophisticated. Mr. Burke responded that the intent is to use brick as a part of the base material, while thinking of the taller volumes as storefront and metal. Mr. Krieger said that the combination of materials and where they would be used appears to be unresolved, and the composition could benefit from more discipline. He supported the inclusion of glazed brick, but he said that its very limited use fails to achieve the appearance of a secondary or tertiary material.
Ms. Griffin agreed with Mr. Krieger’s comments. She said that the pool volume reads more clearly than the gymnasium volume along the street elevation; she suggested that the gymnasium have a stronger, more singular identity, instead of the currently proposed composition of four materials that would be seen in combination with the extended entrance canopy structure. She said that a simpler approach to this elevation could help, such as using all metal panels with some translucent elements or shortening the length of the entrance canopy. She added that the inadequate quality of the renderings is causing difficulty in understanding the design. Mr. Krieger agreed, commenting that the composition improves from west to east; he said that the southwest corner of the building would benefit from further simplification. Ms. Griffin clarified that she is not suggesting a symmetrical design, but this part of the building would benefit from a simplified material palette.
Secretary Luebke noted that most of the Commission’s comments have focused on secondary or tertiary details, not the overall massing; Chairman Powell and Ms. Griffin agreed. Mr. Krieger said that he would like the Commission to review the project again rather than delegate further review to the staff, adding that the difficulty in clearly identifying the design problems is indicative of a lack of clarity in the design. He said that one expects to see a building composed of materials that have a hierarchy of primary, secondary, tertiary, infill, and detailing elements. However, this project lacks hierarchy, as indicated by the many materials used without a clear compositional strategy; he said that the gray brick, glazed brick, translucent glass, strip windows, and overly articulated chamfered cornice frame have the effect of overwhelming the small building.
Chairman Powell suggested summarizing the Commission’s comments in a letter to the applicant; he also urged the project team to consult with the staff before the next submission. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
(During the presentation of the following agenda item, Ms. Griffin departed for the remainder of the meeting.)
G. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
1. SL 21-039, Cotton Annex, 300 12th Street, SW. 13-story mixed-use apartment building addition and renovations. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the proposal for redevelopment of the Cotton Annex site, including renovation of the historic building and the addition of a new thirteen-story building behind it. He described the importance of the site’s context: it is located two blocks south of the National Mall, directly east of the Central Heating Plant and southwest of the Department of Energy headquarters complex, diagonally across 12th and C Streets from the seven-story U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) South Building, and immediately south of the planned new hotel building at 280 12th Street, most recently reviewed by the Commission in September 2020. Directly east of the project site, the 12th Street Expressway curves into a tunnel that passes below the Mall. He said that the Cotton Annex was built in 1936–37 for the USDA; it was designed by Louis Simon, Supervising Architect of the Treasury, in a classicist style similar to the USDA South Building and the Central Heating Plant, and it was intended to form part of a larger composition that was never completed. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015, the Cotton Annex contains about 120,000 square feet of office and laboratory space that was used by the USDA to grade and sort cotton, tobacco, and other agricultural products. The building has been vacant for many years; in 2017, the federal government sold it to a subsidiary of Douglas Development Corporation. He said that the project includes the renovation of the existing historic building, the creation of 100 residential units within it, and the construction of a larger building behind the Cotton Annex with approximately 500 residential units. The project would fill almost the entire site; the C-shaped addition would frame a courtyard at the center, and the tallest part of the addition would be at the south and east. The massing would step down at the north and southwest to align roughly with the height of the historic building and imply the completion of the originally intended composition. He asked Paul Millstein of Douglas Development to begin the presentation.
Mr. Millstein said his company seeks out preservation projects that include new construction components, and this project provides an exceptional opportunity to develop a project within sight of the National Mall. The project team has been working on the design for three years, meeting with the Commission staff to develop a design that respects the historic building and the context of the Southwest Ecodistrict. To continue the presentation, he introduced planner Shane Dettman from the law firm of Holland & Knight and architect Jack Boarman of BKV Group.
Mr. Dettman said the redesign of the historic Cotton Annex site has considered the relation of the site to the larger context of the Mall and the Southwest neighborhood. The massing of the new building has been studied in relation to the heights of buildings in the area, including not only the USDA buildings and the Central Heating Plant, but also existing buildings along 10th Street, the Portals development to the southwest, and the new hotel planned on the block immediately to the north. The project is also guided by the long-term planning considerations of District and federal agencies for Southwest as described in the Maryland Avenue SW Plan, the Monumental Core Framework Plan, and the Southwest Ecodistrict Plan; these studies envision future construction that would reconnect Southwest neighborhoods. The context consideration for the current proposal includes the building heights envisioned in these plans as well as the heights permitted by existing zoning.
Mr. Boarman said the project team has worked closely with the Commission staff in designing a new building that will complement and respect the Cotton Annex. He described the design characteristics of the Cotton Annex: it is approximately 90 feet high, constructed of light-colored brick, with a strongly defined two-story base containing a regular series of punched windows. Above the base, the building has four-story vertical bays separated by brick piers and filled by industrial sash windows, terminating in a simplified classical entablature with a cornice line at 84 feet; the height to the top of the parapet varies from 90 to 94 feet. He noted that the original proposal called for a doughnut-shaped footprint with a central courtyard, which has influenced the configuration of the proposed addition.
Mr. Boarman described how the proposed new building would respond to the height and massing of the Cotton Annex. The new structure would progressively rise to 90, 100, and finally 120 feet along the 12th Street Expressway and D Street, with varying depths of step-backs; the penthouse above the top story would be stepped back at a one-to-one ratio. To maintain the integrity of both buildings, the new building would be linked to the old only minimally with glass-enclosed connections, rising to roughly the same height as the Cotton Annex cornice. At the ends of the addition nearest the Cotton Annex, the primary volume would be similar to the historic building in materials, articulation, and height; the upper volume rising above would be strongly contrasting with a dark color.
Mr. Boarman said that rehabilitation of the historic Cotton Annex would include the complete repointing and cleaning of the exterior facades; all historic windows would be rehabilitated, including the industrial windows at the building’s rear, which admitted daylight to a large warehouse area. New windows for the courtyard-facing residential units within the historic building would maintain the historic fenestration pattern. At the new addition, the windows would be arranged in an orthogonal grid pattern, reflecting on a larger scale the industrial grid windows of the Cotton Annex. A non-historic stair addition at one end of the Cotton Annex would be removed.
Mr. Boarman presented a series of renderings of the new building to illustrate the scale as seen from different viewpoints. The new building would sit on a two-story base with individual punched windows, similar to the base of the Cotton Annex. The new brick would be slightly differentiated from the historic brick and would be layered in a manner reminiscent of the historic brickwork, and the new building’s dark coping would align with the cornice of the Cotton Annex. The floor-to-floor heights of the new building are designed to respond to the proposed residential use, and the floor levels of the new and old buildings would be only generally aligned.
Mr. Boarman said that the addition’s north facade would be aligned to define the historic width of C Street. At the northwest corner of the site, facing the intersection of 12th and C Streets, a setback would allow for an expansion of the simple landscape design with a bosque of trees, supplementing the line of existing heritage trees along 12th Street. Paving would be laid in a simple, linear pattern. The south end of the new building would include ground-floor retail space with an outdoor seating area, and a series of tall brick bays would modulate the D Street facade along the expressway exit ramp. He indicated the depth of recessed windows, the use of simple canopies on the bays adjoining the entrances at the northwest and southwest, and the simple patterns of the layered brick facades. Noting the long-term planning for development along Maryland Avenue, he said that this building will become part of the visual gateway into Southwest Washington when seen from bridges crossing the Potomac River from Virginia.
Mr. Boarman described the appearance of the new building as seen from the National Mall. Moving south from the Mall to D Street, existing buildings ascend in height; the buildings south of D Street are built to a consistent height of 130 feet. The stepped massing of the proposed building, terminating one floor below the 130-foot datum, is calculated to work within this visual transition. He added that when the planned new hotel on the north side of C Street is completed, it will stand between the Cotton Annex project and the Mall.
Mr. Boarman concluded by presenting a fly-through video animation of the proposed building in its context, illustrating key features of the design. He said that the upper floors of the proposed construction would be barely visible from most street-level vantage points. The addition’s 12th Street facade at the south would be aligned with the historic building’s west facade, extending the historic facade composition to D Street as originally intended. He indicated the organization of the long east facade in three-bay-wide volumes of light-colored brick, separated by dark-colored bays. He said that this composition would create a simple, residential vernacular; the dark color on the upper floors would also help soften the overall massing. He summarized that designing the addition as appearing to be formed from a collection of masses with stepped heights would mitigate its perceived size.
Secretary Luebke noted that the Commission has received one public comment on the proposal, a letter from the Committee of 100 on the Federal City. He provided a summary of the letter, which states support for the proposal. The letter acknowledges the challenge of designing an addition to a historic building within this context; it says the proposal appears to deftly handle the complex program for adaptive reuse of a historic building, recognizing its location within the Southwest Ecodistrict and addressing the impact on views from the Mall. The new addition shows appropriate deference to the historic Cotton Annex in its massing, color, and materials; its silhouette is not monolithic but instead refers to the multiple building profiles of the neighborhood context. While the addition could be lower in height, the project is subject to economic constraints, and the proposed height is not out of character. In summary, the Committee of 100 believes this plan proposes a thoughtful new construction, ensuring that the viewshed from the Mall will not be adversely affected; the Committee supports the design, urging the Commission to continue safeguarding views from the Mall as the Southwest area continues to be redeveloped.
Chairman Powell invited comments from the Commission members. Mr. McCrery complimented the design team on what he said will be a successful reuse of and addition to the Cotton Annex. He acknowledged the difficulties of the project, cautioning that construction of the planned hotel building to the north cannot be assumed, and the Cotton Annex project should be designed to succeed on its own. While describing most of the proposed addition as outstanding, he recommended altering the design of the north end of the building along C Street to make it look like an integral three-dimensional mass rather than having a facade that appears to merely wrap around a volume. He called attention to the addition’s western side facing the bosque at 12th and C Streets, where the dark curtainwall treatment is proposed to rise above the white-faced volume and to extend down to the ground for some bays. He strongly advised designing the entire volume in this area to resemble the elegant facade of the lower volume with metal windows and light-colored brick, which he said could be achieved without eliminating either the cornice line or the step-back. He emphasized that this would be a great improvement, not only appearing more typical of a building in central Washington but also much more appropriate for a building facing toward the Mall.
Mr. Krieger said that he largely agrees with Mr. McCrery but would describe the issue somewhat differently. He commented that he has no objection to the new building’s proposed height, just as he did not object to the planned height of the hotel to the north. However, he said that in this case, it is more a matter of bulk than of height—the new building simply looks too large. He recommended finding a way to reduce the apparent bulkiness, such as by eliminating the top story at the slightly lower volume along C Street, which would make the new building appear less large without having to reduce the greater heights to the west and south. He said a building of this height will look better if it appears less massive when seen from adjoining blocks, which is more important than how it looks when seen at a distance from the Mall. He observed that typically, to diminish a building’s apparent height, the upper floors would have a lighter color instead of the proposed darker color; he asked why the upper floors are designed with such a strong contrast in color, which he said will accentuate how much taller the new building is than the historic Cotton Annex. He endorsed the setback, which would prevent the new building from appearing to loom over the old, but he recommended a lighter color and less contrast.
Mr. Krieger commented that the alignment of datum lines between the new and historic buildings is not just a question of matching a particular height. He questioned whether the most dominant horizontal line on the historic building has been chosen as the reference line, observing that the new building’s cornice line at this height appears awkward; the fact that it is set at eighty feet is immaterial because it does not appear to match anything important on the Cotton Annex. He advised careful consideration of the new building’s actual appearance within the context, adjusting the height relationships to work visually more than numerically.
Ms. Meyer focused her comments on the public space at the northwest entrance, observing that this is the only public space that is substantially larger than the sidewalk area. She noted that generous public rights-of-way are common in downtown Washington, and they often have lawns bordered by exceptionally wide and elegant copings—eighteen inches or even two feet wide, but never as narrow as illustrated in the renderings. With sufficient width, the coping could serve as a seating edge; in contrast, she observed that the renderings depict people lounging on the lawn, a more suburban appearance and a casual behavior that would be unlikely here. Consistent with providing a seating edge, she encouraged thinking of the lawn as an elevated area defined by its masonry coping and facing, and considering how high the lawn should be raised to ensure that it will contain enough high-quality soil to sustain the proposed trees. Because these trees will need a lengthy period of time to grow large, she advised not thinking of them in relation to the line of heritage trees along 12th Street, but more as a bosque of six to eight closely spaced trees that can quickly provide a volume of shade. She observed that the design of this lawn appears too flat and close to the grade of the sidewalk, and she questioned whether the soil depth would be sufficient to support the number of trees required to create the desired effect. She emphasized that this is an exciting project, and the treatment of the northwest entrance landscape has the potential to create a wonderful outdoor lobby for the new residents.
Referring to the view from the Mall, Mr. Stroik said he agrees with Mr. Krieger and Mr. McCrery that the design is trying to do too much. He acknowledged the need to respect the Cotton Annex, but he recommended simplifying the design of the new building. He agreed with Mr. Krieger that making the upper stories of the new building darker in color would only emphasize its height and bulk when seen from the Mall; he added that black curtainwall buildings generally have not been built within sight of the Mall, and using a masonry material more closely resembling the color of the historic brick would be more appropriate for this location. He suggested simplifying the massing, observing that breaking it up into so many parts actually makes the building appear even more bulky.
Mr. Krieger asked whether Mr. Stroik and Mr. McCrery agree that aligning the cornice lines may not be the best way to establish a visual relationship between the new and historic buildings. Mr. McCrery observed that the crowning feature and primary horizontal feature of the Cotton Annex is the entire entablature—the strong horizontal element on a classical facade that comprises the architrave, frieze, and cornice—rather than the cornice line alone; he noted that everything above the entablature constitutes the attic, which appropriately has only a minor cornice. He agreed that relating the new building’s cornice to only the cornice line of the Cotton Annex is not a persuasive choice. Due to the differing floor heights of the new and historic buildings, he suggested that the ideal alignment with the historic entablature may be difficult to achieve. Mr. Krieger acknowledged this difficulty, but he said it would still be possible to make the design more sympathetic with the historic building, such as by establishing a broader entablature zone rather than a specific cornice line.
Chairman Powell said the Commission’s comments provide a good direction for development of the design. Secretary Luebke summarized that the Commission has expressed general support for the design approach, although questions remain about the proposed massing. He suggested requesting another concept submission that addresses these issues; Chairman Powell agreed with this procedure. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
2. SL 21-035, Milken Museum and Conference Center (former Riggs Bank and former American Security and Trust Company buildings), 1501 and 1503–1505 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, and 730 15th Street, NW. Renovation and additions. Final. (Previous: SL 17-073, May 2017) Secretary Luebke introduced the proposed final design for alterations to two historic bank buildings at 1501 and 1503–05 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, located immediately north of the Treasury Department headquarters. The buildings are part of a three-building complex that has been assembled for use by the Milken Family Foundation and the Milken Institute, to include a museum, a conference center, and office space. Renovation of the third building in the complex, located to the north at 730 15th Street, has moved forward under separate review and is not part of the current submission.
Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission’s previous reviews in 2015 and 2017, which were generally supportive; the comments of the most recent review addressed the curtainwall design along the rear atrium that would be created to link the three buildings, and the potential relationship of the curtainwall to the glazed wall system of the proposed rooftop addition above 1503–05 Pennsylvania Avenue. He noted that the rooftop addition and terrace would have a view of the White House, potentially requiring the installation of a ballistic barrier for security; the Commission had expressed concern about the visual impact of such a barrier. The project has also been subject to the D.C. Government’s historic preservation review process, including the interior renovation of the historic banking halls that is not part of the Commission’s review. The current submission does not address any exterior signage or graphics, which would require a follow-up review. He asked Kerry Healey, president of the Milken Center for Advancing the American Dream—a part of the Milken Institute—to begin the presentation.
Ms. Healey said that planning for this project has been underway for at least six years, and she expressed appreciation for the past support of the Commission and staff. She noted that the public component had previously been named the Museum of the American Educator; while education is still central to the mission of the project, the subject matter has been expanded to include health, entrepreneurship, access to capital, and financial literacy. These themes would be explored through interactive exhibits, both on-line and at the proposed facility; the activities would also include lectures, conferences, and film and art competitions. She said that her organization looks forward to rehabilitating these historic buildings and welcoming the public inside to enjoy them. She emphasized the architectural goals of unifying the multi-building complex and preserving the original design spirit of the bank buildings, with careful attention to the historic importance of both the interior and exterior. She introduced architect Shalom Baranes of Shalom Baranes Associates to present the design.
Mr. Baranes joined in thanking the staff for its assistance throughout the multi-year design process for this unusual project, and particularly for assisting in coordination of the Commission’s review with the D.C. historic preservation review. He described the context of the site and the historical sequence of buildings that comprise the project: the bank at 1503 Pennsylvania Avenue was built first, followed by another bank at 1501 Pennsylvania to the east and an addition to the first bank at 1505 Pennsylvania to the west; the taller building to the north, at 730 15th Street, was the last part of the complex to be constructed. The west side of the site is bounded by an alley; to the north, another segment of the block’s alley system was closed recently as part of this project, allowing for creation of the atrium that will unify the complex of buildings.
Mr. Baranes indicated the extensive accretion of rooftop mechanical equipment on the westernmost building, prominently visible from the street, as well as the gabled skylight of the former banking hall at 1503 Pennsylvania that has been covered with a copper roof to reduce heat gain. This project would move the mechanical equipment to locations not visible from the street, allowing for the construction of a rooftop addition at this location, and would restore the glass skylight above the banking hall. He also indicated the many green copper roofs on the buildings within this complex and on adjacent buildings; the proposed palette of materials and colors for the rooftop addition has been selected to relate to this context, primarily using glass and copper screening. He presented several street-level and aerial perspective views to illustrate the proposed rooftop addition, which would have a setback of approximately 24 feet from the historic parapet along Pennsylvania Avenue; the setback would be slightly greater above 1505 Pennsylvania.
Mr. Baranes presented a sectional axonometric drawing that shows the broader organization of the project; the excavation of a new theater space below the banking hall at 1503 Pennsylvania would allow for non-visible augmentation of the structural system that would extend upward to support the proposed rooftop addition. To assist in the Commission’s understanding of the intended public experience, he presented photographs and drawings of the two banking halls to illustrate their existing condition and their proposed renovation for museum space. He indicated the gabled skylight to be restored, as well as the existing balconies that would be slightly realigned to coordinate floor heights as the multiple buildings are combined. Small openings would be created between the two banking halls at the first and second floors to allow for circulation of museum visitors within the complex.
Mr. Baranes described the recent resolution of several design issues that had been outstanding. The proposed wall design for the atrium has now been developed: it would be a butt-jointed glazing system with interior supports of stainless steel, consistent with the design of the atrium’s ceiling. Glass fins on the interior would provide bracing for wind loads. Exterior lighting has been considered further, and the intent is not to provide general lighting of the buildings; he said that this privately owned complex should not compete for attention with the important government buildings in the vicinity. He presented a diagram of the small exterior fixtures that would be included to highlight architectural details; he noted that many of these are existing fixtures. As an example, he indicated the light stanchions that would be restored flanking the historic banking entrances. A small amount of lighting would also be provided in association with a future proposal for signage, which would be at the same location as the historic bank signage; he noted that no significant signage is planned for the top of the complex.
Mr. Baranes presented the exterior design of the rooftop addition in greater detail. The components of the walls would be windows of high-transparency glass; vertical fins of laminated glass with an inner layer of screening having the color of patinated copper, to be oriented perpendicular or parallel to the windows; and shadow-box spandrel panels with the copper-colored screening set behind transparent glass. He acknowledged the comment of the Commission earlier in the day that glass is often perceived from the exterior as solid rather than transparent during the daytime; he said that the perception of this addition has been considered carefully for both daytime and nighttime conditions. During the day, the glass would primarily reflect the color of the sky and the patterning of clouds; the copper components would help the rooftop volume to be perceived as one of the many nearby roofscape elements of green copper. At night, the deep fins would reduce the visibility of the lit interior space, intended to avoid the perception of an overly prominent glowing lantern above the monolithic, classically styled bank buildings. He said that the visual effect would be a row of modern, delicate pilasters along the rooftop; he acknowledged that only the tops would be visible from the ground, but more height would be seen from the upper floors of nearby buildings, and the fins would therefore extend down to the roof terrace. He said that the visual effect would be a row of modern, delicate pilasters along the rooftop. He acknowledged that only the tops would be visible from the ground, but more height would be seen from the upper floors of nearby buildings; the fins would therefore extend all the way down to the roof terrace. He indicated an enlarged drawing of the rooftop addition’s corner condition, not visible from the street; the awkward cantilever of the initial design has been revised to provide a copper base that ties the addition to the roof terrace.
Mr. Baranes concluded by addressing the Commission’s previous concern with a potentially tall security barrier where the rooftop area has a view toward the White House. He said the U.S. Secret Service has studied the design and has concluded that no special barrier would be needed for the configuration of the rooftop addition and terrace as proposed; the design therefore includes simply a guardrail of normal safety height.
Chairman Powell noted the prominence of the location and invited comments from the Commission members. Mr. Krieger complimented the thoughtful design and asked if the design includes a new mechanical penthouse to accommodate the existing rooftop mechanical equipment that would be removed. Mr. Baranes responded that mechanical equipment would not be placed on the upper areas of the roof; the new locations for equipment include below-grade vaults at the closed alley and depressed wells at the rear of the buildings, hidden from view. Mr. Krieger supported this solution.
Mr. McCrery expressed appreciation for the consideration of how the glass would appear during the day. He asked if the rooftop features described as copper would actually be copper; Mr. Baranes confirmed that they would actually be a metal that is colored to look like patinated copper. Mr. McCrery observed that much of the proposal was part of the previous concept submission that was already approved, and new comments on these design features may not be appropriate; he asked what issues are before the Commission today. Secretary Luebke responded that the request is for approval of the final design for the exterior work; as described in the presentation, permits have been issued and construction is underway for much of the interior work, which is not subject to the Commission’s review. He noted that work is not yet underway on the proposed rooftop addition. Mr. Baranes clarified that permits have also been issued for some non-controversial exterior work that required referral to the Commission, which was done; this work includes demolition of the rooftop structures and mechanical equipment, as well as portions of the rear alley facades.
Mr. McCrery asked about the intended signage, particularly the intended lettering within the frieze toward the top of the historic buildings, which is illustrated in the drawing with placeholder lettering. Ms. Healey responded that the text would likely be the name of the museum: Milken Center for Advancing the American Dream. Mr. McCrery observed that this lengthy text would be difficult to fit within the frieze areas, as would be shown by a drawing. Mr. Baranes responded that a drawing of the lettering has not yet been prepared, but the commitment is to work within the existing space; the size of the lettering would be adjusted accordingly. Mr. McCrery commented that the height of the lettering is an important consideration, and shrinking the lettering size to fit within the space may not be a good solution; he suggested consideration of text with fewer characters, such as just “Milken Center,” so that it could fit more comfortably within the frieze while maintaining an adequate lettering height. He suggested studying the lettering of the existing bank names to determine the appropriate proportions for future lettering.
Reinforcing the Commission’s previous support, Ms. Meyer commended the project as a successful adaptive reuse of the historic buildings. She expressed particular appreciation for the careful design of the new atrium and rooftop addition, and she said that this prominently visible location deserves the thoughtful study that has been given over the many years of developing the proposal; she thanked the design team and the client for their commitment to the project. Mr. Krieger agreed, citing the exceptional care in designing both the interior and the exterior, with the result of cleaning up the roofscape and creating an addition that would be an amenity for the entire complex. Ms. Meyer noted that the Commission would normally take the opportunity to inspect physical samples of the proposed materials, but this is not feasible with the video conference format.
Mr. Stroik expressed appreciation for the presentation, and he asked for clarification of the rooftop addition’s configuration in relation to the restored skylight. Mr. Baranes responded that the historic rectangular skylight would be slightly below the level of the addition, and it would be enclosed by a new rectangular skylight at the ceiling level of the addition. From the corridors within the addition, people would be able to look across a glass railing and down through the historic skylight into the restored banking hall; from the same vantage points, people would be able to look up to the sky through the new skylight. Mr. Stroik supported this solution. Acknowledging the proposed use of copper color in the new rooftop construction; he asked if consideration was given to designing the addition to more closely resemble the original roofs. Mr. Baranes responded that this was studied carefully, but the proportions of the historic roofscape structures would not work well for creating a usable floor layout for the rooftop addition, and the resulting appearance was problematic. He noted that the proposed enclosure of the historic skylight with a new upper skylight will address the problem of excessive heat gain within the banking hall, which had caused the skylight to be covered in the past; he emphasized that the configuration of the rooftop addition, encircling the skylight with new construction, is therefore helpful in ensuring the success of restoring daylight to the historic banking hall below.
Mr. Stroik commented that the proposed projecting fins along the facade of the rooftop addition would be a strong design feature, perhaps too strong within the context of the historic facade; he asked if other options were considered. Mr. Baranes responded that placing the fins parallel to the facade was also studied, and this solution is shown for the part of the rooftop addition that is above 1505 Pennsylvania; the proposal is intended to provide a recognizable distinction between the parts of the addition above the 1503 and 1505 buildings. He said that various dimensional options for the fins were studied in relation to sightlines and the desire to downplay the lantern effect at the roof; the proposed projecting dimension of 24 inches was selected as resulting in the best appearance. He emphasized that pedestrians near the building would see the spandrel panels but not the tops of the fins; from distant vantage points, the tops of the fins would be visible but would be difficult to discern.
Mr. Powell offered a motion to approve the design, with the Commission’s commendation of the architect. Upon a second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted this action. Ms. Healey offered to provide the Commission members with a tour of the project upon its completion.
H. United States Mint
CFA 19/NOV/20-8, Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medals honoring Dr. Christine Darden and Katherine Johnson. Design for two gold medals with bronze duplicates. Final. (Previous: CFA 17/SEP/20-11—Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan, and a group medal for the women who served NACA and NASA between 1935 and 1970) Secretary Luebke introduced the second set of medals in a program honoring the mathematical and engineering workers, primarily African-American women, who were integral to the success of the U.S. space program. These workers were known as “computers” in an early use of the term, and their story was popularized in a 2016 movie, Hidden Figures. He noted that the Commission previously reviewed a medal honoring the group collectively, as well as individual medals for two of the workers; today’s submission is for medals honoring two additional workers, Christine Darden and Katherine Johnson. The preferences of the recipient or family and of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) will be noted during the presentation. He asked Megan Sullivan of the U.S. Mint to present the design alternatives.
Ms. Sullivan summarized the authorizing legislation and the career accomplishments of Dr. Christine Darden, who worked for NASA from 1967 to 2007, serving as a data analyst, aerospace engineer, and leader of the team studying how to design supersonic aircraft to minimize the sonic boom effect. During her time at NASA, Dr. Darden earned a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, awarded in 1983. Ms. Sullivan said that the designs have been developed in close consultation with Dr. Darden, who has described a guiding philosophy known as the Four Ps, or P4—Perceive, Plan, Prepare, and Persist—that is referenced in many of the design alternatives. Mr. Stroik asked if the recipient is normally consulted in the design process; Ms. Sullivan confirmed that this has been the practice for other medals.
Ms. Sullivan presented five obverse alternatives and six reverse alternatives for the medal, noting that both the CCAC and Dr. Darden prefer obverse #24 and reverse #5. Mr. Krieger, Mr. Stroik, and Mr. McCrery agreed in supporting Dr. Darden’s choice of obverse #24, which depicts Dr. Darden holding a model airplane along with the inscriptions “P4” and “Perceive Plan Prepare Persist.”
For the reverse, Mr. Stroik expressed support for #13A and #16. Mr. McCrery agreed, adding that the portrayal of a landscape in reverse #16 is powerful, and reverse #8 is also a strong design; but he observed that #8 and #13A feature a supersonic airplane that would be redundant with the preferred obverse design. He said that if reverse #5 is selected, the inscription of the Four Ps should be omitted because it is included in obverse #24, replacing it with the text “Act of Congress” as suggested in the presentation. Ms. Meyer observed that this pairing would also repeat Dr. Darden’s name on each side of the medal, which she discouraged. Mr. McCrery summarized that the Commission should diverge from Dr. Darden’s preference for reverse #5; he described reverse alternatives #14 and 16 as the most beautiful compositions, despite the redundancy of the text with obverse #24. Mr. Shubow observed that reverse #14 has the additional problem of repeating the depiction of a model supersonic airplane; he suggested recommending reverse #16, which Mr. Powell supported. For the pairing of obverse #24 with reverse #16, Mr. McCrery suggested solving the text redundancy by keeping the reference “P4” on the obverse while keeping the full phrase “Perceive Plan Prepare Persist” on the reverse; this phrase would be removed from the obverse, replacing it with the text “Act of Congress.” Ms. Meyer supported the idea of placing “P4” and the full phrase on opposite sides of the medal; Mr. Stroik agreed. Ms. Meyer added that the name on the obverse could shift from the left to the top of the perimeter band. To avoid the redundancy of Dr. Darden’s name on both sides, Mr. McCrery suggested replacing her name on the reverse with “NASA” and the years of service for her impressively long career.
Ms. Meyer suggested that the Commission give further consideration to reverse #5, the preference of Dr. Darden; it features a diagram of the three-dimensional representation for her work on the sonic boom effect. She said that this diagram is a strong image, while the landscape of reverse #16 has scenographic beauty but carries less symbolic meaning. She observed that the elimination of Dr. Darden’s name from reverse #5, to avoid redundancy with the obverse, would allow for more space between the scientific diagram and the surrounding inscriptions; Mr. McCrery suggested that the diagram could become larger. Mr. Krieger agreed that this diagram would be a compelling design feature, clearly conveying how a sonic boom affects the ground.
Mr. McCrery agreed to support reverse #5 with obverse #24, subject to coordination of the fonts. He said that the sans-serif font depicted for reverse #5 is unattractive, and he suggested using a serif font as seen on reverse #14 and #16; Ms. Meyer agreed.
Secretary Luebke summarized the consensus to recommend obverse #24 and reverse #5 with the modifications that were discussed. For reverse #5, he observed that the perimeter of forty stars, intended to symbolize the number of years that Dr. Darden worked at NASA, creates graphic complexity and may be unnecessary if the text is changed to include her years of service. Mr. McCrery agreed, supporting the more explicit listing of her career length as a critical design element; he observed that the entire job category of mathematical computing from early in Dr. Darden’s career became obsolete a few years later with the development of low-cost electronic calculators. Mr. Luebke noted that eliminating the ring of stars would allow for the other design elements to become slightly larger; Mr. McCrery agreed.
Chairman Powell said that the Commission has reached a recommendation that appears to solve the design issues that have been raised. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission recommended obverse #24 and reverse #5, consistent with the preferences of Dr. Darden and the CCAC, with the comments provided.
Ms. Sullivan summarized the career of the second medal recipient, Katherine Johnson, who worked for NASA and its predecessor agency from 1953 to 1986; she died in February 2020 at the age of 101, and the designs have been developed in consultation with two of her daughters. Ms. Johnson performed mathematical calculations for many space programs, including the Apollo lunar landing and the space shuttle. In 1962, astronaut John Glenn specifically requested Ms. Johnson’s mathematical verification of the Friendship 7 spaceflight trajectory calculations that were provided by the newly developed electronic computers.
Ms. Sullivan presented fourteen obverse alternatives and eight reverse alternatives for the medal, noting that both the CCAC and Ms. Johnson’s daughters prefer obverse #7 and reverse #8; she added that reverse #3 had been an earlier preference of the daughters. Mr. Krieger observed that for both medals, the recipient or family prefers a more youthful portrait from early in the career. Mr. McCrery commented favorably on the portrait in obverse #7, adding that her likeness is conveyed well in all the portraits from different periods of her life. He expressed strong support for obverse #7 but said that reverse #8, featuring a chalkboard diagram of the Apollo 11 lunar landing return, is the weakest of the alternatives. Mr. Krieger acknowledged that reverse #8 may not be strong artistically, but he described it as the most informative of the alternatives and apparently a strong choice for the family and the CCAC. Mr. McCrery commented that the orbital flight trajectory lines of reverse #3—the earlier preference of the daughters—is also an informative design.
Ms. Meyer said that reverse #3 combines too many drawing styles. She described reverse #8 as an unusual graphic composition, unlike any that she has seen during her eight years on the Commission. She questioned the lack of hierarchy in its lettering, using the same size of font for all of the text; she suggested that the perimeter text be slightly larger, or else the three pieces of text within the diagram—Lunar Liftoff, Rendezvous, and Earth—be slightly smaller. Mr. McCrery commented that reverse #6 is interesting pictorially, with a powerful composition of the moon in the foreground and the earth in the background; Ms. Meyer agreed that this design is beautiful graphically but questioned whether it would be successful as a sculpted coin design. Mr. McCrery suggested that reverse #6 would be more meaningful if it includes the text “Service to the United States as a Mathematician” as seen on reverse #4, providing a more detailed description to balance the beautifully spare composition of obverse #7. Mr. Krieger reiterated his support for reverse #8, notwithstanding the potential modifications to improve reverse #6. He commented that the very unusual design of reverse #8, as noted by Ms. Meyer, could be appropriate for the extraordinary subject matter of a lunar landing; Ms. Meyer added that the subject of human computer is also very unusual.
Secretary Luebke noted that the format for this medal is larger than for the coins that the Commission often reviews; Ms. Sullivan confirmed that the medal would have a diameter of three inches. Mr. Luebke said that this size allows for more pictorial nuance and richness, which may be a factor in the Commission’s recommendation. Ms. Meyer expressed support for the clear, descriptive text at the perimeter of reverse #8—“Calculating the Orbital Flights for the Apollo Space Program”—compared to the less explicit text on reverse #4 or the text on several other alternatives, “Reaching for the Moon,” which she likened to a slogan or branding. Mr. McCrery agreed, comparing this inscription to a slogan such as “Go for the Gold.”
Chairman Powell invited a motion to bring the discussion to a conclusion. Ms. Meyer suggested that the Commission recommend obverse #7 and reverse #8, consistent with the preferences of Ms. Johnson’s family and the CCAC, with the request to consider slightly enlarging the perimeter text on the reverse to establish a sense of typographic hierarchy and extend further around the perimeter, and to coordinate the obverse and reverse fonts to be more related. Upon a second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission adopted this action.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 1:11 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA