The meeting was convened by video conference at 9:02 a.m.
Hon. Justin Shubow, Chairman
Hon. Rodney Mims Cook, Jr., Vice Chairman
Hon. Chas Fagan
Hon. Perry Guillot
Hon. James McCrery
Hon. Steven Spandle
Hon. Duncan Stroik
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
A. Approval of the minutes of the 18 February meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the February meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Mr. Stroik, the Commission approved the minutes.
B. Dates of next meetings. Secretary Luebke presented the dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 15 April, 20 May, and 17 June 2021.
C. Report on the 2021 National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs grant program. Secretary Luebke noted that this annual program provides federal grants to support medium- to large-size arts institutions in Washington. He reported that 26 organizations have applied to participate in this year’s program; one of these is a new applicant, requiring the convening of a panel to determine its eligibility in accordance with established criteria. In accordance with the authorizing legislation, the panel includes the chairs of the Commission of Fine Arts, and of the National Endowments for the Arts and for the Humanities, or their designees. He noted that the appropriated funding for the current year is $5 million, to be distributed among the eligible institutions per the established formula; he said that the funds will likely be disbursed in early June.
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 no changes have been made to the draft appendix, which has seven projects. Upon a motion by Mr. Stroik with second by Mr. Cook, the Commission approved the Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler said that one project from the draft appendix has been withdrawn at the request of the applicant (case number SL 21-076). Other revisions are minor wording changes and the notation of dates for the receipt of supplemental materials. The recommendation for one project (SL 21-082) is subject to further coordination with the applicant, and she requested authorization to finalize this recommendation when the outstanding issues are resolved. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Fagan, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act Appendix. (See agenda item II.D for an additional Shipstead-Luce Act submission.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Stevenson reported that no changes have been made to the draft appendix, which has 25 projects. Upon a motion by Mr. Cook, the Commission approved the Old Georgetown Act Appendix.
B. U.S. General Services Administration
CFA 18/MAR/21-1, Southeast Federal Center (The Yards), Parcel H, bounded by First, N, and 1-½ Streets and N Place, SE. New twelve-story residential building with street-level retail space. Concept/Final. 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 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 fourth of the parcels west of New Jersey Avenue to be redeveloped, an area that is located outside the historic zone. The twelve-story building would be configured as a five-story podium wrapped around a ground-level central courtyard, and wings rising seven and five stories above the podium on the north and east. The facade materials would establish distinct but related vocabularies for the upper and lower parts of the building. A fitness center and outdoor swimming pool would be located on top of the podium, ground-floor retail would be located along each of the four street frontages, and two levels of below-grade parking would be provided. He asked Brett Banks, a capital investment manager at GSA, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Banks described 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 noted that Brookfield had acquired Forest City, the firm that originally partnered with GSA in 2005 and began the redevelopment project. The currently completed work includes seven residential buildings and a five-acre waterfront park; several other buildings are under construction or moving through the design process.
Mr. Banks introduced architect Erikjan Vermeulen of Concrete, a design firm based in the Netherlands, to present the proposal. Mr. Vermeulen noted that his firm is collaborating with the local office of WDG Architecture in designing this project. He presented the context for the site, which is located at the west edge of The Yards. Across First Street to the west is the baseball stadium for the Washington Nationals team. The eastern edge of Parcel H is Yards Place, which is being newly created within The Yards; it is shown on some drawings with the earlier name of 1-½ Street.
Mr. Vermeulen described the public role of the 390,000-square-foot building: the ground floor would include retail frontage on all sides and a courtyard that is open to the public; and the building would fill the block to provide street walls that reinforce the grid of the L’Enfant Plan. He noted that other planned buildings on adjacent parcels and throughout The Yards are similarly designed to restore and build out the urban blocks created by the L’Enfant Plan. The taller parts of the proposed building are intended to be consistent with the height of planned development on the parcels to the north and east; the lower height of the south and west sides of the proposal is intended to match the relatively low baseball stadium and its parking garage on the west side of First Street, maximizing views in this direction while also taking advantage of the greater exposure to sunlight. He presented a series of diagrams illustrating how the proposed massing was developed through this analysis of the context, resulting in many of the residential units having views of the stadium and the Anacostia River; the study of the daylight exposure also resulted in the proposal for the public courtyard at the center of the block.
Mr. Vermeulen described the courtyard as a “hidden gem” within the urban environment, with a size of approximately 100 feet square. It would be open to the public during the day; open-air access would be provided from the sidewalks to the north and west, allowing the courtyard to serve as a pedestrian shortcut through the block. The retail space in much of the ground floor is envisioned as including a public cafe adjacent to the residential lobby on the east and a restaurant along First Street on the west; each of these would also have frontage on terrace space within the courtyard to allow for outdoor seating. The courtyard would also include planted areas and a water feature. He emphasized that all four corners of the block would have ground-floor public retail spaces. The parking garage ramp and loading dock would be grouped together on the south along N Place.
Mr. Vermeulen said that the five-story base of the building would be brick, with a similar treatment on all four facades to avoid defining a front or rear side. At the L-shaped upper stories, the brick would be extended to the top of the building at the northeast to accentuate this corner of the building, which is closest to the Navy Yard Metrorail Station and adjoins the anticipated heavier pedestrian traffic along Yards Place. The two wings of the L-shaped massing would be stepped back five feet, and their metal facade treatment would somewhat contrast with the base while being related in color and fenestration. He said that the slightly lower height on the east—ten stories, compared to the maximum allowable height of twelve stories on the north—is intended to increase the amount of daylight reaching Yards Place, because of its narrower width and active pedestrian environment. A penthouse with a further step-back would be located above each of the wings. At the level of the sixth floor, the south side of the building would have a roof garden above the building’s base, as well as a pavilion at the southwest corner of the roof that would contain the fitness center for residents. He said that the roof gardens as well as the ground-floor courtyard are intended to have a rich biodiversity of plantings, providing a green landscape within The Yards.
Mr. Vermeulen presented sections and elevations to illustrate the proposed configuration and facade treatment. The brick exterior of the building’s base would extend down to the ground except at the retail frontage; the brick would be articulated to emphasize a two-story area at the residential lobby entrance and at the passages to the courtyard. Balconies would express the residential use of the building, and the irregular spacing of the brick piers would correspond to the layout of the apartments. He said that the varied window sizes would express the interior and give the facades a sense of playfulness. The courtyard facades would have a somewhat different treatment from the street frontages, with a stucco finish, contrasting color, and small balconies.
Mr. Vermeulen presented more detailed information about the proposed exterior materials and detailing. The brick would be dark gray, with some variety of color and texture to provide a sense of liveliness. It would be laid in soldier courses above all the windows, and infill panels of brick would be slightly recessed from the plane of the piers. The window frames would have a champagne color, using anodized metal to give a rich and lively character. Beneath projecting canopies, the retail facades would be articulated with transoms above the large storefront windows. The retail window frames would be brown anodized aluminum, and the intent is to provide wood doors. The metal panel facades of the upper part of the building would be gunpowder gray, and the window frames would be aluminum; he said that the differing materials would be related to the color of the building’s base while having a lighter character that emphasizes the daylight and air for the streets. The facades would also include infill panels of metal louvers. The exterior of the fitness center pavilion would be champagne-colored anodized metal.
Mr. Vermeulen concluded by presenting several ground-level and aerial perspective renderings to illustrate the proposal within the existing and planned context. He emphasized the relationship between the height of the proposed five-story base and the similar height of the baseball stadium to the west, the strong three-dimensional expression of the city block, and the grouping of balconies at the ends of the upper wings to convey a residential character.
Mr. McCrery noted that the penthouse level would rise above the maximum allowable height of 130 feet and would contain residential units; he asked if this is allowable under zoning regulations, or if the penthouse space is limited to amenity spaces or mechanical equipment. Toby Millman of Brookfield Properties noted his understanding that the residential use of the penthouse level is allowed, and he offered to verify this issue. Secretary Luebke clarified that the use of penthouse space had previously been restricted, but the regulations were amended within the past decade to allow the proposed occupiable use of the penthouse, provided that the required step-back and height constraints are respected.
Mr. Cook asked about the relationship of the site to New Jersey Avenue, SE. Mr. Vermeulen clarified that Parcel H is a block west of New Jersey Avenue, and the proposed building would not serve as the visual terminus of the avenue’s alignment. Mr. Cook asked about the location of the north–south creek and canal segment that once passed through this area. Mr. McCrery responded that this alignment is adjacent to Third Street, SE, two blocks to the east of this site and corresponding to Canal Park on the north side of M Street; the canal is no longer extant, and the creek’s flow is piped below grade.
Mr. Stroik asked about the building’s structural system and budget; Mr. Vermeulen responded that the structural system would be concrete, and Mr. Millman said that the building cost would be comparable to other concrete buildings in the neighborhood. Mr. Stroik asked about the size of the proposed apartments; Mr. Millman responded that most would be one-bedroom apartments in the range of 550 to 650 square feet, studio apartments would be approximately 250 to 400 square feet, and two-bedroom apartments would be 700 to 900 square feet. Mr. Stroik noted the difficult market for retail space, even before the current pandemic, and he asked about the viability of retail space within this neighborhood. Mr. Millman responded that retail space within Brookfield’s properties in the area, and within The Yards generally, has been doing very well, with very few vacancies; he acknowledged that some tenants have been struggling recently, as with much of the retail sector. He noted that a retail lease was just signed for space at Parcel G, currently under construction, and he concluded that the future for retail leasing looks promising. Mr. Stroik asked if the retail mix is primarily food and convenience stores, or if it includes a wider range of consumer goods such as clothing. Mr. Millman said that existing retailers at The Yards includes a range of types; the longer-term goal is for The Yards to become the downtown for the wider Capitol Riverfront neighborhood, which includes providing a range of uses that will make The Yards a destination for people in the area. Mr. Stroik encouraged this goal.
Mr. McCrery expressed support for the champagne color proposed for the anodized metal window frames, but he noted that no color was described for the glass, which will be a major element of the facades. He observed that the presented materials of dark gray brick and gunpowder gray metal panels would actually appear to be black; he strongly recommended against constructing a black building, consistent with the Commission’s advice on other black-colored proposals that have been reviewed. He acknowledged that a black color can be appropriate in some cities, particularly when using locally available building materials; but he emphasized that this color is not appropriate for Washington. He anticipated that the current trend of constructing black-colored buildings will soon end, which will result in these buildings having a dated appearance that should be avoided. He cited the greatly improved design of a recently reviewed project in Southwest Washington that resulted from the Commission’s guidance to select a lighter-colored brick, improving the design’s legibility and the character of the streetscape. He expressed support for the types of materials that are proposed as well as the overall design of the building, noting that his concern is limited to the color selections. He emphasized that a lighter-colored palette would improve the architecture and the long-term value of the building.
Mr. Stroik asked if the guidance should be for the dark colors to become a lighter gray, or if the champagne color should become more prevalent. Mr. McCrery clarified that he favors a gray color, but much lighter than the dark gray colors that are proposed; he said that this change would give the building a sense of glowing. He also expressed support for the proposed texture and blend of colors for the brick, avoiding a machine-made design character. He noted that the mortar color should be adjusted in response to revising the brick color. Mr. Vermeulen responded that the design team has been studying a range of colors; he agreed that a very dark building would be problematic, and he said that the search continues for the best choice of a medium gray color. He noted that his firm is more familiar with bricks that are available in Europe, which would be costly to ship to Washington, and he is relying on local members of the design team to identify materials that are more readily available for this project. He invited suggestions from the Commission members as part of the continuing search for the best selection of materials; Secretary Luebke noted that the Commission can advise on design matters such as the color palette but cannot recommend specific products.
Mr. Guillot commended the design team’s recognition of the importance of views toward the baseball stadium; he said that this relationship would help to engage the building with its location, and he cited the successful relationship between other ballparks and adjacent buildings such as at Baltimore’s Camden Yards. He expressed concern with the proposed landscape design for the courtyard, observing that direct sunlight for the plantings would be extremely limited; he added that placing a water feature in a location without direct sunlight could also be problematic. He described the roofscape above the five-story base as a highly animated program of elements and design; he acknowledged the importance of offering amenities for the residents, but he suggested a less fragmented design approach for the natural elements of the landscape. He noted that this roof landscape would be an important visual feature for views from the fitness center and the upper-story apartments, while having only a limited role as a landscape for occupancy and use. He expressed support for the proposed massing, while agreeing with Mr. McCrery’s criticism of the dark color palette and concern about the building appearing dated. He recommended against following current design trends, commenting that quieter buildings have a more lasting design appeal. He added that a lighter-colored design could easily be imagined within the presented perspective renderings of the building within the streetscape.
Mr. Spandle agreed that the proposed massing of the building is very successful, and he also supported the animation of the ground floor with retail storefronts, including spaces for a restaurant and a cafe. He cited the public access to the courtyard as a welcome amenity, instead of limiting its use to building residents. He agreed with the concern about the darker colors within the presented palette of materials, and he encouraged shifting the palette toward the champagne color that was presented for some of the metal.
Mr. Shubow questioned the rhythm of windows on the facades, commenting that some areas appear too jumbled or random; he suggested consideration of a more regular rhythm. He cited the northeast corner of the building, articulated as a corner tower, which is expressed on various floors as being three, five, or six bays wide; he said this may have an overly busy appearance. Mr. Guillot said that the trade-off is between a regular grid-like facade suggestive of an office building, or a more fragmented and playful appearance that relates to the organization of residential spaces; he observed that the design breaks the expanse of the building into pieces instead of treating it as a unified monolith. He said the goal should be to find the best balance between these extremes; the proposal may not be the best solution, but he acknowledged the rationale that has resulted in this design.
Mr. McCrery agreed with Mr. Guillot’s comments, and he expressed support for the architect’s effort to bring a sense of playfulness to this project, which is shaped by zoning and planning to be a superblock with no variation in scale. He said that the architect is addressing the nearly impossible challenge by using every design tool available to break down the building scale and volume that result from the regulatory framework, and he characterized the result as quite successful. He added that Mr. Shubow’s recommendation for more regularity involves larger issues of the basic design approach and would not likely improve the design for this building. Mr. Shubow deferred to Mr. Guillot’s comments on the corner tower, while reiterating that the other facades may be too random or jumbled.
Mr. Guillot offered a motion to approve the concept with the comments provided. Upon a second by Mr. Stroik, the Commission adopted this action.
C. D.C. Department of General Services
1. CFA 18/MAR/21-2, Bard High School Early College (formerly the Malcolm X Elementary School), 1351 Alabama Avenue, SE. Renovation and modernization of the existing school building. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the first of four projects submitted by the D.C. Department of General Services on behalf of various branches of the D.C. Government. This concept proposal, on behalf of D.C. Public Schools, is for the renovation and modernization of the former Malcolm X Elementary School to accommodate a new tenant, Bard High School Early College. The existing four-story classroom building dates from the 1960s; a large addition on the east, housing a multipurpose room, was built in 1973. He noted that the context includes a residential neighborhood, with additional multi-family residential buildings planned nearby; two historic Jewish cemeteries are located directly across Alabama Avenue from the school, and the Congress Heights Metrorail station is immediately to the west of the school. Farther to the northwest is the St. Elizabeths East Campus redevelopment area. He said the proposal is intended to renovate the building as an efficient, high-performance learning environment for the public charter school tenant. He identified the wall design as the primary issue with the existing building: the construction is uninsulated brick over CMU block, a system which has poor thermal efficiency, and the fenestration is limited. The walls would be replaced with a new wall assembly that respects the original design character; in order to bring more daylight into the building, bevel-framed windows would be added on the north and south facades where the existing walls have blank brick panels. The existing one-story addition would be completely rebuilt and clad in a dark brick, contrasting with the lighter color of the main building while tying in with its base and emphasizing the areas of public uses. He asked Diana Halbstein, the project coordinator for facility planning design for D.C. Public Schools, to begin the presentation.
Ms. Halbstein said that this existing public school will be modernized to serve as the home of a public application charter school, the first such school to be built east of the Anacostia River. She said that Bard Early College is a partner program with Bard College in New York, one of several such partnerships that Bard College has with public schools across the country. Students at these schools take college-level classes along with their high school curriculum, graduating with both a high school degree and a two-year college degree. She emphasized that the “transformational” redesign of the building must balance the creation of a collegiate atmosphere with acknowledgement that the school is a long-time cornerstone of the Congress Heights community. She introduced architect Omar Calderon of Perkins Eastman DC to discuss the design.
Mr. Calderon described the site and context in greater detail: the school’s main entrance faces Alabama Avenue on the north; Savannah Street, a primarily residential street, is to the south; and Congress Street is to the east, although a one-acre eastern area of the existing school site will be developed separately by the D.C. Government for housing, with the result that Bard High School will not have frontage on Congress Street. Neighborhood residences include two- and three-story multi-family buildings. He said that the historic cemeteries largely determine the character of this segment of Alabama Avenue, limiting the residential neighborhood to only the south side of the street. He indicated the narrow and uninviting sidewalk along the south side of Alabama Avenue, which he said would be changed to become a more inviting route to the school. The Metro station has two exit points, one on each side of Alabama Avenue; the Metro tunnel extends beneath the southwestern part of the site, which limits the extent of construction in this area. He noted that the fourth floor of the existing building has distant views to the Washington Monument, which he said will provide an inspiring connection with the goals of the new school program.
Mr. Calderon said the school was originally designed as an open-plan building, with large interior spaces and few windows. The proposal would replace the original school’s building envelope and the entire one-story addition, while using the same footprint as the existing complex. The site is being redesigned in response to the removal of the eastern area for residential development, which affects the design of vehicular access for the teachers’ parking lot and for service needs; a controlled connection between the school and the housing sites may be feasible.
Mr. Calderon presented analytical design drawings exploring the creation of a high-performance learning environment in this building and the maximization of interior daylight. He noted that the existing building’s long axis is oriented approximately east–west, which is favorable for bringing daylight to learning spaces on the north and south. The building’s primary facades are on the north and south, organized symmetrically and serving different purposes: the north facade establishes the school as a civic building within the community, while the south facade is oriented toward the residential community along Savannah Street. He said that students will arrive from throughout the city, with most traveling by public transit. Walking from the Metro station, students would approach the school from the west, first seeing the building from an angle, which gives importance to the design treatment of this corner. Students approaching from the south would see the playground spaces in the foreground, with the school’s south facade beyond.
Mr. Calderon described the existing building in more detail, observing that its structural system is clearly expressed on the primary north and south facades by exterior columns that define regular bay divisions. The columns are flanked by narrow, vertically stacked windows, and the remainder of each bay is a large blank brick panel; he noted that these windowless panels had formed part of the storage areas for the learning spaces. The existing facades are capped by an implied cornice, which would be incorporated into the new design of the north and south facades. He indicated the recessed area along the base of the building’s north side, which originally served as a covered space outside the kindergarten classrooms.
Lauren Wheeler of Natural Resources Design presented the site design, which she said is intended to support the creation of an intellectual community where students and faculty interact within a school and landscape that provides for intellectual and athletic growth. The site is relatively flat, sloping slightly downward to the southwest. The proposal would redesign the area south of the building, which currently has a large amount of deteriorated asphalt parking, as well as obsolete concrete structures including benches and outdated playground equipment. She indicated the proposed driveway from Savannah Street that would provide access to parking and to the school’s loading dock. A screening wall would conceal the loading dock from a new student plaza on the south side of the school, and gridded fences and plantings would screen the service area from the athletic field and Savannah Street. She added that sidewalks along the driveway would be provided for people to walk through the site from Savannah Street to the Metro station; limited community use of the building would be allowed when school is not in session, so the site design is intended to convey a sense of welcome. The landscape would include many spaces for small groups of students to talk, read, or walk. The student plaza would be the nucleus of the site design, providing a central area defined by seating, plantings, and murals, where students and faculty can gather, study, have lunch, or watch outdoor performances. The site would also accommodate an extensive amount of athletic programming, including a running track with a soccer field in its center to the south and three different types of basketball court to the southwest; parkour equipment and possibly additional outdoor gym equipment would be provided.
Ms. Wheeler said the landscape is also designed to function as an outdoor classroom. A living ecosystem would be created on the site, based on an actual rare, endangered ecosystem that is located a half-mile south of the school. The on-site ecosystem would incorporate indigenous plant communities and stormwater management techniques, allowing students to research this model of the real ecosystem within their own campus. The school landscape is also being designed to improve the larger ecosystem by providing enhancement of the greenway and the flyway for indigenous birds and pollinators. Stormwater management would be integrated into the school curriculum and incorporated as an aesthetic element within the plaza design. She noted the presence of several heritage trees, both on and just outside the campus, whose critical root zones are defined on the site plan; the design team is working with the D.C. Government’s Urban Forestry Division to determine how best to preserve these trees.
Mr. Calderon illustrated a model of the project showing the relationship of the four-story building volume to the one-story gymnasium; this new gymnasium would replace the existing low-rise addition along Alabama Avenue, providing easier community access to this facility after school hours. An internal connection to the academic building would be provided on the west side of the gymnasium, and a separate entrance for public access would be provided along Alabama Avenue.
Mr. Calderon said that the new school design expands on the design and structural logic established by the existing building’s exterior through such means as the regular, symmetrical rhythm of its bay division. He said that a primary intervention is the proposal to create new windows in the middle of the bays on the north and south facades, where the existing design has brick wall panels. Each of these new windows would be set within a deep frame with angled sides; the angles would vary among the windows to create the effect of a sculptured facade, especially in the oblique views from the streets. The design may be developed to include highlighting the angled surfaces with an accent color. Additional windows would be provided in several areas: at the base of the building; at the east and west ends of the four-story volume, using a staggered configuration; and in the connecting structure between the four-story school and the gymnasium. A large, continuous expanse of windows would be provided at the top half of the gymnasium’s north facade to admit daylight; smaller areas of glazing would be located in other walls of the gymnasium and at its ground level to create visual connections between the gym and the exterior. A new corner window next to the school’s main entrance would provide increased visibility along Alabama Avenue.
Mr. Calderon concluded by describing the proposal for the building’s interior, which involves organizing the space in both plan and section. A four-story skylit atrium would be created in the center of the building, and the learning spaces would be arranged around the atrium; the upper level is proposed to have two-story high spaces lit by skylights. A new stairway would occupy a prominent location within this central atrium space, dramatizing the circulation route through the building that begins at the main entrance from Alabama Avenue and continues up the stairway to the top level of the building.
Chairman Shubow invited comments and questions from the Commission members. Mr. Fagan described the design concepts as bold and appealing, and he said he looks forward to seeing how they are developed further. He commended the concept to design the school as a place for thinking, with an interior that expresses a sense of flow in its circulation to embody the idea of academic growth. He said the central atrium will be an excellent way to admit daylight into the building, and it will be an inviting destination as well as a physical expression of circulation. However, he observed that the atrium would be somewhat narrow, and he suggested consideration of whether it could be larger. He commented that the proposal to create windows through cutting into the exterior brick panels will also be an effective way to introduce more daylight. He expressed support for the creation of the student plaza on the south; he advised care in the selection of an image for the mural on the screening wall in order to ensure that it will be appropriate for the anticipated uses of the space, noting that some images or designs may work against the desired goals. He commended the project team for a good design that presents an intriguing approach for the transformation of older Modernist structures.
Mr. Cook said he agrees with Mr. Fagan that the proposal will improve the building’s interior, while sharing the concern that the atrium space appears somewhat narrow. However, he commented that the irregularity of the chamfered window surrounds would introduce an element of confusion to the composition, and he suggested making these more uniform or even identical to create a calmer design that would impart a sense of timelessness. Referring to the proposed elevations, he indicated specific window configurations that he suggested using as models, emphasizing that the most important design consideration is consistency.
Mr. McCrery commended the proposed redesign. He noted the comment in the presentation that color might be added to the new angled openings; he cautioned that the application of color simply because this is a school building would detract from the serious civic nature of the academic mission, which the architecture should support. He strongly recommended instead that the design should rely on the inherent, natural colors of its handsome building materials instead of diminishing the architecture by applying color. He agreed with Mr. Cook that the proposed “staccato” arrangement of angled window openings would present visual disorder, and that the design would benefit from more consistency.
Mr. Guillot expressed support for the angled window openings, suggesting their continued inclusion as the design is developed. He said that he understands the rationale for introducing this element as a counterpoint to the discipline and uniformity of the north and south facades, with regular vertical bays and stacked windows framing the columns. He observed that the proposed windows within the angled frames would all be identical, and the only difference would be the location of the window within the panel and the resulting steepness of the surrounding angled planes; he commented that this may be the appropriate place for the building to celebrate the individual, reflecting the different activities taking place in each classroom. He noted that the sculptured window forms are reminiscent of the single projecting window on the facade of New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, which he described as an inverse version of the same device. He said the proposed angled windows would offer spontaneity in the facades, and if they were reduced to a single type they might appear too regimented and predictable, making the building look institutional. He suggested instead reducing the variety of forms, perhaps to only three, for a more ordered formal interplay. He reiterated that the windows present a design element that can celebrate the individual. Chairman Shubow thanked Mr. Guillot for his persuasive discussion.
Noting Mr. Guillot’s reference to the Whitney Museum facade, Mr. Fagan observed that the school design also includes an inverted, projecting version of the window at the proposed gymnasium entrance on Alabama Avenue, where the wall next to the entrance suddenly punches out, and it would provide a similar visual effect for people walking along the sidewalk. Mr. Guillot agreed that these design gestures provide the architectural opportunity to enliven the otherwise institutional facades.
Mr. McCrery offered a motion to approve the concept design with the Commission’s comments, seconded by Mr. Cook. Secretary Luebke requested clarification of the Commission’s position on the presented approach of varied angled frames of the new windows, noting that some members had expressed support for the proposed design while others had asked for it to be changed. Chairman Shubow suggested that two options be presented: one option for the development of the presented treatment, and a second option with a more regular arrangement of identical windows. The Commission adopted the motion with this clarification.
2. CFA 18/MAR/21-3, School-Within-School at Anne M. Goding Elementary School, 920 F Street, NE. Building renovation and additions. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/OCT/20-9) Secretary Luebke introduced the proposed final design for the renovation and expansion of the School-Within-School at the Anne M. Goding Elementary School. He said that at the previous review, in October 2020, the Commission approved the concept design and suggested further study of the choice of colors proposed for the window surrounds, as well as further consideration of the landscape design, particularly at the front of the building. The current design has been refined with a more limited range of colors for the exterior facades, which feature whitewashed brick and window walls composed of white ceramic-coated panels and dark gray frames that are accented with thin, painted aluminum surrounds; he noted that the surrounds are somewhat smaller than previously proposed, with relatively wide outer surfaces and color on the inner faces as well as on some balconies and interior spaces. The site design has also been refined; it includes several play and outdoor classroom areas, and the community garden area has been laid out on a more rational plan. To present the project, he introduced Diana Halbstein of D.C. Public Schools (DCPS), architects Salo Levinas and Maria Gorodetskaya of Shinberg Levinas, and landscape architect Sharon Bradley of Bradley Site Design.
Ms. Halbstein said that the School-Within-School is a D.C. public elementary school that offers a program based on the Reggio Emilia educational model, somewhat similar to the Montessori methodology, with a focus on art and on exploration of the environment. Mr. Levinas described the project goal of designing the school as a single building that presents a quiet image.
Ms. Gorodetskaya said that the school will serve students from throughout the city. The context includes the historic Capitol Hill neighborhood to the south. The school is located at the south end of its block; the north end of the block has the Sherwood Recreation Center, and the area between is occupied by outdoor play areas. She said the planned changes to the school include a small addition to the north of the classroom building and the addition of two classrooms above the gymnasium at the east; the area south of the building is public space within the F Street right-of-way. The proposed food garden has been relocated to the southeast corner of the site, and a play area would occupy the southwest corner. In response to feedback from school officials and to meet regulatory requirements for barrier-free access, an accessible route would be created with a new ramp leading from the 9th Street sidewalk to an entrance at the west end of the building. The new parking lot would occupy the same footprint as the existing lot, with slight modifications in relation to the proposed “traffic garden” to the east.
Ms. Bradley presented the site design in greater detail. To the extent possible on this very small site, all of the site elements have been designed in accord with the tenets of visual biomimicry, resembling natural systems with functional elements that will immerse students in the environment. The site design at the main entrance on the south has been clarified. She indicated the urban agriculture area to the right of the entrance; this feature serves as the school’s hallmark and the focus of community involvement, and it is therefore treated as an identifying element at this prominent location. She said that public access to this garden would be maintained by slightly separating it from the daily activities of students; a fifteen-foot-wide path through the garden would lead to the school’s entrance. To the north, the entrance’s open space has been expanded, and the pedestrian route to the entrance leads through the parking lot and the children’s traffic garden.
Ms. Bradley said that the area west and south of the school is designed in accordance with the Reggio Emilia program, using plantings, stones, and sand to create “immersive multi-sensory elements” resembling a dry riverbed within an artificial topography. The features include a mound on the east, a woven willow hut on the west, water in the riverbed at the north edge of the space, and an elliptical area of sand. Site furnishings would follow the principles of biomimicry, using natural materials for a textural tactile appeal; she cited the example of twig benches. Plantings would primarily comprise diverse, low-maintenance native plantings installed in masses and selected to be at their peak during the school year; these would include a densely planted pollinator garden at the west and other native plantings at the east, and planted edges would serve as buffers between sidewalks and the site. She said that the rooftop outdoor classroom above the gymnasium volume would be bordered by an accessible ramp and more native plantings. Ms. Gorodetskaya indicated the relationship of the landscape to the building with planted walls on the east end of the south facade, landscaped areas, and the play area at the front.
Mr. Levinas stressed the importance of maintain the school’s dignified character. He said that the Reggio Emilia method uses color to emphasize the relationship of the student’s educational experience to the neighborhood and the natural environment surrounding the school. The building’s red brick walls would be painted white, and the design would also introduce a limited palette of colors on the inside surfaces of the new window frames in order to designate different areas, spaces, and uses of the school building; the proposed colors have been muted in response to the Commission’s previous comments. On the south, the frames on the front facade would be a pale green; those on the gymnasium would be yellow or orange; and those at the north would be a pale blue. He said that this palette of colors has been developed in reference to multiple sources, including the historic row houses across the street and the Reggio Emilia logo, which would be displayed above the entrance and on a grade-level sign. The color palette would also include the green walls behind the shared community garden. He added that the brick on the east side of the gymnasium, which now covers only half the facade, will be extended upward.
Ms. Gorodetskaya said that an additional change from the previous submission is to use ceramic-coated panels on the facades instead of a stucco finish, in order to add texture and warmth; 42-inch-high fencing around the site has also been added to the design in order to meet the requirements of D.C. Government agencies. In addition, exterior signage has been added because DCPS requires consistent signage on all its modernized public schools; the signage uses the same colors as are proposed for the building’s exterior.
Chairman Shubow invited questions from the Commission members. Mr. McCrery noted the apparent effort to brand the school building, and he asked for clarity on the school’s name and whether it is the intention to establish private-sector branding. Ms. Halbstein responded that the name of the school program is School-Within-School, while the name of the building is the Anne E. Goding Elementary School. She clarified that School-Within-School is a DCPS public school, not a charter school or a private school; the concept is comparable to the city’s School Without Walls.
Mr. McCrery asked about the significance of the school’s logo. Ms. Halbstein said that it is the logo for School-Within-School, an independent school program that is not affiliated with any institution other than DCPS. The colors of the logo, as well as its tripartite design, reflect the imagery used by the Reggio Emilia program, which is not a brand but rather an education model, like Montessori. Mr. McCrery asked if is therefore correct to say that School-Within-School is neither a public-private partnership nor a private branding initiative but is entirely within DCPS; Ms. Halbstein confirmed this characterization. Mr. McCrery asked about the importance of the logo to the school, and why using color to brand the school is so prevalent in the design, even extending to the frit for the glass. Requesting more information about the design vision, he questioned how this use of color can be an important component of public school architecture. Ms. Halbstein responded that although this will be a public school program, it has a very strong sense of community; the administrators, teachers, and families are a close-knit group who are dedicated to this particular academic program. The proposed use of color, as well as the prominent location of the community garden in front of the building, reflects this dedication.
Mr. McCrery said he understands the idea of expressing the identity of a community school, but this is not actually a neighborhood school if students come from all over the city. He asked if it is considered to be a magnet school; Ms. Halbstein responded that School-Within-School is a city-wide school to which students apply for admission through the DCPS lottery. She said that her reference to the school community does not necessarily mean a geographic community, although the neighborhood does use the site as a gathering space, and neighbors as well as students are involved in the gardening program. Mr. McCrery commented that the landscape design does an admirable job of integrating the community garden into the design.
Mr. Spandle asked whether the ceramic frit would be used for solar shading or simply to add color that would be visible from the street; Mr. Levinas responded that solar shading is an important goal, and the proposed frit on the ceramic panels would also give an attractive tone to these large expanses.
Chairman Shubow then opened the discussion to comments. Mr. McCrery said that the new architectural form will be a huge improvement on the bulky appearance of the existing building. He expressed support for the design of the brick volumes and the fenestration, but he strongly objected to the proposed use of color, commenting that the intense coloration seems inappropriate for both the architecture and its neighborhood. He said that simply muting the vibrant colors of the previous design is not responsive to the Commission’s comments from the previous review. He criticized the presented justification of adding color to the window frames in order to indicate classroom uses, describing this argument as arbitrary and unpersuasive. Indicating the large logo proposed above the entrance and the smaller logo on a grade-level sign, he said he believes that DCPS is trying to brand this building, and the two logos alone would be enough for this purpose.
Mr. McCrery said that although the neighborhood’s historic row houses are painted in a variety of colors, he disagrees with the decision to use these colors on the school. He emphasized that the school building, even with the proposed design improvements, is not a historic row house but a rehabilitated mid-century modern building, and he does not believe that using colors to make it fit in with the Victorian-era row houses across the street is a convincing argument. Instead, the design team should simply consider whether this building actually needs colored window surrounds. He said that without applied color, the architecture would be better, quieter, and more appropriate for the neighborhood. Enlivening the school’s interior with a variety of colors could enhance the learning environment; but for enlivening the exterior, the excellent landscape design will be sufficient. He said that the use of white fins on each facade would be a good element; he added that he does not support adding a colored frit to the glass, which would provide more color over a much greater surface area than previously proposed, contrary to the Commission’s previous recommendations.
Mr. Guillot commended the project team for its decision to give the garden elements an important role by placing them around the building; he said that the neighborhood as well as the students will enjoy these gardens, the green walls, and the living green of the herb beds and other plantings. He said he shares Mr. McCrery’s skepticism about the use of color to create a visual bond with the neighborhood, and he said much more color would have to be applied to the school to make this argument convincing. Observing that lime green is proposed for one elevation and a darker green for another, he cautioned against using any shade of green as an exterior color, which he said would not relate well to the living green of the generous plantings—important and prominent elements in this design—during a substantial part of the year. Noting that the window glass will always reflect the sky, he said that the white facades might successfully be enlivened by applying colors to the window frames that would pick up on the colors of the sky, such as multiple shades of blue with light and darker grays. He observed that most of the colors on the school logo are in the blue and light purple range. He said that he is undecided about adding color to the facades; but if this is done, he believes these shades would be better than green, which would be a weak gesture that would never be commensurate with the green of the real plants.
Mr. Spandle agreed with Mr. McCrery’s concerns about the use of a lime-green ceramic frit on the glass, commenting that this is of greater concern than the proposal to use a splash of color on the window surrounds; however, he said a more muted color than illustrated would be attractive on the building. He commented that the use of whitewash to relate the new brick with the old would effectively tie the building together. He said his overall impression is that the building and its landscape together are a successful design.
Ms. Gorodetskaya provided a clarification about the ceramic frit, which had been introduced to replace the previous proposal for colored metal panels. She said that although the frit had been described as colored, it could be white. She added that the frit is only proposed for mitigating solar heat gain on the south and west facades. Mr. Spandle and Mr. McCrery agreed that a white frit would be much better than the green illustrated, and Ms. Halbstein said that DCPS would support this change. Mr. Levinas said he had meant to make clear in his presentation that the use of color is intended not only to help the school building fit into its neighborhood but also to follow the Reggio Emilia educational model of using color to link interior and exterior spaces.
Secretary Luebke summarized the advice of the Commission to omit the exterior colors proposed for the window surrounds and to use a frit in a neutral white color on the south and west elevations. Noting that the project is submitted as a final design, he said that the Commission could either approve the final submission subject to these recommendations, or request that the design team study the issue of color again and return for another review.
Mr. Shubow said that he agrees with the consensus to change the color of the frit, while he does not object to the use of certain colors on the exterior window frames. Mr. Spandle also agreed that changing the color of the frit to white would be a major improvement, and he suggested approving the final design with only this change.
Mr. McCrery offered a motion to approve a frit in white, white-gray, or no color for the south and west facades only, and with the direction that the window frames could be painted in a gray tone that would complement the architecture and the natural color of the building materials but not in an applied, unusual color inspired by the logo or anything else. Mr. Shubow reiterated that he is willing to accept color on the window frames. Mr. McCrery then said he would accept a color other than a vibrant accent color that pretends to relate to the color of other buildings on the street or to the logo; he emphasized that any color on the window frames should be a color appropriate for a work of architecture, such as cool gray. Mr. Guillot said he would propose a steel-blue gray for the frames, or some similar color that would complement the reflection of the sky in the window glass; such a color would not add a jarring note to the neighborhood but would allow the landscape plantings to provide the primary coloration. Mr. Shubow said that perhaps a blue similar to the blue in the logo could be applied to frames. Mr. McCrery responded that he might accept the lightest powder blue from the logo, but he would have to see it presented in another review; he said that his narrower motion was intended to help the project by providing a final design approval at the current review.
Michele Zini, a designer with Italy-based ZPZ Partners and a member of the design team, asked to provide a further clarification on the proposed use of color. He said that he appreciates the advice to use a natural color based on the materials palette, but he said that the proposal for vibrant colors is not linked to the logo or an attempt at branding, nor is the color intended to reflect the color of any historic houses on the street. He emphasized that the use of color is proposed because of the importance of color to the pedagogic methodology of the Reggio Emilia system, which posits that the complexity of the child should be reflected on the exterior of a school. While bright colors such as red, green, and blue should be avoided, the proposed use of white for the brick walls is ideal because it conveys the complexity of the materials used in its construction. He said that color is suitable for the school because it is a different building type than the adjacent row houses. The pale colors proposed for the inside faces of the frames were proposed to just slightly recall the colors of the houses, and to give a sense of vibration or reflection; they are not meant to be an architectural choice or for branding. He emphasized that there is no intent to make this building blend in with the others on the street; the color is primarily intended to connect the building’s identity with its educational program.
Secretary Luebke noted the apparent consensus of the Commission that most of the design issues have been satisfactorily resolved, except for the differing opinions on the issue of color. He said that a solution might be identified that the Commission could support, which would allow for approving the final design with the condition that documentation of a revised color treatment be provided for staff confirmation or for circulation to the Commission members, outside of the normal review process. Alternatively, the Commission could request a follow-up submission on the issue of color for further review at a Commission meeting.
Mr. McCrery said the final design should be submitted for another review. He welcomed the perspective provided by Mr. Zini but said that it was largely contrary to the presentation. He observed that the term “color” was used in the presentation without making it clear that the local material palette had been the inspiration; he added that if the proposed color is not meant to represent the logo it should not resemble a color in the logo. He suggested that a very subtle shade of blue gray or something similar could work, if its subtle coloration is not noticeable on first impression and is only recognized upon subsequent observation. He objected to the proposed color as giving a staccato contradiction of the architectural arrangement. He said he welcomed Mr. Guillot’s comments on the color palette as a whole, particularly that a real green would be provided by the plantings, as opposed to the false colors proposed for the frames; he added that the landscape design is quite good.
Mr. Cook agreed with Mr. McCrery, and he suggested the procedure of approving the final design with the condition of further review of the color issue. Mr. McCrery asked if this procedure would result in a follow-up presentation to the Commission. Secretary Luebke responded that the issue is specific enough that the project team could submit the follow-up study to the staff, which could circulate the information to the Commission members for comment; he said that this follow-up procedure might be better than a formal resubmission for the Commission’s agenda.
Mr. McCrery agreed and offered a modified motion to approve the proposed final design for the building and site improvements, with two exceptions: first, that the frit proposed for the glazing on the south and west facades would be changed to white or a neutral non-color; and second, that all of the thin metal window frames would have only a single color that is re-specified as a very subtle shade of a modest color, with this part of the project to be resubmitted to the Commission staff for review and circulation to the Commission members.
Mr. Guillot expressed support for this motion, but he suggested that the further study of the use of color should include allowing the design team to consider a more daring color as an alternative to a more muted color. He reiterated that his only objection is to the use of green; he said that he remains open to the project team’s intention to link the building’s interior and exterior, or to provide a connection to the community, through the use of a stronger color that has more shading or gradation in its application on the frames. He said he believes that such a color—perhaps a shade of blue in a nuanced application—would be appropriate for a school, with its lively mix of students, learning, and culture. Mr. Shubow expressed support for seeing a second option of a more vibrant color, which he said could work if it is done well.
Mr. McCrery objected that the Commission has already seen bolder colors in the two submissions that have been presented. He said his motion had been made in light of these presentations, and within the larger context that the design team has made only modest adjustments to the use of color in response to the criticism at the Commission’s initial review; he said that the design team remains intent on splashing color on this facade in a way that he does not think is appropriate to the neighborhood. He characterized the design team’s various arguments as unconvincing and as demonstrating a desire to keep pushing the color. He reiterated that a strong color would be aesthetically inappropriate for this neighborhood, and his motion is intended to help the Commission to approve a design that will successfully complement the neighborhood.
Mr. Guillot said that he is not familiar with how the design has changed because he was not on the Commission for the previous presentation, but he reiterated his belief that there is the opportunity to refine the design so that it can express the values of both the school and the neighborhood while following the Commission’s direction. He reiterated that he is not entirely opposed to the use of color but would want to see what it would look like, and he therefore supports modifying the motion to allow for developing an option that uses color.
Mr. McCrery said that if his motion is not seconded, then a modified motion could be offered. Mr. Cook seconded Mr. McCrery’s motion, pending more discussion. Chairman Shubow noted that the Commission has already discussed the matter; the remaining question is the request in Mr. McCrery’s motion for muted colors, or a modified request that would allow for an option using a bolder color. Mr. Spandle asked if the Commission could request the submission of a choice between two color schemes; Mr. Stroik endorsed this idea, and Mr. McCrery said he would be willing to add it to the motion. Chairman Shubow requested a vote, and the motion was approved.
Secretary Luebke clarified that the action was to approve the final design with the condition that the project team return with studies addressing two color approaches: one allowing for the use of a single muted color, and a second allowing more expressive color. He said that the staff will circulate the follow-up submission to the Commission members for comments, and if necessary, the proposal can be scheduled for review at a Commission meeting.
Mr. McCrery emphasized that the motion referred to one color on all elevations; Secretary Luebke said it was not clear whether the modified motion included more than one color. Mr. Spandle said he thinks most of the Commission members are open to an option of more than one color. Mr. McCrery emphasized that this is not what the motion said, even after the adoption of the modification; the motion was specifically for one color to be used on all facades.
Mr. Spandle asked whether the motion could be clarified to specify an option for a single color and an option for more than one color; Mr. McCrery reiterated that the motion has already been approved. Chairman Shubow said the Commission could vote to retract the motion and propose another. He said it was unclear where the matter stood, because Mr. Spandle supported seeing more than one color but Mr. McCrery wants only one color. Secretary Luebke said he had understood that Mr. McCrery’s motion had called for one color, and the modification offered by Mr. Spandle did not address the issue of multiple colors, which is why he had asked for clarity on the matter. He suggested that in order to move the project forward, it might be better for the Commission to be broad in its direction; Chairman Shubow, Mr. Stroik, and Mr. Spandle agreed. Mr. Stroik confirmed that the Commission is requesting two options from the applicant, the first with color and the second leaving the direction for two colors of the applicant’s choice.
Mr. McCrery reiterated his objection that this is not the motion that had been voted on. Mr. Guillot said that he understood the motion to say that the Commission is requesting one option with a single, very muted non-color, and another option that would allow the design team to use a color; Mr. McCrery agreed with this description. Mr. Guillot noted that in some windows, the top portion of the soffit would never be in direct sunlight; he suggested the potential for a beautiful tapestry of one color in different values, with the light and color engaging in a completely different way under different conditions. He said such a treatment would enliven the facade into a brilliant work of art. He emphasized that the design team should be allowed to develop such an alternative; while acknowledging the Commission’s determination to have a calm color, he said that color is essential to the concept, and the design team should have free rein to explore this. Mr. McCrery said that in Mr. Guillot’s hands, this idea could be brilliant; however, none of this is what has been proposed, although he allowed that the idea could be successful with careful attention from the design team.
Chairman Shubow said there was clearly disagreement on what the motion said, but it appears that a majority of the Commission is willing to look at options that include more than one color. Mr. McCrery objected, but he said that if there is a desire to revoke the motion, they could proceed, adding that he thinks Mr. Guillot’s suggestions make good sense; however, he reiterated that this is not the motion in the record now. Chairman Shubow commented that it would be better to clarify the standing motion than to revoke it; Mr. McCrery said he would accept Mr. Guillot’s comments as a friendly amendment to the adopted motion.
Secretary Luebke said that with this further amendment, the motion is to approve the final design submission with two conditions: first, to change the frit to a white or a no-color material; and second, to present a choice of two color options for the metal window surrounds, with one being an extremely muted color that is consistent in all situations, and a second that allows for more expression of one or possibly more than one color in different locations. The applicant would submit its response to these conditions for the staff to forward to the Commission members for review; the question of whether the response would be placed on the Commission’s agenda will be determined later. Mr. McCrery described this as a welcome amendment, and the Commission adopted this amended motion.
3. CFA 18/MAR/21-4, Joy Evans Therapeutic Recreation Center, 3030 G Street, SE. Replacement recreation center building. Concept. (Previous: CFA 21/JAN/21-4) Secretary Luebke introduced the second concept submission for the replacement of the Joy Evans Therapeutic Recreation Center, submitted by the D.C. Department of General Services on behalf of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation. He summarized the Commission’s review of the initial concept submission in January 2021: while giving general support for the replacement of the facility and the architectural approach, the Commission did not take an action, finding that the design lacked sufficient detail and did not achieve the project intent as presented. The Commission had specifically cited the excessive use of artificial materials, the inadequate relationship of the building to the surrounding natural landscape, and the seemingly overprogrammed site design. He said that the current submission responds to these comments with a revised and more detailed concept design, with a focus on the therapeutic benefits of establishing a close connection to nature. He said that the landscape design, developed through several consultation meetings with the staff, now has a sequence of program spaces that proceed more logically from intensive active areas near the parking lot to increasingly passive and contemplative areas at the rear. The building’s roof design has been simplified, and the massing of the natatorium wing has been refined. He noted that the submission includes color options for the wood panel material that would be used for some of the vertical surfaces. He asked Brent Sisco of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation to begin the presentation.
Mr. Sisco said that the existing recreation center was built in the late 1970s and has been a center for therapeutic-related programming, serving city residents with a wide range of physical, mental, and emotional disabilities. He said that his department has been working with the design team for the past year and supports the concept that has been developed. He expressed enthusiasm with moving forward to provide an updated facility that will better serve the recreation center’s users. He introduced architects Matt Davitt and Bob Widger of DLR Group to present the design.
Mr. Davitt acknowledged the assistance of the staff in working with the design team since the previous review, resulting in an improved design that has been simplified and clarified. He provided an overview of the context and site. The project is located on NPS land; the adjacent parkland includes Anacostia Park to the west and Fort Dupont Park to the east; the site serves as a transition between the residential neighborhood to the south and the forested stream edge to the north. Due to an existing transfer of jurisdiction agreement, the allowable location for the new building is restricted to approximately the footprint of the existing building, which would be demolished. Access to the site is from the residential neighborhood to the south; he indicated the Anacostia Freeway and abandoned railroad line to the west. He said that the forested stream valley is an important asset for the site design, providing the opportunity to connect the recreation center’s users with nature. He presented photographs of the neighborhood, which is primarily one- and two-story single-family homes; the proposed massing of the recreation center is intended to respond to the modest scale of this context. He presented additional photographs of the site itself, emphasizing the existing trees and the adjacent stream valley.
Mr. Davitt described the recreation center’s program: a gymnasium, indoor pool facilities, a senior citizens’ center, and various fitness and activity spaces. In addition to serving the immediate neighborhood, he said that this recreation center emphasizes inclusivity and accessibility, with therapeutic recreation opportunities for people of all ages and all physical and cognitive abilities; the design is intended to promote wellness and healing, helping its users gain the therapeutic benefits of connecting to nature. He asked Mr. Widger to present the architectural and site design, noting that landscape architect Bruno Carvalho of Carvalho & Good is also available to answer questions.
Mr. Widger presented a comparison of the existing conditions and the proposed site design, emphasizing that this part of the project has been redesigned in response to the Commission’s previous comments that the site was over-programmed and lacked a cohesive organizational concept. He said that the location of the existing parking lot has the effect of cutting off the southern part of the site; the proposed design repositions the parking and the building to allow for greater continuity of the outdoor recreational space, while also bringing the building closer to the stream valley and farther away from the residential neighborhood. He indicated the area of athletic fields toward the eastern part of the site, as well as the location of steep slopes that are not feasible for recreational use. The proposed organizational concept for the site would place the more public community-based activities, including the community garden, on the south side of the building, where they would be closer to the neighborhood. The sequence of spaces continues counter-clockwise around the building, with a sensory garden and then a more naturalistic landscape that serves as a transition to the existing forest to the north and the proposed screen of trees along the west side of the site. The design is also intended to provide people within the building with a sense of connection to the outdoor activities and the natural environment to the north; he presented views of the site from within the building. He indicated the potential locations on the site for public art, aligned with the major sightlines across the landscape. He said that a site pavilion would be the focus of the southern activity areas, including a splash pad and two playgrounds, benefitting from the simplified configuration of the parking lot and drop-off area. He presented images of precedents that illustrate the type of natural and universally accessible site elements that will be selected for this project.
Mr. Widger provided a comparison of the previous and current designs for the recreation center building; he indicated the revised roof configuration, responding to the Commission’s previous concern that its form was too complex and angular. As part of this revision, the supports for the entry canopies have been simplified. At the natatorium, the previous cantilever of the locker rooms above the lower-level mechanical space has been eliminated to simplify the design, and the roof of the natatorium has been revised to be a simple rectangle with a dormer that is shorter and less angular than previously proposed. Stormwater runoff from the roof has also been studied more carefully, as previously requested by the Commission; he indicated the bioretention areas that would be fed by runoff trenches beneath the roof edges. He presented section drawings to illustrate how the sloped roof helps to lessen the building’s scale on the primary south facade, while allowing more height for extensive windows that bring in light from the north.
Mr. Widger presented the proposed elevations, indicating the revisions to the natatorium so that it better matches the character of the rest of the building, including the simplified roof form and the more column-like supports for the entrance canopy. The materials have also been revised to be used more consistently across the primary facade. He presented views of the building exterior from the playground area and the sensory garden, emphasizing the embracing quality of the architecture.
Mr. Widger concluded by presenting the proposed palette of materials, which has been developed in more detail as previously requested by the Commission. The exterior panels would have varied widths and random joint patterns to give a more natural and less rigid appearance. The piers would be randomly shaped and spaced to give the facade a sense of natural expression, comparable to the trees in the nearby forest. The wood veneer panels have been studied more carefully, and the current proposal is for a copper color with a more visible wood grain; the matte finish would provide a more natural appearance that is less reflective, while still providing the maintenance-free durability that is desired.
Mr. Widger noted that material samples have been provided, and Secretary Luebke displayed and described them for the Commission’s consideration through the videoconference format. Mr. Fagan asked if the durability of the exterior products has been confirmed; Mr. Widger responded that the wood-finish product carries a ten-year warranty, and the finish coating will make it graffiti-resistant and protect it from fading.
Mr. Guillot asked which landscape features of the previous proposal have been reduced, consolidated, or eliminated to achieve the simplified landscape in the current design. Mr. Carvalho responded that the desire for many site features has been based on this recreation center being unique in the city for offering therapeutic treatment. The most significant feature that has been removed from the design was the outdoor maze that was previously shown adjoining the northeast corner of the building; he said that it was occupying a lot of room and didn’t fit in well with the building and site. Playground elements have been integrated more carefully, allowing space for an improved location for the community garden where it will be more easily accessible from the neighborhood; this garden had previously been shown on the north side of the site. He reiterated that the resulting simplified design flows better, progressing from active uses on the south to a more natural landscape on the north and west.
Mr. Spandle asked for clarification of the proposed materials, including the metal roof and the frames and glazing of the windows. Mr. Davitt responded that the standing-seam roof would be steel; the initial intent was to use aluminum, but this would be considerably more expensive. The Kynar coating would have a twenty-year warranty against fading. The window frames would be charcoal gray, and the glazing would have a very light green tint to meet energy requirements; he said that it would appear more as a clear insulated glass rather than as tinted glass, providing a direct visual connection between the interior and the landscape.
Mr. Guillot commented that the brief sequence of reviews for the recreation center provides a model of a successful process. As with many projects, this proposal was initially submitted with many good ideas that are placed on the page, and the Commission offers comments and criticism to help the project team better understand the intent and transform the proposal into a better design. He commended the quick and successful response to the Commission’s previous guidance, especially in the improvement of the site planning. Mr. Davitt said that the initial review gave the project team a better perspective on the proposal and resulted in re-thinking some design elements that might otherwise have remained unstudied due to schedule constraints and other pressures; by not approving the initial submission, the Commission provided the time to reconsider and improve the project. Mr. Guillot said that the result is apparent in the current submission; while much work remains to be done, he reiterated his commendation of the submitted concept.
Mr. Stroik expressed appreciation for the design revisions and the explanation of the proposal. He commented that the design character of the main building entrance and the natatorium entrance may need further study; he acknowledged the revisions to the roof and the canopy support columns, but he said that the angular-looking columns still have an “off-putting” appearance that is not appropriate for the entrances. He suggested achieving a more unified design for the project by revising these columns to resemble the cylindrical columns of the proposed site pavilion or the rectangular piers within the glass facade, with the goal of providing a more welcoming character for the entrances. He said that the architecture is reminiscent of the work of Alvar Aalto, which could provide inspiration for refining this feature; he noted the variety of column designs in Aalto’s work—single or paired, round or octagonal, and sometimes fluted. He acknowledged the intent to treat the entrance columns as ornamental and special, but he recommended a more harmonious design solution.
Mr. Davitt responded that the entrance columns were intentionally designed to stand out as different, but he offered to study their design further, particularly for a closer relationship to the piers within the facade glazing. Mr. Guillot said that a distinct design for the entrance columns may be a helpful design feature, because the entrances are otherwise not clearly articulated within the design of the primary facade, which has been revised to be more regular while having piers of various sizes as a reference to a forest. He suggested exploring the options for the columns that were suggested by Mr. Stroik, perhaps resulting in a middle ground between distinctive entrance features and a harmonious overall design. Mr. Stroik added that the proposed columns appear more successful at the natatorium entrance, while the recreation center’s main entrance is more problematic. Mr. Spandle supported this guidance; he added that one of the precedent images, apparently intended to illustrate a design for the bioretention areas, could also serve as an appealing model for the appearance of the building.
Mr. Cook expressed support for the proposal as responsive to the Commission’s previous guidance, and he agreed with Mr. Stroik that the design is reminiscent of Aalto’s work. Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Mr. Guillot, the Commission approved the concept submission with the comments provided. Secretary Luebke asked for clarification of the Commission’s position on the change to a copper color for the wood-textured surfaces, instead of the gold color in the previous submission; Chairman Shubow confirmed that the Commission’s support includes this color revision.
4. CFA 18/MAR/21-5, Fort Dupont Ice Arena, 3779 Ely Place, SE. Replacement building. Concept (new). (Previous: CFA 23/JAN/17-7) Secretary Luebke introduced the concept design for replacement of the existing Fort Dupont Ice Arena. He noted that the previous concept design, approved by the Commission in 2017, was for a much larger replacement arena that would have housed two separate ice sheets, or rinks; however, this design has been abandoned for financial reasons. The existing one-sheet arena was built in the mid-1970s, and an addition containing a small lobby and office space was built in 2001; this facility is the only permanent indoor ice rink in Washington, and it is now in poor condition. He said that the ice arena was transferred from the National Park Service to the D.C. Government in the 1990s; it is now operated by the Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena, which provides hockey and figure skating programs; the building also has space for meetings and educational programs, and it is sometimes rented by hockey leagues. The current proposal would replace the existing rink with a new building on approximately the same footprint, providing a more welcoming entrance lobby, a single National Hockey League regulation-size ice sheet, larger locker rooms, community rooms, and support spaces.
Mr. Luebke asked Abby Tourtellotte of Quinn Evans Architects to begin the presentation. Ms. Tourtellotte noted that her firm is the architect of record; others presenting today include Robin Ault of Perkins & Will, the design architect, and Adrienne McCray of Lee & Associates, the landscape architect.
Ms. Tourtellotte said that the project has changed considerably since the previous version. She provided a brief reintroduction to the proposal and its context, noting that the site provides views to the Capitol dome and the Washington Monument, which will be important to maintain. The arena is adjacent to Fort Dupont Park, which provides an attractive backdrop for the project, although it is not possible to enter the park directly from the arena site because of the dense woodland growth and outcrops of stone. The neighborhood has a relatively low density, with garden apartments, churches, schools, and various recreational facilities in the immediate area. She noted that the rink primarily serves children from Wards 7 and 8, with programs for hockey, ice skating, and speed skating. Most people travel to the arena by car or school bus; there is a public bus stop on Ely Place, and the ice arena’s parking lot is shared with the adjacent Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.
Ms. Tourtellotte said that the current budget has necessitated reducing the program from two ice rinks to one, but the design team has tried to maintain the overall massing of the previous proposal, with several aesthetic changes. The building would be set into the steep hillside, with a grade change of approximately 45 feet across the site; support areas would be located in the center of the building, and the configuration allows for adding a second ice rink if funding becomes available in the future, elevated over the parking lot and allowing both rinks to be on the same level in order to coordinate services. She said the changes from the previous proposal include the redesign of the entrance and simplification of the materials palette.
Mr. Ault emphasized that the goal has been the simplification of both program and design. He said that removing the second ice sheet allows the building to be composed of just three volumes—lobby, ice rink, and support spaces. The entrance would lead into a small grade-level lobby, where visitors would check in at reception before ascending to the level of the locker rooms and the rink. He noted that the previous design had used many materials and was dominated by its large red roofs; in the current design, the building is simplified and harmonized with its site by tucking its form into the hillside, eliminating the red roofs, and reducing the palette to three materials.
Mr. Ault said that visitors walking from Ely Place would approach the north facade of the glass-enclosed lobby, which would have a prominent vertical elevator tower of board-formed concrete near the building’s reentrant corner. The main entrance has been widened to fifteen feet and would be protected by a simple canopy. The lobby, rotated 45 degrees from the axis of the skating rink, has been designed as a transparent vertical volume that takes its inspiration from the idea of a block of ice. A custom frit pattern on the lobby’s glass walls would disperse as it rises, making the walls appear frosted and subtly emphasizing the contrast of the lobby against the larger, darker volume behind. An interior area for service and storage would be located adjacent to the lobby.
Mr. Ault said that the large volume containing the ice rink would be accentuated through its exterior cladding of metal panels with flat and two different ribbed textures; the panels would be arranged on the exterior walls in a random pattern to create subtle variations in the play of light across their surfaces. The rear volume would also have a curtainwall system on its lower level, to the right or south side of the lobby volume. A base of board-formed concrete would extend from the rear volume to halfway around the lobby volume. Adjacent to the lobby would be an open plaza with planting beds, providing a waiting area to accommodate the pick-up and drop-off of visitors. Defining the south side of this plaza, a board-formed concrete wall would screen an unroofed area for mechanical equipment; this area could house additional mechanical equipment if needed for a future second rink. A fire lane would extend from Ely Place to the rear of the building.
In summary, Mr. Ault said that the architecture would be expressed in layers: the lobby in front, then the support space, and the ice rink behind. The horizontal concrete base would contrast with the thin, vertical lines defining the lobby’s curtainwall, a pattern that would be carried into the metal roof above.
Ms. McCray described how the landscape design would emphasize the integral relationship of this site to Fort Dupont Park; she indicated the park woodland that would provide a backdrop to the building, the trees in the parking lot medians, the buffer of trees along Ely Place, and the large canopy trees on the arena’s front lawn. She said that the visual connection with the park would be enhanced by introducing understory trees and extensive groundcover plantings on the site. The medians in the parking lot have been configured to accommodate some existing trees and would be planted with groundcovers. The relationship between the building and its landscape would be softened by the creation of sloped mounds along the building’s west side and the creation of the large, terraced plaza next to the lobby volume; the sloped planting area in the plaza would create a green wall at the entrance that would extend into the building’s lower level. A bioretention area would wrap around the fire access lane to collect runoff from the roof.
Ms. McCray described the several accessible routes from Ely Place that would accommodate visitors arriving from different directions; special paving would be used to enhance the legibility of these walks. The crosswalk at Ely Place would be flush and protected by bollards, emphasizing its pedestrian use and indicating that approaching vehicles should slow down; a ramp would extend from the south end of this crosswalk to the arena entrance, and an existing entrance ramp from Ely Place would become a service ramp for the ice smoothing machine. A new crosswalk at the entrance drive, leading from the bus stop and a relocated bike-share rack, would have a distinctive raised paving. Because of the site’s considerable grade change, the approach from Ely Place to the building would have multiple levels, and seating and tables would be provided.
Ms. McCray said that the plantings would be low-maintenance and selected to provide year-round visual interest. She said the design team has been working with the D.C. Government’s urban forestry division to preserve healthy trees and remove those in poor condition. Existing views would be maintained between low groundcovers and trees. The materials palette for the landscape would include poured-in-place concrete for paved areas, stairs, and ramps; a distinctive concrete for the crosswalk and the walk leading to the main entrance; and a permeable paver for the fire access lane at the rear, where a segmented retaining wall would be added facing Ely Place to ensure an uninterrupted view of green behind the building.
Mr. McCrery congratulated the project team on the restrained and beautifully composed design. He observed that the architectural and landscape material palettes complement each other while emphasizing the primary role of the building; he encouraged continued collaboration between the architect and landscape architect to ensure that the palettes will work together well. Noting that the large roof will have a large quantity of stormwater runoff, he said that locating the bioretention area along the fire access lane and thus incorporating the lane into the water collection system makes sense. He concluded by saying the project will be less expensive and more beautiful than the previous design, comparing it favorably with the work of Eero Saarinen. Mr. Cook agreed with Mr. McCrery’s comments.
Mr. Stroik asked about the budget for this project, and if the redesign is the result of budget constraints. Ms. Tourtellotte responded that the budget is between $21 and $24 million; some of the changes are due to the reduced budget, but most result from the reconsideration of the design over the last few years.
Mr. McCrery offered a motion to approve the concept submission; upon a second by Mr. Cook, the Commission adopted this action. Mr. McCrery added his commendation of the imagery of an ice cube in the design presentation.
D. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
SL 21-081, 600 5th Street, NW. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority headquarters. Building renovation and additions for commercial office use. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the concept for alterations to the current headquarters building of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), also known as the Jackson Graham building, facing Judiciary Square. The eight-story building was completed in 1974 by the local architecture firm of Keyes, Lethbridge & Condon, now a part of SmithGroup. He noted that WMATA will soon be moving its headquarters and central operations to a newly renovated building at 300 7th Street, SW; the design for this renovation was approved by the Commission in November 2019. For the Judiciary Square building, he said that WMATA has signed a long-term ground lease with the partnership of Stonebridge Development and the Rockefeller Group to redevelop the current headquarters building; the design team includes the architecture firm of Pickard Chilton of New Haven, Connecticut, and OJB Landscape Architects of San Diego, California. He said the proposal would retain, reclad, and add floors to the existing building; this would include the insertion of new cores and the addition of three stories plus a penthouse structure, for a total of 419,000 square feet. He said that the grade surrounding the building would be modified and the building floors adjusted so pedestrians could enter the building more easily from the sidewalk level. He noted that Metrorail infrastructure within the building that serves the tunnels and nearby stations would be retained. He asked Jane Mahaffie, principal at Stonebridge, to begin the presentation.
Ms. Mahaffie said that WMATA will vacate its current headquarters building in late 2022. She said the development team was attracted to the project because it sees the opportunity to connect Judiciary Square with the vitality of the Gallery Place-Chinatown Neighborhood to the west. She confirmed that the structure would be retained, but it would be substantially altered for the new building project; critical WMATA infrastructure would be retained as well. She introduced architect Jon Pickard of Pickard Chilton and landscape architect Jim Burnett of OJB to present the design.
Mr. Pickard said that the important goals for the project team include protecting the WMATA infrastructure, as well as engaging and respecting the existing urban character and enhancing the vitality of Judiciary Square. He described the Jackson Graham Building as representative of the Brutalist architecture that was prevalent during the time of its construction; he said that the building does not engage the city, and its blank walls on 6th Street and sunken ground floor feel like a fortress. Mr. Burnett noted that the existing sunken plaza at 5th and F Streets is void of seating, plantings, and other features. He said that the plaza does not connect with the building or the street and serves as a large separation between them.
Mr. Pickard said that Judiciary Square was conceived as a green tapestry or park in which figural, jewel-like buildings would be placed, with the surrounding buildings serving as a deferential and defining frame. He said the challenge for the project is deciding how the alterations to the WMATA building can bring clarity and definition to this context. Mr. Burnett noted that the proposed building massing is intended to enhance the southeast corner at 5th Street and take advantage of views across the street to the National Building Museum and its lushly planted grounds. Mr. Pickard indicated the step-backs seen on the existing buildings surrounding Judiciary Square, characterizing their designs as calm with clear planes and a language of step-backs. He said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Washington Field Office, located on the mirror-image site of the WMATA building on 4th Street, effectively engages the National Building Museum (Pension Building) with a projecting pavilion on the southern part of its west facade. He said the proposed redesign for the northern part of the WMATA building’s east facade is intended to have a reciprocal relationship to the FBI building’s projecting pavilion, establishing “bookends” on either side of the National Building Museum. He noted that the facades of the framing buildings are generally arranged in a consistent A-A-A rhythm. He said that an analysis of the FBI building and the National Building Museum shows that their facade designs were informed by the classical proportions of the golden rectangle.
Mr. Pickard presented massing studies illustrating the allowable building envelope based on zoning regulations, as compared to the proposed massing in the current submission, which was revised after a consultation indicating that the initially proposed height of 130 feet would not be consistent with the serene character of Judiciary Square. As currently proposed, the building would rise eleven stories to 115 feet, where there would be a primary step-back that aligns with the other step-backs found on the buildings framing Judiciary Square. He said that the shallow entry projection, the terraces, and the larger six-story pavilion at the northeast corner are all intended to relate the building to its context; specifically, the larger pavilion is intended to lock the building back into the urban grid and establish a scale relationship to the large, low mass of the Government Accountability Office to the northeast and the smaller historic buildings across G Street. He presented axonometric drawings of the currently proposed massing from different perspectives, indicating the composition of interlocking and projecting masses and emphasizing that the design establishes a pedestrian scale. He then presented rendered perspectives of the proposed design as shown within its immediate context; he indicated the step-backs of neighboring buildings, as well as the building’s new street-level retail spaces, which would follow the sidewalk level and feature glassy storefronts intended to bring more vitality to the area.
Mr. Pickard noted that the design was conceived during the current Covid-19 pandemic, which has pushed commercial office buildings to include places for outdoor social interaction, collaboration, and wellness. He described the building’s east facade composition as having a base, middle, and top, and described the shallow projecting entrance element as a proscenium topped with a fifth-floor inset terrace, all of which are intended to establish a visual relationship with the National Building Museum and FBI building. The facade is organized by a regular ten-foot bay pattern. He indicated that the west lobby entrance on 6th Street would be clearly defined. The north facade would have a series of windows that would relate compositionally to the terrace atop the projecting pavilion on the east facade. He said that daylight penetration into the building is important to the design, and the windows would therefore be clear, high-performance glass. Pilaster-like vertical panels in the curtainwall, composed of perforated metal panels set between two projecting aluminum fins, would run in front of the glass on the east and south facades; he noted that the perforations would be quite small while still allowing limited light into the building. The west and north facades would be identical to the east and south, except the vertical elements would only have the projecting aluminum fins, not the opaque metal panels. The shallow projecting “proscenium” entrance element would be composed of vision glass framed by aluminum and divided vertically by projecting limestone-clad piers and anodized aluminum tubes at the mullions; the proscenium-type lobby projection would have only clear vision glass divided by the stone piers, which is intended to give the entrance a sense of stability and permanence when seen from oblique angles. He said that the proposed material palette is derived from the context of Judiciary Square, citing the precast concrete, limestone, granite, and aluminum seen on the surrounding buildings. He noted that the proposed aluminum color, named “Washington light,” is a lustrous, warm-white champagne color. The proposed limestone would be slightly warmer in tone than Indiana limestone, but the specific stone is still under consideration. He said the soffits of the recessed terraces would be louvered panels that have the appearance of wood.
Mr. Burnett presented the proposed landscape design. He said that bringing up the ground floor to street level and creating a plaza along the southeastern side of the building would help to stitch the area together by serving as a node between Judiciary Square, the Building Museum grounds, the Capital One Arena, and the Gallery Place-Chinatown neighborhood. The plaza would have both public and private areas for rest and relaxation, including an outdoor dining area, a linear water feature, and planters with seating surfaces for the public. He said the landscape within the plaza area would have a layered character; staggered rows of trees would be planted within the building’s property line along 5th Street, creating a double row of trees when paired with the street trees. Mr. Pickard concluded the presentation, stating that the building would play a pivotal role in stitching the city together.
Chairman Shubow thanked the project team for its presentation and invited questions from the Commission members. Mr. McCrery asked who would occupy the building; Ms. Mahaffie said that it will be a speculative commercial office building. Mr. Stroik asked for the project’s budget; Ms. Mahaffie said that it is estimated at $123 million. Mr. Stroik said that he considers limestone to be the primary cladding material for the buildings in and around Judiciary Square, aside from the National Building Museum, and he asked why the building is not proposed to be reclad with limestone. Mr. Pickard responded that good views and daylit interiors are necessary for the development project to be successful. He acknowledged that the project team debated the proposed material palette, with the conclusion that the proposed facades of glass and perforated aluminum panels would have the appropriate calm and composure for a building framing Judiciary Square. He noted that the earliest Judiciary Square buildings are limestone, but those constructed in the latter half of the 20th century reinterpreted limestone with precast concrete, demonstrating that there are many ways to achieve the aesthetic consistency of limestone without using stone itself. Mr. Stroik asked Mr. Pickard if he thinks precast stone is better than limestone; Mr. Pickard said that he does not.
Mr. McCrery commented that the simulated wood soffits are not consistent with the overall material palette and handsome image of the building. He observed that a questionable substitution of materials appears to be a theme of the design, citing the use of aluminum to be a stand-in for limestone, and he asked why real wood or limestone are not specified. He said that the use of wood on the building exterior would be quickly dated—similar to the advice he gave regarding the very dark brick proposed for a project reviewed earlier in the meeting. Mr. Pickard said this is a good question that has been considered by the project team. He said the use of a wood-like material on the exterior is intended to create a rich experience for terrace occupants, but he acknowledged that the presented sample of the soffit material has an orange coloring that is inconsistent with the overall palette; he suggested that the proposed wood-like material could have a softer ash or gray color to be more compatible with the project’s palette. He said he has encouraged the client to consider true wood while advising them of the attendant cost and maintenance of this material. Mr. McCrery said that people would have a more direct experience with the wood-like material if it were used for the flooring, but any use of it would be antithetical to the aesthetic of the architecture. He concluded that the appearance of wood in the project is ultimately unpersuasive and would look unattractive and dated.
Mr. Guillot asked if the outdoor terraces would be available to the public in conjunction with retail establishments and restaurants. Ms. Mahaffie said that the ground floor would feature outdoor space for both dining and general public use, but the upper-level terraces would be used only by the commercial office tenants; the rooftop outdoor space would be a general building amenity. Mr. Guillot expressed concern that the upper-level terraces are integral parts of the design, but they would not be generally used by the public. Mr. Pickard reiterated that the ground-level landscape would have layers of activity, ranging from the public sidewalk to the semi-public outdoor dining area against the building; Mr. Guillot clarified that his concern is with the upper-level terraces. Mr. McCrery said that the large terrace facing the National Building Museum would be appropriate for restaurant use, citing similar arrangements at buildings on Connecticut Avenue near the White House. He characterized the terraces as a gesture of reaching out to give an amenity back to the public, and he asked if this would be a part of the development plan. Ms. Mahaffie said that it would be difficult to have retail or dining on the upper floors due to the large floor plates. Mr. Stroik asked if the design anticipates people enjoying the outdoor dining and planted areas at the ground floor in addition to being drawn toward the larger grounds of the National Building Museum. Ms. Mahaffie agreed that this is the intention, adding that the goal is to have a variety of retail and restaurant establishments supporting year-round activity. She also clarified that the proposed design does not require exceptions to zoning regulations.
Mr. Stroik said that out of concern for the federal interest in the public realm of Judiciary Square, his initial feeling is that the building should be reclad with masonry, whether natural or cast stone. He said using stone would show more respect for the National Building Museum than the attempt to relate to its golden rectangle proportions. He expressed support for the simplifications to the design when compared to the early massing studies; he suggested that the design could be further simplified, especially the east facade across from the National Building Museum. He said that the building and landscape design reinforce the street wall of Judiciary Square, and the occupants of the building would have fine views of the significant architectural features of the National Building Museum, particularly the expressive gabled roofs, sculptural friezes, and massive interior columns; however, he emphasized that the new building facades should not be overly dynamic out of respect for this sensitive location. He said that the design should embody the lessons from the many good buildings of Judiciary Square, perhaps by relating to the central gable of the National Building Museum, and he reiterated that the proposed east facade should be simplified. He requested further study of these issues.
Mr. McCrery commented that the presentation generated a good discussion about the specialness of the buildings within Judiciary Square that is reinforced by the surrounding buildings, which have step-backs and provide the urban context for these gems. However, the proposed new sculptural massing and material palette for the WMATA building would not keep it a background or contextual building, instead transforming it into a building that catches the eye and stands out within the city. He said he agrees with most of Mr. Stroik’s concerns; however, he said that the buildings framing Judiciary Square are almost uniformly bad, and this building would be the exception. He added that he does not believe anyone wants another building like the D.C. police headquarters, the FBI field office, or One Judiciary Square.
Mr. Guillot requested further discussion of the aerial perspective diagrams that use red and blue lines and yellow polygons to illustrate how most of the buildings framing Judiciary Square have the same general massing and step-backs. He said that this project’s proposed massing does not relate to these massing and step-back lines, instead having two step-backs that are much shallower than the general formula used for all the other buildings. He said that the proposed massing appears fragmented; while the terraces would be important variations in the building massing, they are likely to be underutilized by commercial tenants, which makes the terraces weak programmatic elements that nonetheless play an outsized role in the design. Ms. Mahaffie responded that tenants have expressed a great interest in having outdoor space. Mr. Guillot observed that the terrace openings on the facade are more than 20 feet tall, making them more than just mere outside spaces but rather integral to the tapestry of the facade—quite different than the surrounding buildings. Ms. Mahaffie said that the building has a somewhat small floor-to-floor height, and one-story-high terraces would feel dark and cavernous; she also noted that the exposed columns seen in the design are those of the existing building. Mr. Guillot reiterated that the presentation had a thoughtful analysis of how Judiciary Square’s peripheral buildings are deferential to the more classically inspired buildings at the center; however, the proposed modifications are a departure from the context, and he cited the voids, punctuations, and different roof step-backs. He said that he likes the glass facades, while suggesting that the design would be improved if they have a more nuanced and gentler approach. He said he also likes the exposed columns, but the projecting and recessed parts of the facade are discordant with the entirety of Judiciary Square.
Secretary Luebke said that some design guidelines were evidently developed in the 1960s or 1970s for Judiciary Square that were not formally adopted; however, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine building, completed in 2002, does not conform with the massing established by the older perimeter buildings, while the FBI building is slightly more deferential. Shane Dettman of the law firm Holland & Knight, part of the project team, confirmed that guidelines had been created for Judiciary Square by the original architects of the WMATA building, with the intention that the guidelines would be adopted as a part of the downtown urban renewal plan; this never happened, and the urban renewal plan was recently repealed in its entirety. Instead, the perimeter buildings were conceived as planned unit developments reviewed by the D.C. Zoning Commission, which referred to the guidelines in its rulings. He said he believes that parts of the guidelines were initially influenced by the design of the WMATA building. In his subsequent consultation with WMATA and the staff of the D.C. Historic Preservation Office, there was a consensus to move away from the large ground-level setbacks established on 5th Street and bring at least a part of the facade up to the property line in order to strengthen or reestablish the original right-of-way of the L’Enfant Plan. He said this is why the new pavilion at the northeast corner is at the property line, while the rest of the building is set back to accommodate outdoor seating and to capture the vibrancy of the neighborhoods to the west.
Mr. Guillot acknowledged this explanation, but he questioned why the diagram illustrating the step-backs around Judiciary Square was included in the submission if these step-backs are not honored in the proposed design. Mr. Pickard responded that the diagram is intended to illustrate how the building step-backs establish a clear definition of Judiciary Square. He said that the step-backs were not required but were a choice made at the time of each building’s construction. He said the proposed design does comply with the perceived height of the other buildings—nominally 115 to 120 feet—to establish the general building shape. The northeast pavilion is then pulled forward to engage the street grid, with the rest of the ground-level setback preserved. Mr. Guillot said it is telling that the red line on the diagram, which demarcates the upper step-back line of the other buildings, is not manifest in the proposed design. Mr. Pickard said that the step-back at the red line is honored in the design, but it aligns with a middle step-back, not the topmost step-back. Mr. Guillot observed that Paris generally has uniform building massing because of tradition, or more likely codified zoning, and that New York City also had early building regulations that resulted in buildings with a tiered appearance. He emphasized that the proposal may not be a complete deviation from the precedents set by the other buildings, but the accumulation of minor changes would result in a departure from the spirit of how Judiciary Square was supposed to appear.
Mr. McCrery observed that the building as proposed would have added floors, making it the tallest on Judiciary Square and giving it additional prominence. Mr. Pickard said that the 11th floor rises to 115 feet, where the building then steps back; the initial concept was a mistake in that the building rose to the allowable height without step-backs, while the currently proposed step-backs keep it very much a part of the perceived scale of Judiciary Square. Secretary Luebke said the staff has also raised the issue of the unprecedented height proposed, and he noted that the Commission may recommend a reduction in height regardless of what is allowed by zoning. Mr. McCrery asked for the heights indicated by the red and blue lines in the aerial perspective diagram. Mr. Pickard said that the blue line is at 90 feet and the red line is at 120 feet. He noted that the National Academies building does not have a major step-back between 90 and 120 feet. Mr. Fox noted that in the project submission, the lowest step-back of the FBI building is shown at 85 feet, the second step-back is at 105 feet, and the third step-back is at 120 feet, where the roof form rises into a barrel vault. Ms. Mahaffie said she believes the building south of the FBI building rises to a height of 140 feet at the top of its penthouse. Mr. Pickard said that the proposed floor additions to the WMATA building are consistent with the National Academies building, which tops out at 120 feet; Secretary Luebke noted that the proposed building would have two occupiable floors above the 120-foot height. Mr. Pickard responded that the project team is attempting to be transparent regarding the building height, and the focus has been on the perception of the building. He indicated on a rendering from F Street that the topmost step-back at 120 feet appears to be the top of the building, with the two levels above being barely visible from the street—entirely consistent with the scale and character of Judiciary Square. Mr. Guillot said that the lower step-back line is the one that is most expressive in giving the square a cohesive composition, since many of the buildings do not obey the upper step-back line.
Mr. McCrery asked if there are sufficient comments to make a motion. Secretary Luebke said that the discussion could instead be summarized without taking an action, and he suggested that the Commission provide additional guidance on the building height and simplification of the facade compositions. Mr. McCrery said that the push and pull of the massing brings much visual interest and urban vitality, but if the volume were regularized then it would be very boring, similar in design quality to the mediocre office buildings on K Street. He added that the projecting pavilion at the northeast corner also helps to mitigate the abruptness of the building and its impact on the small historic building across G Street. Mr. Spandle said he agrees with these comments regarding the proposed massing, which he said does not bother him. In addition, he said his initial reaction is to agree with Mr. Stroik’s suggestion that the building be clad in masonry, but he said that he does not dislike the glass and aluminum material palette as presented.
Mr. McCrery observed that the pylons at the Eisenhower Memorial are clad with limestone, and he suggested that the round columns of this building be similarly clad. He said that the entrance would be successfully demarcated by the shallow proscenium projection, and that adding stone could give it gravitas; other areas where stone would be beneficial include the ground-floor retail spaces, the exposed columns, and the projecting pavilion. He acknowledged that this is a speculative office building, but he encouraged incorporating permanent and serious materials into the design to elevate its character, making it commensurate in quality with the civic and government buildings of Judiciary Square.
Mr. Stroik said he agrees with these recommendations; if the entire building cannot be masonry, then adding it in selected areas would improve the building’s relationship to the serene and special context. Noting that the buildings at the center of Judiciary Square should be the most prominent, he said that he would like to see the design simplified, characterizing it as “huzzah” and “boogie-woogie.” Mr. McCrery observed that the design includes at least six different types of exterior wall assemblies, which is a bit much; however, he reiterated that if the building were entirely uniform then it would be as boring as those on K Street.
Secretary Luebke said it would be helpful for the Commission members to decide whether they endorse the general massing; they could then request study of the secondary issues regarding the building skin and massing. He noted that Mr. Guillot had questioned the step-backs at the top of the building, and he noted that the staff has suggested ways to minimize the penthouse appearance, since the building will be the tallest in the area by two stories. Mr. Guillot agreed that the height and appearance of the top is an important issue. He suggested that the design could be improved if there were only two step-backs instead of three; this could be achieved by pulling the top portion of the penthouse forward or by pushing the bottom portion back, but regardless of how it is achieved, the penthouse should be one element in order to be appropriate for Judiciary Square. He expressed support for the glass facades, and he said that stone should not be added unless there is a strong programmatic reason to insert it; otherwise, the design concept would fall apart. He suggested that the exposed round columns be square, given that the rest of the facades are characterized by a regular, linear appearance.
Secretary Luebke summarized that the Commission could provide the advice to study the top of the building in order to address the issues discussed by Mr. Guillot, and it could perhaps suggest elimination of the penthouse. Noting that some Commission members support the penthouse design as it is, Chairman Shubow said revisions to the penthouse could be presented as an option in the next submission. Mr. Stroik said he supports the development of an option for the penthouse, noting that he believes the role of the Commission is to review options with designers. Mr. Guillot commented that the while the design of the primary building mass appears very sure of itself, the top floors seem simply tacked on. Secretary Luebke suggested that this is partially a result of zoning rules requiring a 1:1 step-back for each change of plane; he added that the regulations do not compel the construction of a penthouse.
Ms. Mahaffie said that these upper floors are important to the development project and prospective tenants. She noted that the height of the top floor has been reduced from earlier concept designs, that the step-backs are greater than 1:1 to reduce the visibility of the top floors, and that the rooftop mechanical equipment would be on the 6th Street side of the building. Mr. Guillot said he appreciates this explanation, but the finely gridded facade of the bottom part of the penthouse seems unsatisfactory, and he suggested giving it more of a purpose or identity so it does not seem so secondary. Mr. McCrery observed that the penthouse appears somewhat ghosted in the renderings, making it seem less visible that it would be. Mr. Guillot reiterated that the lower part of the building could be considered handsome, solid, or aggressive, but then the top is just a series of simple step-backs. Mr. McCrery recalled that the building had been described in the presentation as having a base, middle, and top, but this composition is not apparent; he suggested that it could be achieved by treating the penthouse as an exceptional part of the building. Mr. Guillot said he is not looking for an ornate top like that of the Chrysler Building in New York City, but the materials could be used to give emphasis to the design; he observed that the penthouse is shown as being clad with a weak version of the facades seen on the primary building mass, and he said that it should have its own facade design.
Mr. Cook agreed that the composition of base, middle, and top is not apparent. He asked if consideration had been given to adding a second projecting pavilion at the southeast corner to make the facade symmetrical, thereby framing a reflection of the National Building Museum. Mr. Stroik agreed, commenting that he would like to see a more simplified and balanced massing to make the facade more sedate, and he asked that this issue be studied further. He said he is interested in how the building meets the street, which he finds is weak and does not strengthen the street wall of Judiciary Square; similarly, the ins and out of the facade do not contribute to Judiciary Square. Mr. Cook reiterated that adding a pavilion at the south would help address the concerns of several Commission members.
Mr. Pickard said that the current composition is already organized to reflect the National Building Museum, and adding a pavilion would throw the composition out of balance and eliminate the important civic plaza at the southeast corner. He summarized the Commission’s advice to strengthen the reading of the base and top, and he said that he appreciates all of the advice from the Commission members and staff in helping to improve the design. He requested that the Commission endorse the general massing of the building. Secretary Luebke suggested that the Commission not take an action due to the numerous outstanding issues related to the materials, penthouse, and other areas of secondary massing that need resolution. He said it sounds as if the Commission supports the general massing of the building but has questions about the secondary massing and the skin. Chairman Shubow agreed with this assessment; he said that although the Commission has questioned many aspects of the design, the remarks have been positive on the whole. He commended the project team for making a great first step in the design process. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
E. United States Mint
1. CFA 18/MAR/21-6, Congressional Gold Medal to honor the United States Merchant Mariners of World War II, Design for a gold medal with bronze duplicates. Final. Secretary Luebke introduced the Congressional Gold Medal that will honor the service of U.S. Merchant Mariners during World War II. He summarized the importance of the Merchant Marine in transporting resources and personnel by sea in support of military missions, often in the face of great danger. The medal is intended to recognize the sacrifice, perseverance, and bravery of the Merchant Mariners as well as their important role in the war effort. He noted that bronze duplicates of the medal will be available for sale to the public.
Mr. Luebke said that submissions from the Mint are also reviewed by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC), which often meets shortly before the Commission’s meeting, allowing the Commission to be informed of the CCAC’s recommendations; however, the CCAC meeting to consider these submissions has not yet occurred. He asked April Stafford, the stakeholder relations manager in the U.S. Mint’s Office of Design, to present the alternative designs.
Ms. Stafford provided additional background on the contributions of the Merchant Marine in World War II. The Merchant Marine conducted history’s greatest sealift effort, which is the use of cargo ships for the deployment of military assets. A vast fleet of American ships, built in the United States and crewed by American civilian mariners, was used to deploy our fighting forces across the globe, supply them, and bring them home when victory was won. Although not a part of the U.S. military, the Merchant Mariners suffered casualty rates that often exceeded those of the U.S. Armed Forces. To honor their service, World War II mariners were granted veteran’s status in 1988.
Ms. Stafford said that the design alternatives were developed in consultation with a liaison from the U.S. Department of Transportation: Bill McDonald, the Director of Sealift Support for the Maritime Administration (MARAD), along with a stakeholder committee that he convened. This process was used to identify appropriate concepts and ensure historical and technical accuracy in the designs. She said that the liaison’s specific design preferences will be noted during the presentation; in general, the liaison prefers designs that feature the mariners themselves on the obverse, and designs featuring the Liberty ships or convoys or the Merchant Marine emblem on the reverse.
Ms. Stafford presented fifteen alternative designs for the obverse, noting the liaison’s preference for obverse alternatives #1, 6, 8, and 13-A; she then presented thirteen alternative designs for the reverse, noting the liaison’s preference for reverse alternatives #3, 8, 9, and 13. She noted that many of the obverse designs depict a group of four Merchant Mariners, intended to represent the variety of jobs on the ships. Secretary Luebke suggested that the Commission consider how the selected obverse and reverse designs would work together on a single medal, rather than choosing each side in isolation.
Mr. McCrery commented that obverse #3 would be a better choice than obverse #1; he observed that both of these designs have the strong imagery of a ship at sea and a grouping of four mariners, but the figures in obverse #3 are posed in profile, which is a more successful and traditional form of portraiture for coins and medals than a frontal pose. He added that the profile pose is especially preferable because the four figures are not intended as portraits of specific people, but as representatives of the different roles of mariners on a ship.
Mr. Fagan said that the alternatives can best be evaluated by visualizing them as three-dimensional sculptures. He acknowledged the appeal of obverse #1, but he anticipated difficulty in sculpting the forward-looking figures and separating them successfully from the foreground ship; he said that the resulting medal could appear somewhat busy. He agreed with Mr. McCrery that the profiles of obverse #3 would be preferable: this pose would be easier to sculpt and would better show the different heritage of the four figures. However, he commented that the composition of obverse #3 is very static; Mr. McCrery agreed.
Mr. Fagan said that the medal would be more interesting and memorable by focusing on its purpose and story, which should be the Merchant Mariners themselves rather than the ships and equipment involved in the transport. He said that obverse #6 is strongest in providing this emphasis; the sculpting would be difficult because of the frontal poses, but he anticipated that this could be resolved successfully. He said that the strength of this composition is the sense of depth, which could be accentuated by sculpting the front figure in deeper relief than the others. He observed that each of the four figures in this composition would have a sense of being individually depicted, which is a desirable quality; and their different heritages, uniforms, and hats would be clearly legible, and they would be clearly understood as civilians. He added that the ship’s bow in the background would serve to complete the story in this design, which works well without needing a border or framing. He said that the crisp appearance of obverse #8 makes it a tempting choice, but the strength of the drawing would be difficult to achieve as a sculpted medal.
Mr. McCrery agreed with Mr. Fagan’s evaluation of the obverses. Mr. Guillot observed that the ship in obverse #6 is shown at a larger size than in obverse #3; Mr. McCrery added that the ship in obverse #3 is not depicted well, appearing more like a plastic model. Mr. Guillot joined in supporting obverse #6, commenting that the ship’s wheel is an unexpected design element. Chairman Shubow noted the consensus to support obverse #6.
For the reverse, Mr. Fagan again emphasized that this commemorative medal should help people to remember and understand the story; after seeing the figures on the obverse, people should be able to turn the medal over to see more of the story conveyed on the reverse. He acknowledged that the Merchant Marine emblem would be meaningful to those familiar with it, including the Mint’s liaison, regardless of artistic considerations; the emblem would also contrast strongly with the portraits on the obverse, creating a clear front and back for the medal. Nonetheless, he suggested consideration of reverse #4-A, depicting a military truck being held in mid-air by the crane of a docked ship; he noted the Commission’s interest during the presentation of how this design compares with reverse #4, which is identical except that the truck is on the dock instead of in mid-air. He found that reverse #4-A tells a full story by depicting a working ship and the relationship to military equipment. He added that the circular world map at the bottom of the design, which would probably be sculpted as convex or concave, provides additional context for the military shipments, and the inscription “We Deliver” summarizes the story of the Merchant Marine. Mr. Stroik asked if the world map is a helpful design element or a distraction; Mr. Fagan said that this area of the coin would otherwise contribute little to the design, perhaps rendered merely as foreground water, so the presence of the map is acceptable. He said that the drawings do not convey the intended sculptural effect; a convex shaping of the map is likely, although a concave sculpting would be particularly interesting because its shadowing would distinguish the map from the composition’s primary scene of the ship and truck. Mr. Stroik and Mr. McCrery commented that they dislike the inclusion of the circular map within the composition.
Mr. McCrery suggested consideration of reverse #8, featuring an elevated view of a convoy of ships at sea; Mr. Fagan said that this alternative is his second choice for the reverse, and Mr. Stroik agreed that it is a compelling design. Mr. McCrery commented that this scene emphasizes the wartime role of the Merchant Marine in the Atlantic Ocean, where the ships were grouped in massive convoys in response to the threat from the German navy. He said that the Merchant Marine operated in both the Atlantic and Pacific, but the danger and loss of life were much greater in the Atlantic. He described the convoy scene, as well as the “Victory” reference in the inscription above, as a poignant design that alludes to the risk without showing it directly; he contrasted this with the bomber planes depicted in some of the obverse alternatives, which he described as an excessive feature.
Mr. Fagan agreed in supporting reverse #8, commenting that the elevated viewpoint’s forced perspective results in a strong design. He cited the simplicity of this design and the horizon’s division of the circular medal into two-thirds ocean and one-third upper area, which he described as a strong proportioning. He said that the row of rivets along the horizontal dividing line are an additional strong feature, with the result that the overall composition and the details are all working together in a dramatic and powerful design. He summarized that people would be excited to receive a medal with this design.
Mr. Stroik noted the consensus for obverse #6 and reverse #8. Mr. McCrery asked if any coordination of inscriptions is required for this pairing. Ms. Stafford clarified that no inscriptions are mandated, although desirable inscriptions include “Merchant Mariners of World War II” and “Act of Congress 2020.” Mr. McCrery expressed support for the inscription on reverse #8—“Full Ahead to Victory”—which he described as powerful; Ms. Stafford said that this text was suggested by the liaison. Mr. McCrery noted that the recommended pairing does not include “Act of Congress 2020” and asked if this is allowable; Ms. Stafford confirmed that this text is not required and does not always appear on Congressional Gold Medals. Mr. McCrery offered a motion to recommend obverse #6 and reverse #8 as presented. Upon a second by Mr. Cook, the Commission adopted this action.
2. CFA 18/MAR/21-7, 2022 American Innovation One Dollar Coin Program, Designs for the fourth set of coins: Rhode Island, Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Final. (Previous: CFA 19/MAR/20-3, 2021 coins) Secretary Luebke introduced the set of reverse designs for the next four one-dollar coins in the American Innovation series. He noted that this is the fourth submission in the series, which will include coins for each state, the District of Columbia, and the five U.S. territories. He said that the authorizing legislation calls for each reverse design to include an illustration emblematic of the innovation, innovator, or group of innovators, along with the inscriptions “United States of America” and the name of the state or territory. He said that for this series, the legislation specifically prohibits the use of a head-and-shoulders portrait or the depiction of any living person, and it calls for selecting the designs in consultation with the governor or chief executive of each state or territory. He asked April Stafford of the U.S. Mint to present the alternative designs.
Ms. Stafford clarified the consultation process with the state governors. Initially, the Mint asks the governor’s office to develop from one to three concepts or themes to be represented on the state’s coin, which can focus on an innovator or an innovation. Upon approval of the themes by the Secretary of the Treasury, the Mint asks artists to develop designs based on these themes. She said that some governor’s offices are committed to a particular theme and propose only one, while others are more open to considering multiple themes; she suggested that the Commission does not need to choose a particular theme when several are presented but can instead focus on recommending the designs that would result in the best coins. She added that the preferences of the governor’s offices for particular designs would be described during the presentation.
Ms. Stafford said that a single theme has been developed for the Rhode Island coin: the naval innovation of Nathanael Herreshoff. She said that Herreshoff was a naval architect, mechanical engineer, and innovator in the design of yachts; his career spanned the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His designs included a wide range of boats—from a 16-foot sailboat for training children, to a 144-foot yacht with a sail area of 16,000 square feet. In 1876, he introduced multihulled boats to yacht racing with a prize-winning catamaran.
Ms. Stafford presented nine alternative designs for the coin’s reverse, noting that alternatives #1, 2, and 5 are the preferences of the governor’s office. She noted that the Mint is working very closely with subject matter experts in the field of yacht design, and some technical corrections have been identified for the designs; she said that these are very minor and do not significantly affect the compositions that are being presented.
Mr. Stroik expressed support for the preferences of the governor’s office, and he particularly recommended alternative #2, depicting a sailboat during a race; he added that the rope border in alternative #1 is a nice feature. Mr. Fagan and Mr. McCrery agreed in supporting alternative #2. Mr. Fagan commented that a circular shape can be difficult for developing a composition, but alternative #2 does this successfully. He said that the negative space next to the sail results in a design that does not seem cramped, even with the adjacent lettering; he also cited the many curves within the composition as relating successfully to the circular shape of the coin. He described the design as nicely balanced with good detail, and he said that sailors would be especially supportive of this alternative.
Mr. McCrery commented that alternative #2 “jumps off the page” in comparison to the other designs, and he noted that the horizon line divides the coin into proportions of two-thirds and one-third, as previously encouraged by Mr. Fagan. Mr. McCrery observed that the sweep of the curved inscription “United States of America” is almost the reverse of the sail’s curve, and he reiterated his satisfaction with the composition; he said that the scene resembles a classic action view of yachting. Mr. Guillot asked about the size of the coin; Ms. Stafford responded that these one-dollar coins would be slightly larger than the circulating quarter-dollar coin, which Mr. Guillot characterized as quite small for these compositions.
Chairman Shubow noted the consensus of the Commission to recommend reverse #2 for the Rhode Island coin.
Ms. Stafford said that the single theme of snowboarding has been developed for the Vermont coin. She described the history of the sport: the concept of riding a board downhill on snow has existed since at least the 1920s, and perhaps for centuries before, but during the 1980s, Vermont emerged as a center of innovation in snowboarding. Competitions hosted at Vermont resorts lead to a wider acceptance of the sport, and innovations in foot bindings and new materials allowed riders to make sharper turns, move faster downhill, and eventually perform tricks.
Snowboarding’s technological development and transformation from a novel recreation to a competitive worldwide phenomenon are closely tied to the state of Vermont.
Ms. Stafford presented eleven alternative designs for the coin’s reverse, noting the preferences of the governor’s office for alternative #5 as the first choice, #11 as the second choice, and #7 as the third choice. She said that the preference for #5 is based on conveying a sense of the sport’s diversity; the snowboarder is depicted as a woman, and many of Vermont's best-known snowboarders are women.
Mr. Guillot offered a preference for alternative #11, depicting a snowboard using an early version of a directional board; Mr. McCrery, Mr. Stroik, and Mr. Spandle agreed that this is the most striking design in the set. Mr. McCrery observed that all of the text in this design is illustrated with a sans-serif font; he suggested keeping this for the inscription “Vermont” on the bottom of the snowboard, while switching to a serif font for “United States of America” along the top edge of the coin. Mr. Fagan asked how the lettering of “Vermont” would be detailed; Ms. Stafford responded that the drawing technique indicates the intent for this lettering to be incused.
Mr. Guillot suggested further consideration of alternative #9; Mr. Stroik and Mr. McCrery agreed that this design has merit. Mr. Guillot nonetheless concluded that the nostalgic reference of alternative #11 would be preferable; he cited the strength of the composition’s diagonal lines, and the placement of the word “Vermont” to suggest the common practice of personalizing a snowboard. Mr. Shubow suggested that the detailing of the snowboarder in alternative #11 could be adjusted to depict a woman, in support of the preference of the governor’s office; Mr. Stroik observed that alternative #11 is among the preferences of the governor’s office. Chairman Shubow noted the consensus to recommend reverse #11 for the Vermont coin.
Ms. Stafford said that two themes have been developed for the Kentucky coin: bluegrass music and the Frontier Nursing Service. She noted that the governor’s office has expressed a strong preference for the theme of bluegrass music but has not identified any specific design preferences. She described the emergence of bluegrass music in the late 1930s and early 1940s with the band led by Kentucky native Bill Monroe; the style’s name is a reference to Kentucky’s bluegrass landscape. She said that Monroe and his band began to transition from the string band traditions of Appalachia to modern bluegrass, culminating in recording sessions in 1946 that historians cite as the advent of today’s bluegrass music; characteristic features include breakneck tempos, sophisticated vocal harmony arrangements, and instrumental proficiency demonstrated in solos or breaks on the mandolin, banjo, and fiddle. She described the history of the Frontier Nursing Service, started in 1925 by Mary Breckenridge in response to the high infant and maternal mortality rates in Appalachia. Under this program, nurse-midwives travelled on horseback in eastern Kentucky to provide health care with great success. She noted that a design based on this theme should focus on the Frontier Nursing Service itself, rather than on Breckenridge.
Ms. Stafford presented twenty alternative designs based on the theme of bluegrass music, followed by five designs based on the theme of the Frontier Nursing Service. Mr. Guillot commented that alternative #12 resembles the traditional reverse of the Lincoln one-cent coin; he described it as an attractive design. He also suggested consideration of alternative #20 as a clear depiction of a banjo.
Mr. McCrery suggested consideration of alternative #1 or a design depicting a person playing the banjo, and he asked about the metal that would be used for these coins. Ms. Stafford responded that it would be the same combination of manganese and copper that is used for the circulating one-dollar Native American coins, resulting in a golden color. Mr. Guillot described alternative #5 as stunning, with a very strong design. However, Mr. Fagan questioned how well this design could be executed as a sculpted coin; Mr. McCrery and Mr. Stroik agreed with this concern, and Mr. McCrery described the drawing as a “great work of art.” Mr. Guillot likened alternative #1 to a poker chip, and Mr. McCrery agreed that the similarity would make this a problematic choice.
Ms. Stafford noted that the review process at the governor’s office included consultation with subject matter experts on bluegrass music, who encouraged the designs having a mandolin because of its significance for bluegrass; she clarified that many of the designs depict a banjo, which has a similar appearance but a larger size. Mr. Stroik agreed that the mandolin is particularly important to bluegrass music. Ms. Stafford said that the mandolin is featured in alternative #13 and is part of the grouping of instruments depicted in other alternatives. Mr. Stroik commented that alternatives #17 and 18 are interesting, but the depiction of multiple instruments may be excessive.
Mr. Fagan described alternative #12 as a unique design that invites you to hold the coin in your hand as you being to understand what it depicts, and you soon want to being strumming the strings that extend across the composition. He said that the design would be even more effective if the chrome banding of a banjo could be effectively conveyed. He also agreed that alternative #20 is effective, for similar reasons. Mr. Stroik described these designs as creative, placing the circle of the banjo within the circle of the coin; the effect is to make the coin be understand as part of the instrument. Mr. Fagan said that the banjo in alternative #20 could be adjusted to show more of the instrument; Mr. McCrery observed that it depicts only four strings on the banjo. Mr. Guillot expressed a preference for alternative #20 as the stronger design, commenting that it does not feel overly scripted. Several Commission members expressed continued support for alternative #12, especially if the commercial-looking font could be improved for the “Bluegrass” inscription.
Mr. Stroik suggested making a decision between alternatives #12 and 20; Mr. Spandle expressed a preference for #20. Secretary Luebke noted that the Commission could recommend more than one design, perhaps conveying support for the depiction of a banjo and for two specific designs. Ms. Stafford confirmed that a dual recommendation from the Commission could be shared with the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee at its meeting the following week, as well as with the governor’s office and the Secretary of the Treasury. She said that the governor’s office may choose to refine its position in response to the comments from other reviewing bodies, resulting in a more specific preference from the state that could be conveyed to the Secretary of the Treasury for a final decision.
Mr. Stroik suggested a dual recommendation for alternatives #12 and 20; Mr. McCrery supported this choice, with the provision that a fifth string be added to the banjo in alternative #20. Mr. Cook asked if the treble clef symbol in alternative #20 is acceptable or perhaps an overly literal cliché that is extraneous to the design.
Mr. Cook offered a motion to recommend alternatives #12 and 20, with the request to add a fifth string to the banjo in #20 and to consider removing the treble clef symbol from this design. Chairman Shubow noted the consensus to adopt this action.
Ms. Stafford said that three themes have been developed for the Tennessee coin: the Nashville Number System for transcribing music, developed in the late 1950s by Neal Matthews, Jr.; the rural electrification work of the Tennessee Valley Authority, beginning in 1933; and the work of Sequoyah in developing a writing system for the Cherokee language in the early 19th century. She noted that the governor’s office has expressed a preference or comment for one design from each of these themes.
Ms. Stafford presented six alternative designs based on the theme of the Nashville Numbering System; nine designs based on the theme of the Tennessee Valley Authority; and four designs based on the theme of Sequoyah. She noted the preference of the governor’s office for alternative #2 for the Nashville Numbering System, with the concern that this phrase not be included on the coin in order to avoid suggesting favoritism toward Tennessee’s capital city to the exclusion of the rest of the state. For the Tennessee Valley Authority, the preference of the governor’s office is for alternative #8, depicting the Norris Dam. For the theme of Sequoyah, the preference of the governor’s office is for alternative #17, with the request to add the phrase “Cherokee Syllabary” to the design. Comments were also provided by representatives of the Cherokee Nation, which expressed admiration for this design—particularly its accurate depiction of the syllabary in its original order—and suggested consideration of including the text “Tennessee” and “Sequoyah” in the Cherokee language.
Mr. McCrery asked for clarification on the prohibition involving portraits for this series of coins. Ms. Stafford responded that living people cannot be depicted, nor conventional head-and-shoulders portraits; but people can otherwise be depicted as part of the design. Secretary Luebke noted that Sequoyah’s syllabary was recently the subject of another coin; Ms. Stafford confirmed that this was part of the circulating Native American one-dollar coin series, which the Commission could consider in its evaluation of the alternatives.
Mr. Fagan said that he has no recommendation among the themes, but he offered to provide a preference within each theme. For the Nashville Numbering System, he recommended alternative #1 as clearly the best coin design; he acknowledged that the presence of the word “Nashville” could be considered problematic. He cited this design’s sense of depth and use of curves along with a portrait; Mr. Stroik agreed. For the Tennessee Valley Authority, Mr. Fagan recommended alternative #9 as best fulfilling the goal of storytelling; he said that the depiction of the dam, power lines, and a rural setting conveys the process of producing, transmitting, and using the electric power. He cited the depth of this composition and the placement of a tree that breaks the frame, concluding that this design would work well as a coin. Mr. Stroik expressed a preference for alternative #14 due to its emphasis on the lightbulb.
For the theme of Sequoyah, Mr. Fagan recommended alternative #17, which is based on a famous portrait. He commented that this interpretation of the portrait is done well, and the pose seems appropriate. He noted the suggestions to add more inscriptions, which he said may be difficult to achieve artistically due to the tight composition. Mr. McCrery observed that Sequoyah is shown wearing a medal around his neck that depicts George Washington, resulting in a medal-within-a-medal design; Mr. Fagan and Mr. Stroik agreed that this is an interesting effect. Mr. Stroik commented that Sequoyah appears to be a much more interesting and approachable person as depicted in alternative #18; Mr. Fagan agreed that this pose shows him looking at the viewer in a very modern way, but the proportion of the hands and other odd details seem problematic. Noting Sequoyah’s importance to Georgia’s history, Mr. Cook commented that Sequoyah was an elegant person who would be more likely to dress as depicted in alternative #17; he said that the depiction in alternative #18 makes him seem more like Daniel Boone, which would be inappropriate. He suggested that the pose in alternative #17 could be adjusted to allow more room for the additional inscriptions that have been requested; Ms. Stafford confirmed that the Mint’s chief engraver and design team could consider such advice and make adjustments to the design as needed. Mr. McCrery asked if the state name rendered in another language, as requested by the Cherokee Nation, would satisfy the legislative requirement to include the state’s name on the coin; Ms. Stafford said that this would not necessarily be problematic but would be reviewed by the Mint’s legal counsel. Mr. McCrery noted that the word Tennessee is derived from a Native American name.
Mr. Fagan asked whether the Commission would provide a single recommendation for Tennessee, or one for each theme. Mr. Guillot suggested summarizing the comments provided in order to decide on a recommendation. He recalled that no consensus was reached for the Nashville Numbering System. Mr. Fagan said the preference was for alternative #1; Mr. Guillot said this would be unacceptable to the governor’s office due to the inclusion of “Nashville” in the inscriptions. Mr. McCrery confirmed his impression that the political culture in Tennessee includes a sharp divide between different parts of the state, and the selection of a design referencing Nashville would not be welcomed by many people. Ms. Stafford said that the inscription could be adjusted if the Commission concludes that #1 is otherwise a strong alternative.
Mr. Guillot commented that the Nashville Numbering System is an obscure theme, while electricity is very familiar; he therefore suggested choosing a design with the theme of the Tennessee Valley Authority. He recalled that alternatives #9 and 11 were under consideration for this theme; Mr. Fagan said the discussion was for #9. Mr. Guillot and Mr. McCrery agreed to support this choice, citing the power line and the barn as unusual elements for coin designs. Mr. Guillot said that alternative #11 is a compelling design, but it doesn’t show a dam that is producing the electricity. Mr. McCrery observed that alternative #11 has the advantage of depicting a farm, whose power consumption is the purpose of the hydroelectric dam; the choice is between emphasizing the start or end of the process, while both compositions show the wires that are used for electricity transmission. Mr. Shubow said that he prefers alternative #11 instead of #9; several Commission members agreed observing that #11 includes mountains in the background.
Chairman Shubow summarized the apparent consensus to recommend alternatives #11 and #17 for the Tennessee coin; the Commission members expressed their support for this advice.
Mr. Stroik offered a motion to formalize the recommendations discussed for each of the American Innovation coins that was presented; upon a second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission adopted this action.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:17 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA