Hon. Billie Tsien, Chair
Hon. Hazel Ruth Edwards, Vice Chair
Hon. Peter Cook
Hon. Rodney Mims Cook, Jr.
Hon. Justin Garrett Moore
Hon. Duncan Stroik
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
Mary Catherine Bogard
A. Approval of the minutes of the 15 July meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the July meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Mr. R.M. Cook, the Commission approved the minutes. Mr. Luebke said the minutes will be posted on the Commission’s website.
B. Dates of next meetings. Secretary Luebke presented the dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 21 October 2021, 18 November 2021, and 20 January 2022. He noted that no meeting is scheduled in December.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Secretary Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom reported that the appendix has nine projects, with no change from the draft that was circulated. Upon a motion by Mr. P. Cook with second by Mr. Stroik, the Commission approved the Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler said that three cases listed on the draft appendix have been removed and are being held open for consideration in a future month (case numbers SL 21-161, 21-163, and 21-183). The listing for one project has been revised from a concept to a permit submission, based on the sufficient level of documentation (SL 21-181). Other revisions are minor wording changes and the notation of dates for the receipt of supplemental materials. She said that the recommendations for fourteen projects are subject to further coordination with the applicants, and she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations when the outstanding issues are resolved; she noted that September is typically a very busy month for Shipstead-Luce Act submissions. Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Mr. R.M. Cook, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act Appendix. (See agenda item II.E for an additional Shipstead-Luce Act submission.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Bogard reported that no changes have been made to the draft appendix, which has 43 projects. Upon a motion by Mr. P. Cook with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission approved the Old Georgetown Act Appendix.
Mr. Luebke said that the statutes for the Commission’s Shipstead-Luce and Georgetown jurisdictions specify a limited timeframe for review; the Georgetown cases tend to be resolved for the Commission’s appendix due to the intervening review by the Old Georgetown Board, while the Shipstead-Luce cases often need additional time because the staff has only one week to process the large caseload before issuing the draft appendix. He acknowledged Ms. Batcheler’s efforts in working within these constraints. He noted the unusually large number of cases on this month’s Georgetown appendix. Ms. Bogard clarified that approximately 69 cases were reviewed in the current cycle; the appendix reflects that 43 of these cases are receiving an action. Mr. Luebke said that the recent pattern has been fewer submissions by federal government agencies, and more submissions from the private sector for the Shipstead-Luce and Georgetown jurisdictions.
B. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
CFA 15/SEP/21-1, Marriner S. Eccles Building (2051 Constitution Avenue, NW) and Federal Reserve Board–East Building (1951 Constitution Avenue, NW—former Interior South Building). Modernization, alterations, and additions to both buildings. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/JUL/20-1) Secretary Luebke introduced the proposed final design for the renovation of the Marriner Eccles Building and the Federal Reserve Board–East Building, two of the three buildings on the headquarters campus of the Federal Reserve Board (FRB); they occupy two blocks along Constitution Avenue between 19th and 21st Streets, NW. The project would add a total of 100,000 square feet to these two buildings, along with consolidating the parking and security functions. He noted that the third building on the campus is the Martin Building, located on the block immediately north of the Eccles Building and dating from the early 1970s; it is currently undergoing renovation and is not part of this submission. He said that the proposal for the Eccles Building would enclose its two courtyards with infill additions on the east and west sides; expand the penthouse for additional program areas; create a new primary pedestrian entrance on the east side, facing 20th Street; and completely revise the perimeter security system. He noted that this perimeter security system, installed about twenty years ago, is one of the first such projects to be built after the attacks of September 11, 2001; he described the proposed replacement as a more sensitive solution than the existing installation. He said the proposal for the FRB–East Building would renovate the currently vacant structure with a five-story addition on the north side and the enclosure of a central courtyard, which requires the demolition of the existing auditorium in that location. The renovation of the FRB–East Building also includes the construction of a multi-level underground parking garage to the south beneath the extensive lawn area along Constitution Avenue, allowing for removal of the existing parking areas beneath the Eccles Building and within its courtyards. The renovation would provide mechanical, environmental, and technological upgrades along with universal access.
Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission’s prior reviews of this project. In January 2020, the Commission approved the general concept for site planning and for the massing of the additions. In May 2020, the Commission approved the concept for the site design and the renovation of the Eccles Building, subject to some conditions; in July 2020, the Commission approved the concept design for renovating the FRB–East Building. He said that the proposed final design addresses the issues raised in the previous reviews.
Mr. Luebke said that the project has gone through an extensive regulatory consultation process for historic preservation, which has involved the D.C. Historic Preservation Office, the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT), the D.C. Office of Planning, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), the National Park Service, which has easements and adjacent property on the south, and several other stakeholders. Notable outcomes have included refining the design of the courtyards in the Eccles Building and the redesign of 20th Street to include on-street parking. He added that the project received its final approval from NCPC earlier in the month. He asked Skip McGinley, chief of design and construction at the FRB headquarters, to begin the presentation.
Mr. McGinley said the Federal Reserve is pleased to begin reshaping its workspace to meet present and future needs; he thanked the Commission for its comments and its coordination of the review process. He introduced Rod Henderer and Tom Jester of Fortus, a joint venture of the architectural firms CallisonRTKL and Quinn Evans Architects, to present the final design.
Mr. Jester said that in addition to final approval from NCPC, the proposal has received public space approval from DDOT, and the historic preservation consultation was recently completed with a signed Memorandum of Agreement. He outlined the project’s main goals: the designs for the building additions should recognize the civic importance of the Federal Reserve; they should be simple, calm, and restrained compositions that create a more unified architectural character; and they should respect the historic character-defining features by using new contextual elements that are based on classical principles while employing contemporary materials and technology. He described the issues previously raised by the Commission that are being addressed in this final submission: for the infill additions to the Eccles building, the Commission had recommended differentiating the bronze mullions at the lower levels from those at the fourth floor; for the FRB–East Building, the Commission had provided comments regarding the transparency of the addition’s north and west facades, the treatment of the implied pilasters between the bays, the control of the interior appearance seen through the extensive glazing, and the character of the sunken terrace adjoining the new 20th Street entrance.
Mr. Jester provided an overview of the historic buildings. The Eccles Building was designed in 1937 by Paul Phillipe Cret [CFA member, 1940–45]; it is considered one of Cret’s most important civic buildings, as well as one of the best examples of his modern stripped classical style. The formal landscape surrounding the building, still intact, was part of the original design. He noted that it was designated a D.C. landmark in 1964, only 27 years after its completion. The FRB–East Building, dating from 1933, was designed by Jules Henri de Sibour for the U.S. Public Health Service; an expansion of the building to the north was planned at the time of construction but never executed. The building is clad in the same white Georgia marble as the Eccles Building and is distinguished by extensive aluminum detailing and a terrace that wraps around the east, south, and west sides. Mr. Henderer observed that the Federal Reserve campus forms part of the architectural composition along this section of Constitution Avenue, characterized by large white marble buildings set within broad green lawns; this composition will remain largely unchanged.
Mr. Henderer said that the materials for the additions to the Eccles Building will follow those of the existing building, with a simple palette of white Georgia marble and a statuary bronze; the new glass would be low-iron and would have an applied frit. On the infill facades, he indicated the different depths of the window plane and the projecting mullions, refined in response to the Commission’s request for more differentiation of the top floor. The penthouse is mostly glazed, and marble panels would enclose the access stair and mechanical equipment. The new main entrance would be on the east, facing 20th Street; to create a more welcoming and appropriately scaled entrance, the historic garden wall on the east would be slightly lowered and the opening within the wall would be widened. The original main entrance at the center of the south facade would not be in use, but the historic gates in the doorway opening would remain; however, this doorway does not meet the requirements for an emergency exit, so two new openings would be cut in the historic wall with new gates installed that would be similar to but simpler than the historic gates.
Mr. Henderer described the design goal for the FRB–East Building as the creation of a consistent, unified expression that wraps around all three sides of the addition and is informed by the historic building’s cadence of monumental window openings separated by pilasters. The intent is for the addition’s exterior to match the overall tonality of the historic marble building while using contemporary materials and details that are differentiated from the historic fabric. The historic building’s windows are recessed one foot from the facade plane; the windows of the addition would project one foot, and their applied frit pattern would relate to the metal spandrels of the historic windows. The historic building’s corners are articulated as end pavilions, distinguished from each facade’s center bays by their greater amount of wall surface and a single, centered window bay. In a comparable manner, the corners of the addition would be articulated as contemporary pavilions, with glass panels that are flush with the facade; he noted that the overall geometry of these pavilions is little changed from the concept design. In response to the Commission’s previous comment that these corner pavilions would be too transparent, a fifty-percent frit will be added to the glazing. He said that the use of a frit has several advantages: it will reduce the transparency of the corners; it will create a stronger relationship to the historic corner pavilions; and it will contribute to the addition’s overall white tonality.
Mr. Henderer described how the design of the FRB–East Building addition has been modified in response to the Commission’s concern about the effect of the interior configuration on the exterior appearance. While the previous intent was to create open office areas, the FRB is now planning to create more private offices. The design proposal is that these rooms would not adjoin the exterior wall, in order to maintain the transparency of the addition’s facades; to make natural light and views available to all offices, a dedicated aisle would encircle the perimeter of each floor, and the offices would have glass walls along that aisle. All of the ceilings will be wood, extending from the aisle into the offices for a seamless unity; from outside the building, the ceilings will probably be most visible at night.
Mr. Henderer said that the proposed materials for the addition to the FRB–East Building are similar to those for the Eccles Building. The addition would have bead-blasted stainless steel to recall the historic building’s cast aluminum details; at the cornice line, a thin marble interlayer would be embedded in insulated glass units. He noted that some Commission members had suggested considering an alternative material for the pilasters, but the proposal remains to use diffused glazing panels, for several reasons: their translucency will diffuse exterior daylight into the interior; they will improve the interior experience, particularly along the perimeter corridor; they will support the overall strategy of creating a white, luminous exterior; and they will be highly energy-efficient.
Mr. Henderer presented the proposed acid-etched frit patterns for the glazing, which would be used on the additions to both buildings. Most of the glass would have a ten-percent frit pattern to help prevent collisions from birds. The corner pavilion windows of the FRB–East Building would have a fifty-percent frit pattern; the top level of both additions would also have a fifty-percent frit, but in a different pattern.
Finally, Mr. Henderer presented the designs for the new officers’ posts, or guardhouses, on the site. Currently there are four guardhouses at the Eccles Building: two on the front lawn to the south, and one at each of the two vehicular entrances to the parking garage. The guardhouses for these vehicular entrances would be eliminated, replaced by two new ones at the entrance and exit ramps for the proposed garage at the FRB–East Building. Two new guardhouses would be constructed on the south lawn of the FRB–East Building, and the two in front of the Eccles Building would be replaced by two of the new design. He said this new design is informed by the design principles of the building additions—the guardhouses would be quiet, restrained, and transparent, recognizable as new additions to the historic landscape but designed to blend in. At the lawns, the three public-facing sides of each post would be fully glazed with high-ballistic-rated monolithic glass panels, while the side facing the building would contain the entrance door and a louver for the air-conditioning unit. The guardhouses adjacent to the vehicular ramps would be engaged with the granite walls associated with the new perimeter security system.
Landscape architect Alan Ward of Sasaki Associates presented the landscape designs, beginning with a brief overview of the existing landscapes and a discussion of the new perimeter security system; he noted that the presentation also includes the proposed refinements to 20th Street between the two buildings. He said that the existing perimeter security system at the Eccles Building was installed more than twenty years ago; it uses a bulky, contemporary bollard design, configured in a staggered line that weaves in and out among the perimeter trees and constrains their growth. The proposal is to replace this system with a design that would be mostly located at the back of the sidewalk and more thoughtfully woven into the landscape; a similar approach would be used in the landscape of the FRB–East Building. He noted that the perimeter security in front of the Eccles Building would incorporate some of the historic marble walls, which are the required height.
Mr. Ward said that the D.C. Government’s arborist has identified heritage trees in the front landscapes of both buildings; these would remain, with the exception of a single tree at the southeast corner of the FRB–East Building that the arborist rated as a low priority for preservation. The elevated garden terraces in the front landscape of the FRB–East Building would be completely rehabilitated; unlike at the Eccles Building, only fragments of the historic landscape remain. He noted that several designs were prepared in the 1930s for this garden; the landscape was installed a few years after the building’s completion, and it is not known precisely what design was implemented. The new design is intended to preserve the spirit and character of the original, as much as it can be known, with improvements so the landscape works better with the building addition and accommodates the new parking garage beneath it. The perimeter security for the FRB–East Building would be simplified and moved to the back of the sidewalk, except along C Street, where it would remain at the tree planting zone.
Mr. Ward presented the proposed treatment of 20th Street. He noted that the cartway width was previously proposed as 42 feet, matching the existing width; in the current design, the cartway would be narrowed to 32.5 feet, with a single lane in each direction and curbside parking on the east side only. He said that this revision allows for less paved surface and more planting, including a tree planting zone on the east side and additional planting areas along the garage exit wall; the new exit ramp has been integrated into the revised street design. He added that the design for 20th Street has been worked out with the historic preservation consulting parties; the proposed solution has the appearance of a typical urban street, centers the cartway on the historic L’Enfant Plan centerline for 20th Street, and accommodates additional planting. Because of the slope of 20th Street, pedestrians would have to descend from the sidewalk to the new primary entrances for both buildings; steps and sloped walkways would be provided for universal access, and a raised crosswalk would facilitate pedestrian movement across 20th Street between the two entrances. The alignment of the building entrances corresponds to the conversion of the existing vehicular entrance at the Eccles Building to become the building’s primary pedestrian entrance.
Mr. Ward said that all existing sidewalks would be replaced with new sidewalks, with a minimum width of eight feet. Barrier-free access would be provided to the elevated gardens in front of the buildings along Constitution Avenue, and accessible walks would be added; he noted that these gardens will occasionally be opened to the public.
Mr. Ward presented further details of the proposed perimeter security system, which is a hybrid solution of post-and-rail fencing, metal bollards, and masonry walls. The primary component would typically be a post-and-rail system, which he said has a much simpler appearance than the existing system of bulky bollards found along 19th, 20th, and 21st Streets. The new posts would be set approximately eight feet apart, connected by rails and cables. At key locations, the post-and-rail system would end in granite-clad posts or in short walls at corners, providing architectural emphasis for these terminations. Bollards are generally proposed only at building entrances, and a barrier wall would be placed alongside the sunken area on the north side of the FRB–East Building; he emphasized that it will be perceived as a retaining wall and thus part of the landscape design, not as a perimeter security element.
Mr. Ward said the proposed system for perimeter security would have far fewer penetrations into the roots of the street trees and the large heritage trees; he noted that street trees have been in decline around the Eccles Building because of the location of the existing bollards. The selection of new street trees has been reviewed with the D.C. arborist; he indicated the location for new street trees on the east side of 20th Street. A few infill trees would be added where trees are missing along Constitution Avenue.
Mr. Ward said one new landscape feature would be bioretention areas at the southwest and southeast corners of the Eccles Building site. This zone was historically planted with massed evergreen shrubs; similar shrubs would be placed around the perimeter of the sunken bioretention areas, providing visual screening and maintaining the historic appearance. He emphasized that this approach would introduce an important environmental component while preserving the character of the historic landscape design.
Mr. Ward reiterated that several different landscape designs were proposed for the FRB–East Building in the 1930s, and it is not clear what was actually implemented; he indicated the locations of a few mismatched trees. He said that the design team has examined these early plans to develop a new design that will convey a similar character; parallel rows of trees would be planted in a symmetrical arrangement in the front garden. One new addition would be paired water features that include jets of arching water, adding a playful, contemporary expression to complement the historic water features in the front gardens of the Eccles Building. Another introduction is a lawn panel in the center of the existing 45-foot-wide paved walk that will run along the central axis to the original front entrance.
Mr. Ward presented the hardscape materials palette for the landscape. Marble would be used to repair or replace some of the historic marble features, and a gray granite would be used for some features such as for bands defining the mid-block 20th Street crosswalk and extending into the entrance lobby of each building. The concrete sidewalks would be designed in accordance with the National Park Service standard along Constitution Avenue and the D.C. standard along the other streets. A dark bronze-colored metal is proposed for the post-and rail system, close in color to the historic bronze details on the Eccles Building.
Mr. Ward said that the water feature previously shown along the north wall of the FRB–East Building’s sunken terrace has been shifted to the west wall, parallel to 20th Street; this wall would serve as perimeter security and as a pedestrian safety barrier, while also creating an attractive landscape feature that would frame the space immediately adjacent to the building’s new entrance. He noted that the metal details in this area would be a darker gray than depicted in the renderings, closer to the historic cast aluminum on this building and also similar in tone to the bronze on the Eccles Building. He said that the large stairway shown on the previous design leading down to the FRB–East Building from C Street has been removed, and the design for this area has been simplified to create more usable space; he observed that the simplification has significantly improved this area.
Chair Tsien acknowledged the long and complex review process; she complimented the design team and thanked them for their clear and efficient presentation. She invited questions and comments from the Commission members.
Mr. Moore similarly extended his compliments to the design team, citing the incredible challenge in addressing the perimeter security issues. He noted that twenty years have passed since 9/11, an event that significantly transformed public landscapes and public life; he observed that, in general, urban design work done immediately after 9/11 was typically not as well considered from public and pedestrian perspectives as it should have been. He commented that the proposed final design for this project appears to advance the conversation in an incredibly thoughtful way that will serve the critical need for security but also the important need for quality public space in the nation’s capital city. He also commended the proposal from the broader urban design perspective, noting the care taken in the design of 20th Street and the crossings. He noted that the previous presentations had benefited from the commentary of former member and landscape architect Elizabeth Meyer, and he said the current design responds well to the concerns raised by the Commission. He described the landscape design as striking a successful balance between acknowledging the historic landscape and incorporating the new security realities, while also promoting a more pedestrian-friendly, public-friendly urban design.
Mr. P. Cook agreed that this was a thorough, thoughtful, and impressive presentation, and said he has only a few minor questions. He asked about the dimensions of the proposed post-and-rail system; Mr. Ward responded that the height of the posts is 40 inches, and the intermediate stanchions would have a diameter of 3.5 inches; the terminal posts, where the encased cables run down to the foundation, would be 8.5 inches wide. He added that most of the terminal posts would be clad in granite; the details of the cladding are still be worked out, but it will likely be composed of L-shaped pieces to make the terminal posts appear like solid granite. Mr. Cook asked whether railings have been omitted for the ramp depicted in a perspective view of the Eccles Building’s entrance. Mr. Ward responded that the grade is gentle enough to allow for this to be categorized as a sloping walk, not a ramp, and therefore railings are not required; he added that the depicted railings are for the adjacent steps.
Mr. Stroik raised further concerns with the proposed Eccles Building entrance, commenting that the design for steps flanked by sloping walks leading to the new entrance looks awkward; he asked if consideration was given to using only a sloping walk, perhaps with landings. Mr. Ward responded that the entire surface leading down to the entrance could be a sloping walk, and this solution was tested at various widths, but the conclusion was that steps would present a more ceremonial expression for the main entrance to an important public building, and steps would also be more in accord with historical precedent. Mr. Stroik suggested that a more subtly integrated walk might be a better design, instead of two sloping walks flanking the wider central stairs, which he said tend to be found in renovations of less consequential, less elevated public buildings, such as airports. He reiterated that the proposed design looks odd, and he suggested developing options.
Mr. Stroik questioned the redesign of 20th Street; he observed that this street currently has parking on both sides, while the design proposes eliminating parking from the west side. He acknowledged that less parking would make the campus more pedestrian-friendly, but he questioned the decision to eliminate so much. Mr. Ward responded that parking on this block of 20th Street is currently restricted on the west side for security reasons, and parking is only being temporarily allowed on this street during construction. He said that if 20th Street were narrowed to only two lanes, it would be perceived as too narrow for a typical Washington street; the visually better solution is to leave parking on one side. He emphasized that the centerline of the street would still maintain the center of the street’s L’Enfant Plan alignment, clarifying that this refers to the curb-to-curb centerline, not the stripe that would separate northbound and southbound traffic. He reiterated that the reduced width also allows for additional planting areas, a shorter pedestrian crossing, reduced impervious surface, and placement of perimeter security at the back of the sidewalk. Mr. Stroik asked if the result would be a wider sidewalk on the east side of 20th Street. Mr. Ward responded that both sides would have eight-foot-wide sidewalks, and the wider planting area on the east would allow for a planted buffer between the sidewalk and the parking garage’s exit ramp.
Mr. R.M. Cook commented that the building additions are elegantly handled. He said the security issues have been addressed well, but he questioned the choice of granite for the perimeter security system instead of the Georgia marble historically used for the buildings and landscape elements. Mr. Ward responded that the intent in selecting a stone for the new walls and posts was to find one with a neutral, mid-tone gray color so that these new security elements would not resemble or be confused with the historic marble elements; an additional reason is that darker colors tend to recede among the plantings in a landscape.
Dr. Edwards agreed that the project is very nicely done. She commented favorably on the careful detail of the renderings, particularly the night views, and she commended the team on the thoughtfulness of the design; she particularly cited the security measures, which she said would be a tremendous improvement to the existing conditions.
Ms. Tsien congratulated the design team for its thorough presentation of an elegant design. She commented that the design of the two buildings and landscapes is nuanced and thoughtful; she commended the details of the frit. She expressed her appreciation for the idea that the new work will respect the old, observing that the proposed architectural language is a sort of luminous interpretation in conversation with the Paul Cret design, and the new landscape is similarly in conversation with the old. She expressed the wish that all buildings in Washington could be treated with such respect as their needs move forward into the present and future.
Mr. R.M. Cook offered a motion to approve the final design submission; upon a second by Mr. Moore, the Commission adopted this action. Secretary Luebke said the final design is the culmination of a very long deliberative process with many stakeholders. The challenge with changes to historic properties is to find a balance between satisfying functional issues while retaining these existing values, and in this case, he said, the design ended up in a very good place.
C. D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
CFA 15/SEP/21-2, St. Elizabeths East Campus, 1 Pecan Street SE (Parcel 2). New five- or six-story hospital building with parking garage. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 15/JUL/21-4) Secretary Luebke introduced the revised concept for a new hospital proposed to be built on the historic St. Elizabeths East Campus in Anacostia. He noted the Commission’s recent approval of the general concept in July 2021; the Commission had requested further study of the public landscape to the west, the landscape buffers to the north and east, and the color of the building’s base to harmonize better with the brick above. Among the massing options that were presented, the Commission had recommended the lower height of three stories for the bed tower rising above the two-story base, and the rectangular configuration for the rooftop mechanical enclosure; these options remain undetermined in the current proposal. He asked architect William Hellmuth of HOK and landscape architect Don Hoover of Oculus to present the design.
Mr. Hellmuth presented a context plan that includes the broader redevelopment currently envisioned for the St. Elizabeths East Campus. He noted the predominance on the campus of brick buildings, modern as well as historic, and the sweep of open space planned for the west edge of the campus along Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, including the west side of the hospital site. He indicated the Metro station several blocks to the southeast, as well as the proposed parking garage on the east side of the hospital site. He said that signage would be important for people’s navigation through this complex facility; the signage locations are included in the current proposal, although the design of the signs has not yet been developed.
Mr. Hellmuth said that the brick color for the building’s base has been changed to be darker, in response to the Commission’s previous advice. The terracotta color would be closer to the precast panels used above, and the tone is intended to relate to the red brick used on many buildings at St. Elizabeths. He added that the mortar would also be slightly tinted so that it does not appear white. Other facade details would be precast concrete in various shades of gray. He presented several views of the hospital from the north, a previous concern of the Commission due to the development of a men’s shelter near this facade; he indicated the existing stand of trees that would provide visual screening between the shelter and the hospital. He also indicated the refinements to the parking garage, which would step downward with the descending topography toward the ravine on the east; a photovoltaic array would be built above the top level, stepping down with the profile of the garage. He said that the photovoltaic array is designed to appear as part of the architecture, not merely as an added appurtenance. He presented several views of the garage and array as seen from Pecan Street, including the landscape in early years and at maturity; the array would also be visible from the upper levels of the hospital, providing a more interesting view than looking at the top of parked vehicles. He noted that the energy generated by this array would be equivalent to the power used by 300 homes.
Mr. Hoover presented the development of the landscape design. He said that the key design considerations include supporting the hospital functions; being a good neighbor; complying with the St. Elizabeths East Campus master plan, including north–south pedestrian connections; providing public access; considering views from the men’s shelter and historic horse stable on the north; being environmentally responsible; providing aesthetic quality; and having adequate sightlines to promote public safety. He added that ease of maintenance is also a design concern. Beginning at the south side of the hospital, he indicated the key pedestrian connections to the planned development areas of the East Campus, as well as a bus stop near the hospital’s main entrance. The west side of the hospital would have the public entrance to the emergency room; a drop-off lane and parking area are near this entrance, and a large public open space would extend west to Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue. He said that this open space is designed to invite public use; existing large trees would remain, with seating provided nearby, and the proposed grading would avoid impacts to the tree roots. The open space would generally be flat at the level of the avenue; the grade would drop down alongside the parking area, resulting in sightlines from the park and avenue being above the parked cars and drop-off area. Gentle mounds would be created within the open space to provide a sense of texture and interest. Some biofiltration areas would be created in this open space, and the remainder would be lawn. He presented several views of this area, indicating the various configurations of seating that would be shaded by the trees. He emphasized that the open space is intended to be a healing garden, supporting the needs of the hospital as well as those of the general public; he indicated the access from the hospital’s cafeteria to the open space. The dining terrace immediately adjacent to the cafeteria would have a low hedge and garden alongside to provide screening and separation from the nearby driveway.
Mr. Hoover said that the north side of the hospital, with the ambulance entrance and loading dock, would be screened from the buildings to the north by existing and proposed vegetation as well as the topography. Green buffers would be provided around the parking garage, creating a transition to the existing woodland ravine to the east. He presented images of the proposed planting palette, which emphasizes native trees. He concluded with a series of perspective views to illustrate the landscape, building, and pedestrian connections.
Chair Tsien invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Mr. Moore expressed appreciation for the more careful consideration of the landscape in the current submission; he said that his previous concerns with the buffers toward the north and east have been addressed. He observed that the site design locates the higher-maintenance garden areas close to the building edges, including the main entrance and the dining terrace, while emphasizing lower-maintenance landscapes for the remainder of the site. He acknowledged the appropriateness of focusing the maintenance resources toward the building edge, but he said the result is that the large public space to the west, intended as a “healing garden,” is insufficiently developed. He supported the mounding and lawn that were presented, while recommending further consideration of how this space could be designed and used. The parking area near the emergency room would likely be used by someone dropping off a patient and waiting for them; during this stressful time, people could benefit from having access to the healing experience of the adjacent green space. However, he observed that the pedestrian route from the emergency room entrance to the open space would be indirect and difficult to navigate across the intervening driveways; he suggested designing a more direct connection between the open space and the emergency room entrance, comparable to the connection from the dining terrace and main hospital entrance. He also suggested that the diagrammed area of “manicured garden planting” near the building could be extend to some areas of the western open space, giving it more landscape variety than simply a mowed lawn. He summarized that the design for the large open space should be pushed further with consideration of its healing function, access, and users.
Mr. Hoover responded that the pedestrian access to the large open space is provided beyond each end of the emergency room’s parking area; the intent is to discourage the park’s users from walking through the parking area, which may be chaotic as people try to park during an emergency situation. The grading is also gentler for a pedestrian route that avoids the parking area, allowing for a slope of less than five percent for the southern route from the dining terrace; he added that the northern route should be straightforward to navigate as a curved path between the emergency room drop-off area and the open space, while Mr. Moore reiterated that it seems odd and circuitous for pedestrians. Mr. Hoover said that the diagrammed zones for areas of higher and lower maintenance are partly intended to emphasize the desirability of a soft landscape buffer between the building edge and the various driveways and drop-off areas; another reason is public safety, with a greater sense of surveillance adjacent to the building than in the open-space areas. He clarified that the distinction is not intended to imply a lesser quality to the landscape areas that are not diagrammed as gardens, and he said that a lawn with large trees can be a beautiful landscape. He offered to consider further development of the western open space, provided that the revisions would not create public safety problems; he said that very low plantings could be feasible. Mr. Moore agreed that an open lawn with mature trees can be beautiful; he said that his concern is with providing a variety of experiences in the open space, such as a more varied planting palette and different types of seating areas. He said that this enrichment could be achieved while maintaining sightlines through the open space.
Mr. P. Cook raised questions about the south side of the site, which has been presented as being a garden and buffer space with manicured plantings. He characterized the presented concept for the hospital as an island surrounded by plantings and buffers, and he suggested more consideration of how the hospital site relates to the larger redevelopment of the St. Elizabeths East Campus to the south. As an example, he said that the manicured plantings could be extended toward the south instead of being limited to the building edge. Benjamin Stutz of the D.C. Department of Health Care Finance responded that the hospital will be the first major development in this area of the East Campus; the context can be somewhat anticipated from the master plan’s guidance and the historic buildings that are expected to remain, but the hospital project provides the opportunity to establish some context features, such as the connections and the landscape treatment. Mr. Hellmuth added that the proposed design has several features that anticipate the implementation of the master plan for nearby areas; for example, the large area of open space to the west is buildable land, but it is being treated as a landscape to provide continuity with the larger north–south sweep of open space that is planned for this edge of the East Campus. Additionally, the hospital’s driveway entrance near the building’s southwest corner is aligned with the road development to the south. He anticipated that the hospital would tie together beautifully with a range of development scenarios for the adjoining area. Mr. P. Cook supported this intention, but he observed that the bioretention areas extending along the south edge of the hospital site could be perceived as barriers to pedestrians crossing Pecan Street. He suggested giving more consideration to people on the south who might want to visit the hospital’s cafeteria, or people within the hospital who might want to cross Pecan Street to visit the Gateway Pavilion and other amenities of the East Campus; the goal should be for the hospital to feel like it is part of a larger campus.
Dr. Edwards observed that some patient care areas, including those in the ambulatory care wing on the east, would have views onto the flat roofs of the lower parts of the complex. She recommended consideration of treating these areas as green roofs instead of as places for mechanical equipment, providing a more natural setting to look at instead of the equipment and the parking garage’s solar energy panels. She said that the healing philosophy that was emphasized for the open space to the west should be applied in a similar way for those people using the eastern part of the building. Mr. Hellmuth responded that the area between the ambulatory care and the parking garage is at grade, and its appearance could be enhanced with further landscape treatment. The area between the ambulatory care and the bed tower is a low roof; he acknowledged the importance of this roof’s appearance, which has been studied by the design team, and he offered to reconsider its design. Dr. Edwards added that her concern extends to other low roof areas around the ambulatory care wing, including views toward the parking garage’s solar panels. Mr. Hellmuth said that these panels would form the foreground of eastern views; beyond the panels, the wooded valley would be seen. He added that providing the ambulatory care patients with access to this valley would be difficult, and the distance would be the same as going to the open space on the west side of the site, which is already being designed as a healing garden. He reiterated that the solar panels serve to improve the view across the garage’s top level, which would otherwise be a view of parked vehicles; Dr. Edwards agreed, clarifying that her concern is primarily with the appearance of the building roof areas.
Ms. Tsien commented that the change in exterior color results in the hospital appearing much more grounded, and she reiterated her support for this revision. She also supported the idea of swales as a feature of the open space to the west; she suggested expanding on this concept, while acknowledging potential issues of cost, drainage, and public safety. She suggested that some of the swales could serve as the location for plantings; she especially recommended plants that attract butterflies or birds, which could contribute to the intended healing character of the garden. Other areas could remain as grass for people to sit on. She also suggested picnic tables or other horizontal surfaces in the garden where people could enjoy bringing a lunch outdoors, providing an amenity for people coming from the hospital or from other nearby buildings.
Secretary Luebke summarized that the Commission members have provided specific comments on the revised concept, which suggests support for the proposal beyond the general concept approval that was given at the previous review. He said that approval of the revised concept would be appropriate, with the relatively minor comments to be addressed as the project moves forward. He suggested that the next submission could be the final design, rather than requesting an interim review; Chair Tsien and Mr. Moore agreed. Upon a motion by Mr. R.M. Cook with second by Mr. P. Cook, the Commission approved the revised concept with the comments provided. Mr. Luebke said that the staff will coordinate with the project team to address the Commission’s comments.
D. D.C. Department of General Services
CFA 15/SEP/21-3, Anacostia Recreation Center at Ketcham Elementary School, 1929 15th Street, SE. New community recreation center building and activities fields. Concept. (Previous: CFA 15/JUL/21-5) Secretary Luebke introduced the second concept submission for a new community recreation center to be located adjacent to the historic Ketcham Elementary School, submitted by the D.C. Department of General Services on behalf of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR). The 12,000-square-foot building would provide the community with a gymnasium and space for fitness, yoga, art, and other community uses; the outdoor space would include a multi-use field, walking track, two children's playgrounds, and a pedestrian promenade. He said the Commission did not take an action on the initial concept submission in July 2021; the Commission members had expressed support for the general planning but questioned the proposed architectural character. The concern was that the design appeared to overemphasize form instead of space-making; the expressive design seemed disengaged from the neighborhood context and not supportive of the everyday experience of people visiting the recreation center. He said the Commission members had questioned the forbidding character of the site’s perimeter fence, and they encouraged developing the porch configuration to serve as a threshold to the recreation center, tempering the busy architectural forms, and refocusing on the public’s experience.
Mr. Luebke said that the current submission is similar in the overall planning but has a very different architectural design. As before, the massing would be divided into two volumes, with the taller gym at the rear. The current design keeps the building as low as possible to be more compatible with the scale of the surrounding residential neighborhood. The previous proposal for a prismatic facade surface has been changed to a quieter, more functional massing; the porch articulation has been clarified as a tall canopy structure; and the materials palette has been modified. He asked David Wooden of DPR to being the presentation.
Mr. Wooden said this recreation center will be a new facility for DPR and a new resource for the neighborhood. He introduced architects Edgar Moreno and Robert Widger of DLR Group and landscape architect Bruno Carvalho of Carvalho & Good to present the design.
Mr. Moreno expressed appreciation to the staff for working with the project team in preparing the revised submission. He said that the current proposal is intended to address the Commission’s comments from the previous review. He presented a site plan and indicated the adjacent location of the Ketcham Elementary School to the north, as well as the boundary for the Anacostia Historic District, which includes the project site; the project is therefore being coordinated with the D.C. Historic Preservation Office, and the outreach has included the Historic Anacostia Preservation Society, the local neighborhood, and the Ketcham Elementary School community. He also indicated the location of Good Hope Road a block to the north, 14th Street to the west, 15th Street to the east, and V Street to the south. He noted that U Street formerly went through the site at the northern edge of the project site, but it was closed in the 1960s when the school was expanded; the proposal includes reestablishing the U Street alignment as a pedestrian corridor through the block. The proposed location for the building is currently an open green space used by the elementary school during school hours; the proposed site plan would allow continued access from the school to the remaining playing fields, and the recreation center’s gymnasium would also be available for the school’s use. The site design also addresses the topography to provide barrier-free access from 15th Street to the recreation center.
Mr. Moreno said the context has been an important consideration in the design because it includes a residential neighborhood and a historic district. The context includes single-family houses and small apartment buildings; the houses are a mixture of brick and wood, typically with prominent front porches that serve as transitional spaces and welcoming features. Civic buildings in the neighborhood include the adjacent Ketcham Elementary School and the nearby D.C. Prep School; he noted that Ketcham’s exterior is a yellow-buff brick, while the residential brick structures are often painted. The two schools also feature orderly compositions of windows and the use of vertical elements such as pilasters. He presented composite photographs illustrating the neighborhood facades along both sides of 15th Street, and he said that the proposed design is intended to fit within the range of precedents in the context.
Mr. Moreno said the community members have been discussing this project for a long time and have expressed a strong desire for a state-of-the-art, flexible facility that can bring opportunities to the community and serve multiple generations; intended users include youth, the elderly, and working-age people who may visit the building for workforce training as well as recreation. Additionally, the community, the school, and DPR all want the recreation center to be a safe and secure space, which is partly a response to the history of unwanted activities in this area.
Mr. Moreno said that the design challenge has included the creation of a welcoming and open facility while also providing the desired sense of security, which had been the subject of some of the Commission’s previous comments; concerns had included the entry experience, the perimeter fence, and the entrance gate near the recreation center’s entrance. He noted that the Commission had supported the overall site organization and planning. He presented axonometric diagrams illustrating the edges of the building, which would contribute to the sense of welcoming the neighborhood, as well as enhancing safety by providing sightlines between the interior and exterior. He said that the current design provides a clear entry point for access to both the site and the building, with a strongly defined entry portal; the porch would serve as a welcoming focal point with a civic quality, and as a transitional element as the public enters the building. The perimeter fence design has been studied to avoid a forbidding appearance, and the building is designed to have a strong connection to the street edge and the site’s open space.
Mr. Carvalho said that a key feature of the site design is the creation of a pedestrian promenade along the former alignment of U Street, extending east–west through the site; it would connect to the existing promenade on 14th Street. The playing fields, playgrounds, and building are all organized in relation to this promenade; the entrance to the site would be at the east end of the promenade. The south and west sides of the site would have perimeter fencing that is standard for D.C. facilities: seven feet high with black metal pickets. He said that the design refinements are focused on the entry plaza, which had been a concern of the Commission members at the previous review. The building entrance and fence line have been pushed farther back from 15th Street to create a plaza space that extends from the sidewalk. The fence at the entry plaza would have a more artistic treatment, intended to provide a balance between welcoming the public and providing a sense of security. Instead of pickets for this fence, a wire mesh screen is being considered that could accommodate artistic graphics, with approximately fifty percent opacity. The graphics could add meaning and character to this fence; the project team is working with the community to develop the design for the graphics, and he presented photographs of two examples from other locations. The gate within the fence is envisioned as a large panel that opens by rotating on a center pivot which he said would be more welcoming than a more traditional swinging or rolling gate. When closed, the pivoting panel would become a continuation of the fence with graphics; when open, it would allow for easy passage into the site without becoming a cumbersome element. He said that the entry plaza would have a simple design with limited seating, intended to accommodate public use while not encouraging after-hours loitering.
Mr. Widger described the revisions to the building design. The only change to the floorplan is to move the entrance vestibule farther north, allowing the building entrance and reception desk to face east toward 15th Street; he said that this change helps to give definition to the entry plaza. An outdoor seating area has been added on the north side of the gymnasium, with views to the pedestrian promenade on the north and the playing fields on the west; it would be covered by a trellis to provide shade. He presented several perspective views of the exterior, indicating the prominent entrance canopy covering much of the entry plaza. He said that the building’s massing and character have been greatly simplified to respond better to the neighborhood context; the exterior material has been changed from wood to brick in order to relate better to Ketcham and other nearby buildings. Revisions to the gymnasium’s exterior include patterned brickwork above the strip of windows on the west facade alongside the playing fields, and the addition of clerestory windows on the north, above the trellis structure, to provide more interior daylight.
Mr. Widger presented a perspective view from the southeast to illustrate the recreation center’s relationship to Ketcham Elementary School. The school’s pilasters would be echoed in a rhythmic pattern on the proposed facade, and the proposed brick color is similar to the school’s brick; a contrasting darker brick color would be used for the panels below the recreation center’s windows. He emphasized that the windows and facade details would have a vertical emphasis, similar to the design character of the school. He concluded with a site section and aerial view to illustrate the relationship of the recreation center to its context.
Chair Tsien expressed appreciation for the revised submission, commenting that the design team has listened closely to the Commission’s comments and made significant changes to the design; she said that the results appear to be all very positive. She said that the artistic fence at the entry plaza would be an interesting feature that may involve neighborhood participation in designing its graphics. The reconfiguration of the entrance vestibule contributes to a greater sense of welcoming as well as security, which would be provided by the visual connection to the reception desk instead of a design character of being a defended space. She supported the simplified design for the entrance canopy, while suggesting that the adjacent open trellis alongside the gymnasium could have a partially or entirely solid roof to provide better protection from the weather, particularly the summer heat.
Mr. Moore joined in expressing appreciation for the responsiveness to the Commission’s previous comments, agreeing that the resulting design is greatly improved; he said that the connections to the community and the open space are better, and the architecture appears more integrated. He asked for clarification of a ramp connecting the trellised seating area with the playing fields, which appears to be shown on the plan but not in the rendering; Mr. Carvalho confirmed that a ramp would be provided, although it is omitted from the rendering.
Mr. Moore commented that the perimeter fence and entry plaza design appears to be greatly improved, and he agreed that the fence provides a good opportunity for engagement with the neighborhood residents in establishing a visual identity for the entry plaza. He expressed concern that the pivoting gate may require further study to assure an open character, observing that its description as a “turnstile” suggests a continued sense of being a control point. As an example, he suggested reconsidering the structural support system and removing the horizontal rail that is shown above the gate, with the goal of maximizing the sense of openness when the gate is in the open position. He summarized his overall satisfaction with the revised design’s approach to the broader issues of urban design and public space.
Mr. P. Cook complimented the design team on improving the design with substantial changes in a short period of time. He offered several comments on the interior that relate to the building’s exterior appearance. He observed that some of the interior partitions along the 15th Street facade do not align well with the segments of wall between the facade’s windows, resulting in awkward intersections that would be apparent from the exterior; he suggested further study of the layout for the kitchen and the northern multipurpose room, with greater care in coordinating the program sizes with the architectural appearance. For the gymnasium, he acknowledged the visual connection with the playing fields that would be provided by ground-floor windows on the west facade, but he questioned whether these windows would be functionally appropriate; he observed that gymnasium windows are usually in a clerestory position, where they are less exposed to interior activities such as thrown balls.
Mr. R.M. Cook joined in commending the design team for the improvements. For the refinement of the proposed trellis structure, he suggested revising it to have a solid roof across its entire extent for better shade from the summer sun; he said that this structure could be treated as a continuation of the entrance porch. He observed that the entrance porch appears to nearly align with the porches of the houses on the south side of U Street to the east, across 15th Street; he said that this alignment would be a nice feature if it is feasible. He summarized his support for the advancement of the design and the nearly seamless blending of the recreation center into the community, in comparison to the very different character of the previous design.
Mr. Stroik expressed his appreciation for the revised design and said that he agrees with the comments of the other Commission members, especially regarding the improved relationship with the neighborhood. Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Dr. Edwards, the Commission approved the concept design with the comments provided.
Secretary Luebke observed that the Commission’s comments are relatively minor, and the next submission could be the final design; he said that the Commission could request the project team to consult further with the staff to assure resolution of the Commission’s comments. Chair Tsien supported the request for staff consultation, and Mr. P. Cook suggested that the consultation could address somewhat larger issues, such as removal of the strip of lower-level windows from the gymnasium. Mr. Luebke added that if the final design appears to be fully satisfactory, the project could be placed on the Commission’s consent calendar; Chair Tsien agreed.
E. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
SL 21-189, Undeveloped lots at 4652–4656 Broad Branch Road, NW. Three new houses. Revised concept. (Previous: SL 20-133, 21 May 2020) Secretary Luebke introduced the revised concept design for the development of three single-family houses on three lots that have been subdivided from a larger lot; the site faces north toward Broad Branch Road and the edge of Rock Creek Park, administered by the National Park Service. Similar to the original concept submission, the current proposal includes three houses of approximately 5,000 square feet on quarter-acre lots, designed to fit within a wooded landscape and to preserve the landscape character of the site. He noted that the Commission had approved the concept in May 2020, commending the sensitive design of the houses within the steeply sloped, heavily wooded valley along the Broad Branch tributary of Rock Creek; the Commission had requested the submission of a more developed concept design with additional study of exterior materials and details, along with more information on the development of the ground plane and the relation among the houses within the landscape. He said the current submission addresses the delicate balance of designing three buildings on an unusually steep slope while avoiding impacts on the mature trees. He introduced architect Richard Williams, a former member of the Commission’s Old Georgetown Board, and Joe Chambers of the Landscape Architecture Bureau to present the design.
Mr. Williams said that the project is located near the northern tip of Washington; although the site is considered part of the Forest Hills neighborhood, almost all of Forest Hills is at a much higher elevation, so the site is visually associated with Rock Creek Park, and the proposed design is sensitive to this condition. The three lots comprising the project site are located on the south side of Broad Branch Road, a fairly busy roadway, and the lots face north toward the park. He described the site as possibly the last buildable lots in this area’s woodland setting at the same elevation as the park edge; some houses to the northwest are similarly sited along Broad Branch Road, while immediately east of the site is a steep escarpment. He presented photographs of the site, indicating the relatively flat ground plane along Broad Branch Road that quickly rises to the escarpment toward the south and east. He indicated the numbering of the three lots: lot 113 on the west has the most level area, and an existing alley extends along its west edge; lot 114 is at the center; and lot 115 on the east has an exceptionally steep slope at the rear and the east edge. He asked Joe Chambers of the Landscape Architecture Bureau to discuss the site’s challenges in more detail.
Mr. Chambers emphasized the site’s unusual topography, noting that the slope is as steep as one-to-one; some of the slope is considerably steeper than the angle of repose—the maximum slope at which a pile of earth can maintain stability without sliding. He speculated that the site may have been a quarry, or an area where fill was excavated; the alley may have been a tributary or drainage channel flowing into Broad Branch. He said that the steepness of the topography determines the site’s spatial character. The top of the slope will be considerably higher than the roofs of the three new houses, and the steepness will make it impossible to see houses on top of the escarpment from the new houses. He said these conditions make the site appear to be an integral part of the Broad Branch stream corridor, which is one reason the design emphasizes the preservation of existing trees and other vegetation.
Mr. Williams presented the proposed design, noting that only minor revisions have been made to the previously approved concept. On the site plan, he indicated the footprints of the three houses and the trunks of the major canopy trees, which must be preserved under D.C.’s tree and slope protection overlay for the Forest Hills neighborhood. He characterized the design problem as a complex puzzle of placing the houses on a challenging site, within the constraints of regulatory setbacks and critical root zones. The three houses themselves would be used to retain the slope, thereby minimizing the need for retaining walls. On the eastern lot, with the most challenging topography, the house would be embedded into the hillside.
Mr. Williams said that despite the differences of planning and elevation, the three houses have been designed as an ensemble, sharing a common architectural language with individual variations to make them distinctive and more appealing in the real estate market. All three houses would feature open views to the park on the north and the hillside on the south. The internal organization would be similar for each house: the lower level would contain a garage, bedroom suite, and family room with access to outdoor space; the middle level would have the living and dining area, kitchen, and den; and the third floor would have four bedrooms. Each house would have an elevator in addition to a stair core. Some areas of the upper floors would be cantilevered to avoid critical tree root zones and to create visual interest from the interplay of forms. Vehicular access to the east and middle houses would be from a shared driveway with a single curb cut on Broad Branch Road; the driveway for the west house would connect to the alley on the west. Each house would have a small lawn area as well as terrace and deck space.
Mr. Williams presented the proposed materials palette, which he said would help to unify the ensemble of three houses; the materials have been selected for practicality and to harmonize with the woodland throughout the year. All three houses would have bases made of a dark brick containing brown and gray tones; the main volumes would be clad with either wood or cement fiberboard panels, along with wood windows and bronze-colored aluminum. The roofs would be flat, with drainage located within each house’s interior; the roof surface would be white, although the renderings depict gray. A containment structure for stormwater will probably be located beneath the parking court. Hardscape materials include cast concrete pavers, granite paving blocks, and bluestone. Mr. Luebke displayed the material samples, noting that their colors are darker and richer than conveyed in the presented images; he added that the eastern woodland landscape contains a foundation of many gray and brown tones underneath other colors.
Mr. Chambers then presented the landscape design. He emphasized that designing on this site has been akin to solving a three-dimensional puzzle, positioning each house and rotating masses as necessary, and setting floor levels that allow for stepping outdoors. Privacy has guided the positioning of terraces and the location of open and solid areas of walls. Permeable precast concrete pavers would be used for the driveways, with cobblestone aprons in front of each garage to create a transition zone aligned with the entrance to the house; cobblestone paving would also be used for the terraces. The area directly in front of each house’s front door would be paved in bluestone to indicate that these are pedestrian areas; other areas of bluestone paving would have planted joints. Decks would be made of Kebony, a treated pine product. He noted that visitor parking could be accommodated at the alley but not along Broad Branch Road. To provide for visitor access, a path paved in bluestone would extend from the alley across a planted area in front of the west house to the parking court between the east and middle houses; the route of this path is designed to have the least amount of impact on trees.
To clarify the grading, Mr. Chambers presented a composite site plan with proposed contour lines overlaid on the existing contours; the drawing shows each house’s plan and the connection points to the exterior, along with the critical root zone for each tree to be preserved. He said that the new grading would be kept simple. Three retaining walls would be needed between the east and middle houses, ranging in height from 2.5 to 4 feet and spaced 8 feet apart; these walls would be clad in dark brick to match the bases of the houses. The grade between the west and middle houses would be shaped to be more gradual and naturalistic; other grading changes would be limited to those necessary for stabilizing the site. The steep slopes on the site would be covered with jute mat that accommodates plantings; some areas would require riprap, and the riprap next to the houses would probably be covered with soil to minimize erosion. Very small rhododendrons would be planted on the slopes above the houses; over time, these would create a dense, lush planting across the top of the hillside. All of the lower part of the site, except for the small lawn areas, would have a minimal palette of low, native woodland plants, selected from a list of species deemed appropriate for Rock Creek Park, along with some Virginia native plants. The mix would include deer-proof ferns and low woodland perennials, planted at a very small size to minimize erosion during the planting process. The trees would include Amelanchier (serviceberry) and sweetbay magnolia, both of which bloom in late spring.
Mr. Williams concluded by emphasizing the design goal of maintaining the woodland edge, with the houses seen behind the trees as people approach the site; from within the park and from the Forest Hills neighborhood, the houses would generally not be visible. He observed that houses along Broad Branch Road, like other roads around the park, are generally subdued, with material palettes that harmonize with the setting.
Chair Tsien thanked Mr. Williams and Mr. Chambers for their thorough presentation. She asked for a summary of the requested changes from the Commission’s previous review. Secretary Luebke said that the Commission had endorsed the concept design without raising any significant conceptual issues, while requesting further design development with more definitive information on materials, landscape, and fenestration. He recalled that former Commission member Elizabeth Meyer, a landscape architect, had been very supportive of the idea to nestle these houses within this zone lying between upland and lowland topography so that they would be light on the ground and not have a large visual impact; she had also supported the intent to protect the existing trees. He noted that many proposals have been developed for this site over the years, but this is the first that the Commission has endorsed; the success of this design results from the sensitivity to the setting. Ms. Batcheler noted that the ownership of the site has changed since the previous review, and the new owner has chosen to continue with this design team; Mr. Williams added that the new owner is very supportive of the original concept design.
Chair Tsien invited comments from the Commission members. Mr. Moore commended the great sensitivity of the proposed approach to development on a constrained site within a naturalized context, and he agreed with the positive assessment of the previous Commission review. However, he observed that the three garage doors would present very large and conspicuous surfaces within this woodland landscape, and he questioned their proposed material of aluminum that approximates the rusted color of Corten steel. While acknowledging that the color is intended to be calming, he said that this material for the large surface of the garage doors might be obtrusive within an overall palette based on dark gray brick; he therefore requested an option for the garage doors to have a more recessive color. He added that this material appears to work well at a smaller scale on other areas of the facades. Mr. Williams agreed that the garage doors could be a different material than the facades, with a lighter color that is less conspicuous.
Mr. Moore also raised a question about the vertical columnar plants depicted as running along the very narrow space between the west house and the alley, commenting that these could become problematic as they grow to become large trees. Mr. Chambers responded that one reason for these trees is to provide screening from the large house on the other side of the alley, situated behind a three-story retaining wall. He said that the new trees along the alley would probably be Amelanchier, which have an upright, branching, often multi-stemmed form and grow to a height of no more than twenty feet. Although these would be planted close to the side of the west house, the offset would be approximately ten feet; he said that these trees would need regular maintenance and clipping to keep them away from the side facade. He said that a bigger concern has been that the large shrubs proposed as screening along the edge of the small terrace at the southern end of the alley frontage would make this terrace feel uncomfortably narrow, inhibiting its intended use as a connection between the house and the back lawn. He offered to consider a more vertically shaped tree, such as a holly, that could be clipped more tightly along the terrace and left in a looser shape by the rear lawn. Mr. Moore added that the site plan also shows a new flowering tree at the corner of the alley and Broad Branch Road, which may block sightlines for turning vehicles; Mr. Chambers agreed that this tree should be removed from the proposal.
Mr. P. Cook observed that this area is probably very dark at night; he asked about the existing lighting along Broad Branch Road and the proposed lighting for the houses. Mr. Williams agreed that the site is quite dark, and he said there is no street lighting along the roadway. He described the intent is to provide very subdued lighting at the entrance to each house and on the terraces; in keeping with the “dark sky” movement, there will be no up-lighting. Mr. Chambers added that, if possible, the existing trees would have down-lights to create a soft light on the ground, a solution that would be entirely compliant with the dark sky goal. He said that after researching insect mortality associated with site lighting, it has been decided to use lamps or filters in the yellow spectrum, and probably to use more lamps of lower intensity.
Chair Tsien commented that the design team has considered everything with great care and thoughtfulness, and she anticipated that these houses will be wonderful places to live. She suggested that the Commission may not need to see the proposal again before the final design. Secretary Luebke observed that the Commission members have raised relatively minor matters that could be resolved through further staff consultation. He suggested that the Commission authorize the staff to place the final design on the Shipstead-Luce Act appendix without the need for another presentation, and the staff will ensure that the final design conforms with the Commission’s guidance; he added that the project would be placed on the Commission’s agenda if there are any remaining issues. Chair Tsien said the design is clearly moving in a beautiful direction, and she agreed it could be placed on the Shipstead-Luce Act appendix without the need for an additional presentation. Upon a motion by Mr. P. Cook with second by Mr. R.M. Cook, the Commission approved the revised concept design with the comments provided.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 12:47 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA