The meeting was convened by videoconference at 9:02 a.m.
Hon. Billie Tsien, Chair
Hon. Hazel Ruth Edwards, Vice Chair
Hon. Peter Cook
Hon. Rodney Mims Cook, Jr.
Hon. James McCrery
Hon. Justin Garrett Moore
Hon. Duncan Stroik
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
A. Approval of the minutes of the 21 October meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the October meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Mr. P. 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: 20 January 2022, 17 February 2022, and 17 March 2022. He noted that as is customary, no meeting is scheduled in December.
C. Announcement of the retirement of the Commission’s Assistant Secretary, Frederick J. Lindstrom. Secretary Luebke reported the upcoming retirement of Mr. Lindstrom at the end of December, after 23 years on the Commission’s staff. He cited Mr. Lindstrom’s earlier federal service, beginning in 1987 with the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), a program of the Department of the Interior, which included documentation work during a renovation of the White House. Mr. Lindstrom joined the Commission staff in 1998 as the Shipstead-Luce Act architect and then became the Assistant Secretary in 2001. Mr. Luebke described Mr. Lindstrom as the backbone of the agency, managing the project review process as well as the agency’s operations; he has been an insightful critic and cheerful coworker, and he has also provided institutional continuity through his overlapping years with staff members who had started as early as the 1960s. Mr. Luebke estimated that Mr. Lindstrom has overseen the Commission’s review of more than 15,000 cases during 230 Commission meetings. Mr. Luebke expressed thanks for Mr. Lindstrom’s work on behalf of the Commission and the nation. Mr. Lindstrom said that his work on the Commission staff has been a pleasure and honor, including interactions with the Commission members and the many talented designers and artists who have brought their work to the Commission.
Over the course of the meeting, additional congratulations and appreciation were offered by Peter May of the National Park Service and Michael Franck of Franck & Lohsen Architects. At the end of the meeting, Mr. Stroik expressed his appreciation for Mr. Lindstrom’s knowledge and resourcefulness in assisting the Commission members; Mr. McCrery and Mr. R.M. Cook joined in thanking Mr. Lindstrom for his service. Mr. P. Cook said that he had enjoyed working with Mr. Lindstrom as an architect presenting projects to the Commission, and more recently as a Commission member. Dr. Edwards said that the newer members have generally not had the opportunity to work with Mr. Lindstrom in person, but she expressed regret at his retirement along with best wishes for his future. Mr. Lindstrom said that early in his career, his work with HABS involved documenting a wide range of American landmarks, including the White House, the Mark Twain house in Connecticut, the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, the Calhoun mansion in South Carolina, and mule sheds in Indiana. He said that his subsequent career with the Commission has involved helping with the creation of new American landmarks.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Secretary Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom reported that the only change to the draft appendix is to correct the date of receipt for the submission materials for the park at New Jersey Avenue and O Street, NW. Upon a motion by Mr. P. Cook with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission approved the revised Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler said that one case listed on the draft appendix has been removed and is being held open for consideration in a future month (case number SL 22-037). The recommendation for one project has been changed to be favorable based on revisions to the design (SL 22-030). Other revisions are minor wording changes and the notation of dates for the receipt of supplemental materials. She said that the recommendations for seven projects are subject to further coordination with the applicants, and she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations when the outstanding issues are resolved. Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act Appendix. (See agenda item II.G for an additional Shipstead-Luce Act submission.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Amos reported that no changes have been made to the draft appendix, which has 20 projects. Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission approved the Old Georgetown Act Appendix.
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider items II.C and II.D. Secretary Luebke said that the Commission had identified these submissions as ones that could be approved without presentations.
C. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 18/NOV/21-4, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Independence Avenue and 7th Street, SW. Sculpture Garden expansion and renovation—Signage. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/JUL/21-1) Secretary Luebke said that this submission addresses the signage component that was not part of the larger project’s overall final design submission that the Commission had approved in July 2021. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Dr. Edwards, the Commission approved the proposed final design for the Sculpture Garden signage. Mr. Luebke noted that the submission includes two options for the height of the lettering. Chair Tsien suggested that the consensus of the Commission members is to leave this choice to the project team; Mr. Moore and Mr. McCrery agreed, and the Commission voted to confirm this guidance.
D. District Department of Transportation
CFA 18/NOV/21-5, Connecticut Avenue, NW. New streetscape from Dupont Circle to California Street with a new plaza above the vehicular underpass south of Q Street. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 21/JAN/21-2) Secretary Luebke said that this submission addresses the southern segment of the Connecticut Avenue streetscape improvements, an area that the Commission excluded from its revised concept approval for the larger project in January 2021. The submission responds to the comments that the Commission had provided concerning the design of the plaza that would be placed above the Connecticut Avenue underpass between Dupont Circle and Q Street.
Mr. Moore emphasized the importance of this project, and he commended the design team for the willingness to rethink and innovate in the design of Connecticut Avenue and particularly the new plaza. He said that the proposal demonstrates an appreciation of pedestrian spaces as “an important part of our urban environment.” He observed that the submission materials include images of two wonderful examples of comparable spaces around the country that give priority to pedestrians—West Georgia Street in Indianapolis and Bell Street in Seattle. He advised the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) to learn from these good examples in future designs for the perimeter components separating traffic from pedestrian areas, while acknowledging that the currently proposed design is probably the best that can be achieved due to the challenging issues and competing priorities faced by the design team in resolving this proposal. He summarized that new and innovative thinking is needed in the design of such perimeters, and this Connecticut Avenue project will be an important precedent for others around the city.
Mr. McCrery expressed support for Mr. Moore’s comments, and he commended DDOT for its willingness to engage in placemaking in conjunction with infrastructure design; he described the proposal as a welcome evolution from DDOT’s normal scope for projects. He characterized the project as experimental; he anticipated that it will be successful and will then serve as an example for what DDOT can do in other projects throughout Washington, as well as an example to be emulated in other cities. He offered his congratulations to the project team.
Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission approved the revised concept for the southern segment of the project area.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B.1.
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 18/NOV/21-1, Peace Corps Memorial, Louisiana Avenue at C and First Streets, NW. New memorial. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 17/SEP/20-1) Secretary Luebke introduced the revised concept design for a memorial honoring the Peace Corps, submitted by the National Park Service on behalf of the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation. The site for the memorial, named the Peace Corps Commemorative Park, is Reservation 727, a small triangular park along Louisiana Avenue facing the northwest edge of the U.S. Capitol Grounds. He said that at its September 2020 meeting, the Commission approved a revised concept design for this memorial, with several suggestions and requests for the development of the design: creation of a more robust tree canopy to define the plaza and site; subtle differentiation of each sculptural bench-hand in size and character, with varying seat heights for a range of visitor needs; details of the bench-hands, including how they will meet the ground and accommodate inscriptions; and details for lighting, landscape, and paving, including the central graphic of a world map. He said the design team has addressed these comments in the revised submission, and he asked Peter May, regional deputy director for lands and planning at the National Park Service, to begin the presentation.
Mr. May first offered his congratulations to Mr. Lindstrom on his retirement. He expressed sincere appreciation on behalf of the National Park Service and himself for Mr. Lindstrom’s service to the Commission, the city, and the nation, and particularly for his frequent assistance to the National Park Service. He said Mr. Lindstrom will be greatly missed. He then introduced Roger Lewis, president of the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation, to continue the presentation.
Mr. Lewis said that in 2014, Congress authorized a commemorative work to honor the mission of the Peace Corps. The vision for this commemorative park is that it will not be a memorial to the past or to a federal agency; instead, it has been conceived as a physical tribute to the enduringly meaningful ideals and values of generosity, compassion, and perseverance that guide the work of the Peace Corps—a symbolic representation of the Peace Corps’ outreach to the world. He emphasized that the Peace Corps has played an important role in American history that has not previously been represented in Washington’s public landscape.
Mr. Lewis said that the site for this commemorative park, although small, occupies a significant location near the Capitol and the National Mall. The goal has been to develop a design that will be inspiring in its symbolism and yet readily understandable. It is expected that this park will exist for centuries, perhaps outlasting the Peace Corps itself while perpetuating its memory. He said this ambition has presented a considerable design challenge that has been successfully met by the project team. He introduced artist Larry Kirkland to present the revised concept design.
Mr. Kirkland described the composition of the memorial—bench-hands encircling a map of the world within a park setting—as an integrated concept expressing the mission of the Peace Corps, which its first director, Sargent Shriver, defined as “transcending boundaries of culture and language” to meet “on the common ground of service ... in the cause of mutual understanding and peace.” He emphasized that the active engagement of visitors with the park is key to its creation as a living memorial. He said the bench-hands have been conceived as reaching to embrace the central plaza and its map of the world; they symbolize Peace Corps volunteers traveling abroad to live and work with communities in order to help them realize their aspirations, then returning to the United States with a broader understanding of the world. He said that in the previous review the Commission members had recommended refining the three bench-hands with subtly different hand positions. He presented photographs of plaster maquettes that have been developed to explore gestures that suggest hands in motion, as if reaching out to the world.
Mr. Kirkland said he considered the Commission’s suggestion to vary the height of the seats but found this change would be awkward, so the seating height remains at eighteen inches; he noted the need for a consistent seating height to provide a horizontal datum line above the text that would be inscribed on the front of each bench-hand base. For the material of the bench-hands, he said that the intent is a figured granite that contains a range of gray tones interspersed with white and black; although the search for the stone has been hampered by the pandemic, the design team has identified several possible varieties.
Mr. Kirkland introduced graphic designer Jerome Cloud of Cloud Gehshan Associates to describe strategies for presenting the plaza map and the text of the inscriptions. Mr. Cloud said the quotations are meant to underscore the idea of reaching out to the citizens of the world. The park’s name would be inscribed just above the Shriver quotation, on the back of the bench-hand oriented to Louisiana Avenue, facing what is considered the primary entrance. Inscriptions with a more subtle design would identify the park at the entrances from First Street and C Street. Paired inscriptions would be located on the inward-facing bases of the three bench-hands, encircling the plaza and the world map, and simpler texts would be incised on the rear of the benches. The paired inscriptions would communicate the history, purpose, and values of the Peace Corps, without any special sequencing. These inscriptions would often be obscured or seen in fragments behind the legs of seated visitors, but the visibility of partial phrases—such as “helping communities” or “volunteer service”—would still communicate the spirit of the place. As the design is further developed, the technique for the inscriptions will be tested on samples of granite, exploring how inscriptions would work with the stone joint patterns and determining whether infill highlighting might be required to improve legibility.
Mr. Cloud said the world map would radiate in a circular configuration from the center of the plaza, with lines of latitude and longitude forming a basis for its layout and for the stone paving panels. The proposed map projection has been selected after consultation with experts involved in creating world maps for a variety of purposes. The choice was narrowed down to the Mercator, the Winkel, and the Peirce Quincuncial projections; however, both the Mercator and the Winkel are designed for air and oceanic navigation, and they include many distortions in their depiction of the continents. The proposed projection is therefore the Peirce Quincuncial map, a four-quadrant map that radiates from the North Pole at the center rather than placing north at the top. The design team determined that this is the most egalitarian representation of the world; it will be recognizable from all vantage points as a representation of the world, which will work well with the plaza’s circular configuration. He added that a detailed study supporting this conclusion is available.
Mr. Cloud said that the project team has been working with a quarry, examining larger stone samples to address such questions as whether the map and its background should be composed of two different colors of granite pieced together or defined by patterned or textured finishes. He said that these questions would be resolved to be compatible with the design intent of the commemorative park.
David Ghatan of CM Kling & Associates then presented the lighting design, which is intended to enhance the park’s sense of place and to highlight the sculptural bench-hands. He said that because the focus would be on the space and the sculpture, only a few types of simple luminaires will be used; they would be unobtrusive during the daytime, and even at night they would not be prominent. Three simple poles would be spaced around the bench-hands and map, defining thresholds into the park; additional low-level landscape lighting would be placed in the trees and in plantings adjacent to the bench-hands. Appropriate angles for the lights are being studied to ensure they do not create glare or appear to spotlight any particular feature.
To conclude the presentation, Beata Corcoran of Michael Vergason Landscape Architects presented the refinements to the landscape design, which she said is intended to enhance the park’s welcoming character as a place of respite along a busy urban corridor. Refinements have focused on the tree canopy and the ground plane, creating a seasonal palette with greater detail of color and texture and a stronger connection with the U.S. Capitol Grounds. The tree canopy would form a ceiling that casts dappled shade over the plaza. Additional red oaks would be planted along Louisiana Avenue, and within the park a mix of oaks and elms would be planted, with an understory of dogwood and sweetbay magnolia trees to frame the central space. The ground plane would have a soft planting of prairie dropseed interplanted with daffodils and coneflowers, and part of the site would be a bioretention area. She added that the landscape would allow views from the sidewalks into the center space without obstructing the inscriptions on the benches, and it would enhance the site’s three entrance points.
Chair Tsien thanked the design team for its thorough presentation, and she opened the discussion to questions and comments from the Commission members. Mr. Moore expressed his appreciation for the thoughtfulness of selecting the map projection, and for the project team’s recognition of the challenges presented by the Mercator map. He observed that the design shows the Peirce Quincuncial projection with the equator rendered in a sort of diamond pattern, and the scoring is represented as a spiral, almost radial configuration; he asked why this pattern has been chosen. Mr. Kirkland responded that this is an initial design and the issue has not yet been studied in depth; he noted that the Peirce projection contains some distortions in its depiction of land masses, particularly those around the equator, and the project team will work with cartographers from the National Geographic Society on the proportions and accuracy of the continents. The paving pattern is being developed with the Quarra Stone Company; the joints will probably not correspond to latitude and longitude lines, although the current presentation drawings give this appearance. Mr. Moore commended the thoughtful approach to the design of the map; noting that the public will see the map as a reference, he emphasized the need for careful consideration of the scoring pattern, particularly in relation to the shaping of the central plaza.
Mr. R.M. Cook observed that in the Peirce Quincuncial projection, Russia appears to be very small and Africa appears to be very large; he asked if these are accurate depictions. Mr. Cloud responded that all of the map projections, including the familiar Mercator, have many different kinds of distortions, and any map would require adjusting the size of continents for accuracy. He said the design team concluded that the Peirce Quincuncial projection presents the best opportunity to make every land mass appear proportional to its actual size, and almost all distortions would be removed in the finished map. He agreed that Russia appears slightly undersized in the rendering; its scale will be adjusted to be geographically correct during development of the final layout, after the revised concept design is approved. Mr. Kirkland added that the Peirce Quincuncial projection is most distorted around the equator, so that Africa, for example, appears broader from east to west than it actually is. He assured the Commission that the project team will work with the cartographers to make the land masses appear more accurate.
Mr. P. Cook asked how water would drain across the plaza, and whether it will flow to a circumferential trench drain or be shed to a particular side. Ms. Corcoran responded that this question is tied into the design and texturing of the paving and of the bases of the bench-hands, and also the need to create a deterrent for skateboarding; the solution will probably be a subtle stone trench drain.
Ms. Tsien said that she finds the presentation convincing. She supported the choice of the Peirce Quincuncial projection, expressing appreciation for its depiction of a different, less familiar view of the world, which is in accord with the work of the Peace Corps. She commented that the landscape will be both beautiful and delightful, and she described the intermittent planting of seasonal flowers as a lovely idea. She noted that her own firm has worked with the stone supplier, and she has great confidence in its ability to produce refined and beautiful work. She said her one remaining question concerns the intention to select granite with an active pattern; she asked how this would affect the legibility of inscriptions, noting the comment in the presentation that the letters may require infill or some other treatment to make the words both quiet and legible. She summarized her conclusion that this will be a wonderful project.
Mr. McCrery asked if the project would return to the Commission with a revised design for the map. He emphasized the importance of researching how to represent the actual land masses of the continents more accurately; he agreed with the concerns expressed by Mr. R.M. Cook, adding that South America also looks too small. He commended the orientation of the bench-hands in relation to the map. Secretary Luebke observed the significant progress in developing this revised concept design; he said that the Commission can request a follow-up submission for any part of the proposal, and the staff will work with the project team on the remaining issues before the final design is presented to the Commission.
Mr. Moore offered a motion to approve the revised concept design, with the expectation of further development of the details of the map projection, including study of the areas and proportions of the continents, along with further development and resolution of the details of the scoring pattern, lettering, granite, and drainage. Upon a second by Mr. R.M. Cook, the Commission adopted the action.
Secretary Luebke observed that the remaining issues are clearly defined, and their resolution could be included in the final design submission instead of requiring an additional concept-level submission. Noting that this is a Commemorative Works Act project, he said that the Commission should anticipate a full presentation of the final design submission.
Due to technical difficulties in connecting the First Division Monument’s presenting designer to the videoconference, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider the third submission from the National Park Service.
3. CFA 18/NOV/21-3, Republic of Texas Legation to the United States Memorial. Site selection study. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the site selection study for a memorial honoring the historic Texas legation of diplomats who represented the Republic of Texas during its period of independence in the 1830s and 1840s, prior to its annexation by the United States in 1845. The study is submitted by the National Park Service on behalf of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, which was authorized by legislation in 2020 to establish the memorial on federal land in the Washington area. He said the memorial is not yet designed, but it is envisioned at the scale of a plaque, stone marker, or bench, perhaps including a map of the various locations around downtown Washington where the diplomats lived and worked; he noted that none of the buildings used by the legation is currently in existence. The study has been prepared by AECOM in consultation with the National Park Service and other stakeholders; it evaluates thirteen potential sites, identifying two for further analysis.
Mr. Luebke said that the study was presented to the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission (NCMAC) in early October; NCMAC recommended Site F as the most appropriate because the immediate context includes early- and mid-19th-century buildings that would give people a better understanding of the city’s historic character at the time of the legation’s presence in Washington. He asked Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation.
Mr. May said that this project should be relatively straightforward, resulting in a very modest commemorative work that is not at the typical scale of memorials; he said that this would likely be the smallest memorial that he has worked on during his fourteen years with the National Park Service. He added that the memorial could likely be inserted gracefully in many locations, and the site selection study appropriately focuses on the vicinity of the legation’s historic locations.
Mr. May introduced Kitty Mellen Hoeck, historian of the local Elisabet Ney Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, to present the site selection study. Due to technical difficulties, Ms. Hoeck was unable to be heard in the videoconference. Mr. May suggested that the presentation be given by Sophia Kelly, the memorials program manager for the National Park Service region; he noted that Ms. Kelly has been working closely with the project team. Ms. Hoeck signaled her agreement with this substitution, and Mr. May added that Ms. Hoeck may be able to respond to questions by telephone.
Ms. Kelly said that this memorial is subject to the Commemorative Works Act. During the period when Texas was a sovereign nation from 1836 to 1845, the Republic of Texas operated diplomatic legations in Washington, Amsterdam, Brussels, London, and Paris. The objective of the current project is to honor the historic locations of the legation in Washington while conveying information about the historical context of Texas sovereignty and the international scope of the legation. The memorial is envisioned as a very small feature, such as a plaque, bench, or small monument; she presented images of comparable commemorative features on the National Mall and in other U.S. cities, containing plaques with explanatory text or maps.
Ms. Kelly presented the list of site selection criteria developed by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas; this list was used for the systematic evaluation of potential sites. The first criterion—the most important to the memorial’s sponsor—is proximity to the original sites associated with the Texas legation, which was typically a boardinghouse where the Texas foreign minister lived and worked. Other criteria include thematic nexus with the context, prominence within the city, availability of parking and public transportation, barrier-free access, tranquility rather than excessive ambient noise, adequate shade, avoidance of conflict with infrastructure, and availability of the site. She said the sponsor has conducted extensive historical research to identify the sites of boardinghouses that were used by the Texas ministers. She presented a map of eight boardinghouse sites, generally located in the vicinity of Pennsylvania Avenue and the White House, along with an overlay of thirteen potential sites for the memorial, selected for their proximity to this historic boardinghouse sites.
Ms. Kelly described how the potential sites were evaluated using the remaining criteria, resulting in most of the potential sites being eliminated from further consideration. One viable site would require legislative authorization for an Area I location under the Commemorative Works Act, and the sponsor has decided not to pursue this. The two remaining sites, labeled Site E and Site F, were then evaluated in more depth.
Ms. Kelly presented Site E, located near Pennsylvania Avenue on the north side of the Navy Memorial. The site is a small lawn panel between the two Market Square buildings that frame the Navy Memorial’s plaza. She said the site is prominent and is near some of the boardinghouses where the Texas legation historic were located; the site is available and is administered by the National Park Service. She noted that a memorial at this location would need to consider the prominent north–south viewshed across this lawn panel, as well as the more general historic viewsheds along Pennsylvania Avenue. Another challenge is to consider public uses of the lawn panel; she noted that it is currently used by residents of the adjacent buildings for walking their pets. While the site is well shaded by the adjacent buildings for some parts of the day, it is exposed to the sun at other times, which could be problematic in the summer. The size and height of the memorial would be constrained by the need to respect the viewsheds; additionally, the lawn panel serves as a fire lane, which precludes any vertical element that would obstruct access by emergency vehicles. She presented a photomontage of possible forms and locations for the memorial, such as a flush-mounted plaque at the middle of the lawn curb that would accommodate the fire lane access, or a plaque on a pedestal located to the side of the lawn panel.
Ms. Kelly presented Site F, which is at Indiana Plaza east of 7th Street and north of Pennsylvania Avenue. This site includes two options for the placement of the memorial: Option 1 is along the south sidewalk of Indiana Avenue, adjacent to the building that houses the Argentine Naval Attaché; and Option 2 is within Indiana Plaza’s eastern extension between the Naval Attaché and the building that houses the National Council of Negro Women. She said that the advantages of Site F include proximity to the historic boardinghouse sites as well as prominence within the city and good accessibility; this area is also somewhat more tranquil than Site E. For Option 1, she said the memorial’s location could be at either the raised planter or low planting bed along the Indiana Avenue sidewalk; she observed that both of these planting areas are in need of improved landscaping, and placement of a memorial in this area should be coordinated with the Argentine Naval Attaché. For Option 2, the placement of a plaque or plinth within the plaza would need to be explored further, and coordination would be needed with the occupants of both of the adjacent buildings. She added that this area is part of the African American Heritage Trail, and the memorial sponsor’s research has found some evidence that this area was associated with historical slave auctions, although their precise location has not been identified. She said that these problematic historical associations with Option 2 may suggest that Option 1 would be preferable in selecting Site F.
Ms. Kelly summarized that the site selection study has identified two viable memorial sites that generally meet the established criteria.
Chair Tsien invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Mr. McCrery asked whether the intention is to install a curb-mounted plaque or to construct a pedestal. Ms. Kelly said that this decision would depend on the location that is selected; during the current phase involving site selection, a range of design options is being broadly considered. After a site is approved, the design phase will involve much more specific consideration of the appropriate form for the selected site.
Ms. Tsien observed that Option 2 for Site F, to the east of Indiana Plaza, appears to be an unlikely location for the memorial because of its existing configuration and historic associations. She suggested focusing on Option 1 for Site F, along with Site E, if agreeable to the Commission members who are more closely familiar with Washington. Mr. P. Cook agreed, and he asked for clarification of whether Option 1 would place the memorial within a planter; Ms. Kelly said that the exact placement would be explored further in the design phase. Mr. Cook asked about ownership and maintenance of these planters, expressing concern that the memorial’s setting may lose its beauty over the years if the plantings are not well maintained. Ms. Kelly responded that this sidewalk area along Indiana Avenue is maintained by the National Park Service, as part of the National Mall and Memorial Parks.
Mr. McCrery said that Option 1 for Site F seems to be the most likely site; he asked for clarification of whether it has any undesirable associations with the historic slave trade. Ms. Kelly said that this problematic association involves Option 2; a further concern with Option 2 is that it is located on the African American Heritage Trail. She noted the agreement of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas that Option 1 would be a much more viable choice for Site F. Mr. McCrery observed that Site E would be awkward because the lawn panel is also serving as an emergency roadway for fire access to the adjacent Market Square buildings. He confirmed his support of Option 1 for Site F; he suggested that the memorial could be a plaque set on a pylon resting on a stone base within the fence line of the planter, allowing people to walk up to the fence to read the plaque. He discouraged trying to integrate the memorial with the planter’s curb. Ms. Tsien agreed in discouraging the selection of Site E; in addition to the concerns cited by Mr. McCrery, she noted the comment in the presentation that the lawn panel at Site E is used for walking pets, and this would therefore not be a good location for a memorial.
Mr. R.M. Cook commended the extraordinary amount of research that has been done in developing this proposal. However, he questioned why the site is being selected before the memorial has been designed, observing that the suitability of a site is unclear without knowing the parameters of what will be placed there. Ms. Kelly responded that this memorial is authorized under the Commemorative Works Act, which specifies an approval process; the site must first be approved by the National Park Service, the Commission of Fine Arts, and the National Capital Planning Commission, and then the subsequent design phase will respond to the conditions of the approved site. She confirmed that the general scope envisioned for this memorial is very small, perhaps a plaque and a small pylon; the specifics have not been determined, but it is understood that none of the proposed sites would accommodate more than a very small memorial.
Chair Tsien suggested a consensus to recommend Option 1 of Site F for the memorial’s location. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. P. Cook, the Commission adopted this action. Secretary Luebke noted that the site selection will be considered by the National Capital Planning Commission in early December, which may result in a consensus among the agencies for approving the site. He expressed appreciation for the project team’s consultations with the staff and for Ms. Hoeck’s good work on this proposal.
Upon the resolution of earlier technical problems, the Commission returned to agenda item II.B.2.
2. CFA 18/NOV/21-2, First Division Monument, 17th Street and State Place, NW. Modifications for additional monuments/plaques and to update landscape materials. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the proposal for modifications to the First Division Monument, submitted by the National Park Service on behalf of the Society of the First Infantry Division. The existing monument is located in the western part of President’s Park, southwest of the White House and immediately south of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building; the memorial features a tall column with a winged figure on top. The proposed modifications were authorized by legislation in January 2021 to honor those of the First Division who died in several military conflicts of recent decades. The project would add three new stone plinths containing bronze plaques that bear the names of the fallen soldiers. The proposed siting is on the north side of the monument’s east terrace, and the design is intended to integrate the new elements within the existing design. Those who died in Desert Storm are already commemorated with a plaque that was added to the east terrace; this plaque, which has a temporary appearance, would be removed and the commemoration would instead be incorporated into the proposed new plaques.
Mr. Luebke noted that the concept design was presented to the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission (NCMAC) in early October. He asked Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation.
Mr. May said that the proposal is a relatively simple intervention to a monument that already has a history of being modified. He said the design team has done well in integrating the additional commemorative elements into the existing design. To continue the presentation, he introduced Thomas Rhame, a retired lieutenant general who now serves as a vice president of the Society of the First Infantry Division.
Lt. Gen. Rhame said that the design has been professionally developed and has been coordinated extensively with the agencies involved. The new plaques would include the names of the soldiers who died in Desert Storm and the two recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; the list of names has been approved by the Department of Defense, as required by the authorizing legislation. He requested the Commission’s support in moving the project forward to the next stage, and he introduced planner Suzette Goldstein of HOK to present the design.
Ms. Goldstein said that the existing monument is a well-known and respected feature of Washington’s commemorative landscape. It was constructed after World War I to recognize those members of the division who served and died in that war, and it was later expanded to the west and east to include World War II and the Vietnam War. She presented a context plan and indicated the prominent location in President’s Park. The central part of the monument, which is the original extent, features a large column topped by a gilded allegorical figure.
Ms. Goldstein said that the current proposal would continue the historical evolution by updating the monument to include more recent conflicts; the modifications are intended to be respectful of the existing design, and the overall footprint of the monument would not be expanded. Three ten-foot-wide granite plinths would be placed at the north edge of the east terrace; each of these would support a pair of bronze plaques with the names of the fallen from recent conflicts, which can be accommodated with a relatively small size. The east terrace already features a plinth and plaque commemorating those who died in the Vietnam War, providing continuity with the proposed addition for the desert conflicts of recent decades; the new plinths and plaques would be very similar in style, and the new granite would match the monument’s existing granite as closely as possible. She said that future expansion could include three new plinths at a symmetrical location along the west terrace, allowing the monument to continue changing and reestablishing symmetry over time; she noted that the monument had been asymmetrical for many years until the east terrace was added after the Vietnam War.
Ms. Goldstein said that the proposal is designed to provide barrier-free access for approaching the plaques and reading the names. The lower edge of the plaques would be at a height of 32 inches, sloping upward toward the back for easier legibility. The eastern edge of the grouping of plinths would be aligned with the eastern curb of the existing planting bed in the middle of the terrace, helping to relate the new plinths to the existing composition; she noted that the National Park Service has a regular schedule for placing tulips and annuals within the planting bed. She indicated the chronological sequence that the design would encourage visitors to follow, from the Vietnam War plaque to the three more recent conflicts. She concluded with a more detailed rendering of one of the bronze plaques, noting that a total of six plaques would be installed with this proposal. She said the final design submission will include more detailed information about the text for the plaques; she emphasized the general design approach of being harmonious with the existing monument.
Chair Tsien invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Mr. Moore expressed appreciation for the thoughtful and streamlined design, and especially for the consideration of how future additions could be accommodated in a coherent manner. He observed that the new plinths would be inserted within the existing hedge around the east terrace, and he asked about the appearance from outside the monument’s precinct; some drawings depict the entire hedge being interrupted by the plinths, with the back of the plinths being visible from the north, while other drawings show the plinths set within the hedge, with the plantings continuing along the back of the plinths, which he noted would be more consistent with the existing treatment of hedges behind the World War II and Vietnam War plaques. Ms. Goldstein clarified that the existing hedges are overgrown and would all be replaced so that they will match. She noted that the hedges have been replaced periodically with different species during the monument’s history, and the new species will be selected in consultation with the National Park Service; the goal is to plant a slow-growing hedge that will be easy to maintain. Regarding the differing hedge details in the drawings, she said that the likely choice will be to entirely interrupt the north hedge with the proposed plinths; this would be consistent with configuring the hedge as a single thick row, rather than as two discrete parallel lines of plantings facing inward and outward. The result would be that the back of the plinths would be visible from outside the monument, but she said that no writing or embellishment would be placed on these back surfaces. She added that the design team could reconsider this detail if the Commission advises differently. Mr. Moore observed that the near-term result, as seen from the north, would be a continuous hedge along the west terrace and an interrupted hedge along the east terrace; Ms. Goldstein confirmed this outcome of the proposed design.
Mr. McCrery asked about the hedges at the west and east ends of the monument, behind the World War II and Vietnam War plaques. Ms. Goldstein clarified that these existing hedges would remain; they are a different species than the hedges along the north and south sides of the terraces, and they are not overgrown. She also noted that the southern hedge for each terrace is interrupted by a tree at the center, while acknowledging that the tree trunk is a less significant interruption than the thirty-foot-long extent of the granite plinths. Mr. McCrery asked why the hedges would be discontinuous at the outer corners of the terraces, instead of designed to close these gaps. Ms. Goldstein responded that the existing hedges at the monument’s east and west ends have a different character and formality than the hedges at the north and south, and the design is not intended to suggest a single type of hedge encircling the monument. She offered to look more closely at the convergence of these hedges as the detailed planting plan is developed, and she said this issue could be addressed in the next submission. Mr. McCrery acknowledged that the monument is not surrounded by a single hedge, but nonetheless it has the appearance of being surrounded by a combination of hedges; he reiterated that the interruption of the hedges at the corners would appear odd.
Mr. P. Cook observed that the diagram of future plaque locations at the west terrace is not consistent with the careful alignment described for the proposed plaques at the east terrace. Ms. Goldstein acknowledged that this is an unintended inconsistency in the drawings, a remnant of earlier studies of alternative alignments for the plaques, such as centering them on the paving or within the hedges. She confirmed that the intent is for future plaques at the west terrace to be sited symmetrically with the currently proposed plaques at the east terrace. She added that the proposed alignment is based on consultation meetings with the Commission staff and the National Capital Planning Commission; the alignment with the planting bed edge is intended to provide a more cohesive composition, while a centered alignment was seen as having an unclear design character.
Chair Tsien suggested a consensus to approve the concept submission with the comments provided. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. R.M. Cook, the Commission adopted this action. Mr. McCrery expressed appreciation for the modesty of the design approach.
The Commission then returned to the order of the agenda.
C. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 18/NOV/21-4, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Independence Avenue and 7th Street, SW. Sculpture Garden expansion and renovation--Signage. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/JUL/21-1) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
D. District Department of Transportation
CFA 18/NOV/21-5, Connecticut Avenue, NW. New streetscape from Dupont Circle to California Street with a new plaza atop the vehicular underpass south of Q Street. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 21/JAN/21-2) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
E. D.C. Department of General Services
CFA 18/NOV/21-6, Raymond Elementary School, 915 Spring Road, NW. Building modernization and additions. Concept. (Previous: CFA 21/OCT/21-3) Secretary Luebke introduced the second concept submission for modernization of the Raymond Elementary School, submitted by the D.C. Department of General Services on behalf of the D.C. Public Schools. He noted the Commission’s initial review of the project in October 2021, giving approval only as a general concept. The Commission had supported the overall massing and commented that the proposed addition would have a coherent relationship with the historic school building. However, the Commission members had expressed concern that the large windows on the addition’s south and west facades may be too monumental and out of scale with the historic school, as well as potentially resulting in excessive solar heat gain; they recommended a more solid treatment of the exterior walls for these facades, which would better address the principles of sustainable design instead of relying on applied shading devices to mitigate the solar heat gain. For the large expanse of exterior wall on the north facade, the Commission recommended decorative brick coursing or texturing to provide visual interest at a secondary scale. He said the current proposal addresses these comments, with several facade options for the Commission’s consideration.
Mr. Luebke asked project manager Patrick Moloney of the D.C. Department of General Services to begin the presentation. Mr. Moloney introduced Hiroshi Jacobs of Studios Architecture to present the revisions and options.
Mr. Jacobs summarized the project scope of adding a new wing to the west side of the existing school, containing additional classrooms as well as a new main entrance for the school. He said the presentation will focus on the areas of special concern to the Commission during the previous review: the glazing at the south-facing main entrance facade; the design of the classroom windows on the addition; the treatment of the large expanse of brick wall that results from the classroom configuration, which could potentially serve as a location for artwork; and the design of the addition’s southwest corner.
Mr. Jacobs said that the previous proposal for the main entrance facade used extensive glass along with applied solar shading devices to reduce the solar heat gain. The design team has clarified the intent for this facade, and he emphasized the importance of transparency and abundant natural light for the first-floor entrance lobby as well as for the spaces directly above; he described these as desirable qualities for the major spaces of a school building. He said the visual connection to the exterior is also important for both of these interior spaces, along with sightlines toward the gymnasium and through the building into the courtyard space to the north. The design team has developed three new options that address these principles as well as the Commission’s previous comments.
Mr. Jacobs said that Option 1 for the entrance facade would maintain the design character of the previous proposal but would increase the extent of solid walls at the east and west edges of the facade, which serves as a connecting hyphen between the historic school and the added classrooms. As with the previous design, Option 1 would shade the glass with a sunscreen of horizontal fins, suspended from a projection of the roof plane. The triple-height exterior space between the glazing and the sunscreen would provide a generous experience of entry, and he said that the fins have been redesigned to have a more whimsical configuration.
Mr. Jacobs said that Options 2A and 2B for the entrance facade have a much more solid treatment at the second and third floors, while maintaining transparency for the first-floor lobby to provide an inviting character. He said the transparency on the upper floors would be sufficient to provide the desired sense of daylight and connection to the outdoors. The height of the vestibule in these two options would be reduced to a single story, which results in more useable floor space above; he noted that this would be an important benefit for the school, which is developing the addition within a constrained budget. Options 2A and 2B differ in the color of the facade materials, with Option 2B having a natural green color to suggest that this connecting piece is an extension of the landscape between the historic school and the massing of the new classrooms. He said the color options are two different approaches to fulfilling the historic preservation goal of designing the addition to be compatible with, but distinct from, the historic building; he described Option 2B as providing a higher contrast.
Mr. Jacobs presented new options for the treatment of the classroom windows of the addition, mostly located along the west facade and continuing to the south and east facades. The punched windows were previously configured as individual elements at the first floor, and within double-height recesses at the second and third stories that emphasized the vertical groupings and related to the facade detailing of the historic school. The two new options have a more subtle spandrel treatment within the vertical groupings; the spandrels in Option 1 would be metal panels, and the spandrels in Option 2 would be brick. He said that Option 1 would provide a stronger vertical expression; the brickwork in Option 2 is designed to introduce a sense of texture for the spandrels. He presented comparative perspective views from the southwest to illustrate how the west facade in each option would relate to the historic school’s south-facing main facade.
Mr. Jacobs presented the response to the Commission’s concern with the detailing of extensive brick areas on the facade, particularly at the north end of the addition; this expanse was identified as a potential location for future artwork. He said that the desirability remains of using this location for artwork, but the current proposal adds an additional level of brick patterning and detail to address the visual scale if artwork is not covering the wall.
Mr. Jacobs said that the configuration of windows at the addition’s southwest corner has been revised: the extent of southwest-facing glass has been reduced, and the window strategy for the west facade has been extended around the addition’s corner. He indicated the repositioning of windows to rebalance the extent of glazing with the extent of solid brick walls on the south. He said the design intent for the addition’s windows is now clarified, continuing the historic school’s pattern of punched window openings but with a more modern treatment. He concluded by emphasizing the design team’s satisfaction with the revisions, and he said that the proposal has improved through the review process.
Ms. Tsien observed that the options for the entrance facade could allow for the facade plan to be canted eastward, potentially reducing the exposure to direct southern sunlight. Mr. Jacobs confirmed that the facade would be angled in Options 2A and 2B to relate more directly to the gymnasium and library spaces toward the north; he indicated the perpendicular relationship of the angled facade to the addition’s primary corridor. He said that this angle corresponds to the alignment of the classroom wing along 10th Street, NW, in comparison to the alignment of the historic school building along Spring Road. Ms. Tsien commented that the canted facade would be a dynamic design feature, and it might help to address the issue of solar heat gain; she encouraged addressing the solar control through the architecture rather than relying on an applied sunscreen that would require maintenance. She said that the extent of glass continues to be a concern, creating a problem that necessitates correction through additional design elements.
Ms. Tsien supported the use of punched windows, which result in a more extensive area of brick on the facades. She discouraged the use of spandrel panels, which she said tend to break up the facades; she said that omitting these panels would result in facades with greater dignity and a stronger relationship to the historic school building. While acknowledging the budget constraints and the likely reliance on panelized brick systems, she recommended recessing the windows as deeply as possible to create a powerful, beautiful facade of simple punched openings. She added that any exterior metal on the classroom facades should be coordinated with metal panels at the entrance facade to provide a consistency of material and color; Mr. Jacobs agreed that a strong connection among the materials from different parts of the addition would be desirable. Secretary Luebke asked for clarification of any preference between the color options; Ms. Tsien said her initial preference is for the gray-green color, which seems calmer than the buff option, but the decision may become more clear as the design is developed, including the selection of the mortar and other details.
Mr. McCrery expressed support for Ms. Tsien’s comments. He observed that the entrance facade’s green tone in Option 2B would complement the orange color that is shown for the brick, which is preferable to the monochromatic appearance that would result from the color in Options 1 and 2A. He supported the revision for closer spacing of the horizontal fins in Option 1, and he suggested further study of combining the facade configuration of Option 1 with the color of Option 2B. He also agreed with Ms. Tsien that punched windows within masonry would be preferable to relying on spandrel panels; he therefore supported Option 2 for the classroom windows, while observing that most of the presented drawings depict only Option 1 for these windows. Mr. Jacobs clarified that many of the south facade drawings are intended to illustrate the options for the entrance facade, and they do not address the options for the classroom windows; he added that the design team agrees with the preference to use Option 2 for the classroom windows, although this is illustrated in only two of the perspective renderings. He confirmed that Option 2 for the classroom windows would extend to the similarly configured windows on the addition’s south and east facades, although it is illustrated more clearly for the longer west facade. Mr. McCrery commented that the subtle brick patterning between the windows in Option 2 is appropriate in place of metal spandrel panels. He summarized that Option 2 for the classroom windows would be a major improvement in the design; he described the proposal as a very noble building, as all school buildings should be, with a combination of playfulness and seriousness. He expressed appreciation for the design team’s thoughtful response to the Commission’s previous comments.
Mr. Moore joined in supporting Option 2 for the classroom windows; he also supported the gray-green color for metal panels at the entrance facade, observing that this color would relate better to the brick and would establish a relationship to the landscape plantings. He said the current proposal is an improved direction for the design.
Mr. P. Cook expressed appreciation for the design team’s responsiveness to the Commission’s previous comments. He supported Option 2 for the classroom windows because of its modest sense of scale; he emphasized that the building is an elementary school with small children and the heroic scale of the double-height window groupings in the other option would be inappropriate for this setting. He said that he does not have a strong preference for the entrance facade, but he leans toward the configuration of Options 2A and 2B; he observed that the more solid facade treatment at the upper levels tends to focus attention on the transparency at the first-floor lobby, resulting in an improved sense of transparency despite having less glass. He added that this configuration draws the eye to the view of the outdoor courtyard beyond the lobby.
Mr. Stroik supported the reliance on brick detailing for the windows, commenting that the revised design for the brick addition relates better to the handsome architecture of the early-20th-century school building. He continued to question the design of the entrance area, commenting that it does not seem to fit in with the sequence of facades along the school’s south side and does not feel as successful as the addition’s other facades. Mr. R.M. Cook expressed agreement with Mr. Stroik’s comments, and he deferred to the expertise of the other Commission members in evaluating the more modern aspects of the project. He described the current proposal as a great compromise.
Dr. Edwards complimented the very detailed study and resolution of the issues previously raised by the Commission. She asked if the revised brickwork proposal for the north facade is intended to take the place of the previous proposal for artwork at this location, and whether an alternative facade location has been identified for artwork. Mr. Jacobs responded that various areas of solid wall remain in the design and could serve as artwork locations, including the north facade, but he acknowledged that the opportunities for such art have been reduced in the revised design. He said that a smaller artwork could be located on the south facade, or landscape-based artwork could also be located in this area.
Ms. Tsien commented that consideration of climate change and sustainability should include an understanding of architecture’s role in this topic, including such issues as embodied carbon and solar exposure. She recommended that the design team try to avoid the use of extensive glass, even if it is accompanied by shading elements; if the shading element is important to the project, then she recommended designing it carefully based on sun studies, not just based on appearance. She reiterated that this project is creating its own problem by using extensive glass and then trying to shade it. She expressed appreciation for the extensive design work that has been done, and she suggested framing a motion on the proposal.
Secretary Luebke clarified that the agenda lists the current submission as a revised concept, but it should more accurately be categorized as simply a concept, because the previous submission was approved only as a “general” concept without a full concept approval. Mr. Jacobs added that the design team’s preference is for Option 2A or 2B for the entrance facade, which he said would have lower cost, provide a better configuration for the school’s use, and also be better for sustainability due to having less glass, in comparison to Option 1.
Chair Tsien suggested a consensus to approve the current concept submission. Mr. Moore clarified that the Commission is supporting the punched windows of Option 2 for the classroom windows, and the configuration of Option 2 for the entrance facade. Mr. Luebke noted the Commission’s request for coordination of exterior metal colors throughout the facade, with a tentative preference for the gray-green color of Option 2B, which will be confirmed during review of the final design. Upon a motion by Mr. R.M. Cook with second by Mr. P. Cook, the Commission adopted this action.
F. D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation
CFA 18/NOV/21-7, Fort Lincoln Park, 3100 Fort Lincoln Drive, NE. New community center building. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 15/OCT/20-8) Secretary Luebke introduced the substantially revised concept design for a new Fort Lincoln Community Center building in the northern area of Fort Lincoln Park, on the former site of Thurgood Marshall Elementary School. In October 2020, the Commission reviewed a previous concept design for the community center, along with a proposal for the rehabilitation of an adjoining site, known as the Fort Lincoln Commemorative Park, an area for active recreation that was designed by the prominent landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg in the 1970s and completed in 1980. In its review of the proposal in 2020, the Commission supported the initial concept design for the community center, characterizing it as an imaginative extension of design ideas from the Friedberg-designed park, and approving both submissions with recommendations for their further development. The final design submission for the commemorative park rehabilitation is expected in early 2022; however, the community center is now returning as a revised concept, in response to an expanded program and revised scope that result from continued consultation with the community. He said that instead of the building’s previous splayed configuration that featured program elements engaged with the Commemorative Park’s elevated landscape, the new proposal is a more compact, freestanding design comprising three distinct volumes, including a double-height gymnasium with an entrance lobby, a one-story wing on the north and east sides of the building for early childhood programs, and a one-story wing on the west to house wellness and fitness rooms and support spaces; a wing for an indoor swimming pool may be added on the north at a later date. He asked Diego Martinez, project manager with the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Martinez said the revised design was developed as a result of challenges in cost and budget as well as further public discussion of how best to serve the needs of the rapidly growing community surrounding Fort Lincoln Park. The program goals include integration of the design with the landscape of the Friedberg-designed park, celebrating the history of the site, and encouraging an intergenerational experience. He said the revised design for the new community center, strongly supported by the neighborhood and the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, has been developed by Studios Architecture in consultation with the Commission staff and others. He introduced Andrew Domnitz of Studios Architecture to present the design.
Mr. Domnitz said that Fort Lincoln Park is located in an area where the Battle of Bladensburg was fought during the War of 1812; it was later the site of a Civil War fort, and a training school was built here in the late 19th century. In the mid-20th century, the area was designated for urban renewal, which resulted in the park incorporating Friedberg’s innovative design that still retains a high degree of integrity. He defined the three main areas of Fort Lincoln Park: to the south is an existing cultural center with outdoor swimming pools; in the middle is the commemorative park, designed by Friedberg as a series of elevated pavilions connected by paths; and to the north is the former school site that will be occupied by the new community center building. He noted that an archeological study revealed that the Civil War fortifications had been located within the area of the commemorative park, and no remnants of the fort are on the community center site. Fort Lincoln Park is characterized by its elevated topography, which provides views out to the city as well as within the park itself; the commemorative park was designed to provide a diversity of play areas and to encourage freedom of movement. He described four concepts that guided the Friedberg design and that will be incorporated into the design of the community center: landscape as stage; observation; views; and performance. The formal geometries of the Friedberg design have provided inspiration for the new community center and its site, serving to unify these two areas.
In his presentation, Mr. Domnitz said that a goal of the new building is to be an innovative contemporary design that will be closely integrated with, but a distinct addition to, Fort Lincoln Park. It will create a dynamic spatial experience, connecting building interiors with their surroundings through views and the provision of adjacent areas for outdoor play and recreation. Because Fort Lincoln Park is surrounded by residential neighborhoods, the new building is designed to be seen and approached from all directions, with entrances on the north and south that are approached from the northwest and southeast. The primary walkway through the park would be reinforced to unify the community center campus and to connect it with the neighborhoods.
Mr. Domnitz said that the building has been designed as three separate interlocked volumes, situated close to the geometric edge of the Friedberg-designed park, a relationship that helps to create landscaped areas of approach and arrival. The three volumes would contain spaces for fitness, community activities, and early childhood education and daycare. The central double-height volume would include the entrance lobby, two racquetball courts, and the gymnasium; an upper-level running track would circle along the perimeter of this volume, having views both out of and into the building to recall Friedberg’s desire for parks to be engaged landscapes, with visitors acting as both viewers and performers. The roof forms and the facade materials would also be engaged with the larger park landscape and its topography. He indicated the site area north of the entrance lobby that could be used for the future addition of a swimming pool, which is not in the current project’s scope.
Landscape architect Adrienne McCray of Lee & Associates presented the site design in greater detail. She said the project is designed to strengthen the connection between the community center, the Commemorative Park, and the surrounding neighborhoods. Sloping walks and ramps would be used to navigate the ten-foot grade change up to the elevated commemorative park. She indicated the existing stair from the amphitheater on the edge of the Friedberg park; the stair and amphitheater would remain, and a new barrier-free path would be constructed nearby. She described how the walk extending across the park from Commodore Joshua Barney Drive on the east to Fort Lincoln Drive on the west creates a strong axial connection to bus stops and a bike lane that encircles the park. A parking loop next to the community center would provide drop-off areas at the main entrance lobby and at the early childhood education wing.
Ms. McCray said that the proposed site design offers many new recreation areas. A plaza adjoining the main entrance lobby would have seating and a mounded topography, with a “water wall” at its west end at the foot of the stairs leading down from the amphitheater; this water feature and nearby ground sprays would animate the entrance plaza and provide visual interest for views from the building. A sensory garden would be installed west of the water wall; plants grown here would be used for cooking projects in the building’s demonstration kitchen. Adjoining the early childhood education center would be a play space designed to accommodate children of all abilities. Integral seating would be provided in lawn areas to create outdoor classrooms. A new fitness trail would be constructed to the northwest, and an existing woodland would be reinforced by expanding the tree canopy, planting meadows, and creating bioretention areas.
Ms. McCray said the proposed site materials would also be informed by features in the commemorative park, such as the distinctive scoring pattern used for its concrete walks and the stone walls of the amphitheater. Although the site furnishings and play equipment would be new, contemporary designs, they would refer to Friedberg’s timber structures. In addition, new benches and LED lights would be installed.
Mr. Domnitz then presented the proposed building facades, explaining that the materials and articulation are inspired by the existing site materials of wood, concrete, and fieldstone used in the Friedberg design. The facades are intended to have a natural appearance and to incorporate designs based on Friedberg’s inventive paving patterns. For the tallest volume of the building, these paving patterns would also inform the texture and pattern of the brick facades. The two lower volumes would be clad in a rainscreen panel system of stabilized wood or glass fiber-reinforced concrete (GFRC) with a natural color. The textures would give rhythm to the facades, breaking down their scale and establishing a relation with the textures, patterns, and natural features, such as trees, found in the Friedberg park.
Mr. Domnitz said the new building would appear to be set within the hillside. Glazing and storefront systems would be used for fenestration, with glazed areas strategically located along the elevated interior running track so that runners will always be moving towards a view out to the park. Runners would also have views of the lower volumes’ roofs, which will be canted and shaped to recall the geometries of Fort Lincoln Park while creating their own topography; the roofscape would also be visible from the surrounding hills. Mechanical equipment would be located at the rear, concealed from view by the gymnasium volume.
Chair Tsien opened the Commission’s discussion by asking for clarification of the mechanical equipment location; Mr. Domnitz responded that all equipment would be placed on the roof of the early childhood education center wing and would be entirely hidden from view by the gymnasium. Ms. Tsien supported this decision, observing that the roofscape would be unusually visible and has clearly been thought of as part of the site topography.
Ms. Tsien expressed concern about the proposed facade materials. She said she would expect a community center to be designed as a 100-year building, which is a sustainability standard that all buildings should reach; she questioned the longevity of stabilized wood and GFRC, as well as whether GFRC panels could provide the desired variety of texture. She urged the design team to give more consideration to the longevity of the cladding. Mr. Domnitz responded that the preference is to clad the building with GFRC panels that have a natural color and will not degrade quickly. She asked whether the proposed facade textures would result from a sculpting or patterning of the brick or other surface materials. Mr. Domnitz said that the diagonal undulations for the two-story facades of the gymnasium volume would result from patterns in the brick, perhaps from turning bricks or some similar treatment; this is still being studied.
Noting the topographic challenges, Mr. P. Cook asked how neighbors of various ages and abilities will travel to and access this site. Mr. Domnitz said that many visitors would drive, and others would arrive by bus or walking. Existing ramps would be rebuilt to meet accessibility standards; he noted that Friedberg had attempted to provide barrier-free access in the design of the commemorative park before the establishment of current accessibility standards. Ms. McCray clarified that people arriving by car could be dropped off at either of the community center’s two entrances. She noted that bus stops are located on either side of the site, likely resulting in a great deal of pedestrian movement across the site. She said that in order to make the park easily accessible, the use of ramps is being avoided because they present a physical challenge; instead, the site design mostly uses sloping walks that will not require handrails. Mr. Domnitz said ease of access is why the building facilities would mostly be placed at ground level, with only the running track located at the upper level.
Ms. Tsien commended the intent to connect with the neighborhoods on both sides, which will make the walk through the park a regular route for pedestrians; she said this trip through the park landscape will be a wonderful experience. She observed that the existing topography resembles a valley, and she asked if there will be places to locate curving accessible paths that will provide a sense of movement and increase the enjoyment of walking through the park. Ms. McCray offered to study breaking down the rigidity of the straight walks. Noting that the circulation has been shaped in response to the geometries of Friedberg’s park design, Ms. Tsien said she would not want a complete break from the established language; she suggested that a successful design could work between the two extremes.
Chair Tsien noted that the proposal is a revision to the previously reviewed concept design; she asked the Commission members who were involved in the October 2020 review to comment on the changes, with the understanding that the new design is the result of other factors than the Commission’s previous comments. Mr. McCrery said that the D.C. Government’s decision to reduce the funds for this project has resulted in a significantly reduced scope; this may be a good thing, because the previous design was so large, complicated, and sprawling that it would have presented considerable difficulties for accessibility from the neighborhoods. He said that the current proposal is therefore an improvement. However, he raised questions about the quality of the architecture and the proposed materials, commenting that he is not convinced it would be even a 30-year building as it is clearly a design that would not age well; additionally, as a recreation center the building would be put to significant physical use, and the site is fairly exposed topographically. He said the D.C. Government should give serious consideration to spending more money on public buildings and should find more money to improve the quality of this building in particular.
Acknowledging Mr. McCrery’s concerns, Chair Tsien asked Secretary Luebke for guidance on how to proceed. Mr. Luebke suggested that the Commission members could either approve the presented concept design so it can move forward toward the documentation and resolution of the final design, or take no action. For example, while the design intent and materials are generally understood, the Commission could request more documentation to clarify the intent for the facades; this request could be part of a concept approval. If the recommendation is for substantial revision to the design, the Commission should be specific about what is being requested.
Chair Tsien suggested approving the concept proposal with the request to see information concerning the durability and use of the proposed materials. She said the government has the responsibility to construct buildings with the conviction that they are important and not disposable; she acknowledged that the concern results from the budget limitation that has been imposed on the design team. Mr. Domnitz agreed and said that the design team could investigate these issues further.
Mr. McCrery suggested framing a position that the proposed plan is good but its development as a three-dimensional building needs significant improvement. Secretary Luebke said that if this is the Commission’s direction, then approval of the concept would not be appropriate; the Commission members need to decide either that this design is generally acceptable with some minor adjustments, or that it is not ready for approval.
Chair Tsien asked Mr. McCrery to clarify whether he approves of the building plan but not the materials, or not the massing. Mr. McCrery said that the proposed layout and the plans for recreation, bioretention, and parking are fine; however, a plan is not the generator of great architecture—great architecture is the generator of great architecture, and he does not believe this design is there yet. He added that good materials are necessary for the integrity of the building. He suggested keeping the building concept and footprint. Chair Tsien disagreed, commenting that she thinks the plan and the massing concept both work; however, because this is an entirely new concept design, the material palette could be more developed. She said that given the differing opinions, she suggests asking the design team to return with a more developed concept submission.
Secretary Luebke said that this action would be too vague; he contrasted it with the recent review of Raymond Elementary School, in which the Commission members provided very clear direction about what they wanted to see regarding solar access, the applied solar shading devices, and the entrance design. He suggested providing clear guidance rather than asking the project team to respond to differing opinions among the Commission members.
Chair Tsien recommended bringing the matter to a vote. She reiterated her preference for the Commission to approve the concept with a request that the project team to return with further development of the design. Alternatively, because Mr. McCrery feels it needs more work before concept approval, the Commission could disapprove the concept. Mr. McCrery suggested neither approving nor denying the submission, simply providing comments and asking the project team to return.
Mr. Moore expressed support for providing specific comments that the building envelope needs to be resolved to address the questions raised regarding durability, with additional focus on the facade’s performance. He agreed with Ms. Tsien that the proposed layout and massing make sense. He emphasized that if the Commission does not approve the concept, it must give clear direction to the design team.
Mr. McCrery reiterated his concerns about the quality of the architectural design. He acknowledged that the issues are not the fault of the architect but are clearly the result of the reduced budget. He emphasized that public buildings constructed by the District of Columbia should be better than this submission; Mr. Moore agreed. Mr. McCrery continued that giving more specific instructions would directly involve the Commission in the redesign; as this is not the Commission’s role, he is simply observing that this design has its merits but is not yet ready for approval.
Secretary Luebke suggested that the Commission could decide that the design is proceeding in generally the right direction, with specific guidance such as needing a higher quality of materials and performance, or whether its architecture is fundamentally flawed; if this is the case, the Commission should identify the flaws and indicate the direction the design should take. He reiterated that it is not useful to say a design does not have good quality without giving any direction on what to do about it.
Chair Tsien asked Mr. Moore to propose a motion. Hearing no further comments from the Commission members, Mr. Moore suggested approving the concept design for the layout and general approach for the community center and its siting and landscape, while requesting more development and resolution of the building envelope to address its design quality, longevity, performance, and care. Upon a second by Mr. P. Cook, the Commission adopted this action. Chair Tsien said the Commission looks forward to the next presentation.
G. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
SL 22-033, Decatur House, 748 Jackson Place, NW. Modifications to gardens dedicated to Jacqueline Kennedy. Permit. (Previous: SL 21-187, 15 September 2021) Secretary Luebke introduced a proposal for modifications to the front yard of Decatur House, a National Historic Landmark property located along the west side of Lafayette Square. The project involves redesigning the front yard to honor First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy for her advocacy of historic preservation in the 1960s planning for redevelopment of the blocks on the east and west sides of Lafayette Square. Decatur House is a three-story brick house that was built in 1818 to a design by Benjamin Henry Latrobe; it is now owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and operated by the White House Historical Association (WHHA), which has developed this proposal. The scope includes the reconfiguration of the brick-paved walks leading from the Jackson Place sidewalk to the steps at each side of the front door landing; the slight relocation of an existing plinth-mounted plaque at the garden’s northeast corner; the installation of an additional plinth and plaque of similar design at the garden’s southeast corner; the removal of an existing sign within the landscape at the house’s central axis, to be replaced by a new bronze sculptural medallion; and the expansion of the planting beds along with installation of new plantings. He said that the Commission approved the concept design in September 2021, as part of the Shipstead-Luce Act Appendix; the current submission focuses on development of the design for the central medallion, which features an image of Jacqueline Kennedy accompanied by an inscription describing her advocacy. He also noted that the artist for the medallion is Chas Fagan, a former member of the Commission. He asked Andwele Worrell of Franck & Lohsen Architects to present the design. Mr. McCrery recused himself from the discussion and the vote, noting that he is currently working with Mr. Fagan on other projects.
Mr. Worrell said the project is intended to enhance and revitalize the existing Decatur House garden, which was dedicated to Jacqueline Kennedy in 1996 for her work to preserve the house’s historic context. He said the primary feature of the design is the installation of a bronze medallion with a bas-relief portrait of Mrs. Kennedy. He presented the existing conditions, indicating the two adjacent buildings to the south that house the offices of the WHHA. He said the extensive paved area between the front door and the H Street sidewalk on the north has the effect of undermining the garden’s spatial definition; the proposal includes reconfiguring the paving to improve this area’s formal clarity.
Mr. Worrell said that the proposed new plaque at the garden’s southeast corner would carry text commemorating Jacqueline Kennedy’s role in the founding of the WHHA, which is marking its 60th anniversary. He noted that the proposed text for this plaque is longer than the text on the existing plaque to the north, but the composition has been carefully designed to result in a plaque of matching size.
Mr. Worrell presented the proposal for the 31-inch-diameter bronze medallion to be placed in the center of the front garden. The low bas-relief portrait of Mrs. Kennedy would be accompanied by an inscription, “The White House belongs to the American people,” which is a quotation from a September 1961 article describing her work; her name and signature would appear below. Surrounding this composition would be a border of swags and flowers based on motifs used in the preservation work at the White House that was overseen by Mrs. Kennedy. He said the recessed support for the medallion is intended to give the appearance that the medallion is floating above the garden’s new plantings; the proposed selection includes species she favored. He noted that the mounting of the medallion is depicted at an angle of 21 degrees, but he welcomed the Commission’s guidance on whether a steeper angle would be better for viewing the plaque. He said the project was reviewed earlier in the day by the D.C. Public Space Committee, which approved the proposal pending the action by the Commission of Fine Arts.
Chair Tsien invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Mr. R.M. Cook noted his understanding that Mrs. Kennedy’s daughter, former ambassador Caroline Kennedy, had suggested using a discreet marker to commemorate her mother’s work instead of a statue as initially proposed; he asked if she has commented on the current proposal. Luke Boorady of the WHHA responded that Ambassador Kennedy supports the medallion design and has also approved the proposed inscription for the new plaque to the south. Recognizing her support, Mr. Cook said he finds the proposal to be an elegant and discreet design, appropriate for Jacqueline Kennedy.
Mr. Stroik asked who had designed the existing plinth to the north, and whether using a similar plinth to support the medallion has been considered; he suggested that a plinth at the medallion’s central location would pick up on the use of stone details on the Decatur House facade. Mr. Fagan responded that the intention is for the medallion to be distinct from the two stone plinths, creating a subtle narrative feature that would be discovered by pedestrians as they walk by. He said the design team had concluded that a light-colored stone base would draw attention away from the medallion itself and would not provide the desired floating appearance; the two matching plinths on either side of the composition, with their light-colored stone matching the stone of the building, are intended to create an effective frame for the space and to accentuate the center entrance to Decatur House. He added that the existing white sign is clearly too high, and the medallion would be mounted at a lower height. Michael Franck of Franck & Lohsen Architects noted that the existing plinth to the north is made of historic Aquia Creek sandstone, the same stone used in the construction of the White House; the design for this plinth, which dates from the 1980s, was based on the Decatur House window lintels with a bullseye corner motif. The new plinth would be an exact replica of the existing plinth and would also be made of Aquia stone. He added that the existing plinth would be repositioned to the northeast corner of the northern landscape panel so that it directly adjoins the intersection of the H Street and Jackson Place sidewalks. Mr. Worrell noted that the Aquia stone is difficult to obtain; the available quantity is sufficient for the proposed plinth to the south, but not for an additional plinth to support the center medallion. He emphasized that bronze seems to be an appropriate material for the new medallion.
Chair Tsien expressed support for the proposed removal of the existing large white sign located directly in front of the Decatur House entrance. She commented that the image of a medallion floating in a garden is quite poetic, observing that it will seem to be rising up from the plantings. She agreed with the proposal to keep the medallion low to the ground and to design its support to be barely visible; this will keep the focus on the medallion and the green plantings around it. Mr. Franck noted that Katherine Malone-France of the National Trust for Historic Preservation was involved in the earlier design of the existing plinth and has provided information to guide its replication. He said the overall aim is to define and simplify the site by replacing the white sign with a more dignified and meaningful focal element, along with the new plinth and plaque to define the garden’s south edge as the existing plinth defines the north edge.
Chair Tsien suggested a consensus to approve the final design as submitted. Upon a motion by Mr. R.M. Cook with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission adopted this action. Mr. Luebke expressed the appreciation of the Commission staff for the productive dialogue between the different organizations and consulting agencies involved in the design and review process. He said the staff is very pleased with the resulting proposal, which will highlight Jacqueline Kennedy’s role in the preservation of Lafayette Square and also enhance this National Historic Landmark property.
The meeting concluded with further expressions of appreciation on the occasion of Mr. Lindstrom’s retirement. (See agenda item I.C above.)
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 1:03 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA