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. Lisa Delplace
Hon. James McCrery
Hon. Justin Garrett Moore
Hon. Duncan Stroik
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
A. Approval of the minutes of the 21 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. Cook with second by Dr. Edwards, the Commission approved the minutes. Mr. McCrery abstained, noting that he did not participate in the July meeting.
B. Dates of next meetings. Secretary Luebke presented the dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 20 October 2022, 17 November 2022, and 19 January 2023. He noted that no meeting is scheduled in December.
C. Report on the approval of objects proposed for acquisition by the Freer Gallery of Art. Secretary Luebke reported Chair Tsien’s approval of the Smithsonian Institution’s proposed acceptance of two objects donated for the permanent collection of the Freer Gallery of Art. These include a necklace of blue glass beads, used for ceremonial purposes at the Chinese court, likely dating from the late 19th century; and a Qur’an folio leaf from the Near East or North Africa, dating from around 900 A.D.
Mr. Luebke noted that typically the provenance of such objects cannot be fully traced, and the Smithsonian has determined that these acquisitions are acceptable within its policies; he added that the acquisition policies of the Smithsonian and Freer have been distributed to the Commission members. Chair Tsien acknowledged the recent concern of the Commission with the origins of such artworks and how they have reached the United States; after discussion among the Commission members, she said the conclusion is to approve the proposed acquisitions. Mr. Luebke noted that the approval is required specifically by the Chair, and no vote by the Commission as a whole is needed; he said the staff will follow up with communicating the approval to the Freer Gallery.
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. Fox reported that one project has been added to the appendix, for a building renovation at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall (case number CFA 15/SEP/22-p); this final design is consistent with the previously approved concept. Other changes to the draft appendix are limited to minor wording changes. Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Ms. Delplace, the Commission approved the revised 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 22-139, 22-149, and 22-160). Other changes to the draft appendix are limited to minor wording changes and the notation of dates for the receipt of supplemental materials. The recommendations for four 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 Dr. Edwards, 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. Amos reported that no changes have been made to the draft appendix, which has 44 projects. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Cook, the Commission approved the Old Georgetown Act Appendix. Secretary Luebke noted that September is typically a very busy month for Old Georgetown Act submissions; the agenda for the Old Georgetown Board averages fewer than ten cases per month, but the average each September is more than twenty. (See agenda item II.E for an additional Shipstead-Luce Act submission.)
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider items II.B.2 and II.D.1. Secretary Luebke said that the Commission had identified these submissions as ones that could be approved without presentations.
B. Smithsonian Institution
2. CFA 15/SEP/22-2, Smithsonian Institution Building, Arts & Industries Building, and Freer Gallery of Art, South Mall Campus, Jefferson Drive, SW. Revitalization of the Historic Core (RoHC) – building renovations and modernizations; new perimeter security. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 17/FEB/22-1) Secretary Luebke said that the staff has been working with the project team to implement the Commission’s recommendations for developing the previously approved concept. He said approval of the revised concept submission would help in moving the project forward. Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Ms. Delplace, the Commission approved the revised concept.
D. D.C. Department of General Services
1. CFA 15/SEP/22-5, Ward 8 Senior Wellness Center, 1700 Q Street, SE. New building and landscape. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 21/JUL/22-6) Secretary Luebke noted that the Commission took no action on the previous concept submission, instead providing extensive comments for the refinement of the design. Following consultation with the staff, the current submission generally responds to the Commission’s guidance.
Chair Tsien invited additional comments from the Commission members. Ms. Delplace acknowledged the development of the design but observed that some of the comments on the landscape have not been addressed. She emphasized the importance of the landscape in contributing to the design for this project, which has an overall goal of emphasizing wellness for seniors. She recommended thoughtful advancement of the landscape design, which should be an immersive setting that promotes wellness—going beyond providing a beautiful setting for the building. She urged the D.C. Government to embrace this design approach for its projects, especially for those intended to be used by underserved populations.
Mr. Moore expressed support for these comments, and he emphasized that the site should be designed as a public landscape; the design should be inclusive, and the selection of materials should be carefully considered. For example, he observed that the details of the proposed fence, including its height and transparency, would affect the perception of a welcoming and inclusive character. He encouraged consideration of these issues as the project is developed into a final design.
Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Dr. Edwards, the Commission approved the proposed concept with these comments.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B.1.
B. Smithsonian Institution
1. CFA 15/SEP/22-1, National Museum of the American Latino and the Smithsonian American Women's History Museum. Site evaluation studies for two new museums. Final. (Previous: CFA 21/JUL/22-1) Secretary Luebke introduced the site evaluation study for two new museums being planned by the Smithsonian Institution. He noted that this is the third presentation of the study to the Commission, following presentations in March and July of this year, and he said that the project team continues to provide further analysis for the four “focus sites” chosen from among the larger group originally considered. As before, the Commission’s role is to provide comments on the evaluation to assist the Smithsonian in making its siting decisions for the two museums. He said that in the July review, the Commission had reiterated its advice from March, which emphasized the opportunities to develop existing buildings located on or near the National Mall for the forthcoming museums, including such properties as Federal Triangle, the Forrestal Complex of the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Whitten Building of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He again noted Congress’s recent authorization of a commission to study the potential creation of yet another national museum, dedicated to Asian American Pacific history and culture, which means that even more such site studies may be necessary the near future.
For the two museums already authorized, Mr. Luebke said his understanding is that the Smithsonian will be making a decision about these sites in the next few months. As set out in the authorizing legislation for these museums, the Chair of the Commission of Fine Arts is required to provide guidance on the study, due today; this guidance was given in a letter sent to the Smithsonian yesterday, on 14 September. Although it was not practical to include commentary from today’s meeting, this letter reiterates the advice given by the Commission at the previous two meetings, articulating the advantages that the Commission has identified in redeveloping the Forrestal Complex as a comprehensive museum precinct for multiple future museums. He asked Kevin Gover, Under Secretary for Museums and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Gover said this is the final presentation of the site study to the Commission; today’s presentation includes additional analysis of the most promising options to be used in completing the evaluation report that the Smithsonian Board of Regents will use in making their selection of sites for the two museums. He acknowledged the Commission’s letter following the July review, which encouraged exploration of additional sites and proactive planning for additional new museums. He also acknowledged Chair Tsien’s letter of 14 September, and he said the project team generally agrees with many of the points she raises regarding the suitability of the Forrestal Complex site. However, he said the Smithsonian’s primary concern about the Forrestal site is the high cost of its redevelopment, estimated at over $1 billion because of the expense of relocating the Department of Energy, and some of this cost would have to be borne by the Smithsonian. He said today’s presentation will show that none of the Tier 1 sites have been eliminated from consideration, although the focus is on four sites located on the National Mall; these include three of the four sites named for consideration in the authorizing legislation of December 2020.
Summarizing the process that was presented at the previous reviews, Mr. Gover outlined the two museums’ site requirements, some shared and some specific to a particular museum. The site selection study began with a list of 27 sites; 14 of these sites were found to be unavailable or would not meet the needs of the new museums and have been categorized as Tier 2, and the remaining 13 sites were categorized as Tier 1 for further study. The Smithsonian conducted consultation meetings with constituent groups, which helped in refining the selection criteria and developing a preliminary space plan; this was followed by a larger national survey that included panels and outreach groups. He summarized that respondents were generally open to either a new building or the reuse of a historic building, although they would like to know the specific building and information about the design.
Mr. Gover said the site analysis has used consistent, specific criteria in evaluating the Tier 1 sites to identify four “focus sites”: the Arts and Industries Building (AIB), the South Monument and Northwest Capitol sites, and a more recently added site on the east side of the Tidal Basin. Some criteria were identified in the authorizing legislation, including cost as well as proximity to the Mall and public transit; other criteria were derived from the unique requirements of planning for major museums near the Mall. He asked architect Luanne Greene of Ayers Saint Gross to present the detailed analysis of the four focus sites.
Noting that the presentation concerns planning rather than design, Ms. Greene said that the objective of the analysis has been an assessment of the capacity of the four focus sites to accommodate a museum building of sufficient size, function, and flexibility; the analysis has considered urban context, environmental conditions, views, massing, height, functionality, and program organization. The four focus sites were tested against a preliminary set of program guidelines, a framework that has allowed the team to generate site planning strategies and massing diagrams for each site.
Ms. Greene described the AIB as a noteworthy building with an excellent site facing the Mall, adjacent to the Smithsonian Castle. The building is configured with a principal floor and small mezzanines, with double-height spaces and a great deal of natural light. Because the building has a limited amount of space that can be made environmentally suitable for museum collections, the study suggests it may be expanded through the construction of two basement levels: the level immediately beneath the main floor would have public collection space with precision environmental controls, and a second basement level would have non-public support space. The basement levels could be constructed within the AIB’s existing footprint; two additional options examine expanding the footprint of the basements to the west or to the north beneath Jefferson Drive and part of the elm panel, which is in the Reserve; however, because of the drop in grade to the north, below-grade levels in this area would have to be lower than basements directly beneath the building, so this option is not being considered.
Ms. Greene then presented the analysis of the South Monument site, located in the Reserve southeast of the Washington Monument. It corresponds symmetrically to the site occupied by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) across the Mall to the north. Two options are being evaluated for the South Monument site; in both, the above-ground area available for development is constrained by significant setbacks from the Mall. These setbacks create opportunities for outdoor space but limit the building footprint and decrease the overall efficiency of the space. One option considers a five-story building above grade and a basement level that fills the site below grade; the second option proposes five stories above four basement levels. She noted that the illustrative above-ground massing is the same for both options.
Ms. Greene said the Tidal Basin site, which was not initially considered, is a triangular area immediately west of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum that is large enough to meet the program requirements. The site is defined by roads, with trees planted around the perimeter and a rugby field in the center. The massing study reflects the triangular shape of the site and includes five above-ground floors and one basement level. She noted the large amount of remaining exterior space, but she said it would be confined to the edges rather than consolidated.
The final massing study presented by Ms. Greene was for the Northwest Capitol site, a large area at the foot of Capitol Hill and to the east of the National Gallery of Art’s East Building. She said the suggested massing, similar to the form of the East Building, proposes five stories and one partial basement below ground. The site’s west side is above the I-395 tunnel, which requires a large building setback that would limit development, but the area above the tunnel could be used as outdoor space. She said the height shown in this massing study is also similar to that of the Rayburn House Office Building, the Department of Health and Human Services headquarters, and the National Museum of the American Indian—all of which are located a few blocks to the southeast or southwest.
Ms. Greene described the study’s rating criteria for the sites. She reiterated that an analytical model was developed to evaluate the sites within a consistent objective framework, which has been regularly updated to reflect further analysis and continuing input from stakeholders. The six primary criteria have different sub-criteria, each graded as very good, good, moderate, or poor. A weighting factor was applied to the grades and then an additional weighting factor was applied to acknowledge the significance of location, cost, and development complexity, with the resulting score expressed as a percentage. Results for the four focus sites range from a very good score of 78% for the AIB to 70% for the South Monument site, 67% for the Northwest Capitol site, and 62% for the site at the Tidal Basin.
Mr. Gover then provided two comments in response to a point concerning the Forrestal site in Chair Tsien’s letter of 14 September. In consulting with the two museum councils authorized by Congress and appointed by the Smithsonian Board of Regents, one of the strongest responses was the need for designs that reflect the purpose of these museums. While this consideration does not show up in the charts and percentages, he said the project team takes it seriously. Second, a location on the Mall is considered extraordinarily important, a factor that will be considered by the regents; he said the Smithsonian realizes that a Mall location presents a challenge for the Commission and for other agencies with oversight responsibility for new construction on the Mall. He assured Chair Tsien that her comment letter will be delivered to the regents for their consideration.
Chair Tsien thanked the project team for the presentation and opened the review for questions and comments from the Commission members. Mr. McCrery began with an objection to the presented massing diagram that is intended to illustrate an appropriate massing on the Northwest Capitol site. He said people experience the existing buildings in a symmetrical relationship on either side of the Mall’s centerline, such as when walking eastward from the Smithsonian Castle toward the Capitol. He observed that while there is great variety in the building designs on either side of this axis, there is also tremendous correspondence between them in massing and scale. As an example, he said that he had welcomed the attention given to maintaining this correspondence in the design of the National Museum of the American Indian on the south side of the Mall in response to the East Building of the National Gallery of Art, which occupies the corresponding site on the north. Similarly, he said there is clear parity between the National Air and Space Museum and the National Gallery of Art’s West Building.
However, for the Northwest Capitol site, Mr. McCrery noted that the study illustrates a new building that would not form a symmetrical relationship with the U.S. Botanic Garden building that occupies the corresponding site directly to its south; instead, the study compares it with two buildings that are not on the Mall but are much farther away, across Independence Avenue. The result is that the study is comparing the potential height of the new museum building with two exceptionally high structures—the Rayburn House Office Building and the Humphrey Building of the Department of Health and Human Services—instead of the much lower building of the Botanic Garden, which he noted is not even illustrated in the presented drawings. He therefore recommended that the Smithsonian seriously reconsider its evaluation of the Northwest Capitol site. He concluded that this site presents a beautiful location for a smaller museum that is appropriately scaled to complement the Botanic Garden and appropriately deferential to the nation’s most important building, the U.S. Capitol.
Mr. Moore emphasized that the comments conveyed in Chair Tsien’s letter of 14 September reiterate the comments that he and the other Commission members had given in their prior reviews of this project: that the Whitten and Forrestal sites, in particular, should be included among the most promising sites. However, today’s presentation has only offered a comparison of the same four sites that had already been identified by the Smithsonian. He said the project team should undertake a thorough evaluation of the possibilities offered by the Whitten and Forrestal sites for new museum buildings. He emphasized that the Commission had very clearly expressed its interest in seeing these sites given the same consideration as the four focus sites so that this wider analysis could be transmitted to the regents and to all of the stakeholders, and also to the members of the public who are involved in the assessment process. He expressed his disappointment that the project team has not taken the opportunity to do this.
Mr. Moore commented that the weighting within the criteria matrix appears to be tilted toward excluding sites such as Whitten and Forrestal—sites that may offer broader possibilities for the development of new museums. He also expressed concern about the relatively low weight that was assigned to the compatibility of the preferred options with the plans that have been developed by the National Capital Planning Commission, the Architect of the Capitol, and the D.C. Government; additionally, it seems the comments and perspective of the Commission of Fine Arts were also given a low weight. For a project of this scope, he emphasized the importance of considering the long-term impacts of shaping a national landscape for the general public. While acknowledging the importance of considering the priorities identified by the different groups interested in having a museum on the Mall, he emphasized the equal importance of having a vision of what this entire American landscape will look like, because future museums with new stories will need to be connected to the Smithsonian core on the Mall.
Mr. Moore urged that in the process of completing this study, additional work will be done to evaluate the Whitten and Forrestal sites in a manner equal to and consistent with the evaluation of the other four. He added that he hopes the further evaluation will reveal the presence of any unintended biases in this process that would foreclose the selection of two sites that could possess great potential for reshaping the Mall and the Smithsonian’s campus.
Mr. Stroik asked for clarification on the size of the volumes proposed for the four focus sites in the context of existing Washington museums. He observed that the presented analysis for three of the sites have a program area in the range of 350,000 square feet, while the South Monument site is illustrated with a massing of 250,000 square feet. Mr. Gover responded that a museum on the South Monument site would be among the smaller Smithsonian museums because of the site’s limitations; a program of 350,000 square feet, as anticipated in the authorizing legislation for the Latino museum, could probably not be accommodated on this site, and congressional action would be necessary to relieve this size requirement.
Mr. Stroik also raised concern with the massing study for the Northwest Capitol site; he questioned whether a smaller, lower building on this site could accommodate 350,000 square feet. Ann Trowbridge of the Smithsonian Institution responded that one drawback of the Northwest Capitol site is its location in the floodplain, which limits the amount of underground space available; this constraint would make it difficult to build a small above-ground museum here. Ms. Greene reiterated that the I-395 highway tunnel beneath the western part of this site presents an additional constraint.
Turning to the Tidal Basin site, Mr. Stroik suggested consideration of spreading out the above-ground massing to allow for a lower building that would accommodate a size close to 350,000 square feet, or perhaps 250,000 square feet; he observed that this site is relatively large and might best be designed with a lower building.
Secretary Luebke clarified that the analysis of the South Monument site’s capacity is based on massing identified as five stories; however, those stories are probably in excess of twenty feet in height, which would make the building one story higher than the corresponding building across the Mall—the NMAAHC—whose design evolved following extensive discussion of the need to control its height. He said that the illustrated massing for the South Monument Site is therefore a leap of scale that would undermine the logic used in shaping the NMAAHC building; to avoid this problem, a museum on the South Monument site would require an additional below-grade level, or some of the program would have to be accommodated at another location. He said this issue contributes to the staff’s concern with the reliability of the site selection study as presented.
Ms. Tsien began by expressing her great frustration with the presentation. She observed that it appears the analysis follows a series of choices that were evaluated individually, museum by museum, constituency by constituency, with no overall sense of planning; likewise, each previous presentation has concerned only how museum construction might respond to a particular site without any consideration of its place within a larger plan. She said the study essentially only pays lip service to consideration of the Whitten and Forrestal sites. Although the Forrestal site is not on the Mall, she emphasized that it presents the possibility for a larger sense of planning than a piecemeal response to the interests of the various different museum constituencies. She said the Commission had been very clear in its commentary, and other government agencies have also been very clear, although the apparent result is that the Smithsonian intends to ignore this consistent advice.
Finally, Ms. Tsien said there has been no acknowledgement of the existence of the great Senate Park Commission Plan for Washington; instead, this study simply proposes randomly placing a building here or a building there. She reiterated her deep frustration with the Smithsonian’s process and with its apparent decision that this process is not going to change.
Mr. McCrery asked if the Commission is required to take an action. Secretary Luebke clarified that the legislation concerning site selection requires commentary from the Chair, which was sent on 14 September; the legislation is also understood to call for the good-faith process of consultation with multiple agencies, including the Commission. He said that this agenda item does not constitute a proposed project, and the Commission does not need to take an action. He summarized that the Commission members have provided extensive comments, essentially reiterating their previous reviews, and these comments will again be written up and sent to the Smithsonian. He suggested that, unless the Smithsonian feels otherwise, there is nothing more for the Commission to provide.
Mr. Gover responded that the Smithsonian appreciates Chair Tsien’s commentary. He repeated that the project team has considered the Whitten and Forrestal sites and is thoroughly aware of their positive and negative characteristics, although no massing plans or other studies have been done for them. Agreeing with Mr. Moore’s comment that the criteria used in the evaluation are less than scientific, he acknowledged that whenever someone assigns weights to such things there is a degree of subjectivity; the project team is aware of this issue of subjectivity and will make the regents aware of it so they can make their own evaluation of the criteria. He said all the Commission’s commentary will be given to the regents as they consider a final site decision, and he thanked the Commission for its responses.
Mr. McCrery asked if the Commission could request that the Smithsonian make a formal analysis of the Forrestal site. Mr. Gover said this request could be provided, but he could not promise the analysis would be done, especially given the limited time now available; he reiterated that all comments will be forwarded to the regents and this request will be considered. Mr. McCrery observed that the Commission has been making this request since the initial presentation in March 2022, six months ago, and he therefore found Mr. Gover’s response that there is no time left at this point to be “a curious explanation.” He said the entire point of the review process has been for the Commission to provide the best possible advice to help the Smithsonian in making its decision.
Mr. McCrery said that he first wishes to express appreciation to Chair Tsien for her exhortation to the Smithsonian to look at the big picture. He noted that although his request has been for the project team to look at particular sites, he fully agrees with her about the need for a comprehensive view. In keeping with this advice, he suggested that the Commission could request the project team to start fresh with a larger, longer-term plan with a comprehensive vision. Secretary Luebke said he believes those two positions are aligned. He observed that this is an argument in favor of the Forrestal site, which would allow for a comprehensive design solution as opposed to a piecemeal approach. He noted that the Commission’s role is to provide advice to the Smithsonian, which will need to address its own issues of process and schedule. He emphasized that the Commission can appropriately make reasonable requests, which can at least inform the other review agencies, and the Smithsonian will have to decide whether to respond to these requests within its own process.
Mr. Stroik agreed with Mr. McCrery that the Commission exists to act in the interest of this great capital city, with its heritage of the L’Enfant Plan, the Senate Park Commission Plan, the Federal Triangle plan, and the ideas of many great architects. He expressed his support for the request that the Smithsonian consider planning for future buildings within the framework of a master plan. Mr. Moore added his support, and he asked that this vision be shared with the other stakeholder groups as an equitable way to revisit the question. He suggested emphasizing the example of the Forrestal site to consider whether it addresses the relevant concerns, such as proximity to the Mall, and how its location across Independence Avenue from the Castle affects developing a vision for its potential, a question that has been ignored.
Secretary Luebke said a letter conveying the Commission’s commentary will be sent to the Smithsonian. Chair Tsien thanked the project team for its presentation. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
2. CFA 15/SEP/22-2, Smithsonian Institution Building, Arts & Industries Building, and Freer Gallery of Art, South Mall Campus, Jefferson Drive, SW. Revitalization of the Historic Core (RoHC) – building renovations and modernizations; new perimeter security. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 17/FEB/22-1) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
C. D.C. Department of Transportation
CFA 15/SEP/22-3, 11th Street Bridge Park, 11th Street, SE, at the Anacostia River. New public park on old bridge piers. Final. (Previous: CFA 19/OCT/17-5) Secretary Luebke introduced the final design submission for the 11th Street Bridge Park, a new public park proposed to span the Anacostia River, to be built upon the existing structural supports of the demolished 11th Street Bridge, which has been replaced by a complex of three upstream spans. In March 2016, the Commission supported the project following an information presentation on the competition-winning entry by OMA and OLIN. The Commission approved the concept design in October 2017 with several recommendations: that the pedestrian movement around the café and its seating be unimpeded; that broad access to the bridge park be facilitated, including with drop-off areas, realistic accommodation of parking, and pedestrian connections to the neighborhoods and new developments on either side of the river; that the park and amenities should encourage increased physical activity; that materials should be specified based on their potential to improve human health; and that the concept of native plants be broadened to include species adapted to this setting's altered riverine ecology.
Secretary Luebke said that in subsequent years, the project has been moving through other permitting processes with entities such as the U.S. Coast Guard. He noted that there have been some revisions to the project in that time, such as the relocation of the amphitheater from the bridge to the eastern Anacostia shoreline, and the addition of a kayak launch to facilitate education, physical activity, and community engagement. The proposed material palette has been developed, including concrete pavers for the deck, fiberglass reinforced panels and low-iron glass for the café and education center facades, and galvanized steel grating for the guardrails; he noted that the staff inspected the proposed materials earlier in the week. He said the planting palette is intended to evoke several landscape typologies: lawn, riparian, tidal marsh, meadow, and woodland. Wayfinding signage has also been developed and is included in the submission. He asked Scott Kratz of Building Bridges Across the River—the non-profit organization that has partnered with the District of Columbia Government to develop the project—to begin the presentation.
Mr. Kratz said his organization has been working on the project for almost 10 years. The project is guided by several goals: to create a physical and metaphorical bridge across the Anacostia River, which has divided the city into neighborhoods with different racial compositions, incomes, and health outcomes; to improve public health for people on both sides of the river by providing an active place to play as well as supporting urban agriculture and re-engaging residents with the Anacostia River; and to serve as an anchor for equitable and inclusive economic development, already generating $86 million of investments in housing, workforce development, small business enterprises, and outreach and cultural strategies to ensure that the tens of thousands of residents who have been involved in the project from the beginning can be the ones who benefit. He said local residents have been engaged in shaping the project’s design and impact since its inception. More than 1,000 meetings with key stakeholders have resulted in the programming seen in the park design, and a group of stakeholders called the Design Oversight Committee made a formal recommendation to the jury to select the design that will be presented in today’s meeting. He introduced engineer James Guinther of Whitman, Requardt & Associates to continue the presentation.
Mr. Guinther presented the location of the proposed bridge park in relation to the recently constructed upstream bridge complex to the northeast, as well as the Navy Yard and the U.S. Capitol to the northwest. He said his firm has worked with the project team to engineer an iconic structure that fulfills the guiding principles of the community while meeting current construction codes and supporting the varied park amenities. He indicated the revised location of the amphitheater and its relationship to the proposed environmental education center building. Each end of the bridge park would feature an elevated lookout area; the bridge structure widens from 30 feet on the Capitol Hill neighborhood side to 120 feet on the Anacostia neighborhood side. He described the program areas on the bridge park, which would include gardens, hammocks, a café, a picnic garden, a community room, a great lawn, and central gathering plaza. The environmental education center would house offices for the bridge park and the Anacostia Watershed Society. Urban agriculture plots would be located on top of the proposed central utility plant, which would be built into the hillside behind the education center; the utility plant would also contain storage space for park operations. He asked architect Jason Long of OMA to present the details of the design.
Mr. Long indicated the access routes for cyclists and pedestrians, and he said the bridge park’s shared cyclist and pedestrian route would connect each shoreline. Both ends of the bridge would have barrier-free entrance routes that would be complementary to or exceed the convenience of the stairway access. He said the slope of the walkways across the bridge would generally be 1:20, but there would also be flat areas for respite and recreational activities. In addition to the education center and café, an important space supporting the programmatic goals of the bridge park would be the “community porch,” a warm and inviting space that would be located below the Anacostia Lookout. The material palette for this area would include wood decking and acoustic wood-fiber soffit panels to provide acoustic dampening for noisy events and from traffic on the nearby vehicular bridge. To promote the environmental mission of the education center, its roof would be clad with photovoltaic panels, and scuppers would collect rainwater that would flow into a rain garden. He introduced landscape architect Hallie Boyce of OLIN to present the landscape design.
Ms. Boyce said the park is proposed to have a multifunctional landscape that provides visitors the opportunity to reconnect with the Anacostia River and learn about the connection between the health of the river and the health of adjacent communities. The landscape would be composed of a series of outdoor rooms based on community-generated programming ideas; the intention is to create places that allow people to gather, relax, learn, and play at the river’s edge. The planting palette is organized by ecological conditions—woodland, meadow, and lawn—to create a variety of spatial experiences and activities. She noted that the Anacostia Watershed Society would use the landscape to teach groups about the ecological benefits of riverine plantings and would launch kayak and canoe tours from the proposed boat launch.
Ms. Boyce indicated the program areas on the bridge, noting the outward views. She said an artist would be commissioned to design the hammocks, and Studio Ludo in Philadelphia is designing the play area, which will incorporate themes from the Anacostia Watershed Society’s mussel-growing program. The entrance from the Anacostia neighborhood would feature an installation by artists Martha Jackson Jarvis and Njena Surae Jarvis. She said the shoreline amphitheater is intended to be a shady respite that will host community events and performances throughout the year. Surrounding the amphitheater would be meadow plantings, which would have seasonal blooming periods and would be incorporated into the curriculum for visiting school groups. She said the concrete pavers would be a warm gray color to reinforce the idea of two sloped paths, one tan and one cool gray, coming together at the central plaza. The site walls adjacent to the entrance stairs at each end of the bridge would be cast-in-place concrete, and planters on the bridge deck would be weathering steel. The amphitheater would have wood seating surfaces, and the kayak launch would have wood decking. She noted that the current shoreline landscape is mostly lawn, and the proposal calls for a total of more than 150 trees on the land and bridge. She said the meadow plantings would help capture stormwater, create animal habitat, and provide seasonal interest throughout the year; stormwater basins are also proposed. She noted that the study of the microclimate has informed the plant selection to ensure that the plantings are durable and beautiful.
Mr. Long presented design details of the wayfinding signage, guardrails, and other elements. He said the signage would have an informational structure to guide and inform about the various program areas of the park; the signage color palette is still being refined. The guardrails would play a substantial role in defining the visitor experience and views of the bridge, designed as a grid of galvanized steel stock without intervening stanchions, creating a consistent line along the bridge; it would generally be 42 inches tall, and slightly taller on some parts of the upper deck to provide an additional sense of comfort. At the top of the railing would be a steel plate that would incorporate a continuous strip of lights, appearing as a line hovering above the two rising platforms of the bridge and highlighting its iconic X-shape at night. Lighting on the underside of the bridge deck would also illuminate the bridge structure.
Chair Tsien thanked the project team for its presentation and welcomed questions and comments from the Commission members. Ms. Delplace asked if the Anacostia shoreline would have a hard, structured edge or a more natural character; Mr. Guinther said the existing historic seawall would be retained, according to guidance from the D.C. Historic Preservation Office. Ms. Delplace questioned the small area proposed for urban agriculture plots and environmental education center, and whether the food grown within the bridge park would be used in the park’s café. Mr. Long responded that the farm plots would total approximately 2,000 square feet, and he summarized the square footage of each program area in the education center. Mr. Kratz said it was clear from community meetings that urban agriculture is needed; the neighborhoods east of the river are considered food deserts, with one grocery store serving 75,000 residents. He said his organization has established a network of seven urban farms in the area, and this facility would be the eighth; food from these facilities is gathered and distributed at either low or no cost. He acknowledged that the proposed plots at the bridge park would be mostly for demonstration, but the park could also serve as another food distribution point. Ms. Delplace expressed appreciation for the information, observing that urban agriculture is an important component of the design.
Mr. Cook said he has been following this project closely as a resident of the city, and it will be a great and needed addition. He congratulated the team for the idea of the project and for the stakeholder engagement plan that has resulted in numerous community meetings since the project’s inception. He asked about the size of the Capitol Overlook, commenting that it appears small and might benefit from expansion. Mr. Guinther said the 20-foot width of the Capitol Overlook was determined by the bridge park’s narrow landing area between the Navy Yard and the vehicular bridge, as well as the need to accommodate emergency vehicles. Mr. Cook acknowledged that the dimensions have been studied, but he suggested further consideration of expanding the overlook.
Mr. Cook asked how noise from nearby traffic would be managed in areas such as the amphitheater and central plaza. Mr. Long said some areas would have acoustic soffit panels, but these would be limited to keep the structure of the bridge exposed to allow for inspections; other methods for noise dampening and visual screening include plantings and the grade difference between the pedestrian and vehicular bridges. Mr. Guinther added that moving the amphitheater to a location off the bridge helped address issues of noise, as well as access and flooding. Mr. Cook asked for the park’s operating hours; Mr. Guinther said that similar to other D.C. parks, it would remain open for people to walk through after dark but would be monitored at all times by rangers, while the irrigation system would run overnight to discourage loitering.
Mr. Moore thanked the project team and commended the long and involved process undertaken to create a new and hopefully more equitable public space in D.C. He said many of the proposed elements appear to be working quite well in bringing some innovation to the design. Noting that the project is at the final design stage, he offered some larger comments and questions that could be addressed in the detailing. He observed that the project is focused on social and health considerations, with the idea of connecting communities and addressing issues like health disparities. Therefore, some details of the project should be further evaluated to ensure that its design is truly inclusive. For example, during the presentation it was difficult to find any benches in the design; while benches are featured in a few locations, the lack of regularly spaced benches would be problematic for the young, old, and those with mobility issues who may need places of respite when traversing the lengthy inclined walkways of the bridge park. He recommended further study of the entire project in order to provide more seating at reasonable and consistent intervals, and he advised including backs and armrests on the seating throughout the project, which he described as “three football fields’ worth” of public space that is not fully accessible. He emphasized that this bridge park is a place for people, not for cars, and he requested that his comments be explored during further development of the final design; he also suggested reviewing the work of urbanist William “Holly” Whyte on how people use public spaces.
Mr. Moore commented that the hammock grove would be an attractive feature in the park, but the presented rendering suggests that the design may be problematic: the person in a wheelchair shown in the image would not be able to easily access the interior seating area because of the turf underneath the benches, and the space would therefore not be inclusive as designed. Likewise, he said the amphitheater—a space of gathering that would attract a broad community to different activities and programs—seems similarly difficult to access for those who have mobility issues or use wheelchairs or even baby strollers; for example, a woman with a stroller is shown seated in the amphitheater space, but it is not apparent how she would have gotten there on the narrow paths. He emphasized that he commends the project’s overall architecture, landscape, and engineering; but considering the large investment of time, money, energy, and power needed to design and construct the project, there is a responsibility to make the project inclusive for the whole population. Ms. Boyce responded that a complete site furnishing plan has been prepared, but it was not included in order to keep the presentation brief. She said seating would be provided on the bridge deck and throughout the park; and the amphitheater would have accessible seating for those with mobility issues at the top and bottom of the space. She said these topics are important to the project team and would be pushed further in the design. Mr. Moore expressed appreciation for her response and said the addition of gender- and family-inclusive restroom facilities should also be considered.
Dr. Edwards said she has also been following the project for quite some time and applauds the project team for its community engagement, which has allowed people’s voices to be heard. In support of Mr. Moore’s comments, she said she is concerned about the accessibility of the project for those who are not able-bodied, as well as for their caregivers. She asked how people would arrive at either end of the bridge and if there would be drop-off areas. Mr. Kratz said there are several busy bus lines that use the adjacent vehicular bridge and that have stops at each end of the bridge park. In addition, there are drop-off locations on each end, as well as handicapped parking on the east side of the river and areas for taxi and ride-share services. He said people would be encouraged to take public transit, and the bridge is within a half-mile of four Metrorail stations. Nonetheless, he agreed that parking is an important issue, and he noted the two large parking facilities associated with office buildings on either side of the river; these garages would be mostly empty on weekends, when park visitation would likely be highest, and the project team has been in discussions with the property owners to arrange for co-use of the garages. He said it is critical that the park is not a bridge to nowhere, and that it is deeply connected to the adjacent neighborhoods. He added that his organization runs the annual Anacostia River Festival, located in the vicinity of the proposed bridge park, and the event has been helpful in piloting programs and observing how people are getting to and from the area.
Dr. Edwards asked for more information about the connections and barriers between the new park and the local roads and vehicular bridge. Mr. Guinther said the walkways leading from the local roads to the park would be accessible; in addition, the lower section of the bridge park would be lower than the vehicular bridge, which would help with acoustics. Dr. Edwards asked if air pollution from the vehicular bridge would be mitigated by selected plantings; Ms. Boyce said the design team would focus on this as part of the final specifications.
Secretary Luebke summarized that several issues have been raised regarding the design and documentation; observing that the Commission appears strongly supportive of the project, he said the Commission could approve the final design with the condition that the questions regarding accessibility and plant materials are resolved. Chair Tsien agreed that there is strong support for the project, and that the planning is both “visionary and wise.” She said many of the Commission’s questions are probably addressed by work that has already been done but was not included in the presentation. She suggested that the Commission approve the final design with the comments provided, and the staff could work with the project team to address the issues raised in the review; the project would not have to come back to the Commission for another presentation.
Mr. Moore offered a motion to approve the final design, with the condition that the issues raised regarding accessibility, seating, and planting palette be further documented and potentially developed further in the design, and that completion of the final review be delegated to the staff. Upon a second by Mr. Cook, the Commission adopted this action. Secretary Luebke said the staff would summarize the Commission’s comments and action in a letter and coordinate with the applicant to complete the final review; he noted there is always the option to bring the design back before the Commission to address any problems that arise.
D. D.C. Department of General Services
1. CFA 15/SEP/22-4, Lorraine H. Whitlock Elementary School, 533 48th Place, NE. Renovations and additions to building and landscape. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 21/JUL/22-7) Secretary Luebke introduced a revised concept submission for renovations and additions to the Lorraine Whitlock (formerly Aiton) Elementary School, located in the Kenilworth neighborhood. He noted that the Commission approved the concept in July 2022 with several recommendations for developing the design. In the concept review, the Commission members emphasized the school’s relationship to its natural context, particularly on the north side facing the parkland along Watts Branch. They also recommended reducing the variety of fenestration and of horizontal lines; simplifying the material palette by eliminating the concrete blocks and metal panels to focus primarily on the use of a uniform red brick; and avoiding large areas of glass, which could be prone to bird strikes. He said the applicant team has returned with a revised concept that addresses these comments and features refinements that include a new facade treatment in red brick, with a lighter brick used for emphasis, and with smaller areas of uninterrupted glazing.
Mr. Luebke asked Chris Jenkins, the project coordinator with D.C. Public Schools (DCPS), to introduce the project team. Mr. Jenkins said the project is a collaboration among DCPS, the D.C. Department of General Services, and the design-build team of Studio MB and Gilbane. He asked architect David Bagnoli of Studio MB to begin the presentation; Mr. Bagnoli introduced architect Sasha Petersen of Studio MB and landscape architect Adrienne McCray of Lee & Associates.
Mr. Bagnoli presented the concept and revisions for the building, noting that the landscape has been only slightly modified since the July presentation. He described the existing building, which includes a four-story classroom structure of 50,000 square feet and a wing on the northeast containing a multipurpose room that is too small for the needs of the school. This wing would be demolished and replaced with a 25,000-square-foot addition that would have extensive windows to provide plentiful daylight and take advantage of views of the expansive green field to the north, which adjoins an east–west greenway along Watts Branch. He said the configuration of the new addition would also address the curving alignment of 49th Street, the major approach into the neighborhood. The classroom building along 48th Street would remain, along with the main lobby to the north with its distinctive exterior stone wall, in compliance with guidance from the D.C. Historic Preservation Office.
Mr. Bagnoli said the south side of the two-story addition would have a projecting one-story volume containing the school library and connecting to the existing main lobby; a rooftop terrace would be located on top of the library. The remainder of the addition would contain the double-height gymnasium, the lunchroom, and several classrooms. He said the civic gesture of the large gymnasium facing 49th Street has been modified at the request of the Commission, with a sharp reduction in the amount of glass to allow the massing and material to suggest the program. The gymnasium would have continuous windows on the first floor and punched windows above; this relationship would be reversed for the rooms to the west of the gymnasium.
Ms. Petersen presented the changes to the material palette, responding to the Commission’s previous advice to simplify the materials to a single brick and reduce the large areas of glass. At the suggestion of the Commission, the project team studied other brick precedents, including Aalto’s town hall at Säynätsalo, Finland, which uses a single material to express different building program areas through simple changes in volume and fenestration; other precedents also emphasize the monolithic nature of this material and define the program with varied types of fenestration. The revised design of the addition uses a single variety of brick to articulate the new volume as a strong sculptural form, to articulate different program areas, and to suggest a sense of movement across the facades through textures, patterns, and projections, augmented by the occasional use of other materials such as metal reveals. She illustrated how a panel of rough-textured brick above the long stone wall at the primary entrance would suggest the volume of the old multipurpose room and would provide a contrast to the smooth brick skin of the new addition behind it; Mr. Bagnoli said that this detail was added at the request of the D.C. Historic Preservation Office. Ms. Petersen added that the glass-enclosed connecting corridor at the second story would be stepped back from the existing volume of the main lobby.
Ms. Petersen presented perspective views and described further how the addition’s facades have been simplified to have only two different types of fenestration: vertical punched openings on the bigger volumes of the gymnasium, cafeteria, and library, and long ribbon windows to create a horizontal rhythm and movement on the classroom facades. Windows on the north would provide views to the lawn and the greenway of Watts Branch, and the gymnasium would have ground-level access to this outdoor recreation area. She added that the red brick proposed for the addition would be darker than the brick on the existing building to compliment it while defining the addition by a slight contrast in tone; the brick would also contrast with the main entrance’s stone wall, which would be an important transitional element between the two building masses.
Ms. Petersen indicated how the addition’s curved form would define the north side of the broad landscaped area and entry plaza leading from 49th Street to the new secondary entrance at the rear of the existing lobby, with outdoor classrooms and play space for the child development center extending south along the existing classroom building. She noted the intent to construct a solar photovoltaic structure above the outdoor classroom to help reach the net-zero energy goal for the school; however, the photovoltaic structure would not be built at this time because of cost constraints, and it will instead be installed in the future when funding allows. As a temporary replacement, the current proposal is to place sailcloth shading structures above the outdoor classroom.
Ms. Petersen said the landscape on the north is designed to fan out from the addition; hardscape play areas near the building would shift to playing fields further north near the woods along Watts Branch. Mr. Bagnoli reiterated that the landscape design has not changed much from the previous presentation; he noted that landscape architect Adrienne McCray is available to answer any questions.
Chair Tsien thanked the project team for its focused presentation, and she invited comments from the Commission members. Ms. Delplace complimented the team on its presentation, and she asked for clarification of the proposal to place sailcloth shading devices above the outdoor classroom while deferring the installation of solar panels. Mr. Bagnoli responded that sailcloth devices are often used at DCPS sites to shade play areas, and the solar panels will be installed at a later date when funding is available. He said the infrastructure to support a solar array will be installed as part of the current project to construct the addition, although the foundations for the solar array would not be built now because the size may change by the time of installation. Ms. Delplace asked when the solar panels will be installed. Design manager Renee Pean of DCPS responded that this has not yet been determined; she added that the temporary sailcloth devices would occupy approximately 30 percent of the solar array footprint that is depicted on the plans. She said DCPS will work closely with the project team on finding sailcloth panels that are aesthetically compatible with the design.
Ms. Tsien commented that at the previous review, she had thought the clarity and coherence of the massing was obscured by too much articulation, but now the use of a single brick allows “the soul of the building” to come through. She thanked the project team for its responsiveness to the Commission’s commentary and said she hopes it aligns with their intentions.
Mr. Moore also commended the improvement made to the design through the use of a simplified material palette. He agreed that the change reveals an integrity in the design of the addition, as well as creates a better dialogue between the new addition and the original building. He commented that one of the big issues of the design is how the addition will meet the street, which involves thinking about the approach and experience of pedestrians. Although he said he appreciates the many precedent images of brick buildings and textured brick, he observed that the brick at the level of the pedestrian, comprising approximately the lower 15 feet of the facades, is rendered as plain, smooth brick. He suggested that the lower wall areas of the addition along 49th Street present opportunities for the use of brick with texture, detail, and tactile qualities that will differ from the smooth brick surfaces above; he said this is a common relationship. However, it is reversed in the proposed design, where the texture appears only at the upper-story walls, and he recommended further study of this condition.
Secretary Luebke summarized that a few questions remain about the revised concept design, in particular Mr. Moore’s comment about the treatment of the brick base. He noted that the staff and the design team had discussed various options for the configuration of smooth and textured brick, and there may be a way to include texturing in the lower areas as suggested by Mr. Moore. He said the Commission members could delegate review of the final design to the staff, or could ask to see the design again; potential remaining issues for review include further developments to the landscape design, such as the question of the temporary replacement of solar arrays with sailcloth shading devices. Chair Tsien said the question of solar arrays is less dependent on the architects than on factors outside their control, so she does not think this issue should affect the Commission’s approval. She suggested approving the revised concept with the comments provided and delegating further review to the staff. Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission adopted this action.
2. CFA 15/SEP/22-5, Ward 8 Senior Wellness Center, 1700 Q Street, SE. New building and landscape. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 21/JUL/22-6) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
E. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
SL 22-162, Portals I, 1250 Maryland Avenue, SW. Renovations and additions to existing 8-story office building for residential use. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the first of two cases forwarded by the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, noting that this agency will soon be renamed the D.C. Department of Buildings. The proposed renovation of the Portals I building is within the Portals complex at the southwestern end of Maryland Avenue, which is highly prominent from a distance to the southwest and northwest. He said that the Commission has recently reviewed the initial development of other sites at the Portals that have reflected a long-term change in use from commercial to residential. The Portals I building was completed in 1992 and designed by the prominent local architect Arthur Cotton Moore, who died very recently; he noted that Mr. Moore had also designed the Washington Harbour development in Georgetown.
Mr. Luebke said the concept design proposes to convert the existing eight-story Portals I building from office to residential use; it includes the addition of two new stories plus an occupiable penthouse and also proposes the complete recladding of the facades. The existing, largely masonry building, together with the existing Portals III Building across Maryland Avenue, forms the primary architectural portal to the Portals complex by means of a pair of overscaled arches that spring from the buildings’ roof level. He said the proposed redesign for Portals I reinterprets the formal gesture of a curved arch with a squared-off form that establishes a design approach for recessed balconies across the facades. The renovated facades would generally be configured as a double-height masonry grid with an articulated metal and glass infill, with retail frontage along the circle at the center of the Portals complex. The additional floors on Portals I would be differentiated by being stepped back to acknowledge the original massing and governing lines of the Portals buildings and its neighbors, particularly the adjacent Mandarin Oriental Hotel to the west. He said the presentation will include four options for articulating the facades. He asked architectural historian Jonathan Mellon of the law firm Goulston & Storrs, representing the building’s contract purchasers, Lowe Enterprises, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Mellon noted the profound influence of Arthur Cotton Moore’s work on the District of Columbia. He expressed the project team’s appreciation to Mr. Luebke and the Commission staff for their help in refining the design. He introduced architect Hany Hassan of Beyer Blinder Belle to present the design.
Mr. Hassan described the context of the building, which is located along Maryland Avenue between the U.S. Capitol and the Jefferson Memorial, along the southeastern edge of the traffic circle that forms the western terminus of Maryland Avenue within the Portals. He described the architectural character of the existing Portals I building as somewhat consistent with the other buildings of the complex; all of the buildings, including some that are recently proposed or constructed, have a similar character. He said the proposed redesign would also complement this character in its conversion from office to residential use, which includes the additional floors and the modification of the exterior envelope. He said an important characteristic of the new building is its height, noting that the Portals complex has a variety of roof heights because of differences in elevation among the sites.
Mr. Hassan presented side-by-side comparisons of different views to the complex, comparing the existing condition with the different facade options. In particular, he said the views along Maryland Avenue illustrate how effectively the proposed square arch feature would complement the existing arch on Portals III in framing the vista.
Mr. Hassan presented sections illustrating how Portals I would relate to its surroundings, particularly to Portals III on the north. He noted that Portals I is set back from the adjacent Portals II on the southeast and is slightly set back from Maryland Avenue on the north. The massing of Portals I gives it an important presence on the circle, on Maryland and Maine Avenues, and in many views; he described its massing as being compatible with its context, even in distant views. The addition of the new floors would bring Portals I to essentially the same height as Portals III, and it would be several feet lower than Portals V, a building which will soon be built to the northwest. He said that Portals I has a lobby and vehicular access to a parking garage and loading area at a lower level on the south side, as well as a lobby facing the circle at Maryland Avenue.
Mr. Hassan said the building’s original massing would be reflected in the design of eight floors with a pronounced articulation, and he described the four options for the material treatment of the facades, which differ in their treatment of the three added top stories—the 9th and 10th floors plus the penthouse level. The first option uses a simple palette with concrete or stone trim and glass, similar to the existing masonry scheme. The second option, also using masonry trim and glass, begins to articulate the top stories, including the large square forms. The third option introduces metal and glass at the top stories, while the fourth option, which he said is preferred by the project team, proposes to frame the entire rooftop composition in metal. The addition of the three stepped-back upper floors would emphasize the large square form proposed to replace the existing curved arch, which appears at two locations: facing Portals III across Maryland Avenue and adjacent to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Maine Avenue. At the latter location, its use of masonry and metal would relate it to the metal mansard roof of the hotel on the west, and on the east its cornice lines would visually connect with those of the adjacent Portals II. Generally, the existing 8-story form of Portals I would be maintained, including the location of the drop-offs and curb cut at the curving front, emphasized by the setback of the top stories.
Chair Tsien thanked Mr. Hassan for his presentation. She commended the proposed redesign of the Portals I building, which she called a transformation that respects the structure while correcting a facade that is problematic, particularly because of the over-scaled decorative arches. She expressed appreciation for the decision to simplify the exterior based on an understanding of the underlying structure, commenting that this is most clearly expressed by the project team’s preferred cladding system, Option 4. She observed that the use of metal cladding for the stepped-back upper stories would avoid the appearance that they are simply an extrusion of the existing building. In conclusion, she said the challenge of redesigning this building has been carried out carefully and with finesse.
Mr. McCrery expressed his agreement and said the redesign will be an improvement on the existing building, giving it the dignity appropriate for a structure in Washington. Mr. Cook also agreed with his colleagues, including their preference for Option 4. He commented that the vertical expression shown in the rendering of Option 4 looks slightly heavy, but this option is nonetheless the right direction to follow; he suggested the expression could be lightened in design development. He asked for clarification of the description of the facade materials as “precast or masonry,” noting that this could mean different things; Mr. Hassan responded that the building should be a material other than brick—either concrete, stone, or concrete with stone trim—to achieve the appropriate scale and articulation. The intent is for a simple but crisp expression without a great deal of articulation; as an example, he indicated a rendering that he called somewhat too detailed in its recesses and other details. He said a minimal treatment featuring detail with sharp edges would be a stronger solution.
Mr. Stroik expressed appreciation for the recognition of Arthur Cotton Moore, but he observed that this project will result in a new building that will obliterate Moore’s design. He commented on the value of the photographic before-and-after context images, noting that the views of the Portals complex looking from the Tidal Basin to the Capitol will be important marketing images, and the location will provide an amazing view for many of the building’s residents. Noting the circle at the center of the complex, he observed that the Portals is one of the few urban designs with a figural space to have been created in Washington in the last fifty years, and he is glad to see the complex being completed. However, he observed that the new design would not look particularly residential, and he suggested consideration of refining the design to suggest the change in use.
Mr. Stroik asked whether it would be possible to create the impression of a base on the facades; he indicated the slight thickening of the lower stories on several of the other Portals buildings, such as Portals III, which suggests a solid base. He commented that the proposed design seems to be just a framework that goes straight up from grade level without any change in articulation, either at the entrance or where the building meets the ground. Mr. Hassan responded that a major goal of the conversion is to bring life to this area by attracting more residents; additionally, the new owner of the adjacent hotel hopes to draw new retail businesses to the lower-level frontage near Maine Avenue. He said the intent for the Portals I building at this lower-level frontage is to create an elaborately detailed metal canopy to emphasize the building’s base; more generally, the design of the base and the new top of the building could introduce more articulation through the use of detailed metal canopies or awnings to differentiate these areas.
Chair Tsien summarized the apparent consensus to support the concept; she said that the Commission looks forward to the next review. Noting the project’s scale and complexity, Secretary Luebke suggested that the concept approval include a request for a further concept submission as the design is developed, in order to help the project team minimize risk during the review process, and allowing the Commission to engage further on questions of materiality at a relatively early stage. Afterward, if the design is progressing successfully, the final design could potentially be listed as an appendix item. Chair Tsien expressed support for this procedure; upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Cook, the Commission adopted this action.
Old Georgetown Act
OG 22-189, Georgetown University, 3700 O Street, NW. Partial demolition of Henle Village and construction of two new residence buildings. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the proposed changes to the Henle Village dormitory complex within the campus of Georgetown University. The site is in the northeastern area of the campus and southeast of the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, whose expansion is currently under construction. The west side of the site fronts on the north–south spine of the Georgetown University campus, which is intended to become a “student life corridor” for the university. The southwest corner of the site is at a prominent intersection of circulation routes through the campus, with a diagonal walk leading southeast to the historic quadrangle that faces 37th Street. A recently constructed dormitory, Arrupe Hall, is located to the southeast along the diagonal walk. On the east, the project site backs onto the sports field at the rear of the Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School campus; from 35th Street in the Georgetown neighborhood, the proposed dormitories would be distantly visible across the sports field.
Mr. Luebke said that the proposed dormitory construction, as well as Arrupe Hall, is part of the university’s 20-year campus plan, which includes a public commitment to provide more on-campus student housing. The existing Henle Village buildings, which would be demolished, are at a relatively small scale and are inwardly focused toward an interior courtyard; the proposed dormitory complex would be larger and outward-facing, helping to activate the student life corridor. The proposal is intended to be consistent with the prevailing character of the campus buildings, including the massing, details, and material palette of brick and stone.
Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission’s Old Georgetown Board has reviewed the project twice and recommends approval of the concept. The Board’s comments include a request that the design draw more directly on architectural precedents seen throughout the campus; further development of the elevations, particularly on the east, to create a more integrated overall design; and improved treatment of stone at the building entrances, particularly on the north. The Board has otherwise supported the proposed architectural expression, including the fenestration, projecting bays, articulation at the top of the building, and other design details, as well as the proposal to retain parts of the existing building and the trees on the site. He said the Board’s report has been distributed to the Commission members, and the Commission’s action should be to adopt, amend, or reject this report.
Mr. Luebke asked Jonathan Mellon, an architectural historian with the law firm representing the university, Goulston & Storrs, to begin the presentation. Mr. Mellon expressed appreciation to the Commission staff for its assistance and to the Old Georgetown Board for its guidance in helping to refine the design. He noted that the project is an important piece of the broader plan for the redevelopment of the campus. He introduced Kevin Smith of Robert A.M. Stern Architects to present the design.
Mr. Smith said that today’s presentation is the same design that was reviewed by the Old Georgetown Board earlier in the month. He provided an overview of the campus context. He indicated the north–south spine of the campus along the west edge of the site; it is currently a service corridor called Tondorf Road, but it is envisioned as a pedestrian greenway that will be an important part of student life. Improvements currently underway along this spine include the expansion of the hospital to the northwest and the construction of a large, landscaped plaza at Reservoir Road to serve as a major node along the northern part of the student-focused spine. Indicating the diagonal path that intersects the spine at the project site’s southwest corner, he emphasized the importance of the site within the overall campus.
Mr. Smith presented several photographs of the views toward the site, which would be only barely visible from Reservoir Road on the north and 35th Street on the east; he characterized the project as largely internal to the campus. He indicated the existing edge of Henle Village along Tondorf Road; the frontage is a raised planted area along this service road, and he described this edge as unfriendly and not suitable as a pedestrian experience. He noted that the sports field of the Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School to the east is approximately forty feet higher than the grade of Tondorf Road. The existing Henle Village complex is loosely configured as a row of three buildings that step up the hillside, and he described the character of the complex as an impenetrable series of buildings. He indicated several large heritage trees that were already present when the current complex was built; these would remain and are constraints for the proposed design. Although the university’s initial intent was to demolish the entire complex, the proposal is that a smaller building at the northeast corner of the complex, known as Henle A, would remain because of its proximity to the root zone of one of the heritage trees and also to serve as a memory of the current Henle Village complex. The new construction would stay slightly beyond the root zones than the current buildings that are being demolished; he noted that the study of the site has included probes and scans of the tree roots.
Mr. Smith said the proposed dormitory buildings would be significantly wider in plan than the existing Henle Village buildings; they would be configured as two buildings stepping up the hill toward the north, instead of the current three, and would frame a raised courtyard. He indicated the access toward the site from Reservoir Road on the north, as well as the steps that would lead twelve feet down from the south end of the raised courtyard to a large plaza at the intersection of the student life corridor and the diagonal walk. He said the two new buildings—Henle East and Henle West—would each have a main entrance facing this large plaza.
Mr. Smith presented aerial perspectives, site sections, and topographic models to illustrate how the building fits into the significant grade changes and the wider context. He said the roofline of the proposed buildings would be comparable to or lower than the height of many nearby buildings, and 28 feet lower than the new surgical pavilion. He also noted that the lower three floors of the Henle East building would be below the grade of the adjacent sports field. He presented an elevation drawing along Tondorf Road to illustrate the height relationship of the proposal with the nearby buildings, and he indicated that the new buildings would be twelve feet higher than the Henle Village buildings being demolished. He noted that the regulatory measurement of the proposed building heights would be eighty feet, calculated from the reference point along Reservoir Road. The regulations also call for a 45-degree setback plane measured from the property line; this would not be achieved along part of the east facade of Henle East, and zoning relief is being sought.
Mr. Smith presented the proposed landscape plan, which he said is designed by Rhodeside & Harwell. He said the palette is derived from the context of the student life corridor and the entire campus, including plants, pavement, and site furniture. He indicated the central student gathering space in the raised courtyard, and a quieter, reflective garden underneath the heritage tree to the north, which he said is a 200-year-old oak. The lower plaza adjacent to the building entrances would have granite pavers and a variety of seating; the landscape plan to the nearby landscape to the west is being developed in association with the hospital expansion. On the landscape section drawings, he noted that the heritage trees are taller than the proposed buildings; he described these trees as quite impressive and worthy of great care.
Mr. Smith presented the floorplans, indicating the lower level that would connect the two building entrances and would include a student lounge with extensive glass on the west side facing the student life corridor. He said construction of this partial lower level would require excavation within the hillside. The typical floors would be organized as double-loaded corridors with a series of apartment-style residential units, along with some lounge spaces that would have exterior views. The top floor of each building would have a small outdoor terrace, repeating a popular feature from nearby Arrupe Hall. The roofs of the buildings would have grass areas and solar panels to addressing D.C. regulations; he noted that the solar panels would be low and would not be visible from the ground. Each building is proposed to have two mechanical penthouses, which will require an exception from D.C. zoning regulations; he said the proposed configuration would result in a more open skyline than creating single larger penthouses.
Mr. Smith presented several photographs of campus buildings to illustrate their materials and architectural character, which have informed the proposed design. He said that the only all-stone buildings are those around the historic quadrangle at 37th Street; most other buildings, particularly at the northern end of the campus, are predominately brick. Some buildings have pitched roofs, but those at the northern end of the campus have flat roofs. Some of the more successful recent buildings have towers as well as traditional materials, but they are not designed to copy a traditional building. The campus buildings typically have a low base, a middle with repetitive fenestration, and an attic story or roof zone; the buildings are generally enlivened in various ways with towers and finials. Based on this analysis, the design team developed a series of principles for the project’s architecture. He presented comparisons of the current elevations with those first presented to the Old Georgetown Board in May 2022, indicating how the architectural principles were used to strengthen the design; the proposed base has been lowered, and the skyline has been enlivened with finials. The base would rise higher at the two building entrances and would follow along the stairs to the raised courtyard. The material palette includes primarily brick as well as stone, which would be similar to the stone at Arrupe Hall; other materials include metal panels at the top of the building, suggesting a roof zone, and cast stone trim. A large bay window on each building would look onto the entrance plaza, with views along the diagonal walk. For the east elevation of the Henle East building, he indicated that only four stories would be fully visible above the elevated grade of the Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School’s sports field. He noted the Board’s guidance to further develop this east elevation so that it does not appear as the back of the building or a less important facade; he said this refinement is in progress. He said that historical quotations would embellish the design at the building entrances, and small setbacks and terraces leading up to the raised courtyard would provide students with outdoor areas that look out toward the rest of the campus. He concluded with a view of the west facade, emphasizing the extensive ground-floor glazing that will contribute to the development of the student life corridor, in contrast to the current unwelcoming western edge of the Henle Village complex.
Chair Tsien observed that the proposed complex appears substantially larger than the existing Henle Village, and she asked how many more students would be accommodated; Mr. Smith responded that the existing complex has 470 beds and the proposed project would have approximately 740 beds. He added that the campus plan calls for increasing the on-campus housing by the year 2030. Ms. Tsien reiterated that the massing appears large, particularly in relation to the raised courtyard and the two wings that would frame it. She suggested consideration of reducing the bed count in order to bring more daylight into the courtyard, and she asked if the design team has done sun studies of the courtyard at different times of year. Mr. Smith expressed confidence that the courtyard would receive a substantial amount of sunlight. He noted that the long axis of the space extends to the south, and he said the proposed taller buildings would have better daylight than in the current Henle Village complex. Ms. Tsien emphasized that her concern is with daylight at the ground plane.
Ms. Delplace observed that the illustrated access from the entrance plaza to the raised courtyard is via exterior stairs; she asked about barrier-free access to the courtyard. Mr. Smith responded that elevator access to the courtyard level would be available in both of the proposed Henle buildings, as well as from the existing Darnall Hall building to the north; an exterior route would also be available using the walk leading south from Reservoir Road. Ms. Delplace asked if the raised courtyard is intended to be available to all students or only to the Henle residents; Mr. Smith said it would be open to all students.
Ms. Delplace asked why synthetic turf is specified for two lawn panels along the raised courtyard. Mr. Smith said that these panels are intended for active use such as lawn games or outdoor exercise programs; considering the popularity of these activities and the large number of students using the courtyard, synthetic turf seems advisable. He said that students tend to like this material, and he noted that the rest of the landscape would be real plantings. Ms. Delplace asked if the students would have access to the sports field to the east; Mr. Smith said that it belongs to the adjacent high school, which does not share its facilities with Georgetown University.
Mr. Cook asked for clarification of how the extent of demolition evolved during the project planning, such as originally intending to preserve more of the existing Henle Village buildings. Mr. Smith said the original intent was to demolish all of Henle Village; during the design process, preservation of Henle A was determined to be advantageous, particularly to avoid damaging the existing heritage tree in this area. Mr. Cook asked how Henle A would relate to the new Henle buildings. Mr. Smith confirmed that it would essentially be a leftover piece of the original complex, and it would serve as the northern edge of the raised garden surrounding the heritage tree. He noted that Henle A would also serve to provide a separation between the more active student gathering areas to the south and an area of private townhomes to the north, called the Cloisters, which would be beneficial for the university’s community relations.
Mr. Cook asked for clarification of the proposed height in relation to regulatory limits. Mr. Smith confirmed that the proposed height—reaching a datum of 227 feet—is at the allowable maximum. Mr. Cook noted that the existing Henle buildings step down from east to west, and he asked why the proposed buildings are not following this pattern; he observed that a stepped massing would provide more daylight and a more comfortable pedestrian environment along the student life corridor that is being developed to the west, while placing the taller height to the east along the high school sports field. He acknowledged that a reduction in height on the east could not be offset by additional height on the west because of the regulatory limit on height. Mr. Smith confirmed this constraint, and he added that the proposed configuration of the Henle buildings is intended to provide some distance from the upper massing of the Leavey Center building to the southwest. He said the result is a generously wide space along the student life corridor, with a greater sense of openness and light than at other nearby areas of the corridor. He indicated that the width of open space between Henle West and the new hospital pavilion would be approximately ninety feet. He summarized that the student life corridor would have opportunities for natural light and openness, as illustrated in the perspective drawings and the model. Mr. Cook said the perspective drawings are especially helpful for visualizing the character of the spaces. Mr. Smith said the perspective drawings may make the proposed buildings look very tall, but the context includes the significantly taller hospital building, which does not seem unpleasant in its height. He said the proposed Henle buildings would have the effect of mediating the scale between the center of the campus and the taller heights toward the north end of the campus.
Ms. Tsien asked if perspective renderings of the raised courtyard are available; Mr. Smith said none are included in today’s presentation. Mr. Stroik agreed that more study of the courtyard would be beneficial. He expressed support for the careful attention to many other parts of the project, such as the strong design for the exterior stair ascending from the entrance plaza between the two buildings, as well as the verticality of the projecting bays at the middle floors and the brick pylons at the roofline, which were described as finials. He observed that the proposed design appears to have some of the qualities of other campus buildings, while not including specific features such as gables and towers. He said that some of the campus buildings have a stepped-back upper portion with extensive glass; the proposed Henle buildings suggest the implication of a colonnade, loggia, or porch at the top, and he said this could be an attractive feature that should be developed further.
Mr. Stroik observed that the vertical emphasis of some parts of the proposed facades is not apparent in the long east facade of Henle East, which would serve as a backdrop to the adjacent sports field. He suggested more development of this facade, such as with vertical elements or a balcony, perhaps with the effect of organizing the facade as having a center and two ends. Mr. Smith noted that this was a comment from the Old Georgetown Board, with the goal of designing the east side to look more like a front facade, and he said the design team is already working to address this issue; he clarified that today’s presentation is deliberately limited to the same design that the Board had recently reviewed. Secretary Luebke said that the Board had requested further study to mitigate the somewhat relentless character of the east facade; Mr. Stroik said this is a perceptive recommendation that he supports.
Chair Tsien asked if the Commission members want to see a revised concept presentation at the design development phase. Secretary Luebke clarified that the Commission should also take an action on the Board’s report, which supports concept approval and provides recommendations for developing the design. He said that for relatively large projects, even with an approved concept, the project team may prefer to ask the Commission to review an interim submission to avoid the problem of issues arising at the final design review after investing heavily in the design effort. Chair Tsien emphasized the desirability of reviewing renderings of the raised courtyard space, reiterating that it seems too narrow even if adequate daylight would be reaching the building windows; she said that the ground plane of the courtyard seems to be squeezed by the building masses on either side. She suggested including this request as part of a concept approval action.
Mr. Stroik asked for clarification of the courtyard dimensions. Mr. Smith recalled that the width would be 42 feet at the narrowest points, between the Henle East and Henle West buildings; the central space of the courtyard would be approximately 75 by 80 feet, and the building heights above the courtyard surface would be 65 to 68 feet.
Chair Tsien suggested a motion on the project. Secretary Luebke clarified the apparent consensus to adopt the Old Georgetown Board’s report, with an additional request to provide studies of the raised courtyard space. Mr. Stroik supported this action, which would include approval of the presented concept along with the comments provided. Upon a motion by Mr. Stroik with second by Ms. Delplace, the Commission adopted this action. Mr. Luebke said the staff would work with the project team in developing the design.
F. U.S. Mint
1. CFA 15/SEP/22-6, Congressional Gold Medal to honor “Rosie the Riveter.” Design for a gold medal. Final. Secretary Luebke introduced the design alternatives for a Congressional Gold Medal honoring “Rosie the Riveter,” the collective representation of U.S. women who contributed to the war effort by joining the workforce during World War II. The medal will be presented to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, which may lend it for display at other locations. He asked April Stafford, chief of the Office of Design Management at the U.S. Mint, to present the alternatives.
Ms. Stafford said the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee has not yet reviewed the design alternatives for this medal; the presentation will note the preferences of the Mint’s liaisons, which include a former wartime worker, the daughter of a wartime worker, and the executive director of the Rosie the Riveter Trust. She presented twelve alternatives for the obverse, each featuring five portraits to convey the diversity of women and professions in the wartime workforce. She noted the various preferences of the liaisons for obverses #1, #5, and the related grouping of #8, #8A, and #8B; she added that none of the liaisons object to any of these preferences.
Mr. McCrery offered support for obverse #1, which is one of the liaison preferences. He said the portraits in this alternative are beautifully drawn, and their scale allows for the different races of the women to be discerned. He suggested that the inscription “We Did It,” the iconic slogan that appears in obverse #8B, be included in the composition of obverse #1. Mr. Moore agreed, with a first choice of obverse #1 and a second choice of #8B, which illustrates a variety of industrial equipment along with the women at work. He discouraged the phrase “We Went to Work...” in obverses #8 and #8A, which he said makes the incorrect assumption that the women were not working previously.
Ms. Delplace joined in supporting obverse #1, agreeing that its portraits are beautifully and elegantly rendered. She also expressed support for obverse #8B because it shows the women in the context of their wartime work, conveying the importance of their contribution to the war effort. She said this combination gives a more complete understanding of the topic, instead of depicting the women merely as objects. However, she commented that obverse #8B conveys many messages, and she suggested simplifying the design to emphasize the women in the context of their work.
Secretary Luebke noted that the concerns being raised may be addressed in the reverse design, and he suggested considering the reverse alternatives before finalizing a recommendation. Chair Tsien said the reverse alternatives could be considered in combination with obverses #1 and #8B, the two preferences that have emerged from the initial discussion. She also expressed concern that some of the obverse inscriptions imply that women had a choice of whether to enter or exit the workforce, although in reality they did not—a problem that continues to the present. She said the historical understanding should encompass the great moment in history that is being depicted as well as this ongoing problem.
Ms. Stafford presented twelve alternatives for the reverse design; she noted that all of the liaisons prefer reverse #1, which features a Rosie the Riveter holding a wrench and a rivet, with a background that depicts a military ship, tank, and airplane to represent the variety of equipment being built in American factories. The composition’s border includes a ring of rivets and the inscriptions “Act of Congress 2020” and “1942–1945.” Secretary Luebke observed that reverse #1 may be more suitable as an obverse design because of its presentation of a single portrait, while the obverses being considered may be more suitable as a reverse design due to their more complex compositions.
Acknowledging the unanimous preference of the liaisons, Mr. McCrery offered support for reverse #1, regardless of whether this design is used for the obverse or reverse. He said that portraits on each side of the medal would be acceptable, and he observed that his preferred designs, obverse #1 and reverse #1, may have been created by the same artist.
Ms. Tsien observed that the single portrait in reverse #1 is the iconic image of Rosie the Riveter, and she recommended balancing this image with a version of the various inscriptions beginning with the phrase “Women of Many Races” seen in several of the reverse designs. She expressed support for a pairing that would include beautiful portraits on both sides of the medal, and especially for a pairing that would include multiple portraits on the obverse to convey a diversity of women. She acknowledged the challenge of placing additional text within the composition of reverse #1. Mr. McCrery said he supports these comments, and he suggested considering the obverse for locating the “Women of Many Races” text, in combination with the multiple portraits. Ms. Tsien said her concern is to include this text somewhere on the medal if a single portrait is used, and the Mint should address the compositional issues including the choice of obverse or reverse.
The Commission returned to consideration of an obverse to be combined with reverse #1. Mr. McCrery noted that obverse #1A includes the text that Ms. Tsien is recommending, in combination with a version of the portraits seen on obverse #1; he expressed support for obverse #1A, particularly in combination with reverse #1. He suggested that reverse #1 could include the phrase “Rosie the Riveter” instead of “Act of Congress 2020.” Ms. Stafford said that the “Act of Congress” phrase is traditional for a Congressional gold medal, and is often preferred by liaisons, but it is not required. Ms. Tsien said that either of these short phrases would be acceptable for reverse #1, as long as a longer inscription about “Women of Many Races” is included somewhere on the medal.
Mr. Moore agreed that the inscriptions should be considered carefully. He also observed that the Black woman within the group of five portraits in obverse #1A is shown wearing both a hairnet and a kerchief; while acknowledging that this was done historically, he said that it may be perceived as a troublesome depiction in a modern context. He suggested considering the portraits in other design alternatives for a better treatment of this detail. Mr. Cook agreed that the depiction of the hair for this portrait is potentially problematic, regardless of historical accuracy, and should be reconsidered. Ms. Stafford acknowledged the concern, observing that the hairnet could be omitted while still having a historically accurate portrait.
Chair Tsien suggested concluding the discussion by taking an action. Mr. McCrery offered a motion to recommend obverse #1A subject to the comment on the hair, and reverse #1 subject to the comment for substituting “Rosie the Riveter” for “Act of Congress 2020.” Upon a second by Mr. Moore, the Commission adopted this action.
2. CFA 15/SEP/22-7, Congressional Gold Medal to honor Greg LeMond. Design for a gold medal with bronze duplicates. Final. Secretary Luebke introduced the design alternatives for a Congressional Gold Medal honoring the renowned American bicycling competitor Greg Lemond for his contributions as an athlete and activist. The gold medal will be presented to Mr. Lemond, and bronze duplicates will be available for sale. He noted that several obverse designs depict Mr. Lemond at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, representing his multiple victories in the annual Tour de France race. He asked April Stafford of the U.S. Mint to present the alternatives.
Ms. Stafford said that the Mint has worked with Mr. Lemond in developing ideas for the designs, and he has identified his preferred alternatives. She presented six alternatives for the obverse design and six alternatives for the reverse design, noting Mr. Lemond’s preferences for obverse #11 and reverse #5. Chair Tsien observed that the obverse designs are very densely composed.
Ms. Delplace commented that the medal is well deserved, both for Mr. Lemond’s racing achievements and for his other accomplishments, which include public advocacy. She expressed support for obverse #11 as a compelling design with the iconic image of the winner at the end of the Tour de France race. She also supported reverse #5, with the inspiring inscription for high-level athletes, “It Doesn’t Get Easier – You Just Get Faster.” Mr. McCrery agreed, noting that these choices match Mr. Lemond’s preferences. Chair Tsien said that the preferences of the recipient are an important consideration. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Ms. Delplace, the Commission recommended obverse #11 and reverse #5, consistent with Mr. Lemond’s preferences.
At this point, Mr. Stroik departed for the remainder of the meeting.
3. CFA 15/SEP/22-8, 2024 American Innovation One Dollar Coin Program. Designs for the seventh set of coins: Maine and Missouri. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/JUN/22-7) Secretary Luebke introduced the reverse design alternatives for two coins in the American Innovation series, which honors innovation and innovators from each of the states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories. The series began with an introductory coin in 2018, continuing through 2032, with four coins issued per year. Today’s submission is for the Maine and Missouri coins; designs for the two other coins to be issued in 2024, Illinois and Alabama, were reviewed in June 2022. The continuing obverse for the series is an adaptation of the iconic Statue of Liberty design that has been used on the reverse of the series of presidential one-dollar coins. He noted that the subjects of the designs are developed in consultation with the state governors. He asked April Stafford of the U.S. Mint to present the alternatives.
Ms. Stafford said the governor of each state was asked to propose up to three design concepts, subject to approval by the Secretary of the Treasury; the Mint then asked the artists to create designs based on the approved concepts. She said the Commission does not need to choose a theme but can simply recommend the design that would result in the best coin. The Mint has worked with liaisons and experts from each state in developing the presented designs.
Ms. Stafford said that state officials proposed a single theme for the Maine coin, which was approved by the Secretary of the Treasury: Dr. Bernard Lown, who was co-creator of the direct-current defibrillator as well as an advocate for innovative approaches to public health, drug treatment, coronary care units, and the impact of stress on cardiovascular health. Dr. Lown was also very active in advocacy against nuclear proliferation, and he accepted the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. She said that the Mint staff has been working closely with family representatives, the Lown Institute, and the Maine governor’s office, and she noted that many of the designs emphasize the defibrillator as his best-known accomplishment, in response to the family’s comments. She presented eleven reverse designs for the Maine coin; the family’s preference is for alternative #8, and the governor’s preference is for alternative #1 but with no objection to alternative #8.
Mr. McCrery expressed support for alternative #1, consistent with the governor’s preference. He described this as the most dignified design, communicating Dr. Lown’s innovation through the graphic elements instead of literally depicting the medical implements. He said the three-quarter portrait is also dignified, and he described it as more interesting than the profile or frontal portraits in many of the alternatives. He encouraged more use of a serif font for coin designs, and he said a serif font would be especially appropriate for this coin to complement the quality of the design.
Mr. Moore agreed with the preference for alternative #1 as a simple, clean design that communicates the concept without featuring medical implements. He described this design as the strongest of the alternatives. Ms. Tsien also supported this choice, and she questioned the peculiar character of the alternatives that depict the human body or the heart. She noted his much greater range of achievements, observing that alternative #1 leaves the design open for a wider appreciation of his accomplishments.
Secretary Luebke noted that the obverse design has already been approved and does not require further review. He suggested that a formal vote for the reverse design could be combined with the action on the second coin in this submission.
Ms. Stafford said that a single theme has been developed for the Missouri coin and approved by the Secretary of the Treasury: agricultural scientist George Washington Carver. She presented seven reverse designs for the Missouri coin, noting that no liaison preferences have been provided. She added that the State Historical Society of Missouri has recommended spelling out the full name, which would be problematic for alternative #7 which abbreviates “Washington” as “W.” in a composition that could not easily be adapted to accommodate lengthier text. Several Commission members asked about the background in alternatives #3A and #3B, apparently depicting the wood slats of a fence; Ms. Stafford clarified that the background is intended to depict the slatted wood of crates carrying agricultural produce, while the foreground features a beaker with a germinating plant.
Ms. Tsien expressed a strong preference for alternative #1, which allows for recognition that Dr. Carver was a Black scientist; she observed that the other alternatives instead emphasize farming and agriculture. She said that Dr. Carver’s identity should be part of the coin’s message about innovation by communicating who is doing the innovating. Mr. McCrery agreed, but he questioned the composition of the portrait emerging from the section cut through the earth; he likened this configuration to the carvings at Mount Rushmore or the central statue at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington. He suggested revising the design to better model and complete the back of Dr. Carver’s head.
Ms. Stafford provided the design description for alternative #1: “This artist was endeavoring to feature imagery commemorating the lively, fertile mind of George Washington Carver. An earthen texture is cut away to reveal peanuts and sweet potatoes growing under the soil, and an antique microscope evokes the diligent and scientific inquiry he displayed throughout his remarkable life.” Mr. McCrery said the portrait is rendered well, citing the smile and the perception of a twinkle in Dr. Carver’s eye, conveying the sense of a man of accomplishment; however, he reiterated that the back of the head is problematic. Mr. Cook and Ms. Tsien agreed, and Mr. Moore said that this part of the composition is not successful.
Chair Tsien suggested that the back of the head be defined but not entirely separate in tonality from the section through the earth, which could result in a bifurcation of the design and a sense of too many compositional elements; she said the presented version of alternative #1 has a sense of wholeness and is not too busy. Mr. McCrery said he supports this advice, and he suggested including it as part of a motion to recommend alternative #1.
Secretary Luebke observed that the Commission members are requesting further study of alternative #1 without providing a specific solution for how their concern should be addressed. He noted that the Commission has sometimes requested a follow-up submission from the Mint when a design is considered unsuccessful. Chair Tsien clarified that the Commission is not commenting that alternative #1 is entirely unsuccessful, but is instead requesting a modification of the presented design. Noting the quality of the portrait, she said that the artist is apparently very skillful and should be able to respond to the Commission’s concern.
Mr. Moore asked if the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) would be able to review a revised version of this alternative. Ms. Stafford said that the CCAC, scheduled to meet on 27 September, will review the same designs being presented today, but the Mint staff could describe the Commission’s recommendations and the potential design response. She added that the CCAC meetings tend to include lengthy discussions with the involvement of subject matter experts and technical advisors, including the Mint’s chief engraver, which allows for a vigorous exploration of the issues.
Mr. Moore observed that the Commission is in the unfortunate position of attempting to fix a questionable design, which results from the larger problem of none of the design alternatives being commensurate with such an important figure in U.S. history. He said that alternative #1 is the best of the presented designs, but it would benefit from improvement through the in-depth study that the CCAC could provide.
Secretary Luebke summarized that the Commission could decline to provide a recommendation and instead request a follow-up submission with a revised design; or the Commission could recommend alternative #1 with comments for improving it, which typically would not result in a follow-up submission. Ms. Stafford confirmed that the Mint’s typical process is to provide the Secretary of the Treasury with the comments received from the review bodies, stakeholders, and internal experts. Mr. Moore clarified that he is requesting a modification of alternative #1 rather than a completely new design; Chair Tsien agreed. Ms. Delplace commented that the concerns with alternative #1 go beyond the transition from the hair to the soil; she cited the coarseness in the depiction of the potatoes. She emphasized the importance of this coin and recommended a follow-up submission with a refined design; Mr. McCrery agreed, and Chair Tsien observed that this is the consensus of the Commission. Dr. Edwards said that this coin has special significance for her own family, noting that her mother had been a student at Tuskegee Institute, where Dr. Carver taught, and had worked for the foundation that carries on his work.
Chair Tsien suggested a motion for the two American Innovation coins that have been discussed. Secretary Luebke summarized the consensus to recommend alternative #1 for the Maine coin; and not to make a recommendation for the Missouri coin, instead providing general support for alternative #1 and requesting the submission of a modification to this design that responds to the comments provided. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Cook, the Commission adopted this action.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:43 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA