Minutes for CFA Meeting — 15 June 2023

The meeting was convened by videoconference at 9:01 a.m.

Members participating:
Hon. Peter Cook
Hon. Lisa Delplace
Hon. James McCrery
Hon. Justin Garrett Moore
Hon. Duncan Stroik

Staff present:
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Sarah Batcheler, Assistant Secretary
Jessica Amos
Kay Fanning
Daniel Fox
Carlton Hart
Tony Simon

(Due to the absence of Chair Billie Tsien and Vice Chair Hazel Edwards, Mr. Moore presided at the meeting.)

I. Administration

A. Approval of the minutes of the 18 May meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the May meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Cook, the Commission approved the minutes.

B. Dates of next meetings. Secretary Luebke presented the dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 20 July, 21 September, and 19 October 2023. He noted that no meeting is scheduled in August. The schedule for 2024 will be presented to the Commission next month for approval.

C. Reappointment of Amy Weinstein, FAIA, to the Old Georgetown Board. Secretary Luebke asked the Commission to approve the reappointment of Amy Weinstein to the Old Georgetown Board for a second three-year term, from September 2023 through July 2026. He noted that Ms. Weinstein was initially appointed to the Board in 2020. He summarized Ms. Weinstein’s four-decade architectural career, which includes private practice, teaching, and professional review; her designs for government, institutional, and residential buildings have been widely published and have won more than sixty awards. She is in her third decade as a peer reviewer for the U.S. General Services Administration, and she served for seven years on the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board. He noted that Ms. Weinstein is a native Washingtonian; she received two degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, where she was awarded the Paul Cret Medal, and was elected to the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows in 1994. She has held visiting professorships at several universities.

Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Ms. Delplace, the Commission approved the reappointment of Ms. Weinstein. Mr. Moore thanked her for her past and continuing service on the Old Georgetown Board.

II. Submissions and Reviews

A. Appendices

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. Hart reported that one case has been added to the draft consent calendar, resulting in a total of four projects. The additional proposal is to install a wall-mounted sign and four interpretive panels associated with a new exhibit gallery at the Environmental Protection Agency within the Federal Triangle. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Cook, the Commission approved the revised Government Submissions Consent Calendar.

Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported that one case listed on the draft appendix has been removed and is being held open for consideration in a future month (case number SL 23-119). The recommendations for three cases have been changed to be favorable based on the receipt of supplemental materials (SL 23-099, 23-112, and 23-114). Other revisions are limited to minor wording changes and the notation of dates for the receipt of supplemental materials. The recommendations for seven projects are listed as being 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. Stroik with second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act Appendix.

Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Amos reported that no changes have been made to the draft appendix, which includes 22 projects. Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Mr. Stroik, the Commission approved the Old Georgetown Act Appendix.

B. American Battle Monuments Commission

CFA 15/JUN/23-1, Honolulu Memorial Interpretive Center, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii. Modifications and additions to the existing memorial for new interpretive center. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/FEB/23-2) Secretary Luebke introduced the proposal for a symmetrical pair of additions to the Honolulu Memorial, a focal point within the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. He summarized the Commission’s comments in approving the concept submission in February 2023: simplification of the exterior materials palette, with more emphasis on travertine as used in the existing memorial structure; refinement of the entrance facades and portals of the two additions to express these public entrances to subsidiary spaces; and a simpler concrete finish on the other facades to provide a quieter backdrop for a more lushly planted landscape. The revised design proposes exposed-aggregate concrete facades that would be more in character with the existing structure; a series of large downspout elements with stone fins have been added to provide punctuation around the perimeter. The design for the entrance portals includes more substantial travertine surrounds, which would provide a setting for the decorative gates that are being developed as artworks. He noted that the project team’s consultation meetings with the staff have been very productive. He asked Mary Kay Lanzillotta of Hartman-Cox Architects, serving as the executive architecture firm for the American Battle Monuments Commission, to present the design.

Ms. Lanzillotta expressed appreciation for the Commission’s previous comments and assistance in advancing the design process. She identified the location of the two proposed additions toward the rear of the existing memorial, which includes a central chapel flanked by map galleries. The proposed additions would replace the existing public restrooms behind the map galleries; the new additions would be slightly larger, intended to have a quiet design character, and would house exhibit spaces, restrooms, and some administrative offices.

Ms. Lanzillotta presented the revisions to the entrances to the additions, responding to the Commission’s previous guidance to make these more legible as public entrances that are related to the existing memorial. She indicated the more extensive use of travertine in the current proposal, giving slightly more prominence to the entrances; the coursing dimension of the travertine has been increased. Much of the exterior wall surface would be exposed-aggregate panels using basalt in the aggregate material; she said the basalt vertical fins framing the downspouts would provide some articulation and scale for the facades without drawing too much attention. The current proposal for the finish of the panels is intended to be quieter than the more complex patterning of the previous proposal; the joints between panels would provide an additional sense of scale and rhythm, relating to the stone coursing of the existing memorial.

Ms. Lanzillotta said all the entrances would provide barrier-free access; the approach routes have been clarified in response to the Commission’s previous concern, and all visitors would follow the same route. A local artist will be selected to design the entrance gates for the additions; two artists have been interviewed, and a third will be interviewed in July. She anticipated that the artwork proposal will be submitted later in the year for the Commission’s review. She indicated the existing decorative gates at the chapel, which serve as a precedent for the new artwork. She added that the existing green cloth canopies at the back of the chapel would be replaced by glass canopies to avoid blocking views and light from the chapel’s windows.

Ms. Lanzillotta noted that samples of the exterior materials have been provided; Secretary Luebke displayed the samples for the basalt, the concrete panels, and the travertine. Ms. Lanzillotta emphasized the cohesive relationship among the new and existing materials, especially the travertine that very closely resembles the travertine of the existing memorial. She said the paving material at the entrances would match the existing site paving of local porphyry stone, which has a warm color characteristic of Honolulu design.

Ms. Lanzillotta said the landscape proposal has been further refined, making use of an arborist’s report. She indicated the existing trees that would remain along the entrance walks and the memorial’s central plaza; the same types of trees would be planted around the proposed additions, along with other native species. She said the proposed landscape design is similar to the memorial’s original landscape design in the placement of the plantings, but the original plant selections have been changed to be more compatible with the Honolulu climate. She noted that the proposed plantings would be similar to the plantings installed a decade ago when the map pavilions were expanded, as reviewed and approved by the Commission. She characterized the proposed plantings as very lush but generally quiet to avoid competing with the memorial.

Ms. Lanzillotta noted that the design has been developed by FAI Architects, a Honolulu firm, and the submission includes a video presentation of the proposal. Mr. Moore said the Commission members have already been able to view the video. He invited questions and comments on the proposal.

Mr. Cook asked for clarification of the planned artwork at the entrances to the additions. Ms. Lanzillotta said the proposal includes glass entrance doors that would provide a weatherproofing enclosure for the additions; these would be supplemented by outer doors or gates, to be designed by an artist. During public hours the gates would normally be in the open position, set against the adjacent wall, similar to the configuration at the memorial’s existing chapel.

Mr. Moore commented that the proposal is responsive to the Commission’s previous comments, and he expressed appreciation for the refinement of the barrier-free access. He questioned the characterization of the proposed downspouts as a subtle design gesture; while supporting the intention to provide some sense of articulation on the facades, he described the downspouts as overly dominant and heavy-handed, particularly because their form is repeated many times around the additions. He asked for clarification of the technical requirements for the basalt fins, with the goal of minimizing them; Ms. Lanzillotta responded that the detail drawing is included in the submission materials but not in the presentation slides. The proposal includes two thin fins flanking each downspout; the combination of elements may be giving more prominence than intended. The downspouts are functionally needed for draining rainwater; the fins, sized to partially conceal the downspouts, would be made of basalt as seen in the material sample provided to the Commission.

Ms. Delplace expressed general support for the updated landscape design. However, she questioned the proposed extensive use of liriope instead of finding an evergreen groundcover that is native to Hawaii. Ms. Lanzillotta emphasized that liriope is very hardy and could thrive even in areas where foot traffic is anticipated; in comparison, the groundcover installed a decade ago has not been sufficiently durable. She added that liriope, while not native, is not considered to be invasive. She offered to ask the project team’s landscape architect to consider a different planting selection, but she anticipated that liriope would remain the preferred choice.

Mr. Moore suggested a consensus to approve the final design, subject to the comments provided concerning the downspout details and the groundcover selection; the resolution of these comments could be handled by the staff. Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission adopted this action. Secretary Luebke said the staff will work with the project team on these issues, and he noted that the entrance artwork will also be submitted separately for the Commission’s review.

C. U.S. Department of the Army / Arlington National Cemetery

CFA 15/JUN/23-2, Pentagon 9/11 Memorial Visitor Education Center, Columbia Pike between South Joyce Street and South Washington Boulevard, Arlington, VA. New visitor education and conference center. Concept. (Previous: CFA 21/APR/22-1) Secretary Luebke introduced the concept design, submitted by Arlington National Cemetery in cooperation with the Pentagon Memorial Fund, for a visitor center for the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial. The visitor center would be located on land that is becoming available for development as a result of the roadway reconfigurations associated with the cemetery’s Southern Expansion project, which the Commission approved in November 2020.

Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission’s previous comments given at an information presentation for this project in April 2022, when the Commission members raised strong concerns about the impact of the overly expressive and potentially obtrusive design on the character and dignity of the nearby cemetery; the Commission recommended designing a quiet background building that would extend the cemetery’s design language. The Commission had also commented that the architecture appeared to be generated by site constraints and by the linear flight path of Flight 77, with a site organization that over-emphasized the building’s height at the most elevated part of the site and placed the parking area between the building and the memorial.

Mr. Luebke said the current proposal differs substantially from the previous version presented to the Commission. The site plan now proposes to place the building toward the northeastern side of the site, which is at a lower elevation and is much closer to the memorial at the Pentagon, while placing the parking and drop-off area to the southwest. He said this reconfiguration provides a more logical sequence for visitors, who would arrive at the parking lot, enter the upper level of the building on the southwest, proceed to the lower level with exhibit space, and then exit on the northeast to walk to the memorial. The previous proposal for a tall, wedge-shaped roof above the atrium has been eliminated, further reducing the building’s height in combination with placing the building at a lower grade, resulting in less visual impact on the cemetery.

Mr. Luebke asked Agnes Sullivan, deputy director of engineering at Arlington National Cemetery, to begin the presentation. Ms. Sullivan agreed that the design has significantly changed from the previous presentation, and she thanked the Commission staff for providing advice during the revision process. She introduced Jim Laychak, executive director of the Pentagon Memorial Fund, to continue the presentation.

Mr. Laychak said he became involved with the fund after his brother was killed at the Pentagon in the 9/11 terrorist attack. He recalled working with the Commission in creating the memorial, and he said the fund is now focusing on creating the visitor education center. He introduced Steve White of Fentress Architects to present the design.

Mr. White presented a summary of the Commission’s previous comments, which have guided the revision of the design over the past year. He noted that the project is also concurrently undergoing the historic preservation and environmental review processes, as well as review by the National Capital Planning Commission. He also indicated the location of two related projects currently underway in the vicinity, affecting the configuration and context for the visitor center site: the cemetery’s Southern Expansion and the associated Defense Access Roads Project. The relocated alignment of Columbia Pike will form the site’s northern edge; the southern edge is the I-395 highway, S. Joyce Street is on the west, and the viaduct of Virginia Route 27 is on the east, separating the visitor center from the Pentagon and the memorial. He presented an aerial photograph of the area taken from a commercial flight approaching Reagan National Airport, observing that airline passengers will routinely be able to view the visitor center from above, which suggests the need for careful consideration of the roofscape design.

Mr. White said the design team’s initial response to the Commission’s previous comments was to look more carefully at the context, particularly the cemetery, to study the newer and older architecture. He said these precedents have a generally consistent scale of one to two stories, often with horizontal banding and a rhythm of vertical bays; the articulation is expressed through details such as columns, arches, and pilasters. He presented photographs of older examples as well as more contemporary work from the mid-20th century onward. He added that the approved design for the cemetery’s Southern Expansion repeats this prevailing architectural language with a similar scale, often using stone as the building material, with exteriors punctuated by a “staccato” articulation of vertical elements. He said this design analysis has been considered in developing the current proposal for the visitor center.

Mr. White said that another important consideration is the design of the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, with the intent of making the visitor center appear to be related to it but not an extension of it; the visitor center should not overtly repeat any of the memorial’s design elements, to avoid diminishing the memorial’s value. Additional precedents include other memorials related to the 9/11 attacks, and he presented images of the existing memorials in New York City and Shanksville, Pennsylvania; he emphasized their relationships to their sites, their detailing, and their integration of a visitor center with the memorials, while acknowledging that each of the contexts is very different. The design team also considered the Normandy American Cemetery in France, which has a visitor center that was reviewed and approved by the Commission; he cited this building’s quiet character.

Mr. White presented the new site plan, indicating the changed location for the visitor center to the northeastern area of the site; he expressed appreciation for this suggestion, which he said has been helpful in advancing the design. The new location is 300 feet closer to the memorial and 15 feet lower in the topography; he said the relationship to the cemetery is improved, and the parking is deemphasized by placing it on the southwestern area of the site instead of between the visitor center and the memorial. He indicated the circulation patterns for buses, cars, and service vehicles, as well as the trees that would soften the appearance of the parking area.

Mr. White presented the current building concept in comparison to the previously presented design. The previous third floor, with an observation terrace, has been eliminated, and the height of the atrium has been reduced. The proposed facades would have a regular thirty-foot rhythm of vertical elements, intended to break up the horizontal expanse of the building. The atrium remains as a central feature of the visitor center, intended as a void within the solid elements to symbolize the sense of loss resulting from the 9/11 attack. He presented the floor plans, beginning at the upper level where visitors would enter the atrium from the parking lot and bus drop-off area. Some visitors would go to the conference center, which would be located on this level; others would descend through the atrium, via a staircase or elevators, to the lower level where the exhibit area is located, along with restrooms and a small cafe. The layout of the exhibit area would be similar to the previously presented design. Visitors would exit the lower level to walk toward the memorial; he described this linear procession as being simplified from the more complicated visitor sequence in the previous design.

Mr. White presented a site section comparing the previous and current locations for the building; he noted that the top of the building would be 45 feet lower than in the previous design. He indicated the proposed butterfly roof configuration at the lobby: one angle would relate to the downward slope of the hill, while the other angle would be an upward gesture that symbolizes a sense of response and hope. The design of the northeastern facade, closest to the memorial and the Pentagon, is derived from a vertical rotation and upward extrusion of the benches that are a prominent feature of the memorial; he described the result as an interesting, undulating facade that would be elegant and beautiful while providing a subtle gesture relating to the memorial. In reference to Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon, a repetition of the numeral “7” would be suggested as a supergraphic into the facade design and more noticeably on the roofscape, where “77” would be visible to airplane passengers.

Mr. White presented the proposed elevations and exterior materials along with perspective renderings. The facade toward the Route 27 on-ramp would be adjacent to a service area and would not have windows. He said the visitor circulation pattern would be intuitively clear without requiring signage, although some signage would be provided. He emphasized the strong relationship between the visitor center and the memorial, notwithstanding the highway that separates them. The primary exterior material would be precast concrete; its surface pattern would be repeated as a frit pattern on the glass walls of the atrium. The concrete would have a light color, and the exact color and texture would be selected to relate to the nearby construction for the cemetery’s Southern Expansion. The sawtooth configuration of the visitor center’s northeast facade would open the views toward the cemetery, and he indicated the open corner at the upper-level conference center. The facade at the parking lot would not be emphasized, embellished only by some very subtle gestures. He indicated the view from the main entrance toward the Air Force Memorial to the west. The facades would include several types of glass, sometimes configured with a shadowbox or frit pattern or white metal inserts that would protect exhibit areas from sunlight and would avoid intrusive views toward the cemetery; the intent is to give the building an opaque appearance during the daytime. He presented the facade articulation in greater detail, indicating the alternating pattern of precast concrete, glass with an inner layer of metal mesh, and clear glass. He said the more transparent fritted or clear glass of the atrium would emphasize this area as the location for entering the building. In presenting the perspective views, he indicated that the visitor center would not interrupt the view from the Air Force Memorial to the Pentagon.

Mr. White concluded by presenting the landscape design, which is intended to be sympathetic to the context and especially to Arlington National Cemetery. Ornamental and shade trees would be used to soften the landscape, and a series of nodes would mark the progression of visitors toward the visitor center and the memorial, including an entry plaza from the parking area. The site design provides a variety of gathering areas for groups such as visiting schoolchildren. A courtyard area with seating would provide a point of respite and reflection as visitors go to and from the memorial; the design character of this area is still being developed. He noted that the site design meets Department of Defense criteria for setbacks and standoff distances.

Mr. Moore expressed appreciation for the development of the proposal, the responsiveness to the Commission’s previous comments, and the coordination with the Commission staff. He invited questions and comments from the Commission members.

Mr. McCrery expressed support for the reconfiguration of the site plan, which reduces the prominence of the parking area in the visitor experience. He said the lower height of the building and its placement at a lower part of the site reduces the prominence of the building’s profile, allowing the cemetery’s memorials to be preeminent; he said the proper design goal for the visitor center is to have a noble character but to step back within the context.

Notwithstanding these improvements to the massing and site strategy, Mr. McCrery criticized the architecture as uninspiring. He said the cemetery provides precedents of exemplary architecture, but the presented analysis was minimal, reducing these fine examples to banal compositional forms, failing to provide inspiration for the design of the visitor center. He described the presented architecture as having the character of a retail distribution facility, with repetitive bays for loading trucks. He discouraged the use of precast concrete as the primary exterior material, citing the better materials used in the context: high-quality stainless steel at the Air Force Memorial, stone at the Pentagon, and similarly high-quality materials at the Pentagon memorial. He observed that the proposed patterning to be imprinted on the concrete would have the same proportion as bricks, with no relationship to the overall design. He described precast concrete as an inherently inferior material, regardless of the inclusion of crushed stone as part of the aggregate; the porosity of this material tends to attract and hold dirt, a problem that would be exacerbated in this design because no cornice or drip line is included and because the nearby highways will generate pollutants from engine exhaust. He anticipated that the building would soon have dirt as a prominent architectural feature, worsened by water streaks from rain descending across the facades. His reluctant conclusion is that little is salvageable from the architectural proposal.

Mr. Moore invited a response from the project team, particularly concerning the proposed material and the consideration of alternatives. Mr. White said the previously considered material was terracotta, but questions were raised about its permanence, civic character, and sense of monumentality. He disagreed with the characterization of precast concrete as a banal and inappropriate material, observing that it has been used for very high-quality contemporary buildings, such as the Glenstone museum in Potomac, Maryland, and recently constructed U.S. courthouses. He said his firm specifies an additive for precast concrete to address the issues of porosity, mildew, and dirt; he observed that stone can have similar issues, especially on north-facing walls. He said the building is intended to have a modern form, and he questioned whether a cornice would be essential for sheltering the facades from rainwater. He added that the studied precedents from the cemetery encompass a range of architectural styles.

Ms. Delplace asked for clarification of the anticipated visitor progression through the site, including the experience of visitors returning from the memorial to reach the parking area; she suggested adjusting the position of the cafe in relation to this experience and to the double-height atrium. She emphasized the importance of providing a good first impression for visitors. Noting the technical difficulties in hearing Ms. Delplace’s comments, Mr. Moore said the concern may involve giving sufficient prominence to the upper-level entrance from the parking area; Ms. Delplace clarified that her comments relate primarily to the interior layout of the building and the progression of visitors through it in both directions. Mr. Luebke summarized the guidance that the support facilities such as the cafe should be designed as ancillary elements that do not overtake the building’s primary purpose related to the nearby memorial.

Mr. Cook observed that the buses are prominent in the view of the drop-off area at the upper level of the site, in proximity to the cemetery; he asked if unloaded buses would remain at this location or move offsite to wait until the passengers are returning. Mr. White said the intent is for buses to depart after dropping off their passengers, likely to the nearby Pentagon City area; this operational procedure would keep the drop-off area clear for the next buses to arrive. Mr. Cook expressed support for the improved site design and bus circulation, while commenting that the entry sequence seems unresolved. He also questioned the rooftop composition with L-shaped configurations that form the number “77” with green roofs; he observed that these shapes appear to be inconsistent with the pattern of the building’s repetitive bays and the simple linear circulation through the atrium. Mr. White confirmed that the primary intent is to express the form of “77” on the roof to represent the flight number from 9/11; he also noted that this configuration expresses the L-shaped circulation pattern for cars and buses within the parking lot.

Mr. Stroik emphasized the Commission’s concern with the important facade oriented toward the Pentagon and the memorial, which is the purpose of the visitor center. He summarized the reaction that it resembles a car dealership; he described this facade as minimalist but overactive, with repetition that does not have a clear hierarchy. He suggested simplifying its design and making it more harmonious; the building’s two entrances should be articulated more strongly. He acknowledged the merits of precast concrete or cast stone, but he noted that the nearby Pentagon is one of the largest stone buildings in the nation. He suggested consideration of real limestone, which is widely used in Washington and stands the test of time; he described it as a 200-year material, more durable than cast stone.

Mr. Moore expressed support for the comments of the other Commission members, particularly the guidance to simplify some of the design gestures. He agreed that the presented design has a somewhat commercial appearance, and the atrium and entry sequence are not successfully balancing the other design elements. He questioned the adaptation of the memorial’s bench form as the design inspiration for the visitor center facades, which has resulted in problems with massing, materials, and excessive complexity. He joined in supporting the general siting and configuration of the building while requesting further study of the facade design, the materials, and the legibility of the entrances and the atrium.

Observing the lines of bollards that appear in some of the site drawings, Mr. Moore commented that perimeter security may become an important consideration in the site design, and he recommended early consideration of addressing this with landscape features to avoid the introduction of more conspicuous perimeter security elements that would intrude on the visitor experience in this important space. He suggested that the landscape design emphasize generous capacity for the flow of pedestrians to accommodate the large groups that may arrive at the visitor center.

Mr. Moore summarized the consensus of the Commission to support the revised site plan and the general configuration of the building, while requesting further development of the architectural design. Secretary Luebke added that some issues have been raised regarding the site design, and he suggested that no action be taken on the concept submission. He said the project team can consider today’s review to be a significant step forward in the design process, with acceptance of the site plan and general building arrangement; he added that the comments on the interior could be easily addressed, and the primary focus will be on refining the exterior expression including the materials and the entrances.

Mr. Luebke observed that the development of the atrium facades may relate to the larger strategy of designing the facades with repetitive modules, which the Commission has not addressed. Mr. McCrery said that an evaluation of the modularity concept is not yet appropriate; the exterior design needs to be broadly reconsidered, not merely tweaked. He recommended reversing the presented design approach by setting aside the study of inspiring precedents and focusing on the built result for this project. Mr. Moore agreed, emphasizing the need to carefully consider the concept for the architectural treatment of the building’s large boxy volume; he encouraged developing greater emphasis on the atrium space as a legible primary feature for the public.

Mr. Moore summarized the Commission’s appreciation for the progress that has been made, and he urged continued consultation with the staff in refining the design. He particularly cited the improved relationship of the project to the Pentagon, the memorial, and the cemetery. The discussion concluded without a formal action.

D. D.C. Department of General Services

1. CFA 15/JUN/23-3, District of Columbia Archives, Van Ness Street, NW, near International Court, NW (on the campus of the University of the District of Columbia). Demolition of existing Arts & Sciences Library (Building 41) and construction of a new archives building. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the concept design for a new building to house the District of Columbia Archives; the facility would consolidate the D.C. Government’s extensive historic resources, which are currently held at various facilities that have only limited public access and are inadequate for the long-term preservation of these records. The proposed site is currently occupied by Building 41 of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), the former Arts and Sciences Library for UDC’s Van Ness campus. While co-located at the campus, the D.C. Archives would be administered separately from UDC.

Mr. Luebke summarized the context of the UDC campus: it was constructed on twenty acres between 1976 and 1981 with a Brutalist-style design by the prominent Black-owned architecture firm of Bryant & Bryant. Although the campus is a major work by this notable firm, it is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places nor the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites. Building 41, ninety feet tall and encompassing 158,000 square feet, was completed in 1979 as the primary focal element of a core group of buildings arranged around a plaza on top of a two-level below-grade parking garage. This central space, now known as Dennard Plaza, extends east from the front of Building 41, which is quite prominent because it is at the highest end of the plaza; it has a roughly octagonal shape, distinct from the other campus buildings, all of which are rectilinear. While Building 41 is proposed for demolition, the parking below would remain, and the garage’s existing columns would be augmented to support the new archives building.

Mr. Luebke described the proposed building as a composition of nested solid boxes that would contain archival storage spaces, with several glazed, curvilinear elements flowing through and around them, particularly on the east side. A one-story glazed elliptical form at the southeast corner would house public exhibit and reception space. The proposed primary material of precast concrete is intended to reference the prevailing concrete architecture of the UDC campus; the glass and metal elements would relate to the more recently constructed UDC Student Center on Connecticut Avenue, completed in 2016. The proposed archives building would not project as far into the plaza as the existing library, which would allow for a new landscape to be constructed on the building’s east side.

Mr. Luebke introduced Dr. Lopez Matthews, Jr., the state archivist and public records administrator within the Office of the Secretary of the District of Columbia. Dr. Matthews said the proposed building will serve a critical need for the city because the current facility housing the D.C. archives is over 30 years old; this facility reached its capacity in the 1990s, and therefore the city’s records are held in more than a dozen other places in D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Philadelphia, Boston, and St. Louis. The proposed building will serve as both an archival facility and a records center, bringing together all of the city’s records; these dual roles are driving the design of the new building, which will also include the UDC archives. After several studies of archival needs were conducted, the city engaged an architectural team in 2018; the decision to co-locate the building on the UDC campus will create a central place for learning and research related to Washington, D.C. He asked Scott Teixeira and Brian Farrell of Hartman-Cox Architects to present the design.

Mr. Teixeira indicated the project location on the north side of Van Ness Street, west of Connecticut Avenue and at the western end of the UDC campus. He said the design has benefited by consultation with the staff of the Commission and other federal agencies. The project team is supportive of the goals of the UDC Master Plan, which include the improvement of the architectural experience of the campus, as well as the creation of more open space and green space. He described the existing conditions in the vicinity of Building 41, indicating the parking garage’s exit ramp that extends along the western facade of Building 41 and splits the frontage area along Van Ness Street; UDC and the D.C. Department of Transportation propose to remove this ramp. He said the existing pedestrian connection between Van Ness Street and Dennard Plaza is a disorganized and unpleasant experience, so another goal is to create a stronger and more carefully designed connection between street and campus.

Mr. Teixeira summarized the specialized technical requirements for an archival building, resulting in the decision not to re-use Building 41. Archival holdings are stored at a high density that results in greater structural design loads; existing buildings are rarely able to accommodate this weight. The building envelope for an archival building must also meet strict performance requirements in order to maintain the desired interior environment. He observed that the octagonal geometry of Building 41 results in many triangular column bays, which add another layer of inefficiency. The technical analysis of Building 41, which has been vacant for years, concluded that it is not suitable for a new purpose as an archival building, and UDC does not need the building for academic programs. The conclusion is therefore to replace Building 41 with a new archival facility.

Mr. Farrell described the many issues to be considered in the design of the archives building. The D.C. Government has established the programmatic requirements for the building’s size. The removal of Building 41 will have a major impact on Dennard Plaza, and he emphasized the need to maintain an architectural enclosure at the plaza’s western edge so that it continues to feel like an enclosed space. He noted that Dennard Plaza recently underwent a major renovation, including the addition of a new fountain at the plaza’s western edge; this fountain will remain. He said the street wall along Van Ness Street should also be maintained, and therefore the building’s south facade would be aligned with the adjacent buildings along the street. Zoning regulations require maintaining a one-to-one setback from the street, which establishes the building height along Van Ness at approximately 50 feet, similar to the adjacent UDC buildings. Although the proposed building will be located on the UDC campus, it will be a D.C. Government building, and it should therefore have a public-facing entrance. Because of security concerns, the building should have a single point of entrance for all visitors and staff. For these reasons, the main entrance will be located on Van Ness Street instead of along Dennard Plaza.

Mr. Farrell said that the new building would be slightly smaller than Building 41, and it would be generally composed as a series of blocks interconnected by curving glass curtainwall elements. Approximately two-thirds of the interior would be devoted to archival and records storage spaces, which would have strict environmental requirements, including no daylight— resulting in blank, windowless facade areas. Most of the records storage would be placed on the west side, which would have almost no fenestration; the project team has attempted to mitigate the large scale of the west facade through the use of massing and the introduction of some smaller compositional elements. He said the building requires its own dedicated loading dock; service access would be provided via the existing driveway on the west side of the site, and the loading dock would be tucked beneath the building so that trucks will not be visible. To the west of the project site, at the west edge of the campus, he indicated the open field that is almost entirely filled with geothermal wells, precluding any near-term construction of a building in this area; he said that UDC intends to improve this space as a new recreational athletic field in the near future.

Mr. Farrell described how the building’s functional and programmatic requirements have affected the proposed plans and massing. The main entrance toward Van Ness Street would have a security screening zone, and the adjacent large elliptical lobby would include exhibit space. To the west, a large multi-purpose room with seating for 300 people would be used primarily for lectures, training, and other educational activities concerning D.C. history. The main research center would be located to the north, along with a smaller research room for the UDC archives. Archival and records storage areas would be situated on the west and north sides of the second and third floors; staff work areas, labs, and preservation studios would be on the east, expressed in the elevations by the curved glass curtainwall. Finally, the D.C. agency records storage area and its small research room would be on the fourth floor. The rooftop would include some mechanical equipment along with solar panels.

Mr. Farrell said the primary exterior material would be precast concrete panels. All other buildings around Dennard Plaza are precast or cast-in-place concrete, with a buff color and a smoother texture than proposed for the new building, although some have a linear surface texture. The panels of the archives building would have a similar buff color, with a more three-dimensional treatment of surface texture. Some areas would have darker panels, such as at a corner stair tower on the north, and smoother panels would be used at ground level on the west and north sides. The building elevations have been composed as a series of largely solid boxes, connected on the east by the curtainwall; the one-story elliptical form of the lobby would also be located on the east. The research center would have a facade screen wall intended to mimic the texture of the precast concrete wall above. A precast wall at the main entrance would provide a possible location for public art, and raised planting beds would further define this area. The north and west sides of the building would have little fenestration; relief would be provided by cantilevered massing along with some inset or projecting precast panels.

Mr. Farrell presented section drawings to illustrate the building’s placement above the parking garage, and he indicated the setbacks from Van Ness Street. The new building will be similar in height to Building 41, which has larger penthouse structures. He asked Caitlin Olson of Studio39 Landscape Architecture to present the landscape design.

Ms. Olson said the goal of the design is to create a unique space within the UDC campus through the choice of materials and the repetition of site features. The proposed design at Dennard Plaza reflects the curves of the archives building, which in turn complements the elliptical forms of the plaza. A pedestrian connection leading from Van Ness Street would provide access to an entry plaza, the building entrance, and then Dennard Plaza; this connection will allow people to walk through the campus to the Metro station at its east side. A broad stairway would lead from the sidewalk to the building entrance, and an adjacent barrier-free ramp would provide an alternative route for the 1.5-foot grade difference. The small entry plaza near the building lobby would have moveable furniture to activate the space. Along the east side of the walkway, an expansive sunken lawn would face the curved curtainwall of the building lobby; the lawn would include an outdoor stage for events and impromptu gatherings. Behind it would be an area for an urban garden, which is an existing program that may be expanded to additional sites on campus. Farther north, the plaza would split around a series of lush landscaped knolls, a playful gesture providing a contrast with the openness of the sunken lawn; the knolls would also help soften the appearance of the building’s east facade. Where the curving curtainwall begins to recede within the more solid building mass, trees would be planted to create a green backdrop for the plaza. On the building’s utilitarian west side, as many trees as possible would be planted to screen the largely blank wall; areas planted for stormwater bioretention would also be located along the west side. Mr. Farrell concluded with a series of perspective views of the proposal.

Mr. Moore thanked the project team for the presentation. Secretary Luebke read a written comment submitted by Neil Flanagan, who writes that the design places too much emphasis on breaking up the mass of large, windowless spaces, without articulation at other scales, such as windows; this effect is most visible on the west facade. He encourages the study of design approaches where the massing simply presents the impressive physical size of the collection and adds visual interest at a smaller scale. Mr. Teixeira asked if Mr. Flanagan has provided this testimony as a private citizen or as a representative of the D.C. Archives Advisory Group; Mr. Luebke said the submitted comment does not clarify this. Mr. Moore then invited questions and comments from the Commission members.

Noting his respect for the work of Hartman-Cox Architects, Mr. Stroik observed that this proposal is somewhat different than the firm’s other buildings in the city, although he said it may have some resemblance to the firm’s early work. He questioned the relationship of the proposed building to both the UDC campus, which has a generally Brutalist aesthetic, and to the larger context of Connecticut Avenue, which he described as one of the most attractive boulevards in the city, with wonderful large residential and office buildings of different scales and varied materials. Commenting that most people do not consider Brutalist architecture or ensembles of Brutalist buildings to be beautiful, he asked what is the appropriate way to design a new public institutional building on a Brutalist campus—whether the design should fit in with the campus aesthetic, or whether should it go in a different direction to improve the appearance of the campus.

Mr. Teixeira responded that this comment addresses the principal architectural challenge of the project. He said his firm has demonstrated skill in designing buildings in many different styles; its earliest work explored many creative Modernist solutions. He added that Lee Becker, now in his 50th year with Hartman-Cox, is serving as the project’s senior designer and has provided a great deal of advice on this architectural solution. Mr. Teixeira described the challenge posed by the project as the establishment of an admirable civic building for the D.C. Government that will have an appropriate individual identity while also serving as an important building within the UDC campus—compatible with the fabric, language, and material vocabulary of that campus, within the context of a university that has been struggling to attract students and faculty and to maintain relevance, in large part because of its Brutalist architectural style. He said that in the judgment of the project team, it is the institution of the university itself that has historic value, and the design solution should help both institutions—the D.C. Archives and UDC—while strengthening UDC’s enrollment. He said the proposed architectural treatment is a deliberate decision; the project team believes the use of concrete will relate this building to the predominant use of concrete throughout the rest of the campus, but in a different way. The use of more contemporary materials, such as glass and metal, will relate the building to the new Student Center, while being differentiated by the curvilinear geometries of some parts of the facade.

Mr. Cook commented that the siting, orientation, entrance, and loading dock location all make sense. He suggested further study of how to break down the scale of the large windowless mass, particularly on the west facade. He said the large curvilinear glass form on the east facade appears a little odd and not entirely convincing. Observing that both the lobby and the upper-floor special areas are shown as large glass volumes with a very similar scale and treatment, he suggested they be more differentiated. He said the entry area near Van Ness Street appears bisected by the ramp, tending to pull people in different, opposite ways, and he asked for clarification of how this area would work. He observed that the entry area presents the opportunity to create not only a grand entrance to the new civic building but also a grand threshold to the entire UDC campus; he recommended creating a more welcoming, unified entry plaza that would offer stairs and a ramp as equal approaches, and he suggested eliminating some of the proposed plantings to achieve this unified effect.

Regarding the curtainwall areas, Mr. Teixeira said similar feedback had been given by the Commission staff, and the project team will explore further differentiation between the lobby and the staff work areas above, addressing the appropriate level of transparency for the different functions. He agreed there are opportunities to improve the entry area; he noted that the entrance to the building will be set at a slightly lower elevation than the street, which led to the proposed bisected configuration.

Mr. McCrery posed questions about programming and landscape. He asked whether the new building would be large enough to accommodate all of the city’s existing archival records, and how long it could accommodate future growth of accessions. Mr. Teixeira responded that the D.C. Archives does not have a complete accession record for all of its holdings. Following a process developed for estimating both holdings and growth, the building has been planned to accommodate 25 years of growth for the archival collection. The building will also house 25 years of city records, currently held at the Office of Public Records. The expectation is that the records center will eventually be transferred to a separate facility on less valuable land, resulting in a 50-year capacity for the D.C. Archives in this new building.

Mr. McCrery observed that 50 years is also a good time perspective for the landscape design: in 50 years, the new trees will have grown well. Referring to the D.C. Government’s goal to create a 40 percent tree canopy across the city, he said the D.C. Government should strive to achieve this result with its own projects. While the landscape rendering in the presentation clearly indicates the intent to create a robust landscape here, he commented that a much more aggressive approach could be taken to increasing the number of new trees and getting closer to achieving the 40 percent canopy. He agreed that planting trees along the largely blank west facade would improve its appearance, and he suggested that even more trees could be added there. A long line of trees, even a double line at some points, could be planted along the site’s western edge, and more trees could also be planted along the north facade and around the building’s northeast corner, where three shrubs are shown on the plan. He said the additional trees would improve the appearance of the building and also of the campus, helping to screen the most aggressively Brutalist buildings as well as adding to the tree canopy. Finally, he observed that the site plan shows far more pavement than may be necessary; he recommended adding as much plant material to the site as possible, suggesting a 50 percent increase of plantings on the ground plane.

Mr. Moore thanked Mr. McCrery for his comments and said he agrees with most of them. He noted that Ms. Delplace is having some technical difficulties but has indicated that she also agrees with Mr. McCrery’s comments.

Mr. Moore said he also agrees with Mr. Cook’s recommendation to refine the detailing of the glass curtainwalls, and he expressed support for Mr. Flanagan’s written testimony that the new building’s west facade could benefit from simplification. He acknowledged that louvers and other elements need to be in the west facade for functional reasons but suggested further study of this facade’s design and details; the facade should not become more complicated, and visual interest could instead come from a more holistic site strategy that includes augmenting the landscape, particularly through the addition of more trees. Since trees cannot be planted at the loading dock, this is an area where the expanse of the west facade can read as legibly as possible, but otherwise more trees would be beneficial, especially with the 50-year timeline for the building’s life cycle.

Concerning the site plan, Mr. Moore agreed with Mr. Cook’s comments about the need for generosity of space, accessibility, and sufficient walks. He also agreed with Mr. McCrery’s suggestion to increase the amount of grade-level planting. He said the condition of the facade curtainwall hitting a completely paved plaza for such a long stretch would create a challenging urban space, and more landscape elements should be explored in this area. He noted that the sunken lawn would be a beautiful feature, but it should be designed to be inclusive and accessible so that it can accommodate people of different abilities, allowing everyone to share the same spaces and experiences. He summarized that the site plan could be adjusted to create a more equitable public space experience for people visiting the D.C. Archives.

Mr. Stroik expressed agreement with several of the project goals. Referring to the view of Dennard Plaza from the east toward the new building, he observed that most American campuses are centered on a green field or quad, and the addition of plantings and planting beds in this plaza will be appropriate. He noted that the new building had been described as having the function of containing the plaza, and he suggested strengthening this role, perhaps by extending the east facade farther north so that it is centered on the plaza and creates a terminus to the plaza’s west edge that would reduce any perception of the space leaking at the northwest corner. He questioned the convex curve of the glass volume in this facade, commenting that this volume is a surprising choice but could help to mitigate the overall severe appearance of the campus. He observed that the facade design has competing curves—concave below and convex above—and he suggested that an entirely concave facade might look amazing and would help the building fulfill its role in providing a focal point for the plaza.

Following his earlier observations about the beautiful buildings along Connecticut Avenue, Mr. Stroik suggested redesigning the D.C. Archives building in a more traditional architectural style, similar to some of the past work of Hartman-Cox Architects. He said a building with a more familiar style, a more human scale, and more detail would help UDC and the area generally and would be more successful in attracting students and faculty to the university; he noted that the presenters themselves had said the campus design is a deterrent. He suggested that even one building might have a small impact in beautifying the campus if it does not imitate the existing Brutalist buildings but is designed instead to be more compatible with the typical architecture along Connecticut Avenue. He suggested adding a needed human scale to this campus by constructing a building of red brick and stone of a color that would harmonize with concrete, with a design that would break down the large scale of the other campus buildings. He acknowledged that this is a radical request and not the desired direction, but he emphasized that instead of the proposed design, he believes a beautiful building on this interesting campus would do more for UDC and for the wider neighborhood.

Ms. Delplace generally agreed with the comments of the other members. She suggested providing more information about the proposed character and organization of the overall campus landscape. She said she does not believe one building will change the character or beauty of the campus; she considers the existing campus to be interesting and said it may be appreciated as more attractive in the future. She observed that an important perspective for any campus is the experience of walking through it between buildings, as on the traditional quad, which she called the quintessential part of campus design; students typically remember the experience of walking across a campus on tree-lined walkways. She suggested considering whether UDC should become more like a classic American campus, perhaps creating a more robust green planted landscape to strengthen the campus design and add beauty. Observing that the proposal shows one plaza next to another, she expressed strong support for Mr. McCrery’s recommendation to add many more trees and plantings to make the plaza as green as possible, which she said would clearly benefit UDC.

Mr. Stroik noted that Ms. Delplace has provided very helpful comments about the ideal of a campus layout and the need for additional plantings to create this image of a green campus. He emphasized that the UDC campus would benefit from having a beautiful green quadrangle and additional green areas. He suggested eliminating the large paved areas, instead creating a green campus with walks, like a traditional American campus; he said this could go a long way to improving and beautifying the campus. While this suggestion may be outside the scope of the D.C. Archives project, he said that architects have to propose good things to their clients, and he would suggest these improvements for Dennard Plaza. Mr. Teixeira noted that Dennard Plaza had recently been renovated with generous donations, and a study of transforming it may not be welcome at this time, but he offered to discuss the comments with the development partners.

Mr. Moore noted the apparent consensus that the Commission is not yet ready to take an action on this submission. He summarized the comments about adding plantings; further study of architectural detail and adding human scale; and considering the pedestrian experience and inclusive accessibility. He said these comments should set a good direction as the project team continues consultation with the Commission staff.

Ms. Olson provided a clarification concerning the number of trees. While agreeing with the recommendation to plant more trees, she said that for reasons of safety and security, trees cannot be planted within fifteen feet of this building; however, the design team will look at adding more trees away from the building and within the plaza. Secretary Luebke noted a broader issue for the campus is that Dennard Plaza and its surrounding buildings are built on top of the parking garage structure, which constrains the type and amount of planting. Mr. Teixeira added that the project is subject to the design regulations and standards established by the National Archives and Records Administration for archival buildings. He said the fifteen-foot standoff zone also includes a prohibition against putting planted areas against the building, instead requiring a two-foot-wide gravel or paved area around an archival storage building to control moisture and manage pests. Another consideration for the D.C. Archives building is accommodating ventilation for the underground garage, and the building would essentially be situated on top of another structure. He said the project team supports the recommendation to make the site as green as possible, and every opportunity for this will be identified, subject to accommodating the technical limitations imposed by the program and the below-grade conditions; the project team will balance the Commission’s guidance with the technical constraints to improve the concept design.

Mr. Moore said the Commission would appreciate further study of all these points with an understanding of the constraints, and he thanked the project team for its presentation. The discussion concluded without a formal action.

2. CFA 15/JUN/23-4, Alice Deal Middle School, 3815 Fort Drive, NW. Construction of a new three-story addition and associated sitework. Concept. (Previous: CFA 18/MAY/23-2) Secretary Luebke introduced the submission by the D.C. Department of General Services, on behalf of D.C. Public Schools (DCPS), of an updated initial concept design for a new three-story addition and associated site work at Alice Deal Middle School. The site is located in Washington’s Tenleytown neighborhood adjacent to the federal parklands of Fort Reno. He said that at last month’s review of the previous proposal the Commission raised strong concerns, particularly regarding the continuing ad-hoc approach to the construction of additions to the city’s largest middle school, and also identified problems of documentation for the proposal. He said the Commission asked for further study of numerous items: the window alignments and proportions; the color and texture of the brick in relation to the existing school complex; the character of the curtainwall system, which was found to lack articulation and may appear too commercial in character; the projecting form of the glazed corner bay, which introduces yet another architectural gesture and works against the goal of knitting together the accumulated additions; and the questionable reliance on an exterior walkway as the primary access to the new classrooms.

Mr. Luebke said this month's presentation is intended to document the design as requested, and it includes elevation drawings showing the full sweep of existing and proposed facades. Several changes have been made to the design: the reduction of the entrance volume between the cafeteria and the new addition by one bay to allow more natural light into the dining space; minor revisions to the window mullions, which are now aligned with the existing building; and the addition of deeper surrounds around the two-story ganged windows on the north elevation, which add articulation to the flat facade.

Mr. Luebke said the Commission’s concerns with the broader long-term vision for the campus have been responded to in a letter from DCPS, which has been circulated to the Commission. He introduced Renee Pean of DCPS to address this topic, along with project architect Marisa King of Moya Design Partners to present the design.

Ms. Pean said the proposed addition will replace several existing classroom trailers in order to provide permanent classroom space for Deal students; DCPS does not plan to build any more additions. She said DCPS is working closely with the design-build team to ensure programmatic needs are prioritized, particularly meeting all the specified space requirements. She noted that the project team is trying to improve the interior circulation between the existing school and the addition. The proposed interior connection is through the cafeteria; she acknowledged that a separate interior corridor would be preferable, but the budget does not allow for this. She said DCPS is confident this this addition will accommodate Deal students and support the school’s sustainable growth.

Ms. King presented the changes to the concept design along with studies of alternatives for incorporating the school’s existing architectural language into the new addition. She described the existing conditions of the school complex, indicating the two historic structures—Alice Deal Middle School on the south and the older Jesse Reno School on the northeast—as well as the various additions that contain the cafeteria, gymnasium, and classrooms. The recently installed trailers in the school’s courtyard area would be replaced by the proposed classroom addition, to be sited on the north side of the cafeteria. The addition would provide twelve academic classrooms, two science classrooms, supporting spaces, and a 1,000-square-foot expansion of the existing cafeteria space.

Ms. King presented photos of the existing courtyard facades, along with a large drawing of the entire courtyard elevation, produced at the request of the Commission, that illustrates the relation between the existing architectural condition and the proposed addition; this provides a continuous depiction of the entire ensemble, including the fenestration and materials. She noted that the varied materials include red brick of the historic Alice Deal building, and tan brick and aluminum panels for one of the modern additions. For the new addition, the primary exterior material is now proposed to be red brick instead of the tan brick that was previously presented.

Ms. King said the new addition would pull in the existing architectural language to unify the courtyard, which is considered the heart of the school. She identified the key elements of height and fenestration: the courtyard facades of the additions establish a rhythm of two-story elevations with regularly spaced two-story window bays, and a datum line is established above the second story. This datum would continue across the facades of the proposed three-story classroom addition; above this line, the third story would visually recede through the use of darker glazing and dark metal panels. The windows would be treated as large framed openings that extend the rhythm across the east and north facades of the new addition along the courtyard; the west and south facades would have a similar treatment. The northeast corner would be pivoted to “anchor” the classroom addition and the courtyard, creating a visual break within the larger composition; the pivoted corner would have a unique treatment of materials and mullions that would read as a separate language from the addition’s other facades.

Ms. King presented the landscape plan, noting that the site for the addition, near the trailers, is now covered with asphalt; most of this paving would be replaced with an open lawn, although a strip of asphalt would remain for access to into the lawn space. She then presented the alternative studies produced at the Commission’s request; these examine the use of a dark gray for the glass, which might help achieve the desired receding effect, and the treatment and articulation of the mullions of the framed window openings. She said one alternative for the window glazing proposes a light green or bluish tint, similar to the existing windows. In one alternative, the fenestration and metal panels would be detailed so that the addition would look less like an office building and more like a middle school, with a playful but refined pattern appropriate for children who are entering their teenage years. A second alternative for this idea depicts a different treatment of the mullions at the recessed third floor, breaking them up to look more modern and playful, to read as complementary but separate from the adjacent gallery and cafeteria volumes.

Mr. Moore thanked Ms. King and Ms. Pean for the presentation, and he invited questions and comments from the Commission members.

Mr. Cook commented that the updated concept design is a slight improvement, although not much has changed. Acknowledging the difficulty of having to resolve the accumulation of ad-hoc additions, he said the Commission members support the goal of getting rid of the trailers and placing the students into permanent classrooms. He said he is not pleased with the response letter from DCPS, which he finds to be unconvincing and lacking in specificity. He asked how the Commission can be assured that DCPS will not return in five or ten years with yet another architect having to resolve these same challenges. He said he believes the children attending this school deserve a solution that has been thought through more comprehensively, and he is not confident that DCPS has a long-term vision.

Mr. Cook then addressed the proposed architecture, questioning the design approach of introducing yet another language to the many different rhythms and patterns seen in the existing architecture. Specifically, he said the pivoted northeast corner window adds nothing and detracts from the design; he reiterated the Commission’s recommendation from the previous review that this design feature should be simplified. He said a favorite axiom of his is that if you are going to do something in a design, you should really do it; but the pivoted corner is just a minimal gesture that does not do much and he strongly urged the project team to reconsider this feature.

Mr. Stroik expressed support for Mr. Cook’s comments about the unnecessary addition of another language to the already busy appearance of the courtyard. He said today’s concept design has some improvements, but he agreed that the corner piece needs to be simplified. He said this may not be a popular decision with the designers, but architects need a little humility. He emphasized that this project requires a good addition that will benefit the students, fit in with the existing school complex, and help mend some of the inconsistencies in the courtyard facades.

Mr. McCrery thanked Mr. Cook and Mr. Stroik for their remarks. He commented that the complexity of the presentation reveals the needless complexity of the design. Referring to the materials palette, he observed that it just goes on and on, all the way across the page; he said he does not understand the need for metal panels, which would make the building less attractive. He commented that the windows suddenly shift from divided lights on the two lower stories to large plate-glass panels on the third story, and metal panels suddenly show up in lieu of brick for no apparent reason. He noted that the D.C. Historic Preservation Office had asked the project team to “play” with the design. He disagreed with this direction, emphasizing that buildings do not play; rather, they exist to ennoble the experience of human beings, and it is the human beings who play. In addition, buildings are designed by architects for use and not as opportunities for architects to play. He reiterated Mr. Stroik’s request for humility and modesty on the part of the architects, especially for school projects where the architects have a very evident desire or demand for self-expression. He said it is a much more noble enterprise for an architect to provide a place for students to learn, to express themselves, and to gain knowledge not from the architecture but from their educators and from each other. He emphasized the importance of order, honesty, modesty, and fewer architectural calisthenics.

Ms. Delplace noted that at the previous review, the Commission had asked many questions and requested quite a bit of additional information. She thanked the project team for responding to these requests, acknowledging the amount of effort required to study these issues. She said the additional information has been necessary because the black-and-white drawings provided in the initial review were not sufficient for the Commission to see and understand what is being proposed. She complimented the project team for making the effort to reconsider the design of the courtyard elevation and the color of the brick; she said the introduction of the red brick has helped to unify the design, while in the previous version the multiple types of brick just added to the chaotic appearance.

Ms. Delplace said she agrees with the comments of the other Commission members, particularly with their observations concerning the transition to metal panels; she discouraged the introduction of the metal panels and said it would be better to eliminate at least some of them. She remarked that one thing schools do is provide a sense that your time there has been a good experience, and every school should elicit that kind of feeling in its students. She expressed support for the new addition “bookending” the historic building, helping to complete the idea of the solidity afforded by education.

Mr. Moore also thanked the project team for assembling the additional presentation materials, which have made the proposal more legible and have clarified some of the design and material constraints that have to be dealt with. He said the entire Commission now understands the project’s challenges. He said he agrees with the other Commission members that the level of complexity resulting from the project’s new vocabulary adds to the challenges instead of resolving them. He said Ms. King’s comment about the need for some differentiation might be worth exploring, but he reiterated his agreement with the other Commission members that the angled corner is not successful. He also supported the general consensus that the metal panels are unnecessary, adding that he would go further and say that some of the exaggerated framing elements—which are really just simple punched openings with sills—fight with the intent to extend the existing architectural vocabulary. In comparison, some key elements that would be relatively easy to continue do not seem to be carried across; instead, there is a focus on a predominantly metal articulation of building elements.

Mr. Moore said he remains concerned about the different experience of students who will have to use the outdoor connection and passageway to reach the new addition; he suggested continued discussion about budget and scope to determine whether a true indoor connection can be included in the project. Even without this, he emphasized the need for further study of the outdoor connection, with concern for what children would actually experience using this exposed walkway in bad weather; the study should also include how the walkway and canopy might be integrated with both the existing building and the new addition.

Mr. Moore noted the apparent consensus that the Commission is not yet ready to move the submission forward to an action. He said he hopes the project team will find the comments useful, and the Commission expects to see multiple studies of alternatives when the project returns for review.

Ms. King thanked the Commission and summarized her understanding of the comments, while also providing some responses. She said the Commission has expressed concern with three main features: the use of metal panels; the projecting window bay at the northeast corner; and the outdoor connection with the covered walk. Regarding the metal panels, she said the intent is for the panels to relate closely to the glass and create the appearance of one language, with the design emphasizing brick for the two stories below the datum line while treating the third story as a glassy recessed volume. The panels are proposed because extensive glass would not be feasible for a classroom addition because of functional considerations, optimal daylight, energy efficiency, and cost; however, she offered to continue studying the potential for minimizing or eliminating the metal panels. She expressed concern that extending the brick to the third story may make the addition appear heavier than the adjacent volumes. She said the design team will further study the northeast corner window, adding that the intent was for it to complement the courtyard. She said the existing covered walkway is being retained at the request of DCPS because of budget constraints, and the proposal is to extend it to the new entrance and make it appear more modern. Noting the tight construction schedule and the urgent need for better classroom space, she requested the Commission’s approval of the addition’s location and plan to allow for obtaining foundation-to-grade construction permits.

Mr. Moore noted that the Commission is not responsible for permits, and Secretary Luebke said a concept approval should be based on acceptance of such issues as the design’s scope, scale, and character. He observed that the current version of the concept is getting closer to meeting this standard, aside from the questions concerning potential future expansion; however, the Commission continues to express concern with the design character, which is fundamental to a concept approval. Additionally, each of the Commission members has expressed concern with the northeast corner element, requesting that it be simplified. He said that all these issues must be resolved, and he emphasized the need for continued consultation with the Commission staff.

Mr. Moore said he believes the direction provided by the Commission is helpful and sufficient for the project team. He expressed support for the addition’s footprint and volume, observing that the difficulties concern the exterior articulation; he noted this as the Commission’s consensus, and he suggested that the project team coordinate with the staff on the appropriate steps for moving the project forward. Concerning Ms. Pean’s comments, he noted the continuing effort to provide an improved interior connection through the cafeteria, but he expressed concern about the apparent tendency of DCPS to design schools without long-term planning for future expansion. He said that during the design process, the project team should be recognizing the potential need for even further expansion, especially at the cafeteria. The building should be able to respond to future growth of the student population, and the proposed addition should be designed to avoid creating constraints that become problematic in the future. He suggested greater awareness by the project team that this successful school will likely continue to grow.

Ms. Pean responded that DCPS is committed to considering other ways to accommodate increased enrollment at Alice Deal Middle School, but it has to work with this building, and the determination is that the proposed addition will provide the needed growth. She said the project team is considering how to provide an interior corridor within the budget, but the priority is completing the twelve new classrooms.

Mr. Moore reiterated that the proposed footprint and volume seem to be a viable direction, and the project team can work with the staff to advance the concept. He said the Commission looks forward to seeing additional studies responding to the comments provided. The discussion concluded without a formal action.

Secretary Luebke thanked Mr. Moore for presiding at today’s meeting, and he said he expects both Chair Tsien and Vice Chair Edwards to return for the July meeting.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 12:17 p.m.


Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA