Minutes for CFA Meeting — 20 July 2023

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

Members participating:
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

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

I. Administration

A. Approval of the minutes of the 15 June meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the June meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission approved the minutes.

B. Dates of next meetings. Secretary Luebke presented the dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 21 September, 19 October, and 16 November 2023. He noted that no meeting is scheduled in August.

C. Proposed 2024 schedule of meetings and submission deadlines for the Commission and Old Georgetown Board. Secretary Luebke presented the proposed schedule of meetings and submission deadlines for calendar year 2024. The Commission meeting dates are scheduled to be the third Thursday of each month, with no meeting in August and December; the meeting dates for the Old Georgetown Board would be the first Thursday of each month, with no meeting in January and August. To accommodate holiday scheduling in 2024, the Commission’s submission deadline and the Old Georgetown Board meeting would be 3 July; the October meeting of the Old Georgetown Board would be 2 October; and the December meeting of the Old Georgetown Board would be 12 December. He noted that the schedule could be adjusted if necessary; past reasons have included a weather event, government shutdown, or lack of a quorum. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Dr. Edwards, the Commission adopted the proposed schedule.

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. Fox reported that no changes have been made to the draft appendix, which includes eleven projects. Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission approved the 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 23-128). One project has had a change of contractor, resulting in the withdrawal of an earlier submission (SL 23-064) that has been replaced by a new submission at the same address (SL 23-139). Ms. Batcheler said the recommendation for one case has been changed to be favorable based on the receipt of supplemental materials (SL 23-123). 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. She said the flexibility in finalizing these recommendations will allow the staff to resolve the outstanding issues prior to the Commission’s next meeting in September; Mr. Luebke added that July is typically a busy month for Shipstead-Luce Act submissions. Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Mr. Stroik, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act Appendix.

Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Bogard 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 OG 23-245). Other revisions are limited to minor typographical corrections. Upon a motion by Ms. Delplace with second by Dr. Edwards, the Commission approved the revised Old Georgetown Act Appendix. (See agenda item II.F for an additional Old Georgetown Act submission.)

At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider items II.D, II.E.2, and II.F. Secretary Luebke said that the Commission had identified these submissions as ones that could be approved without presentations.

D. D.C. Public Library

CFA 20/JUL/23-4, Southeast Neighborhood Library, 403 7th Street, SE. Building renovation and expansion. Concept. (Previous: CFA 20/JAN/22-4) Secretary Luebke said the project team has been working to address the Commission’s comments from the previous review in January 2022, and the new concept submission may be satisfactory. Ms. Delplace agreed that many of the comments have been addressed; for the further development of the design, she requested that the project team work with the staff to refine the site walls flanking the proposed new entrance on South Carolina Avenue. Upon a motion by Ms. Delplace with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission approved the concept with this comment; Mr. McCrery and Mr. Stroik did not support the motion.

E. D.C. Department of General Services

2. CFA 20/JUL/23-6, Alice Deal Middle School, 3815 Fort Drive, NW. Construction of a new three-story addition and associated sitework. Concept. (Previous: CFA 15/JUN/23-4) Secretary Luebke noted the several previous reviews by the Commission, resulting in a submission that responds to the Commission’s guidance. Chair Tsien agreed and cited the staff’s work with the project team in refining the design. Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Mr. Cook, the Commission approved the concept.

F. D.C. Department of Buildings—Old Georgetown Act

OG 23-199, 2900–2922 M Street, NW, and 1132 29th Street, NW. New development and alterations to historic rowhouses. Concept. Secretary Luebke said the project scope encompasses two major components: the restoration of historic row houses fronting on M Street, and the insertion of a new residential building on the south. He noted the multiple reviews of the project by the Commission’s Old Georgetown Board, which has provided a report for the Commission’s adoption. He summarized the Board’s support for the concept, with specific recommendations to improve compatibility with the historic context and to minimize the visibility of some building elements. Chair Tsien said the Commission appreciates the work of the Old Georgetown Board in developing thorough and thoughtful recommendations. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Ms. Delplace, the Commission approved the concept and adopted the report of the Old Georgetown Board.

The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B.1.

B. National Park Service

1. CFA 20/JUL/23-1, Constitution Gardens, West Potomac Park between 17th Street and Henry Bacon Drive, NW. Phase 2 – Rehabilitation of the lake and other landscape improvements. Concept. (Previous: CFA 18/OCT/12-2) Secretary Luebke introduced the proposed rehabilitation of Constitution Gardens, submitted by the National Park Service (NPS) in partnership with the Trust for the National Mall. He described the history of this landscape, designed by SOM with landscape architect Dan Kiley and completed in 1976 for the U.S. bicentennial. The landscape has not performed well because of longstanding problems such as poor soil quality. In 2012, the Trust for the National Mall held a design competition to address these problems and to fulfill the objectives of the National Mall Plan, including improved visitor accessibility and an emphasis on the Mall as a symbolic landscape. The competition winner, PWP Landscape Architecture, proposed rehabilitating the historic design and creating a more active landscape that would support the health of the lake’s failing natural systems. The Commission heard an information presentation on the design in October 2012, followed by its approval of Phase 1, which relocated the historic Lockkeeper’s House and created an adjacent plaza at the corner of 17th Street and Constitution Avenue; this phase was completed in 2018. The current concept submission is for Phase 2, which addresses the lake and landscape at Constitution Gardens. This submission supersedes an earlier concept submission that the Commission had approved in September 2014; he said the new design is substantially similar but eliminates the previous proposal for a terraced pavilion at the east end of the lake.

Mr. Luebke said the project would reconstruct the lake and the island within it; replace the soil; provide improved plantings; replant the lawn as a meadow; reconfigure pedestrian circulation around the lake; create an event plaza and deck at the eastern end of the lake; and insert a circular pedestrian walkway within the lake, called the “lake ring,” that would allow people to walk out to the middle of the lake. He asked Doug Jacobs of the NPS to begin the presentation, noting the recent retirement of Peter May, the longtime NPS representative for Commission presentations; Mr. May’s replacement in an acting capacity, Tammy Stidham, could not be present today. Mr. Jacobs introduced Jeff Reinbold, the NPS superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks.

Mr. Reinbold said this project is an important part of the NPS planning for the nation’s 250th anniversary in 2026. He noted that the McMillan Plan in the early 20th century designated this area as a naturalistic park for passive recreation, but this vision was not fulfilled until the 1970s implementation of Constitution Gardens. He described this area as beautiful but tired and not functioning as intended. He also noted the increasing importance of this site as the western end of the Mall has developed with memorials commemorating weighty topics; Constitution Gardens has come to serve as a place of respite where people can decompress within the commemorative landscape. The proposal is therefore intended to address the emotional needs of visitors as well as the ecological issues of the landscape, with the goal of bringing people back to the lake in a manner that allows for greater enjoyment. He concluded by noting the appropriateness of rehabilitating this bicentennial landscape as it reaches its 50th anniversary.

Adam Greenspan of PWP Landscape Architecture said the design team has been refining the project following its previous presentation to the Commission in 2014. He indicated the extent of Constitution Gardens from 17th Street to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; the current proposal for Phase 2 encompasses the lake and adjacent areas at the center of Constitution Gardens, and Phase 1 has provided the entrance plaza at the northeast corner. He observed that Constitution Gardens—a 26-acre area prominently located within the Mall—is little known, even among landscape architects familiar with Washington. He presented photographs to illustrate its degraded character, with dying fish and trees; some of its problems result from its hurried construction in the 1970s, falling short of the highest level of horticultural standards. By the time of his firm’s initial involvement approximately ten years ago, a majority of the trees planted in the 1970s had died, and subsequently many more have been in declining health. He said one of the reasons is the temporary Navy Department buildings that occupied the site from 1918 to 1970, resulting in compacted soil that contains debris from their demolition.

Mr. Greenspan said his firm’s competition proposal emphasized respecting the strengths of the original design by Dan Kiley and SOM, including the sinuous shape of the lake and the general style of biomorphic modernism. Newer goals for the project include increased biodiversity, a more complex experience for visitors, and improvement of the site’s ecology. The competition design, as approved by the Commission in 2014, also included a pavilion at the eastern end of the lake. He said the design proposals are intended to simultaneously address the project’s aesthetic, ecological, and experiential goals; for example, the plantings within the lake would promote a healthy water system, a diverse ecological system, and an aesthetically appealing attraction that would draw visitors to the site.

Mr. Greenspan presented a site plan of the proposal, which includes the lake, the encircling walk, and the first set of planting beds along the walk. To the east, the existing event plaza would be resurfaced. He indicated the proposed lake ring and the existing Signers Island, which contains a memorial to the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. He presented a section illustrating how the lake ring would bring people to the middle of the expanse of water, with improved opportunities for activities such as fishing or using model boats. He emphasized the goal of an integrated design for a healthy site that focuses on both the land and the water, with a connected system for plants, animals, and people; he said the system would be beautiful and resilient.

Mr. Greenspan said the soils would be rebuilt to create healthy horticultural conditions, with better drainage and less susceptibility to compaction over time. The soil replacement would necessitate removing or relocating many of the existing trees. The new plantings would have several types of character: lawn areas of moderate size; a resilient meadow with grasses and flowers; and a color garden with native plantings. The existing lake has an average depth of three feet with a concrete bottom, contributing to the problem of algae blooms and fish die-offs. The reconstructed lake would be deeper, reaching a maximum depth of eight feet and shallower near the edges. The substrate and the plantings within the lake are designed as part of a biofiltration system; an aeration system would also help to keep the lake healthy, configured as two aeration rings that are part of the design aesthetic.

Mr. Greenspan said the existing bridge to the north side of Signers Island would be rebuilt, and it would be supplemented by a second bridge to the west; a path around the island would provide additional vantage points for experiencing the lake and its plantings. He emphasized the flexible variety of programming and activities that could occur in the connected spaces, including at the lake, on the lake ring deck at the east end, and continuing farther east on the ascending terraces and the elevated event plaza. He noted that Phase 2 would only resurface the existing terraces and event plaza and would retain the existing adjacent staircases; in a future Phase 3, this area would be the site for a pavilion. He presented photographs of this area’s existing condition, indicating the dying trees and crumbling stone, as well as a section and perspective drawings to illustrate the proposed character.

Mr. Greenspan described the lake ring in greater detail. This new insertion would have plantings on its outer side, supplementing the plantings around the lake’s edge; the area within the ring would be kept clear of plants. The ring would be part of the biofiltration system as well as a walkway that would allow visitors to experience the plantings and the expanse of water, which he said would give people a sense of awe. Visitors would gain a better understanding of the plant and animal communities that inhabit wetlands; he anticipated that the site would attract school groups and others from the local community, along with visitors to the Mall. Noting the ongoing discussions about the visibility of the lake ring, he said the intent is that it be visible and legible but not stand out prominently from the water. The proposed paving material is a dark charcoal-color granite with flecks of quartzite, intended to appear similar to the water surface when seen from across the lake. He illustrated several alternative materials of lighter stone or wood decking between stone curbs; he said these are not proposed, because of concerns about aesthetics and durability. He noted that wood tends to become lighter as it ages, which would result in increasing contrast with the water surface.

Mr. Greenspan said the biofiltration wetlands would extend through much of the lake, with a varied series of plant communities that grow in different depths of water; the composition of wetland plantings is envisioned as changing over time. Where the water depth exceeds three feet, the only viable plants would be water lilies, while a variety of other plants would grow in shallower water. In the winter, the deeper areas would be seen as clear expanses of water; in shallower areas the edge plantings of irises and rushes may remain golden. He presented precedent photographs of his firm’s comparable work for the water court at the Glenstone museum in Potomac, Maryland, with similar plantings and a water flow system that uses rainwater runoff. He also indicated the two circular aeriation elements that are proposed within the lake, intended to contribute to the visual experience as well as the water quality. The aeration rings are designed to be barely visible, becoming an ephemeral attraction within the water’s surface; the circular form would relate to the geometry of the context.

Mr. Greenspan said the design is intended to encourage recreation activities, and he indicated the numerous locations that could accommodate fishing. The event lawn on the south side of the lake would be loosely configured as an amphitheater with a shallow slope and a stage area; the lake would be seen as the backdrop.

Mr. Greenspan described the improvements at Signers Island. A stone bridge, designed to meet current barrier-free accessibility standards, would replace the existing bridge of the same width; a new bridge added to the west would be a narrower wood structure that would have the character of being embedded within the wetland and the bald cypress grove along the water’s edge. The oval-shaped memorial toward the center of the island would be rebuilt while maintaining its original design. The island’s plantings and path system would be enhanced; the original design included flowering magnolias, and the proposal is to plant more magnolias to create a dramatic appearance when these trees flower in the early spring.

Mr. Greenspan said the Phase 2 proposal includes site walls at three locations within the central area of Constitution Gardens: framing the stage at the event lawn south of the lake; at the deck and terraces east of the lake; and at the memorial on Signers Island. Much of this work would be replacing existing walls that are in poor condition. The proposed design for these walls is to use the original design vocabulary of the walls at Signers Island. He noted that the larger project for Constitution Gardens also envisions lengthy site walls at the sidewalk edges along Constitution Avenue and 17th Street, but these would be part of a later phase; these future perimeter walls would extend the vocabulary of site walls that has been established with the Phase 1 work at the Lockkeeper’s House, including the inscription “Constitution Gardens” at entrance points.

Mr. Greenspan presented the proposed lighting for the Phase 2 project. Currently the site contains Washington Globe lights at approximately ninety-foot intervals, with no established ordering system for their placement within the park, and with no supplemental lighting at the lake’s edge. The proposal is to use Washington Globe lights on the secondary paths, along with a smaller low-profile fixture around the lake. This additional lighting would define the lake edge in the evening, playfully highlighting its sinuous shape and creating a twinkling reflection in the water. He emphasized that these low lights around the lake would provide a modest amount of lighting and would avoid distracting from views toward the Washington Monument and other illuminated memorials in the vicinity. The perimeter walk around the lake would be paved with cobbles, with a smooth stone band as a border along the lake edge. The lights would be set within this stone band, and he said the surface of the band provides an additional opportunity for interpretive text that could be engraved or inlaid; the theme could relate to the history of the nation or the garden itself, to be developed in consultation with the NPS.

Mr. Greenspan concluded with images of the materials for the project, including cobbles, stacked stone, wood decking, and asphalt paving for the secondary paths. He said the proposed palette emphasizes natural materials as well as durability.

Chair Tsien expressed appreciation for the thorough presentation, and she invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Mr. Stroik observed that one drawing of the stone band along the lake edge appears to show the text of the U.S. Constitution as an inscription, which could be an exciting feature for Constitution Gardens. He asked how the length of the Constitution’s text would compare to the length of the stone band around the lake’s perimeter. Mr. Greenspan said the design team has calculated the size, and the entire Constitution would be difficult to include, depending on the choice of font size; however, the intent would likely be to use excerpts from the Constitution. He said the drawing illustrates the idea, but more study and development would be needed for this component.

Mr. Stroik observed that the most prominent parts of the proposal would be the three circular elements within the lake—two aeration rings and the lake ring. While supporting the functional purpose of the aeration rings, he asked if they could be designed to not be visible; additionally, he questioned the importance of the lake ring and asked whether it could be omitted from the proposal. Mr. Greenspan responded that these elements were developed as part of the competition entry and were subsequently presented to the Commission. The intent has been that they would add to the visitor experience and the aesthetics of the park and the lake. In developing the project over the recent years, the design team has gained a better appreciation for the large scale of the 26-acre park and the irregularly shaped 6.5-acre lake; the proposed elements within the lake would give visitors a sense of its scale, which is otherwise not readily apparent. The circles would also provide intermediate destinations for visitors taking the long walk around the lake. He emphasized that the aeration rings would have a subtle appearance, comparable to shadows in the water; he acknowledged the technical feasibility of designing them to be less visible or to be less geometric, and he said the possibility of having only a single aeration ring is being considered. The lake ring would be a stronger element but it would be thin, allowing the viewer to perceive the continuity of the water and reflections and also to have the unusual experience of walking out onto the water.

Mr. Stroik observed that Signers Island already provides the opportunity for visitors to enjoy a special experience within the lake, and the lake’s perimeter walk provides a lengthy opportunity for pedestrians; he therefore questioned the need for the additional experience of walking on the lake ring. Mr. Greenspan responded that the island provides a different experience, as an occupiable area that is close to the northern edge of the lake and reached from a bridge across only a small extent of water. The island is also at the middle of the lake’s east-west length; in contrast, the lake ring is toward the lake’s eastern end, allowing visitors to perceive the dramatic length of the large lake and to be immersed in water on both sides of the walkway, providing a different experience from Signers Island.

Ms. Tsien commented that the proposal is extremely beautiful and one of the best projects she has seen presented to the Commission. She expressed appreciation for the subtlety of design features, such as the aeration rings that would create rings of bubbling water. She observed that such features are typically found in water bodies within parks, such as the beautiful water motion at the center of the reservoir in New York’s Central Park. She also supported the design approach of creating beauty with the ecological features such as biofiltration, which is an important topic that the public should be aware of. She expressed enthusiasm for the lake ring, citing the “magical experience” of being able to walk out into the middle of the water. She observed that the Commission has been seeing a proliferation of memorials that may give a sense of being overwhelming; she therefore supported the idea of Constitution Gardens being a place of contemplation, of meaning, and also of experience, such as walking on the lake ring.

Mr. Cook expressed support for Ms. Tsien’s comments, agreeing that the proposed design is very beautiful. Observing the risk of visitors falling into the water, he asked for further details about the lake ring’s width and lighting, the adjacent water depth, and the bridge edges; he commented that a hazardous design might result in the addition of aesthetically intrusive railings. Mr. Greenspan responded that these details have been evolving as the design has been developed. The lake ring’s walking surface would be ten feet wide, plus one-foot-wide curbs on each side. Although not illustrated in the drawings, the curb along the inner side of the circle would have pin lights to provide a wash of light across the walking surface. He noted that the width of the walk was narrower when presented in 2014; the wider dimension would allow for two people to walk side-by-side as someone else is passing alongside. He added that the generously wide curbs would also allow people to step onto them. The water would be shallow at the lake ring, with a depth of less than eighteen inches; the lake bottom would slope downward on either side for greater depth in the rest of the lake. He said the detailing is intended to facilitate people being able to step back out if they fall into the water.

Mr. Cook asked if heavy rain or flooding would cause the lake’s water level to rise, potentially covering the lake ring’s walking surface. Mr. Greenspan said the lake is being designed with overflow protection connected to a storm drain, and a below-grade pump room would be located at the northeast corner of the project area. Julie Canter of PWP Landscape Architecture added that the lake is intended as part of the park’s stormwater management system, and the design allows for a variation of two to three inches in the water level; any additional water would be diverted to the overflow system.

Mr. McCrery joined in expressing appreciation for the presentation and the beautiful design. Noting the accommodation of stormwater and flooding, he asked how the lake’s water level would be affected by a drought. Mr. Greenspan said the lake could be filled by a combination of stormwater and the municipal water supply, allowing for the water level to be topped off during periods without rain. Mr. McCrery emphasized the importance of being able to maintain the water level in order to avoid recreating the lake’s current poor condition. Mr. Greenspan clarified that the proposed plants, slope, and substrate are intended to allow for a lower water level during a severe drought; for example, the native plants at the edge of the lake would be able to live outside of water, and the gravel substrate would allow the plant roots to reach water at a deeper level. He summarized that the NPS would be able to manage the water level in response to a range of conditions.

Mr. McCrery asked for clarification of the proposed granite color. Mr. Greenspan said several types of granite are proposed, and the presentation illustrates a range of colors that have been considered. The proposal is lighter gray cobble for the lake’s perimeter walk, and granite of the same color or darker for the lake ring; he observed that even with granite of the same color, a different finish could result in some variation in the perceived darkness. The intent is to have a darker appearance for the lake ring, with a shimmering effect from the quartzite within the stone. Mr. McCrery expressed support for using a light-colored stone for the land paving, commenting that the site is relatively exposed despite the proposed tree canopy and could become uncomfortably hot; he agreed that a darker color would be appropriate for the lake ring extending out along the water’s surface.

Mr. McCrery observed that Constitution Gardens was designed as a beautiful park at a grand scale, and the proposal is admirably supportive of the original design intent. He cautioned that the current design team seems to be trying to “accessorize” or add its own signature to the design by inserting new elements, such as the lake ring and aeration rings; he discouraged this impulse, suggesting instead that the presence of new designers should be unnoticed. He said this concern is especially important in relation to this park’s memorial to the signers of the Declaration of Independence: their signatures should matter, not the signatures of the designers. Acknowledging that some Commission members have expressed support for the aeration rings, he characterized these elements as too strong and as an example of unnecessary accessorizing of the design. Similarly, he discouraged the presented intent to add text from the U.S. Constitution within the stone border around the lake, commenting that the lettering would become tedious as a visual element and as an experiential feature that is stretched out along a lengthy walking distance. He said the text is an unnecessary element in the design of the park, which already has an elegance that should be continued; the stone border should simply meet the water without further embellishment, allowing Signers Island to be the place for inscriptions in keeping with its commemorative purpose.

Mr. McCrery also said the proposed lights along the lake’s perimeter walk are an unnecessary accessory, characterizing the effect as a year-round ring of fireflies around the lake. Mr. Greenspan noted that the competition entry had used only Washington Globe lights, which were spaced consistently around the lake’s edge. Mr. McCrery observed that the placement of plants directly along the water’s edge alongside the walk may be contributing to the concern that this edge needs supplemental lighting; if illumination of the walk is desired, it should be placed along the outer edge, away from the water. He added that the small lights would create an unwanted staccato rhythm that is inconsistent with the sinuous curve of the perimeter walk. He concluded by reiterating his overall support for the design.

Ms. Delplace expressed appreciation for the proposed design, citing its respect for the original design by SOM and Dan Kiley. She supported the intent to introduce the general public to a more ecologically oriented landscape while honoring the earlier design, resulting in a strong proposal. She observed that the public will place demands on this park because it provides the open space that is lacking elsewhere on the Mall, with the added attraction of water. Shade in summer will therefore be an important amenity for visitors, but she said the design does not appear to provide adequate tree canopy; several types of beautiful trees would adapt well to this emergent aquatic setting. Another needed amenity is benches, but she observed that the design appears intended for people who are passing through rather than staying in the park.

Mr. Greenspan agreed with the importance of these features and the desirability of relief from summer heat. He said benches were not discussed in the presentation, but the design includes approximately 150 benches alongside the planting areas. Much of the tree replacement would occur in a later phase; the current proposal for Phase 2 would add new trees at some locations, such as at the event plaza and adjacent terraces, and the proposal would otherwise maintain existing trees. He acknowledged that the relationship between trees and benches could be developed further. He added that his firm has successfully used the Platanus x acerifolia ‘Columbia’ tree for Washington-area projects; it grows rapidly with adequate soil, and large specimens could be planted in key locations to provide shade quickly along with many smaller specimens to be planted throughout the park.

Mr. Moore expressed enthusiasm for the planned improvements to the park and agreed with the other Commission members in supporting the project. He observed that the event plaza could serve as a setting for temporary exhibitions such as the commemorative artwork being presented later on the agenda (see agenda item II.B.2), providing a type of space that is needed on the National Mall. The advantages of this event plaza include its elevated placement, its relationship to the Mall, and its views across the lake. However, the enlarged plan for this area shows a perimeter of trees along the plaza’s north, east, and south edges, which may be inconsistent with the continuity of the public landscape and the desired views to and from the event plaza. He therefore recommended reconsidering the planting plan to better support the public experience. He also observed that stairs would provide the primary circulation between the event plaza, the terraces, and the lower deck—which would serve as the access point for the lake ring—while barrier-free access would only be available along the less direct secondary paths farther to the north and south. He recommended additional study of the grades to provide barrier-free access that is part of, or equal to, the primary circulation. Noting that the area is relatively unencumbered, he said this concern could be addressed relatively easily, perhaps requiring some reconfiguration of the plaza and paths. He acknowledged that the project has inherited a landscape design from a different time, but he said we now have a responsibility to consider these issues in the design process. He also supported Mr. McCrery’s comments on the proposed lights along the lake’s perimeter walk, which could be moved to the outer edge of the walk. If the proposal is pursued to place inscriptions along the stone border at the inner edge of the walk, and if these inscriptions need to be lit at night, he suggested using a light rail to have less visual impact than the proposed individual fixtures.

Mr. Greenspan offered to study these issues further. He noted that the perimeter trees around the event plaza are intended as a temporary, inexpensive solution to bring shade to the paved area; the long-term intent is to create a new plaza and pavilion at this location. The issues of circulation, barrier-free access, and shade could be addressed more fully at the later phase. He added that these issues are important for a public project, but the response should not be prohibitively expensive for a temporary situation; the project team has been trying to balance these concerns.

Dr. Edwards supported the comments of the other Commission members. She said the presentation has conveyed Mr. Reinbold’s description of the role of Constitution Gardens as a place to escape and decompress, and she commented that each area within Constitution Gardens will provide visitors with a unique experience that should support this role.

Chair Tsien summarized the consensus of the Commission to approve the concept. Secretary Luebke noted that the comments have raised issues with some details such as lighting, tree placement, the selection of paving materials, and the potential removal of the aeration rings; he said these issues could be addressed as the design is developed. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission approved the concept with the comments provided, which should be addressed in the next submission; Mr. Stroik voted against the motion.

2. CFA 20/JUL/23-2, Beyond Granite initiative, various locations on the National Mall. “Pulling Together” pilot exhibition for six temporary memorials. Information presentation. Secretary Luebke introduced the presentation of Beyond Granite, a project to develop temporary installations on the National Mall to explore how the commemorative landscape can tell a more inclusive American story; the initiative is part of a larger nationwide cultural dialogue on historical and contemporary commemoration. He said the initiative is a partnership between the National Park Service (NPS) and the Trust for the National Mall, in collaboration with the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC). Funding has been provided by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to develop a long-term program for temporary commemoration; today’s presentation is for a pilot project of six artworks to be displayed later in the summer. The selected artists are responding to six themes—collectivity, diaspora, legacy, play, memory, and participation. The presentation will describe the artists and their previous works; some of the new artworks can be presented, and others will be unveiled later in the summer. He suggested that the Commission discuss the overall initiative rather than the specific artwork installations. He noted that Mr. Moore is employed by the Mellon Foundation; no recusal is needed because the information presentation does not require any Commission action.

Mr. Luebke asked Doug Jacobs of the NPS to begin the presentation. Mr. Jacobs emphasized the enormous pressures on the National Mall: planning and design at some stage is currently underway for eighteen memorials and two museums to be located within this area. He said that development of a temporary commemoration program could be a valuable tool for the NPS. He asked Jeff Reinbold, the NPS superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks, to continue the presentation.

Mr. Reinbold said that Beyond Granite, along with Constitution Gardens, is an important part of the NPS planning for the nation’s 250th anniversary in 2026; the current pilot program for Beyond Granite will help the NPS in developing a program for 2026. He noted the historical intention for the Mall to be a grand composition that celebrates important events and people. He said the NPS strongly believes that storytelling through temporary exhibits will complement the Mall’s permanent memorials and museums, providing greater opportunity for expression; temporary artworks and performances can also accomplish things that are not easily done by permanent installations, such as responding to current events and using innovative ways to present the nation’s history. He emphasized the goal of ensuring that the nation’s important narratives continue to unfold in this important civic space, with the opportunity to present untold stories and root them in the history of the Mall. He acknowledged the participation of NCPC, the Trust for the National Mall, Monument Lab, and numerous experts in public art and history who have helped in developing the themes and selecting the artists. He summarized that the Mall is a finite and sought-after physical space; NPS hopes that Beyond Granite will help to keep the Mall relevant, meaningful, empowering, and vibrant for future generations. He asked Teresa Durkin of the Trust for the National Mall to continue the presentation.

Ms. Durkin said the initiative originated from NCPC’s work in recent decades on several projects related to memorials: the Memorials and Museums Master Plan; a report on memorial trends and practices; and a 2016 competition for future memorials. The recommendations from these projects included encouraging the use of temporary artworks as a complement to permanent commemoration, in order to address the space constraints of the Mall, as well as to provide the opportunity for telling more stories. The result is the Beyond Granite initiative, envisioned as a long-term sustainable program for telling previously untold stories. This summer’s pilot project, titled Beyond Granite: Pulling Together, is intended to demonstrate the feasibility of the concept and to inform the policies and practices for future commemoration. The installation will be open to the public from 18 August to 18 September. Ms. Durkin said that the co-curators of the pilot program are Paul Farber and Salamishah Tillet; she introduced Dr. Farber, Monument Lab’s director and co-founder, to present the planned installation.

Dr. Farber said Monument Lab is a nonprofit public art and history studio. The curating role has included coordinating with artists and fabricators as well as developing the programming and interpretive materials; this work has been assisted by a twelve-member curatorial advisory board that includes leaders in the fields of public art, public history, and historic preservation. He said the advisory board has provided an emphasis on working with community and neighborhoods in addition to policy guidance.

Dr. Farber said the curation process began with the selection of the artists and themes. The artist candidates were asked, “What stories remain untold on the National Mall?” The six selected artists have varied approaches for responding, and their proposals have been developed along with interpretation and opportunities for the public to consider the same question. He observed that the Mall has many legacies and origin stories; this project has selected one as an anchoring point—the 1939 recital by singer Marian Anderson on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, given after she was denied the booking of nearby Constitution Hall because of racial segregation. The performance was attended by 70,000 people, and the exhibit is developed to explore how the memory of this historical event has been carried forward. He quoted educator and activist Mary McLeod Bethune, who was at the 1939 performance: “That day told a story of hope for tomorrow, a story of triumph, a story of pulling together.”

Dr. Farber said the pilot project is intended to find varied approaches on the Mall for having people look up, out, and around. The locations for the six installations were coordinated with the partner organizations and the artists. In addition to the artworks, the project includes four pop-up welcome stations that will be set up and taken down each day; these welcome stations will be located at key entrance points to the Mall, providing the opportunity to greet visitors and extend the conversation that is generated by the artworks. Each artwork will also have at least two interpretive signs; additional opportunities will be provided for people to join the conversation, learn the context for the exhibit, and perhaps be a part of the initiative’s future projects. He added that more than thirty local artists, educators, and students have been hired to staff the welcome stations, which he envisioned as hubs for conversation, wayfinding, and hospitality. Visitors will be asked to respond to the same question posed to the artists: “What stories remain untold on the National Mall?” The written or drawn responses will be gathered and shared with the partner organizations to assist with future programming and dialogue.

Dr. Farber presented an overview of the six selected artists and themes, along with images of two of the artworks that have already been publicized. A sculpture by vanessa german [sic], on the theme of collectivity, will be located on the plaza in front of the Lincoln Memorial. It will include an image of Anderson amid a sea of hands and blooming lilies, honoring Anderson’s performance as well as the people who attended. A sculpture by Tiffany Chung, on the theme of diaspora, will be located in Constitution Gardens on a slope adjacent to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The artwork will map the routes that people took by sea, air, and land to leave Vietnam after the war; the installation will be augmented by a conversation with local leaders from a variety of diasporic communities. A sculpture by Wendy Red Star, on the theme of legacy and based on archival research, will be located in Constitution Gardens on the same island as the memorial to the signers of the Declaration of Independence. A sculpture by Derrick Adams, on the theme of play as transformed by desegregation, will be a bright and inviting work on the plaza at the east end of Constitution Gardens. An installation by Ashon T. Crawley will be an audiovisual memorial to the AIDS crisis, located on the south side of the Washington Monument with an open-air sacred space and a three-movement sound piece. On the theme of participation, a sculpture by Paul Ramirez Jonas will be located on a gravel panel of the Mall near Madison Drive at 12th Street; the interactive sculpture will be a bell tower with a carillon that plays My Country ‘Tis of Thee but omits the last note, inviting visitors to ring a bell and consider their own thoughts about freedom.

Dr. Farber said the future destination of the artworks has been considered; some will be dismantled or stored, and some will enter museum collections. He added that other temporary installations have inspired public artworks or policy discussions, or have become traveling exhibitions. He noted that the exhibit will be free, and visitors will be offered a free newspaper that provides information and wayfinding; on-line information will be available. The newspaper will also be made available at off-the-Mall locations. He said the programming associated with the exhibit will be ongoing throughout the month, including an all-day event on 25 August at the U.S. Institute of Peace, coinciding with the 60th-anniversary commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington.

Chair Tsien invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Ms. Delplace expressed enthusiasm for the project and for the exciting opportunity to hear these artists’ voices. She recalled the passion and excitement of the multiple installations of the AIDS quilt in past decades, which had the important impact of bringing different voices to the Mall. She said the upcoming temporary exhibit will tell important stories, and she anticipates that it will attract many people to engage with the installations. She observed that some of the sites for the installations are located away from the central areas of the Mall, such as at Constitution Gardens, and she suggested that future installations use more prominent locations or at least have more continuity between the sites.

Mr. McCrery questioned the intent to circulate newspapers on the Mall, instead suggesting a more up-to-date method such as QR codes that visitors could scan. He said the distribution of newspapers will predictably lead to litter on the Mall and would place a burden on the NPS staff to handle trash collection and removal.

Mr. Moore asked if the one-month duration for the exhibit is an appropriate timeline for future installations. Ms. Durkin responded that the installations have special-use permits issued by the NPS, which involves a substantial regulatory framework for permissible temporary uses and events. The temporary-use permits have a maximum timespan of 45 days; ten days are being allocated for the simultaneous installation of the six artworks, in addition to the one-month public viewing and a disassembly period. She acknowledged the intense competition for permits to use the Mall, which has 3,000 events per year; establishing a schedule for obtaining six available sites has been challenging, and she said that other events are scheduled immediately before or after the time period of the Beyond Granite permits. She added that the scheduling was planned a year in advance in order to obtain permits for the multiple sites. Mr. Reinbold said the impact of scheduling and siting constraints is one of the lessons that may be learned from this pilot project; the issues being tested also include time of year and the selection of locations.

Mr. Moore agreed that an assessment of the project’s constraints and needs will be an important outcome. He noted that the Commission has been reviewing requests for sites on the Mall, which often include claims that a proposed site isn’t being used and could therefore be an opportunity for a new project. He suggested that an ongoing program of temporary artworks could benefit from a strategy of identifying reserves of space that could be used for these installations. He said that an assessment could also address such issues as the prominence of the sites, scale, and relationship to other sites; these discussions should include stakeholders and the public, and the outcome could assist the Commission in evaluating future submissions. Ms. Durkin emphasized that a follow-up evaluation will be an important part of this pilot project, possibly resulting in recommendations that would benefit future installations.

Mr. Cook observed that the welcome stations, as depicted in the presentation, would be ordinary small tents like others that are often installed on the Mall. He suggested that “welcome” could be a future theme, and an artist could be selected to create a design for the welcome station.

Chair Tsien expressed appreciation for the information presentation, and she noted that no action is needed. She emphasized the issue of the apparently never-ending proliferation of memorials, leading the Commission to ask if a different approach to addressing important commemorative themes could be found. She supported Mr. Moore’s suggestion to designate areas for the installation of temporary memorials; these locations would be treated as being unavailable as the sites for permanent memorials. She observed that such a solution could have a greater effect, allowing the Mall to have more diversity of ideas and viewpoints. Secretary Luebke said this topic has long been under discussion, with the goal of establishing a semi-permanent venue for temporary commemoration. He said the staff joins in expressing enthusiasm for this pilot project and for its potential to lead toward a long-term program of temporary memorials. Chair Tsien joined in encouraging the current initiative and the opportunity to inform future policy. The discussion concluded without a formal action.

C. D.C. Department of Transportation

CFA 20/JUL/23-3, William Howard Taft Bridge, Connecticut Avenue, NW, between Belmont Road and Calvert Street, NW. Installation of pedestrian safety barriers. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the concept alternatives for safety barriers along the sidewalk of the Taft Bridge, which carries Connecticut Avenue 136 feet above the Rock Creek valley between the Kalorama and Woodley Park neighborhoods. The Beaux-Arts style bridge was completed in 1907 and is one of the largest unreinforced concrete bridges in the world; it was widened in a rehabilitation project in 1955 and again in the mid-1990s. At the outer edges of the bridge alongside the bridge’s sidewalks is an elaborate system of piers, lamp standards, and railings. The railings are at a standard height that can easily be climbed, and thirteen people have died by jumping off the bridge since 2010. The barriers being presented today are intended to reduce suicide attempts while minimizing physical and visual impacts on the bridge. He said the presentation includes three design alternatives that have been developed after consideration of many options; the barrier materials in the alternatives include glass panels, wire mesh panels, or steel pickets in a steel frame. Design considerations during development of the alternatives have included whether the new barriers should be installed on the inboard or outboard side of the existing railings, and whether they should be set in a continuous line or jog in and out to avoid conflict with the stone piers that support the massive lampposts.

Mr. Luebke asked Ravindra Ganvir, the deputy chief engineer with the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT), to begin the presentation. Mr. Ganvir reported D.C. Government data that half of the city’s 26 bridge-related suicides between 2010 and 2022 occurred at the Taft Bridge; the current project’s purpose is to install suicide-deterrent barriers on this bridge. He introduced engineer Wagdy Wassef of WSP USA to continue the presentation.

Mr. Wassef said the need for the project is evident from the data for deaths in recent years: the bridge is attracting people who want to commit suicide, and installation of a deterrent barrier system would make this more difficult. Design factors for the barrier system include minimizing the impact on the existing bridge and surrounding viewsheds, using a design that is compatible with the existing bridge’s aesthetic character.

Mr. Wassef presented views of the existing bridge and its context. The bridge is 1,331 feet long and is supported on seven arches; the greatest height is 136 feet above the lowest point of the Rock Creek valley floor. The four lion sculptures at the ends of the bridge are replicas installed in 2000, and each side of the bridge has twelve eagle lampposts. During a rehabilitation of the bridge in the 1990s, the roadway and sidewalks were widened, and a small railing was installed at the sides of the roadway to prevent cars from veering onto the sidewalks. At the outer edges of the sidewalks, metal railings extend between concrete piers that are spaced at seventeen-foot intervals, and wider piers support the lampposts, resulting in a sidewalk that varies from six feet to more than eight feet wide. He noted that the project is undergoing the historic preservation review process.

Mr. Wassef introduced architect Andrew Scott of WSP to present the design precedents and proposed alternatives. Mr. Scott said the precedents for suicide prevention barriers have been identified from the Washington area and from around the nation and world. He presented photographs of glass panel barriers, such as at New York’s Empire State Building; a glass panel system in Madrid is mounted inboard of the railings, comparable to the first alternative in today’s proposal. He presented images of netting barriers, including precedents at the Brooklyn Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. Near the Taft Bridge, the Duke Ellington Bridge has an outboard picket system that was installed in the 1980s. Also in Washington, the Key Bridge has a picket system that projects outward, and a bridge above a railroad yard at 9th Street, NE, has a picket system that projects inward to prevent climbing. A recently installed barrier along Monroe Street in Washington’s Brookland neighborhood uses a wire mesh panel system, comparable to the second alternative in today’s proposal. He summarized that metal picket fencing systems are the most commonly used.

Mr. Scott said the research suggests that the ideal height for the barrier is eight feet above the walking surface, and the design should avoid providing handholds or horizontal footholds that would facilitate climbing. For the Taft Bridge, the design team has considered inboard and outboard placement of the barrier; he noted that an outboard placement would allow people to climb onto the existing railing, therefore requiring a total height of twelve feet above the sidewalk to provide an adequate barrier. Horizontal netting has also been considered; the ideal placement would be eight feet below the bridge deck, with an outward projection of thirteen feet. He illustrated the bridge conditions that the design must address, from the back of the lions to the double and single placements of the lampposts and at the existing railing system. The design team developed and evaluated approximately twenty options, resulting in the three alternatives in the current submission.

Mr. Scott presented Concept Option 1, a glass panel system that would be mounted slightly inboard of the existing railings; he noted the preference of the design team for this option. The panels would be four by eight feet, supported by a series of stainless-steel posts, leaving a clear sidewalk width of 6.5 feet. The panels would be separated by a gap of two to three inches, with an additional gap at the bottom to facilitate maintenance; each panel could also be removed for maintenance and access. The panels would be covered with a film that would deter birds and graffiti. He presented photographic simulations of the installation, seen from along the bridge and with slight visibility from the parkway at the base of the valley. He also presented a variant of this option that would align most of the glass panels directly against the existing railings, with the panel alignment shifting forward at the balusters using double-post supports. This variant would allow for a sidewalk width of 7 feet along the railings, narrowing to 6.6 feet at the piers.

Mr. Scott presented Concept Option 2, a system of welded wire-mesh panels supported by metal posts; this system would similarly be mounted inboard of the existing railings. The spacing within the mesh would be approximately one by three inches; the posts could be spaced eight feet apart—farther apart than with Concept Option 1—allowing for a post at each pier and one intermediate post at the middle of each segment of the existing railing. With the photographic simulation from the valley below, he noted that the support posts would be visible but the wire mesh tends to blend into the background when seen from a distance, an attribute that has resulted in this design solution being selected for many other local bridges. The clear sidewalk width would be several inches wider than with Concept Option 1; similarly, a gap below the mesh panels would allow for maintenance, and the panels could be removed when necessary. He also presented a variant for Concept Option 2, using an alignment that would jog in and out alongside the existing railings and balusters, which would provide a slightly wider pedestrian walkway on much of the bridge.

Mr. Scott presented Concept Option 3, with panels of taut stainless-steel wires mounted vertically within metal frames; the panels would be supported by vertical metal posts and would be aligned inboard of the existing railings. The system would have posts at eight-foot intervals and would require a top rail, resulting in greater visibility than for the other options. He likened the appearance to a series of window frames along the length of the bridge. As with the other options, the variant for Concept Option 3 would place the panels at slightly differing alignments along the railings and piers; the transition areas could be filled by narrow metal panels or by a frame with additional vertical wires.

Mr. Scott concluded with a preliminary cost estimate for each of the three options: $3.9 to $5 million for Concept Option 1, with some of the additional cost attributable to selecting laminated glazing and applying the anti-graffiti film; $1.2 million for Concept Option 2; and $2.5 million for Concept Option 3.

Chair Tsien invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Secretary Luebke noted that the project is submitted at the concept stage; the Commission is encouraged to provide a preference for one or more of the presented options, or the Commission could choose to provide different guidance.

Noting that the presented images illustrate the alternatives at the time of their installation, Mr. Moore asked if long-term durability and maintenance issues have been considered for the three design approaches, perhaps considering the likely appearance in twenty years. Mr. Wassef responded that rainwater would provide some cleaning for the glass panels, and periodic additional cleaning with sprayed water would likely be needed, as well as cleaning to remove graffiti when necessary; the maintenance would be facilitated by the protective film. Each alternative provides a gap at the bottom of the barrier system, and all of the panels would be removable to accommodate maintenance of the bridge elements such as railings and lights. The height of the barriers would not interfere with the truck equipment that is used for maintaining the bridge, a necessary function because the bridge is too tall to be reached from below; he noted that the potential interference would be more problematic with an outboard alignment of the new barrier, which is one of the reasons why none of the outboard alignments was selected for further study. He said the panels for the second options could not easily be repaired, and these would likely need to be replaced in twenty to thirty years.

Mr. Stroik acknowledged the concern with suicide prevention while providing additional context for the presented statistic of thirteen suicides at the Taft Bridge from 2010 to 2022. He said that his research has found that Washington had 165 suicides in the much shorter period of 2014 to 2016, and the number of suicides at this bridge therefore seems relatively low. He also noted that the District of Columbia has the lowest suicide rate in the nation, ranking 51st in comparison to the states. He therefore questioned the need for this project, observing that it would add an imposing barrier on a beautiful old bridge. Mr. Wassef, responding from the viewpoint of an engineer, emphasized that suicides do occur at the bridge, and these can be deterred through interventions such as the proposed barriers. He cited guidance from experts that many of the suicides are not planned as deliberate trips to the bridge for this purpose but are instead impulsive acts by people walking on the bridge at a moment of great stress. He said the proposed barriers would be effective in preventing these impulsive acts, while different responses may be needed to deter other types of suicide such as acts committed at home.

Chair Tsien expressed discomfort with the Commission attempting to evaluate whether the frequency of suicides is sufficient to justify the project, suggesting instead that the Commission focus on the aesthetic issues. She asked for an additional response from Dr. Richard Bebout, a psychologist with the D.C Department of Behavioral Health. While not on expert on suicide, Dr. Bebout said that he has been working with the project team in developing this proposal. He confirmed that suicides at bridges are considered to be preventable deaths, and the installation of barriers on a bridge will generally reduce the overall suicide rate in the surrounding area. He cited a common misconception that people who die by suicide have made a firm decision to do this; the goal of suicide prevention is to put time and distance between people and the potential means of death.

Dr. Bebout observed that a very public type of death may also have a contagious effect of triggering additional suicidal behavior. He emphasized that the D.C. Government therefore strongly supports the construction of a suicide-deterrent barrier at the Taft Bridge. He also noted the intention to install signs at the bridge’s four sidewalk access points that would provide contact information for the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. He said that other techniques for preventing suicides at bridges—such as telephones, surveillance systems, or patrols—are inferior to the installation of physical barriers. He summarized the twin goals of suicide prevention: reduce access to lethal means and increase access to care. Chair Tsien reiterated that issues beyond aesthetics may be outside the scope of the Commission’s review.

Ms. Delplace expressed appreciation for the thorough presentation. Noting the description of other cities using glass barriers on historic bridges, she asked if these installations have been evaluated over time to determine how well the glass has functioned. Mr. Scott responded that these installations tend to be relatively recent, and many have been in place for fewer than twenty years; he offered to look into this issue further. Ms. Delplace said the lessons learned from these precedents may help to inform the current project. Mr. Wassef added that some local precedents use acrylic, not glass; acrylic has a lower cost but may lose clarity and transparency over time and may be more difficult to clean and maintain, such as for graffiti removal. He said the first alternative for this project would use glass, which would perform better over time.

Mr. McCrery disagreed with Chair Tsien’s guidance to discourage the Commission from questioning the underlying premises of a submitted proposal; he said these concerns are part of what the Commission is asked to review, as demonstrated by the typically large proportion of presentations being devoted to setting forth a project’s premises. Providing a further analysis of the statistics cited by Mr. Stroik, he observed that the average of one suicide per year at this bridge in comparison to the city’s 720,000 residents is approximately one ten-thousandth of a percent of the population; he nonetheless acknowledged the importance of every person’s life.

Mr. McCrery said that Dr. Bebout’s comments have addressed the concern that this project might merely achieve suicide redirection instead of suicide prevention. However, he observed that the proposal may be part of a city-wide pattern of make-work projects by DDOT, particularly in the past decade; he said the apparent intent is to show the city’s residents and visitors that DDOT is hard at work, and he characterized the proposal as another example of DDOT’s “expressivist approach to infrastructure design.” He said the preferable approach would be for DDOT to do its valuable work in a much quieter manner, especially in its visual impact. He encouraged the project team to question its own premises before acting upon them, asking whether any studies have evaluated the likelihood of this project being successful in preventing one suicide per year.

Regarding the submitted alternatives, Mr. McCrery recommended rejecting Concept Options 2 and 3. He said a version of Concept Option 2 has been installed near the Brookland Metro station, as shown in the presentation, and he described it as “incredibly unattractive.” He also expressed reluctance to support the glass barrier of Concept Option 1. He asked if a concept was considered that would simply adapt the historic sidewalk edge design to make it eight feet tall; he said this approach would demonstrate a commitment to the historic design and would treat the barrier as part of the fabric of the bridge, in contrast to the complicated justifications for the design gestures in the presented alternatives. He said a simple adaptation would include replacing the existing piers with taller ones that would raise the height of the historic lampposts; the existing railings would be replaced with taller railings that have a historically appropriate design. While much of the bridge fabric would be new, the entire project would have a more direct association with the bridge’s original design intent and beautiful aesthetic. He added that pedestrians would be able to enjoy the natural breeze across the bridge, which would be largely obstructed by the glass panels of Concept Option 1. He suggested that the project team return with an alternative that follows this guidance.

Mr. Wassef responded that the project team considered replacing the railings and piers with taller designs, as suggested by Mr. McCrery, or keeping these existing elements and adding the barrier on top, as part of the initial study of twenty alternatives. During the consultation process, the stakeholders from various agencies discouraged this design approach and insisted that the barriers be installed without touching the existing piers. Drilling into the piers to attach the barrier panels was considered unacceptable, resulting in the support system of deck-mounted vertical posts in all of the presented options. Mr. McCrery observed that the Commission itself is an important stakeholder agency, and he reiterated his request to develop an option as he described.

Mr. Cook agreed with Mr. McCrery that Concept Option 3 should be rejected, observing that it appears heavy and penitentiary-like in the presented renderings. He also expressed skepticism about the glass panels in Concept Option 1, citing the likely unsightly appearance of trash, graffiti, and road salt, and the unlikelihood of providing adequate maintenance. He noted that the city’s bus shelters have glass panels that are sometimes broken, resulting in an eyesore that can remain for many months before the shelters are repaired. Similarly, he anticipated that Concept Option 1 could eventually result in the barriers becoming a checkerboard of plywood panels. He said he would like to see more information about Concept Option 2; he offered support for Mr. McCrery’s request to develop a different option, and he agreed that the Commission is a key stakeholder in the process. Mr. Stroik joined in supporting Mr. McCrery’s request for the additional option.

Chair Tsien asked for clarification of which stakeholders had previously rejected the design approach that Mr. McCrery is advocating. Konjit Eskender, a bridge engineer with DDOT, responded that historic preservation staff had expressed this concern, advising that raising the existing bridge elements would have a significant impact and would result in blocking the diagonal views from the bridge. Noting the similarity to issues raised with the Constitution Gardens project (agenda item II.B.1), Mr. McCrery observed that a goal of the alteration is to meet new requirements for our time, which may best be achieved by developing a new design solution instead of limiting the project with historic preservation constraints.

Mr. Scott presented a supplemental slide with sketches of the initial design studies for raising the piers and railings; the result would be a barrier of tall metal pickets replacing the existing lower railing. The existing 5.5-foot-tall piers would be replaced or augmented to become at least eight feet tall, which he observed would have some effect on the bridge’s design character. He described the range of initial options as being either inboard of the existing railings and piers, outboard of them, or in the same plane; the option being described by Mr. McCrery is an example of a barrier that would be in the same plane as the existing elements. Mr. McCrery suggested that this option would involve raising all of the bridge’s edge elements, including the lampposts, so that the lowest gap between elements would be raised to eight feet above the sidewalk. In support of Mr. Stroik’s comments, Mr. McCrery also suggested developing an option that would more broadly redesign the edges of the bridge based on reinterpreting the original design themes.

Mr. McCrery observed that one of the supplemental drawings shows a profile comparable to the Monroe Street overpass in the Brookland neighborhood. Mr. Scott clarified that this sketch illustrates a vertical netting system with an outboard alignment, a design approach that was rejected because it would substantially alter the character of the bridge when seen from the park below. The Monroe Street installation is a wire mesh system; the original edge on that bridge was simply a low railing, and the barrier was installed above it. In contrast, the Taft Bridge has a more varied vocabulary of edge elements, and the design challenge is how to alter or modify the edge, preferably in a manner that is reversible in the future if the decision is made to remove the barriers; he noted that extensive alteration or replacement of the existing edge features would not be reversible. Mr. McCrery questioned the helpfulness of raising the issue of reversibility, observing the unlikelihood that people will stop wanting to take their own lives in the future.

Chair Tsien summarized the Commission’s general dissatisfaction with the three presented alternatives and its support for Mr. McCrery’s recommendation to explore a more thorough redesign of the bridge’s edges, which should be coordinated with the historic preservation guidance for the project. She acknowledged the issue of reversibility but said that common sense should also be considered, and the possibility of not needing these barriers at some future time seems unrealistic. She said an additional aesthetic goal is not to do harm to the existing design, and she questioned whether the historic preservation stakeholders have seen the presented alternatives and understood the impact these alterations would have on the character of the bridge. She suggested further discussions with the historic preservation staff to facilitate development of a better alternative that could extend the existing design vocabulary in an authentic way that is more carefully considered and developed than the presented alternatives.

Mr. McCrery expressed support for the summary provided by Chair Tsien. Mr. Moore agreed and emphasized the important design issue of long-term maintenance that has been raised by the Commission, including maintenance, cleaning, and painting. He suggested that these factors—along with the general experience that pedestrians would have when crossing the bridge, which seems problematic in some of the presented alternatives—should be key design considerations in developing the new alternative being requested by the Commission.

Mr. Wassef presented a photograph of the bridge railing as seen from one of the traffic lanes. He indicated how the existing railing design tends to obstruct outward views, an effect that would be worsened if the railings are raised, and also if the barrier’s components need to be enlarged in conjunction with the increased height. He said the visual effect of extending the railings would be to create eight-foot-tall walls alongside the full length of the bridge. He acknowledged that the view toward the opposite side of the bridge may be less obstructed because the viewing angle through the far railing could be closer to perpendicular. He said the effect on views was one of the reasons that the design team did not favor the initial option of raising the existing railings; this option was nonetheless presented to historic preservation stakeholders, who rejected it entirely. Chair Tsien said this response does not change the Commission’s consensus to request further design exploration. She commented that the engineering skill on the design team may result in a good solution, such as an intermediate horizontal support—perhaps at a height matching the existing top of the railing—that could allow for the new vertical members to be similar in thickness to the existing railing elements. She encouraged the design team to study this option further and present a thoughtful solution to the Commission.

Dr. Bebout responded that the project team and the D.C. Government have been driven by a sense of urgency, generated in part through conversations with family members of those who have committed suicide at the Taft Bridge and elsewhere. While expressing support for the Commission’s role and advice, he suggested moving the project forward expeditiously, perhaps by having flexibility in the process and scheduling for further Commission review.

Mr. McCrery reiterated his support for Chair Tsien’s summary of the Commission’s consensus; he offered a motion to convey the comments provided and to request a follow-up presentation with a reconsidered alternative. Mr. Stroik agreed with this guidance but suggested that no motion is necessary; the Commission could simply provide its comments on the concept submission without an action. Secretary Luebke confirmed that no vote is needed if the Commission is not intending to take an approval action. Chair Tsien summarized that the Commission has provided clear guidance. She acknowledged that the outcome may be problematic for the project team’s process, but she said the Commission is trying to balance the public safety issues with the Commission’s role in promoting good design, both old and new, in Washington. She said the Commission looks forward to the next presentation for the project. The discussion concluded without a formal action.

D. D.C. Public Library

CFA 20/JUL/23-4, Southeast Neighborhood Library, 403 7th Street, SE. Building renovation and expansion. Concept. (Previous: CFA 20/JAN/22-4) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.

At this point, Vice Chair Edwards and Mr. Cook departed for the remainder of the meeting.

E. D.C. Department of General Services

1. CFA 20/JUL/23-5, District of Columbia Archives, Van Ness Street, NW, near International Court, NW (on campus of the University of the District of Columbia). Demolition of existing library (Building 41) and construction of a new archives building. Concept. (Previous: CFA 15/JUN/23-3) Secretary Luebke introduced the updated concept design for a new building to house the District of Columbia Archives, to be located on the campus of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC). He summarized the Commission’s review of the initial concept submission in June 2023, with recommendations to study the scale, rhythm, and articulation of the glass facade areas; to simplify and unify the approach to the building entrance; to strengthen the building’s relationship to UDC’s Dennard Plaza; and to increase the number of trees and the extent of other plantings as much as possible. The current submission is intended to respond to these comments. The detailing of the glazed elements has been revised, and the position of the curved glass wall has been shifted slightly northward to better address Dennard Plaza and provide a visual terminus to the pedestrian circulation of the campus. The massing at the building’s northeast corner has been simplified, and the tower element has been removed. The projection on the west has been shortened, and the design draws less attention to the utilitarian vehicular area. For the landscape design, the number of trees has been more than doubled, from 41 to 87, and the entrance approach from Van Ness Street has been revised to emphasize trees instead of planters and to give equal prominence to the ramping and stairs. He asked Brian Farrell of Hartman-Cox Architects to begin the presentation.

Mr. Farrell noted that the previous presentation addressed the project background and the critical need for this facility; today’s presentation is focused on the response to the Commission’s previous comments. He indicated the site toward the west end of the UDC campus, replacing the existing octagon-shaped Building 41, which would be demolished. The primary context is the existing UDC campus architecture and plan; more widely, the context includes the International Center chancery buildings to the west and south, the Intelsat building to the southeast, and the Connecticut Avenue corridor to the east. He presented photographs of Dennard Plaza, which was recently renovated by UDC; the plaza is primarily a hardscape area surrounded by trees, and UDC uses this space for large gatherings and events throughout the year. He said the nearest part of Connecticut Avenue has a commercial character, in contrast to the corridor’s more residential character to the north and south; he indicated the UDC Student Center and the Intelsat building at the nearby intersection of Connecticut Avenue and Van Ness Street.

Mr. Farrell presented the campus plan, indicating the pedestrian and vehicular circulation routes in relation to the proposed building. From the Metro station on Connecticut Avenue, pedestrians could ascend through the Student Center to reach the east side of Dennard Plaza, then proceed west across the plaza and south to the D.C. Archives entrance. Vehicles would park in the garage located beneath Dennard Plaza, using the existing parking entrance along Van Ness Street. The loading dock for the D.C. Archives would be on the west side of the building, reached by an existing driveway leading from Van Ness Street. He introduced Caitlin Olson of Studio39 Landscape Architecture to describe the revisions to the landscape design.

Ms. Olson presented a comparison of the current submission and the June 2023 proposal. The extent of planted area has increased by 10 percent; she indicated the narrower walks on the north side of the site, allowing for widening of the planted areas. The number of trees has been maximized by using an offset double-row placement, with the goal of contributing toward the D.C. Government goal of a 40 percent tree canopy. The design of the entrance area has been revised to improve its relationship to Van Ness Street, removing visual and physical barriers to give this area a more open character. A wide set of steps would address the grade change to the entrance, supplemented by a barrier-free ramp to the east; she emphasized the open sweep of space that embraces the streetscape and draws people to the building. A grove of trees has been added within the entrance plaza to provide shade; she noted that the below-grade parking garage does not extend to this location, allowing for these trees to be planted directly in the ground. As in the previous proposal, moveable chairs would be provided in this area. The amphitheater area has been adjusted to improve barrier-free access, with a ramp leading to the lower level and with a sloped lawn instead of stepped seating.

Ms. Olson presented the campus plan in the context of the wider campus plan, indicating the “tapestry” of green space and tree cover. She emphasized that the project would improve the pedestrian connection between Van Ness Street and Dennard Plaza with a landscape setting. Additional tall trees have been added near the building’s west facade; she noted the programmatic requirement that trees cannot be located within fifteen feet of the building, and the below-grade parking structure limits the soil depth in some areas of the site.

Mr. Farrell presented additional drawings to illustrate the proposal’s relationship to Dennard Plaza. He indicated the plaza’s two east–west axes, one along the southern side of the plaza, framed at the east end by the tower elements of two UDC buildings, which was an important organizing axis of the original UDC campus plan; and another axis through the center of the plaza. He noted that the axes were accentuated by the addition of glass-block pylons along the plaza during its recent renovation. The proposed D.C. Archives would mark the western termination of the southern axis at the center of an outward curve in the building’s glass wall.

Mr. Farrell presented elevations and perspective views to illustrate the current proposal, including the nearly windowless north and west facades. He said the floorplans have not changed significantly from the previous submission; he indicated the entrance at the southeast, the elliptical lobby, the large meeting room at the south, the exhibit areas, and the several research center rooms. The research areas would have a screen wall on the east to control the daylight and provide some privacy. The upper floors would have archival storage toward the north and west; staff work areas requiring daylight would face toward Van Ness Street on the south and Dennard Plaza on the east. The roof would have an area of mechanical equipment behind a screen wall; the remainder of the roof would have solar panels. On the elevation drawings, he indicated the revisions to the building’s northeast corner and the northward extension of the glass curtainwall; he said the detailing of the curtainwall has also been revised, and he characterized it as a ribbon flowing through the building. Adjustments to the curtainwall have included removal of the horizontal stripes and the heavy cap above the elliptical wall, with the goal of more consistency between the curtainwall and screen wall systems. In response to the Commission’s previous comments on the west facade, he presented study drawings of options to simplify the massing and address the building’s scale; while acknowledging that this facade is alongside a large open field, he said that the building’s scale becomes too large as a simple box, and the proposal is therefore to make some minor adjustments to improve the articulation of the massing.

Mr. Farrell described the landscape treatment as illustrated in the perspective views. The site would have a more open character than in the previous submission. He indicated the existing street trees along Van Ness Street; new street trees would be added where needed. The plaza area near the building entrance would include seating and trees; the number of trees at the western end of Dennard Plaza has also been increased. The planting beds above the below-grade garage would be raised to provide adequate soil depth.

Chair Tsien invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Ms. Delplace expressed appreciation for the increase in the tree canopy; she said this is a substantial improvement that makes the site an area where people want to stay. She supported the reduction in the extent of paving, which she said would improve the difficult character of the campus. Observing some differences among the drawings in where trees would be placed along the west facade, she recommended informal massings of trees to break up the perception of the building’s large mass, instead of planting the trees in a line.

Mr. Moore acknowledged the improvements to the site and building design in response to the Commission’s previous comments; he said the changes result in a more inclusive space and a building that better participates as part of the campus and neighborhood. Mr. McCrery joined in supporting the design.

Chair Tsien summarized the consensus that the current concept design is a very thoughtful response to the Commission’s previous guidance, and she acknowledged the design team’s consultation with the staff. She suggested approving the concept and conveying Ms. Delplace’s comment on the landscape. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Ms. Delplace, the Commission adopted this action. Mr. Stroik voted against the motion, commenting that the submission does not respond to his previous request to develop an option based on the design character of Connecticut Avenue. He said his request had been in response to the design team’s comment in the previous presentation that UDC “is not a very beloved campus,” in part because of its architecture; agreeing with this assessment, he had recommended exploring an alternative source for the building’s design character.

2. CFA 20/JUL/23-6, Alice Deal Middle School, 3815 Fort Drive, NW. Construction of a new three-story addition and associated sitework. Concept. (Previous: CFA 15/JUN/23-4) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.

3. CFA 20/JUL/23-7, Oyster-Adams Bilingual School (Adams Education Campus), 2020 19th Street, NW. Renovations and additions to existing building and landscape. Concept. Secretary Luebke said the school was designed in 1930 by Albert Harris, the D.C. municipal architect. In the era of segregated schools, it operated as the John Quincy Adams Elementary School serving White students; in 1955 the school was merged with the all-Black Thomas P. Morgan Elementary School, and the neighborhood name of Adams Morgan was derived from the resulting integrated school. He emphasized the issue of the site’s steep slope, running downward from northwest to southeast, which was accommodated by designing the school with a tall base whose southern end is two stories high along 19th Street. The base’s brick retaining wall supports a terrace at the entrance level above, which can be reached by ascending stairs at the middle and the upper end of the 19th Street frontage. Other features of the historic design include the double-height entrance loggia, the regular composition of windows and piers, and a rear wing with a multi-purpose space used as a gymnasium and an auditorium; the open space at the rear of the site includes playground and field areas as well as parking.

Mr. Luebke said the proposed renovation is intended to provide improved facilities, accommodate a projected increase in the student population, and address the constraints of access to the site. A new entrance pavilion is proposed at the south end of the 19th Street frontage, aligned with the existing base; additional space on the upper levels would be set back along 19th Street, comparable to the existing school’s massing. At the rear, a double-height addition would contain a new gymnasium. The school’s attic level would be expanded with a continuous rear shed dormer to provide additional classrooms, without altering the appearance along 19th Street. The reconfigured landscape would include a playground, playing field, outdoor classroom, and gathering space. He introduced architect David Bagnoli of Studio MB and landscape architect Adrienne McCray of Lee & Associates to present the design.

Mr. Bagnoli noted that the school is a contributing structure in the Washington Heights historic district, and the project was recently approved in concept by the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). He expressed appreciation for the assistance from the staffs of the HPRB and the Commission in developing the proposed design. He added that the project team for this design-build project includes Consigli Construction, which has expertise in the restoration and adaptive reuse of historic structures. He emphasized that retention of historic elements is an important part of this project.

Mr. Bagnoli presented the context, indicating 19th Street on the east and the large curving forms of the Hilton hotel on the south. Across the narrow alley to the west is the Wyoming, a notable historic apartment building that fronts on Columbia Road; the school renovation is being designed to maintain the Wyoming’s light and air and to minimize any adjacent excavation. Additional historic buildings are located on both sides of 19th Street, including taller buildings to the north of the school and three- to four-story row houses on the east side of the street.

Mr. Bagnoli presented a diagram illustrating the steep grade change across the site. From the low point at the south, the grade is 7 feet higher at the middle of the building’s 19th Street frontage, continues rising to the north, and reaches a maximum of 43 feet at the west along the alley. The front terrace along 19th Street is 24 feet above the site’s low point, and the school’s main floor is 3 feet higher than the terrace. He noted that access to the site is available from the terrace, with a small exterior staircase providing access to the uppermost playing field. He indicated the access from the alley to the school’s loading and trash area and the faculty parking lot; he emphasized that the 10-foot-wide alley provides service and parking access to multiple apartment buildings as well as the school. The existing soccer field behind the school is well liked by the community, and the site design needs to include a field of comparable size. Additional site constraints include the presence of several donated trees, the need for improved barrier-free access to the building and outdoor areas, and the lack of adequate stormwater management. He said the site strategy is to locate any building additions away from the nearby historic buildings, and to locate the outdoor play spaces where they would receive adequate sunshine during the fall, winter, and spring of the school year. He presented the solar analysis of the site; the Hilton hotel to the south casts a shadow on part of the site, which would be used for the proposed rear addition, and the play areas would be on the sunniest parts of the site. Flat areas, including the terrace, would be planted to contribute to the site’s stormwater management.

Mr. Bagnoli described the setting of the school’s main facade, which is set back 22 feet from the terrace’s retaining wall that forms the street edge along the property line. He noted that the street edge is strongly defined by the other buildings along the west side of 19th Street; the buildings to the north are taller than the school’s terrace, and the Hilton hotel’s base is at approximately the same height as the terrace, defining a strong horizontal datum. He described the overall effect along the block as bookends framing the school’s high brick retaining wall and recessed main facade. He also indicated the strong vertical rhythm along the facade, with a strong focus on the recessed entrance at the center.

Mr. Bagnoli said the area beneath the terrace could be used to accommodate additional program space, but the D.C. Historic Preservation Office has advised that windows should not be inserted within the historic retaining wall; mechanical rooms without daylight would be feasible, and some occupiable daylit space could be provided by adding skylights on the terrace. Additional program area would be accommodated by expanding the unused attic story. The auditorium, containing many historic elements, would remain; he added that the skylights for the auditorium and some classrooms—covered during World War II for safety from nighttime bombing raids—would be reopened.

Mr. Bagnoli presented the proposed building additions. A new barrier-free entrance would be added at the south end of the 19th Street frontage, at the site’s lowest corner. The entrance pavilion would project to the sidewalk edge, with a masonry base that continues the strong horizontality of the existing retaining wall; the entrance would be recessed within this base, comparable to the existing recessed entrance at the middle of the retaining wall, which will continue to be used. The glazing at the new entrance has been designed to allow for views of the historic building from 19th Street. The existing terrace would be extended above the entrance pavilion; the addition would rise further to house the school’s library, set back along the terrace. The new gymnasium addition at the rear would occupy the most heavily shaded part of the site; its design is based on the character of the existing auditorium and the proposed entrance pavilion. He noted that the school does not currently have a separate gymnasium; sports activities currently take place in the auditorium. The separate gymnasium would allow the auditorium space to also serve as the cafeteria, with convenient service access at the same level using the alley at the higher edge of the site, entered from Columbia Road. He presented photographs of precedents for the proposed architectural character: pre-patinated copper would frame the new entrance, and the masonry would relate to the tone and texture of the existing brick with limestone trim.

Mr. Bagnoli noted that this school has fourth- through eighth-grade students, serving as a partial elementary school as well as a middle school. The classrooms for the younger students would be on the lower two floors, and the middle-school students would be on the upper two levels including the added classrooms in the attic story. He indicated the siting for 22 parking spaces, matching the current number, and the relocated soccer field with new turf. The proposed outdoor classroom would also serve as a forecourt to the rear entrance between the gymnasium and the auditorium; artwork may be included in this space.

Mr. Bagnoli concluded by presenting elevation and perspective views. He noted that the south elevation would not be easily seen because the south edge of the site, adjoining the Hilton hotel, is very steep and heavily vegetated. Nonetheless, the south would provide daylight to the library as well as views out toward the city; the windows would be smaller in areas where the views would be obscured by the hotel. He indicated the library roof’s alignment with the existing heavy cornice line between the school’s second and third stories.

Ms. McCray presented a diagram of the site design illustrating the program areas and pedestrian circulation. She said the emphasis is on activating the site with gathering areas, seating, and play spaces. Along 19th Street, in association with the entrances, the design includes seating and bicycle racks. The brick-paved terrace would have seating areas and tables; added plantings would soften the space and contribute to the stormwater management requirements, and the expanded terrace space at the south would provide an outdoor reading area adjacent to the new library. The north side of the site would provide access from 19th Street to the play areas in the rear, which are available to the public outside of school hours. The various levels of the site provide opportunities for seating, gathering, and overlooks. The design includes site areas for bioretention as well as green roofs. Cherry trees would be planted along 19th Street, and an existing cherry tree and donated trees would remain toward the north end of the site; raised decks in this area are being carefully designed in relation to the existing trees.

Ms. McCray said the rear of the site, while divided into separate programmatic spaces, is intended to be perceived as a continuous play area. She indicated the separate play areas for the fourth- to fifth-grade students and the sixth- to eighth-grade students, as well as the raised planting beds adjacent to the gymnasium. A six-foot-tall fence would separate the school property from the public alley; within the site, four-foot-tall fences would separate the play spaces from the outdoor classroom and the parking area, and additional protective fencing would enclose the bioretention areas. Playground paving would have a colorful pattern, and a poured-in-place rubber surface would be used in areas needing protection for falls; the soccer field would have a synthetic turf surface. The outdoor classroom would have seating and a shade structure, with permeable paving that contributes to stormwater management. Canopy trees around the site would provide shade, and shrubs would create a visual buffer between the play areas and the parking and loading areas. She said the plant selections are intended to provide seasonal interest and color, and pollinator gardens are included in the design.

Chair Tsien invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Ms. Delplace said the proposal successfully addresses the difficult challenges of the site, including the substantial topographic change. She cited the careful analysis of the building’s interior to find usable space within the existing architecture, which is important on such a tight site; similarly, the landscape architecture makes good use of the leftover pieces of the site. She asked about the school’s enrollment. Mr. Bagnoli responded that the current student population of approximately 380 is projected to reach 425. He noted that the design capacity for a school building should typically be 10 to 20 percent greater than the projected enrollment, and this project’s design capacity is in the low 500 range. Ms. Delplace asked if a comparable measure of capacity is being used for the outdoor space, with consideration of the students’ age range. Mr. Bagnoli responded that the D.C. Government provides educational specifications, as well as regulatory requirements for site features such as parking, loading, and trash. He said the project meets the regulatory requirements; the number of parking spaces is above the minimum and matches the existing parking, which is important because a reduction in parking could be problematic for recruitment and retention of teachers at this unique bilingual school. He emphasized that the site design accommodates this parking, along with a soccer field that would be the same size as the existing field; he said Ms. McCray has met this challenge by creatively using the hidden spaces around the building. He reiterated that the proposal includes separate play areas for two age groups, as required, along with the large sports field that is heavily used by the older students and the community. Ms. Delplace agreed that the site design makes good use of the limited available space.

Mr. Bagnoli added that stormwater management is especially challenging for this site, which is largely on rock; with much of the site used for play areas, the available space for stormwater management is limited to small areas of the site as well as green roof areas. Ms. McCray described the additional design solutions that are intended to make good use of the constrained site: the stair landings and the areas beneath the stairs would serve as small gathering spaces, and the tall climbing structures on the playground can accommodate more children within the limited area.

Mr. McCrery expressed support for Ms. Delplace’s comments on the creative and efficient use of the existing school. Noting his affinity for historic architecture, he said that a present-day architect with a sympathetic design approach could design appropriate alterations, such as inserting windows in the retaining wall to bring daylight to the space beneath the terrace. While acknowledging the good work of the HPRB and of the historic preservation movement generally, he said the preservation guidance can sometimes have a stultifying attitude of encapsulating historic buildings instead of allowing them to show life. He expressed regret at the constraints that have been placed on the project, and he suggested coming to the Commission early instead of late in the design process; he said the Commission’s advice could then be used to argue against the constraints that others may try to impose.

Mr. McCrery said the design team’s evident creativity should be applied to developing the design for the proposed addition at the south end of the 19th Street frontage. While the addition does not need to look like an extension of the existing architecture, he observed that the Commission has seen much more creative contemporary solutions for many of the school renovation projects that have been presented by other designers. He questioned the historic preservation guidance to design the addition’s glazing to provide views from the sidewalk to the end of the historic building; he observed that glass is generally not perceived as transparent, except for a brief period at dusk with interior illumination—a time of day when the school is probably not heavily used. He said glass might be an appropriate choice of material for other reasons, but not for its purported transparency that doesn’t really exist. He encouraged further creative thought for the design of this addition, rising above the constraints being imposed by others. He reiterated his overall support for the thoughtful proposal, particularly the site design.

Ms. Tsien joined in expressing appreciation for the skill of both the architect and landscape architect in addressing the project’s very difficult challenges. While supporting the gesture of the new entrance portal as an interesting idea, she questioned the proposed material of pre-patinated copper, commenting that it tends to look too uniform and inauthentic. She encouraged the other material selections of precast panels and dark brick, citing the illustrated detailing of the brick that would create an interesting horizontal emphasis. She suggested consideration of using brick to frame the entrance portal, providing greater continuity with the base of the addition.

Chair Tsien suggested a consensus to approve the concept design with the comments provided. Upon a motion by Ms. Delplace with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission adopted this action; Mr. McCrery and Mr. Stroik voted against the motion. Secretary Luebke noted that the three favorable votes, including Chair Tsien’s, are a majority of the Commission members present. Mr. McCrery said his concern is the need to substantially improve the quality of the exterior design for the proposed addition at the south; Chair Tsien said this comment should be included as part of the Commission’s observations on the project.

F. D.C. Department of Buildings—Old Georgetown Act

OG 23-199, 2900–2922 M Street, NW, and 1132 29th Street, NW. New development and alterations to historic rowhouses. Concept. The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.

Noting the upcoming August break from the monthly schedule, Secretary Luebke expressed appreciation to the members for their time and expertise in their volunteer service on the Commission.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:15 p.m.


Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA