CFA 15/OCT/15-2


4810 36th Street, NW
Washington, DC
United States

D.C. Department of General Services
Murch Elementary School
Additions and building modernization
Review Type
Previous Review


Dear Mr. Weaver:

In its meeting of 15 October, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept design for alterations and additions to Murch Elementary School, located at 4810 36th Street, NW. The Commission approved the concept with the following recommendations for the development of the design.

The Commission members expressed appreciation for the responsiveness to their comments in the review of July 2015 and said that the design of the building and site have improved. However, they continued to raise questions about the inadequate documentation of the project, particularly in presenting the changes to the architectural design, comprehensive aerial and contextual views of the project, and the topography of the site design. They supported the conceptual changes to many elements of the building, including the refined palette of materials, the redesigned cafeteria addition, and the enlarged south-facing open court; they suggested further widening of the court if possible and recommended lowering the projecting wall at the cafeteria loading area. They commented that the design of the connection between the historic school building and the addition should convey both compatibility and a legible differentiation of the two eras of construction.

For the design of the site, the Commission recommended a more comprehensive approach to develop an integrated landscape from the building face to the curb. Specifically, they recommended a less rigid strategy for water management through discrete rain garden elements, suggesting instead that a more unified design solution could address hydrologic issues continuously across the landscape. In addition, they suggested eliminating unnecessary elements in the narrower sections of the building yard—such as meandering paths adjacent to the public sidewalk—and they questioned the use of flowering understory trees within the line of large street trees. They questioned the resolution of topographic conditions generally, citing as an example potentially problematic use of retaining walls along Reno Road, which are not coordinated consistently in the submission. They reiterated the need for detailed documentation of site conditions and the coordination of the landscape plans with the presentation renderings. 

The Commission requests the opportunity to review further development of the concept prior to the submission of a final design. As always, the staff is available to assist you.


/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA

Christopher Weaver, Acting Director
D.C. Department of General Services
2000 14th Street, NW, 8th Floor
Washington, DC 20009

cc: Ronnie McGhee, R. McGhee & Associates
Joan Honeyman, Jordan Honeyman Landscape Architecture