201 East Capitol Street, SE
Dear Dr. Witmore:
In its public meeting of 16 April conducted by videoconference, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a revised submission of the final design for alterations to the site and building of the Folger Shakespeare Library at 201 East Capitol Street, SE (case number SL 20-067). Expressing appreciation for the vision of the Folger to expand the institution’s public presence and accessibility, the Commission approved the final design.
The Commission approved by a one-vote majority the revisions to the proposal made in response to specific issues raised in the previous review—including the selection of materials, the cladding of the exposed foundation walls of the historic building, the redesign of the egress path and overlook at the northeast corner of the building, the revised handrail design at the historic terrace entrances, and the program of signage and graphics. For the relocation of the cast aluminum copy of the Puck statue and elements of its historic setting in the west lawn to a new location within the composition of the proposed northwestern lower-level entrance, the Commission members cited the integrity and high quality of the statue’s existing location and setting. They expressed regret that, in order to accommodate the proposed design, the regulations for tree protection require the relocation of the nearby heritage magnolia tree, necessitating the disassembly of the statuary ensemble; they also found that the extent of the disassembly and removal of this ensemble was not adequately presented in the project submissions. In their discussion, some Commission members urged reconsideration of the proposed new location for the statue and the loss of its setting of a stone plinth, walls, and basins, suggesting that the ensemble be retained at or near its current location; others expressed support for the proposal, characterizing it as compatible with the historic and proposed architecture and successful in reinterpreting the statue in a contemporary way related to the Folger’s mission. Again by the majority of one vote and consistent with its previous concept approval action, the Commission approved this element of the design, supporting the first option as preferred by the project team, with the condition that the wooden benches proposed in front of the statue be instead made of stone to match the rest of the fountain elements.
The Commission looks forward to seeing the completed project for this widely admired institution and its exemplary building. If there are any changes to the final design, including those required by other regulatory processes, please consult with the staff, which is always available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Michael Witmore, Director
Folger Shakespeare Library
201 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
cc: Stephen Kieran, Kieran Timberlake
Hallie Boyce, OLIN
Matthew Marcou, D.C. Public Space Committee
David Maloney, D.C. Historic Preservation Office