Minutes for CFA Meeting — 15 March 2018

The meeting was convened in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, at 9:11 a.m.

Members present:
Hon. Earl A. Powell, Chairman
Hon. Elizabeth Meyer, Vice Chairman
Hon. Edward Dunson
Hon. Liza Gilbert
Hon. Alex Krieger
Hon. Mia Lehrer

Staff present:
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
Sarah Batcheler
Kay Fanning
Daniel Fox
Susan Raposa
Tony Simon
Jessica Stevenson

I. Administration

A.  Approval of the minutes of the 15 February meeting.  Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the February meeting had been circulated to the Commission members in advance.  Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the minutes.  Mr. Luebke said that the minutes will be made available on the Commission’s website.

B. Dates of next meetings.  Mr. Luebke presented the dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published:  19 April, 17 May, and 21 June 2018.

C. Report on the 2018 National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs grant program.   Mr. Luebke reported on the federal grants program administered by the Commission to support cultural institutions in Washington, D.C.  He said that 22 applications have been received, all from organizations that received grants in the previous year.  Funding of the program remains uncertain due to the lack of a full-year appropriation; the grants process will proceed when the funding is resolved, and the amount of each grant would be determined using an established formula.  He added that because all of the organizations have previously qualified, and no new eligibility concerns have arisen, the review panel to evaluate the applications would likely not be needed this year.

 D. Report on position announcement for hiring new staff posted on www.USAJOBS.gov.  Mr. Luebke reported that a job opening on the Commission staff is currently being advertised; the position will support the work of the Old Georgetown Board.  He noted that the number of cases for Georgetown—nearly 400 per year—is greater than for any of the Commission’s (other) jurisdictions.  He encouraged potential applicants to see the announcement on the federal government website www.USAJOBS.gov; the closing date is 26 March.

II. Submissions and Reviews

 A. Appendices

Mr. 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. Lindstrom said that the only change to the draft appendix is a minor correction to the number of parking spaces at the RISE. Center at the Saint Elizabeths East Campus (case number CFA 15/MAR/18-e).  Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the revised Government Submissions Consent Calendar.

Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions:  Ms. Batcheler reported that one project has been removed and is anticipated for the April appendix (case number SL 18-070); another project, still shown on the revised appendix, will similarly be removed due to a last-minute request from the applicant (SL 18-048).  The recommendation for one project is conditional on selecting an exterior color (SL 18-064); she requested authorization to finalize this recommendation when this issue is resolved.  Changes for other projects are limited to minor wording adjustments and noting the receipt of supplemental materials.  Upon a motion by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act appendix.

Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions:  Ms. Stevenson said that no changes have been made to the draft appendix, which includes 20 projects.  Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the Old Georgetown Act appendix. 

At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider items II.D.2.  Mr. Luebke said that the Commission may wish to act on this submission without a presentation, noting that it does not meet the requirements for inclusion on the Consent Calendar.

D.  Events DC (Washington Convention and Sports Authority)

2.  CFA 15/MAR/18-4, Robert F. Kennedy Stadium-Armory Campus, Parking Lot 7, C Street, NE east of Oklahoma Avenue, along the Anacostia River (Kingman Lake).  Temporary multipurpose sports fields.  Concept.  Mr. Luebke noted that the temporary sports fields would be placed on top of a large existing parking lot.  He suggested that the Commission could provide comments on the current concept submission and delegate review of the final design to the staff.  Chairman Powell supported the delegation.  Ms. Gilbert requested further study of the project’s bioretention areas; she said that they appear to be too small, and they could be better integrated with the rest of the project’s landscape and with the adjacent landscape toward the Anacostia River, which includes trees.  Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the concept submission with this comment, and delegated review of the final design to the staff.  Peter May of the National Park Service noted his agency’s cooperation with developing this proposal

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

B. National Park Service

CFA 15/MAR/18-1, National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial.  Site selection for new memorial.  (Previous:  CFA 19/OCT/17-2.)  Secretary Luebke introduced the revised site selection study for the National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial, submitted by the National Park Service (NPS) on behalf of the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association.  He said that in its previous review of eight potential sites in October 2017, the Commission had supported the further study of the project team’s two preferred sites—West Potomac Park at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue, NW, and Walt Whitman Park on E Street, NW—and had recommended continued consideration of the Belvedere along the Potomac River at the historic terminus of Constitution Avenue.  The Commission had requested that each of these sites be evaluated according to its opportunities to generate different design ideas at different scales.  In response to that guidance, the project team has developed schematic studies for the three sites.  He introduced Peter May, Associate Regional Director for Lands and Planning at the National Capital Region of the National Park Service, to begin the presentation.

Mr. May emphasized the progress made on the proposal for this memorial since it was last reviewed, noting that the project team has studied numerous design options for all three sites, and today seeks direction from the Commission.  He asked Scott Stump, president of the memorial association, to introduce the speakers.

Mr. Stump noted that a year ago, the Desert Storm memorial had received authorization to be located in Area 1 as defined by the Commemorative Works Act.  He said that the memorial deserves an Area 1 location for several reasons:  it will commemorate the last major war of the 20th century; the military action exemplified efficiency, strength, and execution, and was carried out by a coalition of 34 countries; and Desert Storm represents a distinct shift, or “pivot,” in the American public’s attitude toward the military.  While there is no preconceived design, he said that the new memorial would be unique and something more than a place of mourning.  He stressed that the collaborative process and thorough analysis carried out by the project team has led to the conclusion that one site is by far the most appropriate.  He introduced two congressmen to speak in support the memorial:  Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee and Rep. Steven Palazzo of Mississippi.

Rep. Roe said that as a veteran of the Vietnam War, he clearly remembers the hostility faced by Vietnam veterans and their families, but this attitude changed markedly after Desert Storm.  Rep. Palazzo, who served with the Marines in Desert Storm, said that American troops returned home to widespread acclaim, which he attributes to expiation for feelings of guilt over the country’s treatment of Vietnam veterans.  On behalf of the House National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus, he endorsed the 23rd Street site as a place of honor near the memorials to the Korea and Vietnam veterans.

Mr. Stump then introduced the project architect, Randy Schumacher, with CSO Architects of Indianapolis.  Mr. Schumacher said that the project team also includes landscape architects from the Olin Studio and AECOM.  He outlined three guiding design principles:  to convey the pivot in American attitudes toward the military, which can be dated to the victory parade down Constitution Avenue on June 8, 1991; to honor the coalition of 34 nations that fought the war, a result of successful international diplomacy; and to select a site that can support commemoration of the conflict and of its veterans.  He emphasized that the primary message of the Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial will be the relation of this conflict to the Vietnam War and the return of the American military to a heroic status.

Mr. Schumacher provided an overview of the existing memorials on the National Mall, whose typical elements include walls, statues, sculptures and bas-reliefs, landscapes, and processional routes.  He noted that the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is especially relevant because of the intended relation between it and the new memorial.  Additional sources of design inspiration may include the battle maneuver known as the “Left Hook,” and the celebrations of Kuwaitis and Americans after the war—events which may be symbolized in sculptures or groupings of flags.  The design criteria include creating a place more than an object; establishing a sacred space and a space that expresses the coalition of allied countries; and a close integration with the landscape.

Mr. Schumacher said that the project team has studied Washington’s monumental core to identify commemorative zones within it.  A zone of American leaders and presidents extends along the Potomac River from the Kennedy Center south through the Lincoln Memorial to the Jefferson Memorial, with the Washington Monument as an “outlier.”  A cluster of 20th-century war memorials occupies the west end of the Mall near the Lincoln Memorial, including the D.C. World War I Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the World War II Memorial, and potentially the future Education Center at the Wall, across Henry Bacon Drive from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  He noted that the site at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue lies within this zone, while the Belvedere is situated further west in the leadership zone.

Landscape architect Skip Graffam of the Olin Studio joined Mr. Schumacher in presenting design studies for each of the three sites, beginning with the Belvedere.  This site is approximately four-tenths of a mile from the Mall, and visitors would most likely reach it by walking from the Mall along the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway.  Mr. Schumacher noted that the Belvedere is a beautiful and prominent site but lacks strong, thematic visual and axial relations with other memorials.  The Belvedere is visible from Arlington Memorial Bridge and from Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, and even from airplanes arriving or departing from Reagan National Airport, and it would provide views of Arlington National Cemetery and the Air Force Memorial.  However, the view of the Lincoln Memorial would be obscured by trees, and the Washington Monument would only be visible during the winter.  A tall commemorative memorial at the Belvedere would be visible from Constitution Avenue and would act as a terminus to its axis, but the physical connection of the roadway to the Belvedere is obstructed by bridge ramps with heavy traffic.

Mr. Schumacher described the site improvements that would be crucial to building a successful memorial at the Belvedere, including changes to the walks and roadways.  The existing historic balustrade would need to remain, and seat walls could be added to complement it.  The asphalt-paved vehicular pull-off area could be removed.  Design studies explored using curved walls to create a contemplative space; these walls could be carved with bas-reliefs or inscriptions, and openings between walls could frame views outward and also inward to a memorial element, such as a sculpture or spire that would also function as the visual terminus to Constitution Avenue.  The walls could also direct pedestrian movement and provide a buffer against noise; a series of wind sculptures in front of the walls could represent each of the coalition countries.  Although the allowable height is constrained by the overhead flight path to the airport, an acceptable limit is already established by the height of the existing streetlights on the nearby Theodore Roosevelt Bridge.

Mr. Graffam characterized the sketch designs as primarily organizational diagrams; he noted that the project team consulted with the staffs of the Commission, the National Capital Planning Commission, and the D.C. Historic Preservation Office on their preparation.  He said that the Belvedere, while important within the larger civic landscape of the Mall, is the most constrained of the three sites, with heavy traffic and much noise.  For these reasons, walls would be used to open the space up gradually.  The outer wall or edge would be designed to balance the gesture of welcoming visitors into the site with providing an edge along the traffic of the roadway beyond.  He observed that the path along the river is heavily used by pedestrians and cyclists, and a memorial could function as an oasis along this busy route.  North–south views along the river would remain unobstructed, and the view to the Lincoln Memorial would be emphasized.  The site’s location in the flood plain would require that the memorial be designed for resiliency.  New trees could be planted to recreate the historic allée of elms along the disrupted historic alignment of Constitution Avenue.

Mr. Schumacher presented the next site alternative, a quarter-acre area in the urban green space of Walt Whitman Park on E Street.  The park occupies a rectangular block in a part of the city zoned for mixed use; it is surrounded by multiple lanes of traffic, parallel parking, and multistory federal and institutional buildings.  E Street lies along what is expected to become an east-west “presidential corridor” extending from the White House to the Kennedy Center.  An existing park with a playground occupies the park’s east end.  The site is a quarter-mile north of the Mall, which he called a small but significant separation.

Mr. Schumacher said that the main approach for visitors arriving from the Mall would be northward up 19th Street, determined to be the strongest and most direct connection.  He described the site’s connection to the diplomacy theme as loose:  the State Department is located to the southwest, and on the north is the George Washington University (GWU) School of International Affairs.  Otherwise, he said, the site’s immediate surroundings do not have a strong thematic connection to the three main themes of the memorial.  Immediately east of the site is Rawlins Park, commemorating Gen. John A. Rawlins, an aide to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War and later President Grant’s first secretary of war.  Rawlins Park is formally composed, with two east-west allées of trees flanking a central paved plaza and pool; this design could influence the design of a memorial in the adjacent Walt Whitman Park.

Mr. Schumacher said that Walt Whitman Park includes a grade change of approximately ten feet from the northwest downward to the southeast.  The project team has explored both traditional axial designs and more modern, complex arrangements of spatial rooms; one example of each is included in the presentation.  In both cases, entrance would be at the east, from the 19th Street connection to the Mall and to avoid the views of traffic and the E Street tunnel entrance that dominate the park’s west end, where the memorial’s exit would be located.  Mr. Graffam added that the relatively steep grade would allow the site to be stepped down and the spaces to be gradually revealed as a visitor walks through, or alternatively the memorial could be designed as a large gesture surrounded by spaces.  He said that the surrounding buildings and roads provide few gestural clues to organize a memorial, other than the east–west axis of Rawlins Park.

Mr. Schumacher described the first sketch design, which extends the east–west axis of Rawlins Park through the site; the memorial’s entrance would be on the east and the exit on the west.  The memorial would be further divided into two halves, or “rooms,” by a shorter north–south cross-axis that would respond to the articulation of central entrance bays on nearby building facades.  The area on the east would commemorate the coalition of 34 nations, and the western side of the park would be reserved as open space or for a future commemoration.  The processional route along the central axis would make a sharp rightward turn, or pivot, into the main commemorative area, which might incorporate a series of walls.

Ms. Meyer asked how the grade change might be handled on this site.  Mr. Graffam responded that the memorial would probably be situated at the site’s average grade, using cut and fill to mediate changes in elevation along the edges of the memorial.  Walls would be kept low to preserve the open axis and to give the impression that the design is a single unified block.  The walls would be less visible from the north, functioning as retaining walls for these higher grades; they would be visible when seen from the east or west.

Mr. Schumacher said that the second sketch design relies on a single space instead of the two rooms of the first.  It would have subtle terracing, with higher walls bearing inscriptions or bas-relief sculptures.  A series of markers or objects representing the 34 nations could modulate the space, creating walks and framing views of a main commemorative element set on the axis in front of a backdrop wall.  He said that working with the central east–west axis led to geometric rather than curvilinear design solutions, creating a single, self-contained space, in which visitors would see the entire memorial at once; it would also allow for borrowing more of the Rawlins Park landscape in views.  In this scenario, the west part of Walt Whitman Park would not be included in the sequential procession.

Mr. Schumacher emphasized that the site at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue has the greatest number of visual and thematic connections supporting the three main criteria for the memorial.  It is part of the exceptionally important cultural landscape of the National Mall; while it is not in the Reserve—the area of the monumental core where no additional memorials can be built—it is clearly part of the Mall and is in Area 1.  He said that the site has an axial relationship to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and lies near the north–south axis of the Lincoln Memorial; the strong visual connection to the Lincoln Memorial relates to the theme of Lincoln being one of the great American heroes of liberation. He said that a Desert Storm memorial on this site would be in a respectful position to the Lincoln Memorial, situated slightly behind its rear facade and at a lower elevation.  The new memorial would also have an important physical connection to Constitution Avenue and to the cultural theme of the victory parade along this route, which represents the “pivot” in American attitudes toward the military.  He added that parking is available nearby, and the floodplain condition is manageable; the project team is coordinating with the NPS on the design of the levee system.

Mr. Schumacher described the existing conditions and related future constraints in greater detail.  The site has a slight slope but is largely flat; the 500-year floodplain extends through the site, which comprises about nine-tenths of an acre.  Subtle grade changes could raise some or all of the site above the floodplain; the new grading could be tied into existing contours, or the memorial site could be elevated slightly and the levee built further to the west.  Anticipated construction of underground infrastructure by DC Water would require an area for a permanent drop shaft and a temporary laydown space on this block, but this construction may not occur until after the memorial is built.  The drop shaft would require an at-grade concrete pad, which would not be a major obstruction.

Mr. Graffam noted that the NPS plans to extend the levee along 23rd Street.  If the memorial site and drop shaft require shifting the levee line further west, the need for a flood-proof memorial structure would be eliminated.  Also, if the drop shaft opening is designed to be on a site higher than the 500-year flood plain datum, it could be flush with the ground, allowing this infrastructure to be less visually intrusive.  He concluded that placing the memorial here could simplify construction of the levee.

Mr. Schumacher emphasized that the 23rd Street location would allow the Desert Storm Memorial to become part of a series of related memorials, from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and its future Education Center to the Desert Storm Memorial.  Opportunities would be available for additional commemoration in this sequence, especially if improvements are made to the system of vehicular ramps for the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge.  The site is within the historic allée of trees along Constitution Avenue and is near the Institute of Peace and the State Department.  Mr. Graffam emphasized that unlike the other two sites, the memorial here would be part of a nationally important cultural landscape that also includes other memorials.

Mr. Schumacher said that the 23rd Street site offers almost limitless possibilities for a memorial design.  One sketch design locates the memorial in the northeast corner of the block among existing trees, with additional trees proposed for added buffering.  Walks would tie into the existing network of sidewalks.  He said that a memorial in this location would be on the extended axis of the eastern wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and would offer a clear view of the Lincoln Memorial.  Mr. Graffam added that because of the large plantings around the Lincoln Memorial’s base, people at the Lincoln Memorial would not have a reciprocal view back to the Desert Storm memorial.  Mr. Schumacher said that enclosing walls of different heights could be used to define the memorial space and mitigate traffic noise.  The memorial’s presence could also help to improve pedestrian movement around the west end of the Mall.

Mr. Schumacher described the second sketch design for the 23rd Street site as a shaped landscape, similar to the first but with an even stronger directional orientation to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  Relatively low curved walls would enclose a space around a key element that would be placed on the axis.  This design could incorporate a “Left Hook” gesture, perhaps comprising 34 elements to represent the coalition countries, to define a sequential movement leading toward the enclosure and to help interpret the significance of the international coalition.

Mr. Schumacher presented a third sketch design that builds on the idea of sequential rooms.  It is similar to the second design for Walt Whitman Park, but it would use three rooms instead of two to represent the three different design criteria:  the first room would be related to the Vietnam Memorial, the second to the Lincoln Memorial, and the third to the international coalition.  Each room would connect to existing walks at a different point, and the memorial would be set within a cluster of 34 trees.  Mr. Graffam described this design as a sequence of galleries among the trees, each with different themes revealed as a visitor proceeds; he contrasted this to the more unified configuration of the other two designs.  He added that the Desert Storm memorial on this site could set up a future sequence of other memorials that might even extend to the Belvedere, beginning to restore the connection to the Belvedere that has been lost due to the roadways.

Mr. Schumacher said in conclusion that the purpose of the study is to select the best site of the three for telling the story of Desert Storm and Desert Shield within an American, international, and historical context.  He described it as a story of international unity and of America leading the world in correcting a grievous wrong.  He said it is also a story concerning the end of the Vietnam era and the return of the American military to heroic status.  He described the findings for the three sites.  The Belvedere, while occupying a highly visible site on the Potomac River and possessing some relationship to Constitution Avenue, lacks many of the thematic connections that would tell the story.  The site in Walt Whitman Park is not located on the Mall; it has a relatively large amount of space but only loose connections to some of the important thematic elements.  Finally, the site at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue has strong connections to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Institute of Peace.  He said that the memorial’s sponsoring association has determined that this site is the obvious choice to tell this story, and it has the support of many veterans.

Commending the presentation, Ms. Meyer asked for further clarification on how the three sketch designs for 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue would relate to the proposed education center for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  She observed that the presented diagram of thematic connections on the Mall illustrates several relationships, particularly to the Lincoln Memorial and to one wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and she asked how each of the three studies would respond to the design for the education center.  Mr. Graffam responded that the education center is designed to be almost invisible when someone is looking east from the 23rd Street site; similarly, visitors walking along Constitution Avenue or 23rd Street would see no major visual clues to its presence, such as circulation or doorways.  Because of this, he said, it would not have a strong effect on the organization of the new memorial site.

Ms. Meyer recalled that the Commission members, in their discussions with the architect for the education center, had emphasized that this building should not be aligned with nor appear to be a continuation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  Instead, they had encouraged reinforcing the education center’s relationship as part of the setting of the Lincoln Memorial.  She said the designers of that project had struggled for years to keep the education center below grade, and she questioned why the same treatment would not be required for the Desert Storm memorial on the 23rd Street site.

Mr. Krieger asked if the Vietnam Veterans Memorial would be visible from the general area proposed for the Desert Storm memorial.  Mr. Graffam responded that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial itself would not be visible, but the space it occupies and the surrounding trees could be seen.  Mr. Krieger commented that this is the reason that he considers the concept of the new memorial as a continuation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial axis to be questionable.

Chairman Powell invited comments from members of the audience.  Several veterans spoke in support of the site at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue.  Sandra Robinson, a co-founder of Desert Storm Combat Women, said that she had volunteered as an active duty nurse in Desert Storm, which she characterized as a war of lasting importance.  She expressed support for a Desert Storm memorial and for the site at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue.  She said that 40,000 women served in this conflict under extremely difficult conditions, and the 15 women who were killed are as worthy of respect as those who died in any war.  She said the memorial would also honor the more than 600,000 Americans who served, and it would forever bind together veterans and their history.

Ms. Robinson introduced Melissa Coleman, who served in the Army during Desert Storm and was the first enlisted American woman to be held as a prisoner of war.  A tank driver on the front lines, she was wounded and captured in the battle of Khafji, and then held in solitary confinement for 33 days.  She said that Desert Storm is inaccurately characterized as a 100-hour war, but in fact many American service members remained there for months.  She said that a new memorial can most successfully reflect the importance of the war on the 23rd Street site.

Next to speak was Michelle Turner, also a combat veteran of Desert Storm.  Recalling missile attacks and burning bodies, she emphasized that the conflict was an actual war.  She spoke of the great support and respect given to veterans when they returned home, calling it a humbling experience.  She said that when she was first deployed, she had felt apprehensive because of the reaction after Vietnam, but on subsequent deployments she felt no such uncertainty due to the huge change in national support for the military following Desert Storm.  She emphasized that Desert Storm was fought to liberate the people of Kuwait—unlike Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, which were carried out in response to terrorist attacks.  She described the 23rd Street location as a site of honor and promise.

Another veteran of Desert Storm, Chris Holloway, said that he is a resident of Washington, D.C., and like other local residents, he forgets the significance of sites he sees daily.  He objected to the Belvedere site because he believes it is not very visible and has few visitors, while the Walt Whitman Park site is just a typical urban park.  He said that the Desert Storm memorial should be in a place of honor where it will be visible every day to tourists and local residents.

Paul Johnston, a disabled veteran of Desert Storm, emphasized that the 23rd Street site would be much easier to reach than the Belvedere.  It is closer to other monuments, has more parking available, and is more level, while the grade leading up to the Belvedere would result in difficult access.

Mr. Stump introduced General Ron Griffith who, as one of six American division commanders, led the First Armored Division and the Left Hook operation.  Gen. Griffith emphasized the link between the Vietnam War and Desert Storm:  the earlier Vietnam experience of Desert Storm’s military leaders shaped how they viewed the world and the organization of the military.  He spoke of the hostility faced by soldiers, officers, and their families following Vietnam.  He described how the Vietnam War led to a renaissance and higher standards for the U.S. Army, eventually leading to the quick victory in Desert Storm.  He emphasized that veterans of Desert Storm will want to walk to its memorial from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to honor their colleagues whose names are inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial walls, as a demonstration that “we finally got it right.”

Mr. Stump introduced retired Major General John D. Altenburg, Jr., who was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War, and afterwards went to law school on the G.I. Bill and became an Army lawyer.  Gen. Altenburg said that in Desert Storm, he served as an officer with the First Armored Division.  He supported Gen. Griffith’s preference for the 23rd Street site.

Chairman Powell thanked all the speakers for their engaging testimony and asked the Commission to comment on the site alternatives.

Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation for the studies, calling them impressive and acknowledging how seriously the project team has approached the selection process and tested the sites for their capacity.  She observed that the design studies primarily explored the spatial possibilities of each site.  Referring to the thematic clusters diagram of the monumental core, she discussed the criteria for evaluating the sites.  She expressed concern about a war memorial zone continuing to grow in the west end of the Mall.  She emphasized her strong belief that the western end of the Mall should not be a place defined only by war memorials and the commemoration of death; she said the Mall should be a place of prospect about America’s future, one that celebrates more than war.  She described the capacity along the edge of the monumental core to include memorials to great individuals, citing the location of the memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr., as an outstanding leader within the sequence of presidential memorials.

Ms. Meyer offered general observations about the three sites.  She commented that the current expansion of the Kennedy Center suggests improvements will be made to the roadways near the Belvedere.  She emphasized that conceptually, the National Mall actually includes more area than shown on the presentation diagram:  it also extends north to include President’s Park and the White House Grounds, and therefore the site in Walt Whitman Park on E Street is not as remote as portrayed, but is in a busy neighborhood, next to several federal buildings and on the edge of a university campus. She added that the proposed new World War I Memorial in Pershing Park lies on the axis that extends west through the White House Grounds, Rawlins Park, and Whitman Park to the Kennedy Center—and this axis will become increasingly celebratory and honorific.

Ms. Meyer said she found merits of the Walt Whitman Park site area to be very compelling.  She pointed out that the site has the same proximity to the State Department as the site on 23rd Street, and it is also is adjacent to the international studies department of George Washington University.  She agreed that this not an easy area to drive to, but she commented that modes of travel within cities are changing rapidly.

Ms. Meyer acknowledged the difficulties presented by the Belvedere site—constrained by roadways and heavy traffic, its circulation and access are difficult.  She said that if the memorial’s sponsoring association develops a strong preference for this site, the Commission members would certainly encourage improvements to its accessibility and to the circulation around it.

Ms. Meyer concluded that the 23rd Street site is not the strongest option.  She noted the many times over the years that the Commission members had reviewed the proposed education center for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; throughout that process, they had remained firm in their belief that the structure should be below grade and largely invisible to avoid competing with the Lincoln Memorial.  She added that the Lincoln Memorial does not have a rear facade, as described repeatedly in the presentation, and a memorial on the 23rd Street site would not be “below and behind” the Lincoln Memorial.

Ms. Meyer expressed enthusiasm for the sketch designs proposed for Walt Whitman Park, adding that she would support the Belvedere site if that is the preference of the other Commission members.  She concluded that she is not convinced about the merits of the 23rd Street site, but she emphasized her great respect for the veterans’ testimony, adding that her brother is a veteran of Desert Storm.

Mr. Krieger said that he also is not convinced of the superiority of the 23rd Street site; the reason is that he does not believe it would tell the story that the memorial sponsor wants to tell.  He said that a memorial here would need to be modest, invisible, and buried in the trees; finding it would require new signage at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  He described as “fictitious” the idea that an axis extends west from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to this site, adding that he does not even agree that the site is prominent and deserving of an important feature.  He stressed that the Commission members understand the importance of this war, and they understand the concern that this memorial would not get enough attention without proximity to an exceptionally important and popular location.  But he reiterated that the site on 23rd Street is far less visible than the other two.  While agreeing that the story of Desert Storm needs some relationship to other 20th-century war memorials, he said it does not need to be immediately adjacent to them.

Mr. Krieger enumerated the advantages of the Belvedere site.  At this location, directly on the axis of Constitution Avenue, a tall object or flagpoles would be visible for long distances; he asked the project team to imagine the sight of 34 flags flying here, on this axis, visible from the river, from Arlington National Cemetery, and even from the area around the Pentagon.  The memorial would be within sight of the Lincoln Memorial, and it would also be visible from the Institute of Peace; this prominence would underscore the importance of Desert Storm.  He disagreed with the speaker who had claimed that local residents would not see a memorial at the Belvedere; on the contrary, he expressed confidence that even more people would take notice of it than of a memorial at 23rd Street.  He said that priority should be given to selecting the more prominent site than to rely on a site’s proximity to other memorials.  He wondered why any memorial sponsor would not want one of the city’s most prominent sites, which could convey to the world the importance of the subject being commemorated.  He said that the selection of the Belvedere site would be a way to honor and valorize the military, as opposed to locating a memorial primarily for its proximity to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  He summarized that he simply does not see the logic of burying this new memorial in the trees behind the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, in a subordinate relationship to the Lincoln Memorial.

Mr. Krieger added that he does not object to additional construction on the Mall.  He said that he was compelled by the presentation and the testimony, and he is convinced that the story of Desert Storm should be told, but he insisted the memorial needs to stand on its own.  He said that if his colleagues prefer the 23rd Street site he would not object, but he emphasized that it would not be as good a location for this memorial as envisioned by the criteria presented by the project team.

Mr. Dunson said that, although he can see the advantages of the Belvedere site, the reality is this site is isolated by busy roadways—a situation unlikely to change for decades, and which might even prevent the memorial from being built.  He said that the E Street site is also isolated, and it would place the memorial in an urban park more related to the city.  By a process of elimination, he said that he has come to the conclusion that the site on 23rd Street is the best of the three.  He added that he could not think of a compelling reason why the memorial should not be located there, but he could think of reasons why it should not be built on either of the other two sites.

Ms. Gilbert recalled that the discussion of the 23rd Street site included many references to seeking landscape-based sculptural solutions, but such solutions were not apparent in the conceptual diagrams.  In addition, she said that the depicted walls and flags would be too tall for this site; a memorial here would need to be a landscape solution, and she cautioned that such a solution may not be able to convey the desired story.  She pointed out that just north of the Lincoln Memorial is a large open swath of green space, which acts as a breath of fresh air and gives ample room for viewing the Lincoln Memorial; a new memorial at the 23rd Street site would need to be pushed down into the ground to maintain this critical view.  She emphasized that she considers the Belvedere site to be exceptional because of its location on the Potomac River, which would allow a memorial to have the necessary height for flags, walls, or other elements.  She added that a favorable characteristic of the Walt Whitman Park site is being part of a longer landscape corridor that includes Rawlins Park.

Ms. Lehrer supported Ms. Gilbert’s comments, particularly concerning the need for any memorial at the 23rd Street site to be low, unobtrusive, and built into the landscape.  She added her appreciation for the passion and thoroughness of the presentation and the comments by veterans, which as an immigrant and a naturalized citizen she found moving.

While reiterating that he would be willing to support the 23rd Street site, Mr. Krieger encouraged the project team members to consider how prominent they want the memorial to be.  A memorial at the 23rd Street location would be far less visible than a memorial on either of the other two sites, and it would have to be small and distinctly subordinate to the Lincoln Memorial; he questioned whether a subtle design could tell the intended story.  He emphasized that the Commission understands the powerful emotions motivating the memorial’s sponsor and the supporters; however, they need to make the memorial itself powerful for all Americans, and the way to achieve this may be slightly different than what the project team believes is the most meaningful solution.

Chairman Powell commended the exceptional thoughtfulness in the presented consideration of all three sites.  He said that as a military veteran, he understands the story the memorial is meant to tell, and he is persuaded that the Belvedere is the best choice.  He emphasized that a site at the end of Constitution Avenue would be a better location for a celebratory, even triumphal, memorial; the landscape solution necessary at the 23rd Street site would not be able to express such themes.

Mr. Dunson agreed that the Belvedere offers an opportunity for a memorial expressing triumph, but he emphasized that a memorial here would be isolated by roads and traffic; because of this, he feels compelled to favor 23rd Street.  He acknowledged that this site would require a more challenging design solution, but it is not an isolated site, while a memorial at the Belvedere or E Street would become insignificant.

Secretary Luebke noted the presence of two additional speakers.  Lieutenant Colonel Kyle Leggs, a city planner and chair of the Desert Storm War Memorial Association’s planning and design committee, said that committee members have visited all three sites many times.  He noted that the Belvedere lies in the 100-year floodplain; it lies in a major flight path for Reagan National Airport, and the associated noise is not conducive to the creation of a contemplative space; many seagulls congregate at the site and constitute a nuisance; and one of the primary views from the Belvedere is of the rusted Theodore Roosevelt Bridge.  He added that Walt Whitman Park is compromised by a homeless encampment.

Ms. Robinson of Desert Storm Combat Women added to her previous testimony.  She said that the Women in Military Service to America Memorial, which stands at the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery, is large, tall, and beautiful; but it remains obscure because it is separated from other national memorials in the monumental core.

Ms. Meyer said that she has been persuaded by Mr. Krieger’s comments, and she offered a motion to approve the Belvedere site for the Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial.  Upon a second by Mr. Krieger, the majority of the Commission adopted this action, with Mr. Dunson voting against it.

Chairman Powell departed at this point, and Vice Chairman Meyer presided for the remainder of the meeting.

C. Smithsonian Institution

CFA 15/MAR/18-2, National Air and Space Museum, Independence Avenue at 6th Street, SW.  Revitalization Project.  Final.  (Previous:  CFA 19/OCT/17-3, terraces and vestibule; and CFA 15/JUN/17-3, replacement facades.)  Secretary Luebke introduced the proposed final design for a new visitor screening pavilion and alterations to the terraces surrounding the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum (NASM) on the Mall.  He said that in October 2017, the Commission approved the project’s revised concept submission, with comments including recommendations to refine the landscape and the form of the entrance canopy, and to retain the intended setting of the Delta Solar outdoor sculpture in a pool of water.  He said that the current presentation is part of the comprehensive final design submission for the renovation of the museum building and its grounds; for the building’s new cladding, the Commission reviewed and approved with comments in June 2017 the Smithsonian’s preferred choice of “Colonial Rose” granite with a sandblasted finish.  He asked Ann Trowbridge of the Smithsonian Institution to begin the presentation.

Ms. Trowbridge said that construction documents for the project have been completed, and construction is expected to begin this fall, pending federal funding for the project.  She invited the Commission members and staff to inspect mockups of the proposed facade in York, Pennsylvania, when they are constructed next summer; mockups of the proposed exposed-aggregate concrete paving will also be displayed.  She noted that a project to update the museum’s exhibits is also underway.  She asked landscape architect Roger Courtenay of AECOM and architect Larry Barr of Quinn Evans Architects to present the design.

Mr. Courtenay said that the presentation will focus on parts of the proposal that have been revised based on the Commission’s previous comments—including the landscape plan, the maintenance requirements of the proposed herbaceous plantings, and the location and setting of two pieces of public art on the site—as well as the development of the paving plan and preparation of paving mockups.  The proposed planting plan is largely the same as in the previous submission, with the addition of a tree at the northwest corner of the site.  He presented a perspective rendering of the northeast corner depicting the proposed herbaceous plantings; these would have an informal character that would change with the seasons, and the selected species would attract pollinating insects.  Addressing the Commission’s previous concern about maintenance of this landscape, he noted that the Smithsonian has several horticulturalists and many volunteers working on the museum’s grounds.  In addition, workshops and conversations among members of the design team and Smithsonian senior staff have addressed the design and maintenance operations for the landscape; a comparable plan underpinned the landscape design for the Smithsonian’s nearby National Museum of the American Indian.  He summarized that everyone involved with the project is therefore confident that the planting approach is feasible, and it can be reasonably maintained.  He added that Smithsonian Gardens has been a pioneer in gardening, as seen in its butterfly and pollinator gardens.

Mr. Courtenay said that the sculpture Continuum would be returned to its current location at the south entrance at the conclusion of construction, in accordance with the Commission’s previous advice.  He recalled that a previously proposed entrance pavilion at this location was deleted from the project; if this pavilion is built in the future, the Continuum sculpture could be moved to an alternative location at the northwest corner of the site.  He said that the proposed setting for the sculpture Delta Solar has been revised to include a water feature, instead of a dry plinth as previously proposed; the sculpture’s existing water feature is disused.  The setting would be composed of a plinth with a shallow pool on its surface, which would be approximately three to four inches deep.  The pool would be fed from a central trench covered with perforated stone panels, creating a continuous flat surface beneath the pool.  Water would flow from the trench toward a stainless-steel weir along the edges of the pool, then run down the four vertical walls of the plinth and into a trench drain located around the base of the plinth; this design is intended to create a scrim of water and the appearance of an “infinity edge.”  The vertical walls of the plinth would be clad in Mesabi Black granite with a honed finish; the apron surrounding the plinth would also be Mesabi Black granite, but with a thermal finish.  The walls would have horizontal ribbing to create turbulence, producing a “roll wave” effect while keeping the water from delaminating or splashing.  He added that the water feature would likely be turned off when winds are strong enough to blow the water off the stone surface.  He said that all the stone surfaces would appear black when coated with water, and the honed finish of the walls would give reflectivity to the plinth when the water feature is off.  Mr. Courtenay confirmed for Ms. Lehrer that the stone would be sourced from the United States.

Mr. Courtenay described the proposed final design for the ground plane in the western area of the site, noting that the grading will allow for barrier-free access from the west to the museum and its surrounding terraces.  He indicated the plaza between the museum and the existing willow oak grove and the Delta Solar installation that could be used for exhibitions or flexible seating.  The site in this area would have a shallow slope; the top level of the sculpture plinth would maintain a level horizontal datum, while its height above the sloping grade would range from 4 foot 2 inches to 5 feet 8 inches.  He said the scale of the plinth would help separate the plaza from the nearby traffic, and the water flow would provide white noise.  The tree planters in this area would be at grade, and the form of some of the seat walls that frame the planters and the terrace would be retained to recall the original terrace configuration.  He said that the willow oak grove has significant horticultural problems, including inadequate soil depth; both Smithsonian Gardens and an arborist’s report have recommended that pedestrian access to the grove and construction activity be restricted to minimize soil compaction.  The grove would therefore be partially enclosed with a seat wall and planted with groundcover similar to the other planters on the site.  He added that a mockup of one of the corners of the plinth, along with the proposed paving design, would be prepared to evaluate the proposed treatments, and he presented several material samples to the Commission.

Mr. Courtenay described the site elements that form the museum’s perimeter security barrier, which has a minimum height of 36 inches; these include planter walls, the sculpture plinth, and bollards.  Mr. Krieger observed that some of the bollards running north–south from the southeast corner of the sculpture plinth would be sited within the planter near Independence Avenue, which he described as an awkward condition; he suggested consideration of shifting the planter to the east or adjusting the location of the bollards themselves, perhaps placing them between the plinth and the planter wall or moving them to another location.  Mr. Courtenay responded that the bollards obviate the need for a freestanding wall in this area, which he said had been considered in previous proposals but would not be desirable because it would obstruct views; he added that a tree in this location would provide needed shade for this area of the site.  He indicated on an axonometric drawing how the proposed design would reduce the extent of the existing seat walls in this location.  The at-grade planters would have a low “disinclination fence” made of open ironwork to keep the area visually open while discouraging pedestrians from entering the planters.

Mr. Courtenay then presented the proposed paving design.  Although extensive use of stone paving was considered earlier in the design process, the current proposal is to use cast-in-place concrete with an exposed aggregate; a compatible stone would be used for the site stairs, either Chester Gray or Chelmsford granite.  He said that the concrete would typically have saw-cut joints, but stainless-steel joints would be used where the columns of the proposed pavilion canopy meet the terrace.  He noted that the module of the site elements would relate to the architectural module of the building exterior.

Mr. Barr presented the design of the north entrance pavilion, thanking the Commission and staff for their comments and critiques of the project during its approximately four years of development.  He said that the proposed final design, which is mostly unchanged, has resulted from many different iterations and subtle refinements.  The design is inspired by the museum’s mission regarding the concepts of air and space travel and exploration, juxtaposing the curvilinear, organic form of the pavilion’s canopy structure against the rectilinear museum building.  He noted the Commission’s previous caution that the curving forms may appear too organic in form, with a request for documentation of how the pavilion would connect to the existing building.  He presented several images representing works and concepts that have inspired the design of the pavilion canopy, including Leonardo da Vinci's Codex on the Flight of Birds, patent drawings of the Wright Flyer, and the hyperbolic paraboloid form.  He said that Leonardo’s important observations of bird flight and ideas about the possibility of human mechanical flight were manifested in the Wright brothers’ iconic first aircraft, the Wright Flyer.  The proposed pavilion design is influenced by several characteristics of this plane, including its simple and lightweight utilitarian structure, as well as the tension between its components and materials that helped it to achieve flight.  The shape of the proposed canopy is influenced by the parabolic and hyperbolic trajectories used to launch and land spacecraft and the related three-dimensional hyperbolic paraboloid—considered by the museum’s astrophysicist as space-flight equivalents to the Codex and Wright Flyer.  He added that the structural cross-bracing and tension rod details of the canopy, as well as the tension of the roof membrane attached to the curving structure, are simple, utilitarian details that visitors would appreciate more after observing the early planes, such as the Wright Flyer and Spirit of St. Louis, in the museum’s “Milestones of Flight” gallery just inside this entrance.

Mr. Barr described the proposed materials for the pavilion.  A large stainless-steel frame would surround the entry portals, and the glass enclosure system would have glass fins as mullions.  The design of the pavilion’s structural steel tubes has been refined:   tapering from fourteen to eight inches at their narrowest, three structural tubes would penetrate the concrete slab at the base of the pavilion and be fastened to a plate, which is in turn fastened to the foundation wall.  This detail would allow the canopy structure to move in the wind without cracking the pavement.  The roof would be ETFE plastic; drainage would be concealed within the structural tubes; no visible gutters or downspouts would be visible.  He presented drawings of the pavilion’s connection with the museum building, indicating the termination of the canopy five feet from the building’s glass facade.  Moving closer to the museum interior, the rectilinear security screening area would provide bracing for the existing glass wall and would serve as a transitional element between the curvilinear canopy and the rectilinear building.

Vice Chairman Meyer invited comments from the Commission members.  Ms. Gilbert asked if the design team had considered stepping down the Delta Solar plinth at its northeast corner, noting that it appears quite tall.  Mr. Courtenay responded that this was not considered for several reasons:  the original existing setting of the sculpture is a flat, horizontal surface; the shallow pool and infinity edge would be interrupted by a stepped corner in one location; and having a sheer, right angle in this location would discourage climbing when the water feature is off.  He said one benefit of the plinth’s height is that it provides separation between the street and pedestrian areas close to the museum.  Ms. Gilbert acknowledged that the tall corner could serve as a more vertical water element.  Mr. Courtenay added that visitors would potentially interact with the water in this area because of its greater envelopment of the site.  Several Commission members observed a lack of clarity in the perspective rendering of the sculpture and plinth, and Ms. Lehrer asked if the material cladding the plinth would also be used for the proposed seat walls.  Mr. Courtenay responded that the planters and seat walls, as well as the building, would be surfaced in Colonial Rose granite; currently, Tennessee Pink marble is used.  He confirmed that the dark granite would be used only on the sculpture plinth; Mr. Luebke added that the granite would appear darker when wet, although the cascading water would reflect some lighter colors.

Mr. Krieger commented that the proposed entrance pavilion would be beautiful, but he observed an odd relationship between the voluptuous, free-form nature of the canopy and the generic, rectilinear glass wall system.  He said that such a building by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí, who was renowned for his uniquely sculptural buildings, would not have an entrance that is so “pedestrian.”  He encouraged the design team to improve the character of the glazing system to be more closely related to the canopy.  Mr. Barr responded that earlier versions of the design proposal used less stainless steel; however, the engineering of the structure has required using robust stainless-steel framing for the front portal.

Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation for the revisions to the project, which she said are clear and responsive to the Commission’s previous comments, as well for the Smithsonian’s stated commitment to the long-term stewardship of this new landscape that will need careful maintenance.  She commented that people often overlook the extensive garden areas around the Mall museums; she acknowledged the effort in the proposal to extend this concept to this site, with gardens spilling out from interstitial spaces.  She said that the envisioned whimsical plantings and flying insects would be beautiful, strengthening the thematic connections between the proposed landscape and the entrance pavilion.  She said that the museum is a great but stark building, and she expressed regret that the proposed cladding is not a different material.

Ms. Lehrer agreed with Ms. Meyer’s appreciation for the Smithsonian’s commitment to maintaining the proposed plantings, noting that urban landscapes are suffering in many cities.  She encouraged the Smithsonian to ensure that a portion of the funding for the larger project be dedicated to maintenance and operations, and she said that our generation should improve the tree canopy from its current condition.  Ms. Gilbert expressed support for the proposal, commenting that the literal air and space imbued by the design—open and airy terraces generously planted with gardens and trees, along with the water feature—have the potential to transform the museum site into a highly successful public landscape enjoyed by many people.  Mr. Dunson agreed, commenting that the proposed design will provide an appropriate park-like setting that will ground the building and create a seamless connection with the Mall.

Secretary Luebke asked if the Commission would like the staff to work with the project team on the issues raised regarding the bollards and security barriers at the southwest corner of the site, near the Delta Solar sculpture.  Mr. Krieger reiterated that the proposal to locate three bollards within the planter in this area seems like a mistake, especially considering the careful detailing seen in the rest of the project.  Ms. Gilbert advised against raising the walls of the planter to serve as security barriers, commenting that the design successfully improves open access to the museum site.  Mr. Courtenay said that an alternative that was considered would be to place these bollards on a band of stone matching the planter’s curb, instead of placing the bollards directly in the planting bed; he asked if this solution would address the Commission’s concern.  Mr. Luebke asked if this would entail introducing a curbing band within the planter, or if the planter edge should be moved eastward.  Ms. Meyer observed that reducing the size of the planter might result in the loss of a tree; Ms. Trowbridge added that the Smithsonian would like to provide as many trees as possible, especially at this location where ample soil depth is available to grow substantial shade trees.  Mr. Krieger acknowledged that a large tree would conceal this unfavorable design detail.  Ms. Meyer added that placing the bollards on a stone band would result in fewer maintenance issues.  She offered a motion to approve the final design submission subject to further coordination with the staff to address the issues that were raised.  Upon a second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted this action.

D. Events DC (Washington Convention and Sports Authority)

1. CFA 15/MAR/18-3, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place, NW (Mount Vernon Sq. at Massachusetts and New York Aves.).  Streetscape improvements, building alterations, and art installations.  Concept.  Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposed concept for a phased program of exterior improvements to the convention center, intended to improve the building’s streetscape for the benefit of visitors and neighborhood residents.  She asked project manager Ryan Conway of Events DC, which operates the convention center, to being the presentation.

Mr. Conway said that the convention center hosts hundreds of events each year, attracting approximately two million people to the building, and the area around the six-block site has become more densely developed since the convention center opened in 2003.  Nonetheless, pedestrian activity is lacking around the building’s perimeter, necessitating the modernization of the exterior and streetscape to improve the public realm.  The proposal encompasses building improvements, public art, street furniture, enhanced lighting, a better pedestrian experience, and retail space and storefronts.  He said that the design team includes the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), Beyer Blinder Belle, and the Olin Studio.  He introduced architect Jason Long of OMA to present the design.

Mr. Long said that the project is intended to generate more activity and improve the sense of scale around the convention center.  He provided historic and current photographs to illustrate the large scale of the building within the neighborhood:  2.3 million square feet with a perimeter of more than 4,000 linear feet, extending from 7th to 9th Streets and from Mount Vernon Square north to N Street, NW.  While the scope of the project is limited primarily to the streetscape and facades, its impact on the surrounding city will be significant.  He said that despite the large scale of the building type, this convention center has been fairly successful in relating to the city:  it is designed to allow L and M Streets to pass through it, providing porosity for the street system, and some parts of the building have outward-facing retail space.  However, other parts of the building frontage lack activity, and the exterior materials are monotonous.  The convention center is therefore still perceived as a barrier within the context of the several surrounding neighborhoods.  The proposal is intended to provide improvements that will benefit both the neighborhoods and the people visiting the convention center.

Mr. Long presented photographs of the existing conditions to illustrate some of the building’s design gestures and shortcomings.  For example, the north facade along N Street is articulated with niches and windows, but the overall effect is homogeneity of materials and scale.  The sidewalk along N Street has ample width but minimal activity and inadequate seating.  More generally, many of the street trees around the building are not growing to mature size because they are contained in at-grade planters located over below-grade structures and are constrained by insufficient soil.  Street lighting uses the standard D.C. globe fixture, but the amount of light is often inadequate.  Many of the building’s street-level windows do not provide direct views of active retail or convention spaces; often the view is only downward to the lower-level concourse.  The proposal addresses these issues through a range of improvements including retail space, paving, planting, seating, art, and lighting.

Mr. Long said that the retail improvements would focus on establishing a more active frontage along 9th Street, where the convention center facade includes a series of glazed niches that are not building entrances but provide daylight to the interior concourse level below.  The niches are set slightly back to establish a sense of scale but do not contribute further to the street activity.  The proposal is to turn seven of these niches into small retail kiosks, grouped into two clusters north and south of L Street; sample uses would include sales of coffee or sandwiches, with customers coming from either the neighborhood or the convention center.  Each kiosk would be clad in colored glass, including on its back wall, to provide a distinctive contrast with the building facade while maintaining the transparency that allows views between the sidewalk and the concourse interior.  Interstitial spaces along the facade would be used for small trash and storage rooms, and adequate room for the retail space would be provided by extending the niches slightly further into the building’s interior.  A similar enhancement would be used on an existing retail space fronting 7th Street near Mount Vernon Square, using storefront frames to improve the presence of the shop.

Mr. Long described the proposed changes at 9th and N Streets, the convention center’s northwest corner, where existing retail space blends in with the larger building facade.  The goal is to provide an additional attraction that will draw people to the existing retail space while providing greater variety along the facade.  The existing second-level facade is essentially a screen wall for an exterior loading area used by delivery trucks; some of the screened area is underused or simply roof space.  The proposal is to convert the available portions of the second-level exterior space into a rooftop terrace that could be used by the street-level retailers or could be a separate space operated as part of the convention center.  The second-level screening panels would be replaced by protruding steel frames, similar to the retail proposal along 9th Street; these areas would serve as balcony spaces overlooking the street, with patterned glass railings.  He said that the materials are intended to provide a contrast while still being sympathetic with the existing facades.  He added that the facades already have a vocabulary of protruding bays that would be amplified by the new interventions.  A proposed elevator and open staircase along N Street would provide direct access to the new terrace space, which is envisioned as an extension of the street experience.  At the back of the terrace, a landscape zone would provide screening of the remaining truck dock area.

Mr. Long presented the proposed alterations to the Metro station entrance plaza at 7th and M Streets; he noted that this entrance is a major point of access for both the neighborhood and the convention center, which has a building entrance facing the plaza.  He described the existing canopy structure as overly heavy, resulting in a foreboding pedestrian experience and serving as an obstacle to neighborhood connectivity.  The goal is to create a much more active plaza space, and the proposal would provide a much lighter structure with fewer columns.  Features would include colored glass—similar to other interventions along the facades—and clear signage.  The canopy would continue to provide shade and weather protection to pedestrians, and the open plaza area could be programmed with art or performances.  The configuration of the proposed canopy would be a series of stepped boxes, offset from the convention center building to give a sense of scale and variety.  Planters and seating would be provided, designed to avoid interrupted the flow of pedestrians across the plaza.

Mr. Long presented the proposed signage to improve wayfinding around the convention center; he described the existing signage as inadequate.  Metal panels in a sawtooth configuration at the building corners would provide ample space for signage to direct people into the building and provide orientation to the wider neighborhood.

Mr. Long said that some of the existing blank facade areas would be used for the installation of public art.  A wall surface along 9th Street near retail space would receive a mural; other locations could have three-dimensional art projecting from the facade, such as above the staircase on N Street leading to the proposed roof terrace.  Where the convention center spans L and M Streets, artwork could be suspended above the roadway.  An existing series of display vitrines along the M Street passage have not been well used; the proposal is to expand the glass area, give them a more distinctive look, and then work with an artist for installations within them.  The ceiling of the street passage could also have an artwork such as a lighting display.

Landscape architect Hallie Boyce of the Olin Studio presented the proposed streetscape improvements.  Ms. Boyce said that the goals are to enliven the pedestrian experience, update the paving around the site, provide seating, and improve planting conditions to support a more vigorous tree canopy.  She noted that 7th and 9th streets have significant slopes, requiring careful coordination of the sidewalks with retail frontages including the proposed kiosk spaces.  The proposed sidewalk paving along these streets would relate to the retail locations.  The Metro plaza at 7th and M Streets has drainage issues; the response will be based on further study of the below-grade conditions.  The sidewalk paving along N Street was inspired by the musical legacy of the adjacent Shaw neighborhood, where Duke Ellington had lived; the proposal would extend this theme using the inspiration of the sound wave in designing the relationship between the sidewalk and the facade, giving rhythm to the pedestrian movement.  Planters along N Street would be used to provide seating, color, and texture, as well as to provide more soil for tree growth.  The paving beneath the building’s span across M Street would relate to the colors of neighborhood murals and new art installations, perhaps echoing an artistic lighting installation along the ceiling.  Along L Street, a livelier color palette would be used for the paving, and planters would be installed at the corners of 7th and 9th Streets to attract people toward the retail edges.  Along the main entrance facade on Mount Vernon Place, raised planters would be added while leaving enough sidewalk space for the large number of pedestrians; the paving would be designed with a more civic scale, and the additional trees would improve the extent of shade.

Ms. Boyce said that the early consideration of materials includes various types of granite, intended to provide greater contrast than the existing two tones of gray concrete pavers.  A range of native and adaptive trees is being considered; the selection will be based on further study of the extent of soil volume that can be provided.  Other plantings would include a combination of grasses and native perennials, intended to provide color and texture throughout the year.  She presented further drawings of the conditions along 9th Street, where the soil depth is tightly constrained by below-grade building structure; the proposal is to add raised planters that would augment the soil volume, configured to allow the required two-foot width of clear space adjacent to the curb for the opening of car doors, while still leaving a minimum eight-foot sidewalk width for pedestrian movement.  Some of the planter edges would have added seating surfaces; the planters could also serve as a perimeter security barrier to protect the large number of people in the building.

Mr. Long concluded by presenting the proposed lighting enhancements.  The existing D.C. globe streetlights would remain along the perimeter of the site; within the globe, a baffle could be added to direct light downward while still providing the familiar glow of the globe.  Additional lighting would be provided beneath existing or proposed overhangs, such as at the canopy above the Metro entrance plaza, and to highlight artwork, signage, and seating.  The proposed kiosks and other facade embellishments would have linear lights, and the new roof terrace would have lighting.  The building’s main entrance facing Mount Vernon Place is framed by two pylons with glass accents that were intended to be lit; however, this lighting feature has not been implemented successfully.  The proposal is to better implement the original design, or else to install new glass accents that are internally lit with color-changing LEDs; the LEDs could be used to light the pylons in celebration of specific events, instead of the current use of colored floodlighting projected onto the front facade.

Mr. Krieger commented that the proposal includes many interesting ideas.  He asked if all are intended for implementation, or if Events DC would select from among the features presented.  Mr. Long responded that the intention is a phased implementation of the entire range of proposals; the phasing sequence has not been determined.  Mr. Krieger asked if a market analysis has been prepared to evaluate the demand for the proposed new retail spaces.  Mr. Long said that Events DC has already begun discussions with potential retailers; some of them initiated the contact, suggesting a strong interest.

Ms. Gilbert asked how the selection of public art would be determined.  Mr. Conway of Events DC responded that the art program would include local artists as well as a more widely open solicitation of artists, perhaps selected through a competition.  Ms. Gilbert asked if the artworks would be related by some sort of narrative; Mr. Long responded that this would be an interesting idea, but the artwork concept has not yet been developed that far.  Ms. Lehrer commented that some form of curation and guidelines for the artwork is needed.

Ms. Lehrer asked if retaining some of the existing paving is required.  Mr. Long responded that the initial proposal was to replace all of the paving, but this would be costly; the current proposal is to introduce new paving interwoven with the existing paving to provide a sense of contrast while keeping the cost moderate.  Ms. Lehrer noted that she often walks along the convention center when coming to Commission meetings; she expressed overall support for the proposal, commenting that it would improve the building edges and add a sense of fun.  She said that the proposed signage appears to be underscaled and merely applied onto the building; she suggested a stronger hierarchy of sign elements that could be understood from a greater distance.  She supported the intended design reference to the neighborhood’s musical history, and she suggested developing this theme further—perhaps in the movement of the lighting pattern on the ceiling above M Street.  She cited this as an additional example of why curation of the art program would be helpful.  She also questioned the proposed use of bright red as an architectural highlight.  Mr. Long responded that the exact shade is still being studied, and the current preference is a maroon color.  He said that the initial intention was to provide a maximum level of contrast, and this has been refined to choose tones that work well with the building’s existing beige color.  Ms. Lehrer noted the additional use of yellow, such as at the proposed retail kiosks.  Mr. Long said that this is part of the effort to be compatible with the prevailing beige; he added that the design has been undergoing simplification, although this may not be apparent from the presentation; the goal is to bring variety to this large building while not making the elements appear too disparate.

Mr. Krieger reiterated his overall support for the project but questioned how to coordinate a concept approval with an unknown phasing for the implementation of the many components.  He said that the sequencing of implementation is important and should be presented as part of the next submission; he expressed doubt that all of the components would be implemented in the near future.

Ms. Meyer joined in supporting the overall concept.  She noted that the Commission often requests that large projects be submitted for an additional review prior to the submission of a final design proposal.  For this project, the proposal may emerge as a “systems aesthetic” encompassing such features as canopies, retail insertions, signage, and public art.  A helpful step may therefore be to test how these components come together at a few key locations; after a set of rules is established for the interventions, the relationship among the elements will emerge rather than just implementing various separate features.  She suggested that the design team work further with Events DC to understand the proposal as a set of design tactics.  She reiterated her admiration for the effort to enliven this very large building for the benefit of both convention attendees and neighborhood residents.

Ms. Gilbert commented that more signage will likely be needed, and it could potentially be integrated with the artwork, paving, or lighting with moderate cost.  She suggested that the M Street paving be coordinated with the planned artwork for the extensive ceiling above this street, such as by providing glittering surfaces above and below.  She acknowledged that the project has not yet reached this level of detail, but she encouraged consideration of such design gestures.  She offered support for the roof terrace at 9th and N Streets, commenting that it would be compatible with the ongoing transformation of the neighborhood.  She asked if this terrace would be accessible to the public.  Mr. Conway responded that this has not yet been determined, but its use could be a retail area with seating that supports the functions of the convention center.

Mr. Krieger said that the questions raised have provided good reason for requesting an additional submission before the final design phase.  Mr. Dunson described the proposal as an early concept, and he expressed enthusiasm for the effort to identify and enliven the building’s underused places.  He said that the challenge is to provide some degree of unity along the building edges while also providing an eclectic mix that is desirable for a thriving urban neighborhood.  He said that the proposal already shows a strong sense of variety, but it may need to be developed as a more connected design.  He said that the proposed landscape improvements will be welcomed by pedestrians along 7th and 9th Streets, providing restful stopping places amid the transforming neighborhood.  He noted the retail conversion currently underway for the Carnegie Library building, immediately to the south across Mount Vernon Place; the intervening street has the character of a freeway, which ideally will be addressed.  He suggested further attention to the pedestrian crossings in this area, perhaps adding a mid-block crossing on the 8th Street axis to connect the Carnegie Library and the convention center’s main entrance.  He commented that the red color could be a good choice but needs further evaluation.  He agreed with the other Commission members that an additional submission is needed before the final design.

Ms. Gilbert suggested that some of the underused facade areas, such as building niches, could be planted as green walls, perhaps with a bench, instead of converting so many of them into retail spaces.  She suggested that some niches could provide small areas of shelter from the rain, and the treatment could be adjusted based on proximity to the neighborhood or to Mount Vernon Square.

Ms. Meyer said that the suggestions from the Commission members illustrate how this promising system of improvements could be developed further.  She suggested giving consideration to the convention center’s lobby spaces as well, such as the appearance of the red glass retail kiosks that would project above the double-height interior concourse.  She cited the typical problem of convention attendees spending days within the building with little exposure to the outdoors, and she suggested that the interior–exterior transitions could be more gradual.  Mr. Dunson agreed that some of the proposed exterior vibrancy could be extended to enliven the building’s sterile interior, helping to attract people into the building.

Upon a motion by Ms. Gilbert with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the concept submission with the comments provided.  Vice Chairman Meyer noted the Commission’s request for an additional submission showing the development of the concept before proceeding to the final design phase.  Mr. Krieger added that the research should continue on available soil volume and compatible tree species, with the goal of ensuring that the new trees will be more successful than those previously planted; Ms. Boyce confirmed that this is being carefully studied.

2. CFA 15/MAR/18-4, Robert F. Kennedy Stadium-Armory Campus, Parking Lot 7, C Street, NE east of Oklahoma Avenue, along the Anacostia River (Kingman Lake).  Temporary multipurpose sports fields.  Concept.  The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.

E. District of Columbia Department of General Services

CFA 15/MAR/18-5, Ward 3 Short-Term Family Housing, 3320 Idaho Avenue, NW.  New six-story building.  Concept.  (Previous:  CFA 16/FEB/17-9.)  Ms. Batcheler introduced the second concept submission for short-term family housing in Ward 3, part of a broader initiative to establish a facility in each of Washington’s eight wards.  She noted that the proposed housing site is adjacent to the Second District police station; the housing would occupy a portion of the police station’s existing surface parking lot, necessitating a new parking garage that would be adjacent to existing community gardens and outdoor recreation facilities.  She summarized the previous concept review in February 2017:  the Commission did not take an action, instead requesting additional information about the broader planning of the site, the design of the parking garage, and alternative massings to accommodate the housing program.  She asked project manager Stephen Campbell of the D.C. Department of General Services to begin the presentation.

Mr. Campbell said that the current submission should address the concerns previously raised by the Commission.  He noted the presence in the audience of representatives from several D.C. agencies involved in the project.  He introduced architect Joe McNamara of Ayers Saint Gross to present the design.

Mr. McNamara described the broad context of Washington’s Cathedral Heights neighborhood, with the National Cathedral located several blocks to the southeast.  The commercial corridor of Wisconsin Avenue runs generally north–south a block to the east, and a linear park runs north–south several blocks to the west; a branch of this open space extends eastward to reach the proposed site.  The parkland immediately to the west of the site is used for community gardens, tennis courts, a playground, and a dog park; a brick wall separates the community gardens from the police station and its parking lot.  He presented several photographs of the existing conditions, noting that a portion of the police parking is used as an impound lot that sometimes has the appearance of a junkyard.  The proposed site for the housing is toward the south end of the police station property; further south are several single-family homes along the west side of Idaho Avenue, with steep forested land to the southwest.  The area to the east and north contains a mix of retail space, town houses, apartment buildings, and single-family homes.  Taller buildings in the vicinity are generally located to the east and northeast along Wisconsin Avenue.

Mr. McNamara said that the proposed site for the housing is the best location on the police station property; this area currently has the character of being at the back of the police station and is not well maintained, whereas placing the building on alternative sites would have a greater impact on the police operations or the community’s well-used areas of open space.  The proposed parking garage would be west of the police station and north of the new housing, occupying a portion of the existing surface lot.  Existing vehicular access into the site is from Idaho Avenue, with driveways north and south of the police station leading to the parking lot; the proposal includes shifting the southern driveway closer to the police station and using it for access to the police station, the housing, and the new parking garage, while the northern driveway would remain.  He noted that the capacity of the parking garage would address an existing shortage of police parking as well as the amount of parking displaced by the housing proposal.  The height of the housing would be six stories, derived from the programmatic requirement for a ground floor of shared facilities and five upper floors each having a cluster of ten residential units; this configuration, established for the city-wide program, is based on the needs of residents during a challenging time of transition.

Mr. McNamara presented diagrams of several rejected alternatives for siting the building, in response to the Commission’s previous request for further explanation of the site planning.  Placement of the housing further north, to the immediate west of the police station, would have the advantage of placing this relatively tall building nearer to existing buildings of similar height, and the community open space would not be disturbed; however, this location would be uncomfortably close to the police station and to its refueling area, and access for vehicles and pedestrians would be awkward.  Placement of the housing further west would provide a generous distance from the police station and its parking lot, but a portion of the community open space and forested slope would be lost; the height of the building would also appear more problematic at this location, construction on the steep slope would be costly, and the distance from Idaho Avenue would suggest that this housing is not part of the neighborhood.  Placement of the housing on the preferred site, but with a north–south orientation, would place the northeast corner of the building very close to the police station and would obstruct vehicular circulation, requiring some of the parking to be located in the building’s front yard; the south edge of the building would also be very close to the south property line and the adjacent single-family homes that are much lower in height.  An alternative configuration of the housing as a lower building with a larger footprint would similarly create problems of proximity to the police station and poor vehicular circulation, while not satisfactorily meeting the program of separate ten-unit residential clusters.  The result is the preferred siting of the building with an east–west orientation toward the south end of the police station property, allowing sufficient room for vehicular circulation, outdoor play space, landscaped buffers, and a moderate separation from the police station.

Mr. McNamara presented the proposed floorplans for the housing, similar to the plans previously presented.  The major shared-use spaces—a dining room, multi-purpose room, and playroom—would extend along the south side of the ground floor, with views into the lawn and landscaped buffer of the side yard to give a sense of spaciousness.  The playroom at the southwest corner would also have access to an outdoor play area to the west; this area, not yet designed, would be more whimsical and colorful.  The roof would have extensive planted area as well as screened mechanical equipment.  He noted that the green roof is one of the sustainability features contributing to the LEED Gold rating that is being sought for this project.

Mr. McNamara described the proposed materials, which were selected through consultation with the community.  The neighborhood is predominantly brick, and the community did not support an aesthetic of metal and glass.  The proposal is to emphasize two types of masonry:  traditional brick on the southern part of the building, and a slightly more modern terracotta rainscreen on the northern part along with continuous glass at the stairwells.  He noted that the north facade would be the most prominently visible, with exposure to the community gardens.

Mr. McNamara concluded by presenting the parking garage, which would be three stories high and would accommodate 216 cars, including 23 spaces for the housing staff.  As with the existing surface lot, access to the parking garage would be provided from the driveways on both the north and south sides of the police station; the south driveway would also provide service access for the housing.  A direct connection between the garage and the housing was considered, but the impact on the housing program would be problematic, perhaps requiring additional height for the housing; another concern was the desire to separate the housing from the police operations so that they do not appear to be related functions.  The parking garage would therefore be entirely separate from the housing, while having a lower-level connection to the police station; the police impoundment area would be placed within the parking garage, away from public view.  The material of the parking garage would be precast concrete; a green screen system is intended for the south and west facades, planted with flowering native vines supported by an irrigation system.

Mr. Krieger commented that the parking garage appears more attractive than the housing, particularly with the green screen on two facades; he encouraged that the green screen remain part of the project despite any cost-cutting efforts, commenting that this feature is a nice gesture toward the housing and the community gardens.  He said that the proposed housing, while not unattractive, may be too extreme in the contrast of materials between the northern and southern portions.  He commented that the contrast does not make the building appear smaller; the impression is merely that not enough brick or terracotta was available for the entire building.  He said that if both materials are used, a better solution could be to interweave them across the facades, perhaps considering their relative cost in determining the proportions of their use.  If the separation of the materials is to remain, he suggested reversing the configuration by using the more attractive terracotta on the south, facing the adjacent houses and broadly open to views from the lower grade of Idaho Avenue, while placing the more institutional material of brick on the northern part of the building adjacent to the police station.  More generally, he commented that the siting and scale of the project seems appropriate.

Ms. Gilbert asked for clarification of the proposed landscape buffer at the south edge of the site, observing that different drawings show different landscape treatments.  She asked about the size of this area; Mr. McNamara responded that the distance from the proposed building to the single-family house on the south is 57 feet, of which approximately 47 feet is within the project’s property.  Ms. Gilbert said that the proposal within this area is apparently a lawn and play area supplemented by a single line of trees, which is not adequate as a buffer; she suggested further consideration of the location of the residential outdoor space, along with a more adequate buffer that creates a vegetative screen with more trees in addition to shrubs.  Mr. McNamara agreed to study this further, noting that some existing trees are in this area.

Ms. Meyer supported this concern, commenting that the design team has given thoughtful consideration to the siting and context but now needs a more detailed focus, including the building’s ground floor and the site plan.  She noted that the adjacent single-family home would soon have sixty families as neighbors; the design of the intervening space needs to address issues of intimacy and community, as well as noise and activity.  She said that further information is needed to understand the appearance of the existing site wall along the south property line as it is seen from the adjacent house, including whether it serves as a retaining wall.  Mr. McNamara responded that this wall would likely remain, although its visibility would be reduced due to the proposed plantings; he added that it is primarily a freestanding wall but serves as a retaining wall toward the west.

Mr. Dunson commented that the proposal is an improvement from the previous submission, while agreeing that the site buffers need further study; he observed that each edge has different conditions of scale and context.  He said that clarity is needed for the intended character of the lawn to the south of the residential building, serving as either an aesthetic amenity or an occupiable space to supplement the nearby play area.  Mr. McNamara responded that the outdoor play area was previously planned for the south side of the building, but it has been moved to the west side in order to reduce the impact of children’s noise on the neighboring home.  In order to maintain a connection between the indoor and outdoor play areas, the indoor play room has been moved to the southwest corner of the ground floor.  The dining room, shared by all fifty families, is now shown opening onto the lawn space to the south, a desirable relationship that gives a sense of expanding the indoor space.  He acknowledged that the actual use of this lawn space needs further consideration; he envisioned that the residents could enter it, but it would not be a major gathering place.

Ms. Gilbert asked if the site plan for the new residential building would include a pedestrian connection to the community park space on the west, which includes a nice playground; she observed that such a connection might reduce the need to provide extensive play facilities within the project site.  Mr. McNamara responded that no pedestrian connection is planned, and the site wall marks a grade drop of approximately six feet; however, he acknowledged that a connecting staircase could be built and that a connection between these areas would have some advantage.  He added that a potential concern is the security of the children playing outdoors within the residential site:  the general public should not be invited to wander through the building’s play area.

Ms. Meyer said that the comments of the Commission members are leading toward a more encompassing consideration of the outdoor space around the new residential building.  Rather than treating the lawn as only a visual amenity that is separate from the play area, the lawn could be used occasionally for children to play while within sight of their parents in the dining room.  Adults and children could also occupy the lawn space when they don’t want to be in a play area, such as for social interactions after a meal.  She said that this understanding of the lawn’s purpose might allow it to become smaller.  Mr. Krieger supported this vision for the lawn space, adding that it could also be used by residents who choose to eat outdoors.  He encouraged more careful design of this space in conjunction with widening the landscaped buffer along the property line.

Secretary Luebke noted the public interest in this project at the previous review; Vice Chairman Meyer verified that no members of the audience want to address the Commission.  Mr. Luebke suggested clarification of whether the parking garage is intended as part of the scope of this submission.  Mr. Campbell of the D.C. Department of General Services responded that the design of the parking garage was erroneously not submitted due to communication problems, and this component has already moved forward to receive a building permit.  He said that limited exterior changes might still be feasible for the parking garage, and he emphasized the D.C. government’s commitment to constructing the green screen system as presented, including the irrigation system to support the growth of plants.  He requested the Commission’s concept approval of both the housing and the parking garage in order to begin to address the procedural error for the parking structure.  Vice Chairman Meyer acknowledged the constructive request, and Mr. Luebke said that this explanation clarifies the ongoing problem in determining the status of the parking project.  He noted that even with a retroactive concept approval for this component, a further permit-stage submission would still be needed for the parking garage, which could be reviewed by the staff if the Commission chooses to delegate this authority.  Mr. Krieger offered a motion to approve the concept submission; Vice Chairman Meyer clarified that the Commission wants to see a further submission for the housing component—preferably before the final design stage to allow for additional revisions—while delegating further review of the parking garage to the staff.  Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted this action.

F. District of Columbia Public Library

CFA 15/MAR/18-6, Southwest Neighborhood Library, 900 Wesley Place, SW.  Replacement library building.  Concept.  Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposed replacement of the Southwest Neighborhood Library, which dates from 1961 and no longer meets the needs of the library system.  He asked Jaspreet Pahwa, the D.C. Public Library’s assistant director for capital planning and construction, to begin the presentation.  Ms. Pahwa introduced architect Carl Knutson of Perkins + Will to present the design.

Mr. Knutson described the site’s location near the Southwest neighborhood’s central retail area and Metro station, and several blocks east of the recent waterfront redevelopment area of The Wharf.  The context includes Modernist buildings from the neighborhood’s urban renewal period in the 1950s and 1960s, such as the Town Center complex designed by I.M. Pei to the immediate south of the library site.  Other buildings in the neighborhood are more recent, including residential and office buildings, with additional construction planned in the vicinity.  A small park with a playground is immediately to the north of the site.  Another small park named the Southwest Duck Pond is several blocks to the west, forming a roughly symmetrical composition of open space across the neighborhood’s primary north-south axis of 4th Street; a landscaped walkway lined with trees connects the playground and library site to the duck pond.  On the north side of this walkway are two Modernist churches that frame 4th Street.  He also indicated the Arena Stage several blocks to the southwest.  He described the general disposition of building heights in the area, with the tallest buildings close to the Metro station at 4th and M Streets.  He said that the allowable height for the library site is forty feet, comparable to the two nearby churches but lower than many of the other existing and planned buildings adjacent to the site; due to the views from the upper floors of these nearby buildings, the appearance of the library roof is an important consideration.

Mr. Knutson presented views of the existing library building, which he said has outlived its usefulness and would be demolished; he described its character as forbidding, with few windows.  He noted the existing layout of the existing site, with the library entrance on the west facing Wesley Place, a small parking lot on the east along 3rd Street, and service access from the east and from the south along K Street.  He also indicated the narrow landscaped buffer along the edges of the building and site, supplementing the playground landscape abutting on the north.  He added that the existing building has no direct relationship to the park space on the north.

Mr. Knutson said that the design process began after lengthy community consideration of whether the replacement building should be part of a larger development project as seen elsewhere in Washington, perhaps with residential units above; the decision was to plan the replacement library as a stand-alone building, comparable to the existing library.  The design goals include more extensive visibility into the library’s interior so that it is more inviting for the community; an improved relationship to the park on the north; and a sense of connection to the Waterfront Metro station and, along the existing landscaped walkway, to the Southwest Duck Pond.  The building’s energy performance is another important consideration.  Massing and operational studies for the program resulted in the decision to design a two-story building:  community spaces and the children’s area would be on the first floor, with adult and teenager spaces on the second floor.

Mr. Knutson presented the proposed siting of the library.  The main entrance would be at the building’s northwest corner, retaining the address on Wesley Place.  The recessed double-height entrance porch would be aligned with the walkway leading west to the duck pond, and this link would also connect to the Metro station on 4th Street.  An elongated porch would extend along the north edge of the library, serving to activate the playground space to the north and providing a connection to 3rd Street on the east.  The first floor would be slightly higher than the nearby grade to be above the 100-year flood level, and the library would not have a basement.  The landscaped edges of the site would help to integrate the project with the adjacent park.  The east side of the site would continue to have a parking area, smaller than the existing lot; the surface would be designed to facilitate its future use as a plaza that could be actively programmed.  He added that the design incorporates innovative strategies for sustainability and mechanical systems; solar panels would be included through a grant from the D.C. Department of Energy.

Jonathan Fitch of the Landscape Architecture Bureau provided further details of the proposed landscape.  Mr. Fitch emphasized the tight constraints of the small site.  The landscape design is intended to be clear and legible, addressing the different conditions on each side of the site, with the overall goal of giving the building a sense of place.  The proposed porch on the library’s north side would create a linkage between the building and the playground; he said that the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation is planning improvements to this park, which will be coordinated with the library project to facilitate movement between the playground and the library porch.  The building’s entrance area would include a sloped walkway to address the grade change, using the same material as the sidewalk.  Bioretention areas would be placed along the west and south edges of the building, with shade trees and extensive plantings of grasses and perennials.  The parking area on the east is required to have a bituminous surface, but this will be patterned to appear less mundane than a typical parking lot. 

Mr. Knutson presented the proposed plans and elevations.  He said that the architecture is based on four principles developed through community meetings:  the Modernist architectural heritage of the neighborhood; a stimulating landscape and built environment; a sense of respite within the library; and a special sense of excitement such as through an art feature.  An indoor “market place” would be located along the windows facing north to the porch and park.  The reading areas on both levels would also have views to the north; further back, a double-height space would contain the staircase connecting the two levels, and a commissioned artwork could be located in this area.  At the northeast corner of each level, a small porch with seating would be provided for outdoor reading.  The multi-purpose room, available for after-hours use, would be on the west adjacent to the building’s entrance vestibule.  Service access and emergency egresses would be located toward each end of the south facade.  The first level would be fourteen feet high; the second level would be taller to take advantage of the allowable height of forty feet, providing a grandly scaled space.  The roof would be a folded plate, tilting up slightly toward the north; tilted exterior columns would support the projections of the eaves.  The north facade would have continuous windows facing the park, while the south facade would have a relatively small number of punched openings.  The east and west facades would express the general transition of the building from more solid on the south to more transparent on the north.

Mr. Knutson presented the proposed palette of materials.  The tilted exterior columns would be made of laminated wood, a reference to the distinctive columns in the recent expansion of the Arena Stage complex; the structural engineer from that project is part of the library’s design team.  He noted that the neighborhood’s newer residents consider the renovated Arena Stage to be part of the neighborhood’s architectural heritage.  The folded-plate roof would also be laminated wood, providing a sixty-foot span; its form relates to one of the nearby churches.  Other exterior materials would include glass, stone, dark brick, photovoltaic panels on the walls and roof, and concrete pavers.  A portion of the roof would be planted with sedum.  He added that the exterior brick would relate to the neighborhood’s Modernist buildings, and it may be patterned and textured to suggest shelves of books.  The entrance area would have signage and a bench, with a bicycle rack nearby.  He concluded with several axonometric and perspective views of the proposal.

Ms. Meyer asked if the paving in the adjacent park would be as extensive as shown in the perspective rendering.  Mr. Knutson responded that this park primarily serves as a playground; the coordination with the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation may result in less paving and more green space.  He added that the park includes some large trees.

Mr. Dunson observed that the folded form of the wood appears to merely sit on the glass wall of the north facade, rather than float above it.  Mr. Knutson responded that the visual continuity of the roof is important, extending between the second-story reading room and the soffit of the exterior porch space.  He agreed that the visual effect of a floating roof would be important, as conveyed by the presented diagram of the building concept, and that the intersection of the roof and walls needs to be detailed carefully, using a reveal; he also acknowledged that some of the corner conditions would be challenging to design.  Mr. Dunson encouraged further study of this part of the building as the design process moves forward; he said that a reveal at the intersection would suggest a lighter character for the roof but may diminish the appearance of structural integrity.  He added that the perspective drawings are effective in conveying the variety of exterior materials and the interplay of horizontal and vertical elements, while the presented model serves primarily to illustrate the massing and the roof form.

Mr. Dunson asked about the color of the brick; Mr. Knutson responded that it would be a dark gray iron spot, and perhaps with additional tonal variety to add interest.  He added that the mortar may be detailed to create a more monolithic appearance for the brick walls, and some bricks would be oriented vertically to convey the analogy to books on a shelf.  Mr. Dunson supported the brick detailing, observing that it is unobtrusive from a distance.  He expressed support for the overall concept of the project, commenting that the front porch and interior market place would be strong, interesting features.

Ms. Gilbert observed that some existing trees are very close to the library site, and she asked for clarification of which trees would be removed to accommodate the library construction and the porch feature.  Mr. Fitch responded that the park trees closest to the existing library are black locusts; these are not in good condition and would need to be removed in order to demolish the existing building.  Replacement of these trees, along with the overall redesign of the park, is being coordinated with the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation; no design solution has yet been established for the park.  Ms. Gilbert said that this area is important because it abuts the proposed porch; some sort of drawing of the park, even to show its existing condition, should be included in the depiction of the library proposal.  She commented that the rest of the site plan appears inviting, including the parking lot that could serve as a farmers market, but this north edge seems to be an unknown factor in the project’s concept.  Mr. Fitch said that the existing condition includes a narrow band of grass along the library building, then an extensive paved area; this will likely be modified to expand the planted area along the building.  He acknowledged that the relationship between the library and the park is a critical feature of the proposal.

Ms. Lehrer supported Ms. Gilbert’s concern, emphasizing that the site plan should include the area of the park, even if only to illustrate existing conditions or to identify features that likely would change.  She emphasized that this information would be valuable in facilitating the Commission’s review; without it, the Commission is prepared to approve the concept for the building but is hesitant support the site design.  She acknowledged the complexity of the multiple jurisdictions but requested the additional context information.

Mr. Krieger commented that the proposed building looks handsome, adding that he looks forward to seeing the concept developed in greater detail.  He said that some parts of the design appear unresolved in the drawings, such as the top of the exterior walls, the bottom of the masonry surfaces, the material of other wall surfaces, and the spandrel at the level of the second floor.  He also questioned the claim that the design responds to solar orientation, observing that the depth of the roof overhang appears to be the same on the north and south sides of the building.  Similarly, the west facade may require more solar protection than the east facade.  He said that if solar responsiveness is a design goal, then more should be done to differentiate the facades.

Ms. Meyer agreed that the solar-oriented design is questionable; she noted that the northwest orientation is the most problematic for heat gain, while the roof design has a simplistic symmetry.  She also questioned the topographic treatment at the entrance area, observing that the sloped walkway to the entrance would be slightly uncomfortable even though it is less steep than a ramp.  She said that this walkway appears jammed in, and a stronger sense of hierarchy is needed; she suggested that the long, broad landscaped approach from the duck pond should lead to the long porch across the north facade rather than to the library entrance.  She recommended further study of the position and size of the design elements around the entrance, including the building sign, in conjunction with the further study of the roof design.

Ms. Meyer commented that rain gardens are becoming distressingly commonplace in design submissions, a 21st-century equivalent to the 20th-century fashion of foundation plantings around buildings.  She suggested treating rain gardens not merely as a buffer that meets regulatory requirements, but as a feature of the public space.  She acknowledged that this broader issue is difficult and not unique to this project.  Within this particular design, she questioned the character of the rain gardens that would extend beneath decks providing access to the service doors on the south facade; she described this area of the project as an odd condition, likely to attract vermin and accumulate garbage.  Mr. Knutson agreed that this area needs to be resolved.  Ms. Meyer observed that this facade fronts a public street, and its design is important.  A deck above the rain garden may not be the appropriate solution, other than to stay within regulatory constraints on the extent of paving.  She summarized that these issues are relatively small details within a very strong concept proposal.

Mr. Krieger offered a motion to approve the concept with enthusiasm, subject to the comments that have been provided.  Upon a second by Ms. Lehrer, the Commission adopted this action.

At this point, Ms. Gilbert and Ms. Lehrer departed the meeting, resulting in the loss of a quorum.  Secretary Luebke noted that the recommendations for the remaining submission will be subject to confirmation by a quorum at the Commission’s next meeting.

G.  Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint

CFA 15/MAR/18-7,  2019 American Legion 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Program.  Designs for five-dollar gold, one-dollar silver, and half-dollar clad coins.  Final.  Mr. Simon introduced the design alternatives for a set of three non-circulating commemorative coins in honor of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the American Legion.  He noted that the advance materials provided to the Commission members include a large number of alternatives.  Earlier in the week, the Mint’s Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) met to consider these alternatives and has selected a small number of preferred designs; the presentation has been modified to highlight these preferences, although the Commission may consider any of the design alternatives.  He also noted that some alternatives are presented as pairings of obverse and reverse designs, as developed by an artist to provide a unified concept for a coin.  He asked April Stafford of the Mint to present the design alternatives.

Ms. Stafford summarized the authorizing legislation for the program; sales of the coins will include surcharges that benefit the American Legion.  She described the history of the American Legion, which was founded in Paris on 15 March 1919—exactly 99 years ago today—by members of the American Expeditionary Force that continued to occupy Europe after the end of World War I.  The organization’s purpose was to support the soldiers and their communities upon returning to the United States, and it quickly grew to become the nation’s largest veterans service organization.  The American Legion has concentrated its service in four areas, known as the “four pillars”:

  • Veterans—including healthcare, disability compensation, employment, and educational opportunities;
  • Americanism— including voter registration, good citizenship, and development of the flag code;
  • Children and Youth—including mentorship, health, education, character, and opportunity;
  • Defense—providing strong support to the U.S. armed services.

Ms. Stafford distributed a page illustrating the revised preferences from Verna Jones, the executive director of the American Legion, who serves as the Mint’s liaison for this coin program.  Ms. Stafford said that these preferences, not reflected in the updated presentation images, were revised in response to the CCAC meeting earlier in the week.  Ms. Jones briefly addressed the Commission, describing the welcome opportunity to celebrate her organization’s ongoing service with this set of three commemorative coins.  Ms. Stafford presented a summary slide of the CCAC preferences; she clarified that most, but not all, of these choices are consistent with the liaison’s preferences.  Vice Chairman Meyer suggested that the Commission focus on the preferences of the CCAC and the American Legion liaison, waiving the complete presentation of all alternatives.

Five-dollar gold coin

Ms. Stafford presented the alternatives preferred by the CCAC:  obverse #3 and reverse #4.  She said that Ms. Jones agrees with the selection of obverse #3 but does not support reverse #4, which features an American flag folded into a triangle as seen at a military funeral; the American Legion staff is uncomfortable with the meaning conveyed by this design, and instead wants a reverse that would emphasize the organization’s spirit and mission in a more uplifting manner.  The preference of the American Legion is to use the silver coin’s reverse alternative #7 as the reverse of the gold coin; this design features the American Legion emblem and an eagle in flight.  She noted that this reverse design was developed for the larger size of the silver coin, and some modifications would be needed to adapt it to the smaller size of the gold coin.

Vice Chairman Meyer asked for clarification of the American Legion’s thematic concerns.  Ms. Jones responded that the American Legion honors those who have died in military service, as symbolized by the CCAC’s preferred design of reverse #4; but the organization’s desire is to focus on service for the living.  She described the eagle, featured on silver reverse #7, as symbolizing freedom, courage, and honesty, conveying the values of the American Legion in looking to the future.  Ms. Meyer commented that this reverse design is beautiful; Mr. Krieger said that the eagle is particularly well illustrated.  Ms. Stafford clarified that the changes would be to the denomination—“$5” for the gold coin instead of “$1”—and to the size of the text “E Pluribus Unum,” which would become proportionally larger to remain legible on the small gold coin.

One-dollar silver coin

Ms. Stafford presented the alternatives preferred by both the CCAC and the American Legion for the silver coin:  obverse #5 and reverse #11, subject to design modifications for the reverse.  She noted that the liaison’s earlier obverse preference had been obverse #13, but the superimposition of the American Legion emblem on an eagle’s outstretched wing resulted in concerns about the design’s legibility at the scale of the coin.

Ms. Stafford said that the design features of reverse #11 include a stone arch with an enlarged keystone at its center—a reference to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, where the American Legion was founded.  However, the emerging preference is to replace this keystone with the fleur-de-lis, which is the symbol traditionally used by the American Legion to represent its origins in France.  Ms. Meyer cautioned that the scale of the fleur-de-lis should be carefully considered to avoid the impression that it is a feature of the stone arch.  Mr. Dunson asked for further clarification of how the fleur-de-lis would be placed within the composition.  Ms. Stafford responded that a concern of the liaison and CCAC was that the meaning of the stone arch was unclear, notwithstanding the attractive composition of the overall design.  The keystone could be misunderstood, while the fleur-de-lis would more clearly relate the composition to the American Legion’s founding in France.  Ms. Meyer observed that an acceptable, symmetrical depiction of the fleur-de-lis is included in other design alternatives, such as near the right edge of the silver coin’s obverse #6.  She recommended a gap between the fleur-de-lis and the dentilated arch in reverse #11 in order to avoid confusion of the different design elements.  She suggested the solution of placing the fleur-de-lis in the space below the arch, perhaps by reducing the size of the inscription “100 Years of Service,” while allowing the semicircle of the arch to be uninterrupted.

Half-dollar clad coin

Ms. Stafford presented the alternatives preferred by both the CCAC and the American Legion for the clad coin:  obverse #5 and reverse #6.  She noted that this pairing was developed by one artist as a unified coin design, with the opening words of the Pledge of Allegiance continuing from the obverse onto the reverse.  Mr. Krieger commented that the depiction of the boy on the obverse is very good, but the depiction of the girl is not satisfactory.  Mr. Dunson asked if these figures are intended to be adults; Ms. Stafford clarified that they are children, and the girl is shown wearing her grandfather’s old American Legion cap.  Mr. Krieger clarified that the artistic problem is with her facial expression, and he suggested further refinement; he offered overall support for the design.

Ms. Meyer recalled with gratitude the support given to her by the American Legion during her high school years.  She expressed overall support for the presented pairings, specifically the versions preferred by the liaison.  She suggested a motion to recommend the designs preferred by Ms. Jones, as shown on the page distributed to the Commission members at the meeting, along with the modifications presented and subject to the comments provided by the Commission:

  • Five-dollar gold coin:  obverse #3, paired with silver reverse #7.
  • One-dollar silver coin:  obverse #5, paired with reverse #11.
  • Half-dollar clad coin:  obverse #5, paired with reverse #6.

Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted these recommendations, subject to confirmation by a quorum at the next meeting.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:35 p.m.


Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA