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 10:05 a.m.
Hon. Elizabeth Meyer, Vice Chairman
Hon. Edward Dunson
Hon. Toni Griffin
Hon. Alex Krieger
Hon. Justin Shubow
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
Mary Catherine Collins
(Due to the absence of the Chairman, the Vice Chairman presided at the meeting.)
A. Approval of the minutes of the 16 May meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the May meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the minutes.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 18 July, 19 September, and 17 October 2019. He noted that no meeting is scheduled in August, and the submission deadline for the July meeting is Wednesday 3 July, a day earlier than usual, due to the holiday on Thursday.
C. Reappointment of H. Alan Brangman, AIA, to the Old Georgetown Board. Mr. Luebke asked the Commission to approve the reappointment of H. Alan Brangman to the Old Georgetown Board for a third three-year term from September 2019 through July 2022. He noted that Mr. Brangman was initially appointed to the Board in 2013 and has served as its chairman since 2015. He summarized Mr. Brangman’s work as an institutional architect for several universities including sixteen years working for Georgetown University, and his past participation as a peer reviewer for the U.S. General Services Administration. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the reappointment of Mr. Brangman. Mr. Luebke said that the Old Georgetown Board has been working well with its current membership.
D. Report on the 2019 National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs grant program. Mr. Luebke reported on the federal grants program administered by the Commission to support the operating expenses of Washington, D.C.-based arts organizations. The applications for 2019 have been processed, and the results were reviewed by a panel including Chairman Powell and officials of the National Endowments for the Arts and for the Humanities. All 22 of the organizations receiving grants in 2018 have received new grants, and two additional organizations have joined the program: the Washington Gay Men’s Chorus and the Washington Bach Consort. He said that the authorized funding for the 2019 program is $2.75 million, the same amount as in 2018; the median grant is approximately $100,000, equivalent to slightly less than two percent of the operating income of the organizations. The funds have been disbursed, concluding the 2019 program.
E. Report on the approval of two objects proposed for acquisition by the Freer Gallery of Art. Mr. Luebke reported the approval earlier in the day by Vice Chairman Meyer, on behalf of Chairman Powell, of the proposed acquisition of two artworks by the Smithsonian Institution for the permanent collection of the Freer Gallery of Art. These include a 17th-century Japanese leather-bound album of approximately sixty painted illustrations, and a 16th-century Iranian lamp stand of brass with incised and inlaid geometric patterns and an incised poem. Vice Chairman Meyer described these artworks as remarkable objects, and she suggested that the Commission visit the Freer Gallery more often to inspect proposed acquisitions. Mr. Luebke confirmed that the Commission had not previously visited the Freer for several years, in part due to the building’s closure for renovation during that period.
F. Report on the pre-meeting site inspections. Mr. Luebke reported the Commission’s inspection earlier in the morning of several sites related to projects on today’s agenda. Vice Chairman Meyer suggested that comments from the Commission members could be provided in conjunction with the reviews of these projects (see items II.B, II.C, and II.D).
II. Submissions and Reviews
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 the addition of a report on the staff’s recent approval, by delegated authority, of a service structure in Arlington Ridge Park near the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler said that the recommendations for three projects have been changed to be favorable based on design revisions and further consultation (case numbers SL 19-150, 19-175, and 19-176). One project listed on the draft appendix (SL 19-141) has been removed and will be held open for review in a future month. Other changes are limited to minor wording adjustments. The favorable recommendations for five projects are subject to further coordination with the applicants; she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations when the remaining issues are resolved. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act appendix.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Collins reported that no changes have been made to the draft appendix, which includes 37 projects. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Ms. Griffin, the Commission approved the Old Georgetown Act appendix.
B. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 20/JUN/19-1, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Independence Avenue and 7th Street, SW. Facade replacement and repair. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the proposal to replace the exterior facades of the Hirshhorn Museum building on the south side of the Mall at the 8th Street cross-axis. He noted that the building was designed by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and opened in 1974. The outer wall of the structure is now failing, and the Smithsonian is proposing to replace the exterior panels in-kind with new precast panels, which will slightly increase the diameter of the cylindrical building; the project also includes improvements to the north balcony and the roof. He asked Ann Trowbridge, associate director for planning at the Smithsonian, to begin the presentation.
Ms. Trowbridge said the Smithsonian is undertaking this project to protect the Hirshhorn collections and to address conditions that make this building the highest user of energy per square foot among all the Smithsonian museums; some of this energy inefficiency results from the building’s shape, a cylinder with an open central courtyard. She introduced the project architect, Kirill Pivovarov of CallisonRTKL, to present the design.
Mr. Pivovarov noted that the Hirshhorn has been determined eligible for individual listing on the National Register of Historic Places and is a contributing resource to the National Mall Historic District. He described the building as a functional sculpture, a three-story cylinder 231 feet in diameter that is raised fourteen feet above its plaza by four sculptural concrete piers. The cylinder’s exterior is clad in precast panels made with a pink granite aggregate; a north-facing viewing balcony provides a single puncture of the facade envelope. He said that the project proposes replacement of the facade panels, the roof, and the balcony glazing system, but not the balcony itself or the balcony railing. The ground floor is not included in the scope of work, and all cast-in-place concrete will remain.
Mr. Pivovarov described the building enclosure’s urgent need of repair. It suffers from deterioration caused by weather, aging, and the inherent deficiencies of the original enclosure system. In 2016–2019, the Smithsonian carried out a comprehensive investigation and testing of the enclosure to assess its condition, which revealed the following serious issues:
- The lateral attachments for the south panels of the outer face are compromised in many locations, and the attachments do not comply with current blast requirements.
- The existing facade system lacks a vapor barrier and insulation; as a result, condensation and water infiltration have caused deterioration of the plaster walls in the gallery spaces, along with deterioration of the second-floor slab.
- The lack of insulation results in very poor energy performance.
- The roof assembly is at the end of its life and requires replacement.
He described the construction of the exterior wall: the precast panels are slightly curved on their face but are flat in back; behind the layer of panels is a small cavity space, then 2.5 feet of solid concrete, and finally a plaster finish on the interior gallery walls. The width of the cavity space varies from 3.5 inches to an inch or less; he noted that this is a very tight space for panels of this size.
Mr. Pivovarov said that two sizes of panels alternate in horizontal bands around the exterior. Both sizes are 7.5 feet wide; the large panels are slightly more than fourteen feet high, and the small panels are four feet high. Each large panel is supported at the bottom by a relieving angle, anchored with welded rebar, and a strap anchor is located at the top of the panel. Scoping revealed that in many areas the concrete panel along the relieving angle is cracked or spalled, so that the panel does not have a proper lateral attachment. The small panels are not independently supported but instead are pinned directly to the top of the large panels; as a result, the deterioration of the large panels also leads to compromise of the small panels.
Mr. Pivovarov said that poor installation has caused many of the problems, such as cracking and spalling on the backs of panels. Some panels have a very small bearing surface, and some have twisted anchors. Because the wall cavity lacks any insulation or vapor barrier, condensation and water infiltration along cold joints is present; scoping in winter showed that insulation below the topping slab is saturated with water. Water seeps into insulation above the structural slab and then through the slab, which could be causing the rebar to rust. Water also seeps behind the interior plaster walls, resulting in rusting of the plaster supports as well as organic growth on the concrete behind these walls.
Mr. Pivovarov said that the project team is working with the Hirshhorn and Smithsonian staff to develop a range of solutions. Reuse of the existing panels was considered, but this would be problematic because of the substandard original design and because the wall cavity is so narrow; material from the back and bottom of the panels would have to be removed to install new metal attachments, and the narrow cavity would require a non-standard design for the new attachments. There would be many risks in the conservation of cracked panels, including potential damage during removal and also during reinstallation. Additionally, current regulations require two inches of insulation, which is not feasible where the cavity narrows to an inch or less.
Because of all these factors, Mr. Pivovarov said that the proposal is to replace the existing panels with new precast panels. He outlined the project goals resulting from this strategy:
- To improve the performance of the building in order to reduce energy consumption and to provide a stable environment, protecting the art collection by preventing water infiltration and condensation.
- To closely match the character and appearance of the existing precast panels.
- To closely replicate the existing profiles of the balcony glazing, while improving safety with upgraded precast and glazing attachments and improving the balcony door for barrier-free access.
The proposal would offset the facade by three inches from the current outer profile, allowing a minimum depth of four inches between the back of the new panels and the existing inner concrete wall. This depth would allow for two-inch-thick insulation, one inch for an air gap, and one inch for waterproofing, anchors, and any unforeseen conditions.
Mr. Pivovarov said that development of the new precast panels requires matching the existing aggregate, concrete matrix, and texture. The original panels used a granite aggregate known as “Swenson’s Pink,” from a quarry in Salisbury, North Carolina; this quarry is still open but now only produces large blocks and slabs. Showing samples of this granite, he observed that the newly quarried stone appears slightly different in color from the original. He said that alternative quarries have been identified with commercially available aggregates of similar color—including one from Kannapolis, North Carolina, located fifteen miles from Salisbury, and another, Stony Creek, from a quarry in Connecticut. In order to match the concrete matrix, selected areas of the exterior wall will be cleaned, and these will be used to develop mockups for comparison with new samples.
Mr. Pivovarov described the proposed replacement of the glazing along the north balcony; he noted that this must be replaced in conjunction with replacement of the facade panels because the systems are integrated. The proposed profiles would closely match the existing glazing system, except that the overall width of the opening would be slightly reduced because of the need to offset the precast panels by three inches. Dimensions of the doors and most glazing panels would remain the same; only the panels at each end would be slightly smaller, which he believes is acceptable because these panels are usually in shadow. Slight adjustments would be made to the doors: the header would be changed to conceal the closer, and the bottom rail would be adjusted to comply with barrier-free access requirements for the threshold. For the glass itself, he noted that it is currently perceived as dark because of a film applied to the interior face. A different glass is proposed in order to match the original design intent more closely, using a low-iron glass assembly that will be much more transparent and energy-efficient.
Mr. Pivovarov presented the proposed replacement of the roof assembly, which he said would not be visible from street level and would not result in any major changes to rooftop equipment profiles. He presented several perspective drawings of the museum, illustrating how it would look with the new panels in comparison with the existing condition; he emphasized that the only perceptible change would be a slight increase in the building’s overall diameter.
Vice Chairman Meyer invited comments from the Commission members. Mr. Krieger expressed surprise about the original omission of a vapor barrier. He commented that the proposal would successfully stabilize the building, and any differences would not be noticed. Mr. Dunson agreed, adding that the project would result in the building having the condition it should have had originally. He commended the project team for developing this appropriate and sensitive approach. Ms. Meyer said she supports the decision to invest in stewardship of the building before beginning the ambitious project to change the Sculpture Garden, as reviewed the previous month; she expressed satisfaction with the meticulous care being given to the original structure.
Upon a motion by Ms. Griffin with second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission approved the proposal for replacement and repair of the museum’s exterior.
C. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
CFA 20/JUN/19-2, Reporters Building (commercial office structure), 300 7th Street SW. Building renovation, alterations, and additions for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) headquarters relocation. Concept. (Previous: SL 18-144, 21 June 2018, redevelopment proposal for housing.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal to alter an existing office and retail building to serve as the new headquarters for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). He noted that the Commission recently reviewed a different proposal to convert this building to apartments, which would have altered the building more extensively; the current submission is more restrained in its changes to the existing structure. He asked Nia Rubin, the manager of WMATA’s office consolidation program, to begin the presentation.
Ms. Rubin said that WMATA is consolidating its ten primary office buildings into four buildings; the regional office strategy has resulted in the selection of new sites at the New Carrollton, Eisenhower Avenue, and L’Enfant Plaza Metro stations, as well as continued use of the existing facility at the Greenbelt Metro station. This program is projected to save $130 million over twenty years. The new facilities will be designed with an emphasis on sustainability, with benefits for employees’ health and low operating costs. She said that the objectives include attracting and retaining employees, being a good neighbor, activating the public realm, and generating economic activity with retail and restaurant space. Additional design considerations include modular and flexible office space that encourages communication and the sharing of information, as well as relating the office locations to transit. She introduced Brian Pilot of Studios Architecture to present the design proposal.
Mr. Pilot provided an overview of the context and site, noting that the location is approximately two blocks south of the Hirshhorn Museum that was presented earlier on the agenda. He indicated the triangular shape of the site, with the diagonal of Virginia Avenue along the northeast side; part of the Virginia Avenue right-of-way is occupied by a railroad line on a high embankment, limiting the views and connectivity along this side. The railroad has a passenger station along this block for Virginia Railway Express trains, with pedestrian access at 6th and 7th Streets. Additionally, the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station has an entrance to the south of the site, across D Street; this is envisioned as the primary direction of arrival to the building. Immediately east of the project site, the narrow eastern point of the block is a small National Park Service reservation; adjacent to this triangle park, the eastern part of the site is an open service yard and parking area, partially screened by a site wall. He noted the site’s significant slope to low points at the Virginia Avenue corners, nearly eight feet below the high points mid-block along D Street and Virginia Avenue; he indicated the existing retaining wall along the sidewalk at the northwest corner of the site.
Mr. Pilot described the configuration of the existing building, with a T-shaped massing that is oriented parallel to the Virginia Avenue alignment; this results in a variety of angular interstitial spaces between the building and the sidewalk edges. The ground-floor height is only twelve feet, which he said is a constraint for lobby and retail space. The office floors are configured in two volumes framing the central core that is partially exposed on the north and south; an additional windowless core, prominently visible at the east end of the building, contains the freight elevator and an egress stair. He said that the precast concrete facades of the office floors result in limited daylight for the interior.
Mr. Pilot presented the goals of the renovation of the building for use as the WMATA headquarters. Connectivity among the office areas would be improved by altering the central core that bifurcates the building’s plan. The relationship of the building to the public realm would also be improved, overcoming the existing separation of the building from the streetscape; features would include an improved lobby and retail space to serve the public as well as WMATA staff. The facades of the office floors would be replaced with a more sustainable, high-performance curtainwall system, resulting in more daylight reaching the interior. Three floors of rental office space would be added at the top of the building to generate income.
Mr. Pilot described the concept for the building’s base. The ground floor would be extended toward the sidewalk edges, and a generous lobby would project toward the corner of 7th and D Streets. Retail spaces would flank the lobby entrance, and the WMATA boardroom would be at the back of the lobby for convenient public access. Portions of the second-floor slab would be removed to create double-height space in the lobby and boardroom. He indicated the stepped configuration of the retail spaces to accommodate the sloping grade along the site edges. The building’s two levels of below-grade parking would remain. The loading area and parking ramp would remain at the east end of the building, with access from Virginia Avenue; the existing access from D Street would be eliminated, allowing for continuous visual screening along this more prominent frontage. A small retail space would be added at the far eastern end of the site; he said that WMATA hopes for a strong relationship between this retail space and the adjacent triangle park. The expanded base of the building would form a podium with an organic, curvilinear geometry that mediates between the site edges and the office volumes above. He said that the podium would be beautifully detailed with a timeless appearance and a pedestrian-oriented scale; the material may be a warm gray stone. The roof areas of the podium would be planted, including trees that would be visible from the street level; a third-floor cafe for WMATA employees would open onto one of the terraces above the podium. He noted that the podium roofscape would be visible from the upper floors of nearby buildings.
Mr. Pilot presented the concept for replacing the facades of the upper floors. The eastern core would be reclad to relate to the building’s new podium facades; the freight elevator and egress stair would remain at this location. The central core would be reconfigured by enlarging it toward the north to accommodate a new egress stair; the southern side of the core would be opened up as a common space connecting the east and west office areas on each floor, and the existing egress stair would be replaced by a new open staircase within the common space that would connect the WMATA office floors. A roof terrace would be created above the three-story addition to the building. The new curtainwall for the office floors would eliminate the existing problem of thermal bridging; transparency would be maximized for the office and common spaces, and opaque spandrel glass would be used along the thick downturned edges of the floor slabs. He noted the modest 10.5-foot height of the office floors.
Mr. Pilot concluded by presenting the proposed site design, including street trees along all three frontages. Site paving would be textured and expressive, inviting the public to enter the building and creating a strong relationship between the interior and exterior. Paved areas would also allow the retail openings to relate to the site’s streetscape edges.
Vice Chairman Meyer invited comments from the Commission members. Mr. Krieger said that the renovated building would be much handsomer than the existing building. He questioned the presented description of a high-performance curtainwall, observing that the proposal has extensive glass surfaces, including the south facade. Mr. Pilot responded that the primary benefit of the curtainwall would be to improve daylight within the sixty-foot-deep office spaces; he acknowledged that the thermal performance of the curtainwall is modest, but he emphasized that the insulation at the slabs and perimeter columns would be greatly improved. Mr. Krieger said that he is more familiar with energy-related building codes in the New England area, where such extensive use of glass would not be allowed; he offered to accept the proposed curtainwall if it is feasible in Washington, but he cited the contradiction between the goal of energy conservation and the proposal for floor-to-ceiling glass. He added that the desired daylight penetration to inner office areas would primarily be achieved through the upper area of the windows, while the proposed glass extends almost to the floor.
Mr. Krieger commented that the proposed podium would be better than the existing condition at the base of the building. However, he noted that ground-level retail has become less viable in recent years, and he questioned whether the proposed retail space would be successful, adding that the configuration of small and double-height spaces may be particularly hard to rent. He commented that the proposed podium does not seem open to pedestrians, despite the stated design intent and the extensive use of glass. He questioned why some facades of the podium are designed to resemble concrete, with a heaviness that seems unrelated to the curtainwall of the office floors above; he said that this combination has an odd appearance. He commented that the reclad core at the east end of the building would continue to convey the solid impenetrability of the existing treatment; he suggested puncturing the blank facade with windows if feasible.
Mr. Dunson commented that the design of the podium appears unresolved along the 7th Street frontage, where the retail space steps down toward the lower grade at the Virginia Avenue corner. He urged further study of the retail storefront and the solid wall area, adding that this frontage is comparable in importance to the D Street frontage. Mr. Pilot agreed that further detailing is needed, including the intersection of the landscape with the solid wall, as well as the optimal location of the retail storefront.
Ms. Meyer expressed overall support for the concept while agreeing with the comments of Mr. Krieger and Mr. Dunson. She offered further guidance on the treatment of the ground plane in relation to the design intent to activate public space. She acknowledged that retail uses are currently the typical way of achieving this activation, but future practices may be different. She said that the texture of the ground plane is important in providing a signal of public versus private space. She suggested that the conceptual approach of treating the podium facades as a biomorphic “wrapper” should extend outward to inform the landscape design. She observed that the continuity is apparent in some locations but not others, such as the multi-colored grid of pavers in front of the lobby; she said that this large gridded area suggests private space, not an invitation to the public, and she recommended a more biomorphic pattern with less emphasis on a distinct boundary. Similarly, she suggested further consideration of how to treat the park reservation adjoining the east end of the site, acknowledging that it is under the National Park Service’s control but could be improved in conjunction with this project. She said that the tiny reservation should not be split by the diagonal path shown in the site plan; the park should instead be perceived as a single space. She added that if a pedestrian desire line is anticipated along this diagonal, porous paving or some other technique could be used to accommodate the movement without dividing the small park.
Ms. Griffin agreed with Mr. Krieger’s concern that the proposed retail spaces may not be viable; she recommended further study of the appropriate amount of retail space, with particular consideration of the proposed third-floor cafe for employees and the neighborhood’s general lack of pedestrian activity outside of typical office hours. She observed that the retail spaces would be prominently located at the corners of the building, making a vacancy particularly problematic; she cited the unwanted scenario of pedestrians emerging from the 7th Street railroad underpass to face the void of a large, blank double-height storefront. She suggested consideration of alternative uses for the retail spaces, as well as alternative configurations to meet the needs of a potential retail tenant, such as removing the second floor from the retail space.
Ms. Griffin agreed that the proposal would be an improvement compared to the existing building. She nonetheless questioned the design relationship of the podium to the office building above, including the projecting volume of the entrance lobby that results in some odd leftover spaces in comparison to adjacent areas where the office facade plane comes directly to the ground. She suggested further clarification of the design vocabulary, materials, and massing, consistent with Mr. Dunson’s concern.
Mr. Krieger agreed that the design of the podium should be more consistent; he supported the intention to give the podium a biomorphic character, although he questioned whether this is actually achieved in the proposed design. He observed that the lobby’s shape would not be biomorphic, perhaps due to the expense of introducing curves to the extensive areas of glass on the lobby facades; but other parts of the podium also appear to be inconsistent in their design vocabulary. He questioned the need for some of the recesses within the podium, and he suggested further study of its massing and concept. Mr. Pilot offered to work further on strengthening the design vocabulary and reconsidering details such as the site paving in front of the lobby.
Ms. Griffin suggested broader consideration of how the building’s massing should be perceived: as a podium with a building on top, or as a building with pieces grafted onto it. Mr. Krieger agreed that the proposal suffers from confusion on this issue. Ms. Griffin said that clarification of the intent would inform the resolution of details such as whether the office facades meet the ground at some locations, or whether the lobby should be a projecting volume that is distinct in character from the rest of the podium.
Mr. Shubow commented that the architecture of Washington’s monumental core has traditionally been masonry buildings, as he had noted in conjunction with a project several months ago; this tradition contributes to the monumental core’s design character. The proposal would create an all-glass building that doesn’t fit in with Washington’s character, and looks like a commercial building instead of a government building. He said that WMATA should instead be trying to achieve a more civic appearance for its headquarters building. He also questioned the aesthetics of the proposed detailing, observing that the fins on the glass curtainwall appear to be configured in a random pattern that would not give a viewer’s eye anything to rest on; he suggested that a more recognizable pattern would be less tiresome for a viewer, consistent with eye-tracking studies that have been conducted on how people perceive buildings.
Mr. Krieger noted the range of concerns that have been raised, and he asked if approval of the concept would be appropriate. Secretary Luebke suggested that the Commission could give a general concept approval, conveying support for the massing and scale, with the request for an additional submission during design development, before the final design submission. Vice Chairman Meyer agreed, summarizing the Commission’s tentative support for how the concept is evolving but with questions that go beyond details. Ms. Griffin agreed that some massing issues remain unresolved. Mr. Krieger said that a general concept approval would be appropriate. Vice Chairman Meyer said that the next submission could address Ms. Griffin’s question on whether the building has a podium or grafted appendages, and the answer would affect a range of other design decisions. She added that the design of the curtainwall is another issue, with questions about its details, articulation, background or foreground role, and energy efficiency. She added that development of the ground plane design would follow from clarification of the design intent for the building’s base.
Ms. Griffin asked about intended signage for the building; Mr. Pilot responded that it would have signage, but this has not been developed. Ms. Griffin said that the design of the signage would be critical for a building with such extensive transparency in its facades. She added that establishing a civic identity for the building itself would be questionable, because three floors would be leased to other tenants. She suggested that the lobby would be the better opportunity for expressing WMATA’s civic identity, and the building’s design should be adaptable to future uses if WMATA moves elsewhere in the future. She suggested further exploration of how the cube-shaped lobby could be an expression of WMATA, in conjunction with resolving the lobby’s relationship to the podium and the overall building.
Vice Chairman Meyer summarized the consensus for a general concept approval, with the request that the next submission address the conceptual treatment of the base, the development of the curtainwall design, and the signage and identity issues raised by Ms. Griffin. Mr. Krieger added that the design of the eastern service core should also be addressed, with the goal of relieving its solidity. Ms. Griffin added that elevations and plans should be included in the next submission, supplementing the perspective views in today’s presentation. Upon a second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted this action; Mr. Shubow voted against the approval.
D. National Capital Planning Commission
Mr. Lindstrom introduced two information presentations on the National Capital Planning Commission’s Monumental Core Streetscape Project, part of a comprehensive update of the Streetscape Manual developed in 1992 in conjunction with the National Mall Road Improvement Program. The first presentation will describe the Urban Design Streetscape Framework, and the second addresses the Lighting Policy and Framework; both of these studies would be new additions to the Streetscape Manual. He asked Meghan Spigle Dowker, an urban planner with the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), to provide the background for these studies.
Ms. Dowker said that the two presentations build upon NCPC’s May 2018 presentation to the Commission on the Monumental Core Streetscape Project, a multi-phased update of the 1992 Streetscape Manual being led by NCPC. She noted that the Monumental Core is composed of federal land on both sides of the Potomac River, but this project’s focus is on the symbolic center of the city in the vicinity of the National Mall. She said this project seeks to make more natural and intuitive connections across the National Mall, tying the capital city together through its public realm and streetscapes.
Ms. Dowker said that the Streetscape Manual was developed in 1992 when the U.S. Department of Transportation created an interagency initiative for the National Mall Road Improvement Program. The 1992 manual was intended to provide guidelines for a coordinated and consistent streetscape treatment on roadways in the vicinity of the National Mall. It was developed and managed by a working group that originally included the Architect of the Capitol, the Federal Highway Administration, the National Park Service, and the precursor to the D.C. Department of Transportation. In 2005, the manual was endorsed by additional federal agencies including the Commission of Fine Arts and NCPC. Collectively, these agencies continue to convene a working group that meets quarterly to coordinate the planning, design, and construction of streetscape improvements and to uphold the Streetscape Manual. The manual consists of details and specifications that help to coordinate construction within the original boundary—roughly the area of the National Mall and the areas of high federal interest that surround it, including the U.S. Capitol Grounds, West Potomac Park, the White House and Presidents Park, the Northwest Rectangle, and the Southwest Federal Center. She said that the working group has achieved positive outcomes using the manual in its collaborations on more than twenty-five projects to rehabilitate and reconstruct roadways in the Monumental Core, with the overall goal of achieving streetscape consistency across agency jurisdictions. The working group identified the need to update the 27-year-old manual, and she said that now is an appropriate time to do so since no major roadway improvements are anticipated in the near term.
1. CFA 20/JUN/19-3, Monumental Core Streetscape Project—Urban Design Streetscape Manual and updates to the Streetscape Manual for the National Mall Road Improvement Program. Information presentation. (Previous: CFA 17/MAY/18-2.) nbsp; nbsp; Ms. Dowker said that the first presentation addresses two components of the Monumental Core Streetscape Project: a proposed adjustment to the boundary that delineates the study area in the 1992 Streetscape Manual, and the proposed Urban Design Streetscape Framework, a planning framework that categorizes special streets that are part of the Monumental Core’s public realm.
Ms. Dowker said that NCPC staff has completed an assessment of current streetscape planning documents and existing conditions to inform the project’s scope of work. Issues identified include a lack of streetscape guidance, particularly at a level that connects the construction details with a broader vision, as well as a lack of application, administration, and coordination of the Streetscape Manual; guidance is especially lacking for emerging issues like stormwater management and changing technologies. She said that the streetscapes within Washington’s Monumental Core reinforce the city’s unique role as the nation’s capital and create a welcoming and livable environment for people; they also reinforce a civic quality that inspires people and cultivates a sense of pride, permanence, and dignity. She emphasized that the Monumental Core is a place where streetscape details matter and should meet elevated standards. She said that the work products under development by NCPC are intended to have different audiences: the Urban Design Streetscape Framework for planners and urban designers; the Streetscape Design Guidelines for designers and architects; and the Streetscape Construction Manual for facilities managers and construction workers. Together, these four documents will comprise the revised Streetscape Manual. She noted that the revised manual is intended provide guidance during project development, review, and construction, with the goal of developing streetscape consistency over incremental change; it is not related to a new capital improvement project. In addition, the memorandum of understanding between the participating agencies will be updated to improve working group coordination.
Ms. Dowker indicated the planned adjustment to the Monumental Core boundary in the 1992 Streetscape Manual: the boundary would be extended to encompass the Kennedy Center, and the addition of the Banneker Overlook and Judiciary Square is also being considered. She said this new boundary reflects current planning recommendations and responds to changing conditions, and it is supported by NCPC and the staff participants of the working group. She noted that the Kennedy Center is currently expanding on the south toward the National Mall, improving connections to the pedestrian and cyclist trails along the Potomac River. In addition, the Monumental Core Framework Plan proposed extending the Mall by connecting the Kennedy Center southward and eastward, strengthening and reinforcing the linkages between the White House, the National Mall, and this living memorial to President Kennedy. She said that the Kennedy Center has expressed interest in being included within the boundary, and noted that the project offers the Kennedy Center the opportunity to improve the visitor experience and coordination with its neighbors, addressing the building’s current challenges of access and visibility. In addition, she noted that Southwest D.C. is being transformed by new developments such as The Wharf and the International Spy Museum, leading to changes in how people use and experience this part of the city. NCPC’s Southwest Ecodistrict Plan, among other studies, recommended reinforcing the Banneker Overlook as a gateway between the National Mall and Southwest Waterfront, which is the goal of the pedestrian access improvement project that was completed in 2018. She said that in response to these changing conditions, future streetscape enhancements could strengthen the gateway experience and reinforce these linkages. Regarding the addition of Judiciary Square to the Streetscape Manual, she said that L’Enfant originally planned Judiciary Square to be the seat of the Supreme Court, and had designed for views to and from the site; it remains a prominent location within the city and has federal and municipal courthouses as well as the National Building Museum. In addition, the National Law Enforcement Museum opened last year at Judiciary Square, creating a new visitor destination in close proximity to the National Mall. She said that future streetscape enhancements could strengthen the identity of Judiciary Square and its relationship to other destinations.
Ms. Dowker then presented the proposed Urban Design Streetscape Framework. She first described the framework’s streetscape categories, which organize streets within the Monumental Core according to their national and local identity, as well as their spatial and visual relationships to nationally significant memorials, buildings, and open spaces. She indicated the categories on a map:
- Radiating and edging streets, shown in magenta; these are streets with national importance and symbolic meaning, radiating from or edging nationally significant structures or open spaces.
- Connecting and traversing streets, shown in light pink; these are streets with national and local importance and symbolic meaning, and they connect multiple nationally significant destinations and open spaces;
- Local streets, shown in white; these are orthogonal grid streets that support and highlight the radiating diagonal avenues and provide access to destinations.
She noted that some of these streets connect to parks and other destinations outside of the 1992 Monumental Core boundary, which is indicated by a dashed gray line. She said that NCPC is working closely with the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) to study these areas and determine how to coordinate federal and local guidance.
Ms. Dowker next described the character areas, which indicate the unique land use, urban design, architectural, and landscape character within each precinct or neighborhood. She said these areas, shaded in various colors on the presented map, represent distinguishable patterns in the built environment rather than jurisdictional boundaries. The character areas, including their buildings and yards, form the backdrop of the streetscape and influence the pedestrian experience. She presented the example of the U.S. Capitol complex, indicating the legislative precinct anchored by the U.S. Capitol and the unique streetscape details that are noticeable to pedestrians.
Ms. Dowker described streetscape elements generally, noting that these are categorized into vertical, surface, and small-scale elements, and then organized along the spectrum of consistency. She said consistency should be sought among the vertical elements, such as the streetlights and trees, which shape the streetscape corridors and frame vistas and viewsheds. In addition, consistency is also desired among surface elements, such as the pedestrian walking space and pavement material, which strongly inform the streetscape character. The small-scale elements, such as the furnishings, signs, and perimeter security, could have more variability and adapt to the character areas and neighborhoods.
Ms. Dowker said that the Urban Design Streetscape Framework synthesizes these various components; she presented a composite map showing the relationship between the street categories and the character areas. For example, Constitution Avenue edges and crosses the distinct character areas of the U.S. Capitol complex, the Mall museum area, Federal Triangle, the Northwest Rectangle, and West Potomac Park. The character areas range from urban to park-like conditions, but since Constitution Avenue is a radiating and edging street, the plan calls for some consistency as the avenue traverses these different areas.
Ms. Dowker then discussed gateways and thresholds, which articulate the sense of arrival along the streetscape. She indicated on a map the capital gateways, designated in the Federal Elements of the Comprehensive Plan, as well as thresholds, which are important entries into or between the character areas or neighborhoods. She said that gateways and thresholds may have distinct treatments within the public realm to signal entryway or transition, helping to achieve a welcoming identity for the capital city and distinguish the unique character of neighborhoods. The transition between the Smithsonian’s South Mall Campus and the L’Enfant Promenade is one example of a threshold; Union Station and Columbus Circle serve as a gateway. She summarized that the Urban Design Streetscape Framework will be used to develop streetscape guidelines and construction details in the next phases of work; it is also the foundation for the Lighting Policy and Framework, the topic of the second information presentation.
Ms. Meyer expressed support for the effort to update the Streetscape Manual, and she emphasized that the update should address contemporary challenges, such as extreme weather and the impact of new technologies on the public realm. Noting the Commission’s recent reviews of projects related to the issue of new technology, such as small cell infrastructure, she said she would like to focus her comments today on the issue of extreme weather. She observed that the presented framework conceives of the urban landscape as a composition of separate elements, instead of more appropriately as a performative landscape system. For instance, she cautioned against the separate categorization of a trees as vertical elements, and the surrounding ground plane as surface elements; she emphasized that the surface treatment and soil is essential for healthy tree growth and water filtration, and the study needs to consider the relationship between the tree and the ground as a fundamental aspect of the infrastructure of trees. For example, she said new research shows that trees thrive when multiple trees are planted in the same tree pit, and that a tree’s health can be affected by whether it is placed along a north-south street or east-west street. She suggested studying alternatives to the regular spacing of trees, often thirty feet apart, perhaps by considering where shade is already provided by an adjacent building. She also noted that the Monumental Core’s buildings, as well as Metro access points, are vulnerable to flooding; she encouraged incorporating Federal Emergency Management Agency flood maps into the study. She said that the Commission has previously been presented with remedies to flooding on a case-by-case basis, such as raising Metro grates, while this study provides the opportunity to plan more systematically for the necessary adaptations of the streetscape. She added that “landscaping” is an outdated term usually associated with the ornamental, secondary, or inconsequential—and she advised no longer using this language.
Mr. Dunson questioned the selection of gateways and thresholds shown in the plan, as well as the relationship between gateways and thresholds and the Monumental Core itself. He asked if the streets that lead to and from the gateways and thresholds should also be included in the study. Ms. Dowker responded that the gateways have been identified in the Urban Design Element of the Comprehensive Plan; the interagency working group has identified the thresholds, which are considered points of entry between the smaller character areas and subareas. She said thresholds can be considered micro-entryways, as opposed to the larger Monumental Core gateways. Mr. Dunson asked for more information on the areas that fall outside of the delineated Monumental Core boundary; Ms. Dowker said that NCPC has a separate scope of work with DDOT and the D.C. Office of Planning to study how streets act as transition points and gateways into the Monumental Core. Ms. Meyer asked why the gateways matter, and if they would be expressed in streetscape elements; Ms. Dowker responded that thresholds may be developed where there is currently less continuity, in order to cue pedestrians of the transition or entryway to a new area. Mr. Krieger said that this might be important for locations close to the delineated boundaries, but less important for those that are farther away such as the three gateways shown along the Anacostia River.
Ms. Dowker said that the addition of gateways on the north is also being considered. Ms. Griffin said that these would be the most obvious additions, and she questioned why 16th Street, NW, is not identified as a major gateway or threshold area. While the crossings between the character areas have been identified, she questioned what the streetscape differences would be between the areas, adding that she is unsure if any difference in streetscape treatments is needed on either side of a threshold. She also questioned the plan’s emphasis on the thresholds identified between the National Mall and adjacent precincts within the Monumental Core; she commented that the boundary drawn between the broader Monumental Core and the surrounding city may suggest the location of significant thresholds. She summarized that information on the importance of the selected thresholds should be included in the study.
Ms. Griffin asked how regulatory signage, ranging from parking signs to building identifications, would be coordinated; she said that this will appear haphazard without some guidance. Ms. Dowker responded that the working group has identified this issue, but it has not yet been sufficiently addressed.
Mr. Dunson commented that the selected thresholds might indicate that certain areas are excluded from the conception of Washington as an urban city; however, the gateways should allow for opportunities to reconnect the Monumental Core with the rest of the city to make a unified whole, as opposed to having the Monumental Core be a separate entity within the city. He asked if the other agencies in the working group are studying other areas of the city to see how they might connect with the Monumental Core area. He added that there is an opportunity to reconnect and give importance to the boundary that separates the Monumental Core from the surrounding city, as defined by streets such as New York Avenue, Massachusetts Avenue, Sixteenth Street, and North and East Capitol Streets.
Ms. Meyer agreed that the areas where the axial and diagonal roadways intersect the central part of the L’Enfant City should be considered important thresholds and components of the monumental city, notwithstanding that these roadways and locations are beyond the boundaries of the historic core. She observed that the study’s diagrams identify the larger scale of a few major gateway points, primarily at the rivers, as well as the smaller scale of micro-thresholds between the Mall and its surroundings, but the study misses the intermediate scale of the city’s monumental roadway system. She encouraged NCPC to think about this issue, and to revisit the fundamental question of whether thresholds matter; she said she could imagine that certain thresholds would have no change in streetscape character because the study’s guidance is to reinforce continuity. She asked what it would mean to have two different sets of streetscape elements meeting one another; a principle and guideline would be helpful for this situation. She also suggested developing a prototype design for the elements that meet at these thresholds. She emphasized the need for fundamental questioning of whether thresholds are places where difference is maximized or minimized.
Ms. Griffin observed that city’s diagonal roadways already establish a hierarchy of street types, and she questioned whether different streetscape treatments would be needed as these major roadways cross the identified thresholds. Ms. Dowker responded that the study calls for more continuity on the radiating and edging streets, and medium continuity on the connecting and traversing streets, with less guidance on the local streets. Mr. Dunson observed that the study does not appear to address the treatment of spaces outside of the thresholds and other special areas that have been identified.
The discussion concluded without a formal action.
2. CFA 20/JUN/19-4, Monumental Core Streetscape Project—Lighting Policy and Framework for downtown Washington. nbsp; Information presentation. For the second information presentation, Ms. Dowker provided an information presentation on the proposed Lighting Policy and Framework Plan, a study that is part of the Monumental Core Streetscape Project. The presentation includes an overview of the existing and planned lighting for the Monumental Core, followed by a discussion of some technical aspects of lighting. She noted that the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) will return later in the year with a concept submission for this study.
Ms. Dowker said that a lighting policy is currently needed as part of the interagency working group’s update to the Streetscape Manual for the National Mall vicinity, which includes lighting details and specifications. In addition, the interagency working group is collaborating with the D.C. Government on its Smart Street Lighting Project, led by the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and Office of Public-Private Partnerships (OP3), that is converting the city’s 75,000 streetlights from mostly high-pressure sodium to light-emitting diode (LED) lamps. She said this collaboration is essential because DDOT has many streetlights in and around the National Mall, an area where different jurisdictions meet: she presented a diagram showing streetlight fixture ownership by DDOT, the National Park Service, the Smithsonian, and the Architect of the Capitol. She said that developing lighting guidance is important because lighting is fundamental to the experience of the capital city, contributing to its visual image and identity as well as its safety and security. She presented a nighttime image of the U.S. Capitol and Washington Monument, noting how white light is used to elevate the form and visual prominence of these civic structures against the darker, softer landscapes of the National Mall and Potomac River. She also presented a nighttime aerial view of central Washington, noting the visual contrast between the Monumental Core—lit by white metal halide street and building lights—and the surrounding city lit by yellow-orange high-pressure sodium streetlights. While the white light of the Monumental Core currently stands out from the rest of the city, she said that much of this contrast will be lost when the D.C. Government converts all of its streetlights to LED lamps, which typically emit a cool white light, making the District’s overall visual appearance at night more homogeneous. The Monumental Core's building lighting will therefore become increasingly important for adding variation and character.
Ms. Dowker presented the Lighting Policy and Framework, a policy-level document that considers the nighttime illumination of Washington by identifying structures, landscapes, and streets that are important because of their symbolic significance and visual prominence; the document establishes a hierarchy for these elements and outlines general lighting principles, building upon the Urban Design Streetscape Framework, which identifies street categories. She said that NCPC staff has studied the lighting plans of other capital cities, including London, Ottawa, and Canberra; she noted that the current effort is similar in detail to Canberra. In addition, Washington's historic fixtures and lighting plans are also being considered, particularly the 1977 and 1987 lighting plans of the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation (PADC), which called for using light to highlight important structures, as well as the 1992 conceptual lighting plan from the Commission of Fine Arts that proposed using white light to highlight the L'Enfant Plan and McMillan Plan features. She said that other federal and local policy statements also specifically address lighting, including the most recent Parks and Open Space element of the Comprehensive Plan. She said that prior lighting plans for Washington encompassed the entire L’Enfant city, but the current proposal focuses only on the Monumental Core.
Ms. Dowker listed the goals for the lighting guidance: to create a clear lighting hierarchy that respects and protects the symbolic meaning and nighttime appearance of iconic structures, landscapes, and streets; to recognize the nighttime appearance of the existing urban context that surrounds this area; to address contemporary street lighting issues—specifically, the change to LED lamps; and to build upon Washington’s historic lighting plans by carrying forward their important principles. She said that to establish a lighting hierarchy, criteria were identified for three tiers relating to the symbolic meaning and visual and spatial prominence of streets, buildings, and landscapes. For example, Tier 1 would include elements like the U.S. Capitol, the National Mall, or Independence Avenue; Tier 2 would include elements like Union Station, East Potomac Park, or Massachusetts Avenue; and Tier 3 would include elements like the National Gallery of Art or Marion Park. She reiterated that the tiers are organized by symbolic importance and visual prominence, for the purpose of helping to differentiate the lighting treatment; they are not intended to indicate the level of brightness nor to imply a ranking. She said the salient principles are that buildings should have a clear lighting hierarchy and that their nighttime appearances should convey symbolic meaning.
Ms. Dowker described the proposed tiers in greater detail to illustrate the proposed lighting principles and policies. She began with structures, noting that current lighting policies state that the Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol should be the most visually prominent nighttime elements in the city. She noted that the study has an expanded geographic context to include other important structures in Washington, such as St. Elizabeths Hospital, the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, and the National Cathedral. Although the framework does not mandate how property managers should use light, it does outline the principle that architectural lighting should enhance buildings while also protecting the night sky. The study is intended to addresses the potential for light to showcase building features and character, which varies with each individual building based on its role, use, and design. She noted that Washington is a city of white light, which is used to convey an image of timelessness, reverence, dignity, and respect—important characteristics for our national spaces, which often have commemorative or ceremonial uses. While other cities like New York and Pittsburgh are increasingly using colored light, the proposed principle is that white light is important to Washington’s identity as the nation’s capital and creates harmony among its civic structures. She said that while almost all permanent lighting for important civic structures is white, some buildings are lit with color on a temporary basis to celebrate art or special events.
Ms. Dowker then presented lighting policies related to landscapes. She said that existing policies call for maintaining dimness and minimizing light pollution in parklands within the Monumental Core. The study proposes expanding on this guidance, categorizing landscapes into tiers of symbolic importance and visual prominence. The study’s principles are that lighting should accentuate the iconic civic structures on the National Mall, and that parklands and open spaces within the L'Enfant city should be highlighted by perimeter street lighting. Landscapes are further subcategorized by their settings, which indicate their role as either nationally significant open space, natural or waterfront space, urban space, or residential space. Each setting has special considerations for light, either requiring brightness for visibility and safety or dimness to protect the environment or historic character. She said that generally the setting, rather than the tier, determines the level of brightness; for example, lighting in urban settings should be brighter and lighting in the other settings should be dimmer. She presented a map depicting the settings for each landscape, noting that the Potomac and the Anacostia Rivers have different characters and contexts, and the settings and principles are intended to protect federal interest areas and respond to these different contexts. On a nighttime photograph from 2016, she indicated the dimness along the Potomac River compared to the relative brightness along the Anacostia River, whose context is more urban. She also noted that areas of Washington are illuminated more brightly than the neighboring counties in Maryland and Virginia because of differences in light fixture types and lightbulbs; she indicated the brightness on the Washington side of the Southern Avenue boundary relative to the adjacent streets in Maryland.
Ms. Dowker said that the technical terms of backlight, cutoff, glare, and uplight are used to describe the amount of light permitted to shine upward. To protect the night sky, full cutoff is desirable; however, this is very hard to achieve in the historic Washington Globe fixtures. She said that discussion is ongoing about the amount of light that should be allowed to shine upward from the globes; the 1992 Streetscape Manual specifies that fifteen percent of light should shine upward to illuminate the Globe's silhouette, while the remainder should shine down to illuminate the ground plane. She said that the working group is determining the appropriate LED rating for backlight, uplight, and glare—known as a “BUG” rating—to balance historic preservation values with protection of the night sky.
Ms. Dowker then presented lighting policies related to streetscapes. She said that DDOT has policies that base street lighting on road function and wayfinding; the current NCPC study’s streetscape lighting tiers build on the Urban Design Streetscape Framework and promote the principle of visually consistent corridors. She noted that the streetscape tiers are also organized by their symbolic importance and their role in supporting individual prominence of vista focal points. She said that streetlight quality is important for visual character and for the safety of vehicles and pedestrians. She defined the technical term “color temperature” used in the discussion of street lighting as a measure of the visual warmness or coolness of light, measured in degrees Kelvin; a higher Kelvin number indicates a bluer light, while a lower Kelvin number indicates a more orange light. She noted that the first LED streetlights were offered at 5,000 degrees Kelvin, but as technology has evolved, 2,700- and 2,600-degree Kelvin fixtures are now available; she said that these lower color temperatures are more difficult and expensive to manufacture, but are better for human and environmental health. She presented a photograph of a street in Los Angeles being retrofitted with LED streetlights, indicating the noticeable difference between the orange light of 2,000-degree Kelvin high-pressure sodium lamps and the cool white light of new 4,000-degree Kelvin LED lamps. She said that this visible contrast and transition in streetlight color temperature is what the policy seeks to avoid among Monumental Core streets; DDOT is proposing to use both 2,700- and 3,000-degree Kelvin lamps.
Ms. Dowker presented a diagram illustrating the 1992 lighting plan from the Commission of Fine Arts, noting that it presents a vision for how to address streetlight color temperature grounded in historic preservation and urban design; a pure white light was called for within the Monumental Core, as well as for the radial and axial roadways of the L'Enfant city and for the perimeters of federal reservations. She said the important aspects of this plan are that street lighting was intended to enhance the plan for the City of Washington, particularly the radial avenues, and to establish a stronger connection between the Monumental Core and downtown. She said that when the D.C. Government converts to LED lamps, the streetlight color and character of the Monumental Core will change significantly. A systematic approach to determining streetlight color based on road type, vehicular function, and land use is intended to balance diverse public opinions with a focus on safety. She said that the federal objectives in the effort are to consider urban design, historic preservation, and the environment, and federal agencies are working with the city to balance both local and federal objectives.
Ms. Dowker then presented lighting policies related to brightness, which is the amount of light emitted from a lamp that contributes to the perception of a place being bright or dim. Similar to the approach for landscapes, the plan organizes streetscapes into different settings, which generally indicate their desired brightness. She said the proposed principle is that urban areas should be brighter, while nationally significant open space, natural waterfronts, and residential areas should be dimmer. While the D.C. Government is providing wattage and illuminance guidance for urban and residential areas, NCPC is working to provide this guidance for streets and nationally significant open spaces, such as the Mall. She presented a map illustrating how streets fall into different settings, noting that the proposed principle is that brighter light can be used to highlight the plan for the City of Washington, particularly on urban streets, and that the Mall's viewshed should continue to be protected by keeping its central panels free from streetlights. The 1977 and 1987 PADC lighting plans focused on both street lighting and building lighting to highlight important public buildings such as the U.S. Capitol and the National Portrait Gallery. She said the current study applies the same logic, identifying streets with reciprocal vistas to significant illuminated structures; the study’s principle is that streetlight brightness should elevate and enhance views to illuminated structures. To achieve this goal, streetlight brightness and dimness need to be evaluated. She added that it is her understanding that federal agencies will be able to work with DDOT to dim the lights on these streets in the future.
Ms. Dowker summarized that the Lighting Policy and Framework study addresses four topics: the symbolic and visual hierarchies for and among structures, landscapes, and streetscapes; temporarily lighting buildings with color; night sky protection; and streetlight color temperature and brightness principles, with consideration for vistas and settings. She said this work will continue through the summer of 2019, and NCPC hopes to present a concept submission for both the streetscape framework and lighting topics in the fall.
Ms. Griffin recommended that the guidance and principles in the document should be tested with mockups at multiple locations, particularly at the intersections of the different tiers and areas that have been identified. Ms. Dowker responded that the working group will have the ability to request mockups as its works with the D.C. Government on the implementation of its LED street lighting project. Ms. Meyer agreed that the guidelines should be tested, since the documents will guide the installation of new technology that will likely be in place for decades. She suggested consulting with innovative urban lighting designers, such as Linnaea Tillett of New York, for the testing and implementation of this new street lighting technology; she noted that Ms. Tillett often tests her designs with small mockups and other inventive methods.
Ms. Meyer asked if the more uniform color temperature of the new lighting would result in less hierarchy between the Monumental Core and the surrounding city. Ms. Dowker confirmed that the city would likely appear more homogenous at night without the color distinction between the metal halide and high-pressure sodium lamps; she noted that all of the new LED lamps will have up to fifty percent dimming capabilities. Ms. Meyer questioned whether the uniform color temperature is a matter of cost, noting the comment in the presentation that lamps with lower color temperature are more expensive. Ms. Griffin said she finds compelling the existing hierarchy of the white light of the Monumental Core and the warmer light of the surrounding city, especially when observed from the air; she expressed regret that this distinction may be lost when all streetlights are converted to the same color temperature. Ms. Meyer agreed, observing that the space of the National Mall is clear in the presented aerial photo. Ms. Dowker said the presented conceptual aerial rendering showing all of the city’s street lighting at one color temperature illustrates how the appearance of the city at night may be more bland. Mr. Dunson said that in some cases continuity across the city is important, but he agrees that the Monumental Core is a special area that should be visually distinctive at night and not blend in with the rest of the city.
Ms. Griffin observed that some images in the presentation show only a slight gradation between different LED lamps; she asked how the policy goal of establishing hierarchy in nighttime lighting would be achieved with such a small difference in the color temperatures of the selected lamps. Ms. Dowker responded that because street lighting would be more uniform, building lighting may instead be used to create the desired visual hierarchy. Ms. Griffin advised that this issue be studied further since the presented images are not depicting this hierarchy.
Mr. Krieger expressed support for LED lighting, citing its reduced energy consumption, improved color, and more consistent background against which important buildings and monuments can be lit. He said that he is unsure if the aerial images depicting the color difference between the Monumental Core and surrounding city are accurate; in his experience, what is apparent when seeing Washington at night by air is the illumination of the major public monuments. He said that the presented analysis is impressive but that overly extensive; it is beginning to find unnecessary nuances of differentiation, leading to the conclusion that every street and threshold or connection needs to be treated differently. Instead, he advised identifying essential differences and using light to highlighting important buildings and streets, such as the major diagonal roadways, against a more consistent backdrop.
Ms. Meyer asked which color temperature is better for human health, such as not interfering with circadian rhythms; Ms. Dowker responded that warmer color temperatures are generally better in this regard, and the American Medical Association recommends color temperatures of 3,000 degrees Kelvin or lower. Ms. Meyer said that she recommends specifying LEDs with lower color temperatures for this reason. Ms. Griffin said that the specified range of LED color temperatures to be used by the D.C. Government likely takes this recommendation into account. She agreed with Mr. Krieger that the lighting hierarchy should be simplified to its essential elements.
The discussion concluded without a formal action.
E. District of Columbia Department of General Services
CFA 20/JUN/19-5, Eastern Market Metro Park, 8th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, SE. Modifications to and renovation of park. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 16/MAY/19-7.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the revised concept design by Moya Design Partners and LandDesign for the renovation of Eastern Market Metro Park, located at the intersection of 8th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. She noted that in the previous review of this project in May 2019, the Commission did not take an action and recommended further simplification of the design. She asked Cassidy Mullen of the D.C. Department of General Services to begin the presentation.
Mr. Mullen said that the current revised concept design incorporates refinements based on the Commission’s previous review; he noted that this design has received concept approval from the National Capital Planning Commission and the D.C. Office of Planning, and no objection from the National Park Service. He encouraged the opportunity to address any additional comments from the Commission at the administrative level. He introduced landscape architect Susan England of LandDesign to present the revised concept.
Ms. England said the Commission had previously commented that the proposed shapes in Parcel 1 to the northeast were overly complicated and distracting, and that Parcel 4 to the southwest contained too many different program elements. She said that the current revisions to Parcel 1, such as the definition of entry points, reflect its more private, secluded character, responding to its primarily residential surroundings. The playground on Parcel 1 has been simplified from three areas to just two, which will allow more space for children to run and play freely. Additional elements would be limited to a splash-pad plaza and another plaza around an existing tree dedicated to a late community leader. She said that the overall circulation on Parcel 1 has been improved, and the shapes of the playground and plaza spaces recall the shapes used on Parcel 4.
Ms. England described the design for Parcel 4 as more porous than Parcel 1; the revised circulation pattern would help people navigate among the multiple modes of transportation located here, as well as provide access to the surrounding commercial buildings. Larger and more clearly defined circulation areas have been created by consolidation of the plaza space, with particular improvements at the Metro station entrance; this consolidation will make the plaza more flexible for daily use and also for events of various sizes. A previously proposed kiosk and water feature have been eliminated. Planting beds with raised curbs and built-in benches have been located to guide pedestrian traffic; these would also invite visitors to linger, since people within a landscape area tend to congregate along edges. A tilted lawn in the center of the library plaza would add informal seating and provide visual relief within the hardscape; the nearby bosque, revised to be larger, would provide additional shade for seating areas.
Ms. England presented several illustrations of the proposed park, including the unimpeded view to the existing public library across the flexible event space, as well as an aerial perspective across the site through the layered landscape from northeast to southwest along the view corridor of the South Carolina Avenue alignment. She noted that the plaza areas on Parcel 4 would be only slightly separated by a planter and trees, and they could function together as a space for larger events or everyday pedestrian traffic.
Vice Chairman Meyer invited comments from the Commission members. Mr. Dunson described the revised concept as a major improvement, noting that it incorporates most of the Commission’s recommendations. He observed that the library is now perceptually included within the precinct, and that removing some features from Parcel 4 has improved its quality as a public space as well as its relation to the rest of the site. Mr. Krieger agreed that the revised design is much improved; although it had first been conceived as a single park, it is now two distinct but related spaces. He also commended the simplification of Parcel 4, observing that it still suggests the South Carolina Avenue corridor without creating an overly dominant axis through the space.
Ms. Meyer expressed strong support for the direction of the revised design, and she commented that the team has begun focusing on the most important characteristic of a public park in Washington: the architecture of the trees, which is what endures when programs change. She said that the design had previously been so focused on programming that it became too busy. She said that the site plan is helpful for understanding the basic organization of the park; for further development of the project, she encouraged the design team to supplement this with a drawing showing the location of tree trunks in order to understand where subtle shifts in the location of trees could give more enclosure, identity, and shade cover. She said that a park design inevitably encounters obstacles—such as the location of utilities and other features that require adjustments—and such a drawing will be helpful in reinforcing the desired rooms and spaces in the face of design changes.
Concerning spatial organization, Ms. Meyer observed that the plan exhibits a logic about creating the two large bosque rooms by using large trees to define their edges; however, smaller trees have not been used as consistently. She emphasized the importance of using lines of small trees to create the desired secondary layer of spatial enclosure, commenting that small trees can have great power in reinforcing a room. Rather than being viewed as fragments, she said that small trees should be viewed as elements in a secondary level of placemaking, a role they fill particularly well when they are in bloom.
Mr. Krieger offered a motion to approve the revised concept design, with consideration of the comments for additional refinements, and to delegate the final review to the staff. Upon a second by Ms. Griffin, the Commission adopted this action.
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider items II.G.1 and II.G.2.
G. United States Mint
Mr. Simon introduced the proposed designs for two Congressional Gold Medals, which have been authorized by law and will be presented in special ceremonies. He noted that the Mint would also produce larger bronze duplicates of the medals for sale to the public, and samples of past bronze and gold versions are available for the Commission’s inspection. He asked April Stafford of the Mint to present the design alternatives.
1. CFA 20/JUN/19-6, Congressional Gold Medal honoring Anwar El Sadat. Designs for a gold medal (with bronze duplicates). Final. Ms. Stafford summarized the authorizing legislation for a medal to honor Anwar El Sadat (1918–1981) in recognition of his contributions to peace in the Middle East during his years as president of Egypt. She cited Sadat’s participation in the 1978 Camp David negotiations with President Jimmy Carter and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, leading to the 1979 signing of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.
Ms. Stafford said that the Mint has been consulting with the Sadat family as the liaison for developing the medal’s design, and the alternatives were reviewed by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) earlier this week. She presented the fourteen obverse designs and fourteen reverse designs, noting that the Sadat family and the CCAC agree in recommending obverse #4 and reverse #2. She said that obverse #4 would recess the large portrait into the medal’s textured field, in the manner of ancient Egyptian relief sculptures; the only other feature on the obverse would be Sadat’s name. Reverse #2 depicts Egypt’s Unknown Soldier Memorial, where Sadat’s tomb is located, and several inscriptions.
Ms. Griffin observed that the text fonts differ for the preferred obverse and reverse designs, and she asked if this would be resolved. Joe Menna, chief engraver for the Mint, responded that either of the fonts could be changed to match the other, in accordance with the Commission’s preference. Ms. Griffin acknowledged that the family or CCAC may prefer the differing fonts, but if they are to be made consistent, her preference is for the font on reverse #2. Ms. Stafford confirmed that the difference in fonts was not addressed by the family nor by the CCAC, and these obverse and reverse designs were developed independent of each other. She added that the obverse text, Sadat’s name, is intended to be incused, which is a technique that was not used on any of the past samples provided to the Commission. Ms. Meyer recalled that past proposals involving incused designs have included discussion of the relationship between the obverse and reverse design configurations to assure adequate flow of the metal as the coin or medal is struck. Ron Harrigal, the Mint’s manager of design and engraving, responded that the depth of incusing would be shallow and therefore not problematic; he cited the successful use of this technique for an Indian-head coin in the early 20th century.
Vice Chairman Meyer asked if the Commission members are satisfied with the preferred pairing that was presented. Mr. Krieger asked the source of a quotation shown in several other alternatives for the reverse: “Any life lost in war is a human life, irrespective of its being that of an Israeli or an Arab”; Ms. Stafford responded that it is taken from a speech given by Sadat to the Israeli Knesset. Mr. Krieger said that an alternative with this quote might be preferable, and the depiction of the tomb on reverse #2 might be too obscure, depending on whether the intended audience for this medal is specifically Egyptians or a more general public. Ms. Stafford clarified that the gold medal would be presented to Sadat’s family, with the bronze duplicates available to the public as a secondary reminder of the Congressional commemoration of Sadat; Mr. Krieger therefore agreed that reverse #2 is appropriate.
Vice Chairman noted the consensus to support the pairing of obverse #4 and reverse #2, consistent with the preferences of the Sadat family and the CCAC, with a preference for revising the font of obverse #4 to match that of reverse #2. Upon a second by Ms. Griffin, the Commission adopted this action.
2. CFA 20/JUN/19-7, Congressional Gold Medal honoring Steve Gleason. Designs for a gold medal (with bronze duplicates). Final. Ms. Stafford summarized the authorizing legislation for a medal to honor Steve Gleason for his work in improving the lives of people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a terminal fatal neuromuscular disease. She described Mr. Gleason’s career as a college athlete and professional football player, becoming especially prominent for his 2006 performance with the New Orleans Saints in the first football game played at the Superdome in New Orleans after the damage of Hurricane Katrina. She said that Mr. Gleason was diagnosed with ALS in 2011; he then founded Team Gleason, an organization that provides technology and equipment to people with ALS, helps them experience adventures, raises global awareness about the disease, and promotes the search for a cure. His advocacy led to the enactment of legislation in 2015 and 2017 that ensures the availability of speech-generating devices for people with ALS.
Ms. Stafford said that the Mint has been consulting with Mr. Gleason in developing the medal’s design, and the alternatives were reviewed by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) earlier this week. She presented the ten obverse designs and ten reverse designs, noting that Mr. Gleason and the CCAC agree in recommending obverse #7 and reverse #3, subject to some modifications suggested by Mr. Gleason and supported by the CCAC and the Mint’s chief engraver. The obverse would feature Mr. Gleason’s portrait. Reverse #3 depicts a mountain and river scene reminiscent of Mr. Gleason’s childhood in the Pacific Northwest, with the phrase “Keep Exploring” that refers to his lifetime of travels and exploration as well as his experience living with ALS. The presented design would be modified by lowering the wilderness scene to include more sky and a larger moon; removing the text “Act of Congress 2018” from the reverse because it duplicates the text on the selected obverse, where the date would be modified to 2019 to reflect the president’s signing of the authorizing legislation in early January 2019; and, in place of this text, the repositioning of the phrase “Keep Exploring” to form an arc along the lower edge of the reverse.
Ms. Meyer observed that the modifications to reverse #3 would result in a design resembling reverse #6, and she asked why this was not chosen; she noted that reverse #6 has a greater area of sky, a larger moon, and the phrase “Keep Exploring” at the bottom of the composition. She acknowledged that the vegetation is depicted differently in these two reverses, commenting that the drawing technique in reverse #3 appears cruder; Mr. Krieger disagreed and described reverse #3 as the better drawing. Ms. Stafford responded that the CCAC discussed exactly this issue, concluding that the differences between these two designs are important.
Mr. Dunson observed that the surface of the river in reverse #3 is depicted as rippling water, but the design does not convey the expected disturbance of the water at the rock outcroppings within the river; he suggested that this be refined during the sculpting process to avoid the ambiguity between moving and placid water. Joe Menna, chief engraver for the Mint, responded that the sculptor could adjust the artist’s design to address this concern.
Ms. Griffin supported the suggestion to reposition the phrase “Keep Exploring” within the composition of reverse #3. However, she observed that the new location, in conjunction with the downward shift of the wilderness scene, might crowd the bottom of the coin; she recommended careful study to determine the best proportion of sky and water in revising the design. She also commented that the central boulder is crudely drawn and should be articulated more carefully with accurate perspective. Mr. Krieger said that aside from the boulders, the general depiction of the Pacific Northwest landscape is a good one. He agreed that the proportions should be considered carefully in repositioning the scene; for example, equal areas of water and sky would probably not be desirable. Ms. Meyer added that the lettering of the phrase “Keep Exploring” should be reconsidered in moving the text toward the edge of the coin; the presented combination of upper- and lower-case letters could become problematic with the adjusted placement, while changing the text to all upper-case letters would make it easier to configure as a consistent arc.
Mr. Dunson observed that the river shore meanders through the composition, and he suggested that the artistic technique convey the subtle transition between layers of landforms within the perspective view. Mr. Menna responded that this could be addressed in the sculpting process using layers of relief, similar to stage scenery composed of a sequence of flat panels. Ms. Stafford added that this medal would be struck on a thick planchet that would allow for layered effects in the relief detailing. Mr. Menna noted that this layering of planes could also be used to address the appearance of the rocks as requested by the Commission members.
Vice Chairman Meyer summarized the consensus to support the pairing of obverse #7 and reverse #3, consistent with the preferences of Mr. Gleason and the CCAC, with the comments provided concerning the composition, text, water, boulders, and planes of relief. Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted this action.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.F.
F. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
SL 19-177, 5906 17th Street, NW. New single-family house. Concept. (Previous: SL 19-109, 18 April 2019.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept design by Studio 207 for a new single-family house on a recently subdivided vacant lot at 5906 17th Street, NW. She said that the Commission previously reviewed this concept in April 2019 and did not take an action, recommending further study of the topography and of the design for the site and building. The trapezoidal lot is located at the eastern edge of Rock Creek Park, one block south of Military Road, and adjacent to an unimproved continuation of the Manchester Lane right-of-way that is perceived as part of the park; the site slopes down toward the west and is prominently visible from Joyce Road within the park. She said the architectural context is composed of modest one- and two-story single-family houses dating from throughout the twentieth century, in styles ranging from the Colonial Revival to split-level ranch to contemporary. The proposed house would contain approximately 4,500 square feet on three levels, with a stepped footprint and massing to accommodate the irregular site. She introduced Harvey Yancey of H2 Design Build, the developer and general contractor, and Mr. Yancey asked architect Jonathan Harden of Studio 207 to present the design.
Mr. Harden described the changes made to the concept design in response to the April 2019 review. The southern facade has been made the primary facade, and the house has been raised slightly higher, with an elevated patio altering the connection between house and backyard. The house has been detailed to appear more like a single-family home and less like an apartment block. The fenestration now reflects the interior layout and appears coordinated on the exterior; the color proposed for the window surrounds is lighter and will be less noticeable. The roof plan includes a flat roof on the central stairwell, with pitched roofs over the volumes to the east and west.
Mr. Harden said that the house has been more sensitively integrated with its site, and the site itself has been more sensitively integrated with its park surroundings by the extension of low walls from the house to create terraced spaces. Other improvements to the site design include the addition of more native trees at the boundary between yard and park, and the progressive diminution in the size of trees and shrubs from park to house. Drainage of the site has been improved through the addition of a drain at the end of the driveway and the inclusion of permeable brick pavers to reduce the amount of stormwater flowing down the sloped driveway.
Vice Chairman Meyer opened the review for discussion. Ms. Griffin asked about the unusually proportioned horizontal window on the north side of the middle level; Mr. Harden responded that this window is in the kitchen, extending above the counter and below overhead cabinets.
Ms. Meyer focused her comments on the overall topographic strategy. She commended the reconsideration of the floor levels in relation to the topography, commenting that the correct establishment of a project’s floor levels can avoid the need for compensating adjustments throughout the building and site design. She observed that the improved relationship of the building and site results in a reduced driveway slope will be easier to navigate, makes the approach to the front door easier and more welcoming, and reduces the potential for flooding problems. However, she suggested moving the drain from the proposed location to the edge between the parking court and the driveway, in order to drain more stormwater before it reaches the site’s flat area. Mr. Dunson agreed that the design has improved; he said that the design team has expanded on the Commission’s comments, especially concerning the development of the facades and the integration of the building into the slope through the series of terraces.
Mr. Krieger also agreed that improvements have been made. However, he said that he still questions a few things, most importantly the design of the roofs. He said that since most of the house has pitched roofs, the flat-roofed stairwell in the center appears incongruous, giving the impression of two different houses with a foreign insertion between them, and he sees no advantage in using two different roof forms. Mr. Harden responded that the initial design had been for a house composed of two long blocks, each with a pitched roof, to take advantage of the elongated site; the stairwell was inserted between them to open the house up to the park by creating a separation. Mr. Krieger clarified that he is not suggesting a house with a single ridge running its full length, but the proposed roof plan combines a dominant idea about sloped roofs with a different, discordant idea in the center. He said the idea of two masses slightly separated by a stairwell opening toward the view, and perhaps including a special room on the top floor, could be expressed without the use of a flat roof. He emphasized that the flat roof looks like a mistake, and he questioned whether other houses in the area have a similar combination of flat and hipped roofs.
Mr. Krieger said another difficulty is the awkward relation of the driveway and the main entrance. Indicating the east elevation facing 17th Street and the south elevation facing the driveway, he said the front door and driveway appear unrelated. For example, he observed that someone parking on the driveway instead of in the garage would have difficulty reaching the front door; a person would have to return back up the driveway to the sidewalk and from there climb stairs and approach the front door via the long entrance path. He anticipated that the only people who would ever use the front door would be neighbors arriving on foot, who would approach the house from the street. He added that the design presents a multitude of stairs to reach this high, awkward stoop. He reiterated that the design shows a lack of relation between the door, the driveway, and the two walks, and he asked if another solution could be found to slope the front yard or driveway, or if a berm could be used—solutions that might allow people to easily walk from the driveway up to the front door. Ms. Griffin suggested that guests would likely park on the street and then walk up the path directly to the front door; Mr. Krieger said that even though the site slopes, guests will park on the driveway. Ms. Meyer suggested adding a walk along the edge of the driveway and then jogging it with a small stair to create a more direct connection. Mr. Krieger added that the front door seems too small and stingy for such a large and prominent house; Ms. Meyer agreed. Mr. Yancey responded that the approach from the sidewalk is similar to that of neighboring houses.
Mr. Dunson suggested flipping the entrance walk’s stairway toward the driveway, which would reduce the steep ascent to the stoop at the front door. He observed that many neighboring houses do not have a separate walks but are entered via an entry court adjoining the driveway. Mr. Krieger also observed that adjacent houses do not have sidewalks. Mr. Harden confirmed that a sidewalk is planned in front of this house. Mr. Dunson reiterated that reversing the entrance stair would improve the grade transition.
Mr. Krieger also observed that the extent of pavement at the bottom of the driveway, near the garage, appears unnecessarily large and could be reduced to allow more lawn in front of the adjacent room. He summarized that none of his suggestions invalidates the improvements that have been made, but he reiterated his recommendation to replace the flat roof over the stairwell with a low pitched roof; Ms. Griffin and Mr. Dunson supported this change. Ms. Griffin agreed with Mr. Krieger’s concern about the large extent of paving proposed at the bottom of the driveway and the desirability of providing more green area next to the adjacent room’s picture window located next to the driveway—a small change that may slightly increase the value of the house. She suggested careful consideration of the required turning radius for the garage, with the goal of reshaping this area more efficiently.
Ms. Griffin observed that the west elevation facing the park is more attractive than the subdued east elevation facing the street. She noted that most of the walkway leading to the front door is on the public right-of-way, not on private property, and she asked if any regulatory restrictions are applicable. Ms. Batcheler responded that some restrictions exist but most are not applicable in this case, except that the driveway curb, and possibly the retaining walls at the driveway, would require a public space review by the D.C. government. Ms. Griffin suggested a landscape solution: instead of using two short stairways and a steep rise, the approach could be terraced, allowing people to walk to the front door from either the driveway or the street. She commented that this house would probably be used extensively for entertaining, and most guests would park on the street and enter by the front door; she emphasized the benefit of creating a gentler approach across the front yard through terracing, which would allow different types of landscape treatments, thus making the front of the house as lively and inviting as the rear. She observed that the many and varied windows would create lively facades and a light-filled interior; an improved treatment of the entry sequence could make the approach and the front door appear comparably dynamic. She disagreed with the concern over combining pitched and flat roofs, adding that all the roofs could be flat. She suggested that a more important change would be to use white brick for the exterior of the stairwell volume instead of the proposed stucco. As she had not been at the prior review, she said she could not comment on the changes, but she finds the design to be exciting.
Ms. Meyer suggested an additional change—moving the lines of plantings from the middle of the lawn areas to the property line. She said that this refinement would establish a clear maintenance boundary with the neighbors, and also create larger private lawn areas adjacent to the house.
Mr. Krieger offered a motion to approve the revised concept design with the recommendations provided, and to request that the design team work with the staff in resolving the remaining issues as the final design submission is developed, ideally to be resolved on the Shipstead-Luce Act appendix. Upon a second by Mr. Dunson, the Commission adopted this action.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:59 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA