The meeting was convened by videoconference at 9:00 a.m.
Hon. Billie Tsien, Chair
Hon. Hazel Ruth Edwards, Vice Chair
Hon. Peter Cook
Hon. Lisa Delplace
Hon. James McCrery
Hon. Justin Garrett Moore
Hon. Duncan Stroik
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
A. Administration of oath of office to Lisa Delplace. Secretary Luebke introduced Ms. Delplace, who was appointed by President Biden on 7 April 2022 to a four-year term on the Commission, and he administered the oath of office to her. He summarized Ms. Delplace’s work as the director of the local landscape architecture firm of Oehme, van Sweden (OvS); she has led the design of a wide range of projects, including rehabilitation of the Anacostia and Potomac River shorelines, revitalization of the neighborhoods around Washington’s Eastern Market, master planning for Congressional Cemetery, and additions to the World War II Memorial. He noted that OvS received the Landscape Architecture Firm Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects in 2014, when Ms. Delplace was leading the firm. He said that Ms. Delplace’s work outside OvS includes research on the former Old Naval Hospital on Capitol Hill, as well as contributions to the cultural landscape report for the White House Rose Garden; she also serves frequently as a visiting critic and lecturer at universities and professional organizations. She is a trustee of the National Building Museum, an elected Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, and the recipient of the Chairman’s Award from the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board.
Mr. Luebke noted that the new appointment marks the end of service on the Commission for Rodney Mims Cook, Jr., who was appointed in 2021 and served as the Commission’s Vice Chair for part of that year. Mr. Luebke expressed appreciation for his thoughtful contributions and sense of humor.
B. Approval of the minutes of the 17 March meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the March meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Mr. Stroik, the Commission approved the minutes.
C. Dates of next meetings. Secretary Luebke presented the dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 19 May, and 16 June, and 21 July 2022. He noted that no meeting is scheduled in August.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Secretary Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Fox reported that no changes have been made to the draft consent calendar, which includes the reporting of the staff’s approval action on three previously delegated reviews. Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission approved the Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler said the revisions to the draft appendix are limited to minor wording changes and the notation of dates for the receipt of supplemental materials. She said the recommendations for six projects are subject to further coordination with the applicants, and she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations when the outstanding issues are resolved. Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act Appendix.
(See agenda item II.F for an additional Shipstead-Luce Act submission.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Amos reported that no changes have been made to the draft appendix, which has 24 projects. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission approved the Old Georgetown Act Appendix. (See agenda item II.F for two additional Old Georgetown Act submissions.)
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider items II.C.1, II.C.2, and II.E. Secretary Luebke said that the Commission may wish to act on these submissions without a presentation. He also noted that a case listed on the draft agenda, for a project at Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown, has been removed at the project team’s request and will be reviewed in a future month.
C. National Park Service
1. CFA 21/APR/22-2, Pennsylvania Avenue, Potomac Avenue, and 14th Street, SE. Intersection improvement project—reconfiguration of traffic intersection and new park in the circle. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/JUL/21-2) Secretary Luebke noted the Commission’s previous review of this project, which includes a new park within the traffic circle that would result from reconfiguration of this complex intersection. Chair Tsien summarized the consensus that the submission is responsive to the Commission’s previous comments, and she suggested moving the project forward. Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission approved the final design submission with support for the staff’s recommendation on remaining design issues.
2. CFA 21/APR/22-3, Potomac River Tunnel Project, various properties owned by the U.S. or District of Columbia governments. Construction of combined sewer overflow (CSO) facilities. Final. Secretary Luebke said that in addition to sites in East and West Potomac Parks, the project scope includes some locations within Georgetown, and the project has therefore been reviewed by the Commission’s Old Georgetown Board; the Board’s report has been circulated to the Commission members. Ms. Delplace recommended that any exposed metal equipment boxes associated with the project should be painted dark gray instead of green, so that they will visually recede. Mr. Luebke noted that this recommendation would supersede part of the Board’s recommendation for the Georgetown locations and would also apply to the project’s other locations. Mr. McCrery suggested that the guidance for a dark gray color be explicit in the Commission’s action in order to confirm support from all of the Commission members. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission approved the final design submission and adopted the Board’s report, subject to the recommendation that the project’s exposed metal equipment boxes should be painted dark gray.
E. D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation
CFA 21/APR/22-5, Fort Lincoln Park, 3100 Fort Lincoln Drive, NE. New community center building. Final. (Previous: CFA 18/NOV/21-7) Secretary Luebke said that the submission is responsive to the Commission’s previous comments, and Chair Tsien noted the consensus of the Commission to support the project. Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Dr. Edwards, the Commission approved the final design submission.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B.
B. Arlington National Cemetery
CFA 21/APR/22-1, 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center, Columbia Pike between South Joyce Street and South Washington Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia. New visitor education and conference center. Information presentation. Secretary Luebke introduced an information presentation on a proposal for a new visitor education center, submitted by Arlington National Cemetery in cooperation with the Pentagon Memorial Fund. The program includes exhibition spaces, conference facilities, and visitor amenities to support a projected number of 700,000 visitors annually to the nearby 9/11 Pentagon Memorial. He said the visitor center would be located on land that will be available for development as a result of the roadway reconfigurations planned as part of the cemetery’s Southern Expansion project, which the Commission approved in November 2020. He noted that aside from the site having been illustrated in the Southern Expansion master planning documentation, this is the first time the Commission is seeing the project on its own. He said that the purpose of the information presentation is to hear the Commission’s comments on the general idea and direction; no formal action is required.
Mr. Luebke said the site is separated from the memorial by a major six-lane highway, requiring a walk of several minutes via an underpass between the visitor center and the memorial. The building would be oriented to align with the flight path of Flight 77, much like the elements of the memorial itself, and it would be articulated with geometries, patterns, and textures informed by the memorial’s design. He noted that this project has been through several cycles of consultation with the staff, and it still faces numerous administrative and regulatory steps, including the transfer of land and environmental and historic preservation review. He asked Agnes Sullivan, deputy director of engineering at Arlington National Cemetery, to begin the presentation.
Ms. Sullivan said she is honored to present the Pentagon Memorial Fund project on behalf of the cemetery; the proposed building would be situated on the southeast corner of the cemetery’s property and outside its walls. She introduced Jim Laychak, executive director of the Pentagon Memorial Fund, to continue the presentation.
Mr. Laychak said he became involved with the fund after his brother was killed at the Pentagon in the 9/11 terrorist attack. The fund was established by family members who lost loved ones on that day, and it has now moved into a new phase of its mission. He introduced Brian Chaffee of Fentress Architects and landscape architect Chris Sutterfield of Confluence to present the design.
Mr. Chaffee said the mission of the building will be primarily public education about the events of 9/11 and the response to those events, and to support the mission of the Pentagon Memorial, whose visitors are mostly school-aged children who were born long after 9/11. As the project has been conceived as a companion to the memorial, the design of the visitor center takes cues from the memorial’s design, which is aligned with the flight path of Flight 77. The visitor center would be a two-story building of approximately 53,000 square feet, with the entrance, exhibition hall, and gift shop on the first floor and a conference center and administrative offices on the second floor.
Mr. Chaffee presented an aerial view of the site in 2001, indicating the locations of the gas station that formerly occupied the project site, the Navy Annex building to the west that was subsequently demolished, and the cloverleaf at the intersection of Columbia Pike and Washington Boulevard near I-395. The realignment of Columbia Pike is creating room for the Southern Expansion project and also defines the project site; the flight path of Flight 77 passed directly over the site, providing a unique opportunity for interpretation. He discussed the context of the cemetery and its viewsheds, and he emphasized the importance of creating the strongest possible visual connection between the memorial and the visitor center, which will be situated on opposite sides of Washington Boulevard. He indicated the sightlines to significant features within the cemetery, including the Pentagon Group Burial Marker, where unidentified remains from 9/11 are interred.
Mr. Chaffee discussed the project in the context of the cemetery’s general master plan.
He indicated several small buildings within the cemetery, including the cemetery maintenance facility, which will be relocated to the south across Columbia Pike, adjacent to I-395, in order to create additional, contiguous space for burials; these buildings will serve as a buffer between the cemetery and the complex of ramps, highways, and interchanges in this area. He presented a view from the base of the Air Force Memorial looking toward the project site and the Pentagon, with the Washington Monument in the background and the highway complex visible to the south. He also described the relation of the visitor center to other heights in this vicinity. From the Air Force Memorial, the topography slopes steeply down toward the project site, Washington Boulevard, the memorial, and the Pentagon; the many highways rise as they move south, although their elevation varies. The future parking garage for the cemetery will have a height approximately equal to the high point of the visitor center.
Mr. Chaffee said that Pentagon officials would like to reduce the number of memorial visitors parking in the Pentagon lot and walking across its grounds, as well as the number of people arriving by Metrorail who also walk across the grounds to reach the memorial. In addition, other visitors currently park in the surface parking lot of the cemetery or along Army-Navy Drive south of I-395, crossing under the highway through a tunnel to reach the memorial. He said the visitor center site will be much closer and more convenient for visitors without the security concerns of having tourists walk across the Pentagon’s property.
Mr. Chaffee said the site slopes down almost thirty feet from west to east; the highest part of the site has been identified as the best location for the building, and this siting would provide the best possible views from the visitor center to the memorial. A primary design goal is to create a physical and symbolic relationship between the two sites by connecting them with the line of the flight path; the new building and its landscape would therefore be organized along this alignment, with the building entrance and lobby situated directly beneath the flight path, and a parallel alignment for the site’s pedestrian “promenade” or walkway leading to the memorial.
Mr. Chaffee said the building’s footprint is based on both programming and security parameters. The building would be divided into three areas corresponding to function: an entrance lobby providing orientation within the building and to the Pentagon Memorial; internally focused areas on the southeast side of the building, including a 16,000-square-foot exhibit hall on the first floor and a conference center on the second floor; and a northwest wing with external views toward the landscape to contain visitor amenities, including a gift shop on the first floor, vertical circulation, a cafe on the second floor, and a rooftop terrace.
Mr. Chaffee described how antiterrorism provisions to protect the building have influenced its organization. Because it will occupy Department of Defense (DOD) property, the building is subject to the Antiterrorism/Force Protection provisions under the DOD’s Unified Facilities Criteria. As a private development on DOD land, the visitor center presents a unique situation for a DOD installation, and the project team has developed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Pentagon Memorial Fund directing how the antiterrorism provisions will be interpreted. The first criterion was the establishment of a fifty-foot-wide clear zone around the perimeter of the site; thirty feet of this fifty-foot width can be outside of the property line. Within the clear zone, the height of plantings is restricted to allow for this area to be surveilled to prevent terrorist acts. Another security criterion is to establish a ten-meter-wide band of clear space surrounding the building, measured from its face; this area will be unobstructed, with no plantings taller than six inches to avoid creating any places where explosive devices could be concealed. Trees can be planted in this area as long as their canopies are at least three feet above the ground plane. He presented a diagram illustrating how these security requirements helped shape the building concept. He indicated the location of the equipment yard and trash facilities, which must be placed ten meters away from the building within an “unhardened” zone.
Mr. Chaffee presented the remaining features of the site plan. The parking lot on the east would accommodate 124 cars, and a bus drop-off area would be on the north; he said that these areas would share an access driveway from Columbia Pike, whose many curves allow only one point of vehicular access to the site. He indicated the walkway that would serve as the drop-off area for schoolchildren; this walkway would also connect the visitor center with the Pentagon Memorial to the east via an underpass beneath Washington Boulevard. As much planting as possible would be added to the landscape edge surrounding the site to make it compatible with the distinctive and beautiful landscape of the cemetery.
Mr. Chaffee described how the design concept for the visitor center’s facades is based on a study of the features and symbolism of the Pentagon Memorial, including the memorial’s treatment of the ground plane, the benches and pools of water representing each victim, and the pattern of lines representing their ages. An analysis of these elements resulted in patterns of textures and tones that would be expressed on the facades through different colors of porcelain tile, with glazing used to suggest water. The materials would play with different qualities of translucency and transparency. He asked Mr. Sutterfield to present the landscape design in greater detail.
Mr. Sutterfield said the landscape has been organized around the east–west walkway that would be aligned with the flight path. At its west end, a small circular plaza would represent wholeness and healing; the east end would have a plaza in the shape of a chevron pointing in the direction of the memorial. The bus loop would be located on a high point along the north side of the walkway, and the parking lot would be located to the south, set back from Columbia Pike. A nearly uninterrupted landscaped area along South Joyce Street and Columbia Pike would be planted around the building and the bus loop with turf, shade trees, and other plantings to soften the views. The streetscape for the south side of Columbia Pike is being coordinated with the planned streetscape for the north side, including groundcovers and a symmetrical tree planting to create a unified appearance along the roadway.
Mr. Sutterfield emphasized that the landscape design respects the historical context of the cemetery by extending the cemetery’s characteristic landscape—lawns, groundcover plantings, and ornamental and shade trees—to create visual unity between the cemetery and the project site. The visitor center’s lawn would extend from the high grade down the slope to encircle the building, and the street trees would be species used at the cemetery. The plantings and the night lighting would soften the appearance of the parking lot and create separation between the walkway and the parked cars. He indicated the series of steps in the chevron-shaped plaza, which could be used for seating to provide a place where people can gather and listen to tour guides. He said the project team will continue to study other possible places for interpretation.
Chair Tsien thanked the project team for its presentation and opened the discussion to questions and comments from the Commission members.
Mr. Moore noted that the building would include 53,000 square feet of space over two floors, with a large bulkhead structure protruding above the roof; observing that the building would be quite large, he asked how its size was determined and if there has been any investigation of using a below-ground level to reduce the building’s height and profile. Mr. Chaffee responded that earlier versions had included a much larger program with more conference space, including a theater, and they had considered placing some areas below grade; however, it was decided that there are not good opportunities to do this with the current program. He said the building could perhaps be set somewhat into the ground, but there is concern about how visitors would move through the space. He noted that typically, visitor amenities or storage areas may be located in a below-grade level, but the program does not include many such functions; he added that the first floor needs to be very accessible. Mr. Moore observed that the exhibition and interpretive spaces themselves are very large, and he noted that exhibition areas are typically treated as black-box spaces. Mr. Chaffee agreed that exhibit designers usually want windowless space, and the project team could consider depressing this portion slightly into the grade.
Mr. Moore said his main concern is that this building will be located within one of the nation’s most important memorial and commemorative landscapes, which now includes the Pentagon building and memorial. Because of the program’s scale, the building would have a significant visual impact on the broader landscape extending from the Southern Expansion area to the Pentagon. He observed that the presented perspective views are seen from above eye level, and the presentation therefore does not adequately convey that a visitor standing in the cemetery would actually have a significantly changed experience of this exceptionally important landscape. He recommended careful study of the building program to see if there are any possible elements, such as the exhibition spaces, that could be depressed below grade; he suggested giving less consideration to simply fitting the program on the site, and more consideration of this building as an important and respectful part of the greater memorial landscape.
Mr. Moore said that although he appreciates the central role of the flight path alignment in the design, its proposed architectural expression in the high lobby space would make a tall building even taller, and it would also create a significant obstruction to views toward the flight path and the Pentagon. He recommended finding an alternative solution, such as skylights, to create a volume of space to mark the flight path without creating a form that obstructs the entire commemorative context. He said the power of the Pentagon Memorial is that visitors are able to connect with the experience of the flight path without obstruction, and he emphasized that the proposed building design is fighting this fundamental connection. Finally, Mr. Moore noted that 9/11 occurred over twenty years ago, and those who experienced it are aging. Observing that the proposal includes many steps and stairs, he commented that this public landscape needs to accommodate the mobility issues of its visitors and provide the greatest amount of access to the entire site.
Acknowledging the challenges presented by the site and subject, Mr. McCrery commended the quality of the landscape design, although he observed that a great deal of space is given to parking and vehicular circulation. He expressed concern that the footprint of the building was presented as the result of external pressures instead of being inspired by a fundamental vision; the presentation diagrams showed the footprint emerging from the technical requirements such as required security setbacks, and then massing ideas were applied to this plan shape. While this may be a common way of arranging architecture on difficult sites, he said the architecture looks like the result of site analysis—instead of designing the architecture to work with the available site. He encouraged the project team to rethink the approach to imagining the architecture, and he added that these comments are not about architectural style.
Mr. McCrery noted that most visitors would be schoolchildren arriving by bus, and therefore the parking lot, intended for private vehicles, may often be mostly empty. He asked if the parking lot’s considerable size is a result of the seating capacity of the very large assembly areas within the building. He said that the parking lot would not resolve the DOD’s security concern of visitors walking from the Metro station to the memorial and visitor center, because many visitors will continue to arrive by Metro. The parking lot may be a solution to the problem of visitors parking in the lot south of I-395, but he questioned whether solving this broader parking and security issue is the responsibility of this project. He strongly encouraged reconsidering the need for so much on-site parking and suggested that reducing the size of the parking lot would free up the site for another investigation of the architectural approach.
Mr. McCrery suggested it would be helpful to study the cemetery’s excellent architectural precedents, both historic and contemporary, to inform the design of the building and ensure continuity between the visitor center and the cemetery, consistent with the presented intent for the landscape design. He observed that the cemetery structures are designed to appear enduring, while the panels proposed for the building’s skin look impermanent; he suggested that the visitor center, as a commemorative structure, should have a more permanent appearance.
Mr. Cook expressed support for Mr. McCrery’s comments, agreeing that the site presents many challenges. Although the siting of the building is based on external views to the flight path, the Pentagon, and the cemetery, he observed that much of its program has an inward focus; he expressed concern that the siting and program are fighting each other. He asked for clarification of why the building had been placed in this part of the site, and whether other locations were explored that would take advantage of the site in a different way. He commented that the design has an uneasy relationship with the cemetery, and he questioned some of the programmatic relationships, such as the location of the bus access and bus loop along Columbia Pike, across from the cemetery. Finally, he questioned the decision to locate both the cafe and the gift shop to face the cemetery.
Ms. Delplace also raised questions about the building’s siting and sensitivity to its surroundings, particularly the cemetery. Although she commended the decision to extend the cemetery’s extraordinary aesthetic into the visitor center’s site, she advised pushing this idea further. Noting that outdoor spaces in Washington become almost uninhabitable in summer, she said if the goal is to create spaces that encourage people to meet outside, it is crucial to consider solar exposure. She commented that the circular plaza between Columbia Pike and the parking lot appears very exposed, although the parking lot itself is depicted as heavily shaded by trees; she emphasized that this meeting area should also be a shaded space where people can gather in comfort before they move on to the memorial. She also observed that the landscape plan shows a beautiful fluidity in its outside lines along the cemetery and the roadway, but inside this zone the lines of pavement and parking become quite rigid; she recommended continuing these smooth, fluid gestures throughout the site design.
Indicating the view from the Air Force Memorial toward the Pentagon, Mr. Stroik said the design of the visitor center should be more responsive to the existing architecture. He commented that the visitor center should not be the focus of an area defined by Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon; instead, it should fade into the background and become almost invisible. While he was not suggesting it should be built underground, he emphasized that the proposed design is so forceful and strident, with such a multiplicity of shapes, that it calls attention to itself when it should be subordinate to the Pentagon and the memorial in both its form and materials. He agreed that the proposed design fights with the existing architecture and landscape, and as a result it would not fit in. He requested further study of a simplified design that would not be a focal point but would harmonize with the other buildings in the context, particularly the beautiful structures of the cemetery.
Observing that many of the visitors will be schoolchildren, Dr. Edwards asked how they would move from the buses and navigate their way through the site. Mr. Chaffee said buses would enter the bus loop from Columbia Pike and line up along the walkway, where three parked buses could be accommodated. School groups would gather in the circular plaza before walking to the visitor center. Similarly, people going to the memorial would leave the building and proceed down the walkway to the chevron-shaped plaza, which would be large enough for groups of children or tourists to gather before crossing the street to proceed toward the memorial. He said the bus loop results from the limitation of having only one point for buses to enter and exit the site; he acknowledged that the loop configuration would take up a lot of land.
Ms. Tsien observed that the thirty-foot drop in topography across the site presents a major opportunity to study how to suppress the scale of the building, as seen clearly in the section drawings. She said a beautiful quality of the Arlington National Cemetery landscape is the image of the repeated lines of grave markers following the topography, conveying a powerful sense of understatement, quiet, and restraint. She advised considering how the building’s two floors of institutional space could be grounded into the site, similar to how the grave markers are grounded within the cemetery terrain. She commented that there are ways to treat below-grade space successfully, such as using courtyards to bring daylight into lower levels. She emphasized that the building has been designed as a solid mass, with exhibition spaces that will probably not require natural light and thus will not need to be above grade; instead, the opportunity exists to depress the galleries into the ground while filling the other public spaces with natural light. She summarized that the Commission members are in agreement about how this building can best accomplish its intent to memorialize and interpret the events of 9/11 and to do so in a way that is more in harmony with the power and dignity of Arlington National Cemetery, with the site’s topography providing a great opportunity to achieve this.
Mr. Sutterfield said the Pentagon Memorial Fund is a private nonprofit organization that does not receive public funding and therefore will need to raise money to maintain this building and its programs. The size of the building has already been reduced to be both efficient and flexible, but holding conferences will be a critical part of its business model. Mr. Laychak said he appreciated the opportunity to present the design, and the project team will consider all the comments. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
C. National Park Service
1. CFA 21/APR/22-2, Pennsylvania Avenue, Potomac Avenue, and 14th Street, SE. Intersection improvement project—reconfiguration of traffic intersection and new park in the circle. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/JUL/21-2) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
2. CFA 21/APR/22-3, Potomac River Tunnel Project, various properties owned by the U.S. or District of Columbia governments. Construction of combined sewer overflow (CSO) facilities. Final. The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
D. D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
CFA 21/APR/22-4, St. Elizabeths East Campus, 1 Pecan Street SE (Parcel 2). New five- or six-story hospital building with parking garage. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/SEP/21-2) Secretary Luebke introduced the proposed final design for a new hospital and clinical services building, with associated parking garage, to be located within the historic St. Elizabeths East Campus. He noted that the hospital has now been officially named the Cedar Hill Regional Medical Center in honor of Frederick Douglass’s nearby estate in Anacostia. He summarized the previous review in September 2021, when the Commission approved a revised concept design and suggested further elaboration of the landscape’s therapeutic character through the use of additional topographic mounding, plantings of pollinators, and site furniture. The Commission also encouraged more consideration of the connections between the hospital and the larger campus. The current submission includes refinements to the composition and colors of the facade, window placement, and entrance canopy, along with a more developed landscape design. He introduced architect William Hellmuth of HOK and project manager Latrena Owens of the D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.
Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission has requested that the presentation focus on the proposal’s landscape component. Chair Tsien said that the Commission members have found the final design submission to be very responsive to their previous comments on the architecture. With the appointment of Ms. Delplace as a landscape architect on the Commission, she said the intent is to provide the opportunity for further comments on the landscape design, which was not yet fully resolved in previous reviews. Mr. Hellmuth suggested jumping forward to the later part of the planned presentation, and he introduced landscape architect Don Hoover of Oculus to present the revisions to the landscape design; Chair Tsien agreed to this adjustment in the presentation.
Mr. Hoover outlined the key considerations guiding the landscape plan. He emphasized the importance of designing the landscape to support the functions of the hospital and having the landscape contribute to the quality of the neighborhood. Other goals include environmental responsibility, public safety, aesthetic quality, and management considerations, such as avoiding the creation of a landscape that would be difficult to maintain. He indicated adjacent roads and the site boundaries, noting that some edges such as Pecan Street on the south have been designed under a separate contract; Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue is a major roadway along the west side, and service roads are located to the north and east. He said the north–south pedestrian connection is an important feature within the park area on the west side of the site, designed as a serpentine path that would also connect with the men’s shelter building and historic horse stable to the northeast and the dining terrace outside the hospital cafeteria at the building’s southwest corner. He indicated the location of bus stops on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and of the pedestrian crosswalks leading to the hospital.
Mr. Hoover described the general landscape zones, which include the public park to the west; the “front yard” of the hospital and its main entrance, facing south; the dining terrace adjoining the hospital cafeteria; the emergency room entrance and adjacent parking lot on the hospital’s west side; and the back-of-house areas and parking garage to the north and east. He said that the service drive would be depressed into the grade, and similarly only two floors of the parking garage would be visible above grade. He illustrated in section the various green buffer zones of trees around the site, which will help obscure views of the parking garage and other buildings. He indicated the locations of several very large oak trees in the public park area; the park has been designed to preserve these trees, with the grade changes, paths, and seating all located to avoid harming their root systems. The overall grade would remain relatively flat across the park and then abruptly slopes down to the emergency room and its parking lot. Within the park, the topography would be shaped with mounds to create visual interest and to further screen views of the emergency room parking lot. He noted that when the idea of a mounded landscape was introduced at the previous presentation, the Commission had recommended taking this concept further; in response, the mounding has been made more pronounced while still avoiding critical tree root zones.
Mr. Hoover presented the proposed planting plan in more detail. The plant palette includes canopy, evergreen, and flowering trees, all of them non-invasive and most of them native, with the exception of some ginkgos and London plane trees. Much of the park would be lawn, with garden plantings primarily located at building entrances and around the dining terrace. Noting the Commission’s previous suggestion to introduce garden planting in the park, he said the project team has been hesitant to do this for reasons of security, to avoid creating blind spots; however, the plan now includes low garden planting, no more than waist height, around the seating areas and in concert with the mounding, which would add interest and variety to the experience of walking along the serpentine path. The gardens would include flowering plants with ornamental grasses and evergreen shrubs to provide interest throughout the year. In addition, biofiltration gardens would be located in several locations in the park and along the front of the garage; the biofiltration plantings would similarly be selected for year-round interest as well as for their appropriateness and compatibility with the particular needs of such gardens.
Mr. Hoover described the proposed site furnishings. He said that at the suggestion of the Commission, group seating areas have been included in the park, in addition to traditional park benches and picnic tables, to create areas where families can sit together and enjoy some respite from the hospital. The dining terrace outside of the hospital cafeteria would have cafe tables and chairs along with bench seating. He noted that the terrace, on the south side of the hospital, would be a heavily planted space, with trees providing shade. A fence would enclose the entire terrace to continue the security perimeter for the building and also to protect the terrace’s furnishings. The fence would be located within dense plantings, including a hedge; it is designed to be blended into the landscape but not entirely concealed.
Mr. Hoover concluded by presenting the exterior lighting plan. The lighting along Pecan Street, designed under a separate contract, would use standard Washington Globe lights; the Washington Globe would also be placed in the park to identify it as a public space. Smaller-scale column lights would be used close to the hospital building and on the dining terrace, with an appearance comparable to candles in the landscape. Taller lightpoles would be installed along the service road that runs behind the hospital; these would have cut-off fixtures that prevent light from spreading beyond the property line, and the concealed light source would be compliant with dark skies initiatives while providing sufficient light for safety.
Chair Tsien thanked Mr. Hoover for his clear and thorough presentation. She asked Ms. Delplace for any comments on the landscape design.
Ms. Delplace commended the design team for extending the landscape forms in the park to create a better space. Noting the approximately 400-foot length of the park from north to south, she recommended further elongating some of the topographic mounds and stretching their contours slightly to make them less symmetrical. Observing that maintenance has been identified as a key consideration in the landscape design, she said that landscape itself can be an excellent tool to reduce maintenance over time; for example, she suggested that the garden plantings proposed to be along the park path could instead be located on the steep slopes, in place of lawns, where the plantings could help to stabilize the hillsides and eliminate the problem of trying to mow grass on the slopes.
Ms. Delplace noted the Commission’s previous suggestion to introduce pollinators throughout the design. However, she recommended reconsidering their use around the dining terrace, observing that flowering plants can be problematic near where people will be eating, especially if some diners would have challenged immune systems. Observing that the fence around the dining terrace would be visible in some places, she suggested reconsidering its design; while expressing support for the intended transparency of its appearance, she said that its design otherwise looks unwelcoming and somewhat severe, and she encouraged finding a friendlier design. Ms. Tsien agreed; she commented that although the fence would be set within plantings, it may still be very noticeable, and she suggested also using a quiet color. Mr. Hellmuth said the fence could be refined to look less industrial and more welcoming and gardenesque; Ms. Owens added that fencing is required here as part of the secure perimeter around the hospital.
Secretary Luebke noted that the Commission has raised questions about some details of the landscape, which could be addressed as a delegated assignment for the Commission staff to resolve with the project team, avoiding the need to go through another submission cycle; the proposed signage design has also has been refined, and the staff is fairly comfortable with the results. Chair Tsien said the Commission would be satisfied to rely on the staff’s assessment of any remaining concerns. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission members could therefore vote to approve the final design proposal subject to the conditions and concerns that have been raised. Chair Tsien supported this action, with the completion of the final approval delegated to the staff. Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Mr. Cook, the Commission adopted this action.
E. D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation
CFA 21/APR/22-5, Fort Lincoln Park, 3100 Fort Lincoln Drive, NE. New community center building. Final. (Previous: CFA 18/NOV/21-7) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
F. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
SL 22-074, 1735 New York Avenue, NW. Renovations and alterations to building and landscape. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the concept for modifications to the national headquarters complex of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) at New York Avenue and 18th Street, NW. The project is intended to address the AIA’s current needs, modernize the building systems, improve the performance of the exterior envelope, and serve as a model project embodying the principles of accessibility, diversity, equity, wellness, innovation, and sustainability. The site includes the Octagon House, designed by the U.S. Capitol architect William Thornton and completed in 1799; behind the Octagon’s substantial rear yard is the headquarters building, designed by The Architects Collaborative in 1973. He noted that the federal-style Octagon is a National Historic Landmark, and the headquarters building is considered an important example of Brutalist architecture; both buildings are prominently visible from the surrounding area, including the E Street corridor.
Mr. Luebke said the architectural changes include adding a truss-supported vertical scrim of glass panels, intended to convey biophilic principles and potentially having photovoltaic technology. Rooftop changes would include solar panels and new mechanical equipment with a screen wall. Substantial changes are proposed for the landscape between the headquarters building and the Octagon. When the headquarters building was constructed, this landscape was designed as an extension of the building’s geometry; the new design would reconfigure the planted and paved areas, with a prominent wood trellis at the center. A new sloped walk would provide an accessible ascent into the site from New York Avenue on the south, and a sculptural wall would be created along the site stairs. He asked architect Conor Dunn of EHDD to begin the presentation.
Mr. Dunn presented a summary of the project goals and themes for both the building and site design. The project team is working with the AIA to create a center of advocacy for design, to showcase what architects can do, to connect the work of architects with welcoming and engaging the public, and to focus on decarbonization; he said this project is intended to be one of the first fully decarbonized renovations in the nation for a building of this size. He presented photographs of the site from the surrounding streets and from Rawlins Park, located diagonally to the southwest. He said that the plaza between the headquarters and Octagon is currently a hidden feature that would be reactivated by this project, serving to engage with the public and draw people into the site. He introduced architect Christian Wopperer of EHDD to present the proposal in greater detail.
Mr. Wopperer said that specific strategies for the project include converting the building systems to electric power, decarbonizing through careful selection of materials, re-imagining the existing structure, designing more resilient passive systems, and leading through advocacy. The result would be a decarbonized and climate-neutral building, serving as the nation’s first demonstration of a cost-effective path for achieving targets for major building renovations that have been established for the end of the decade. The steps toward decarbonization include pushing energy efficiency to its cost-effective limits, in conjunction with on- and off-site renewable energy. For a building of this size, the result would be to save and re-use tons of carbon. Low-carbon options are being analyzed for all of the building elements, with the intent to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at every step.
Mr. Wopperer said that the proposed transformation of the Brutalist facade is inspired by a 1953 statement by architect Alison Smithson that Brutalism is “an ethic, not an aesthetic.” In this spirit, the proposal would alter the facade to reflect a new ethic of reconnecting the building with nature; the design themes include performance, well-being, biophilia, and enhancing the experiential quality, drawing inspiration from the leaves of a forest canopy. The new facade screen would be composed of solar panels that provide shade while also generating power. The metaphoric leaves of the facade screen would be layered over a lightweight armature, and he said the leaves would be finely tuned in their locations and angles based on parametric models of the solar orientation and shading. The careful study has allowed for detailing the screening elements to optimize their shading function, reduce interior cooling loads, and maximize solar energy generation, while maintaining as much daylight as possible for the interior and preserving views from the interior toward the plaza and the Octagon.
Mr. Wopperer said that the design studies have also included glass technologies. Frit patterns would be added to the windows and solar panels, helping to reduce the interior’s solar heat gain. Tinting behind the photovoltaic layer would break down the scale of the facade, adding a mottled and dynamic quality. The photovoltaic glass panels would provide a range from ten to thirty percent transmission of visible light; people inside the building would experience a more comfortable space with open views, reduced glare, and dappled light recalling the light quality experienced under a tree canopy. The proposed graphic pattern on the courtyard-facing solar panels is derived from the geometry of the Octagon’s floor plan, adding a sense of scale and offering a deeper connection to the site’s history; glass along the street edges would have a pattern derived from the L’Enfant Plan, responding to the building’s outward engagement with the city.
Mr. Wopperer presented several perspective views of the proposed facades, emphasizing that the modifications would be a noticeable and dramatic statement of change; the AIA’s values and priorities would be more evident, and the headquarters building would be more relevant as its symbol. The modifications would add a layer of high performance, human scale, and a more textural and organic quality, demonstrating the power of design and of place to all who encounter the site. He noted that the modifications would be applied to the upper five stories of the building; the lower two stories containing the AIA store and a conference area would remain more open to street-level views, emphasizing these more outward-facing program spaces, which is an important goal for the project. The pattern of panels would also be left more open at the inside corner to allow more light and views at lobby and gathering spaces. He added that the vertical steel trusses supporting the new facade elements would land in planted areas around the base of the building; these locations are subject to further coordination with the engineering team. He summarized that the angular panels and vertical trusses would create a dynamic play of shadow and a new architectural order across the existing concrete banding of the facades, bracketed by the large concrete stair towers at each end of the building.
Mr. Wopperer presented the proposed modifications at the roof, including a new platform to support seven additional heat pumps; he said these would be critical to achieving the project’s decarbonization goal, and they would be screened with nine-foot-tall louvered metal panels. Based on consultation with the Commission staff, the new mechanical area would be aligned with the existing rooftop penthouse and would be kept as low as possible. The remainder of the roof would have solar panels to augment the on-site energy production.
Mr. Wopperer concluded with the building’s plan and elevation drawings, comparing the existing and proposed conditions. He said that little or no work is proposed for the north and east sides of the building, which face the interior of the block. He indicated the slight visibility of the screening wall for the proposed rooftop mechanical area, noting that it directly abuts the mechanical penthouse of the neighboring building. He introduced landscape architects Walter Hood and Michael DeGregorio of Hood Design Studio to present the site design.
Mr. DeGregorio provided an overview of the courtyard’s existing condition, generally split into the terraced upper area of paved plaza along the headquarters building’s facade and the lower area of lawn along the Octagon. Brick walls extend from the Octagon along the site’s street edges. A main entry stair from New York Avenue leads up to the plaza, passing among three large oak trees on the site; the site entrance from 18th Street is closer to the plaza level.
Mr. DeGregorio said the site design is intended to establish a dialogue between the headquarters building and the Octagon. The main entry stair would be rebuilt in approximately its current location, while the courtyard would be reconceived to emphasize the experience of moving through a garden, instead of the current separation of the lawn and plaza areas. He indicated the proposed “zigzag walk,” a walkway with a slope of less than five percent, that would allow the AIA’s employees, members, and the general public to move through the site in a new and different way. The walkway would provide views of the Octagon from unfamiliar angles as well as views of the city, bringing people to the upper plaza area. The center of the upper plaza is envisioned as a hybrid space, with an elliptical area of inlaid paving that would include red sandstone from the Seneca quarry, relating to the local geology and history; a shade canopy or trellis would surround the ellipse, making the space more habitable in the summer. More of the courtyard would be planted as a garden, inspired by historic images of the Octagon’s rear garden that had an embowered, overgrown character; the garden would extend closer to the headquarters building.
Mr. Hood said that the proposed design is intended as a new type of space that would improve the relationship between the Octagon and the headquarters building; he described the space as having a strong character while doing many things. He indicated the layout of the terracing that emulates the form of the Octagon as the grade ascends to the headquarters and plaza; landscaping would also be extended directly to the facade of the headquarters, helping to connect the building with the garden. The route from the New York Avenue sidewalk to the headquarters entrance would be a series of spaces that compels people to see and experience the city in a completely different way. The zigzag walk would bring people through a three-layer sequence of “occluded gardens,” beginning along New York Avenue to ascend through garden areas alongside the entrance steps. A feature wall perpendicular to the avenue would serve to attract people toward this entrance point that would then lead into the courtyard garden after passing beyond the brick site wall. He said that each of these elements relates to the history of the site as well as the monumentality that characterizes Washington. He described the combination of elements as somewhat eclectic but coming together to provide a renewed experience that would be of interest for workers and visitors, including those attending events on the site; he noted that the area behind the Octagon is sometimes used for weddings.
Mr. Hood presented a series of perspective views to illustrate the entrance experience from New York Avenue, traversing the zigzag walk to reach the upper plaza. He noted that the design of the proposed feature wall at New York Avenue is still being developed; the drawings illustrate how this wall might become an artwork or have a more commemorative element. The material of the site’s new walls would be different from the historic walls so that the distinction would be clear. Comparing the drawings to existing condition photographs, he said that the courtyard garden would become more noticeable from the New York Avenue sidewalk rather than being hidden from view; passersby would be able to see people moving through the landscape. Visitors would have a choice of using the zigzag walk or the stairs to enter the site and reach the headquarters building’s entrance. The zigzag walk would immerse people in the planting along the avenue, providing views of the courtyard garden as the walk turns. Moving into the site, people would be directly alongside the southern wing of the headquarters building, and the trellis structure would become visible in the middle of the courtyard. As people move into in the garden, they would suddenly have the feeling of being in a different world, removed from the congestion of the streets. He said that the garden could include some pedagogical displays along the walls. The next turn of the zigzag walk would frame the view toward the headquarters building, with a direct view of its entrance framed by the courtyard spaces at each side. At this point, the view to the left would include the wood trellis structure as well as office windows; the route to the building entrance would branch off toward the right. A colonial garden and rock garden with brick details would relate the upper plaza to the Octagon, as the upper and lower garden areas converge. The seating beneath the trellis would provide a compressed environment that feels removed from the scale of the headquarters building. The materials are intended as a transition between the brick of the Octagon and the concrete of the headquarters building, using renewable materials such as wood; the goal is to have a different quality and sensibility for the garden. Similarly, the trellis structure would mediate between the large scale of the headquarters building and the smaller scale of the Octagon. He said that a misting system is being considered to create an enhanced phenomenological experience and improved microclimate within the middle of the garden.
Mr. Hood summarized that the garden would have many different experiences while providing a simple choice of routes for moving through it, using either the zigzag walk or the straight route along the stairs. The design emphasis within the courtyard would be on the plantings and a sense of compression. The garden would provide places of respite as well as places for people to work collectively. Special events such as weddings behind the Octagon could still be accommodated, and new uses might emerge. Lighting would provide a special quality for the space at night, allowing the space to accommodate evening events with an inviting quality; he said the Seneca stone paving would be especially beautiful with nighttime lighting. The trellis structure would provide an interplay of light and shadow.
Mr. Hood concluded with a section drawing to illustrate the challenge of addressing the grade change between the New York Avenue sidewalk and the building entrance. He said that the potential commemorative purpose of the feature wall near the sidewalk, as illustrated in the drawings, could instead be addressed within the landscape. He also illustrated the site entrance from 18th Street; the grade difference is less significant between this sidewalk and the building entrance, and the most visible feature would be the trellis alongside the entrance route.
Chair Tsien observed that the project would change the perceived character of the AIA, and she asked what response is needed from the Commission. Secretary Luebke said that the application is for approval of the concept submission; he observed that the architectural and landscape proposals are relatively discrete, so these could be addressed separately or in combination. Chair Tsien suggested discussing the proposal in its entirety, and she invited comments from the Commission members.
Mr. Moore said that the AIA building has always seemed especially challenging, for many reasons. He noted that the project’s purpose was ambitiously stated as providing a model for many issues—accessibility, diversity, equity, wellness, innovation, and sustainability—which is an especially high standard for this organization of the architecture profession. He asked how this purpose has related to the design process, such as who was involved, how decisions were made, how the designs were developed, and what the feedback has been. He cited his own experience working in New York City on public space design, often focusing on issues of accessibility; the process involved the direct engagement and participation of people with mobility issues. He observed that the presented design is clearly an improvement on the existing conditions, which include a reliance on stairs at the primary site entrance from New York Avenue—a “monument to ableism.” However, the solution of a zigzag walk may raise questions, compared to the desire for a more inclusive and equitable design for the space; he emphasized the importance of including mobility-impaired people in working through the design issues and exploring the full range of possibilities for the courtyard space.
Mr. Dunn responded that the process has included consultation with a building committee comprised of AIA board members as well as advice from various AIA specialists as the design has progressed. He said that the collaborative process has been underway for more than a year. The process also includes a more grassroots approach, as more aspects of the design are being shared via website; feedback is being solicited from the AIA’s 95,000 members and through the local chapters. Mr. DeGregorio addressed the design process for the zigzag walk, noting that the outreach has been to the AIA community broadly rather than specifically to a focus group for mobility issues. He described the presented solution as a universal design approach for addressing the grade change of eight to ten feet between the upper plaza and the New York Avenue sidewalk. Another option could be a steeper walk with a 1:12 slope, but these tend to be unpleasant for people to traverse. The desire for a more enjoyable sloped walk resulted in the design approach of treating it as integral part of the site experience. He also reiterated that the site’s 18th Street entrance does not involve a significant grade change. He said the design eliminates the existing split plaza, raising the lower portion to provide an enlarged upper plaza area that is generally at a single grade, level with the building entrance. Mr. Moore asked if the plaza design is constrained by below-grade conditions; Mr. Hood responded that the plaza is located above existing structure, which requires that the grading manipulations generally occur in the remainder of the courtyard.
Mr. Moore expressed concern that the design process has not included explicit and focused engagement with people who have mobility issues. He said that this situation is more reminiscent of the AIA’s past than the stated priorities for the organization’s future. He said that even if such consultation was not specified as part of the design challenge, it should be part of moving forward with how designers think about their work. He acknowledged that the proposal is intended to meet current codes and best practices, resulting in a positive and elegant design feature, but he emphasized that his own experience in New York shows the importance of having an explicit consultation process. He said that the concern extends to features throughout the design; for example, the seating areas are illustrated with seating walls but without spaces for companion seating, and the choice of entrance routes results in awkward points where groups of people would split into those using the stairs and those using the zigzag walk. He said that he has often heard people raise concern about such design issues, and he recommended that this part of the process be taken more seriously. He added that the issue is especially important for a project involving the AIA, which has a different and higher standard of ethical responsibility compared to more routine projects; he said that he is holding the project team to its own statement about what this project is supposed to be, and it is not yet achieving the stated goals.
Mr. Moore asked for clarification of the sustainability and carbon issues in relation to material selections; he observed that some of the proposed materials, such as concrete for the entrance feature wall, are not especially carbon-friendly. He suggested looking to Washington’s long legacy of using other materials for making buildings and prominent markers. Mr. Wopperer said that the project team is undertaking a full lifecycle assessment of all materials for the site and building, including structural materials. The intent is to achieve the decarbonization goal with offsets, involving the purchase of solar panels to be used by Habitat for Humanity; these would be installed off-site to offset the carbon emissions of this project’s materials. Additionally, the materials are being selected with consideration of their carbon emissions. Mr. Hood added that the plantings would be selected to be self-sustaining within the local ecology; the sustainability issue has also been carefully considered in the selection of site materials, sometimes involving tradeoffs with budget constraints, and local materials would be selected to the extent feasible. He said the material for the feature wall is still being studied. Mr. DeGregorio noted that granite from the existing plaza would be reused for many site features, such as the strip in the landscape that is offset from the form of the Octagon; some of the existing brick paving adjacent to the Octagon would also be reused in the proposed design. Mr. Hood added that the existing lawn space along the sidewalk edges would be replaced by plantings.
Mr. McCrery expressed strong support for Mr. Moore’s comments, and he questioned the proposed sustainability solution of offsetting the project’s carbon-heavy materials, such as concrete, with off-site benefits. He said that the outward appearance is an important issue for visitors, but this offset strategy would not be apparent unless it is somehow presented on the site. He observed that inscribing a description of the offset strategy in the concrete would be one way to address this, but it would merely highlight the problem of using a material that is antithetical to the stated project goal. Instead, he suggested using stone for the feature wall.
Mr. McCrery observed that the paving within the wood trellis appears to have a strongly sculptural quality that would make this space difficult or impossible to use by anyone with a cane, walker, wheelchair, or other mobility device. He acknowledged that the problem may simply be poor modelling in the perspective drawings, but he emphasized the importance of resolving this issue. He also commented that the interspersing of red stone and river stone in this area was presented without any discussion of a special design intent, compared to the more poetic description of the building’s architectural features as being an intentionally fragmented allegory of trees; he suggested that the landscape paving intent be presented with comparable thoughtfulness.
More generally, Mr. McCrery observed that the facade renovation proposal has a mature cohesiveness that is lacking from the landscape design and presentation. He commented that the landscape was presented as having a variety of experiences, but only a single barrier-free route is provided to ascend through the site. The overall impression of the landscape is that it has a lot going on, but the result is a sense of fragmentation, contrary to the intent to unify the site’s two buildings and strengthen their spatial relationship. He described the proposed trellis design as entirely unconvincing, citing its strongly horizontal character supported on tenuous-looking posts. He said that its design compares unfavorably to the beautiful, sculptural form of the headquarters building’s existing facade. He suggested that the trellis is not a necessary feature of the design, and he questioned the intent to cut down the existing mature tree in this location to replace it with a tree-like trellis. He summarized his support for the architectural proposal, which he described as very interesting and compelling, but voiced his dissatisfaction with the unpersuasive landscape design, which he said needs further study and development to better fulfill the stated goals.
Mr. Cook expressed support for Mr. McCrery’s comments, particularly the concern that too many things are going on, even if many of the individual elements are quite strong. He cited the proposed shade structure on the building facade, with fritted glass and louvers; the wood trellis structure within the courtyard; the sandstone paving; the lush landscape; and the combination of brick and concrete walls around the site. He asked about an earlier intent to design the feature wall to commemorate the contributions of Black Americans, which was not described in the presentation. Mr. Hood responded that this commemorative purpose is not part of the current submission, which is why this topic was not presented. The current proposal has a simplified version of the feature wall with a more limited extent.
Ms. Delplace asked for clarification of how the courtyard space would be used. For example, she asked whether the space near the Octagon would be used differently than the space encircled by the trellis, whether people could move between the terrace spaces, and whether movement is generally limited to the edges of the courtyard. Mr. DeGregorio indicated the circulation options, including the zigzag walk that provides an accessible route. He said that minor terraces would be located between the lower brick-paved patio and the upper ellipse within the trellis. Ms. Delplace asked if the two major spaces would be programmed separately or if the entire courtyard would be used for one event, such as an AIA gala. Mr. DeGregorio said that both situations are possible; he said that the Octagon staff typically arranges programming for the lower patio, while the AIA uses the upper area, but sometimes the AIA also makes use of the lower patio. He said that this pattern of semi-separated uses, sometimes shared, would continue, and the new design would allow for more programming of special events in the upper area including the proposed ellipse. He said the design is being studied with test fits to ensure that the upper and lower areas have comparable capacities. Ms. Delplace asked about the treatment between the steps leading down through the courtyard toward the Octagon; Mr. DeGregorio confirmed that these would be lawn panels.
Ms. Delplace commended the idea of the landscape as a conceptual thread that pulls together the site’s two buildings; however, she suggested strengthening this design approach, perhaps in conjunction with responding to the comments of the other Commission members. She said that more reliance on the landscape as a connecting thread, rather than on architectural structures, could help to meet the project’s sustainability goals. She also observed that the site has some mature trees that will be challenging to protect during the construction process, noting that oak trees cannot withstand a lot of disturbance. She cited several trees within the landscaped area along New York Avenue, and she emphasized the importance of such landscape zones as a special feature of Washington’s streets; she said that these areas have been neglected, and she commended the replacement of lawn with more sustainable sidewalk-level plantings along New York Avenue. She asked for clarification of which trees would be protected; Mr. DeGregorio indicated the trees that would be protected or removed. He added that the design of the zigzag walk is being refined to stay completely out of the structural root zones for the mature trees being preserved. Ms. Delplace commended the architectural approach that incorporates a sense of biomimicry; she suggested strengthening the landscape design of the ground plane, particularly in the vicinity of the trellis, to support the idea of nature being extended up into the architecture.
Mr. Stroik supported the comments and concerns expressed by the other Commission members. He said that the AIA’s headquarters building is not well loved by Washingtonians nor by the AIA’s members; this was likely true already when it was built in 1973, and it has not worn well over time. He asked whether construction of a new building was considered. Mr. Wopperer responded that demolishing the existing building would be counterproductive to the goal of sustainability, due to the existing building’s large amount of embedded carbon. Agreeing with the general sense of dissatisfaction with the building, he said that his first experience with it was at the start of this project, and his reaction was that it does not meet what he would have expected as the AIA’s present-day goals. Mr. Stroik said that Washington has other buildings that are equally unattractive, but this one is particularly unfortunate because it represents the AIA to the general public. He added that the courtyard is a nice feature for this area of the city, but it has never been very well loved. He said the headquarters building appears not to be harmonious with the Octagon, which is the good work of architecture on the site, and it is unfortunate that the headquarters building ignores the Octagon. He expressed concern that the proposal is to spend a lot of money adding things to a building that is not very attractive nor functional, even though designed by a leader of functionalism. He agreed with Mr. Cook that the project has an excessively complicated character without contributing any significant improvement. He suggested simplifying the architectural interventions and focusing on the strength of the central garden area.
Mr. Stroik asked about the current energy system for the headquarters building. Mr. Wopperer responded that it currently uses both electricity and natural gas; the proposal would almost fully electrify the building, removing all the equipment that runs on gas except for one piece of equipment related to fire protection. Mr. Dunn summarized the four steps in the decarbonization plan: keep the existing building with its embodied carbon, while rethinking it; reduce energy consumption to half the current level; convert the building to rely entirely on electric power, avoiding the use of fossil fuels and instead using clean energy sources connected to a citywide program for green energy; and address the embodied carbon of new construction through offsets in homes built by Habitat for Humanity in this region.
Ms. Tsien commented that the Octagon should be understood as programmatically distinct from the AIA; she noted that the AIA sometimes uses the Octagon but does not actually own it, and the Octagon serves in part as a museum. Citing Mr. Stroik’s criticism, she said that a landscape between two harmoniously related buildings might best be designed with a serene character; but in this situation, with relatively unrelated buildings, the solution should be a more active and interesting landscape. She said that the landscape should be an experience in itself with a strong design, otherwise the two buildings would dominate. She noted the differing comments of the Commission members on whether the landscape design around the zigzag walk has too much going on or needs to be stronger; she said that the active design aesthetic is the appropriate choice, observing that the walk appears to be going through very interesting spaces of plantings and features. She said that she would perceive the zigzag walk as much more inviting than the straight route into the site via stairs; she suggested that the zigzag walk be wider or have other design gestures to suggest that it can be the preferred route, encouraging people to move through the amazing garden instead of bypassing it. For the trellis and ellipse within the courtyard, she suggested providing some feature that gives people a sense of how they can inhabit the space, which people currently pass through without stopping; she suggested that the solution may emerge as the design of the trellis is developed. She summarized that the garden should be a series of interesting experiences, rather than trying to create a green carpet to knit together an architectural context that is unknittable. She also offered support for the idea of leaves for the building facade panels, suggesting that the design could be more expressive and perhaps even more leaf-like. She described the headquarters building as mountainous and capable of taking the additional features being proposed.
Mr. Moore expressed agreement that the zigzag walk should be treated as more of a primary circulation route with a more generous width; he said that this is a comment that would likely emerge from conversations with people in the affected community, and he reiterated his encouragement to have these conversations. Acknowledging that the wall design at the New York Avenue entrance is still being studied, he recalled that it was being considered for a commemoration of the contributions of Black Americans; he questioned whether this purpose could appropriately be fulfilled on a wall of bare concrete or with a classical architecture character. If this commemorative purpose is pursued further, he suggested studying the histories and dreams of scholars, historians, and others, in order to explore a wider range of possible expressions, rather than to create a clashing combination of Eurocentric architecture and concrete Brutalism.
Dr. Edwards recalled having visited the Octagon and AIA headquarters after hip surgery, moving painfully between the two buildings. She agreed with the comments of the other Commission members that people with mobility impairments should be consulted in developing the design for access to the site and moving between the two buildings; she described this project as a great opportunity for making improvements. She observed that the presentation lacked any detailed discussion of the site entrance from 18th Street, which has a gate that is typically open during the daytime and for evening events; the route is unclear from this gate to the headquarters building’s entrance or to the Octagon’s rear entrance. She expressed support for the concept of a meandering path ascending from New York Avenue, but she suggested that people with mobility impairments may want the opportunity to pause and catch their breath; she suggested including benches or wider areas where slower-moving people could step aside to let others pass. She also suggested that a large number of people may want to move between the Octagon and the headquarters building during an event using both locations, or may want to exit the site at 18th Street; she observed that the zigzag walk includes tight curves that may become congested, and these areas might be the location for widening the walk as suggested during the discussion. She acknowledged that widening may need to be coordinated with protecting any historic landscape areas associated with the Octagon. The design team clarified that the zigzag walk would provide a convenient connection to the Octagon’s rear entrance at the bend identified by Dr. Edwards, providing a direct route to the headquarters building’s entrance; additionally, seating is being considered at the bends in the walk, providing the opportunity for rest.
Chair Tsien suggested that the Commission decide on an action. Secretary Luebke summarized that most of the Commission members have expressed support for the architectural proposal, with a suggestion for further development of the leaf-like expression of the glass panels on the main facade; the landscape design involves some undefined elements, such as the feature wall at the site entrance from New York Avenue, and comments have addressed the character of this wall and the need for further study. He suggested that the Commission may not yet be ready to approve the landscape concept due to the outstanding questions. Mr. Moore added that he agrees with Mr. Stroik in requesting further options for the architectural modifications, including a simplified treatment; he described the current proposal as awkwardly in the middle, providing neither an expressive feature nor a quiet background.
Chair Tsien asked if the suggestion is to see further development of the entire project before giving a concept-level approval. Mr. Luebke said the solution could be to approve the architecture concept but not the landscape design, although this may result in procedural complications for a Shipstead-Luce Act submission. Ms. Batcheler agreed that separating the components for partial approval could be excessively complicated; recognizing that some of the Commission’s concerns involve the architecture, she suggested treating the entire project consistently in requesting a further concept-level submission.
Mr. McCrery agreed that the Commission should not try to formulate a partial approval for the architecture, observing that the needed reconsideration of the landscape design may have a positive or negative impact on the currently proposed architectural design. He said that an open-ended request for further study would encourage the disciplines on the design team to collaborate in bringing forward a comprehensive vision for the architecture and landscape. Chair Tsien agreed, supporting the continued development work of the entire design team. She also reiterated her disagreement that the landscape design needs to be totally reconsidered; she said that both the architectural and landscape designs would benefit from further development. She characterized these design processes as being in essentially the same place, with sound ideas and interesting directions that could be carried a little further. Mr. McCrery acknowledged her opinion of the design but stated his disagreement with it.
Secretary Luebke summarized the consensus not to take an action, instead conveying the comments provided and requesting a new concept-level submission. Chair Tsien described the guidance as continued development of the current design approach, rather than a request for changing direction; she said that the Commission looks forward to seeing the development of both the architecture and landscape design. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
Old Georgetown Act
1. OG 21-270, 3000 M Street, NW. New six-story mixed-use building. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the concept design for a new building at 3000 M Street, NW, facing the primary east–west commercial street of the Old Georgetown historic district. On the south, the project site abuts the mule yard the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal National Historical Park, administered by the National Park Service (NPS); the yard was used to hold the mules that pulled boats along the canal. The project site was last occupied by a building complex from the 1980s that housed the Latham Hotel to the south and several low-rise storefronts to the north, which have since been demolished; only the steel framing of the former hotel volume is still present. He noted that two other development proposals for the site have been submitted in recent years, neither of which was successfully completed. The current proposal is forwarded to the Commission by the Old Georgetown Board (OGB) with a recommendation for approval of the concept; the OGB report has been distributed to the Commission members.
Mr. Luebke said the primary design issues are the new building’s compatibility with the scale and character of the historic district and its visual impact on the historic resource of the canal. The OGB last reviewed the proposal in February 2022, recommending approval of the project with the condition of completing refinements to a few secondary details on the building exterior; these refinements have been incorporated into the current proposal. He noted that refinement of the programming is continuing, with a potential change to move the hotel’s restaurant to the top of the building; this revision would require a separate zoning approval process, and the revised design would then be reviewed by the OGB and Commission. He asked Michael Winstanley, principal and design director at Winstanley Architects and Planners, to present the proposal.
Mr. Winstanley said he believes the review process with the OGB has been collaborative and fruitful, resulting in a design that the project team is pleased with. The building would be prominently located at the southwest corner of M and 30th Streets; the site is roughly square, with pedestrian access connecting to Thomas Jefferson Street to the west. He indicated the NPS mule yard to the south, noting that the project team is working with the NPS and the Georgetown Business Improvement District to ensure that the proposal is responsive to plans for a potential visitor center and other NPS priorities for the mule yard. He presented several photographs of the existing conditions from various locations in the vicinity of the project site, observing that the removal of the 1980s structures on the site has resulted in a visual gap in the built fabric of M Street. He described several problems with the configuration of the 1980s development: the hotel volume was too narrow to accommodate a contemporary high-quality hotel; at the lower levels, the hotel presented an unattractive blank wall facing the mule yard; and the uniformity of the now-demolished storefronts was not in keeping with the varying building heights of M Street.
Mr. Winstanley said the proposed composition of four masses along M Street is the result of the OGB’s advice to break down the scale of the building; in combination with the two-part massing of the larger hotel volume behind the storefronts, the new building would have a six-part massing. The four storefronts could be occupied by one or several retail tenants, each having an entrance from M Street. The primary hotel entrance would be to the south on 30th Street; he said it is common in Georgetown for hotels on major throughfares to have a side-street entrance. A second entrance, also on 30th Street, would lead to a downstairs restaurant or other establishment, and the loading dock would be located on 30th Street as well. Along the mule yard, the main block of the building would be set back fifteen feet from the south property line to accommodate a sunken outdoor space for the hotel, providing separation from the potential construction of an NPS visitor center at or near this property line. He noted that the hotel’s penthouse height has been reduced from eighteen to twelve feet; the elevator overrun would rise an additional three feet.
Mr. Winstanley said there is an unwritten rule that four-story buildings are too tall for M Street; the taller hotel volume of the new building is therefore pulled back to the southern part of the site. He presented an analysis illustrating that the built character of M Street in Georgetown is episodic and vibrant, not a composition of uniform three-story buildings. He said that M Street does have several four-story buildings, and the project team believes that the corner of the site could accommodate a four-story mass; however, based on advice from the OGB, the current proposal shows the corner massing at three stories, with a four-story volume adjacent, followed by one- and three-story volumes. He indicated a similar sequence of existing three-, four-, one-, and three-story buildings further west on M Street, which helped solidify this project’s proposed massing composition along M Street.
Mr. Winstanley presented several photo simulations of the proposed building in the context; he said the building is intended to fit into Georgetown while presenting a contemporary aesthetic. He described two facade options for the six-story hotel volume: Option A uses brick arches above many of the windows, while Option B uses horizontal lintels of cast stone or concrete. He said the project team prefers Option B because it is more compatible with the remainder of the building’s north facade, avoiding the introduction of an additional architectural language along M Street; he noted that Option A was developed to address the OGB’s advice to unify the overall project by relating the hotel tower’s northern and southern facades. He said the M Street masses would be faced with different materials and brick colors to avoid the appearance of a single building; the rhythm and size of the fenestration is intended to reflect the hotel program and fit in with the urban fabric.
Mr. Winstanley described additional details of the treatment along 30th Street and the mule yard. The secondary entrance along 30th Street would be recessed to provide a gap between the corner retail volume to the north and the primary hotel volume to the south, which would have the hotel’s main entrance. He said the OGB had suggested this visual separation between the north and south parts of the building, perhaps as a memory of the 1980s complex that was arranged similarly. On the south part of the east facade, the upper three stories would step back slightly from 30th Street to reduce the scale of the street frontage. Along the mule yard, visual separation between the west and east sides of the hotel’s south facade would be achieved with a hyphen of full-height vertical glazing. He said Option A for the south facade includes brick arches above many of the windows in the western portion; this detail was developed to address the OGB’s concern that this rear facade would resemble an office building. Option B eliminates the brick arches in favor of flat lintels like those proposed for the eastern part of the facade. The proposal includes a rooftop food and beverage venue of approximately 1,500 square feet within the penthouse; it would not have a kitchen. He said the project team appreciates the concern regarding the potential noise of a rooftop venue, but he noted that the former Latham Hotel presented a blank wall to the south, while the proposed building would result in more people viewing the mule yard as well as also providing visual interest when seen from the mule yard. He noted that the NPS has said the mule yard would remain natural and not be groomed or manicured. He presented several more renderings of the proposed building, commenting that it is similar in scale to 3040 M Street, a former automobile dealership and garage built in 1929, and almost disappears into the fabric of the streetscape. He concluded by presenting section drawings of the proposal.
Mr. Luebke confirmed that the OGB has recommended concept approval of the project with minor changes, which were incorporated into the design following its review. The location of the restaurant and its potential impact on the building exterior is still outstanding, but this can be addressed during review of a design development submission. Chair Tsien invited members of the Commission to provide comments on the proposal.
Mr. Stroik said this is a successful project, and it is very interesting to see how architects design projects in historic places such as Georgetown, which is a beloved neighborhood for those who can afford to live there and for the city at large. He observed that the neighborhood’s architectural scale, variety, and color impart a human scale that makes it one of the nicest parts of Washington for pedestrians, yet it was executed without famous architects; he said this should give designers a certain humility in realizing that our forebears without advanced architecture degrees or lots of theory could design good buildings. He commented that the four existing building volumes with varying heights along M Street, referenced as a precedent for the proposed four-part mass on M Street, appear to be attractive constructions of their time completed by people whom we would not consider architects, and yet the current project’s design team spent much effort developing a design that captures these existing vernacular buildings. Noting that the massing is proposed as six volumes, he questioned why the architectural treatment is not developed to convey the appearance of six separate buildings. He said that the one-story volume on M Street, proposed to be retail, would make more sense as the front entrance to the hotel; he asked if this volume would have a rooftop terrace, and he described it as the “odd man out” due to its proportions and color. He expressed support for the proposed brick as compatible with Georgetown, but he said that terminating brick piers over the expansive storefront windows is tectonically inappropriate.
Ms. Tsien said the architect has worked hard to give separate identities to the four volumes along M Street, and she asked if each of the four storefronts would have a separate tenant. Mr. Winstanley said the owner would prefer a single tenant; however, each of the four volumes is designed with an entrance door, and the retail spaces could be combined in different configurations—similar to the historical development in Georgetown of combining separate building storefronts to house one tenant. Ms. Tsien expressed appreciation for these distinct identities, and she suggested consideration of altering the fenestration proportions, such as on the two similar-looking eastern buildings, to provide further differentiation; however, she said this is just an observation and is perhaps a matter of style.
Secretary Luebke noted that the Commission members are being asked to decide whether to adopt the OGB’s report, which was developed following several months of reviewing of the project. Chair Tsien suggested a consensus to accept the OGB’s recommendation to approve the concept; upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Mr. Cook, the Commission adopted this action. Secretary Luebke asked if the Commission wishes to delegate subsequent review and approval of the project to the OGB; Ms. Tsien said she supports this, as well as allowing the OGB and staff to determine if additional Commission review is required based on any significant changes to the design.
2. OG 22-069, 3401 Water Street, NW. New five-story plus penthouse addition to existing two-story building. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the concept proposal for a new hotel near the southern edge of the Old Georgetown historic district, close to the Potomac River, with the Francis Scott Key Bridge immediately to the west and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal and its towpath running along the northern property line. The proposed scope includes partial demolition of the existing warehouse building, which is composed of two blocks, constructed in 1939 and 1946. Most of the warehouse’s exterior walls would remain, and the window openings would be restored. The proposed addition on top of the existing structure would be set within these retained facade walls and would be composed of three volumes of different sizes and orientations. The design includes a combination of a stair and a ramp connecting Water Street with the towpath, an improvement over the exceptionally steep stairway that now ascends from Water Street to the canal level at the rear of the building. He said this proposal has been reviewed three times by the Old Georgetown Board (OGB), which has forwarded it to the Commission with a recommendation for approval of the concept; the OGB report has been distributed to the Commission members. He noted that, similar to the foregoing agenda item, the Commission had previously approved a different design and concept for this property, with a different developer and architectural team, but the current submission is an entirely new proposal. He said the major design issues include the building’s massing and height, the visual impact on the historic resource of the canal, and the public experience of entering Georgetown via Key Bridge, as well as on views to the bridge. He added that the OGB had requested much manipulation of the building volume, which has been achieved. He asked Ashley Zorrilla, the senior designer representing citizenM Hotels, to begin the presentation.
Ms. Zorrilla said that citizenM is a global hotel brand based in the Netherlands that operates 24 hotels around the world. The project team has been working closely with the OGB and Commission staff to ensure the design will complement the existing context of Georgetown. She introduced Maarten de Geus of Concrete Architects, a Dutch design firm, to present the proposal, and Tyler Lavin of citizenM Hotels to respond to questions.
Mr. de Geus said his firm has worked closely with its American partner, Baskervill, which is serving as the architect of record. He described the context of the site, a former industrial area of Georgetown that has a long history of warehouse buildings. A majority of structures in the area are warehouses, possessing an architectural typology that differs greatly from the nineteenth-century row houses that typify much of Georgetown. The site is tucked between the canal on the north, Key Bridge on the west, and the elevated Whitehurst Freeway on the south. The new hotel building would be part of a series of red-brick buildings facing the river that begins to the east at Rock Creek and extends west to Key Bridge; the building would also form part of the Georgetown skyline. He described the area as rough but interesting and underdeveloped. The building faces the historic waterfront, an area now undergoing development; this rough edge creates a narrative about the location that is being used in developing the hotel’s design, including its interiors. He described how the building design relates to views of the canal, the bridge, and the freeway, working within different contexts including red-brick buildings, large-scale buildings along the river, and smaller-scale warehouses along the canal. He indicated several columns of the elevated Whitehurst Freeway that are integrated into the front facade of the warehouse.
Mr. de Geus said the proposed design is intended to suggest the succession of large brick warehouses that were constructed in this area over the years; this project’s existing warehouse shows a series of changes over time that reflect its functional adaptations. The roof of the warehouse would be removed, keeping the exterior walls, and a new building volume would rise from the shell. The warehouse’s facades would act as a two-story base for portions of the new volume; in some locations at the second floor, the new volume would be slightly recessed to create a narrow space between new and old facades, with the existing facade becoming a screen wall. This gap is proposed to be treated as a landscape; guests in rooms facing south would look out through this landscape to the windows of the historic facade. On the ground floor, a large amount of continuous space would be expressed as an open storefront. On the second floor, the window openings would have an infill of new gridded steel windows, intended to recall the warehouse context.
Mr. de Geus said that the starting point for the design is the manipulation of building masses. The new, larger volume would be broken into two smaller volumes on the north side facing the canal to match the scale of the neighboring brick buildings, and the massing would remain lower than the top of Key Bridge. The four-story volume on the northeast would be turned slightly to parallel the canal, which makes a slight bend at this point. The volume on the northwest would be a story lower, leaving some space between the hotel and the bridge.
Mr. de Geus said the design of the new facade takes its inspiration from the warehouse context; it would have a basic, functional, yet contemporary appearance, with walls of red brick. The fenestration of the front facade would consist of a series of paired windows, with the ratio between brick and glazed openings—an important design feature in warehouses—based on the composition of the existing facade. He said this design approach will create hierarchy, providing a means of developing different but related compositions on each facade using the same materials and details. Decoration would be limited, although there may be some decorative brickwork, perhaps along the cornices.
Mr. de Geus described the materials of the existing facades as a combination of brick and concrete blocks, a juxtaposition that results in an appealing variety of textures, which is painted an overall gray. He said it is proposed to keep the two types of masonry and to paint the facade a single color, letting texture and pattern reveal how the materials changed over time. In the new facades two materials—brick and colored concrete—are proposed; the walls would be articulated as brick piers between windows, creating a regular composition of concrete horizontals and vertical brick piers. The brickwork would become slightly wider toward the top of the building, creating a sense of solidity and subtly grounding the building. Angled concrete planes would slope from the narrow lintels to the windows, another means of adding texture as well as a play of shadows. Different patterns would be used on the lower volumes along the sides and rear of the hotel, with what he described as a more rigid pattern for the four-story facade along 34th Street, and a more playful pattern on the three-story volume facing the bridge; glazing would help soften the severity of these facades. The design team’s preference is for a water-struck brick that would have a texture matching that of the surrounding brick buildings while also having some additional nuance and color. The concrete color would match the brick, resulting in an appearance that is unified while having visual interest and detail. In addition to being colored, the concrete for the new hotel is proposed to have a slightly sandy surface texture, with small pieces of natural stone exposed.
Mr. de Geus presented perspective views from different vantage points; he noted that the existing warehouse is not visible when looking from the sidewalk on Key Bridge toward the Whitehurst Freeway. The roofs of the two lower volumes of the addition would be visible and are being designed as green roofs. The volume facing the canal was lowered to three stories to make it invisible from the bridge, except for its mechanical penthouse. The walls of the penthouse would have two textures to reduce its scale, and the green patina is intended to resemble the copper roofs of surrounding buildings and the green paint of the bridge’s balustrades.
Mr. de Geus said the most dramatic view of the new hotel would be from the northwest, looking beneath Key Bridge toward the facades along the canal. From this vantage point, the larger volume would be in back and the two smaller volumes in front; the intent is for Key Bridge to remain the major feature of the area, as requested by the OGB. The front facade facing Water Street would be active to invite people to enter. A fitness center would be located at the southeast corner of the second floor; instead of being recessed, the second floor at this location would extend to the warehouse facades to activate this corner.
Mr. de Geus concluded by describing the landscape design, which would be used to create transitions between the varied facades and the topography, and which would take hints from the broader context; he noted that the landscape is being designed in collaboration with the National Park Service. The eight-foot-high stone wall of the historic warehouse facing the canal would be slightly lowered so that it resembles a retaining wall; he noted the many historic examples along the canal where stone walls support brick buildings. At one point, this existing wall would be deflected from the new building to become a planter, another transitional device. Along the 34th Street side of the building, the landscape is designed to negotiate the steep slope between Water Street and the canal’s towpath; this edge will be an important connection between the canal and the Georgetown Waterfront Park.
Chair Tsien thanked Mr. de Geus for his presentation, and she opened the discussion to comments from the Commission members.
Mr. Cook complimented the design team on the presentation, and he said the design is well thought out, with interesting details. However, he said he is not convinced about the narrow gap between the existing facade and the new building volume on the south side at the second floor; he asked about the width of this space. Mr. de Geus responded that it would be between five and six feet wide, and it would be landscaped and carefully maintained by the hotel; he added that the design for this area is still at the concept stage. Mr. Lavin said the second-floor guestroom windows would look directly at the landscape here, and maintenance of this area will be important for the hotel’s success. Ms. Zorrilla noted that the gap is the result of the required eight-foot setback from the property line.
Mr. Cook asked what sort of landscape is envisioned here, questioning whether the plantings could flourish in a space that is fundamentally a gap beneath a highway, or whether this space will become an eyesore. Ms. Delplace commented that a landscape in this gap would be a problematic detail, not only because of its location below the freeway but also because of its depth. She said this will present a very difficult condition for plant growth; she suggested thinking of alternatives to perennial plantings, perhaps using mosses, adding that the solution requires careful thought. Mr. Lavin said other possibilities for this space are being discussed with the staff, such as art installations by local artists.
Ms. Tsien commended the design as disciplined, thoughtful, and elegant. She said she is familiar with citizenM Hotels, and this design is very much in line with their thoughtful modernism. However, she observed that brick will be a major part of the building’s character, and she wondered if it will be possible to find a brick of the requisite quality in the United States; she said that although there are some excellent American bricks, they may be quite expensive. Ms. Zorrilla said the intent is to find a local source for a suitable brick; Ms. Tsien emphasized the importance of obtaining brick of high quality.
Chair Tsien suggested a consensus to support the proposal. Mr. Cook offered a motion to adopt the OGB report, including its recommendation to approve the concept design, and to include the Commission’s comments about the narrow, elevated landscape. Upon a second by Dr. Edwards, the Commission adopted this action.
At this point, Mr. McCrery departed for the remainder of the meeting.
G. U.S. Mint
1. CFA 21/APR/22-6, 2022–2025 American Women Quarter Dollar Coin Program. Reverse designs for five coins to be issued in 2023. Final. (Previous: CFA 17/JUN/21-7) Secretary Luebke introduced the design alternatives for the five reverses of the quarter-dollar coin to be issued in 2023, the second year of a four-year program of reverses honoring prominent American women and their accomplishments. He noted that these circulating coins will be widely used by the public. As previously reviewed by the Commission, the obverse will feature an early-20th-century portrait of George Washington by sculptor Laura Gardin Fraser; a possible design concern is whether the reverse should also feature a portrait, potentially giving the appearance of a double-headed coin. He asked April Stafford, chief of the office of design management at the U.S. Mint, to present the design alternatives.
Ms. Stafford noted that the Mint has developed the designs in consultation with numerous subject-matter experts, including the staff of the Smithsonian Institution, as well as family members of the women being honored. She said that each presentation will highlight the preferences of the family and of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC), which reviewed the designs earlier in the week. She noted that the Mint typically consults with the family representatives prior to the reviews by the Commission and the CCAC; the family representatives may then observe these reviews, and the Mint will then consult further with the family representatives to determine whether their choices have changed in response to the review process.
Ms. Stafford presented nine alternative designs for the reverse honoring early aviator Bessie Coleman; the CCAC’s recommendation is alternative #4A, and the family’s initial preferences are #4A and #5. Ms. Tsien expressed support for alternative #5, commenting that the half-length portrait of Ms. Coleman conveys a strong sense of her presence and resolute character. She observed that alternative #4A places more emphasis on the text, resulting in the portrait appearing to be squeezed into the design. Mr. Stroik agreed, commenting that the portrait in alternative #5 conveys a notable strength of character that is apparent when displayed at both a smaller and larger scale. He also cited the landscape of clouds as the background in alternative #5, as well as the positioning of the background plane to be flying slightly toward the viewer. Ms. Delplace also agreed, observing that Ms. Coleman has a commanding presence in alternative #5, while the profusion of lettering in #4A tends to distract from the intent to honor Ms. Coleman. Mr. Stroik likened #4A to a political campaign button. Dr. Edwards joined in supporting alternative #5, noting that the portrait is apparently derived from the photograph for Ms. Coleman’s pilot’s license; she said that this portrait conveys a seriousness of character, while the busy design of alternative #4A tends to distract from an appreciation of Ms. Coleman. Mr. Cook agreed, commenting that alternative #5 has a clear focus on Ms. Coleman; he also questioned the additional text “6.15.1921” at the lower edge of alternative #4A.
Chair Tsien summarized the consensus of the Commission to recommend alternative #5 for the Bessie Coleman coin. Secretary Luebke suggested taking a formal action on all five coin designs at the conclusion of the agenda item.
Ms. Stafford presented eight alternative designs for the reverse honoring Hawaiian composer and entertainer Edith Kanaka’ole. She said that alternative #1 was strongly recommended by the CCAC, and it was also supported by Ms. Kanaka’ole’s family, representatives of the Edith Kanaka’ole Foundation, and subject-matter experts at the Smithsonian and the National Women’s History Museum. She noted that the CCAC recommended reducing the size of the “¢” symbol in the denomination, and the Mint has concluded that a sixty-percent reduction would be appropriate; alternative #1A is similar but uses the ”Quarter Dollar” for the denomination.
Ms. Tsien observed that alternatives #3 and 3A have a more photographic appearance compared to the line drawings of the other alternatives; she asked how the differing techniques would be translated into coinage. Ms. Stafford said that the Mint works with multiple artists who use a variety of artistic methods, and the selected drawing would serve as a model for sculpting the design in bas relief. She said that the artists’ work is coordinated by the Mint’s chief engraver, Joe Menna, and she asked Mr. Menna to respond further. Mr. Menna said that the CCAC discussed the same observation concerning the different drawing techniques. He said he has been encouraging the artists to emulate the drawing style of the Italian Renaissance, which lends itself to being adapted to a bas-relief sculpture. He acknowledged that the coinage process involves sculpting forms; the black and gray tones of the drawings cannot be sculpted, but he clarified that the Mint’s skilled sculptors are able to translate any of the presented drawings into beautiful relief sculptures. He said his general guidance is that the drawings should be clear enough to guide the sculpting process without needing to rely on other reference sources such as photographs, and alternatives #3 and 3A meet this standard. He agreed that the tonal quality of these drawings is distracting in the context of the full set of design alternatives; he said that the same concern could be raised with the selected drawing for the Bessie Coleman coin.
Ms. Tsien clarified her concern that the tonal drawings might translate poorly into sculpted forms, perhaps resulting in an unrecognizable portrait. Mr. Menna reiterated that the tonal drawings could be successfully sculpted as relief designs for coins. He acknowledged that the reliefs would be more legible in a larger format, such as a three-inch-diameter medal, but he said that the presented designs could be sculpted to be reasonably legible to the general public at the scale of the quarter-dollar coin; he described his criterion as the portrait being recognizable when the coin is held at arm’s length. He summarized that alternatives #3 and 3A would result in a satisfactory coin, but he said that alternatives #1 and 1A seem more innovative and expressive, with a superior composition that conveys the story of Ms. Kanaka’ole “being one with the land.”
Dr. Edwards suggested consideration of alternative #1A instead of #1, commenting that “Quarter Dollar” is preferable to “25¢” for designating the denomination, even if the “¢” symbol would be reduced in size. She said that the “Quarter Dollar” phrase has a more subtle appearance and competes less with the portrait and the background landscape. Chair Tsien agreed, commenting that the “25¢” denomination results in alternative #1 having the appearance of play money, while “Quarter Dollar” in alternative #1 gives the coin a more serious character. Acknowledging the guidance of the CCAC and others, she suggested focusing the decision on alternative #1 or 1A, and she recommended a consensus to support #1A because of its treatment of the denomination.
Mr. Menna said the denomination treatment was discussed extensively at the CCAC meeting, with some members preferring the traditional phrasing of “Quarter Dollar.” However, he said that this phrase creates a strong horizontal barrier within the design of alternative #1A, while the curves of “25¢” in alternative #1 work better with the curving flow of the river across the bottom of the coin, resulting in a visually fluid design. He observed that the two lines of text with Ms. Kanaka’ole’s name would be strong horizontal elements in either design. Mr. Luebke emphasized that “Quarter Dollar” is the more traditional designation for the quarter coin, while the graphic composition of “25¢” could be seen as competing with the facial features of Ms. Kanaka’ole’s portrait; the staff therefore prefers the “Quarter Dollar” denomination of alternative #1A.
Noting Dr. Edwards’ comments, Chair Tsien summarized the consensus of the Commission to recommend alternative #1A for the Edith Kanaka’ole coin. She expressed appreciation for Mr. Menna’s comments in support of alternative #1.
Ms. Stafford presented four alternative designs for the reverse honoring Eleanor Roosevelt. She said that alternative #2A was strongly recommended by the family, the CCAC, and reviewers at the National Women’s History Museum. Ms. Delplace agreed that alternative #2A conveys a more global vision of Ms. Roosevelt’s influence, but she said that the composition is too busy. She commented that alternatives #1 and 1A do not adequately convey Ms. Roosevelt’s role and strengths, while the portrait in alternative #6 has a grandmotherly appearance. Chair Tsien agreed, observing that alternatives #1 and 1A suggest that the subject is a radio performer, while alternative #2A conveys a sense of gravitas and global importance. Noting the lack of support for any of the other alternatives, she suggested that the Commission focus on improving alternative #2A by making it less busy.
Mr. Cook expressed support for these comments. For alternative #2A, he observed that the tilt of Ms. Roosevelt’s hat results in interference with the word “of” in “United States of America” across the top of the composition; he said this overlap may not be problematic, but the hat could be lowered slightly to address the concern. Mr. Menna said that other reviewers have raised this concern; the solution for improved legibility could be to change the lower-case “of” to larger capital letters, matching the other words in “United States of America,” along with a slight adjustment of the hat’s position. Ms. Tsien expressed support for the design feature of the hat overlapping the circumferential text, which she said conveys the message that Ms. Roosevelt was not constrained by boundaries; she discouraged adjusting the design to reduce the size of the portrait and hat. Mr. Cook agreed with this guidance.
Addressing the concern that alternative #2A is too busy, Mr. Menna noted the Mint’s graphic convention of showing incused lettering in black, as with “United States of America.” As a result, the strong black lettering for alternative #2A may convey the incorrect impression that this composition has more text than the other alternatives; however, the graphic distinction only relates to whether the lettering would be raised or incused. He added that the original version of this design was simpler, with Ms. Roosevelt’s name near the bottom of the composition; at the request of one of the stakeholders, the design was revised to add the phrase “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” resulting in Ms. Roosevelt’s name being moved upward to overlap the portrait. He added that the busy character of the design results from accommodating this stakeholder request, but the intent has been to organize the composition in a way that does not appear busy.
Secretary Luebke suggested addressing the graphic density of alternative #2A by simplifying the treatment of the latitude and longitude lines in the background, which are each depicted with double lines but could possibly be conveyed successfully with a less intense treatment. Mr. Menna agreed that this feature appears to compete with other elements in the drawing, but he said that the sculpted relief would clearly emphasize the foreground elements of the composition. He said that the relief of the latitude and longitude lines would be very low, although a sufficient relief is needed to remain legible after the polishing process for those coins produced with a high-quality finish. He said that sculpting this design will be challenging due to the relationship between the background globe and the circumferential border, but he expressed confidence that the result will be successful. Chair Tsien summarized the consensus of the Commission to recommend alternative #2A for the Eleanor Roosevelt coin.
Ms. Stafford presented twelve alternative designs for the reverse honoring journalist and activist Jovita Idar. She said that alternative #8 was the strong and enthusiastic recommendation of the CCAC, which commented that this standout design is unlike any other circulating coin and characterized it as eye-catching. She added that the CCAC, whose members have numismatic expertise, commented that this design is likely to win an international numismatic award. She said that alternatives #1 and 2 were the preferences of the family members and of the historical experts, who cited the inclusion on alternative #2 of the text “Journalist / Activist / Suffragist” and the legible masthead of her newspaper, La Cronica.
Mr. Moore asked if the family members are opposed to the CCAC’s preference of alternative #8. Ms. Stafford said that the family’s choice was based on a preference for the portrait in alternatives #1 and 2, which is based on an iconic photograph that is widely reproduced in Texas history schoolbooks; the image is well known to the family and to the wider community that knows of Ms. Idar. In discussion with the family prior to the CCAC meeting, the Mint staff anticipated that the CCAC would support the bold, modern design of alternative #8; the response of the family members was that this design would be wonderful as an artwork display, but they were focused on a more traditional design for the coin and had difficulty envisioning how alternative #8 would be successful. She said that the family members were involved in this week’s CCAC review of the coin, and they expressed appreciation for the CCAC’s comments, which they described as fascinating and educational. She added that the Mint staff will consult further with the family members after today’s review, allowing for a revised preference after seeing the discussions of the two review bodies.
Mr. Moore expressed support for alternative #8, describing this design as challenging and innovative in how it depicts a person. He said that the embedding of the inscriptions within the clothing conveys the power of text as something that a viewer has to investigate, resulting in an interestingly interactive design. Ms. Delplace agreed that alternative #8 is a powerful design, particularly because the lack of obvious text is so unusual for a coin.
Ms. Tsien joined in supporting alternative #8, commenting that people will look closely at the coin to discover the text, and in doing so they will look closely at Ms. Idar and think about her. This close attention would be unusual among the profusion of circulating coins, and she suggested that the family should appreciate the public awareness of Ms. Idar that will result from this powerful coin design. She said that additional compositional elements would make the design more ordinary, reducing the public attention given to the coin and to Ms. Idar.
Mr. Menna said that the Mint’s mission has been described as telling America’s story or connecting America through coins, but many of the Mint’s artists have taken this goal too literally by composing complicated designs that resemble illustrations from textbooks. The result is often conventional appearances for coin designs, showing a person engaged in some sort of activity while basing the portrait on a photograph. He said that the portrait in alternative #8 would be sculpted to convey Ms. Idar’s character with equal strength as the portraits that are derived from the well-known photograph, which should address the family’s concern that her image would not be familiar. He said that alternative #8 provides the opportunity to establish a new age of artistic excellence in coinage, commensurate with the “golden age” of coins from a century ago; he described this design as the most challenging and beautiful in the past century of American coinage. He likened the design to the work of Gustav Klimt, combining two- and three-dimensional techniques and relating the silhouette of the figure to the field. Chair Tsien noted that the Commission members are already convinced of the merits of this design.
Dr. Edwards agreed that alternative #8 is a beautiful and powerful design that would invite people to study and cherish the coin. She compared this design to alternative #8A, which has the same portrait but places text around the periphery of the coin, weakening the focus on Ms. Idar and her significance to the nation. Chair Tsien summarized the consensus of the Commission to recommend alternative #8 for the Jovita Idar coin.
Ms. Stafford presented seven alternative designs for the reverse honoring ballerina Maria Tallchief. She said that alternative #4 was the recommendation of the CCAC, the family representative, and the reviewers from the Smithsonian and the National Women’s History Museum.
Ms. Tsien recalled having seen Ms. Tallchief dance, and she said that alternative #4 conveys the power of Ms. Tallchief’s ballet performance; the other designs convey a more demure appearance, which was not characteristic of Ms. Tallchief. However, she said that the amount of text on the coin seems excessive, especially in comparison to the design just recommended for Ms. Idar.
Mr. Stroik agreed, noting that he shares a passion for ballet, and he cited Ms. Tallchief as an exceptional dancer and the nation’s first American-born prima ballerina. He said that he is currently working on a circular painting with a ballet theme, and he emphasized the difficulty of capturing ballet in a circular form; he said that alternative #4 succeeds brilliantly in meeting this challenge, and it is especially successful in conveying Ms. Tallchief’s power as a dancer by depicting her mid-leap. He added that Ms. Tallchief contributed to the popularization of The Nutcracker throughout the nation and the world. He agreed that the design could be improved by eliminating some of the wording; he suggested removing the phrase “America’s Prima Ballerina,” observing that the portrait would convey that she is a ballerina; he also questioned whether her name needs to be included twice, in English and in the Osage language.
Ms. Tsien observed that removal of the phrase “America’s Prima Ballerina” would allow for moving the Osage name to this location toward the bottom of the composition, removing the Osage name from its odd location beneath Ms. Tallchief’s legs near the center of the coin; Mr. Stroik expressed support for this revision. Ms. Tsien asked about the appropriateness of the Commission recommending such extensive design alterations at this stage of the Mint’s process. Secretary Luebke said that any design advice is entirely appropriate, and the Commission has recommended more extensive revisions to some past submissions; he added that the staff supports the recommended revisions to the text. Ms. Tsien observed that the revision would allow Ms. Tallchief’s portrait to stand out as the primary feature of the composition’s inner circle, and Mr. Luebke said the result would be graphically more powerful.
Chair Tsien summarized the consensus of the Commission to recommend alternative #4 for the Maria Tallchief coin, with the text modifications that were discussed.
Secretary Luebke summarized the consensus of the Commission for each coin, with some associated design modifications: alternative #5 for Bessie Coleman, #1A for Edith Kanaka’ole, #2A for Eleanor Roosevelt, #8 for Jovita Idar, and #4 for Maria Tallchief. Upon a motion by Mr. Stroik with second by Dr. Edwards, the Commission adopted these recommendations.
2. CFA 21/APR/22-7, 2023 Native American One Dollar Coin. Reverse designs honoring Native Americans in ballet. Final. Secretary Luebke introduced the Mint’s second submission, which again depicts ballerina Maria Tallchief, for the reverse of the 2023 issue of the Native American One Dollar Coin, which will illustrate the theme of “American Indians in Ballet.” He noted that the program began in 2009 for a new reverse design each year; the continuing obverse features a portrait of Sacagawea with her infant son. While this series is categorized as circulating coinage, the production in recent years has been limited to smaller quantities for the collectors’ market. The design alternatives depict famed ballerina Maria Tallchief, who rose to prominence with a 1949 performance of Stravinsky’s Firebird. He asked April Stafford of the U.S. Mint to present the designs.
Ms. Stafford said that the Mint has chosen to include Ms. Tallchief on two coins in 2023: the circulating quarter that will honor Ms. Tallchief specifically (see above agenda item), and the one-dollar coin produced for collectors, which will expand Ms. Tallchief’s story to honor other American Indians in ballet. She presented seven alternative designs for the reverse, noting that alternative #4 is the preference of Ms. Tallchief’s daughter and of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee; it is also the preference of the Congressional Native American Caucus, one of the Congressional groups that are consulted for the coins in this series. She said that alternative #4 was supported as working best with the quarter-dollar coin in conveying the accomplishments of Ms. Tallchief and extending the theme further.
Ms. Tsien asked if the wording “American Indians,” as seen in alternative #4, is acceptable to groups such as the Congressional Native American Caucus. Ms. Stafford responded that the Mint has been carefully considering this wording issue throughout the program of one-dollar coins, for both the coin inscriptions and the accompanying printed materials. She said the National Museum of the American Indian strongly prefers the term “American Indian” as being more representative and familiar to the community across the country, although either phrasing is considered acceptable.
Mr. Cook asked about the size of this coin in comparison to more familiar circulating coinage; Ms. Stafford responded that the one-dollar coin is approximately the size of a quarter, but with a different metal composition. Ms. Delplace asked about Maria Tallchief’s historical period. Ms. Stafford said that Ms. Tallchief was born in 1925, and she became a world-renowned dancer with her 1949 performance in Stravinsky’s Firebird; Ms. Tsien noted that she continued performing into the mid-1960s.
Mr. Stroik expressed support for alternative #4, citing the strong image of Ms. Tallchief and the classic elegance of depicting her as the lead ballerina in combination with other ballerinas from the ensemble; however, he questioned the multiple circles in the background. He also expressed interest in alternatives #1 and 1A, which have a background of stars in varying sizes; he said his preference would be the smaller stars in alternative #1A. He cited the beautiful ballet pose in these alternatives, observing that the goal of a ballerina is to create beautiful, elegant shapes.
Ms. Stafford clarified that the spotlight circle behind Ms. Tallchief in alternative #4 serves to relate the composition to the preferred design for the quarter-dollar coin, and the adjoining semicircles provide a setting for the four additional Native American ballerinas who, in conjunction with Ms. Tallchief, were known as the “Five Moons.” Chair Tsien said that this information makes the design more meaningful. Joe Menna, the Mint’s chief engraver, provided additional information on the graphic convention for the special finishes on these coins: textured and polished areas would be used to create an organized and consistent layering of the sculptural relief. The effect would be to highlight Ms. Tallchief as if she were on stage, while the adjoining circles would appear to be background elements at the back of the stage.
Chair Tsien summarized the consensus to support alternative #4, consistent with the preference of the family member and other reviewers. Upon a motion by Mr. Stroik with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission adopted this action.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:55 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA