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. Approval of the minutes of the 19 May meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the May meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Mr. Stroik, the Commission approved the minutes.
B. Dates of next meetings. Secretary Luebke presented the dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 21 July, 15 September, and 20 October 2022. He noted that no meeting is scheduled in August. The schedule for 2023 will be presented to the Commission next month for approval.
C. Reappointment of H. Alan Brangman, AIA, to the Old Georgetown Board. Secretary Luebke asked the Commission to approve the reappointment of H. Alan Brangman to the Old Georgetown Board for a fourth three-year term from September 2022 through July 2025. He noted that Mr. Brangman was initially appointed to the Board in 2013 and has served as its chairman since 2015. He summarized Mr. Brangman’s work as an institutional architect for several universities, including sixteen years working for Georgetown University, which gave him close familiarity with the neighborhood. Mr. Brangman has also worked as a developer, arts administrator, and as a peer reviewer for the U.S. General Services Administration. Mr. Luebke noted that serving for multiple terms on the Old Georgetown Board has some precedent, and this would likely be the last term; he praised Mr. Brangman’s leadership and emphasized the desirability of continuity on the Board. Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Dr. Edwards, the Commission approved the reappointment of Mr. Brangman.
D. Report on participation in U.S. Mint–British Royal Mint collaboration. Secretary Luebke reported that three Commission members designated at the May meeting—Ms. Delplace, Mr. McCrery, and Mr. Moore—participated earlier in June in a joint meeting with the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee to review nine preliminary designs for a planned coin or medal to be jointly issued with the British Royal Mint. The meeting resulted in the selection of three finalist designs, which the U.S. Mint is forwarding to the British Royal Mint for further review. Later this year, a joint meeting of U.S. and British officials will result in the selection of a preferred design, which will be submitted to the Commission of Fine Arts for approval. Mr. McCrery said that the three Commission members did exceptionally good work in reviewing the preliminary designs.
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. He noted the guidelines limiting the scale of projects that can be placed on the appendices; for larger projects with no major design issues, the case is placed on the agenda, and the Commission sometimes chooses to take an action without a presentation.
Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Fox reported that no changes have been made to the draft consent calendar, which has six projects. Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Ms. Delplace, 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 two 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 Ms. Delplace with second by Mr. Cook, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act Appendix.
(See agenda item II.E for additional Shipstead-Luce Act submissions.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Amos said the only revision to the draft appendix is the notation of three dates for the receipt of supplemental materials; the appendix has 28 projects. Mr. Luebke noted the unusually heavy caseload of Georgetown projects in the past month; some of these projects require further consultation and are not included on the appendix. Upon a motion by Dr. Edwards with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission approved the Old Georgetown Act Appendix. (See agenda item II.E for an additional Old Georgetown Act submission.)
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider two of the cases from agenda item II.E. Secretary Luebke said that the Commission may wish to act on these submissions without a presentation.
E. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
2. SL 22-102, 600 5th Street, NW. Office building (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority headquarters). Renovations and additions for commercial office use. Final. (Previous: SL 22-025, 21 Oct 2021) Secretary Luebke noted that this building is located across 5th Street from the Commission’s offices. The Commission has reviewed the project several times, and the current submission responds to the most recent design guidance, which primarily concerned the design of the public space around the building. Chair Tsien emphasized that the Commission has considered the project thoroughly during the review process; Mr. Luebke said that the consultation process with the staff has been productive. Upon a motion by Ms. Delplace with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission approved the proposed final design.
Old Georgetown Act
OG 22-122, Dumbarton Oaks, 1703 32nd Street, NW. New two-story building. Concept. Secretary Luebke said that the proposed new building is part of a series of changes toward the northwest corner of the Dumbarton Oaks property; this building would be used for public programs. He noted that the project has undergone numerous reviews by the Old Georgetown Board, which supports the current concept design; the Board’s report, which includes minor recommendations for refinement of the design, has been distributed to the Commission members. Upon a motion by Ms. Delplace with second by Dr. Edwards, the Commission approved the concept design and adopted the Board’s report. Mr. Moore recused himself and did not participate in the vote.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B.
B. Federal Railroad Administration
CFA 16/JUN/22-1, Washington Union Station, 50 Massachusetts Avenue, NE. Station expansion project—federal properties and private air-rights development. Information presentation. (Previous: CFA 21/NOV/19-3) Secretary Luebke introduced an information presentation on the expansion of the Washington Union Station, a federal railroad station property, with associated private-sector air-rights development located above the tracks on the north side of the property. The project is intended to support Washington’s rail service, including improvements to rail capacity, reliability, safety, efficiency, accessibility, and security. He noted the proposal’s enormous complexity, weaving together many issues concerning rail locations, access, and private-sector development.
Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission’s previous review of an information presentation on this proposal, in November 2019. The Commission members had given general support for the planning approach, which includes a new train concourse, associated bus terminal, reorganized vehicular circulation, and new connections to the viaduct above H Street, NE. At this review, the Commission also requested further development of the new train hall, access to the bus station, and access to the H Street viaduct in a way that expresses its public presence; it advised against plans for a massive air-rights parking structure to the northwest of the historic station. Subsequent to that review, the FRA has proceeded with its planning and its coordination with Akridge. The initial proposal has been revised, with some flexibility in the original project boundaries to create a more coherent plan that will support this complex, layered infrastructure as well as to allow for a viable development. He said that the most fundamental changes to the planning have been the redistribution of parking with the elimination of the elevated garage structure, and the consolidation of a central corridor through the project, running parallel to the tracks along the axis of the entire property, which will create a new lower-level entrance gateway into the complex as well as an open urban space above. He asked David Valenstein, senior advisor at the FRA, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Valenstein said that the FRA has been working with the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation, which manages the property on its behalf, and with Amtrak to revisit the project design. The project team has received feedback on the draft Environmental Impact Statement concerning the needs of the individuals and organizations most affected by the proposed modernization. This revision to the station expansion project satisfies the primary purpose of replacing the tracks with wider platforms, adding a below-track concourse to expand capacity, preserving the historic station, and locating parking and an additional pickup and drop-off facility for vehicles below grade; it also reimagines the bus terminal that will be integrated with the new train hall and it provides a favorable opportunity for private air-rights development. He introduced Niko Dando-Haenisch of Grimshaw, the lead design architect, to present the design.
Mr. Dando-Haenisch said that the project team has focused on urban planning, the experience of passengers and visitors, and the civic potential of the parallel projects; he noted that the images present only schematic renderings. He emphasized that no changes are proposed to the historic Union Station building; the project would improve the infrastructure to its north, creating a new structural configuration that allows for additional levels below the tracks and boarding platforms. The entire railyard, including all tracks and platforms, would be rebuilt . The relatively narrow existing concourse between the historic station and the rail tracks—known as the Claytor Concourse—would be replaced with a new, larger train hall, an intermediate space that would improve connections between the different modes of travel while improving the passenger experience of moving between the historic building and the new station area. He described the organization of the new expansion: the outdoor deck level would be the highest, with the bus terminal below that; then the passenger rail tracks and platforms located at their current level; beneath the trains would be a new central concourse level; and at the bottom would be the parking garage with the pick-up and drop-off circulation loop. He said the deck level would connect to the top of the H Street Bridge; this level would provide additional access to the new train hall and would link to the streetcar on H Street, to a new central green space extending north and south from H Street, and to the air-rights commercial buildings that would frame the central green space. A new entrance pavilion on H Street would provide a more direct connection between the streetcar and the lower-level concourses, further increasing the ease of transfer between different modes of transportation.
Mr. Dando-Haenisch said the central concourse level would include three new concourses providing additional access to and from the trains: the central concourse on the east, the First Street concourse on the west, and the east–west H Street concourse connecting them at the north. Additional vertical circulation from the H Street concourse would lead up to the train platforms. He said that this lower concourse level would essentially double the station’s capacity for rail passengers. New entrances from First and Second Streets would provide access to the lower level below the central concourse and would also allow public passage through the building to connect the neighborhoods on either side. Drivers would reach this lower level—where most of the pickup and drop-off functions as well as parking will be located—via a series of three ramps around the station that would distribute vehicles above and below grade to avoid congestion on the streets.
Mr. Dando-Haenisch said the bus terminal would be located one level above the rail tracks and platforms, adjoining the triple-height train hall. Passengers could reach the bus terminal as well as the train platforms from the train hall, which would connect to the historic station’s Great Hall, creating a truly intermodal station that allows for easy transfer between rail and bus service with clear links to Metrorail and the historic building. Buses would use the reconstructed H Street bridge to reach the bus terminal, which would accommodate intercity and long-distance buses, as well as tour and charter buses.
Mr. Dando-Haenisch said that a goal for the project is to provide access to all the modes through a single space in order to make wayfinding clear for passengers, creating a civic space that ties together all the different parts. The new train hall would provide clear sightlines to the rail platforms and tracks, to the buses, and to the air rights development, and down to the central concourse. Daylighting would be emphasized: the design would provide natural light throughout the public spaces, including the central concourse, where possible. He said that, similar to the central space at New York’s Grand Central Terminal, the train hall would be dedicated to circulation; it would also provide many amenities, including retail, particularly at the mezzanine level, and retail would also continue to be located in the historic building.
Mr. Dando-Haenisch said the project also includes restoration of the “Burnham Wall,” the massive rusticated stone retaining wall along First Street, which was modified during construction of the Metrorail station and parking structure. Removal of the existing parking structure along with the redesign of access ramps would allow the wall to be restored close to its original configuration. He indicated the proposed central public green space in the air-rights development, noting that it would be accessible from the Burnham Place buildings and from the surrounding neighborhoods. The deck level would offer an additional pick-up and drop-off area on the north side of the train hall, reducing traffic pressure on Columbus Circle. He added that development of a more active urban space is also envisioned on the station’s east side. He ended his presentation with a short video animation moving through the project.
Chair Tsien thanked the project team for its clear and excellent presentation. She suggested that the Commission members provide comments on the station first, before hearing the presentation on the air-rights development. She began the discussion by asking whether the new central green space would be a truly public, democratic space, or whether it would be controlled by the private developer. Mr. Dando-Haenisch responded that the reconsideration of the property boundaries has opened possibilities; the previous proposal had a clear demarcation of control, with each project kept strictly on its side of the boundary. However, in the revised proposal the boundary lines are blurred, with parts of the station expansion extending onto private property and vice versa. For example, portions of the deck construction used for pick-up and drop-off at the bus terminal would be built as part of the station improvements, while the rest of the deck would be part of the air-rights development. He deferred to the air-rights project team for further questions about the central green space.
Mr. McCrery said he agrees with Ms. Tsien that the presentation had been very elegant and efficient. He observed that the bus terminal would provide two dedicated travel lanes and berths for 37 buses, which he called a tremendous amount of infrastructure, and he asked for clarification on the type of bus service it would handle. Mr. Dando-Haenisch responded that it would be a station for long-distance, tour, and charter buses, and not for local buses, which would continue to stop along local streets. He said that discussions continue with the D.C. Department of Transportation about whether to include the D.C. Circulator bus routes in the future bus terminal; he said it would probably be more efficient if the Circulator goes through Columbus Circle, at the station’s south front. He added that the scale of the proposed bus station is meant to accommodate anticipated future growth in bus travel.
Mr. McCrery commented that the bus terminal is shown as occupying a great amount of “prime real estate.” He observed that the rendering depicts the terminal as a perfectly clean and spotless space, but he said long-distance intercity buses will be filthy when they arrive, and bus stations end up becoming very dirty places. He suggested moving the bus terminal to the below-grade parking level, a change that would require the same amount of ramping, simply going down one level instead of up. He emphasized that this change would result in profound improvements without greatly changing access. He said a below-grade location would eliminate the need for vertical circulation in front of the train hall’s north wall, allowing for two stories of glazing, which would bring in a great deal of northern light; additionally, the central green space in the air-rights development would not need to ramp up from H Street in order to get above the buses. He said this would be a better solution from the standpoint of urban design. He added that if the bus terminal is located below the train platforms, the view upward from the train hall out to the air-rights development would be much more open, bringing the city into the hall and the hall into the city, clarifying the direct relationship between the two.
Mr. Dando-Haenisch responded by noting the security issues for the bus terminal: placing this terminal beneath the trains would present complex security challenges. He added that the physical depth with the extensive ramps and roads required for buses would be a challenge; the supporting structure for the rail tracks and platforms will require a forest of columns to handle the loading criteria, which would present a challenge for maneuvering buses beneath the trains. He said the proposal takes advantage of the distance of more than 600 feet between the train hall and H Street; the intervening slope is lessened by the distance and is well within the criteria for accessibility. Although it will require a solution for security needs, he said this bus terminal would offer many benefits and would be thoroughly integrated within the overall intermodal experience. Chair Tsien commented that the idea of enabling bus passengers to enter the same kind of brightly lit space as people traveling by train is quite wonderful—a very democratic and powerful concept.
Mr. McCrery indicated the section rendering of the curved roadway ramp leading to the raised central green space, street, and passageway. Observing that it looks odd, he said making it flat, like an actual city street, would be a huge improvement if feasible. Mr. Moore asked about the security provisions proposed for this space—whether it would have a controlled perimeter and how this would be designed, whether it would correspond to the natural grade, and whether it would minimize the use of bollards or other such massive objects. Mr. Dando-Haenisch responded that security barriers have not yet been designed, but there would be some type of perimeter control along H Street. The types of vehicles that would be permitted access are still under consideration but would probably include buses, taxis, and other for-hire vehicles, and also vehicles associated with the air-rights development. He added that good pedestrian and bicycle access would be provided along the edges of the ramp. The question of whether some form of bollard is needed, as part of the initial construction or in the future, will be determined later.
Thanking Mr. Dando-Haenisch for his comprehensive presentation, Ms. Delplace asked him for further explanation of how the vehicular access ramp constructed in G Street to the west of First Street would function with the current roadway. Mr. Dando-Haenisch described it as a two-way ramp in the middle of the existing road; the ramp would go beneath the Metrorail tracks to reach the below-grade level of concourses. He noted that G Street would still have two active lanes in each direction, and its sidewalks would remain. Ms. Delplace observed that this block of G Street is a back-of-house street for the City Post Office building and the Government Publishing Office but front-of-house for other buildings. She asked about the impact of the ramp construction on these entrance facades; Mr. Dando-Haenisch acknowledged that this urban design issue will need to be addressed.
Ms. Delplace expressed concern about the fate of the historic Union Station itself, which has struggled over the last couple of years as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. She asked what will be done to ensure it remains an active and lively space and not just a pass-through to reach the new station. Mr. Dando-Haenisch responded that all the existing passenger amenities in the historic station, including retail, would remain, and passengers and visitors could continue to shop there, even though the station expansion project includes more retail at the concourse level. He added that the project would include some minor reconfiguration of the Amtrak areas, including the ticketing zone in the link to the new structure.
Ms. Delplace commented that this problem will require very close examination. She noted that the historic station has been extremely difficult to program because retail has to be located in spaces east and west of the Great Hall. She emphasized that the historic station is an extraordinarily beautiful building, which she would hate to see used even less than it is now because of the new building; she would prefer it to have a strong programmatic relation to the station expansion. She emphasized the importance of wayfinding, commenting that the new expansion project will require almost the level of wayfinding needed for an airport. She concluded that the proposed design is beautiful but would be challenging to navigate.
Mr. Cook agreed it was an excellent presentation and said he looks forward to seeing this new station completed. He supported Ms. Delplace’s concern about the future role of the historic train station, and he advised the project team to consider this issue. He commented that there is something magical about arriving at the historic station, especially at night, leaving through the front entrance and seeing the view of the U.S. Capitol. He urged the team to ensure that this sense of arrival remains part of the narrative experience of this project.
Mr. Stroik said he supports the comments of Ms. Delplace and Mr. Cook. He observed that the design for the station expansion appears to be competing architecturally, functionally, and urbanistically with the original train station by Daniel Burnham, one of Washington’s great buildings. He expressed concern that the expansion would detract from the historic building and would also detract from the wonderful experience of arriving in and leaving Washington by train. In addition, he observed that the expansion’s proposed exterior design would compete with the historic station facade. He strongly advised the project team to study the existing architecture so the new design respects the old. He questioned the need for the new train hall, which he said competes with the historic Great Hall; he asked if they had considered a design that would have this impressive complexity without including a new train hall that duplicates the functions of the historic Great Hall.
Mr. Dando-Haenisch responded that the project scope addresses the poor functionality of the existing Claytor concourse to the north of the historic building. He said he strongly agrees with Mr. Stroik’s comments about not competing with the historic architecture and emphasized that this is not the goal; instead, the intent is to take a poor-quality space for passengers and open it up to allow passengers to enter and exit both trains and buses in a much more straightforward way, while still providing a clear link through the historic station. He said in essence the project addresses the limitations of the Claytor concourse and the other structures north of the historic station in a more respectful way than the current configuration.
Chair Tsien thanked the project team for their presentation of the expanded Union Station. She said the Commission would now move on to the presentation of the air-rights development, followed by the Commission members’ comments.
The presentation of the air-rights development was introduced by David Tuchmann, senior vice president of development at Akridge. Mr. Tuchmann said that in 1997, Congress required Amtrak to sell the air rights above its tracks north of Union Station for private development, which were purchased by Akridge in 2006. Akridge has since worked in coordination with Amtrak, the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation, and the FRA to envision the Washington region’s largest and most ambitious transit-oriented development project, comprising a dozen buildings flanking both sides of the rebuilt H Street Bridge and including parks, plazas, and new circulation routes connecting the station with surrounding neighborhoods. The current design would solve long-term problems of parking, add a bus terminal, and create pick-up and drop-off areas while meeting the many technical constraints of building a three-level station expansion with a new neighborhood above twenty acres of tracks and platforms. He said the expectation is that people will come to Burnham Place not only when they are traveling through the station, but also to experience an outstanding urban station development area of a kind more associated with great European and Asian cities. He asked architect Mark Gilliand of Shalom Baranes Associates to provide an overview of the design.
Mr. Gilliand first presented a short video animation illustrating how Burnham Place would work with the station expansion. He said Burnham Place would include three million square feet of mixed-use development over an area of approximately fourteen acres and would relate to the adjoining neighborhoods. Burnham Place would help repair a tear in the urban fabric of the L’Enfant Plan that was created when the railyard was built, and it would also reinforce an edge of the federal city as defined by the McMillan Plan.
Mr. Gilliand said that air-rights development above the station expansion requires vertical integration between the two, and the structure supporting the development would extend down through the station’s lower levels to columns running the length of the new train platforms. Much of the development’s utility infrastructure would also pass through the station, and ventilation shafts for the train areas would extend up through the air-rights buildings to vent exhaust through rooftop equipment. He said that several elements of the station expansion would establish the parameters of the development, including the new train hall, the bus terminal, the skylights over the central concourse, the entrance pavilion on H Street, and the vehicular circulation loop; these elements would define the edges of the central green space and would be related to the lines of supporting structure. Skylights and station entrances would be integral with the network of public open spaces created between the new buildings.
Mr. Gilliand said the central green space south of H Street, measuring approximately 120 feet wide and 600 feet long, would accommodate the new H Street entrance and the skylights. The green space would ascend from H Street over the bus terminal as a series of terraced lawns, with the train hall serving as a visual terminus at the south. The space would be defined on the east side by the station’s skylights and on the west by a cascading water feature and café seating. The air-rights buildings would frame the space and its sightlines. These buildings would house a variety of private uses—office, residential, hotel, cultural, and institutional—above ground-floor levels containing retail space. He noted that some internal roads would be shared by vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians, and would connect with circulation north of H Street, creating a functional circulation network on both sides of the H Street bridge.
Secretary Luebke then summarized a letter to the Commission from D.C. Council member Charles Allen, who represents Ward 6. He said that Mr. Allen expresses his strong support for this revised concept proposal for the Union Station expansion project. Mr. Allen writes that the project team has responded to the significant concerns raised by the community and stakeholders about the previous proposal, and the revised design shows a substantial reduction and underground relocation of parking; the incorporation of large-scale underground facilities for taxis, rideshares, and cell-phone waiting; and a central location for the bus station, fully integrating it into the multimodal passenger facility while routing buses to North Capitol Street, away from the H Street corridor to the east. He also notes the much-improved bicycle and pedestrian access around the station’s perimeter, a dramatic change that would transform a flawed plan into an inspirational vision. He closes the letter with the expectation that this proposal will allow Union Station to help the region grow in a sustainable manner and to serve as a place of civic pride for the millions who visit the station each year.
Chair Tsien said that in the interest of time, the Commission members should direct their comments to the design intentions of the air-rights development and not to design per se, since what was presented is not an actual design. She noted that Mr. Moore had temporarily left the meeting and had given her his written comments, which she proceeded to read into the record. Regarding the development of the central green space, he observed that apparently it is meant to contain many different activities. He emphasized that this area, which will connect with the public train station, should itself have a very public character; he asked how much of this space would be privatized and how much would be truly public. He said it must be understood that certain privatized areas should also belong to the people of Washington and should not simply be the province of the people who happen to live or work in those buildings.
Mr. Stroik expressed support for Mr. Moore’s comments. He described the air-rights development as a very grand project that will be located near the U.S. Capitol and the city’s historic center. He called attention to its name, Burnham Place, noting it was named in honor of one of America’s great architects, Daniel Burnham, who was chairman of the McMillan Commission (the Senate Park Commission; he later served as the first chairman of the Commission of Fine Arts). He advised the project team to look at Burnham’s buildings and city plans as they develop the proposal, particularly his 1909 Plan of Chicago. He observed that the Chicago plan displays an architectural regularity that is also evident in some of Washington’s enclaves of large federal buildings, a regularity that seems to work better than having a variety of architectural expression. He requested the project team to discuss at the next review what Burnham’s Chicago plan and other historic precedents can offer for this proposal; he added that the team should make sure this is truly a “Burnham Place” and not another L’Enfant Plaza.
Acknowledging that the air-rights design is early and aspirational, Ms. Delplace observed that its central green space would be a very large space. She agreed with Mr. Moore that it needs to be more cohesive, and to feel more like a civic space and less like a private area; she said it should have a “soul.” To achieve this cohesion, she suggested that it respond to its connection with the very civic building of Union Station through a measured progression of spaces leading into areas of different activities. She emphasized that this idea should be seriously considered during design development.
Chair Tsien thanked the project team once more for its very thorough presentation. Secretary Luebke said the comments will be summarized in a letter, which will also help guide the staff in consultations with the project team. He noted that eventually the review process will move forward on separate tracks—a direct submission for the federal government property, and a Shipstead-Luce Act submission for the private-sector Burnham Place development. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
C. U.S. General Services Administration
CFA 16/JUN/22-2, St. Elizabeths West Campus, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2701 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE. Center Building south landscape plan. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the concept design for the landscape to the south of the Center Building on the St. Elizabeths West Campus, a National Historic Landmark and the headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). He said this proposal modifies the existing landscape by adding a display featuring relics from the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon; these attacks in 2001 were the geopolitical event that led to the creation of the DHS. The proposal would display steel fragments salvaged from the World Trade Center, along with a survivor tree sapling from that site, and stones recovered from the destroyed exterior wall of the Pentagon. The site is an oval area of approximately 1.6 acres known as the Hemlock Circle, a remnant of the arboretum organization of the campus in the late nineteenth century. He said this site provides very close visual access to the DHS secretary’s suite in the Center Building, which is considered the formal heart of the historic campus. In addition to the relics, new landscape elements would include trees, paths, site lighting, and a plaza for ceremonies and events. He introduced Mina Wright, director of the office of planning and design quality for the National Capital Region of the General Services Administration.
Ms. Wright said the program for this small park focuses less on the events of 9/11 than on providing a place for DHS employees and others to reflect on the mission of the agency, in a space that will be integrated into the everyday life of the St. Elizabeths West Campus. She noted that the project has been the subject of extensive historic preservation consultation. She asked architect Paul Kempton of ZGF and landscape architect Hallie Boyce of OLIN to present the design.
Mr. Kempton said the project would not only recognize the mission of the DHS but will represent its core values of integrity, vigilance, and respect while honoring the strength and resilience of the agency and of the United States. The installation would include the display of three structural steel artifacts from the World Trade Center at the north end of the site and six limestone panels from the Pentagon facade at the south. A plaza at the north would provide views to the Center Building and space to accommodate temporary seating for up to 150 people attending special events.
Ms. Boyce described the site conditions and the proposed landscape design. The campus sits on a flat plateau surrounded by steep slopes that have been managed as both meadows and woodlands. She said that the location has helped determine the design’s material and plant palettes.
Ms. Boyce said the Hemlock Circle, just south of the Center Building, occupies a principal location on campus. A large number of DHS workers walk through the circle every day, and many eat lunch at the picnic tables under the trees. The campus streets, which have little traffic, are also used as walkways, and cars are usually parked on the east and west sides of the Hemlock Circle. The project site has a level ground plane, planted as a lawn, with many mature deciduous and evergreen trees. There are two existing concrete paths, including a path dating from an 1895 campus plan that runs east to west across the site; the 1895 plan also proposed paths that allowed movement in all four cardinal directions. She noted that the evergreen trees at the north end of the site are not structurally sound or healthy and would be removed, and a couple of trees at the sound end would be removed to allow room for new circulation.
Ms. Boyce described the 9/11 artifacts as varying in scale. The primary artifact from the World Trade Center facade is a 25-foot-tall object known as the “Trident” for its shape of three uprights supported on a central post; the DHS has requested that this be displayed vertically on the granite plaza to represent the strength and mission of the agency. Other artifacts from the World Trade Center include a 36-foot-long steel beam and a steel beam that was deformed into an N shape. A sapling from the survivor tree, a Bradford pear, would be planted to the north of the plaza. The limestone panels from the Pentagon would be placed at the south within a circular walk.
Mr. Kempton described the proposed treatment of the artifacts in more detail. The three steel pieces have been stored outdoors on the campus, exposed to the weather, and they would be maintained in their existing weathered state, with only minimal alteration to allow for their safe display and continued preservation. In addition to presenting the Trident as the main design element, the DHS also intends for it to represent the resilience of the American people; the two other steel relics would be treated as sculptural elements displayed in a horizontal orientation on the lawn. These horizontal artifacts would be raised slightly off the ground, supported on welded stainless-steel struts and resting on stone-clad bases surrounded by groundcover plantings. The bases would have concrete foundations, designed to control differential settling and lateral loading. A seat wall would be placed around the Trident, serving as a protective buffer. The installation for the Pentagon’s limestone panels would correspond to the alignment and solar orientation of the original building facade. The stone from a pilaster would be in a vertical orientation, and the other five stones would be displayed in a running bond pattern to recall the facade’s coursing. All of the stone bases would have a honed finish and would incorporate architectural lighting.
Ms. Boyce described the new granite-paved plaza at the north, whose egg-shaped design is meant to convey the idea of unity and to reflect the overall form of the Hemlock Circle. While the Trident would be the only artifact displayed here, the plaza would be oriented to views of the other two steel artifacts to its south so that the three can be viewed either individually or together as a single composition. A new, meandering north–south path bordered by flowering dogwood trees would connect the plaza with the circular walk at the south, which would enclose a circular lawn within a raised granite curb. Seating at the south would be provided by backless benches.
Ms. Boyce said the planting plan responds to a GSA program promoting the use of pollinators and to the request of the National Capital Planning Commission to preserve and add trees to the campus to maintain a healthy tree canopy. The proposed new trees have been chosen for their striking fall color, meant to evoke the date of 9/11; the overall plant palette, which also includes shrubs, groundcovers, and perennials, would provide year-round interest and a wide variety of color and texture. Historically, shrubs were planted near buildings and along circulation routes; in the new design, flowering shrubs and perennials on the east and west sides of the Hemlock Circle would help block views of parked cars.
Chair Tsien opened the discussion to questions and comments from the Commission members. Dr. Edwards was unable to participate in the discussion due to technical difficulties.
Observing the extraordinary historic quality of St. Elizabeths, Ms. Delplace expressed her appreciation for the project team’s sensitivity to the campus. However, she raised several concerns about the proposal. She questioned the intent to display these artifacts as seemingly random objects in space; she observed that they appear to lack context and do not coalesce into a composition or create conversations among them. She also questioned how the display would achieve the intent to honor the creation of DHS rather than to commemorate the events of 9/11. Ms. Boyce responded that the design process began with studies locating the artifacts in closer proximity, such as by grouping the three World Trade Center relics together on the plaza. However, separating the artifacts would allow for each to be seen individually and would give more prominence to the Trident; she emphasized that the contrast between the Trident’s vertical orientation, representing the idea of “standing strong,” and the horizontal display of the others to emphasize their unusual shapes, is an important concept for the DHS.
Ms. Delplace observed that although the Trident is a recognizable architectural fragment, this is not true of the other two steel artifacts; she asked if any information is available about their original functions or locations in the towers or their positions when found after the attack. Mr. Kempton responded that the National Institute of Standards and Technology has analyzed many of the artifacts in the DHS collection, and it is known that the Trident was a significant architectural piece of one of the towers, but no information is available on the locations or functions of the other two.
Mr. Cook observed that the stones from the Pentagon would be displayed in the round, encouraging visitors to see them from all sides; however, the display as presented seems to emphasize the frontal view. He asked for more information about how the decision was reached to display the stones in this way. Emphasizing the importance of considering the appearance from the back, he asked about this view and how the display would be detailed, noting that the illustrations appear to show steel supports. Mr. Kempton said the intent is for a viewer to be able to take in the whole ensemble, because some of the Pentagon panels bear evidence of the damage resulting from the 9/11 attack. The project team is working with the engineers and examining the existing cuts in the masonry; the stainless steel armatures will likely reuse some of these attachment points, and the amount of supporting structure will be minimized. Mr. Cook requested the submission of more information on the detailing of the supporting structures as the design is developed.
Mr. McCrery commented that the design as a whole appears very thin and not developed to the level required for concept review. He said the site furniture seems very poorly resolved, and the paths are too narrow as well as unresolved in their organization; he cited the walk leading from the north to the Trident as an example. He commented that the Trident’s base is overwhelmingly large and looks as if it had been designed by concrete suppliers. He observed that DHS’s desire to have a collection of important relics from 9/11 displayed in the landscape appears to be the sum total of the design. He noted that a Bradford pear is not an unusual tree, but this particular specimen is exceptional for being a sapling of the tree that survived the attack on the World Trade Center; in recognition of its importance, he suggested that the tree deserves a more special treatment than the other trees on the St. Elizabeths campus.
Mr. McCrery suggested studying the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), which includes an outdoor exhibition on the history of American transportation, displayed and interpreted as a series of artifacts along M Street, SE; he cited its thoughtful curation, interpretation, and landscape design. While acknowledging that the DOT collection has a very different emotional resonance than the solemnity associated with the DHS relics, he said the DOT display shows the level of thought and design necessary for the more sophisticated DHS collection from 9/11.
Mr. Stroik said he support the comments of the other Commission members, which raised serious questions about the proposal. He expressed concern that the design appears to be a monument or set of monuments proposed by contractors or architects comprising leftover building parts. He observed that historically, buildings seriously damaged by war or other events have been rebuilt, as happened in the case of the Pentagon, while the World Trade Center was destroyed, and new buildings and a memorial were constructed in its place. He said he believes that the issue of resiliency—and the meaning of this collection—resides more in the people who died on that day or in its aftermath than in the buildings themselves or their fragments. He recommended engaging an artist, perhaps a sculptor, to participate in this project.
Noting the great range of observations and concerns, Chair Tsien suggested bringing the discussion to a conclusion. She said the apparent consensus is that the design needs to be reconsidered, and the project team should return with an improved concept design submission. She acknowledged Mr. Stroik’s concern about honoring the people who died on 9/11; however, as this is not the intent of the DHS, she said that the Commission should not ask the project team to address it.
Secretary Luebke summarized that the Commission members seem satisfied with the intent to display the artifacts at this location but have expressed concerns about the proposed design of the display. He said the comments would be summarized in a letter, along with the request for a new submission, and no vote is needed today. Chair Tsien thanked the project team for its presentation. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
Mr. Moore returned to the meeting during the discussion of the following agenda item.
D. D.C. Department of General Services
1. CFA 16/JUN/22-3, Cobb Park, trapezoid parcel bounded by Massachusetts Avenue and H, 2nd, and 3rd Streets, NW. New park landscape and public artwork. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the concept design for Cobb Park in the Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood, submitted on behalf of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation. The trapezoidal block was originally laid out as building lots; the site was cleared in the mid-20th century, and the Center Leg Freeway (I-395) is located in a tunnel beneath the eastern half of the block. The existing park, partly located on a deck above the freeway, is surrounded by busy streets that discourage access. The park was recently restored after being used as a staging area for nearby construction, and the remaining site features include a circular paved area, radial walkways, and turf mounds. The proposed design would include an improved system of walkways, a play area, a dog park, and seating. A donated artwork called the Star Court would be the focus of the park’s western end. He noted that the design for the park continues to be constrained by the tunnel under its eastern side, precluding major site features or extensive tree plantings in this area. He asked project manager David Wooden, a landscape architect with the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Wooden said that after serving as a construction staging area, the park has been restored to a simple, passive space with grass and trees. A recent survey of the Mount Vernon Square neighborhood has identified a strong desire for additional park space, and the proposed improvements are part of the ongoing effort to create meaningful and engaging green spaces to serve the needs of this growing community. He introduced landscape architect Mary Marcinko of AMT and artist/architect Andrew Pressman to present the proposal.
Ms. Marcinko said that this underdeveloped open space adjoining prominent streets provides a wonderful opportunity to create an iconic, beautiful, and useful park for the neighborhood and city. She described its existing condition as a remnant of the previous park on the site. She said that the current concept has been developed through consultation with the community and stakeholders; the intent is to create a community oasis that is flexible in use, providing opportunities for gatherings, performances, passive recreation, casual gatherings with friends, and possibly a farmers’ market. The focus of the park would be the Star Court anchoring the west end, with an iconic sculpture and seating element within a plaza; the plaza could serve as a place for community gatherings, and moveable seating may also be provided. She said the plaza’s decorative paving would resemble the tail of a shooting star, an extension of the sculpture’s star imagery into the landscape. Perimeter shade trees would frame the plaza and provide a buffer to the street and traffic noise, in addition to providing shade; the number of trees may be increased slightly as the design is developed. She indicated several light poles that would be located around the plaza.
Ms. Marcinko said the remainder of the park would be organized around a central axis extending eastward from the Star Court. A curving path surrounding the central east–west lawn would have bollard lighting and modern-style park benches. To the northeast of the plaza would be a small children’s area with play structures, possibly in the form of boulders. To the southeast of the plaza, a bioretention area would be treated as a landscape amenity with perennial and pollinator plantings. The eastern half of the site, above the highway tunnel, would have low turf mounds with smaller trees, providing visual interest and an additional buffer to the busy adjacent streets; a larger mound would be placed on the park’s central axis. The site’s southeast corner would have a dog park, which has been requested by the community; it would have a wood-fiber surface and possibly some plantings. The park would be surrounded by a 42-inch-high decorative fence, with access at the site’s four corners. She summarized that alterations to the existing grade would primarily be for the mounds and for draining toward the bioretention area. She concluded with images of the proposed site furnishings, materials, and plantings.
Mr. Pressman presented the proposed iconic sculpture and seating element for the park. The sculpture would serve as the western terminus for the park’s organizing access, which would extend through the plaza and central lawn to end at the larger turf mound on the east. The sculpture is intended to create a “magical experience” and a sense of serenity; the seating areas would provide a place for contemplation and for observing the occasional special events in the plaza. The sculpture’s form is a grouping of six-pointed stars, derived from the design theme of a triangle, which relates to the neighborhood name of Mount Vernon Triangle. In plan, the sculpture’s framework of stars would align with the paving pattern below; he presented elevations and sections to illustrate the design. Hollow bronze tubes would be used for the structural columns and beams; the shading fins would be anodized aluminum with a bronze finish, and the benches would be rolled bronze plates with stainless steel armatures; the benches would have wood slats to avoid overheating. He concluded with photographs of a model of the pavilion. He acknowledged that this site is challenging for the creation of a park, and he emphasized the project team’s commitment to providing an oasis for the nearby residents and a special place for the city.
Chair Tsien invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Ms. Delplace expressed appreciation for the presentation, and she asked about the depth of the highway tunnel beneath part of the site. Ms. Marcinko said that borings are still being conducted to provide an exact answer; she emphasized that the proposed grades are similar to the existing conditions, which include a mound with some small trees. Ms. Delplace asked for further information about potential programming, such as weekend markets. Ms. Marcinko said that the design team has studied the placement of ten-foot-square stalls around the plaza and along the walking path. She said that many programmatic ideas have been discussed, and this park has long been considered a potential site. The intent is to provide a flexible design to accommodate a wide range of future programming.
Ms. Delplace observed that the design attempts to incorporate many elements in a very small park; she acknowledged that this is a common concern in responding to a constituency that wants many things. However, she said that some elements seem to be fighting other elements, and she suggested stepping back to reconsider the result. As an example, the children’s play area is very small; simplification of other areas of the park might allow the play area to be more generous. She also observed that the star sculpture would be located very close to the narrow end of the site, with heavy street traffic moving around the edges of this area along H Street, 3rd Street, and Massachusetts Avenue; she noted that the proposed trees would not be effective in mitigating the street-level noise at such a close distance. She recommended reconsidering the location of the plaza if it is intended for programming that requires people to hear what is happening; further information about the tunnel depth might be helpful in evaluating alternative locations for the plaza.
Ms. Delplace commented that the proposed 42-inch-high perimeter fence appears too tall and solid; she suggested lowering its height, observing that it does not need to serve as a guardrail. She acknowledged the desire for the fence to provide a sense of security within the park, but she said that being able to see into the park would also be a form of security, and she recommended developing a more transparent design.
Mr. McCrery expressed support for Ms. Delplace’s comments. He said that more information about the park’s dimensions would be helpful in future presentations, observing that the park may be larger than the size conveyed by the drawings. He commented that the access points to the park seem minimal, and the site plan appears to be a collection of features requested by the client; he also questioned the use of engineered wood fiber for the children’s play area. Ms. Marcinko responded that the design team has already been editing the design by removing or toning down some features, and she acknowledged that further work may be needed. She said that the children’s play area was originally envisioned as having a play sculpture, but this seemed to be competing with the star sculpture, so the feature for children has evolved to a boulder or some other small element. She added that this play area would have a safety surface. Mr. McCrery observed that children are relegated to the perimeter of the park, while the dogs would be given a larger and better space; he questioned the need for the dog park, and he suggested treating the entire park as a play area.
Mr. McCrery asked if the bright green areas of the rendered site plan are intended as synthetic turf mounds. Ms. Marcinko said that these would be natural turf mounds for most of the site; the mound within the dog park may be just dirt, or it may be eliminated from the design. Mr. McCrery discouraged introducing plastic material into the design of a park, except perhaps for an athletic field; he cited the “tacky” appearance of a local dog park with a synthetic surface, located on Massachusetts Avenue in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Ms. Marcinko acknowledged the concern and said that the design will likely be simplified further.
Mr. Moore observed that the proposed paving at the sculpture plaza is a complex circular pattern for a public space that would ideally have a lot of activity. He questioned the feasibility of its long-term maintenance unless special funding will be available for the upkeep of this custom, non-standard design. He also observed that the relationship between the crosswalk and planted buffer area appears to be unresolved at the park’s northwest corner.
Dr. Edwards expressed support for the comments of the other Commission members. Acknowledging that the dog park is less important than some other areas of the park, she said that it nonetheless should be carefully designed. She suggested clarifying the entrance point within the fence that would enclose the dog park. She also observed that some dog parks in other areas have double gates as an added protection against dogs getting loose, which would be especially important for safety at this location with nearby high-traffic streets and well-used sidewalks. Ms. Marcinko responded that the design team has not yet developed the location or design for the gates; the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation will provide guidance based on experience with existing dog parks.
Dr. Edwards asked for clarification of the distribution of seating in the park beyond the sculpture plaza, and whether the mounds are intended for this purpose. Ms. Marcinko responded that benches would be located around the perimeter walkway; an additional seating area was deleted during the editing process for the design.
Chair Tsien summarized the Commission’s request to re-imagine the concept, with simplification of the design’s many elements and reconsideration of the plaza’s location to address the problem of noise. Due to these concerns, she suggested that the Commission should not approve the concept for the project. Secretary Luebke confirmed that this conclusion would not require taking any action. He noted that the dog park and children’s play area are additional elements that may be revised or eliminated from the project, and the busy streets on all sides of the site will necessitate trade-offs in any decisions about the location of the park’s features. Ms. Marcinko noted that major features are limited to the western half of the site. She acknowledged that the currently proposed location for the sculpture plaza may be too far to the west, close to the convergence of the busy streets, and she said that the design team is considering pushing the plaza’s location slightly to the east, which would be a simple way to address the Commission’s concern. Mr. Luebke said that the staff would prepare a written summary of the comments and would work further with the project team to help move the project forward. He observed that the Commission members seem to generally support the concept for the plaza, subject to the broader goal of simplification for the overall design. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
2. CFA 16/JUN/22-4, James A. Garfield Elementary School, 2435 Alabama Avenue, SE. Renovations and additions to building and landscape. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the proposal to modify and expand James A. Garfield Elementary School, submitted by the D.C. Department of General Services (DGS) on behalf of the D.C. Public Schools (DCPS). The existing school consists of three connected buildings that date from 1909, 1956, and 1994; the two older components would remain, while the 1994 addition would be demolished. The proposal would also create a playing field on the site, which is currently dominated by parking. He noted that the original building from 1909 was designed by William S. Pittman, the first Black architect to design a public school in the city; it has a high degree of integrity and would be restored. Many interior spaces and a basement-level multipurpose room would be retained, with access to a new stepped outdoor classroom. He asked project manager Burt Jackson of DGS to begin the presentation.
Mr. Jackson indicated the project location within Ward 8, on Alabama Avenue and immediately north of Suitland Parkway. The project is intended to have net-zero energy requirements, achieve an environmental rating of LEED Gold, and obtain WELL certification for health and safety. He said the proposal has been developed with input from the Commission staff, the school staff, and the community; it addresses issues of safety, daily operations, site characteristics, and the historic architecture, with the goal of creating an inviting and welcoming school building. He introduced Hiroshi Jacobs of Studios Architecture and landscape architect Sharon Bradley of Bradley Site Design to present the proposal, and he noted that DCPS design manager Renee Pean is available to answer questions.
Mr. Jacobs described the site conditions and constraints, which have affected the proposed design. Alabama Avenue on the north is a relatively busy street; Jasper Street on the east has a more residential character. Apartment buildings are located south and west of the site, and a private alley is immediately to the west. The parking lot for the school is on the southwest part of the site, with vehicular access from the private alley; this can be problematic because unattended vehicles in the narrow alley often block access to the school’s parking, and entering or exiting the alley at Alabama Avenue is a safety concern. Because the 1909 building protrudes beyond the north property line, extending very close to Alabama Avenue, it limits the sightlines at the north end of the alley. He said the project team has therefore studied alternative locations for the parking lot or for access to the existing parking.
Mr. Jacobs indicated the disposition of buildings on the site: the 1909 building is to the northwest; the 1956 addition extends southeast from the original building’s southeast corner; and the 1994 addition, to be demolished, extends farther eastward near the southern edge of the site. Both additions are connected by hyphens to form a linked sequence. He indicated the special trees that have been identified in the south, east, and northeast areas of the site, as well as the steep topography that drops down at the site’s southeast edge as well as toward Jasper Street on the east. The topography also creates a slight depression between the 1909 building and the 1956 addition, providing exterior exposure for the historic auditorium in the basement of the 1909 building. The existing playground is north of the 1956 addition, close to Alabama Avenue, which has been another safety concern.
Mr. Jacobs said the proposal for enlarging the school is to construct a new addition in the center of the site, to the east of the 1909 building and located between the 1956 addition on the south and Alabama Avenue on the north; the resulting configuration would allow for a compact circulation pattern and for protected outdoor spaces that address the school staff’s safety and security concerns. He said the design is intended to be respectful of the 1909 building and to celebrate the legacy of its architect, William Sidney Pittman; he emphasized Pittman’s prominence as an architect in that era. He presented photographs of the 1909 building, indicating its red brick with historic detailing and white trim; he described its style as Elizabethan. The 1956 addition and hyphen have a more modern style, with brick facades and ribbon windows.
Mr. Jacobs presented massing diagrams of the proposed building complex, indicating the placement of larger program elements within the new addition, including the gymnasium, cafeteria, administrative space, and a new central lobby that would accommodate access from both Alabama Avenue and Jasper Street. The 1909 and 1956 buildings would contain the school’s classrooms. He said this configuration would allow for drop-off and parking along Jasper Street, which would be an improvement for student safety. The existing hyphen between the 1909 and 1956 buildings would be rebuilt to include an elevator as well as stairs; in conjunction with the new lobby, the entire complex would have barrier-free access. He noted that the existing ground-floor entrance to the 1909 building is at a stair landing between floor levels, without an elevator, resulting in problematic accessibility.
Mr. Jacobs said the proposal would create a welcoming gesture facing Jasper Street to the east, and the new addition would be aligned with Alabama Avenue to the north. He described the proposal’s alignments with the historic building, developed with guidance from the D.C. Historic Preservation Office staff; the northeast corner of the 1909 building would remain clearly visible from Alabama Avenue. He indicated the protected outdoor spaces that would be defined: an entry court to the east facing Jasper Street, and a sunken outdoor classroom along the east facade of the 1909 building. This sunken classroom, which he described as “the outdoor heart of the school,” would connect to the historic basement auditorium that would be converted into the school’s library. The height and horizontally articulated architecture of the new addition are intended to relate closely to the 1956 addition, allowing for both additions to be perceived as set apart from the historic 1909 building; the new addition would primarily be two stories, rising to three stories at its eastern end.
Ms. Bradley presented the site design in greater detail. The goals include respecting the historic architecture, integrating the new building program, carefully including new site elements, working with the challenging topography, meeting DCPS design specifications, and addressing concerns about safety and security. The clear, historic entry pattern from Alabama Avenue on the north would remain, leading to the new central lobby; supplemental lobby access from the east would allow for Jasper Street to serve as the primary drop-off area. The twenty-foot-wide landscape zone between the Alabama Avenue sidewalk and the property line would be treated as a generous landscape buffer; within the site would be supervised play areas on the north and south, and she emphasized that the areas on the north near the busy avenue would be supervised play areas for improved safety. The faculty parking would be to the east, with access from Jasper Street; the site plan allows for landscape screening of the parking as well as curvilinear forms to soften and contrast with the angles of the building. The steep slopes to the southeast would remain, and a school garden near the reconstructed hyphen would benefit from southern exposure. Service access and trash collection would be located adjacent to the cafeteria at the eastern end of the new addition. She indicated the relatively protected location of the sunken outdoor classroom, configured to allow daylight to reach the adjacent library. A small amphitheater would be created toward the southwest, taking advantage of the existing slope. She noted that play areas for the youngest students would be located immediately adjacent to their lower-level classrooms.
Ms. Bradley concluded with precedent images that illustrate the intended character of the proposed spaces. She said that the plant palette would be primarily native species, and the landscape is intended to serve as part of the educational experience.
Mr. Jacobs presented the proposed materials for the building and site, intended to be respectful of the existing materials while having a more modern expression. The proposed masonry facades would rely on texture instead of ornament, and more transparent enclosures would be created with metal screening; he said that transparency is important throughout the site to promote security and safety. Color would be used strategically within the building and on the facades—helping to enliven the school and responding to the school staff’s request that the renovated school should feel new and modern.
Mr. Jacobs presented perspective views of the proposal, with emphasis on the approach from Alabama Avenue to the new central lobby. He indicated the landscape buffer and screen wall to the west of the lobby’s northern entrance doors, serving to shelter the northern end of the sunken outdoor classroom. He said that this screen wall would be a good opportunity for artwork celebrating the legacy of the historic building and its architect. He concluded by presenting the proposed floorplans, indicating the entrances and major program areas.
Chair Tsien invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Mr. Cook asked for more information about how the project would achieve the net-zero energy goal and the LEED and WELL certifications. Mr. Jackson responded that DCPS has an initiative for sustainable buildings; this project would continue the success of two recent school projects in achieving net-zero buildings that include solar panels on all available roof surfaces, as well as geothermal wells to provide heating and cooling for the building.
Ms. Delplace asked for clarification of the proposed site circulation, including parking and bus drop-off and loading; she observed that an extensive amount of the site is devoted to pedestrian or vehicular circulation. Mr. Hiroshi responded that students arrive from a variety of different modes, primarily by car drop-off or nearby Metrobus; only a small number of students with special situations would be brought to the site by school buses. Some of the car drop-off occurs along Alabama Avenue, which is very busy and has resulted in some students and parents being struck by other vehicles. Some drop-off occurs on Irving Place, a side street on the north side of Alabama Avenue, which creates additional problems of congestion and safety. The proposed reliance on Jasper Street would address the school staff’s concern for a quieter drop-off location, which would be to the south of the parking lot access point. He clarified that the parking lot would be for staff parking, as well as service access for loading and trash; parents would not drive into this parking lot for drop-off.
Ms. Delplace asked about the buildings on the other side of Jasper Street; Mr. Jacobs said that this is an apartment complex. Ms. Delplace observed that the proposal would locate a lot of drop-off and pick-up on this currently quiet street, in concentrated periods at the start and end of the school day. She asked if vehicular studies were prepared in relation to the number of students at the school, addressing the queueing that would happen during the peak periods. Mr. Jackson responded that the projected school population is approximately 360 students, and the goal is to remove the drop-off area from the busy traffic of Alabama Avenue to a “friendlier” location with better safety. He said that an alternative could be greater reliance on the alley along the west side of the site, but it is a private alley, and its use by the school has resulted in several confrontations with the residents of the apartment building on its west side.
Ms. Tsien asked about access to the sunken outdoor classroom that would be adjacent to the 1909 building. Mr. Jacobs said that the new lobby would provide access to the upper end of the stepped outdoor space, and the basement library in the 1909 building would provide access to the lower end. Ms. Tsien observed that the screen element at the north end of this space, illustrated as having a portrait of the architect, William Pittman, would be a very important part of the school. Noting that art features are often eliminated from a project for cost savings, she emphasized that Pittman is a significant architect who should be recognized, either on this screen or in some other manner. She recalled a past Commission discussion on the need to understand the soul of a place, and she said that commemoration of Pittman’s achievements should be the soul of this school’s design. Mr. Jackson agreed, and he said that the project team has already started to explore the best representation of Pittman to use in this project. He emphasized the support for the educational value of celebrating the contributions of a local African American to the arts and sciences. Ms. Tsien said that references to Pittman could continue into the school’s interior; she noted that he was the first Black graduate of Drexel Institute and was married to Booker T. Washington’s daughter.
Dr. Edwards agreed that this project provides an opportunity to celebrate Pittman and to inspire the students, who might not otherwise be aware that their school was designed by a Black man who played a major role in architecture in Washington and elsewhere. She supported including further celebration of him within the building and throughout the project, potentially encouraging students with the story of someone who looks like them and perhaps feels and thinks like them.
Mr. McCrery agreed in supporting the inclusion of Pittman’s portrait on the screen, and he praised Pittman’s design for the 1909 building. He observed that Pittman fought against great odds and institutional and cultural resistance, emerging triumphant and victorious as a professional architect with a successful nationwide practice. He said he has supported past design proposals from Mr. Jacobs, but he would expect the current project to respond to the particular context of this historic building by a celebrated architect. He expressed regret that the proposal does not have a different character responding to this context, observing that it could be any of the designs produced by Mr. Jacobs’ firm. Noting Dr. Edwards’ remarks about the importance of people learning from this architect, he said that the design team has not done so, or has not attempted this; the design does not appear to have drawn much from the architect who is being celebrated. He said that the portrait of Pittman on the screen, gazing out to engage with the arriving students of this educational community, is deeply poetic and the most important part of the design. However, he said that he does not support the rest of the design and would vote against approval of the submission.
Chair Tsien acknowledged Mr. McCrery’s opposition, and she suggested bringing the submission to a vote. Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Ms. Delplace, the Commission approved the concept with the comments provided; Mr. McCrery voted against the motion.
3. CFA 16/JUN/22-5, Dorothy I. Height Elementary School, 1300 Allison Street, NW. Renovations and additions to building and landscape. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the proposal for the Dorothy I. Height Elementary School, which is comprised of two historic buildings: the single-story Washington Health School on the south, built in 1925, and the larger Dennison/Burdick Vocational School on the north, built in 1939. The school is located in the Petworth neighborhood near several other public facilities: Powell Elementary School, MacFarland Middle School, Roosevelt High School, and the Upshur Recreation Center complex. He said the proposal would connect the 1925 and 1939 buildings with a new two-story infill addition that would be constructed in the open paved area that between them. The first floor of the bar-shaped addition would have a series of open commons spaces and office pods, with an occupiable terrace proposed to be accessed from the taller 1939 building. The site is mostly flat on the east, sloping down on the west and northwest; the main entrance would therefore be shifted from the heavily bermed north side of the 1939 building to the flatter eastern side of the new addition to allow for barrier-free access from the street and sidewalk. There are also alterations proposed for the south side of the 1925 building to create an accessible route around the building. He noted the robust consultation with the D.C. Historic Preservation Office and other stakeholders that has resulted in the current proposal. He asked Alex Casey, the project manager for the D.C. Department of General Services, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Casey said this modernization project is designed to accommodate approximately 560 students and would be completed by the 2024 school year. He introduced Chris Ambridge of Cox Graae + Spack Architects to present the design, and he noted that Gabriella Pino-Moreno and Renee Pean of D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) are available to answer any questions.
Mr. Ambridge presented documentation of the existing conditions, indicating the property lines and limits of the proposed work. He said the two existing school buildings are constrained by an awkward assemblage of driveways, parking lots, and steep topography, particularly at the west where the land drops fifteen to twenty feet in a short distance. There are also four heritage trees in this area, two of which are proposed to be removed to accommodate the new program. He said the 1925 building was originally designed to educate students undergoing treatment for tuberculosis, and he noted its distinct plan with projecting classroom wings and large courtyards. This building is characterized by arched windows openings on the north and ornamental detailing throughout; aside from some demising walls, the interior spaces are largely intact. He said the 1939 steel-framed brick building was originally a vocational school for women, and it has strong frontal symmetry and limestone detailing; the most significant extant interior space is the multipurpose gymnasium and its performance stage. He said the basement is underutilized and would be renovated to help meet the proposed program. He added that the two buildings have been operated together as one school since the 1950s.
Mr. Ambridge presented floor plans and elevations of the existing buildings. He indicated several existing features that would be retained in the proposed design, such as original skylights and arched window openings in the 1925 building and the limestone-clad entrance structure on the north side of the 1939 building. He said community consultation and work with DPCS has resulted in a program that requires an additional 25,000 square feet for the facility, as well as increased outdoor learning and play space. A celebration of the legacy of the school’s namesake—influential civil rights activist Dorothy I. Height—is also under discussion, potentially through the commissioning of public artwork on the interior and exterior.
Mr. Ambridge said early design studies explored the location for the new addition, with initial consideration of the west or east sides of the buildings; however, given the programmatic goal for increased outdoor space, the proposal is to locate the addition between the two buildings. The challenges related to this placement include preserving the historic fabric and views of the existing building facades, as well as bringing daylight into the new and reconfigured spaces. The first floor of the addition would have open space flowing between discrete office pods; the second floor would contain program space, with large skylights set between the new addition and the existing buildings to provide ample daylight. The roof of the new addition would have an occupiable terrace. He said the trapezoidal shape of the first-floor office pods and interior planters is inspired by geometries found in nature. On a section drawing, he indicated the connections between the first level of the addition and the lower level of the 1925 building. He said the new addition would be clad with a terracotta rainscreen; secondary facade elements include perforated metal panels, limestone, and brick.
Mr. Ambridge said parking and service area would be consolidated and confined to the site’s south and west sides to free up space for new playgrounds, which would be located along the site’s east side. He noted that student drop-off would likely be accommodated at both the north and east street frontages, along Allison and 13th Streets. The historic berms and lawn on the north side would be retained, and stepped areaways would be created at the base of the 1939 building to bring daylight and egress to the newly utilized basement. The pedestrian walkway along the south side of the 1925 building would be configured to bridge over raingardens while allowing full visibility of the facades of the classroom wings.
Chair Tsien commented that the existing schools are striking and handsome, particularly the 1925 building. She expressed support for the planning of the new space and the general relationship between the addition and the existing buildings; however, she questioned the proposed cladding and roof articulation. While acknowledging the best practice of differentiating old and new fabric, she said there is a substantial discrepancy between the existing and proposed material palettes. She described the terracotta rainscreen as having a contemporary appearance that might soon appear dated, and she suggested using brick instead to better knit the three buildings together. She indicated the strong cornices and regulating lines on the existing buildings and advised bringing the addition into a closer conversation with these visually powerful buildings. Mr. Cook agreed, expressing strong support for the planning of the new addition but questioning the proposed materials, which he said appear very busy; he recommended further study and possibly simplification of the material palette.
Mr. McCrery said he agrees with the previous commentary, and he joined in supporting the sectional planning. For additions to historic buildings, he said he finds that there is a purported need to demonstrate that one’s work is not original, with the irony being that the only way to do that is to make one’s work radically original. He said there is a subtlety that can and should be employed by architects, especially working with excellent existing buildings. However, he described the proposed design as lacking any subtlety; instead, it is a “sledgehammer” that makes a distinction between not-new and all-new fabric rather than an original presentation of architectural design, which would be more sophisticated. He said the idea that an architect must “jump up and down with his architecture” in order to demonstrate that this is a new or different building or architect seems impolite; this is not what one would do when coming into a setting of human beings, and it is not what one should do when coming into a set of established buildings.
Mr. Moore also expressed support for the sectional planning of the new addition; he said he agrees with the previous commentary and identified what he calls the “hyphen problem.” While he expressed support for the incorporation of the trapezoid forms at the first floor of the new addition, he said more design work is necessary to respect the historic buildings and make the entrance more welcoming. He commented that the stepped landscape element within the approach to the main entrance appears to create a tripping hazard, and he recommended revising the seating profiles to be more welcoming. Regarding the architecture of the addition, particularly at the east entrance, he said the proposed material palette appears abrasive against the existing red brick, and the terracotta appears to be “floating out of nowhere.” He strongly advised reconsidering the material selection and the use of color. He also questioned the visually prominent angled rooftop canopy and its compatibility with the historic buildings, commenting that it is important for the new building’s profile to be respectful of the two historic buildings.
Ms. Delplace agreed with the positive assessments of the sectional planning. For the site, she observed that a large bike rack would be provided for cyclists, and she asked where pick-up and drop-off would be accommodated for students arriving by car. Mr. Ambridge said the primary drop-off would be on the east side of the complex along 13th Street, with secondary drop-off at the north along Allison Street; there would also be drop-off for the early childhood center along the drive aisle of the 1925 building. Ms. Delplace noted the concentration of schools in this area, and she recommended additional planning for vehicular pick-up and drop-off. She expressed concern that the generously paved entrance walk would connect with the much narrower public sidewalk; in addition, she observed that the wide staircases at the south are adjacent to play areas. She therefore suggested further study of the site’s internal circulation as well as its connections and transitions to the larger public realm, particularly for peak student arrival and departure times.
Dr. Edwards noted that a photograph in the presentation mistakenly depicts Judge Constance Baker Motley instead of Dorothy Height.
Chair Tsien summarized the Commission’s strong support for the planning and disposition of the new addition with several comments on the landscape and access; however, the Commission is not supportive of the proposed material palette and profile of the addition. Secretary Luebke noted that concept approval would entail endorsement of the scope, scale, character, and general materials. He said Ms. Delplace’s comments were quite focused and could be incorporated into an approval; however, many issues were raised concerning the character and material expression of the addition. He said the Commission should decide whether to approve the concept with conditions, such as requesting a more brick-like cladding material and further study of the roof canopy, or ask that the project be revised and resubmitted for another concept-level review.
Chair Tsien suggested the Commission approve the concept with the strong recommendation to restudy the materials and profile; Mr. McCrery offered a motion to approve the project subject to this recommendation, agreeing that the issue goes beyond studying the cladding. Mr. Cook seconded the motion with the additional request that the project team incorporate elements that more fully convey an understanding of the history and contributions of Dorothy Height. The Commission adopted this action.
At this point, Mr. Stroik departed for the remainder of the meeting.
E. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
1. SL 22-105, 1735 New York Avenue, NW. American Institute of Architects national headquarters. Renovations and alterations to building and landscape. Concept. (Previous: SL 22-074, April 2022) Secretary Luebke introduced the submission for revisions and alterations to the building and landscape of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) national headquarters; he noted the project was previously reviewed in April 2022. At that meeting, the Commission gave its general support for the concept to renovate the 50-year-old building and its site, commending the AIA for its intention that the project serve as a model for sustainability, equity, and innovation. However, the Commission did not take an action, instead providing several recommendations for developing the design. These recommendations included requests to study the solar panel assembly on the building to be more emphatically expressive of the biophilic intent for the project, and to refine the landscape’s trellised area and ramped walkway, with the comment that a welcoming, universal accessibility should be emphasized throughout the project. He noted that the applicant has conducted a workshop with universal design consultants to inform some of the design revisions. He asked architect Conor Dunn of EHDD to begin the presentation; Mr. Dunn introduced the project team and asked landscape architects Alma Du Solier and Ann Salerno of Hood Design Studio to present the revised landscape design.
Ms. Du Solier said the presentation compares the design from April with the current design, which includes revisions to the grading, path alignments, materials, and outdoor structures. She said a goal of the landscape design is to create a cohesive and active space between the historic Octagon House and the AIA headquarters building while preserving desirable elements of the existing site, such as the mature oak trees. The layering of individual landscape materials is intended to create an overall texture, avoiding the overuse of one material and relating the landscape to the materiality of the two buildings. A diverse planting plan that responds to the varying microclimates is proposed to replace the existing monocultural landscape.
Ms. Du Solier said the design team was asked to improve the efficiency and directness of the proposed sloped walkways, which would lead from the sidewalks at both the New York Avenue and 18th Street entrances up to the headquarters building’s entrance. In response, the grading leading from 18th Street has been refined to provide a more direct pathway to the building, while the zigzag ramp from New York Avenue has been expanded and extended to make this entrance route more welcoming. The zigzag ramp is now proposed to be a boardwalk of recycled ipê wood instead of concrete; the boardwalk would have a lighter touch on the land, allowing for the protection of tree roots. The landings at the ramp switchbacks have been refined in response to the suggestion that they be more of a destination. Companion seating would be included throughout the site as suggested by the accessibility consultant. The terrace seating at the rear of the Octagon has also been reconfigured to better connect to the sloped walkways and surrounding grades.
Ms. Du Solier said new wayfinding elements made of dark sandstone would replace the lighter concrete elements that appeared to impede access in the previous version; the darker elements are intended to have a character that feels massive and therefore complementary to the Brutalist architecture of the headquarters building. One of the elements would form the palindromic logo “AIA.” Plantings would be brought closer to the building by intermingling them with the sandstone elements. She said this sandstone may also be incorporated into the renovated building lobby to draw people in from the outdoors. She noted that the landscape concept of interpreting or honoring people related to the site is still under study.
Ms. Du Solier said the central trellis structure within the landscape has been refined to be more similar to the proposed solar panels on the headquarters building’s facade. The natural wood material for the trellis is intended to connect to the boardwalk and is in deliberate contrast to the building. The brick from the existing terrace, which is proposed to be demolished, would be salvaged for use in a new accessible paving design beneath the trellis. The previously proposed water feature has been eliminated from the design, allowing the trellis area to be a gathering place for events. She said that new trees are not proposed at the trellis area because the plaza serves as the roof structure for underground space. She concluded by noting that the new landscape would be a departure from the monolithic character of the existing landscape through the use of tactile, natural, and approachable materials that complement one another and are compatible with the Octagon and headquarters building. This concept is intended to connect to the overall biophilic approach of the project.
Christian Wopperer of EHDD noted the intentional aesthetic similarity of the trellis and the solar panel armature; he indicated the shared tectonic language of the trellis’s vertical members and the brackets on the solar panel armature. He said the details of the trellis, particularly the rafter-like parts, would be refined in shape, size, and method of assembly. The proposed solar panel arrays on the headquarters building facade have been revised to include large diagonal members that would frame the entrance and lobby, which would become a more open, multi-use forum. He said these diagonal members are required to carry the load of the solar panels down to structure, and would also serve to emphasize this as a new architectural layer set apart from the Brutalist facade of the headquarters building. The armature has also been designed to be lighter and therefore have lower embodied carbon, which is an overall goal of the project. The horizontal intermediate beams and brackets supporting each photovoltaic panel are more visible in the current design. In addition, the solar panels have been refined to convey a more gestural movement across the facades. He said a revised frit pattern would span the fenestration of the upper five floors facing New York Avenue; in addition to this macro-pattern being legible from afar, there would be a micro-pattern legible from within the building. The patterns are inspired by the Washington, D.C., Color School and the geometric abstraction of grids by artists such as William T. Williams and Gene Davis. A motif of the L’Enfant Plan at different scales is featured, and the lettering “AIA” may also be incorporated into the motif. He said the penthouse screen, which was slightly raised in height because of technical constraints, was recently approved by the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment.
Chair Tsien thanked the design team for its presentation and invited comments from the Commission members. Mr. Moore ask for the width of the zigzag sloped walkway; Ms. Salerno said the width has been increased from five feet to six feet. Mr. Moore said the walkway design is much improved, citing the simplified alignment. However, he observed that there are several areas where the land drops off immediately next to the walkway, which would give people the uneasy feeling that the walkway is even narrower than proposed. Citing conversations with people who use wheelchairs or mobility aids, he said the boardwalk texture of the walkway may also contribute to this feeling of unease and the sense that this is a secondary or more difficult path. Indicating the rendering that depicts people walking side-by-side up the wide stairway near New York Avenue, he emphasized that the zigzag walkway should have a commensurate generosity. He acknowledged the many site constraints but said these conceptual and technical issues require further study. Ms. Du Solier said details such as the metal walkway edging are included in other documentation but have not been incorporated into the presentation renderings.
Mr. McCrery agreed with Mr. Moore that the walkway’s six-foot width would be insufficiently generous, and he commented that a boardwalk of recycled wood would be uncomfortable for someone in a wheelchair. He added that wood seems to be an inferior material not commonly found in the material palette of Washington architecture and landscapes, which already allows for a substantial amount of invention. He noted that the Southwest waterfront redevelopment, The Wharf, replaced boardwalk with an exquisite array of stone pavers. While characterizing the planting scheme as pretty and appropriate for the site, he said there has not been much improvement in the overall landscape design, which still appears busy and cluttered.
Ms. Delplace said she agrees with Mr. Moore and Mr. McCrery. She commented that the proposed plantings are quite commanding, and that the space requires this level of strength and fullness. She also expressed support for the simplification of pedestrian circulation. However, while acknowledging the complexity in navigating the topography in an elegant way, she said the ramp entrance at New York Avenue does not have the feeling of a front door, but appears instead to be a side entrance. She emphasized that this threshold should be as gracious as the adjacent stairs to achieve truly universal access. Regarding the trellis, she said the previous design’s vertical stacking and rising gesture, as well as its resemblance to a tree trellis, commanded the space with the massive headquarters building as a backdrop; the flatter, less dynamic expression of the current design is weaker and does not read as well.
Chair Tsien said she finds that the design team has listened to the Commission’s previous suggestions and has made very thoughtful and positive changes to the design. She said it would be helpful to give the team a clear direction in this review rather than revisit previous advice and send them in circles. She agreed that the walkway threshold seems narrow and could be widened. However, she disagreed that recycled ipê wood is a poor material for the walkway, citing its hardy quality and ability to be beautifully finished; however, the boardwalk could benefit from refinements, perhaps by varying its width. Overall, she said the revisions have resulted in a better design, noting the cohesion between the colors of the brick and sandstone walls and the potential color of the ipê. She said this cohesion creates both a richness in the landscape and a sense that individual elements do not stand out from one another. She said she understands Ms. Delplace’s comments regarding the trellis, but she recalled that the previous version was deeply criticized as being overpowering. She said the trellis’s presence could be pushed up a bit more, but it would not be fair to ask for more consideration of the previous design. Regarding the building, she commended the improvements that have given more presence to the solar panels in order to make them appear “less polite.” She said the fritting could be more powerful, and this feature could be studied in mockups.
Dr. Edwards said people who may be accompanying those in wheelchairs or using a cane might need areas to pause along the sloped walkway, which covers a greater distance than the more direct route of the stairs; she suggested consideration of additional places for pause. She expressed support for the design of the landscape elements, but said she continues to question the trellis design and whether its existence will restrict the flexibility of this open space.
Mr. Cook said the experience of using the walkway will be successful if the landscape provides year-round visual interest, and he asked for more information on how the landscape would appear throughout the four seasons. Ms. Du Solier said the planting palette is not finalized; her team is collaborating with a local firm to specify plantings that will thrive on the site. She said the idea is that there would be discrete planting zones based on microclimates; for example, fern-like plants would be used in areas of shade, and blooming plants would accent areas with greater sun exposure. This would be a departure from the existing monoculture of turf.
Observing that the trellis is being designed by the project’s landscape architect, Mr. McCrery suggested that the project architects could be asked to design the trellis, citing the similarity in appearance between the trellis and the solar panels, as well as the marked contrast in the degree of resolution and artistic sophistication.
Chair Tsien observed that the Commission is in a similar place to the last review, with some members requesting further development and others, such as herself, feeling that the concept is firm and solid. She described the revised design as responsive to the previous review, and she therefore proposed that the Commission approve the concept with the comments provided. Secretary Luebke summarized that the Commission members support the general location and character of the design elements, but that certain details still need more work, such as the width and materials of the zigzag walkway. He said most members seem to support the location of the trellis, but the degree of resemblance to the building may require further development and review. He said the staff believes it would be reasonable to approve the concept with the expectation that these details would be developed further.
Mr. Moore offered a motion to approve the concept design, with the request for further study of the trellis, as well as the width and details of the zigzag walkway to make it as generous as possible. Upon a second by Ms. Delplace, the Commission adopted this action. Secretary Luebke suggested that the project return for review in the design development phase; Chair Tsien agreed.
2. SL 22-102, 600 5th Street, NW. Office building (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority headquarters). Renovations and additions for commercial office use. Final. (Previous: SL 22-025, 21 Oct 2021) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
Old Georgetown Act
OG 22-122, Dumbarton Oaks, 1703 32nd Street, NW. New two-story building. Concept. The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
Chair Tsien departed at this point, and Vice Chair Edwards presided for the remainder of the meeting.
F. U.S. Mint
1. CFA 16/JUN/22-6, Congressional Gold Medal to honor the United States Capitol Police and Those Who Protected the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Design for a gold medal. Final. Secretary Luebke introduced the design alternatives for a Congressional Gold Medal honoring the protection of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. In accordance with the authorizing legislation, four medals will be struck for presentation to the U.S. Capitol Police, the D.C. Metropolitan Police, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Architect of the Capitol. He asked Megan Sullivan, senior design specialist in the Office of Design Management at the U.S. Mint, to present the alternatives.
Ms. Sullivan summarized the authorizing legislation and the role of the U.S. Capitol Police in protecting the Capitol and its occupants, including the legislators, staff, journalists, and visitors. As described in the legislation, the violent attack by a mob of insurrectionists on January 6, 2021, resulted in the death of two police officers and several members of the public, along with injuries to many others; another police officer was killed the following April. The design elements of the medal are intended to be emblematic of the service and sacrifice of those who protected the Capitol; the Mint’s liaison for developing the designs is an official of the U.S. Capitol Police.
Ms. Sullivan presented five alternatives for the obverse design and twelve alternatives for the reverse. The obverse designs all featured the Capitol dome with the building’s flag at half mast, as well as the inscription “January 6, 2021.” Elements for the reverse designs included the two service badges of the police departments or the depiction of George Washington from the painting by Constantino Brumidi on the ceiling of the Capitol’s rotunda. She said that obverse #2 and reverse #6C were the preferences of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, the Speaker of the House, and the police departments; she noted that the border of obverse #2 features the ring of windows around the rotunda, and reverse #6C features the U.S. flag along with the two service badges.
Mr. McCrery observed that the designs are shown as simple circles, as if they were for coins; he asked if this medal would include a suspension bar for a ribbon to drape from the wearer’s neck, or a pin for attaching it to the wearer’s clothing. Ms. Sullivan clarified that medals produced by the U.S. Mint are simple circles, and these are not intended to be worn. She added that the gold medals would have a three-inch diameter, and bronze duplicates would be struck in three-inch and 1.5-inch diameters.
Ms. Delplace offered support for obverse #6, commenting that the simplicity of this design is preferable to the border of windows on obverse #2. Mr. McCrery agreed, although he observed that obverse #6 brings the Capitol’s architectural details to the edge of the medal, which may pose technical difficulties in striking the medal. Ms. Delplace emphasized that the less complicated design of obverse #6 provides a sense of breathing room; she said that this quieter obverse would be a good combination with the very detailed design of reverse #6C, which includes many design elements. Mr. McCrery observed that the expansive area of sky around the Capitol dome in obverse #6 contributes to the design’s sense of openness; another advantage of obverse #6 is the depiction of the Capitol’s east facade that includes the entire pediment and portico as well as part of the entry staircase, in contrast to the more limited depiction in other alternatives. He suggested supporting obverse #6 if the design could be adjusted to allow for a border area to avoid technical problems at the medal’s edge; Ms. Delplace suggested leaving this issue for the Mint to resolve, which Mr. McCrery said would be satisfactory.
Ms. Delplace said that an additional advantage of obverse #6 is that the Statue of Freedom, a familiar and important feature at the top of the Capitol dome, would be silhouetted against the sky; she said that this would be a more powerful backdrop in comparison to the other alternatives, such as the ornate border of obverse #2 where the statue seems slightly lost. Mr. McCrery agreed. Mr. Cook said that he has been persuaded that obverse #6 would be preferable to obverse #2; he added that the important inscription “January 6, 2021” is clearly legible at the top of the composition in obverse #6, while it is somewhat lost within the bottom border in obverse #2.
Mr. Moore joined in supporting obverse #6, which he said is a more promising composition because it does not have the distracting border of a colonnade and windows as seen in obverse #2. For pairing obverse #6 with reverse #6C, he suggested coordination to reconcile the fonts of the inscriptions. Mr. McCrery agreed, commenting that the seriousness of the medal’s subject deserves a more “noble” font for the reverse’s inscriptions—“Act of Congress 2021” and “Honoring the Service and Sacrifice of Those Who Protected the U.S. Capitol.” He said the depicted lettering seems like a font that would be used for a NASA commemoration, whereas a serif font would be more appropriate. He added that the lettering within the service badges should be whatever is normally used for these emblems.
Dr. Edwards said that she agrees with the recommendations of the other Commission members. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission recommended obverse #6 and reverse #6C, with the adjustments that were discussed.
2. CFA 16/JUN/22-7, 2024 American Innovation One Dollar Coin Program. Designs for the sixth set of coins: Illinois and Alabama. Final. (Previous: CFA 20/MAY/21-6) Secretary Luebke introduced the design alternatives for two coins in the American Innovation series, which honors innovation and innovators from each of the states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories. The series began with an introductory coin in 2018, continuing through 2032, with four coins issued per year. Today’s submission is for the Illinois and Alabama coins; designs for the two other coins to be issued in 2024, Maine and Missouri, will be submitted later this year. The designs are only for the reverse; the continuing obverse for the series is an adaptation of the iconic Statue of Liberty design that has been used on the reverse of the series of presidential one-dollar coins. He noted that the American Innovation coins are non-circulating; they will be available for sale. He asked Megan Sullivan of the U.S. Mint to present the alternatives.
Ms. Sullivan said that the governor of each state was asked to propose up to three design concepts, subject to approval by the Secretary of the Treasury; the Mint then asked the artists to create designs based on the approved concepts. She said that the Commission does not need to choose a theme but can simply recommend the design that would result in the best coin. The Mint has worked with liaisons and experts from each state in developing the presented designs.
Ms. Sullivan said that two themes have been developed for the Illinois coin: the steel plow and the Eder-Berry biopsy attachment. She described the history of the steel plow, which first became commercially successful in 1837; it was much more successful than the traditional wood plow in farming the dense soil of the Midwestern prairie. The steel plow had wide-ranging effects, encouraging greater immigration to the Midwest and sparking the industrial age in agriculture. The subject of the second theme, a biopsy attachment, was developed by Dr. Leonidas H. Berry to improve the gastroscopic procedure for obtaining biopsies from the upper digestive tract, leading to improved detection of gastric cancer and other diseases. Dr. Berry began his gastroenterology career at an all-Black hospital in Chicago, then opened his own clinic in 1937 during an era of segregated medicine. He developed the Eder-Berry attachment in 1955, using suction to improve the safety and effectiveness of tissue collection.
Ms. Sullivan presented eight reverse designs for the steel plow theme, followed by seven reverse designs for the Eder-Berry biopsy attachment. She noted that the Illinois governor’s office has given a preference for the theme of the steel plow, without giving a preference for a specific design; alternative #1 is the preference of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, depicting a plow attached to a beam and braces, with a field of soil below and bluestem prairie grass in the background.
Mr. McCrery commented that the biopsy theme is interesting, but the presented designs do not result in great coinage; he suggested that the Commission focus its discussion on the designs featuring the steel plow. He said that the inclusion of people generally results in a more compelling design, providing the opportunity to see the steel plow in use; he therefore offered support for alternatives #2, 4, 6, 6A, and 6B.
Ms. Delplace commented that alternative #1 is elegant; the composition allows people to appreciate the interesting details of the plow, which is a part of American history that most people don’t think about. She said that this beautiful, striking close-up view of the plow would be preferable to the alternatives that more broadly depict the act of plowing. Mr. Moore agreed, observing that alternative #1 includes the details of the plow and the context of vegetation, a compelling combination that is not seen in the other alternatives. He said this design strongly conveys an association with Illinois and more generally with the Midwest, and he supported the font for the inscription “Illinois.” He also agreed that the biopsy attachment would be too challenging to communicate in a coin design.
Mr. McCrery said he has been persuaded to support alternative #1, but he expressed concern with the “curious” font for Illinois; he observed that the dropped leg of the letter “N” makes the following letters look smaller and separated from the word, particularly because only the last several letters are set against the background of prairie grass. He suggested a more conventional serif font for “Illinois” and a sans-serif font for “Steel Plow” and “United States of America.”
Mr. Cook agreed in supporting the theme of the steel plow and the composition of alternative #1, which places the plow directly in front of the viewer. He acknowledged that the lettering of “Illinois” could produce the optical illusion described by Mr. McCrery, which is difficult to ignore after it has been pointed out. He also observed that the plow in alternative #1 appears to be merely resting on the earth rather than cutting into it.
Dr. Edwards commented that the image of the plow in alternative #1 is very powerful, with striking detail and a contrast with the grasses behind the plow. Noting Mr. McCrery’s initial preferences, she said that alternative #6B effectively conveys the difficulty of plowing the land, but she agreed with the comments of the other Commission members in supporting alternative #1. She suggested that the font of “Illinois” in alternative #6B could be considered for this text in alternative #1; Mr. McCrery supported this solution.
Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Ms. Delplace, the Commission recommended reverse #1 for the Illinois coin, subject to further study of the font for the word “Illinois.”
Ms. Sullivan said that a single theme has been developed for the Alabama coin: the Saturn V rocket, which was designed and built at the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. The Saturn V rocket was developed for the Apollo space program; thirteen of these rockets were launched between 1967 and 1972. With a height equivalent to a 36-story building, the Saturn V remains the tallest, heaviest, and most powerful rocket put into use, and it is the only launch vehicle to carry people beyond low orbit of the earth. She presented eleven reverse designs for the Alabama coin; she noted the preference of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee for alternative #1, and the unranked preference of the Alabama governor’s office for alternatives #1 and #2.
Mr. McCrery offered support for alternative #5 because it shows both the earth and the moon. Mr. Cook suggested alternative #10 as a powerful design with a strong graphic composition; the other Commission members agreed, commenting that alternative #10 gives a sense of hearing the rocket’s launch and feeling it in one’s bones. Dr. Edwards added that alternative #10 has the essence of alternative #1 but with a greater feeling of the rocket’s power.
While supporting alternative #10, Mr. McCrery observed that the exhaust smoke around the engine is not billowing outward, which is a strong feature of alternative #1; he suggested adding the billowing exhaust to alternative #10, curling up the right side of the coin. He said that this adjustment would give a stronger sense of the amazing appearance of the rocket when it is just beginning its liftoff while seeming to be partially engulfed in smoke. Dr. Edwards asked how this adjustment would be reconciled with the vertical text “United States of America” toward the right side of the coin; Mr. McCrery said that the Mint’s engravers could resolve this issue, which Dr. Edwards said would be satisfactory.
Mr. Moore said that an additional advantage of alternative #10 is the strong placement of the text “Saturn V” within the exhaust at the base of the rocket; he observed that the name of the rocket is not included in alternative #1. He said that the close view of the rocket in alternative #10 also allows people to see its details, which strengthens the broader theme of this coin series to illustrate innovation.
Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission recommended reverse #10 for the Alabama coin, with the request to study a more dynamic treatment of billowing exhaust, which may require repositioning of the text “United States of America.”
3. CFA 16/JUN/22-8, Native American One Dollar Coin Program. Reverse design for coin to be issued in 2024. Final. (Previous: CFA 21/APR/22-7). Secretary Luebke introduced the design alternatives for the reverse of the 2024 issue of the Native American One Dollar Coin, an ongoing series that began in 2009 with a new reverse design each year; the continuing obverse features a portrait of Sacagawea with her infant son. The theme for the 2024 reverse will be the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, which gave citizenship to all American Indians born in the United States. He asked Megan Sullivan of the U.S. Mint to present the alternatives.
Ms. Sullivan summarized the authorizing legislation, and she noted that the 2024 theme would celebrate the centennial of the Indian Citizenship Act. She said this act did not require American Indians to give up their tribal citizenship to become U.S. citizens, allowing for the preservation of tribal identity and communal tribal property; the act gave American Indians the rights and protections of U.S. citizenship while adding to the nation’s diversity of thought and culture. She added that the enactment of the law is attributed in part to the recognition of the military service of thousands of American Indians during World War I.
Ms. Sullivan presented ten alternative designs for the reverse, and she listed the preferences of the various stakeholders and review bodies. Alternative #1A is the first choice of the Congressional Native American Caucus of the House of Representatives, and the second choice of the National Congress of the American Indian. Alternative #2A is the second choice of the Congressional Native American Caucus. Alternative #6 is the first choice of the National Congress of the American Indian. Alternative #8 is the preference of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee. She noted that many of the designs feature an eagle staff, which is an American Indian symbol of respect, honor, and patriotism; the depicted eagle staffs are generalized rather than specific to an individual tribe.
Mr. Cook asked about the significance of the number of feathers on the eagle staff. Ms. Sullivan responded that the number does not have significance; the eagle staffs differ in style and appearance among the various tribes. Mr. Cook observed that some designs include the American flag, which raises the question of whether the flag configuration from 1924 or the current flag design should be used. Ms. Delplace asked if every tribe uses some form of the eagle staff. Roger Vasquez of the Mint responded that these staffs are very common and are often used as part of ceremonies, but he was unsure whether every tribe uses them. Ms. Delplace commented that the more abstract symbol of feathers would be preferable, in order to suggest a connection to the spirit world that would be meaningful to all tribes; she therefore recommended alternative #8, which would not be linked to any specific tribe.
Mr. Moore observed that the eagle staff in alternatives #1A and #2A is cut off at the bottom of the coin, which he said seems strange; he asked if the staff is typically shown or displayed in a more complete form. Mr. Vasquez responded that the staffs are depicted in nearly their complete form; he added that the subject-matter experts consulted by the Mint did not raise any concern with this cut-off depiction, and this is the type of issue that would typically be raised by these experts.
Mr. McCrery said that it is difficult for the Commission to know whether the selection of a design with a particular eagle staff would be perceived as leaving out some tribes, which would be problematic. Secretary Luebke asked for a description of the Mint’s rigorous research phase in developing the content for the designs; Ms. Sullivan said that this Native American coin series is among the most thoroughly reviewed of the Mint’s programs, involving the several groups that have been mentioned a well as experts at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
Vice Chair Edwards observed that four of the ten designs have been highlighted in the presentation as being among the preferences of the other review groups; she asked if the remaining designs have been eliminated from the Commission’s consideration. Secretary Luebke clarified that the Commission can consider any of the submitted designs; the Commission often tries to work with the design preferences of other review groups, but this is not required. As already seen in the preceding Mint cases on today’s agenda, the Commission sometimes has a design reason for recommending an alternative that was not a preference of other reviewers.
Mr. Moore observed that alternatives #1A and #2A depict a background landscape that appears to be representative of the American Southwest, such as Arizona or Utah. The other two highlighted preferences—alternatives #6 and #8—do not have this implied geographic placement, which he said is a better choice because of the importance of acknowledging that Native Americans lived everywhere in the present-day United States, not just in the West. He said that the coin design should communicate to Native Americans, and to the broader general public, an understanding of where Native Americans have lived; he therefore recommended against alternatives #1A and #2A, and he suggested considering only #6 and #8 from among the highlighted preferences.
Mr. Cook expressed agreement with this reasoning, and he offered support for alternative #8 due to its simplicity, citing the clarity and elegance of its design. Mr. McCrery agreed, commenting that alternative #8 successfully achieves the programmatic objectives for the coin while avoiding the potentially problematic associations of other alternatives. He also noted that the flag within alternative #8 is a 48-star flag, corresponding to the number of states in 1924; he said that this seems to be an appropriate choice, observing that the design’s text references the 1924 year of the Indian Citizenship Act.
Ms. Delplace joined in supporting alternative #8, expressing agreement that the Southwestern landscape and the cut-off eagle staff are problematic in alternatives #1A and #2A. She said the compositional treatment of the eagle staff does not seem respectful, and these designs would need to include a very deliberate transition from the staff’s feathers to the edge of the coin; however, removing the problematic elements from these designs would result in a lopsided composition.
Vice Chair Edwards supported the comments of the other Commission members, agreeing that alternative #8 would not be perceived as excluding anyone. She said that the Commission does not know enough about the symbolism of the eagle staff to recommend any of the designs that feature a version of it. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Cook, the Commission recommended reverse #8 for the 2024 Native American one-dollar coin.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:06 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA