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. James McCrery
Hon. Justin Garrett Moore
Hon. Duncan Stroik
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Sarah Batcheler, Assistant Secretary
A. Approval of the minutes of the 19 January meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the January meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Cook, the Commission approved the minutes.
B. Dates of next meetings. Secretary Luebke presented the dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 16 March, 20 April, and 18 May 2023.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Secretary Luebke introduced the two appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Hart reported that the consent calendar has four projects; the only change to the draft is to note the receipt of supplemental drawings that clarify the antennas to be removed and replaced on the Hubert H. Humphrey Building, with no change to the proposal’s total number of antennas. Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission approved the revised Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler said that seven cases listed on the draft appendix have been removed and are being held open for consideration in a future month (case numbers SL 23-034, 23-054, 23-059, 23-063, 23-064, 23-065, and 23-066). Other changes to the draft appendix are limited to minor wording changes and the notation of dates for the receipt of supplemental materials. The recommendations for four projects are subject to further coordination with the applicants, and she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations when the outstanding issues are resolved. Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Dr. Edwards, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act Appendix. (See agenda item II.F for an additional Shipstead-Luce Act submission.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Amos reported that the only change to the draft appendix is to note the receipt of supplemental materials for two submissions; the appendix includes a total of 34 projects. Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Mr. Stroik, the Commission approved the revised Old Georgetown Act Appendix.
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider item II.D. Secretary Luebke said that the Commission had identified this submission as one that could be approved without a presentation.
D. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 16/FEB/23-3, Smithsonian Institution Building, 1000 Jefferson Drive, SW. Revitalization of the Historic Core (Revitalize Castle Phase 1) – building and landscape renovation and modernization. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/SEP/22-2) Secretary Luebke reported that the Smithsonian Institution has separated the project into two phases; the current submission is the final design for the first phase, which includes below-grade improvements to the Smithsonian Castle. He noted the Commission’s previous review of the project, with most issues relating to the above-grade work, which will be submitted as the second phase.
Chair Tsien confirmed that the Commission has previously reviewed a detailed presentation of this project, which gives it confidence in supporting the current submission. Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission approved the proposed final design for the first phase.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B.
B. National Park Service
CFA 16/FEB/23-1, Tidal Basin and West Potomac Park Seawall Rehabilitation. Repair and reconstruction of the bulkhead/seawall and landscape. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the proposal to repair and reconstruct the bulkhead, seawall, and associated landscapes at the Potomac River and Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park. The project would rehabilitate the extensive park and environmental infrastructure that dates from the late 1800s and the early 1900s, originally built to reclaim and stabilize land from the silted flats of the Potomac River for the development of what is now West Potomac Park and the Tidal Basin. Over time, the walls have settled into the underlying fill and have been eroded by rising sea levels; they are overtopped in some areas on a near daily basis by tidewater. Significant expanses of adjacent land are inundated after both common and extreme weather events, threatening historic resources and infrastructure. Because of the decrease in elevation above mean sea level, which itself is rising, the overtopped areas do not drain very quickly or effectively. He said an additional concern is that because of the popularity and importance of the park and landscape, the shoreline soils have been compacted by many decades of heavy pedestrian use.
Secretary Luebke said the overall goal of the project is to return the bulkheads and seawalls to their original functional heights relative to the mean water level. He said there are 6,800 linear feet of failing walls, including the Tidal Basin from the Inlet Bridge to the Jefferson Memorial on the east, and around to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) Memorial on the west, as well as the full length of the West Potomac Park seawall from the Inlet Bridge to Memorial Bridge. He noted the project extends inland to the elevated waterfront entrance plaza of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Because the walls were constructed and modified in many phases over many decades, they vary in the size, shape, and character of the stone; another project goal is to consolidate the character of the seawalls and bulkhead with a more uniform and continuous treatment. He said many of these topics and technical issues have been raised during Section 106 historic preservation consultation; however, there are still considerations about reusing the existing stone and the resulting character of the walls, as well as the impacts on the surrounding landscape. He asked Peter May, associate regional director for lands and planning for the National Capital Area of the National Park Service (NPS), to begin the presentation.
Mr. May said the project is simple in concept but complicated in the details. The proposal would restore the existing seawalls to their original functional height, which in some cases would be substantially higher than the current conditions. He said the proposal addresses the worst sections of the seawalls and bulkheads, closest to the Inlet Bridge, as they are in the most dire condition. He noted the current scope is part of a broader initiative to repair the seawalls at all of the NPS properties along the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers; this broader project would be undertaken as funding becomes available, and the later phases would take into account the lessons learned from the current project. He said the new walls are expected to last for many decades, and the foundations are designed to accommodate additional wall height if necessary. He said Tammy Stidham, deputy associate regional director for lands and planning at the NPS, is available to answer questions, and he introduced Margaret Boshek, a coastal engineer with the firm Moffatt & Nichol, to present the design.
Ms. Boshek said the presentation covers the project scope, the historic seawall construction, the general concept design, and the specific work proposed for the Tidal Basin and Potomac River shorelines. She noted the project has been in development for a year, and a design-build team will be contracted soon. She indicated the project scope on a map, adding that although parts of the project are structurally stable because of a rehabilitation project from the 1950s, the remainder is consistently overtopped and has degraded. She said dredged material from the Potomac River was used to create West Potomac Park in the late 19th century, with the fill held in place by dry-stacked stone seawalls. The walls were constructed to rise six feet above the mean low water mark; however, based on records dating from the early 1900s, the sea level rise has resulted in a 1.5-foot increase in the level of the river, which is expected to continue to increase. In all of the seawall and bulkhead conditions, the foundations are mounds of riprap sitting on the dredged soil, which is rather soft, resulting in settlement of the walls and landscape across the site, with a range of three to four feet at the Jefferson Memorial. The combination of sea level rise and settlement of the walls has created almost daily nuisance flooding in sections of the project area. This has caused washing away of soil, poor conditions for the vegetation, and unusable spaces for visitors.
Ms. Boshek said the project is divided into four zones: West Potomac North, West Potomac South, Tidal Basin East, and Tidal Basin West. The oldest seawall is at West Potomac South; these original dry-stacked walls are in a dilapidated state, with riprap dating from the 1970s and 1990s set in the landscape behind the walls to slow erosion. The second-oldest section is Tidal Basin West; this dry-stacked stone has been modified with the addition of mortar and a drainage system. A concrete capstone was added to raise the bulkhead, with the adjacent ground raised to create a walkway. She said vegetation growing through the gaps in the stonework is another reason mortar was added to the face of the bulkhead here, giving it an appearance different from other zones.
Ms. Boshek said the third-oldest bulkhead section is at the Jefferson Memorial, installed in the late 1930s and early 1940s during the construction of the memorial. To minimize the vegetation growth seen elsewhere along the Tidal Basin, this bulkhead was constructed of cast-in-place concrete with a veneer of stone salvaged from the bulkhead that was replaced. She indicated that the stone has fallen out in many places and the mortar has broken down, although there is indeed less vegetation. She noted that this area has the most overtopping and nuisance flooding. She said the most recent wall is at West Potomac North; this seawall was replaced by the local electric company, Pepco, in the late 1950s to early 1960s following work performed in the area. Test pits have indicated the wall is composed of a cast-in-place concrete back-up with a stone veneer different in character from the other seawalls. She noted some of the earlier wall still exists under this replacement wall, but its extent is unknown.
Ms. Boshek presented the project goals. The first is to rehabilitate the walls and return them to their historic appearance. Next is to provide sheet-flow stormwater drainage, which is a gravity-flow system that drains directly off the land and into the adjacent water body, either the Tidal Basin or Potomac River. Third, once the walls are raised, the land behind the walls must also be elevated, which then requires restoring the landscape. The existing vegetation is in poor condition and cannot be preserved because of the constant flooding; it will therefore be replaced with historically accurate trees that can survive in the location. Another goal is to extend the life of the walls, which have survived for 140 years, using modern engineering techniques that have a longer lifecycle with lower maintenance. Finally, the design is intended to be adaptable in response to climate change. While the walls would need to be much higher to protect the land for the next 200 or 500 years, the proposal intends to prevent everyday flooding and to protect against some extreme events. The structural design includes a relieving platform that allows for the additional weight of higher walls.
Ms. Boshek said the NPS provided several directives that have guided the proposal. The design would maintain the historic alignment of the walls, avoiding impeding any flow of water along the Potomac River or through the Tidal Basin. The design also intends to maintain the historic look of the walls with the appearance of dry-stacked stone; this would be achieved through means such as salvaging and reusing the historic stone and recessing the mortar. The third directive is to elevate the seawalls and bulkheads to reestablish the historic functional height. The original walls were six feet above mean low water; now that this level has increased, the walls would be a raised approximately 4.75 feet to reestablish the six-foot functional height. To prevent future settlement of the walls and land, piles would be installed down to bedrock to hold the wall system in place and allow for additional weight of potential future additions.
Ms. Boshek described the appearance of the existing walls in each zone. In West Potomac South, the stones are mostly rectangular in proportion, with a ratio of 1:1 to 6:1, with height dimensions ranging from four to six inches. They have a uniform color with little variation; the exposed face of the stone is rough, while the sides look more chiseled or cut. In the Tidal Basin zones, the height range of the stones increases to ten to twelve inches, and clear horizontal lines are seen throughout. While mortar is now recommended for the rebuilt walls in the riverine environment, it would be recessed to recreate the appearance of dry-stacked stone, with pinning and chinking kept to a minimum. She added that some existing walls do not fit these design requirements, and the proposed design would permit a range of existing appearances to be incorporated into the new walls. She said there would not be enough salvaged stones to use in the new walls; therefore, the project team has located several quarries within 200 miles that would be available to the contractor, who would select stones based on the desired visual characteristics and durability criteria. While there may be some variation in color, the stones will weather and look more seamless and integrated over time.
Mr. Stroik asked for more information on the existing walls whose character would not be carried forward in the new design. Ms. Boshek said one such area is the bulkhead in the lagoon at the northern end of the Tidal Basin, which is not part of the current proposal; this is a newer section constructed in the 1940s when the Kutz Bridge was installed. The stones here have more of a parallelogram shape, with mortar brought to the face of the stone. There is also a variety of colors and stone types that, while beautiful, is not within the late 19th-century aesthetic being carried forward in the new design. Mr. Stroik noted that this mortar condition helps prevent water from penetrating the wall, and he asked if the primary goal is to have the mortar line set in shadow; Ms. Boshek confirmed this is the intention, noting the mortar would be recessed only two to three inches to achieve the appearance of dry-stacked stone without using that construction method. She noted the bulkhead east of the Jefferson Memorial is composed of stones inserted into a concrete backing; the mortar has deteriorated over time, leading to its current dry-stacked appearance. She added that the new stones would have to be slightly longer to give the mortar an adequate surface area with which to bond.
Ms. Boshek presented a section drawing of the proposed Tidal Basin bulkhead, indicating the stone veneer, concrete relieving platform, and piles going down to bedrock. The walkway at the edge of the Tidal Basin would be widened from approximately 7–8 feet to 12 feet in order to accommodate the heavy foot traffic. To meet the higher wall, the edge of the adjacent grade would be raised approximately 3.75 feet, with an upward slope of 1–2 percent continuing inland to tie into the existing grade; the extent of the new grading would vary depending on the existing grade conditions. She presented a plan drawing showing the limits of the proposed grading, which would allow for gravity draining; the distance would be greater in the Tidal Basin East zone and would require the removal of many trees. The two existing sidewalks in this area were installed in the 1990s and would be replaced with new walkways and paths elsewhere.
Ms. Boshek presented renderings of the proposed bulkhead conditions at Tidal Basin West and East, indicating the low and high tide conditions. She said the salvaged historic stone would be supplemented with new stone, which would be placed at the bottom of the new bulkheads and seawalls; the new stone would frequently be underwater or obscured by grime, while the historic stone would be visible most of the time. She indicated the existing five stone steps at the west side of the Jefferson Memorial leading from the Tidal Basin walkway up to the memorial; these would be reduced to two in order to accommodate the new height of the bulkhead and walkway. A barrier-free walkway would be constructed immediately to the south. She presented before and after images of the Tidal Basin, noting that the changes in the bulkheads would not be very perceptible when viewed from the opposite shoreline.
Ms. Boshek said 238 trees would be removed from around the Tidal Basin as part of the project; this is based on a tree survey from 2017 that will be updated before a final tree count is calculated. The proposal is to plant 314 new trees, with many along the walkways in accordance with the historic landscape plan; this number is based on tree planting guidelines established by the National Capital Planning Commission. The specific planting plan has not been developed, but it will be coordinated with an NPS arborist and cultural landscape architect. The new tree species would be more adaptable to climate change and more appropriate for the location than the many invasive species currently at the Tidal Basin.
Ms. Boshek said the elevation along the Potomac River would be raised a bit higher with the addition of 5.5 feet of seawall, as West Potomac Park is open to the river and degrades faster because of ice, currents, and boat wakes. The land behind the wall would be backfilled and graded with a 2 percent slope, which would then tie into the existing slope of approximately 7 percent. The existing riprap would be cleared out and possibly reused in the construction of the wall. The top of the new seawall would again be approximately three feet above mean high tide, providing a good amount of protection from floods. She said there is much less historic stone here that can be salvaged, so more supplemental stone will be needed. She presented before and after images, noting that the changes to the wall would not be easily detectable from the opposite bank of the river. She said 42 trees would be removed from this area, with 74 trees planted as replacements. She concluded by noting that an environmental assessment for the project would be released later in the month for public comment, and she said the project was reviewed favorably by the National Capital Planning Commission earlier in the month.
Chair Tsien thanked the project team for its thorough and clear presentation. Secretary Luebke said the Commission received one public comment letter, which was circulated to the Commission members before the meeting. The letter is from Mary Dolan, the executive director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) Memorial Legacy Committee; the memorial is located on the Tidal Basin just north of the project area. He said she writes that the damaging impacts of climate change and sea level rise require not only repair of the bulkheads but a more thorough understanding by the NPS of the character-defining features of the FDR Memorial that contribute to its historical integrity, including design, setting, materials, and craftsmanship. He summarized that the main point of the letter is that her committee encourages the Commission to continue its critical role in preserving the artistry of Lawrence Halprin’s landscape design and the memorial’s artwork—specifically by supporting the committee’s request for a stipulation to identify and protect the key structures, objects, and landscape elements that comprise the memorial. The letter also asks that inclusion and accessibility be priorities in all phases of the design-build work around the Tidal Basin, and that the disability community be engaged as stakeholders.
Chair Tsien thanked Secretary Luebke for his summary of the letter and welcomed questions and comments from the Commission members.
Mr. Moore expressed appreciation for the work of the project team, commenting that this is an incredibly challenging undertaking with many layers. He said he has followed the recent “Ideas Lab” project, sponsored by the NPS and the Trust for the National Mall, to generate concepts for repairing and reimaging the Tidal Basin. He asked for more information on how long the newly raised walls would function before they might have to be raised further. Ms. Boshek said the historic functional height is what would be reestablished by the project, as the goal is to rehabilitate rather than to fully redesign the walls. Even when returned to this functional height, the walls would not protect against all flooding; based on current predictions, there is a 20 percent chance that the walls would be overtopped once a year. However, most nuisance flooding would cease, and vegetation would be able to reestablish itself after flooding events; erosion and impacts to the visitor experience would also be greatly reduced. She emphasized that the project is not intended to respond to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s base flood elevation measurements, which would be above the site walls of the Jefferson Memorial. Instead, the goal is to create a resilient system that reduces the length and impact flood waters have on the cultural landscape. She added that the height of the walls will need to be reevaluated in thirty to forty years.
Mr. Moore asked if concept drawings have been developed to show what the higher bulkheads and seawalls would look like. He said he is thinking mostly about the inland areas and if they would be impacted by a high wall, or if the land would again be regraded to meet the higher walls. Ms. Boshek responded that the project team has discussed this topic and there are a number of options available. For example, a knee wall of 12–18 inches could be installed at the back of the walkways, with regrading to allow for gravity stormwater draining; or the wall itself could be raised and a drainage system could be installed. She said all of these options could be accommodated by the current design, but the proposal does not dictate a particular option to be implemented in the future. Mr. May added that if the water rises to a level that cannot be handled by this proposed design, then the entire parkland beyond the Tidal Basin would also be affected, and additional solutions would need to be studied. He said there are intermediate measures that could be taken, such as controlling the flow of water into the Tidal Basin with the inlet gates; this would require coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Mr. Moore said he appreciates the comments from the FDR Memorial Legacy Committee requesting further study of the cultural landscape. Another topic he recalled from the Ideas Lab’s work is research into the full history of the Tidal Basin and its uses; he said this is an important history project that should be completed. He added that to the degree possible, the proposed work could end up being part of the interpretation of the landscape, or perhaps it could be incorporated into future work beyond the pragmatic intervention of flood control. He said he endorses that concept, as well as the letter’s call for looking at disability concerns. He observed that the design for the west side of the Jefferson Memorial would create a walkway with just two steps, down from the current five, and also includes a new barrier-free ramp immediately to the south. He asked if there is a possibility of having only a ramp at this location, allowing room to provide more planting. Ms. Stidham said a cultural landscape report for the Tidal Basin has been the basis of the work in this area; she said she believes the FDR Memorial Legacy Committee is asking for a cultural landscape inventory for the FDR Memorial itself.
Mr. McCrery agreed that the presentation was very professional and well organized. He observed that the work would be executed under a design-build contract, but it seems the design has already been completed; he asked if Ms. Boshek is part of the design-build team. Ms. Stidham said the design-build contract has not yet been awarded, but the design has indeed been mostly set; what has been presented is what will be done, and the contractor will only be able to change minor aspects of the design. Mr. McCrery supported this response; he asked for more information on the piles that would be part of the new wall structure. Ms. Boshek said these are shown as micro-piles, as there is a foundation of riprap that must be drilled through before reaching bedrock. She said the contractor may have a more cost-effective method of installing the piles, which would have to be reviewed with the project team. Mr. McCrery asked for the depth of the bedrock. Ms. Boshek said it varies within the project area: the bedrock at the Inlet Bridge is approximately 90 feet below grade, but near Memorial Bridge the depth is approximately 40 feet. The greater depth of unstable soil above the underlying bedrock is the reason there is more settlement southward toward the Inlet Bridge.
Ms. Tsien asked about the material of the caps proposed for the reconstructed walls; Ms. Boshek said they are currently concrete, and that is what is proposed in the new design. She added that the original stone caps were often stolen, so they were replaced with concrete at some point.
Mr. Cook asked for more information on the paving material of the walkways—if they would be pervious, how they would be handled in the design-build contract, and how they would relate to other paths in the area. Ms. Boshek said she does not know the specific details, but the paving would be similar to the exposed-aggregate concrete paths within the National Mall. At the Tidal Basin, there would be tactile paving between the capstone and walkway for the visually impaired. Mr. Cook noted that the term “ramp” was used several times in the presentation; he asked if these would actually be sloped walkways with a maximum 1:20 slope that do not require handrails. Ms. Boshek confirmed that the proposal is generally for sloped walkways, and handrails would not be required. She added that true ramps with handrails would be required in some steeper areas leading from Ohio Drive down to the seawalls.
Mr. Stroik expressed appreciation for the information on the Tidal Basin and the thorough study of the existing walls. He asked what the historic paving material was on the walkways around the Tidal Basin. Ms. Boshek said they appear to have been gravel in photographs dating from the initial planting of the Japanese cherry trees, with a concrete capstone on the bulkhead; they were changed to a hard surface sometime between the 1920s and 1940s. Mr. Stroik asked if concrete is preferred because it is considered a more accessible material for wheelchairs and other mobility aids. Mr. May said the gravel walkways on the Mall are being studied for potential accessibility improvements; gravel is also a maintenance challenge. He noted the National Gallery of Art has recently paved the gravel paths in its Sculpture Garden. Ms. Boshek said traditional gravel or crushed stone paths are much loved, but agreed they present both maintenance and accessibility challenges. Mr. Stroik said he agrees with these responses.
Dr. Edwards asked about existing or proposed guardrails along the walkways at the water’s edge; Ms. Boshek said there are railings at the Tidal Basin’s paddle boat launch and around the perimeter of East Potomac Park, but no railings exist or are proposed for this phase of the project.
Mr. Moore said he does not feel comfortable speaking in depth or with authority about the planting plan and related topics, and he noted that Lisa Delplace, the Commission’s landscape architect member, is not present at the meeting. He suggested deferring further discussion of the landscape to a future meeting when Ms. Delplace is present. Ms. Stidham said landscape plans will be provided when the project returns for the next review.
Chair Tsien suggested a consensus to approve the concept design. Upon a motion by Mr. Stroik with second by Dr. Edwards, the Commission adopted this action. Secretary Luebke said the seawall and bulkhead designs appear to be well resolved, and the staff will coordinate with the project team on the landscape, including minimizing tree loss and planning tree replacement, as the proposal is developed for a final design submission.
C. American Battle Monuments Commission
CFA 16/FEB/23-2, Honolulu Memorial, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii. Modifications and additions to existing memorial for new interpretive center. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the proposed additions to create an interpretive center at the existing memorial adjoining the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. The military cemetery, now administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, was established in the late 1940s within an extinct volcanic crater known as the Punchbowl, located near central Honolulu. The associated memorial, administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), was completed in 1966 to honor the sacrifices and achievements of American armed forces in the Pacific during World War II and the Korean War, and later the Vietnam War. The memorial is organized around a grand stair leading up to a central chapel flanked by open-air map galleries that define a central plaza; the stair is flanked by terraced courts with stone slabs inscribed with the names of nearly 30,000 missing American service members, called Courts of the Missing. The chapel’s exterior is travertine and has a monumental bas relief with an allegorical figure of Columbia. The map galleries were expanded in 2012 to add two new pavilions containing an orientation map and mosaic maps of the Vietnam War.
Secretary Luebke said the current proposal would place two additions behind the map galleries, replacing the existing restroom and storage structures at these locations. The additions are intended to be accessory structures that do not impose on the sacredness of the cemetery nor on the commemorative character of the memorial; the additions would not be as tall as the existing map galleries and chapel. The original landscape design specified plantings common to Honolulu in the mid-20th century, but some of these are now considered invasive; the proposed landscape would include native plants with resilience in the Hawaiian climate, and the plantings would reflect an understanding of the Punchbowl’s cultural significance as a native Hawaiian landmark. Travertine would be used for landscape accents, but most of the architectural walls would be exposed-aggregate precast concrete. He asked Mary Kay Lanzillotta of Hartman-Cox Architects, serving as the executive architecture firm for the ABMC, to present the design.
Ms. Lanzillotta said the proposed interpretive center would help to fulfill the ABMC’s goal of educating the public about the service, experience, and sacrifice of those who are honored at the ABMC’s cemeteries and memorials. Although most of these cemeteries are in foreign countries and are administered by the ABMC in conjunction with the memorials, this cemetery, located within the United States, is operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs while the ABMC is responsible only for the memorial. She said this is among the ABMC’s most highly visited sites, seen by many Americans and also Koreans when visiting Honolulu.
Ms. Lanzillotta presented a series of photographs of the existing memorial complex. Visitors approach the memorial through the adjacent neighborhood to reach the parking areas; they arrive at one of the flagpoles flanking the central plaza, which provides views downward to the Courts of the Missing and the cemetery. She said the proposed additions would not alter this viewshed, and she characterized the proposal as a quiet intervention that would be subservient to the central memorial elements. She noted that the existing finishes of the memorial are travertine and exposed-aggregate concrete; the proposed construction would have a similar character. She also indicated the existing restroom wings in the same location, which will be demolished. The driving lanes of the road behind the restroom wings and the chapel would remain in their current location, providing access for emergency and service vehicles, but some of the curbside parking would be eliminated to provide additional site area for the proposed construction. She said the rear walls of the taller map galleries would remain visible behind the low new additions. The additions would not be directly visible from the central plaza, but their recessed entrances would become apparent as visitors move to the map gallery entrances at each side. The chapel would remain as the memorial’s most prominent feature, and the new construction is configured to not be visible from the chapel’s interior. She noted that a columbarium is under construction near this area, as part of the cemetery; the parking area will be shared for visitors to the columbarium and the memorial as part of the effort to minimize the amount of parking.
Ms. Lanzillotta indicated the landscape areas that would be altered and replanted as part of the new construction; the existing slopes, sometimes steep, would remain, and the additions would have the character of being nestled into the hillside. Many of the original trees from the memorial’s construction in the 1960s have died. The memorial’s landscape was renovated in 2013, with the intent to re-create the original landscape but with a greater emphasis on native plants; the current project continues this landscape strategy. She presented the conceptual landscape plan, indicating the canopy trees, understory, flowering shrubs, and ground cover. She said the plantings would have a lush character that is consistent with the native Hawaiian landscape and responds to the historic preservation concern that the landscape environment should be maintained. She noted that many of the proposed plant types are also used in the Washington area.
Ms. Lanzillotta presented the plan of the memorial with the proposed additions for the interpretive center. She indicated the barrier-free paths leading to the entrances to the additions. Each addition would have a taller area next to the abutting map galleries, while the peripheral parts of the massing would be lower. Both of the additions would contain exhibit space, primarily in the northern addition that would have approximately 1,500 square feet of exhibit area; the southern addition would have a smaller exhibit area as well as public restrooms and some office space. In order to control lighting, the exhibit areas would not have windows; in the office area, clerestory windows would provide daylight. The information for visitors will be coordinated between the ABMC and the Department of Veterans Affairs, including information about the roles of the two organizations in administering the memorial and the cemetery. She noted that many visitor inquiries are about finding a gravesite at the cemetery, and the interpretive center will be able to provide this information. She presented section drawings to illustrate the low massing and the topography, as well as comparative photographs and renderings of the approaches to the memorial, illustrating the appearance of the additions within the landscape.
Ms. Lanzillotta presented the proposed entrance facades for the additions; the doors would have a ceremonial character, perhaps featuring artwork that might be designed by a native Hawaiian artist. Glazing around the doors would bring daylight into the vestibules, and the frame around the entrances would be travertine. She indicated photographs of materials that show the intended design character and texture, as well as precedents for the artistic treatment of doors. The exterior panels of exposed-aggregate precast concrete may be patterned with machine-generated engraving, possibly to illustrate the area’s topography as a way to tie the interpretive center to the site. Paving for the parking area and walkways would be consistent with the existing materials.
Ms. Lanzillotta concluded by presenting a computer-generated animation of a site walkthrough to illustrate the proposal. She noted that the ABMC is working with the local firm FAI Architects, which has been involved with this memorial for nearly twenty years and is very familiar with the site’s environment, history, and challenges. She added that the project is being coordinated with the state’s historic preservation office and the Historic Hawai’i Foundation.
Chair Tsien invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Mr. Cook asked whether visitors typically arrive in busloads or as small groups by car; he said this would affect whether the very small reception areas in the additions would be adequate, or whether visitors would likely be queuing outside, possibly necessitating the installation of protective exterior canopies in the future. He observed that the existing awnings for the chapel’s grilled openings are an uninspiring precedent, and exterior canopies would likely compromise the entrance experience. Ms. Lanzillotta responded that currently, visitors reach the memorial by car in small groups, perhaps five to ten visitors at a time. Buses are driven to the center of the Punchbowl crater at the base of the memorial, where visitors typically hear several minutes of commentary but are not allowed to disembark; this is in accordance with the cemetery’s policy to avoid interference with the burials that occur every day. She said that this policy is expected to continue for now, although it could change in future decades as the cemetery fills up and the frequency of burial ceremonies decreases.
Mr. Cook asked whether the memorial has security requirements, such as magnetometers at the entrances; he noted that this issue could affect whether some visitors would have to wait outside the interpretive center entrances. Ms. Lanzillotta said the design includes providing power to support magnetometers, but entrance security measures are not required now and are not anticipated in the foreseeable future. She added that a security evaluation was conducted as part of reaching this conclusion.
Indicating the perspective rendering of the entrance to one of the additions, Mr. Cook commented that the detailing of the entrance facade appears to compete with the adjacent entrance opening to a map gallery. He said this impression may result from the proposed travertine frame around the addition’s door, and he suggested that the entrance to the addition should be more visually recessive. He added that the door itself appears intriguing, but the travertine may be an excessive detail.
Mr. McCrery observed that the existing memorial complex uses travertine for all surfaces that are prominently visible from the cemetery, presenting an honorific treatment for the public facades while switching to textured concrete or stucco for the less important facades toward the rear. He suggested using the same design approach for the proposed additions: travertine should be used for the entirety of the entrance facades, rather than continue the lesser concrete material onto the areas of these facades beyond the entrance surrounds. He expressed his admiration for the modesty of the design intent but described the entrance facades as perhaps too modest, inappropriately showing the lesser materials on these facades that should instead use travertine.
Mr. Moore acknowledged that the proposed additions are carefully designed as efficient and respectful additions to the existing architecture, but he questioned how they are inserted into the landscape. He said the native Hawaiian plantings are a good proposal, but the landscape design could do more to enhance the additions and the visitor experience. He asked if the project team includes a landscape architect; Ms. Lanzillotta confirmed that a landscape firm is part of the project team, and she reiterated that the landscape proposal is consistent with the original historic landscape design and the 2013 renovation of the landscape. She said the general configuration of plantings follows the original plan, while the selection of the species has been changed. Mr. Moore said the combination of the landscape and the textured concrete walls appears unsuccessful in the presented rendering. He suggested restudying the landscape design so that the architecture and landscape are working in concert, with a more landscape-focused approach for designing the exterior space and better situating the additions within the site.
Ms. Tsien said she agrees that the exterior should be developed with a closer relationship between the addition walls and the potentially lush plantings of the Hawaiian landscape; she observed that the architecture and landscape appear to be fighting each other in the presented rendering. Regarding the entrance facades, she observed that the design goal appears to be a sense of simplicity and quietness, while simultaneously conveying that these are public entrances with a ceremonial quality rather than being mechanical or storage areas. She agreed with Mr. McCrery that travertine should be used more extensively at the entrances, consistent with the use of travertine on the important faces of the memorial’s existing architecture. She noted the difficulty of developing a detail for closing off the edges of the precast panels, and she encouraged the idea of entering each addition through a travertine portal. She said the renderings appear to show wood as part of the entrance facades, and she observed that beautiful wood is characteristic of Hawaii; she suggested that a quieter design approach could be carved wood doors within a wood wall, perhaps with clear glass panels set within the doors. This design ensemble could be surrounded by the travertine portal, with a composition of just two primary materials instead of the four that are illustrated. She said this simplified design could be more in keeping with the project’s intentions and the existing architecture, adding that she is only addressing the design intent and does not want to be prescriptive in her advice.
Mr. Cook said that these comments are consistent with his own reaction that the entrance facades would be too complex, with too many materials; the proposed design is unclear in whether the additions are intended to be part of the memorial’s architecture or to step back from it, instead ending up with an ambiguous relationship. He summarized his support for the strategy of simplifying the materials and the overall design intent.
Mr. Moore asked if the entrance doors of the additions are proposed to be bronze. Ms. Lanzillotta responded that the renderings are intended to illustrate bronze doors, which would be in keeping with the honorific character of the memorial; however, the historic preservation guidance is to also consider avoiding the impression of the additions competing with the existing memorial. She said that the material for the doors has not yet been determined—perhaps bronze or wood—and this feature will be considered further in cooperation with an artist and consideration of the appropriate relationship to the memorial and the site. She suggested that the project’s concept design could be approved today with the understanding that the proposal for the doors is not yet defined, and this feature will be submitted as part of the project’s final design. She noted the challenging process of selecting and hiring an artist for a federal government project; meanwhile, the design is being kept flexible to allow room for the artist’s ideas on how to honor and respect the sacrifice of those who are memorialized here. Ms. Tsien agreed with this intention.
Mr. Stroik expressed support for the recommendation to emphasize travertine on the entrance facades in order to better relate the additions to the memorial’s existing architecture. He observed that the additions would combine updated support facilities, such as restrooms, with the more honorific function of exhibit galleries; he suggested emphasizing a more elevated character that better relates the additions to the simple, beautiful existing memorial. Regarding the choice of bronze or wood for the entrance doors, he asked about the design of the memorial’s existing important doors, such as at the chapel. Ms. Lanzillotta responded that the chapel entrance has grilles, not a door; she said they resemble the grilles in the wall openings that were illustrated in the presentation. She contrasted these grilles to the heavy bronze doors with the intricate detailing that are typically seen at the ABMC’s World War I sites in Europe. Mr. Stroik asked if the doors on the additions could have a more open character in keeping with the chapel’s entrance grilles. Ms. Lanzillotta said this design approach is feasible, although these doors should not be open-air because the exhibits need to be in a climate-controlled environment. She said the selected artist for the doors could draw inspiration from the chapel, although the additions should be respectful and not compete with the chapel’s most special features such as its colorful glass and stones. She said the suggestion for glass panels within the doors could be an opportunity to develop a more open character. She noted that the site is closed at night, with guards present, so some flexibility is possible in the degree of security provided by the doors.
Dr. Edwards asked about connections between the proposed additions and the existing map galleries. Ms. Lanzillotta clarified that no interior connections would be provided; all of the visitor areas have outdoor access from the central plaza and adjacent walks. Access to the chapel is through an entrance arcade that also serves to connect the two open-air map galleries that flank the central plaza. Secretary Luebke emphasized the porosity of the architectural spaces, consistent with the setting in Hawaii where no separation is generally needed between interior spaces and the outdoor environment. Dr. Edwards asked if visitors would descend stairs to enter the additions. Ms. Lanzillotta clarified that the entrances are at grade, and they can be reached by barrier-free walks; the site design includes some steps to accommodate the grade, but there are alternative barrier-free routes. She reiterated that the project is fully accessible.
Chair Tsien suggested a consensus to approve the concept design with the comments provided. Upon a motion by Mr. Stroik with second by Mr. Cook, the Commission adopted this action. Secretary Luebke said that the staff will continue to work with the project team to develop the design.
D. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 16/FEB/23-3, Smithsonian Institution Building, 1000 Jefferson Drive, SW. Revitalization of the Historic Core (Revitalize Castle Phase 1) – building and landscape renovation and modernization. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/SEP/22-2) The Commission acted on the submission earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
At this point, Mr. Stroik departed for the remainder of the meeting.
E. U.S. Department of the Army / U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
1. CFA 16/FEB/23-4, Joint Base Myer–Henderson Hall & Fort McNair, Area Development Plan, Arlington, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Master plan. Concept.
2. CFA 16/FEB/23-5, Joint Base Myer–Henderson Hall, Arlington, Virginia. Design for two new barracks structures and associated landscape modifications. Concept.
Secretary Luebke introduced a pair of related submissions for Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall (JBM-HH), which includes Fort Myer and Henderson Hall in Arlington, Virginia, as well as Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. The first proposal is the draft of an area development plan (ADP), equivalent to a draft master plan, that is intended to provide an overall vision for these jointly administered sites of JBM-HH; the ADP includes goals, development alternatives for new facilities, and standards for the renovation and rehabilitation of existing facilities. He said that development controls for JBM-HH include local and national historic designations of some of its buildings, viewsheds, and landscapes. Along with the master plan, the Department of the Army (DOA) has also submitted a proposal to construct two new barracks buildings at Fort Myer, requiring demolition of an existing row of historic residential buildings.
Secretary Luebke said Fort Myer and Henderson Hall comprise a 270-acre installation that is located immediately west of Arlington National Cemetery; the installation is nearly a mile long and its topography is relatively flat, except for steep slopes at its northern end. Fort Myer is the home of ceremonial support groups including the Old Guard, the Honor Guard, and the U.S. Army Band. Fort McNair was established as a military reservation as part of the 1791 L’Enfant Plan for Washington, which makes it the oldest military reservation in continuous use in the United States. Fort McNair occupies 108 acres on a prominent site at the confluence of the Anacostia River with the Washington Channel. The fort was reconfigured in the early 1900s by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White as a Beaux Arts-style campus. A rectangular parade ground is the central organizing feature; at its southern end, near the where the river meets the channel, is the impressive Roosevelt Hall, a National Historic Landmark designed by McKim, Mead & White. On the western side of the parade ground, along the channel, is a distinctive and regular row of fifteen similar Colonial Revival houses, designed by McKim, Mead & White and built in 1905 and 1906. He said the master plan identifies portions of this installation, including the officers’ housing, as located within either the 100- or 500-year floodplain. While much of the ADP is focused on renovating or rehabilitating existing facilities, it also includes the recommendation to demolish two historic structures at the north of Fort McNair to accommodate a new headquarters building for the Military District of Washington. In addition, the recently enacted FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) specifically mandates the demolition of three of the historic houses on the west; this provision is not included in the ADP.
Mr. Luebke said that the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), in its review of this case two weeks ago, found that the demolition of buildings within Fort McNair’s historic district raises larger questions about the future of Fort McNair—including the fate of the remaining twelve historic houses on the west, as well as the impact from sea level rise on this already vulnerable floodplain and the compatibility of infill development. More broadly, the proposal raises questions of cultural resource protection and environmental challenges.
Mr. Luebke asked Col. David Bowling, garrison commander for JBM-HH, to begin the presentation. Col. Bowling thanked the Commission for the opportunity to present these two proposals, and he invited the Commission members and staff to visit the bases. He introduced Eric Cope, director of public works for JBM-HH, to present the ADP.
Mr. Cope said Fort McNair’s principal uses include the Military District of Washington, the National Defense University, the Inter-American Defense College, the White House Transportation Agency, and senior enlisted and officer housing. Fort Myer and Henderson Hall accommodate ceremonial military groups, JBM-HH headquarters, a large child development center, military exchanges, a commissary, various family activities, and housing that includes Army and Marines barracks. The real property planning vision establishes a framework for JBM-HH to sustain its facilities and infrastructure and to achieve its mission. The primary planning goals include creating a safe and sustainable campus; strengthening community partnerships; retaining historic character and resources; and modernizing infrastructure. He listed various strategies for achieving these goals, including increasing density, co-locating compatible functions, instituting intergovernmental support agreements, regularizing new construction to be compatible with historic character, and maximizing green space.
Mr. Cope said the master plan for Fort McNair focuses on infrastructure repairs and facility improvements, including more than 125,000 square feet of new construction and nearly 500,000 square feet of renovation. The plan proposes approximately 24,000 square feet of demolition, not including the demolition of three houses mandated by the NDAA; he said the demolition of these houses was not a result of JBM-HH planning actions, and therefore it was not included in prior planning documents. However, he said the DOA has been tasked with this mandate, which will involve initiation of environmental and historic preservation review; the demolition of these houses will also be included in future drafts of the ADP.
Mr. Cope defined the key areas of Fort McNair: mission support, which is primarily occupied by the Military District of Washington, at the north end of the campus; the National Defense University in the east and south areas of the campus; and the senior enlisted and officer housing. He said that because of the constrained size of Fort McNair, the proposed buildable sites involve previously developed land, including both historic buildings and more recent construction to the east; the historic landscape and recreational areas are proposed to remain free of development. The identification of the developable area has been determined by the fort’s location within the 500-year floodplain and by the encroachment of the 100-year floodplain along the footprint of the historic James Creek canal. He said that the Army has identified the risks to its property and mission posed by sea level rise and rising groundwater, and is in the process of securing funding for a flood risk management study.
Mr. Cope said that many of the buildings and site utility systems at Fort McNair are rated as failed or failing, conditions that are being addressed through maintenance and repair contracts. The aging systems for water, sewer, and stormwater may be too small for increasing loads that include the effect of increasingly heavy and abundant rains. The Army is working to address site stormwater management and areas of water intrusion into buildings through various measures.
Mr. Cope introduced Kelly Whitton, cultural resources program manager for JBM-HH, to continue the presentation. Ms. Whitton said that the Fort McNair Historic District was identified in 1964 as part of the first group in D.C.’s inventory of historic sites, and in 1977 it was determined eligible for listing in the National Register. In 1972, the National War College complex, including Roosevelt Hall, was listed as a National Historic Landmark; this is one of the Army’s nineteen National Historic Landmarks, and one of three managed by JBM-HH, with the other two located in Fort Myer.
Ms. Whitton summarized the history of Fort McNair. From its establishment in 1791, it has been continuously occupied by the Army. The fort includes the location of the former Washington Penitentiary, and the sites of the trial, execution, and temporary burial of the conspirators in Lincoln’s assassination; the last remaining structure from this event is Grant Hall, which is located in the center of the campus on the parade ground. Also of historical importance is the 1902 redesign of the entire campus by McKim, Mead & White; the firm was commissioned by President Theodore Roosevelt to develop a master plan and design most of the buildings.
Ms. Whitton said the fort’s peninsula site, known as Greenleaf Point, has been enlarged by landfill and by reclamation projects to cover over historic James Creek and its later reconfiguration as a canal, which extended along the east side of the fort and defined its historic boundary. The area east of James Creek, occupied by temporary government buildings for several decades, was subsequently incorporated into the fort; the west and south boundaries are defined by the shoreline.
Ms. Whitton said the ADP describes almost every building at Fort McNair as requiring short-, medium-, or long-term maintenance and repair. The current plan is to continue renovating the fort’s single-family and duplex houses. Roosevelt Hall, a major contributing resource to the National Historic Landmark, and an annex building are both proposed for renovation, which will begin later this year. The scope includes repairs to the roof and exterior walls, abatement of hazardous materials, and the repair or replacement of utilities. Mid-range projects at Fort McNair, to be completed over the next six to fifteen years, will focus on renovation and repair. In addition, several military construction programs are proposed. A new consolidated headquarters for the Military District of Washington, which currently occupies twelve buildings in the northern area of the fort, will reuse Buildings 39 and 47, which are located on principal axes and viewsheds within the historic core. Under this project, referred to as Project Z, two small historic buildings, 41 and 45, will be demolished and replaced with an addition to provide courtroom facilities for the staff judge advocate. She said that reusing the site and rehabilitating the larger historic buildings will allow for a more efficient consolidation than building a new structure elsewhere on the fort.
Ms. Whitton said that to address several larger, long-range, or unscheduled projects, the ADP includes a proposal to build a mixed-use facility that will include parking and a conference center, primarily for the National Defense University (Project AC). The site, an existing parking lot at the east end of the historic district, has requirements for flood emergency response and mission readiness; these functions will either be accommodated in a new facility or relocated. She indicated the two sites under consideration for Project AD, a new building to house the National Defense University’s education colleges; this project has not yet been scheduled. Both sites are near the university’s existing buildings; in addition, both are located in the 100- and 500-year floodplains, and it will be necessary to plan for safe siting and construction.
Mr. Cope said that, as with Fort McNair, the priorities for Fort Myer and Henderson Hall are to renovate and sustain the existing and historic facilities and infrastructure for the military’s continuing mission to support the nation’s capital in the 21st century. He said priorities have shifted following the development of the ADP’s major alternatives, with the barracks project now being added. The ADP still includes over one million square feet of renovation, but the amount of proposed demolition has been increased to 40,000 square feet, and new construction has been increased to approximately 350,000 square feet. He said the project for the new barracks will be described later in this presentation by a team from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).
Mr. Cope presented a plan for Fort Myer and Henderson Hall illustrating primary land use and mission clusters. He said that the central part of the installation would have community structures, such as the dining hall, bank, and credit union. The barracks would be located immediately west and north of this central area, creating a walkable campus. Near the barracks would be two mission support areas, including a commissary, a medical clinic, and a large child development center. Noting the relatively small size of Fort Myer and Henderson Hall, he said the buildable area includes most of the installation; four historic landscape areas are designated as non-buildable. Like Fort McNair, this installation also has infrastructure and utility issues concerning potable water, sanitary sewer, and stormwater management, and some utilities have been privatized. He said that although the installation contains a great deal of open space, development is limited by buffer zones that adjoin its boundary with Arlington National Cemetery.
Ms. Whitton said the historic Fort Myer includes two National Historic Landmarks: the overall Fort Myer Historic District, and within that, to the north, the Quarters 1 building. Additionally, to the south, the Fort Myer Historic District Expansion Area is listed in the Virginia Landmarks Register and was determined eligible for listing in the National Register in 2014; the expansion area includes some of the houses that would be demolished as part of the barracks proposal. The fort has several other notable historic buildings, including the Old Post Chapel. She indicated the historic landscape viewshed between the fort and Arlington National Cemetery, noting that projects located in or adjoining this area are evaluated for their impacts on the cemetery and on the Fort Myer Historic District.
Ms. Whitton gave a brief history of Fort Myer, which was part of the circle of forts built to surround Washington during the Civil War; it encompasses Fort Whipple, which was located at the north end of the installation in an area of steep topography. After the war, Fort Myer was the site for the testing of various Army innovations, such as the Signal Corps experiments with weather balloons and dirigibles, and it was the location of the Wright Brothers’ test flights in 1908 and 1909, which led to the world’s first aviation contract. Henderson Hall, located at the southern end of the installation, was developed separately on land granted by the Custis-Lee family to the formerly enslaved Syphax family and later purchased by the federal government.
Ms. Whitton said the ADP for Fort Myer and Henderson Hall includes projects of various scope and length. These include the renovation and construction of family and barracks housing, recreational facilities, and combat fitness testing sites, and also improvements to access control points and gates. The Fort Myer tennis courts, located on the historic parade ground at the north end of the campus, will be removed as this site is now classified as non-buildable, and it will be restored to grass. She described several long-term projects, including the relocation of maintenance areas, a stormwater management study, and improvements to Hadfield Gate connecting to Arlington National Cemetery.
Ms. Whitton described the revised course of action proposed for the barracks at Fort Myer; this revision was made in late 2022, and it is included in an addendum to the ADP. The purpose is to eliminate the deficit in barracks housing and to improve density on the installation. Two buildings that contribute to the National Historic Landmark, Buildings 250 and 251, provide beds for only 75 soldiers; the initial plan was for renovation or replacement of these buildings, but this would not be sufficient to resolve the deficit in barracks housing and would pose a significant adverse effect on the National Historic Landmark district. The revised proposal (projects G and H) is to renovate these two buildings for the consolidation of other mission support functions, primarily offices. The newly proposed site for the barracks would require the demolition of seven 1930s-era duplex quarters for non-commissioned officers. The impact of this proposal will be considered in relation to the policy for interwar historic housing, as part of the historic preservation review process for the new barracks.
Ms. Whitton said that, as with Fort McNair, the intent for Fort Myer is to continue the renovation of existing family housing, labeled as Project O. The buildings affected in this project include six single-family quarters, each with a unique plan and including Quarters 1; all of these houses have outstanding views of Washington. Another project, Project N, continues a larger family housing renovation program and will address the remaining unrenovated houses within the Fort Myer Historic District. These seventeen buildings were built in five architectural styles and provide a total of 36 dwelling units, including single-family homes, duplexes, and some triplex configurations that date from after the historic period. Other historic structures at Fort Myer include two active working stables and two paddocks used by the horses involved in providing funerary services for Arlington National Cemetery. The two stables, built in 1896 and 1909, are the last working remnants of Fort Myer’s historic role as a cavalry show post; other remaining stables have been converted to different uses. Proposals for their renovation are still in development.
Lt. Col. John Dexter, the deputy commander of JBM-HH, concluded the presentation of the ADP by thanking the Commission. He emphasized that the project team seeks to maintain the historic nature of these fort installations while meeting modern mission requirements.
Chair Tsien noted the huge amount of material that has been presented. She suggested taking initial comments from the Commission members before proceeding to the design presentation for Project N, the new barracks at Fort Myer, while acknowledging that some of the issues raised in the first presentation may extend into the second.
Secretary Luebke suggested separately discussing the two geographic areas—Fort McNair in Washington, and Fort Myer–Henderson Hall in Arlington. He said there are clearly issues concerning Fort McNair and its varied educational, operational, and residential uses on one site, along with issues of sustainability that in the future will have to be mitigated. He emphasized an issue that applies to both geographic areas: to what extent would the historic buildings be considered character-defining elements that should be protected. He said the directive to demolish three houses within the row of fifteen at Fort McNair is especially problematic for those involved in protecting cultural resources, which includes the Commission. The demolition of these three buildings has been presented as a matter of monetary cost, but since no replacement structures have been proposed, the rationale is unclear. He questioned why these tremendous contributing buildings—which could never be replaced—would be demolished; he said their destruction would lower the standard and character of this exceptionally important base, and to some extent, this argument also applies to the Fort Myer proposal. He said the recent NCPC review also questioned how the proposed demolition could arise as an appropriations matter. He emphasized that the demolition provision is very strange and seems to be in conflict with the government’s interests in protecting its own cultural resources, and it has confused everybody.
Chair Tsien and Mr. McCrery said Secretary Luebke has expressed the situation well. Mr. McCrery thanked the project team for its work in preparing the presentation. However, he said that future presentations with such large sites and large scopes should include illustrations prepared at a much smaller scale; he said the scale of this presentation is so large that it is difficult to understand what is intended, which is necessary for an informed discussion.
Mr. McCrery said that as a long-time resident of the Washington area, he is very familiar with both forts; in particular he has attended many events and ceremonies at Fort Myer, and he acknowledged its importance both for the Army and the United States. However, he said that one thing the Army has not done well in recent decades is to commission good martial architecture. He said that McKim, Mead & White were appointed as architects and planners for Fort McNair because they were among the very best architects of the time, remarkably talented as designers, of both buildings and cities. He noted they were also retained by the Senate Park Commission to redesign the entire National Mall, and the same firm designed Memorial Bridge, which connects the city with Arlington National Cemetery and Fort Myer. He said it is unfortunate that the U.S. military has not continued this tradition of securing excellent architects for its buildings, a failing that been especially evident in construction—he could not call it improvements—at the southern end of Fort Myer and Henderson Hall, an area now more evocative of an industrial complex than a noble setting for a military base.
Mr. McCrery said he is hesitant to have the Commission of Fine Arts endorse the demolition of buildings at Fort McNair or the proposal for new buildings at Fort Myer, given the sort of architecture recently commissioned by the U.S. military. He said the Army should instead find the very best designers in the country, choosing from among the many excellent architectural firms who could do high-quality work for the two forts, which both possess a great architectural tradition. He acknowledged that the project team is working to maintain the buildings at Fort Myer, and he expressed admiration for the recent renovation of the Army barracks along Route 27, but he said he does not see a commitment to architectural excellence. He reiterated that he feels tremendously hesitant to approve this new work.
For Fort McNair, Mr. McCrery said the Commission members understand that the demolition of the three houses has already been mandated by Congress—although he considers the process questionable—but he asked why these three specific buildings are identified for demolition. Mr. Cope responded that the decision to put this requirement in the NDAA did not come from anyone on the project team, and none of them know the origin or intent. Mr. McCrery asked if the buildings have been deemed unfit for use; Mr. Cope said they are currently occupied as residences. Mr. McCrery agreed with Secretary Luebke’s comment that the legislative provision is confounding; Mr. Cope agreed also. Mr. McCrery asked how to find the answer; Mr. Cope said he does not know. Mr. McCrery added that the discussion of the 100-year and 500-year floodplains may be misleading; throughout the country, land outside the 100-year floodplain is developable.
Chair Tsien said the Commission can issue a statement saying that it does not agree with the NDAA’s demolition mandate because it would affect the cultural landscape of Fort McNair; she noted that the proposed demolition has been described as resulting in “missing teeth.” She emphasized that the importance of this series of facades lies not simply in the individual buildings but in maintaining the continuous line of buildings. Secretary Luebke said the Commission’s role is to express the members’ design sensibility and moral authority on these issues. He noted that legislative requirements are sometimes not implemented, so it is possible this demolition will not happen; however, he said it is an appropriate role for the Commission to discuss the extent to which this these national properties need to be protected. He acknowledged there may be nothing that the Commission can do to stop the demolition, but nevertheless it is an important position for the members to articulate, if they wish to.
Chair Tsien said it is her sense that the Commission members do wish to articulate this stance, even if it does not actually result in change; it is important that the Commission of Fine Arts speak for these buildings, and it is one of the reasons the members were appointed to serve. She said the members can work together to consider what the written statement might be, but it should be part of their review of these projects. Mr. McCrery expressed his strong support.
Chair Tsien suggested that the Commission provide any further comments on Fort McNair before seeing the more detailed presentation on the barracks proposal for Fort Myer. Secretary Luebke clarified that conceptually, the staff believes it is reasonable for the new educational facilities at Fort McNair to be placed on the east side of the installation, while the operational structures would be concentrated at the north; however, he said that a careful process of historic preservation review will be needed to understand the impact of the proposed demolition of the two historic buildings at the north for an expanded administrative building. He said the fundamental question the staff has with this approach is the disregard for the historic properties, which is clear in the proposal to demolish the houses on the west side of Fort McNair.
Mr. McCrery asked to see the illustration showing Roosevelt Hall, the historic War College Building, in relation to Greenleaf Point. He observed that Roosevelt Hall has an extraordinary setting as the only building at the end of the peninsula, and he said this raises a question about the proposed siting options for Project AD, which was not presented. The two options shown for this project are to the north or south of the line of buildings on the east side of Fort McNair’s parade ground, and he recommended the northern site. He observed that when seen from the Anacostia River or the Washington Channel, Roosevelt Hall presents a unique situation, obviously designed to be seen on this specific, dramatic site at the end of the peninsula, with its rear and both side facades all clearly visible from the water. He said that placing the Project AD building at the southern location would block the river views to Roosevelt Hall from the east, as well as views from across the Anacostia River. He also reiterated his lack of confidence in the DOA’s commitment to commissioning beautiful new architecture.
Chair Tsien summarized the consensus to convey the Commission’s dismay at the proposed demolition of the three residential buildings at Fort McNair, and to recommend that Project AD be located at the northern siting option because it would be less obstructive to views of Roosevelt Hall. She thanked Mr. McCrery for his observations on the installations, drawn from his knowledge of the sites; she said this is especially valuable because the presentation has not given her a sense of the appearance of the forts. She suggested continuing with the presentation of the proposed concept design for the new barracks buildings at Fort Myer.
Secretary Luebke said that one of the bigger issues identified by the staff about the Fort Myer proposal is the lack of documentation of the seven residential structures proposed for demolition, which makes it difficult for the Commission members to understand what is being proposed. Mr. McCrery suggested asking the project team to return with a full presentation; Mr. Luebke said the Commission can certainly request this. He added that while these seven buildings are not technically within the historic district, they are considered eligible for historic designation, and they clearly contribute to the character of Fort Myer. He said the staff has met with the project team several times and has told them that there is probably a way to meet all their programmatic requirements while retaining the buildings; however, the project team has not pursued this approach. He acknowledged that it is difficult to talk about the master planning because of the lack of documentation.
Mr. Luebke said the currently submitted project that follows from the ADP, which the Commission is still considering, is for the construction of contemporary standard enlisted personnel housing barracks along the central area of Fort Myer, on a site that would require the demolition of the seven residential buildings. He noted that these buildings had been proposed for renovation over the last several years, but the work was never carried out, and now suddenly they have been identified for demolition. He asked architect Ogechi Wallace of the USACE to present the barracks design; she was joined by Alan Eidsmore, the chief of the USACE’s architecture section.
Ms. Wallace said the project would house 200 soldiers of the Old Guard, the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the Army and the official ceremonial unit and escort to the president. She said that Buildings 250 and 251, which are listed on the National Register as contributing buildings to the Fort Myer Historic District, were considered for this purpose but were found to be in poor condition, and they are now being renovated for another use. The eight-acre site is bounded by Sheridan Avenue on the west, McNair Road on the east, and Schoolhouse Road on the south, and it slopes from the northwest corner to the southeast. The past barracks buildings along McNair Road do not fit in well with the existing character of that streetscape, and therefore the current proposal is to place the new buildings along Sheridan Avenue, which has been developed with other barracks in recent decades; she said the proposed two new buildings would continue the character of the streetscape along Sheridan Avenue, and they would comply with environmental and historic preservation review requirements. Similar to recent barracks, the two new buildings would be U-shaped, with wings projecting to the east.
Ms. Wallace said the seven existing residential duplexes along Sheridan Avenue include two-story brick buildings with garages and storage sheds; they are in poor condition and contain hazardous materials, and they do not meet programming needs or Army standards. Although it is understood that demolition is not the preferred action, the cost for renovation was estimated at $3.1 million per house in 2020, and therefore it was determined that the seven buildings have to be demolished; the structures associated with a derelict swimming pool complex would also be demolished.
Ms. Wallace indicated that the two new buildings would be aligned with the existing barracks, set back 60 feet from Sheridan Avenue and with 80 feet between them; the setbacks would meet anti-terrorism force protection requirements. For each building, two wings of equal size would extend to the rear, framing an open courtyard for each building that would provide communal recreational areas for residents. A parking lot with the capacity for 62 cars would be constructed at the corner of Schoolhouse Road and Sheridan Avenue, and Schoolhouse Road would be realigned to improve street parking.
Ms. Wallace said the site has no wetlands or floodplains; stormwater would be held in bioretention ponds along pedestrian walks. Existing vegetation includes several large deciduous trees, hedges, shrubs, and groundcover; the intent is to keep as many existing trees as possible and to add more. The project includes the restoration of approximately two acres of habitat to support tree removal mitigation requirements and LEED environmental certification; an asphalt trail with occasional benches would run through this habitat area.
In developing design principles for the new buildings, Ms. Wallace said the project team analyzed the visual context of the existing community, including the scale and style of both historic and newer barracks buildings, in order to design buildings that will maintain the visual character of Sheridan Avenue. The characteristic features of the existing barracks buildings include a raised first floor with an articulated base, string courses, dormers, the color of the brick, and the size and character of fenestration.
Ms. Wallace said the two new barracks, identified as Building A and Building B, would have main entrances facing Sheridan Avenue to the west. They would be built of brick in a color similar to the existing brick buildings and would have wood porches, limestone water tables, and gray or dark-green slate roofs. The buildings would have subtle differences in the treatment of their porches and dormers. The main entrance for both buildings would be raised a few feet above grade and would include a curved barrier-free entrance ramp as well as stairs. The sidewalks along Sheridan Avenue would be replaced by wider walks to comply with modern requirements; a secondary walk would connect the courtyards, which would open to the rear of the site and would have barrier-free pedestrian access.
Chair Tsien asked for comments from the Commission members. Mr. McCrery said that he supports the decision to adopt the U-shaped plan for the new buildings, but the presentation illustrates the decreasing quality of the architecture at Fort Myer over the last century. As an example, he indicated images of the porches on the historic barracks, pointing out how the roofs create a horizontal line along the front facades that is maintained at the 90-degree return at the corner, so that this horizontal line and the profile of the porch cornice continue to the facade wall. He said the rendering of the new buildings shows the porches treated as extruded shapes that are simply cut off to the needed length, with no return or articulation of the porch cornice on the end at all; he recommended that this be redesigned.
Mr. McCrery asked if the dormers on these two buildings serve any purpose other than as a visual quotation of the historic buildings. He observed that each building would have a different style of dormer although the size of the ventilation louvers within the dormers is the same. He suggested that the louvered openings should be proportional to the size of the dormer; if one of the dormers is to be as larger as illustrated, the louver should also be larger to make sense, visually and architecturally. He said other options would be to use five narrower dormers on each building that are sized to hold these vents, or to use three dormers with larger vents. He also questioned the style of the dormers; he said they resemble dormers used on agricultural buildings, such as barns, not dormers used for residential dormitories.
Noting these concerns, Mr. McCrery said he strongly encourages commissioning an outside architect who understands the tradition and vernacular of martial architecture to avoid a further decline in the quality of buildings at Fort Myer. He said the project team’s analysis of the barracks design is reasonable but the design is inadequate; they should embrace the goal of excellence in architecture.
Mr. Eidsmore responded that it is the DOA’s practice to use standard designs for buildings. He indicated that barracks at Fort Myer tend to be pairs of the same design, and he asked if the Commission would suggest these two new buildings should also be built as a pair to make it clear they have been built at the same time, or whether they should have different details.
Ms. Tsien answered that the issue is less a question of pairing and more a question of the quality of the design. She emphasized the importance of using proportions established in the oldest buildings, which she observed had not happened with the most recent buildings. She said the porches on the proposed new buildings seem very small and mean, almost like a stylistic add-on; if the buildings have a porch, it should be meaningful and substantial. She commented that the size of the windows also appears quite small and mean, not generous in size and proportion like those in the historic residences. She said the coherence of the continuous row of brick buildings along Sheridan Avenue has been lost; she acknowledged that this results from a desire to break down the massing, but she said it feels unwarranted because the massing is necessarily going to be large. She emphasized that within the portfolio of buildings at Fort Myer there are very important lessons to be learned, and what has been picked up for use on these new buildings is only the most minimal stylistic lesson; however, there are deeper lessons that have to do with the inhabitation of the building, as the Commission has observed: generous windows; a larger louver that fits the dormer, not just a fan ordered from a catalog; and a porch that feels like a porch, providing a place to sit and not just a place to park a bicycle. She said such changes may not require a change of designer but just an effort to study the existing historic residences and learn from them so that the proportions of these buildings make sense and their design has some of the historic buildings’ authority and grace.
Mr. Cook supported Ms. Tsien’s comments and added that the quality of materials is also important. He expressed concern that the proposed materials will be very basic stock items, perhaps made of plastic or vinyl; he noted that using a “faux slate roof” had been mentioned, and he said he is concerned about the type of cornice that may be used. He said a decrease in the quality of materials is also probably evident in the apparent declining quality of the historic sequence of buildings, as eloquently described by Mr. McCrery; the photographs suggest the likelihood that the proposed materials will be of inferior quality. He commented that building pairs of identical buildings that use the same low-quality materials would compound the poor appearance of this ensemble. He summarized his recommendation to use materials of high quality and with an appropriate quality of detail.
Secretary Luebke said the two submissions of the master plan and the barracks concept design are connected by location, siting, loss of historic buildings, and their relationship to the context. He said the issues with the proposed site for the barracks would best be addressed as comments on the master plan; the staff has suggested there may be other siting solutions, but the Commission members may instead decide that the existing buildings to be demolished are not very significant. He observed that the Commission members seem to support the planning of the new buildings as a pair of U-shaped buildings with some vaguely historicist brick facades.
Mr. McCrery suggested drafting a motion to approve the proposed planning for the new barracks at Fort Myer, including the demolition of existing houses, but not to approve the architectural design of the new barracks. Mr. Moore added that the motion should defer approval of the landscape elements of the barracks proposal until the Commission’s landscape architect member is present. Mr. Luebke suggested clarifying the Commission’s action by separating the comments on the planning proposal from those on the specific concept proposal for the barracks; he acknowledged the confusion arising from having the two presentations.
Mr. McCrery reiterated that the master plan was presented at much too large a scale for the Commission to be able to comment on its quality and viability. However, the planning proposal for siting the Fort Myer barracks was presented at an acceptable scale, and he is willing to approve that portion of the ADP, but not the rest. Mr. Luebke said this is a reasonable approach, adding that the Commission can also choose to take no action on the ADP. Mr. McCrery, Mr. Cook, and Mr. Moore agreed that taking no action would be the best procedure. Mr. Luebke said that no motion or vote is needed for this outcome; the staff can simply report that no action was taken, while conveying the members’ comments.
Chair Tsien emphasized the complexity of the master plan and the difficulty of understanding its purpose, or what the proposals would actually look like on the ground. She said the presentation was too broad, and it seemed to be a collection of small pieces instead of a coherent whole. She requested that the staff work with the project team to clarify the information for the next presentation of the master plan. Secretary Luebke noted that the ADP covers separate geographic areas in Arlington and Washington, and the Commission provided specific comments on some of the Fort McNair proposal, which the staff will convey. Mr. McCrery recommended that the project team should return with separate presentations for the different geographic areas of the ADP; Chair Tsien agreed this would be a better procedure.
Returning to the proposed concept design for two new barracks buildings at Fort Myer, Mr. Luebke asked if the Commission wants to take an action on this proposal or again transmit comments with no action. Chair Tsien summarized the apparent consensus that the Commission members support the general concept for the two buildings but would like to see more work done on their design. Mr. McCrery added that the Commission recommends hiring an architect who is familiar with this traditional style of architecture. Chair Tsien agreed with this suggestion, although she added that in her experience of working with the USACE, they prefer handling their own design work. She offered a motion to approve the general concept for the planning of the new barracks buildings at Fort Myer, with a request for more information on the design, the suggestion to hire an outside architect to lead the design work, and a request that the proposal return as a revised concept design. Upon a second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission adopted this action.
F. D.C. Department of Buildings—Shipstead-Luce Act
SL 23-021, Single-family house, 2055 Trumbull Terrace, NW. New single-family house. Permit. Secretary Luebke introduced a proposal for a new house in the Crestwood neighborhood, to be located on a site that slopes down to the edge of Rock Creek Park. The site is currently occupied by a modest one-story, single-family ranch-style house, constructed in 1954; other houses on this street are similar one- and one-and-a-half-story houses dating from the 1950s and 1960s. He said the property is clearly visible from trails and roads within and adjacent to Rock Creek Park. The lot is heavily wooded with large trees. The proposal is to replace the existing structure with a much larger single-family house, two stories high at the front and rising to three stories at the rear because of the slope. He said the architect, in consultation with the Commission staff, has made some revisions to the originally submitted design, reducing the height by 2.5 feet. The very large, square massing would be modulated with a few projecting volumes, including a hipped roof in a somewhat U-shaped configuration and an attached deck at the rear. He noted that the staff has little information about the site design. He introduced Nima Biabani of Hannah Design to present the proposal.
Mr. Biabani said drawings have already been submitted to the D.C. Department of Buildings, and he was informed of the need for the Commission’s review. He illustrated the relationship of the lot to Rock Creek Park, and he indicated the views from the park trail to the existing house. Although the park trail runs along the back of the lot, he said the existing house is not easily visible from the trail. He added that most of the large trees toward the rear of the lot have been designated as heritage trees.
Mr. Biabani illustrated the existing one-story house from different angles, along with other houses in the neighborhood. He said that most nearby houses are two stories tall with hipped roofs, and that he designed the proposed house to be similar in size; it would be approximately 4,500 square feet, with the same width as the existing house but extending fifteen feet further at the rear. He added that the floor plan has been somewhat reduced from the original proposal to be more in proportion with neighboring houses.
Mr. Biabani said he has kept the design simple because of the importance of views from the park. The roof would be shallow to keep the height relatively low—nineteen feet at its highest point above the front grade, and only five feet taller than the existing house. All the facades would have cedar siding, and the windows would have aluminum frames. The front facade would not be visible from the park; a first-floor deck would extend at the rear. The driveway is proposed to remain in its current location on the northeast side of the lot in order to protect an adjacent heritage tree; the garage would be located in the northern corner of the basement level, with an additional outdoor parking area in the back yard.
Chair Tsien noted that the Commission is reviewing this project because it adjoins the public property of Rock Creek Park, and therefore the Commission’s greatest concern is with the rear facade. She asked Mr. Biabani to describe the intended landscape planting between the house and the park boundary. Mr. Biabani responded that additional planting is not proposed because the slight descending grade from the building to the rear property line will create some separation between the house and park while preserving and emphasizing an existing heritage tree located several feet from the property line. Ms. Tsien noted that the photograph of the site taken from the trail to the current house reveals the lot’s very wooded condition.
Mr. McCrery asked for clarification of the proposed exterior materials. Mr. Biabani indicated the cedar siding, aluminum windows, and stone base. Ms. Tsien observed that the siding appears white in the renderings, although the material has been described as cedar and she assumes the color will be different than shown.
Chair Tsien suggested approving the concept for the project. Secretary Luebke clarified that the project is submitted for permit and did not come to the Commission as a concept design; if the Commission approves this design, it would be the final decision, unless the Commission gives a specific condition for its approval. Mr. McCrery noted that the Commission’s review is a required step in the building permit process. Mr. Luebke clarified that the project is still undergoing D.C. review, and it has not yet been given a permit. Mr. McCrery asked if an applicant could avoid coming to the Commission for concept review by simply submitting a project for a D.C. building permit; Mr. Luebke said this is possible, although the staff usually advises applicants that skipping the concept review makes the process more difficult. He noted that this project has been in the D.C. application process for several months, and the staff has advised the applicant to defer the review by the Commission in order to allow the opportunity to revise the design.
Mr. McCrery suggested that the Commission is not obligated to give final approval of this design for permit. Mr. Luebke said this is correct, and he described the Commission’s limited range of options at this stage: it can approve the proposed design outright; it can approve the design with conditions, which would have to be fairly specific; it can ask the applicant to defer the Commission’s review if there are substantial design issues the Commission wants addressed, although the applicant would have to agree to this; or the Commission can recommend denial of the permit, in which case the applicant would have to take the matter up with the D.C. Government.
Mr. Cook observed that in the Commission’s standard process, a project is initially reviewed and approved at concept level, and the Commission has the opportunity to see material samples. He expressed concern that for this project, initially submitted at permit level, the applicant is seemingly not obligated to get the Commission’s approval of materials. Mr. Luebke said the Commission could make the provision of material samples a condition of the permit approval action.
Chair Tsien suggested that the applicant be required to provide material samples to the staff. She said that because the lot is so densely wooded, this issue seems to be relatively small, and she does not think it would be the best use of the Commission’s time to have the applicant return to present the materials to the Commission itself. Mr. Luebke summarized that the action would be to approve the design for permit, with the condition that the applicant provide material samples to the staff; he asked if the Commission is making any particular recommendation for the materials or just requesting a general review by the staff. Mr. McCrery suggested requesting that the materials should be all natural instead of having painted surfaces or using substitutions for what has been proposed. Mr. Luebke asked if the proposed painted cedar wood siding would be acceptable; Mr. McCrery suggested a more natural finish. He said that although the photograph depicts a heavily wooded site, it also shows that the tree canopy is very high, so from the park trail it will be possible to see the house through the trees, especially after much of the site is cleared for construction. He commented that the proposed design is not an attractive work of architecture, and the more it uses natural hues to blend in with the landscape, the better.
Mr. Luebke noted that the applicant will also be submitting a proposal for a new house on an undeveloped lot immediately adjacent to this one; he said the staff will request that the applicant bring this new proposal to the Commission for concept review. Chair Tsien agreed that the Commission will definitely need to see the new proposal as a concept design before it is submitted for permit; she acknowledged that the procedural rules are complex and can be confusing. Regarding today’s submission, she agreed with Mr. McCrery’s suggestion that the exterior materials should mirror the natural brown coloration of the trees. She offered a motion to approve the proposal as a permit submission, with the request that the staff inspect a submission of material samples to assure the use of more natural wood tones. Upon a second by Mr. Cook, the Commission adopted this action. Mr. McCrery voted against the motion; he said he does not want to create a precedent for an applicant to omit submitting to the Commission for concept approval before filing for a permit.
Chair Tsien reminded Mr. Biabani that if he designs a house for the adjacent lot, he should submit the proposed design for the Commission’s review at concept level. Secretary Luebke added that a concept proposal for the adjacent site should include more documentation of the site plan.
G. U.S. Mint
1. CFA 16/FEB/23-6, 2024 Liberty and Britannia 24k Gold Coin and Silver Medal. Design for joint U.S.–U.K. coin. Final. Secretary Luebke introduced the design alternatives for a coin and medal to be issued as a collaboration between the mints of the United States and the United Kingdom. Both countries will use a design developed jointly by the chief engravers of the two mints, featuring allegorical representations of Liberty and Britannia. This shared design will be used as the obverse of the American issue, paired with one of the reverse design alternatives that have been developed by the U.S. Mint’s chief engraver. The British issue will place the shared design on the reverse, paired with an obverse that features King Charles III. The versions of the design for the coin and medal will vary slightly, primarily involving the inscriptions.
Mr. Luebke noted that the design alternatives have been selected through a lengthy collaboration process that has included participation by several members of this Commission and of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, as well as representatives of the British Royal Mint. The outcome of the collaboration process is a strong recommendation for obverse alternative #1 as the shared design. He asked April Stafford, chief of the Office of Design Management at the U.S. Mint, to present the alternatives.
Ms. Stafford expressed appreciation for the participation of Mr. McCrery, Mr. Moore, and Ms. Delplace during the collaboration and consultation process. She presented two alternatives for the shared design to be used on the American obverse; the preference of the joint committee, obverse #1, features profile portraits of allegorical Liberty and Britannia as complementary balancing elements, configured in rotated positions as might be seen with the faces on playing cards. Britannia holds a trident and Liberty holds a torch. She said that this design is intended to invite comparison of the two nations’ symbols. She presented four alternatives for the reverse design of the American coin and medal, featuring symbolic or allegorical representations to further explore the relationship of the two nations.
Chair Tsien invited comments from the Commission members, beginning with those who served on the joint committee. Mr. Moore expressed appreciation for the opportunity to participate in the process, which provided a unique opportunity to consider the representation of the two nations’ relationship and their global impact. He said the committee members were excited about the preferred alternative for the shared design, and he emphasized his own support for obverse #1. Mr. McCrery agreed, noting that the joint committee quickly settled on this design as a strong preference.
Ms. Tsien commented that the two allegorical women appear strong and dignified in obverse #1, in comparison to their less compelling depiction in obverse #2. Mr. McCrery agreed, adding that another advantage of obverse #1 is that the composition is understandable when seen from any direction, while the composition of obverse #2 is only successful in one orientation. He also questioned the very casual pose of the allegorical figures in obverse #2. For the reverse, he commented that the pose of the allegorical figure is cartoonish in reverse #3 and reverse #3A; the portrait in reverse #2 is more dignified as a representation of Liberty, and he also suggested consideration of reverse #1, which features trees instead of an allegorical figure.
Mr. Cook supported these comments, agreeing with obverse #1 as a clear preference. For the reverse, he identified reverse #1 as a first choice and reverse #2 as a second choice. Mr. McCrery noted the obverse’s personification of Liberty, which makes an additional portrait of Liberty unnecessary on the reverse; he therefore supported reverse #1. Dr. Edwards agreed, expressing support for obverse #1 and reverse #1; she said that the allegorical portraits on the other reverse alternatives do not achieve the level of respect and dignity that is seen in obverse #1. Mr. Moore supported reverse #1 for its inclusion of the bristlecone pine tree as a symbol of the United States, paired with the English yew; he expressed appreciation for this design’s relationship to the 2023 American Liberty coin and medal, which also featured the bristlecone pine. He agreed with the observation that allegorical portraits are unnecessary on the reverse because they would be featured on the obverse.
Chair Tsien noted the consensus to support obverse #1 and reverse #1. Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Dr. Edwards, the Commission adopted this recommendation.
During the discussion of the next agenda item, Mr. Moore departed for the remainder of the meeting, after providing written comments to Chair Tsien. Secretary Luebke noted that a quorum of four Commission members remains.
2. CFA 16/FEB/23-7, Congressional Gold Medal honoring Willie O’Ree. Design for a gold medal. Final. Secretary Luebke introduced the design alternatives for a Congressional Gold Medal honoring Willie O’Ree, the first Black player in the National Hockey League (NHL). He noted Mr. O’Ree’s upbringing in Canada, where he joined a Canadian team affiliated with the Boston Bruins; he then played for the Bruins in 1958 and 1960. After retiring as a player, he served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, promoting a youth hockey network that encourages underrepresented boys and girls to play hockey. The authorizing legislation calls for striking a gold medal that will be presented to Mr. O’Ree; the Mint may also strike bronze duplicates for sale to the public. He asked April Stafford, chief of the Office of Design Management at the U.S. Mint, to present the alternatives.
Ms. Stafford said the Mint has developed the designs in consultation with a senior executive at the NHL, as designated by Congress, and with Mr. O’Ree’s daughter, Chandra, who is serving as the family’s representative. She presented five alternatives for the obverse design and five alternatives for the reverse design. She noted the preference of the Congressionally designated liaison for obverse #4 and reverse #5, a pairing that combines his roles as a hockey player and working with youth programs. Ms. O’Ree prefers obverse #2, which is reportedly Mr. O’Ree’s preference and is also supported by the Congressionally designated liaison; for the reverse, Ms. O’Ree’s preference is reverse #1 with some modifications. Ms. Stafford noted that several alternatives include the inscription “Forget About What You Can’t See, and Focus on What You Can See”—a reference to Mr. O’Ree’s blindness in one eye as well as his focus on overcoming obstacles to becoming the first Black player in the NHL. Other designs feature the inscription “Hockey Is For Everyone,” which Ms. O’Ree requests be substituted for the longer inscription on reverse #1, along with substituting youth players for the professional players seen in the background of this design, in order to emphasize Mr. O’Ree’s work with youth programs.
Chair Tsien said that Mr. Moore provided comments before his departure, and he supports the family's preferences for obverse #2 and reverse #1 including the family’s requested modifications. She noted that the requested change in the inscription on reverse #1 would avoid duplicating the inscription on obverse #2. Mr. McCrery agreed with Mr. Moore’s comments in supporting the family’s preferences. Mr. Cook described the portrait in obverse #2—depicting Mr. O’Ree in his later years wearing a fedora hat—as very dignified; Ms. Tsien and Mr. McCrery agreed. Ms. Tsien expressed support for this pairing that combines Mr. O’Ree as a young hockey player on the reverse and as an older man on the obverse, giving a sense of rounding out his life.
Chair Tsien noted the apparent consensus to agree with Mr. Moore’s support for the family’s preferences; upon a second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission recommended obverse #2 and reverse #1 with the modifications that were discussed.
3. CFA 16/FEB/23-8, 2022–2025 American Women Quarters Program. Reverse designs for five coins to be issued in 2024. Final. Secretary Luebke introduced the design alternatives for the five reverses of the quarter-dollar coin to be issued in 2024, the third year of a four-year program of twenty reverses honoring a wide spectrum of prominent American women and their accomplishments. He noted that these circulating coins will be widely used by the public. The Mint has developed these designs in consultation with the Smithsonian Institution and the families of the honorees. He asked April Stafford, chief of the Office of Design Management at the U.S. Mint, to present the design alternatives.
Ms. Stafford presented six alternative designs for the reverse honoring Cuban American performer Celia Cruz; the preference of her estate’s representative is alternative #1, featuring a dynamic portrait of Ms. Cruz in a rhumba-style dress alongside the inscription of her catchphrase “¡Azúcar!” She said this design portrays Ms. Cruz well and conveys the energy and dynamism with which she lived her life.
Mr. Cook discouraged consideration of alternative #4; he observed that Ms. Cruz was a singer but is not holding a microphone in this portrait, resulting in the impression that she might have been a dancer. Dr. Edwards, citing videos of Ms. Cruz’s performances, said that alternative #1 best captures her essence, and she therefore supports this alternative; Mr. Cook, Ms. Tsien, and Mr. McCrery agreed. Mr. McCrery said he was not aware of Ms. Cruz’s work; he suggested including the phrase “Queen of Salsa,” as seen in alternatives #2 and #4, as a helpful and instructive addition that would make the coin more meaningful to many Americans. He also asked why alternative #1 has the name “Celia” in dark lettering and “Cruz” in light lettering. Ms. Stafford responded that the dark lettering would be incused within the surface of the portrait, which is intended to add an additional dynamic element to the design.
Ms. Tsien observed that adding the phrase “Queen of Salsa” would be problematic within the composition of alternative #1, requiring the removal of some other element of the design. She suggested that the Spanish inscription “¡Azúcar!,” meaning sugar, already conveys that Ms. Cruz’s music is salsa and provides a more lively representation of her persona. Mr. McCrery agreed with this conclusion. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Dr. Edwards, the Commission recommended alternative #1 for the Celia Cruz coin.
Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray
Ms. Stafford presented six alternative designs for the reverse honoring civil rights activist Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray. The preference of her estate’s representative, who is a family member, is alternative #1, featuring Dr. Murray’s portrait with her characteristic smile and her hands reverently cradling the scales of justice; this symbol is emblematic of her life’s work fighting for justice and equal rights, and it also relates this coin’s design to the scales on the 2023 quarter honoring Eleanor Roosevelt, who was Dr. Pauli’s friend and collaborator.
Mr. Cook observed that Dr. Pauli is depicted wearing a cross at her neck in alternative #2A, while the cross is omitted in alternative #2; the inscriptions also differ in these two alternatives. Ms. Stafford responded that the estate’s representative prefers including the cross; the Mint has shown it for one of these two similar designs, and it could be included or omitted for either of these alternatives. The inscription preferred by the estate’s representative is “America, Be What You Proclaim Yourself To Be,” which is included in alternative #2; the differing inscription on alternative #2A is “Hope—A Song in a Weary Throat,” which references the title of Dr. Pauli’s memoir. Ms. Tsien said the first quotation is much more in the spirit of Dr. Murray, who was a determined person and a firebrand, while the inscription with the “Weary Throat” sounds too soft. She added that the portraits in the other alternatives do not convey that she was a fighter, appearing instead to be in an office setting.
Mr. Cook agreed and expressed support for alternative #2 as the strongest design. Mr. McCrery also supported alternative #2, with the inclusion of the cross seen on alternative #2A, as requested by the estate’s representative; he cited the superior quality of the portraiture in this composition. Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Dr. Edwards, the Commission recommended alternative #2 for the Pauli Murray coin, with the family’s preference to be followed for the inclusion of the cross.
Patsy Takemoto Mink
Ms. Stafford presented five alternative designs for the reverse honoring Japanese-American Congresswoman Patsy Takemoto Mink. She said the family liaison’s first choice is alternative #5, and the second choice is alternative #4; both of these designs depict Rep. Mink in front of the U.S. Capitol, and the inscriptions refer to her legislative authorship of Title IX that promoted equal opportunity in education.
Chair Tsien expressed support for the family’s preferences, observing that the explanatory inscription will be helpful for the many Americans who may not recognize the shorter reference of “Title IX.” She commented that the portrait in alternative #5 is more dignified than in the other alternatives. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Cook, the Commission recommended alternative #5 for the Patsy Takemoto Mink coin.
Ms. Stafford presented ten alternative designs for the reverse honoring Native American author and activist Zitkala-Ša. She said the preference of the family liaisons is alternative #3B, which depicts her with a determined expression and holding a book representing her literary achievements; the family members cited the quality and likeness of the portrait as well as the inscription “Author, Activist, Composer” describing her work.
Mr. McCrery supported the family’s preference for alternative #3B, agreeing that the portrait is powerful and expressive. Mr. Cook observed the sequence of related designs that have various permutations of inscriptions and design elements, including the phrase “Red Bird” and a cardinal in flight, representing the translation of her Lakota name, Zitkala-Ša; he agreed in concluding that alternative #3B is the best composition. Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Dr. Edwards, the Commission recommended alternative #3B for the Zitkala-Ša coin.
Dr. Mary Edwards Walker
Ms. Stafford presented twelve alternative designs for the reverse honoring Civil War-era surgeon Mary Edwards Walker. She said the preference of the family representatives is alternative #2, which depicts Dr. Walker holding her surgical tool kit and wearing the Medal of Honor.
Ms. Tsien questioned the preference for alternative #2, observing that Dr. Walker’s profession as a surgeon isn’t apparent; the surgical tool kit she is holding could easily be perceived as a purse. She suggested including an explanatory inscription as seen in other alternatives, such as the single word “Surgeon,” which could somehow fit within the composition. Mr. McCrery observed that alternative #2 overemphasizes the Medal of Honor, showing it worn by Dr. Walker, enlarged in the field beside her, and referenced in the inscription “Medal of Honor 1865” on a banner at the bottom. Citing the educational component of this coin program, he suggested simplifying these elements and adding the phrase “Civil War Surgeon,” as seen in alternative #3A, which he said would convey important information in helping the American public understand the coin’s subject and would inspire some people to research Dr. Walker’s contributions. He observed that the nearly full-length portrait in alternative #3A allows the clothing to convey a sense of the Civil War period; the portrait gives the sense that she was a formidable woman, and the references to the Medal of Honor are slightly simpler.
Ms. Tsien suggested using alternative #3A as a model for simplifying the composition of alternative #2 to have fewer references to the Medal of Honor, providing enough room to add the phrase “Civil War Surgeon.” Mr. McCrery observed that the portraiture in alternative #2 may be the reason for the family’s preference, and he suggested transferring this portrait to the composition of alternative #3A. He observed that alternative #3A places Dr. Walker in front of the enlarged Medal of Honor and partly overlapping it, which he said is an effective design. Mr. Cook supported this combination of alternatives.
Chair Tsien asked if the Commission can recommend such a new composition or should focus on recommending a submitted alternative; Secretary Luebke said the suggested combination of elements is reasonable to provide as the Commission’s advice. Mr. Cook noted that the Commission’s underlying reason for recommending the combination is the observation that including the inscription “Civil War Surgeon” is important. Chair Tsien summarized the consensus to recommend a combination of alternatives #2 and #3A, as discussed, to include the phrase “Civil War Surgeon.” Upon a second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission adopted this recommendation for the Mary Edwards Walker coin.
4. CFA 16/FEB/23-9, 2024 American Innovation One Dollar Coin Program. Revised design for the coin for Missouri. Final. Secretary Luebke introduced the revised set of alternative designs for the Missouri coin 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 and continues through 2032, with four coins issued per year; the coins are non-circulating and will be available for purchase from the Mint. He noted that the subjects of the designs are developed in consultation with the state governors; the single subject selected for the Missouri coin is the agricultural scientist George Washington Carver.
Mr. Luebke said the designs for the 2024 coins were reviewed in June and September 2022. The Commission did not recommend a design for the Missouri coin in September, instead requesting a revised submission; the Commission commented favorably on a profile portrait of Dr. Carver but questioned the composition that featured agricultural and scientific motifs emerging behind his head. The new set of alternatives has been developed in response to the Commission’s comments, although none of the designs closely resembles the alternative that the Commission focused on in the September review. He asked April Stafford, chief of the Office of Design Management at the U.S. Mint, to present the revised alternatives.
Ms. Stafford expressed appreciation for the Commission’s previous comments, which were subsequently supported by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, and she said the Mint has developed additional designs that might better honor Dr. Carver. The revised designs have been shared with the Missouri governor’s office. She presented eleven reverse designs for the Missouri coin, noting the preference of the governor’s office for alternative #10, which portrays Dr. Carver gently smiling as he examines a sample of his work in the laboratory.
Ms. Tsien expressed support for alternative #10, citing its emphasis on his work as a scientist and his identity as a Black man. She discouraged the alternatives that depict crops, which could suggest that Dr. Carver was a farmer, or those that overly emphasize the peanut, because his work extended far beyond the peanut plant. Mr. McCrery, Dr. Edwards, and Mr. Cook agreed in supporting alternative #10, but they questioned the treatment of the inscription “Missouri.” Mr. McCrery suggested making this word smaller and perhaps moving it to an arced configuration beneath the inscription “United States of America”; he cited the comparable configuration of text in alternative #11. He said that this repositioning of “Missouri” would avoid the excessive emphasis of Dr. Carver looking directly at this inscription as he examines a laboratory flask. Ms. Tsien agreed, commenting that the presented composition for alternative #10 gives the impression that Dr. Carver has discovered Missouri. Dr. Edwards suggested treating the “Missouri” text with a smaller size, as seen in alternative #8; Mr. McCrery and Ms. Tsien agreed.
Upon a motion by Dr. Edwards with second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission recommended alternative #10 with the modification to make the inscription “Missouri” less prominent by treating it as in alternative #8.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:42 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA