Minutes for CFA Meeting — 18 January 2024

The meeting was convened by videoconference at 9:01 a.m.

Members participating: 
Hon. Hazel Ruth Edwards, Vice Chair
Hon. Peter Cook
Hon. Lisa Delplace
Hon. James McCrery
Hon. Justin Garrett Moore

Staff present:
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Sarah Batcheler, Assistant Secretary
Kay Fanning
Daniel Fox
Carlton Hart
Vivian Lee
Tony Simon

(Due to the absence of Chair Billie Tsien, Vice Chair Edwards presided at the meeting.)


A. Approval of the minutes of the 16 November meeting.  Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the November meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance.  Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission approved the minutes.

B. Dates of next meetings.  Secretary Luebke presented the dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published:  15 February, 21 March, and 18 April 2024.  He noted that a proposed schedule of meetings for 2025 will likely be presented to the Commission in July 2024.

C. Confirmation of the approval of the recommendations for the December 2023 Old Georgetown Act submissions.  Secretary Luebke asked the Commission to take a formal vote to confirm its approval of the Old Georgetown Board recommendations that were circulated and endorsed by e-mail in December, when no Commission meeting was held.  Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission confirmed its approval.

D. Report on the approval of objects proposed for acquisition by the Freer Gallery of Art.  Secretary Luebke reported Chair Tsien’s approval in December of the Smithsonian Institution’s proposed acceptance of three sets of objects donated for the permanent collection of the Freer Gallery of Art.  The gifts include 23 works of Japanese calligraphy, donated by Shig Ogyu; 37 Japanese works, including scrolls, screens, calligraphy, and paintings, donated by Mary and Cheney Cowles; and 2 Qur’an folio leaves, donated by Ruth Uhlmann and Craig Mathews.  He said the Commission members are sometimes able to inspect proposed acquisitions at the Freer, but scheduling a visit was not feasible in December.  He noted that the approval is required specifically by the Chair, and no vote by the Commission as a whole is needed.

E. Completion of Commission service of Duncan G. Stroik. Secretary Luebke reported that Mr. Stroik has concluded his service as a Commission member upon the completion of his four-year term that began in December 2019.  He noted that Mr. Stroik is a professor of architecture at the University of Notre Dame, as well as a practicing architect who is noted for his large-scale ecclesiastical works.  He described Mr. Stroik as a strong voice on the Commission, especially regarding the protection of historic works; he said Mr. Stroik’s professional insights, standards, and humor will be missed.  He added that Mr. McCrery, also appointed to the Commission in December 2019, continues to serve.  Mr. McCrery said he has been honored to have joined the Commission at the same time as Mr. Stroik and to have served with him.  Mr. Luebke noted that Mr. McCrery is now the only Commission member whose service began before the switch to videoconference format with the onset of the pandemic in early 2020.


A. Appendices

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.  He noted that, because of holiday scheduling, the Old Georgetown Board did not hold an early January meeting, and the customary appendix for Old Georgetown Act submissions is therefore not part of the Commission's agenda.  (See agenda item I.C above for Old Georgetown Act submissions from December 2023.)

Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar:  Mr. Hart reported that no changes have been made to the draft appendix, which includes six projects.  He noted that the appendix also includes the reporting of two actions that were delegated to the staff.  For the addition and landscape modifications at Stoddert Elementary School, the submission is consistent with the Commission’s previous advice, and the staff supports the design team’s proposed specification for the addition’s exterior red brick.  The other delegated action is for the National Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial.  The revisions to the memorial’s design respond to the Commission’s previous comments, and the staff approved the final design for the landscape and site components; the action does not include the memorial’s sculptural elements, which are still being developed.  Mr. Luebke noted that the staff continues to coordinate with the project team for the sculptures, including a recent inspection of the development of the bas-relief panels at the studio of sculptor Emily Bedard.

Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission approved the Government Submissions Consent Calendar.

Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions:  Ms. Lee reported that two cases listed on the draft appendix have been removed and are being held open for review in a future month (case numbers SL 24-042 and 24-044), and one case has been added to note that it has been withdrawn by the applicant (SL 24-028).  Other revisions are limited to minor wording changes and the notation of dates for the receipt of supplemental materials.  The recommendations for eight projects are subject to further coordination with the applicants, and she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations when the outstanding issues are resolved.  Upon a motion by Ms. Delplace with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act Appendix.  (See agenda item II.E for an additional Shipstead-Luce Act submission.)

B. U.S. General Services Administration

CFA 18/JAN/24-1, St. Elizabeths West Campus, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2701 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE.  Construction of a new garage and associated landscape at Gate 1.  Concept.  Secretary Luebke introduced the proposal for an underground parking garage and above-ground screening facility at the St. Elizabeths West Campus.  He said the proposal is generally consistent with the amended master plan for developing the campus as the headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security, which the Commission most recently reviewed in September 2020.  The site is at Gate 1 in the northeastern corner of the West Campus, an area that was historically used for agriculture; other parts of the campus were developed with Gothic Revival and Beaux Arts buildings within an arboretum landscape.  The site currently has several dilapidated greenhouses and an open, meadow-like landscape.

Mr. Luebke said the proposal is a four-level, 600,000-square-foot parking garage for 1,500 vehicles, along with an 8,000-square-foot screening pavilion on top of the garage at grade level.  The pavilion would be configured as three linked pavilions for screening vehicles and pedestrians.  Smaller structures nearby, in a similar design vocabulary, would provide emergency egress and house the K-9 inspection support.  The proposed landscape is designed as a meadow bordered by woodland plantings, with two terraced lightwells for the garage.  Twenty trees would be removed, and 127 new trees would be planted along with pollinator plants and grasses in keeping with the historic landscape palette.  He asked Kristi Tunstall Williams, deputy director of the Office of Planning and Design Quality at the regional office of the General Services Administration, to begin the presentation.

Ms. Williams said the project is a component of the 2008 master plan and the 2020 master plan amendment for the campus.  She noted that the campus is a National Historic Landmark, and the intent is to maintain the historic setting; the development is therefore being planned as a pedestrian campus.  The proposed garage would be located at the edge of the campus, adjacent to the historic perimeter wall; after screening, employees would proceed into the campus as pedestrians or use the limited shuttle bus service.  She emphasized the importance of this parking garage in supporting the operations of the campus and its ongoing development.  To present the design, she introduced architect Toby Hasselgren of ZGF and landscape architect Hallie Boyce of OLIN.

Mr. Hasselgren described the context of the project within the master plan.  The location is at Gate 1, the northernmost of the three campus gates along Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue.  Gate 1 has a small, beautiful gate house that would remain, along with most of the historic site walls around the gate; he presented photographs of the existing conditions.  The garage is designed to allow another small historic structure to the west, the Burroughs Cottage, to remain.  The recent redevelopment of the campus has provided a typology for new screening buildings; he showed illustrations of the utilitarian facility at Gate 4 near the Coast Guard headquarters, a single-story bar-shaped pavilion with a flat roof and walls of stone and curtainwall.

Mr. Hasselgren said the design goal for the architecture and landscape has been to minimize the visual impact of the project, and he described the architecture and landscape as being integrated as much as possible.  The design process has included inspiration from and respect for the historic context, awareness of critical viewsheds, and careful study of scale and materials.  Programmatic concerns have included vehicular circulation, the user experience, and the security logistics.  The cultural landscape report has been an important consideration, and the project is intended to strengthen and extend the existing landscape typologies.

Ms. Boyce provided a more detailed presentation of the landscape proposal.  She indicated the context of the campus within the Anacostia hills that form part of the topographic bowl around central Washington; the campus has broad views north and west across the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers and into the city.  The prevailing landform of the campus is a plateau, with much of it managed as an arboretum.  The slopes and ravines toward the edges of the site have historically been managed as meadows and woodlands, and the garage site is within an open meadow area.  The project would replant this landscape, extending to the ravine adjacent to Burroughs Cottage.

Ms. Boyce summarized the landscape goals for the project:  preserve the setting of the historic gate house and the brick site walls; extend the arboretum landscape to both sides of the entrance drive; frame and preserve key views, including those from the historic Center Building, where the office of the Secretary of Homeland Security is located; create a multifunctional meadow that would contribute to stormwater management and pollinator habitat, with reduced maintenance needs; restore the woodland to the north and west; and provide openings within the landscape to bring light and air to the parking garage along with wayfinding.  She said that a precedent for this project has been a 10-acre meadow that ZGF and OLIN had designed above a conference center.  She presented historic photographs of the gate house, illustrating the trees that had provided shade for pedestrians and strengthened the sense of threshold; the trees are no longer present, and the proposal is to bring back this character.

Ms. Boyce presented the site plan, indicating the outline of the below-grade garage; it has been placed as far to the north and east as possible to reduce impacts on the entrance drive, Burroughs Cottage, and existing trees.  At grade level, the eastern part of the site would have entrance drives and the screening pavilion; to the west would be a 1.8-acre meadow along with some woodland plantings.  Vehicular circulation would be along the eastern and northern edges, accessed through a new opening in the brick wall on the north side of the historic entry drive; the vehicular route would slope down to screening and the garage entrance.  Vehicles for dignitaries would go through a separate screening area adjoining the pavilion and would continue to the internal circulation drives of the campus.  She indicated the pedestrian circulation, including connections to the campus path system and access to the shuttle bus stop to the south of the screening pavilion.

Mr. Hasselgren presented the project’s architectural components.  The screening pavilion is intended to provide a welcoming experience, with a quiet rather than heroic character; he described it as being nestled into the landscape, with a simple palette of materials.  He noted the canopy that would provide weather protection.  Photovoltaic panels would allow the pavilion to have net-zero electricity consumption.  He indicated the much larger footprint of the below-grade parking; a series of lightwells would provide daylight and wayfinding.  He said the entrance drive to the garage provides the needed queuing distance.

Mr. Hasselgren said the program for the screening pavilion is consistent with the design approach of treating it as three smaller volumes with differing functions, helping to break down the pavilion’s scale within the landscape.  While the pavilion would be a major threshold for the campus, the height of each volume has been kept as low as possible, ranging from fourteen to seventeen feet; he illustrated the pavilion’s relationship to the height of the nearby gate house.  The taller volume at the center of the pavilion would be the main entrance lobby, which would include vertical circulation from the parking garage.  The proposed materials relate to the existing campus typology of screening pavilions; he characterized the palette as simple and humble, but elevated just enough to be interesting.  He presented the proposed stone and glass; the campus has some examples of cleft-face stone walls, and the pavilion walls would have a similar stone pattern but with a smooth surface.  He also presented the small structure proposed for the southeast corner of the project site adjoining the perimeter wall; it would contain security vehicles, a small guard booth, the K-9 inspection facility, and an emergency egress from the garage.

Mr. Hasselgren said the lightwells for the garage, including a lightwell adjacent to the garage’s vehicular ramps and another lightwell adjacent to the vertical circulation core for pedestrians, intended to help people see these locations from anywhere within the garage.  Ms. Boyce described the terraced planting trays along each lightwell; the proposed plantings would relate to the piedmont ecology, using ravine plants that could tolerate the shaded condition of the lightwells.  She said this design would provide a beautiful green point of orientation for people in the garage.

Ms. Boyce said the project’s fencing and walls have been designed to meet the high security requirements of the campus, including two layers of perimeter enclosure set within no-tree zones; low groundcover planting is proposed in the clear zone between the fence lines.  She presented several perspective renderings of the proposal, indicating the lightwell, the meadow landscape, Burroughs Cottage, and the key views related to the Center Building and the vista toward central Washington.  She noted that the below-grade garage would not be visible from Burroughs Cottage, which has been an important consideration in the review process, and the height of the meadow plantings and trees has been chosen to help with the screening of views.  She said the stone walls of the terracing would relate to the sitework of the CISA project on the West Campus.  She presented a view of the area where pedestrians exit the screening building to walk toward their workplace or the shuttle bus; she described this area as the place where people will start their day.  She said the paths would be paved with concrete using the standard aggregate for the campus, while the plazas and shuttle bus stop would have granite paving.

Ms. Boyce said the proposal includes planting 127 trees, far beyond the required minimum.  The initial concept proposal for the landscape palette includes native plants that would bring color, texture, and life to this area of the campus throughout the year.  She indicated the grasses and perennials proposed for the meadow, and the woodland shrubs and groundcover proposed for other areas.  Mr. Hasselgren summarized that the project has been designed to integrate the landscape and architecture.

Vice Chair Edwards invited questions and comments from the Commission members.  Mr. Cook asked if the garage would be naturally ventilated and whether the prevailing winds would result in any impact of the ventilation on nearby housing.  Mr. Hasselgren said the garage would have mechanical ventilation, assisted by natural ventilation; he said that reliance entirely on natural ventilation would require much larger openings that would be problematic within the landscape.  He offered to check further on the prevailing wind direction.  Mr. Cook said this issue could be important for the effect of the vehicle fumes as well as the noise of the mechanical ventilation system on adjacent residential properties.  Ms. Williams added that noise impacts were studied as part of the Environmental Impact Statement for the West Campus redevelopment, and the project team has been sensitive to the location of the campus alongside residential neighborhoods.  Ms. Williams and Mr. Hasselgren said they will provide additional information in the next presentation.

Observing that the screening pavilion would be set within a meadow, Mr. Cook asked if bird-safe glass is needed for the scale of the proposed facades.  Mr. Hasselgren responded that bird-safe glass is always advisable, and this issue will be explored further as the project is developed beyond the concept stage.  He said that many technologies are available for bird safety, including solutions that would be unobtrusive for human viewers.

Mr. McCrery questioned the proposed smooth finish for the stone surfaces of the architecture, which would contrast with the more rustic aesthetic of other stonework on the campus.  He said that the existing landscape walls, as illustrated in the presentation, would be a much more appropriate precedent than the proposed smooth finish.  He observed that much of the design effort is focused on making the architecture and the landscape unobtrusive within the context, and the stone walls should therefore not be designed to contrast with the campus landscape.  He suggested preparation of a design alternative with a split- or cleft-face finish.

Ms. Williams responded that the initial design included this treatment of the stone, but the conclusion from the historic preservation consultation process was that a more rustic finish would be too busy and draw too much attention.  The compromise solution, now being presented for the Commission’s comment, is to use a rough finish for the walls within the landscape, consistent with the campus context, while using the same material with a smoother finish for the building facades.  Mr. McCrery emphasized that the Commission’s advice is as important as the advice of other review agencies, regardless of the sequencing of the reviews, and he reiterated his request for preparation of an alternative design for the finish of the facade stonework.  He said that a follow-up presentation of an option of treating the stone with a more rustic aesthetic, as suggested in the landscape presentation, would be worthwhile for the Commission to see.

Ms. Delplace complimented the design, and she asked if the landscape is officially designated as an arboretum.  Ms. Williams responded that the term arboretum was used in the cultural landscape report to describe some parts of the campus.  Ms. Boyce confirmed this background and noted that the historic landscape was inspired by the work of Andrew Jackson Downing for the National Mall in the mid-19th century; she said she is unaware of a more official status for applying the term to the campus landscape.  Ms. Delplace commented that the landscape proposal is very sensitive to the context, but an arboretum would traditionally have more diversity of plantings; the design instead proposes a repetition of plants with an emphasis on native species.  Observing the large size of the campus and the potential benefit of the landscape for the people working there, she suggested consideration of developing the landscape as a true arboretum; she said the result could be “astounding and aspirational.”

Ms. Delplace asked for clarification of whether the presented landscape near Burroughs Cottage is existing or proposed.  Ms. Boyce said the landscape plan shows existing trees in a lighter color, including trees to the west of Burroughs Cottage.  A wooded ravine farther west was depicted on historic maps but has subsequently been filled in; the intent is to re-establish this wooded area, which would encourage more biodiversity and would better screen Burroughs Cottage from the promontory adjoining the Center Building, which has a panoramic view of the Anacostia neighborhood and central Washington.  Ms. Delplace asked if Burroughs Cottage also enjoys this open view.  Ms. Boyce said the view is not available from the cottage because of trees to the north, and the proposed plantings would have the effect of framing the view from the nearby promontory.

Secretary Luebke summarized the apparent consensus to support the concept submission, with comments about impacts outside the campus, the finish of materials, plant selections, and protection of views.  Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Ms. Delplace, the Commission approved the submission with these comments.  Mr. Luebke noted the lengthy consultation process for redevelopment of the campus, beginning more than fifteen years ago and continuing in forthcoming projects.  He said the staff will assist with the design development for the parking garage proposal in response to the Commission’s advice.

C. D.C. Department of Transportation

CFA 18/JAN/24-2, William Howard Taft Bridge, Connecticut Avenue, NW, between Belmont Road and Calvert Street, NW.  Installation of pedestrian safety barriers.  Revised concept.  (Previous:  CFA 21/SEP/23-3)  Secretary Luebke introduced the revised proposal for the addition of pedestrian safety barriers along the sidewalks of the William Howard Taft Bridge, which carries Connecticut Avenue over the Rock Creek valley.  The existing railings, at a standard height of just under four feet, are easy to climb over, and thirteen people have died by jumping from the bridge since 2010.  The new barrier design is intended to reduce suicide attempts while minimizing the physical and visual impact on the bridge.  He said that in the previous review of the project in September 2023, the Commission had recommended the development of Option 3B, which would replace the bridge’s flanking piers and railings in the same design character but increased to the necessary height of approximately eight feet; the other options had proposed adding new barrier systems next to the existing railings and piers.  He said the Commission had requested that Option 3B be refined so that new material added to replace or extend the piers would closely match the appearance of the existing concrete masonry; the Commission had also requested the preparation of new perspectival studies to illustrate the experience of people moving along the bridge and of views upward from the valley showing the visual impact of the new barriers.  He said that in response to these recommendations, the project team has returned with several alternatives for Option 3B, including variations for the design of the piers and the handrail system between the piers, as well as for the transition from the higher railings to the lion sculptures flanking each end of the bridge.  He asked Wagdy Wassef, project manager at WSP Engineering, to introduce the revised design.

Mr. Wassef said the changes proposed for the Taft Bridge are meant to save lives by minimizing or even eliminating the possibility that people could jump off the bridge.  As recommended by the Commission and other review agencies, the design team has developed Option 3B and continues to consider Option 2, a wire-mesh barrier system.  He introduced architect Yuji Nishioka of WSP to describe the development of the proposal.

Mr. Nishioka presented additional views and studies that have been prepared at the request of the Commission.  He said two elements of the bridge’s edge would likely need to be changed if the top rail is raised to a height of eight feet:  the gap between the pickets, and the relationship among the various components of the concrete piers.  He said that when the bridge was rehabilitated in 1995, the sidewalks were widened and the railing’s top and bottom rails and pickets were refabricated as a unitized system; a painted cover of cast steel is pressed over the top rail.  For the new proposal, the size of the top rail and the spacing of the pickets have been studied in relation to the increased height; the existing pickets are 1-1/8-inch square, set on the diagonal, and spaced at 4 inches on center, resulting in a gap of 2.4 inches between pickets.  The proposal is to thicken the pickets to 1-3/8-inch square and widen the spacing between pickets to 5.5 inches on center, providing a 3.5-inch gap to broaden the view through the railing.  He presented frontal and oblique views of options for the pickets, taken from a distance of five feet and closer.  He said the design of the top rail could either be left as is or slightly modified.  He also presented four options for the top rail’s profile; Option 2A, the preferred configuration, would retain the existing size of six inches wide and four inches high, while the other three options would increase the top rail’s width or height.

Mr. Nishioka then presented options for designing the concrete piers with the height increased to a minimum of eight feet; he noted that the piers would have to be reconstructed with any of the options.  He said that Option 3A, presented to the Commission in September 2023, would maintain the existing top profile of the piers stepping up from the railings, resulting in the highest elevation of the piers at 9.5 feet.  Because of concern that this profile could seem extremely tall, the design team explored three other variations—Options 3B, 3C, and 3D—with reduced profiles of the pier elements in relation to the eight-foot-high railing.  He said the design team prefers Option 3D, which would maintain the hierarchy of the stepped configuration but with reduced dimensions, resulting in the highest elevation of the piers at 8’-10”.  Mr. Wassef summarized the preference to combine Option 2A for the top rail and Option 3D for the piers; he said the options to change the size of the top rail would not make much of a difference in its appearance.

Mr. Nishioka presented several options for terminating the railings at the ends of the bridge, which feature a lion sculpture on a pedestal alongside each of the four sidewalk entrance points.  He acknowledged the Commission’s previous observation that the proposed railing height of eight feet would result in the end of the railing awkwardly engaging the rear of the lion the top of the pedestal.  He said the steep topography results in a 10-foot drop from the sidewalk to the terrain near the lion’s tail and continues to drop sharply into the valley; the terrain is heavily vegetated with trees and shrubs.  A potential solution is to construct a lower segment of railing at each end of the bridge, closest to the lion sculptures, similar to the existing railing height of about four feet high; the new eight-foot height would begin with the second segment of railing.

Vice Chair Edwards thanked the project team for its presentation, and she invited questions and comments from the Commission members.  Mr. McCrery acknowledged the project team’s hard work in responding to the Commission’s previous review.  He said that although he had doubts about the design, he now thinks it is proceeding in a good direction.  Recognizing the review agencies’ previous advice to continue considering Option 2, the wire-mesh design, he said the alternatives presented today are far superior, and he recommended eliminating the wire-mesh barrier from further consideration.

In his support for reconstructing the masonry elements at twice their original height, Mr. McCrery suggested that Option 3A should be selected because of its more successful expression of the existing hierarchy among the different elements of the pier.  He observed that the reason for the use of such hierarchy in the original design was to emphasize the height of the lampposts, and the taller height for supporting the lampposts is entirely appropriate.  He recommended Option 3A’s solution of keeping the original design intent to provide a slight lift to the pier’s central block supporting the light pole, calling it a subtle but important detail.  Mr. Wassef and Mr. Nishioka clarified that the project team’s preferred Option 3D would maintain the hierarchy but with reduced dimensions; Mr. McCrery acknowledged the clarification but said his strong recommendation is for Option 3A.

For the railing segments at each end of the bridge, Mr. McCrery said he supports the idea of a lower railing immediately behind the sculptures of the recumbent lions.  He suggested continuing this lower height for the first five bays of the railing, until reaching the first large masonry pier; he described this treatment as an aesthetically superior choice.  He observed that the heavily vegetated terrain drops approximately 45 feet along this distance, and he questioned the likelihood that anyone would jump into the vegetation near the ends of the bridge.  Mr. Wassef said that if an area along the bridge remains dangerous after installation of the safety barriers, suicidal people would jump from there.  Mr. McCrery observed that they would be jumping into shrubs; Mr. Wassef said the project team has concluded that a drop of 45 feet into shrubs would cause severe injury, if not death.

Matthew Marcou, chief of staff at the D.C. Department of Transportation, said he appreciates the opportunity to continue the dialogue with the Commission on the new safety barriers.  He said that Mr. McCrery has brought up an important question regarding what the installation of the new barriers is trying to prevent.  The project team’s research of best practices suggests that, if the opportunity is available, people will pass along the outside of the bridge’s barriers as far as necessary in order to reach a greater drop to achieve their goal of a fatal fall.  He said that although the drop near the ends of the bridge may be shorter, this would not preclude people from moving farther along the bridge to a more precipitous location.

Mr. McCrery commented that solutions exist to prevent people from walking along the outside of a bridge, such as by installing a beautifully designed protective grate to extend at a 90-degree angle; such a grate would not be visible from the bridge and would prevent people from working their way along its exterior.  Mr. Marcou said this would require further design; Mr. McCrery agreed.  He observed that the entire bridge is an elegant design, and what is proposed is, on the whole, an elegant solution; however, proposing that the height of a railing or pier should abruptly change from four to eight feet is not elegant.  Although not wanting to reject the proposed design, he challenged the project team to come up with a beautiful and elegant solution.  Mr. Wassef asked if a more acceptable design would be to slope the railing in the bay immediately behind the lion, rising upward from the illustrated endpoint to reach a height of eight feet.  Mr. McCrery suggested instead that the end bay of the railing could follow a graceful, elliptical curving transition to the eight-foot height; he suggested exploring different options for designing rail alignments and pier heights in both the first and second bays behind the lion pedestals.  Mr. Moore asked about the terrain’s descent through the second railing bay behind the lions; Mr. Wassef responded that the drop is approximately 25 feet from the sidewalk level at the end of the second bay, and 20 feet from the middle of this bay.  Mr. McCrery suggested giving the top rail in the second bay a cyma curve—a line that curves upward and then flattens again—along with the lower horizontal railing in the first bay; he said this solution would provide more space behind the lion and would create a beautiful transition.

Mr. Cook said his initial reaction had been to suggest continuing the lower railing height across the second bay, but he agreed with Mr. McCrery’s recommendation to study a curving solution.

Secretary Luebke summarized the comments and suggested that the Commission should allow the project team to study the technical feasibility of transitioning the railing height in the second bay behind the lions.  He noted that the submission is a revised concept, and the Commission will have the opportunity to review the project again as the design is developed.  Mr. McCrery offered a motion to approve the proposed concept, including Option 3A for the bridge piers and Option 2A for the top rail, with the request that additional designs be prepared for the next review in response to the comments provided.  He also recommended that Option 2 for the wire mesh barrier be removed from consideration.  Upon a second by Mr. Moore, the Commission adopted this action.

D. D.C. Department of General Services

CFA 18/JAN/24-3, Oyster-Adams Bilingual School (Adams Education Campus), 2020 19th Street, NW.  Renovations and additions to existing building and landscape.   Final.  (Previous:  CFA 20/JUL/23-7)  Secretary Luebke introduced the proposal for Oyster-Adams Bilingual School, submitted by the D.C. Department of General Services on behalf of D.C. Public Schools.  The existing Colonial Revival-style school was designed in 1930 by Albert Harris, the D.C. municipal architect.  The proposed alterations would provide improved facilities, accommodate an increase in the school population, and address access issues for the steeply sloped site.  At the previous review in July 2023, the Commission approved the concept design,  with support for the design's response to the site’s topography and limited space; the Commission recommended further study of the new entrance portal, possibly using brick to frame the entrance instead of pre-patinated copper, which may have an artificially uniform appearance.

Mr. Luebke said the revised design focuses on responding to the Commission’s guidance and now includes a brick entrance portal with rusticated coursing similar to the base of the new entrance pavilion.  The proposed brickwork wraps the opening using 45-degree diagonal pieces at the corners; other entrance portal alternatives were developed that consist of simpler detailing.  The submission also includes further development of entrance elements at the sidewalk including retaining walls and signage.  He asked architect David Bagnoli of Studio MB to present the proposed final design.

Mr. Bagnoli described the design refinements made subsequent to the July 2023 concept approval, using side-by-side comparisons of the previous and current proposals.  He indicated several changes on the main facade along 19th Street:  brick replaces pre-patinated copper for the entrance portal; the previously proposed raised fins between the entrance pavilion’s cementitious panels have been eliminated; the height of the parapet along the terrace level above the entrance pavilion has been lowered, with a simple guardrail added to align with the existing terrace railing; and a narrow brick gasket has been added between the existing building and the addition.  He described the two alternatives that have been developed for the entrance portal:  one with a raised brick course, and the other with a flat brick treatment.  Design improvements in other parts of the project include using red metal trim instead of copper for the proposed long dormer at the rear of the historic building, and eliminating the copper cladding around the windows and doors of the new gymnasium addition at the rear; this addition would instead have cementitious panel cladding and a corbelled brick base, similar to the 19th Street facade of the new entrance pavilion.

Mr. Bagnoli said the landscape proposal has also been further developed, and he indicated several defined areas:  a sports field, an outdoor classroom, and playground and play areas behind the building; seating and a reading veranda on the terrace level in front of the building; and a revised design for the new lower-level entrance area along 19th Street.  The entrance area would include a concrete-capped brick knee wall with the school’s identification sign.  He concluded with a description of the proposed plantings:  the tree palette includes Japanese flowering cherry, American elm, American hornbeam, and eastern redbud; the lower plantings include sedge, switchgrass, coneflowers, and foamflowers; and the green roof would be primarily sedum.

Vice Chair Edwards invited questions and comments from the Commission members.  Mr. McCrery said he appreciates the design team’s response to the Commission’s comments on the concept design, but he finds the previous design for the entrance portal—using a pre-patinated copper surround—to be superior to the current proposal; he cited the better color of the copper.  He also said he prefers the fenestration and lighter color of the entrance facade’s metal mullions that were included in the concept design.  He recommended retaining the final design’s proposal for the other elements of the building, including the revised cementitious panel system without fins and the revised design for the parapet and railing above the entrance.  Mr. Cook said he agrees with Mr. McCrery’s recommendations and prefers the newly proposed elimination of the fins from the facades.

Ms. Delplace commented that the new entrance plaza appears to be undersized for its role as a major building entrance, and she observed that its furnishings include only a few bicycle racks and a bench.  She requested additional information about where students would enter the building.  Mr. Bagnoli said the new lower-level entrance would be used together with the existing upper entrance at the terrace level:  the middle school students and anyone requiring barrier-free access would use the new entrance pavilion, while the elementary school students would use the existing terrace entrance.  He also noted that additional bicycle racks would be located along the 19th Street frontage, reducing the need for bicycle racks at the entrance pavilion.  He said the design team is concerned about the landscape elements at this entrance including the bench size, material, and durability.  Noting concerns about homelessness around the school, he said the proposal is a single bench to provide limited seating for visitors and the general public, balancing this amenity with school security.  Ms. Delplace acknowledged this response but recommended that the project team continue exploring the design of this highly prominent entrance by giving it a dynamic quality, similar to the glass-enclosed library in the upper part of the addition.  She also suggested exploring the use of concrete paving for the entrance plaza instead of the proposed brick paving.

Mr. Moore agreed with Ms. Delplace’s comments on the entrance plaza, and he questioned the removal of the seat walls from this area as shown in several renderings; he said this area would be more inclusive with the seat walls, allowing people of all abilities to sit with each other.  He also commented that the depicted signage may be redundant and should be evaluated to determine if it should be removed or relocated.

Dr. Edwards requested clarification of the outdoor classroom at the rear of the building, observing that it is in the final design but was not illustrated in the concept design renderings; she recommended that this important amenity remain in the project even if other specific elements of the design are modified to return to the concept design.  The design team confirmed that the outdoor classroom is part of the design, although it had been less fully developed in the concept submission.  Mr. Luebke clarified his understanding that the Commission members are generally supportive of the final design, and the comments preferring the concept design are limited to the details at the new 19th Street entrance and possibly at the gymnasium entrance and rear dormer.  Mr. Bagnoli requested further guidance on the use of copper trim at the rear of the building.  Mr. McCrery supported using copper at all of the locations where it had previously been shown; however, Mr. Cook expressed concern that repeating this material at the rear could weaken the importance of the new front entrance, and he suggested allowing the design team to explore this issue further.  Ms. Delplace agreed that the design team should consider the Commission’s comments and provide a response based on a comprehensive consideration of the entire project, the context, and a strong vision for the school.

Mr. Luebke asked if the Commission is requesting an additional submission or prefers to approve the final design and delegate further review to the staff.  Mr. Cook and Ms. Delplace said the Commission has provided sufficient guidance, and the resolution of the remaining issues could be coordinated between the project team and the staff; Mr. McCrery agreed to support this consensus.  Upon a motion by Ms. Delplace with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission approved the final design conditional upon a response to the comments provided, including a return to pre-patinated copper details at the east entrance; the Commission delegated further review to the staff for resolution of the entrance plaza and the rear details.

E. D.C. Department of Buildings—Shipstead-Luce Act

SL 24-058, Single-family residence, 5320 27th Street, NW.   New house.  Concept.  Secretary Luebke introduced the concept for a new house to be located on the grounds of an existing house in the Chevy Chase neighborhood; the family living in the existing house intends to subdivide the property while retaining ownership of both houses.  The site faces Rock Creek Park to the east across 27th Street, and a public alley is to the west.  The existing two-story Colonial Revival house was built in 1927, with subsequent alterations followed by a substantial enlargement in 2001 to add two-story wings at each side of the house.  The grounds include several large trees, a swimming pool, a tennis court, and a wrought-iron fence.

Mr. Luebke said the proposal is to construct a two-bedroom, 3,800-square-foot, 25-foot-high, one-story house on the site of the tennis court at the property’s northwestern corner.  The house’s L-shaped configuration would include three 32-foot-square pavilions with pyramidal roofs topped by light monitors; the lower volumes connecting the pavilions would have gabled roofs.  The proposed materials include stacked stone at the corners of the pavilions, glazed transoms at the connectors, and metal roofing.  To protect the roots of nearby large trees, as required by D.C. regulations, the design team proposes to minimize excavation by using grade beams and helical piers for the house’s foundation.  He asked Christian Zapatka of Christian Zapatka Architects to present the design.

Mr. Zapatka presented drawings and photographs of the existing conditions; he said the 1927 house has a beautiful stone exterior with a mix of gray and ochre colors.  He identified the large flanking wings which the current owners had added to the house; the wings have a more monochromatic gray stone exterior.  He also indicated the solarium that wraps around the rear of the house.  He described the property, which is slightly more than one acre, as a “mini-estate” in keeping with the city’s historic tradition of estates along Rock Creek Park; the property enjoys unobstructed views east into the park.  He contrasted this site with more conventional closely spaced houses to the north, resulting in a sudden transition into a larger open-space character as people travel south on 27th Street from Military Road and descend into the park.

Mr. Zapatka said the anticipated subdivision of the existing site would create a new lot of 14,000 square feet; the proposed 3,800-square-foot house would occupy 26 percent of this lot.  He described the proposed house as being in the tradition of grand one-story pavilion houses as seen in antiquity, in 18th-century France, in early-20th-century Long Island houses, and in the mid-20th-century houses designed by Louis Kahn.  He said the one-story configuration is well suited for the needs of the long-time current owners, who would occupy the new house while their adult children use the rest of the property.  The tennis court, no longer used by the owners, provides a flat area that is already paved, making it suitable as the site for the proposed house.

Mr. Zapatka indicated the nearby heritage trees that require protection and preservation; an arborist’s report accompanies the proposal, with a favorable evaluation of the proposed siting.  The proposed L-shaped configuration wraps around one of these trees, which he described as the biggest and prettiest on the property; he said the house embraces the site’s trees as well as the beautiful lawn.  Paths would connect the new house to the existing house.  He noted the proposed access and parking along the existing alley at the rear of the house, contributing to the design intent of minimizing the project’s impact on the existing trees and topography; the proposed slab-on-grade construction would also minimize the site disruption.

Mr. Zapatka presented the proposed plans for the house, which is organized around an entrance terrace.  The vaulted southern pavilion, containing the living area, would have views south to the existing swimming pool and trees, as well as east to Rock Creek Park and southeast to the existing house.  He indicated the combined living-dining space and the large inglenook adjoining the fireplace.  The two northern pavilions would each have a bedroom suite, with one having views toward the park and one facing a walled garden to the west alongside the alley; these pavilions would be linked by a south-facing solarium.  A line of existing mature trees would separate the new house from the neighboring house on the north, and the deep setback of the new house from 29th Street would provide an additional benefit for the neighboring house’s setting.  The standing-seam zinc roofing would include three pyramidal forms topped by lanterns above the three pavilions.

Mr. Zapatka said the exterior of the house draws inspiration from the existing stone house, from Rock Creek Park, and from the historic houses along the park, including a sense of whimsy seen in many of these houses.  He noted a house designed by Richard Neutra farther south along the park, and he described the houses along the park as having the special opportunity to embrace the landscape and to create a small private park facing the larger park.  The proposed materials are intended to relate to the existing house, and the roof profile would also relate to the neighboring house on the north.  The pavilions would have extensive areas of glass to give a sense of indoor-outdoor living, but the volumes would be anchored at the corners with thick pier-like forms; he cited Louis Kahn’s Trenton Bath House as an inspiration for the heavy treatment of the corners.  He presented precedent images for the proposed stacked-stone facade treatment; he said the smaller scale of the stacked stones is more appropriate for the limited solid surface area of this house, in comparison to the larger stones of the existing house.  The color range of the proposed stone would include some ochre highlights, similar to the larger house’s original facades from 1927.

Mr. Zapatka concluded by presenting sections and perspective views of the proposed house.  He summarized the intent to create a family compound, with the aging parents moving into the new house as other families use the main house.  In the long term, the two houses could be owned independently.

Vice Chair Edwards invited questions and comments from the Commission members.  Mr. McCrery expressed support for the proposed inglenook but questioned the apparent lack of a kitchen, which could be problematic if the new house is occupied independently in the future.  Mr. Zapatka clarified that the west wall of the living-dining pavilion is designed as a 28-foot-long kitchen; he indicated the 48-inch-wide range and the large kitchen island.  He said the owners requested a combined space for living, dining, and kitchen areas, instead of the traditional large separate rooms; he said that the two large primary bedroom suites were also requested by the clients.

Ms. Delplace asked if the arborist’s report has been provided to the Commission, observing that the standard site engineering documentation does not fully describe the study of the project’s potential impact on the structural zone and the much larger canopy zone of the existing heritage trees.  Secretary Luebke clarified that the arborist’s report was part of the submission, and it was made available to the Commission members as a separate document.  Mr. Zapatka presented the first page of the report, prepared by D.C. Tree Preservation, which provides a narrative of the arborist’s analysis.  The report includes the observation that large tree roots are not likely to exist beneath the tennis court; as a precaution, the tree roots will be investigated before pruning to ensure that no roots with a diameter greater than two inches will be severed during construction.  Ms. Delplace said this information is satisfactory.  Mr. Luebke emphasized that the part of the house closest to the large trees would be constructed on helical piers to minimize the impact on tree roots.

Vice Chair Edwards noted the apparent consensus to support the proposal.  Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Cook, the Commission approved the concept submission.  Mr. Luebke observed that no substantial design concerns have been identified, and he suggested the next submission could be placed on the Shipstead-Luce Act Appendix with a recommendation drafted by the staff if the Commission does not need an additional presentation.  Mr. McCrery said he supports this procedure for the next submission.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 11:44 a.m.


Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA