Posts tagged with "National Capital Planning Commission":

Proposed WWI memorial in Washington, D.C. moves ahead, despite questions about its design

  Update 7/18/17: This story has been updated to clarify that there are no axonometric diagrams for the design that was reviewed at the NCPC's last meeting.  The Nation’s Capital came a step closer to gaining a World War I Memorial this month when a key federal panel approved a conceptual design for the project—even though panel members and others expressed concerns about the latest plan and its potential impact on the selected site. Representatives from the nonprofit The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) and a retired high-ranking landscape architect with the National Park Service joined the federal panelists in questioning aspects of the design, which calls for the memorial to be added to a 1981 park by the noted landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg. Friedberg, via an email message shared with the commission, expressed disappointment with the proposal. After an hour-long discussion, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) voted unanimously on July 13 to accept its executive director’s recommendations for adding a memorial to Pershing Park, on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House. The vote means the design team and its clients, the World War I Centennial Commission and the National Park Service, can now move to a second, more detailed stage of design work on the project, which is expected to cost $30 million to $32 million. Sponsors of the memorial are aiming to complete it in time for a late 2018 dedication. The design will have to be reviewed at least two more times before any construction can begin. The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts also must give its approval. Congress authorized the World War I Centennial Commission in 2014 to build a memorial at Pershing Park, a 1.75-acre public space bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue, E Street, and 14th and 15th streets N.W. The park is named after General John J. Pershing, general of the U.S. armies in World War I, and contains a memorial to him. To select a designer, the World War I commission held an international competition in 2015. The winner was Joseph Weishaar, a graduate of the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture. He called his entry “The Weight of Sacrifice.” Other design team members include New York sculptor Sabin Howard, landscape architect Phoebe Lickwar, and GWWO Architects, the architect of record. The design presented this month (PDF) was a revision of a concept that the planning commission reviewed last November. The revamped design called for retaining more of the existing park than before, and a memorial consisting of three main components. The first is a 65-foot-long bronze bas relief wall on the site’s western edge, featuring images from the war along with a water feature. The park’s pool would be retained, although a path would be added to provide access to the commemorative wall. A flagpole would replace an existing kiosk. Part of the sensitivity of the project is that Pershing Park is already considered a significant public space, deemed eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Besides the original design by Friedberg, the park reflects a planting plan by the office of Oehme, van Sweden. For those unfamiliar with park in its prime, the video below from TCLF details its conception and features sweeping views of the then newly-completed project, with commentary from Friedberg: During the latest review, a key issue was the extent to which the project should be treated as an opportunity to preserve Friedberg’s work, as opposed to treating the site as a blank slate for new construction. In voting to advance the project beyond the conceptual design stage, the planning commissioners encouraged the memorial’s designers to retain the best features of Friedberg’s design, as much as possible. Commissioner Evan Cash noted that the nature of the project has evolved because of the desire to respect Friedberg’s work. He questioned whether the sponsors shouldn’t just “go back to the drawing board” and launch another competition. “What started as a design to put in a World War I Memorial has turned into a restoration project for the original park,” he said. Commissioner Mina Wright said the design team has a difficult task because it has been charged with adding a major memorial to a key public space while also respecting what’s already there. “This is a really vexing problem, two different … interests that the design team has been asked to resolve,” she said. “It’s serving a lot of masters.” In public testimony about the design, a representative of TCLF, Margo Barajas, stressed the significance of retaining the best elements of Friedberg’s design, especially the waterfall and pool. “Pershing’s waterfall and pool are one inseparable landscape feature located in the heart of the park,” she told the panel. “One need only look at earlier images of the park when the waterfall was well maintained, the pool was full, and cascading water provided animation. The park was a popular destination that was embraced by the public. The waterfall’s gushing sounds, the white noise masking the adjacent traffic, and the cooling mists, all absent from the now-proposed WWI Memorial revised concept design, were keys to its success.” Barajas said the foundation believes the 65-foot-long wall is too long for the location and would be a visual barrier to Pershing Park. “Collectively, the visual and physical barrier created by the insertion of this wall, backed by a pool with sheets of water running down its shorter northern and southern sides, the corresponding loss of more than 50 feet of open physical and visual access between the upper and lower western plaza levels,” the loss of an extensive tree canopy on the western edge of the pool, and the “the loss of the dynamic, animating qualities of water that are fundamental to the park’s feeling, would result in a less successful urban design,” she warned. Barajas noted that the WWI Centennial Commission has presented and then rejected a design proposal called the “Upper Wall Design.” She said TCLF believes it is worth revisiting. “It would retain the existing waterfall and pool and site the 65-foot-long wall along the elevated north-south walk behind the waterfall,” she said. “Depending on the height of the wall and the waterfall, this memorial gesture could be seen from multiple vantage points throughout the park. Barajas quoted a June 25 email from Friedberg to landscape architect Phoebe Lickwar, which was written after the latest design was shown to the fine arts commission on May 18. “To say that I was disappointed in the design presented to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) on May 18th—the 'Restored Pool Concept'—would be a gross understatement,” Friedberg wrote, characterizing the long wall as a “one note” design move. Friedberg said in his email message that he was encouraged that members of the World War I Memorial design team met with him to learn about the original design. He said that gave him a “positive feeling” about the project. “I appreciated that several [Commission of Fine Arts] members suggested we finally meet, and thought that the first meeting with the design team produced a common goal and understanding of how a World War I Memorial could add a layer of content and experience that would enhance both the park and Memorial,” Friedberg wrote. “It was unfortunate that the World War I Centennial Commission’s vice chair, Edwin Fountain, and the Memorial’s sculptor, Sabin Howard, did not attend,” he said. “Their absence from our discussion may account for the design outcome, the persistent and intrusive one note wall that’s being forced into the space thus obliterating the scale and meaning of the original design." “I can only assume that the design team was forced by the insistence of the client (the WWI Centennial Commission) to shoe horn in, at all costs, the wall,” Friedberg continued. “The negative impact on the overall design is too much to pay and unnecessary. The rejection of the numerous previous designs by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts should have sent a clear message that forcing a solution with a preconceived result was not working and any preconceived notion would be a burden on creativity. It takes a good client to produce a good design.” Another speaker from the general public, landscape architect Darwina Neal, retired Chief of Cultural Resources for the National Capital Region of the National Park Service, said she worked on Pershing Park when it was being planned. She said Pershing Park is a “signature designed landscape” by Friedberg, who is considered “one of modern American landscape architecture’s most accomplished urban designers.” Neal said the World War I commission’s objectives, as stated in its design competition, were to come up with a design that would “enhance the existing Pershing memorial by constructing … appropriate sculptural and other commemorative elements, including landscaping.” “Although this design is billed as the ‘Restored Pool Concept,’ this is a serious misnomer,” she told the panel. “Rehabilitation would have been a more apropos treatment description, but it does not achieve that either because, in reality, it would not only destroy the existing fountain … as the major focal point within the central room of the park, but it also compromises the pool itself by putting walks across it.” Neal said she believes it is commendable that the berms enclosing the park would remain intact, but the proposal to remove the existing fountain, change the size and depth of the pool, and cover about 40 percent of its surface with new walks would have “extreme adverse effects” on the integrity of the existing park design, because the existing fountain is the main feature. Replacing the fountain with a 65-foot-long sculptural wall would also disrupt visual and access continuity between the pool area and the west end of the park. The proposed pool behind the new memorial wall, which features what appear to be side “sheets” of water, would not even be visible from the pool area, let alone heard—and thus would not be a “splashing fountain.” Neal said she advocates more of a preservation approach and believes rehabilitating the existing park, with minimal changes, could “considerably reduce” construction costs. “Since the basic well-designed framework of the park still remains, there is no excuse for abandoning the original design,” she said. “Rather, it should be rehabilitated. Demolition by neglect should not be tolerated.” Neal also urged reconsideration of the “Upper Wall Design” that would locate the commemorative wall along the upper north-south walk behind the fountain. “This placement would require little change to the existing park features and have no consequences on the experience and function of the park, other than somewhat affecting views from the west that are already limited by existing trees,” she said. “Most important, the focal fountain and pool would be retained in place, with the wall visible above the fountain, as viewed from the pool area.” Instead of a flagpole, she said, “the existing concession kiosk could be replaced by an interpretive/informational kiosk—perhaps an interactive high-tech one with stations on which users could get information on the war and perhaps even be able to input names of relatives who served in the war and information on them, and/or leave messages/comments, etc. Such a kiosk could increase visitor use, education, and enjoyment.” Above all, Neal said, she believes “it is crucial to maintain the fountain, which is the heart of the design.” When it was working properly, she said, it “pumped life into the focal pool and plaza area, creating a vibrant public space” along Pennsylvania Avenue. “I would hope that this vitality could be brought back to life!” she said. Among the recommendations from the planning commission’s executive director were for the design team to: consider reducing the size of the commemorative wall “to improve views across the park,” consider integrating a water feature into the commemorative wall “consistent with the location and orientation of the existing cascading fountain,” provide additional details regarding pool modifications and what the water-related areas will look like during times of year when they are empty of water, and prepare a “park programming” plan that identifies the proposed urban park spaces and potential activities that can take place there. Weishaar and John Gregg, associate principal at GWWO, attended the meeting but were not asked to speak to the panel or address concerns about the design. They said after the meeting that they would take the panel’s comments into consideration as they work to refine their designs.

Winner announced for the “Memorials for the Future” competition

The National Park Service (NPS), National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), and Van Alen Institute has announced the winner of the Memorials for the Future ideas competition. Initiated in March this year, the competition has been a six-month process in which participants were encouraged to "reimagine the way we think about, feel, and experience memorials in Washington, D.C., and inspire new memorial approaches around the country." The winning team: Climate Chronograph, comprised Bay Area-based landscape architects Erik Jensen and Rebecca Sunter. The winning pair imagined "a living observatory for the unfolding global story of climate change." Drawing submissions from more than 300 participants, Climate Chronograph triumphed after four finalists were chosen by a jury who looked for "innovative, distinct approaches." In this last stage, finalists were urged to consider practicality, especially within real "technological limitations" and the "current requirements of the commemoration process." Conceived as an "evolving memorial for future conditions," Climate Chronograph is situated in Hains Point, Washington, D.C. Here, the memorial can transform into a new ecosystem as its site—a grove of cherry trees—floods. The memorial is intended to be experienced over a lifetime. In this timeframe, visitors will witness "a legible demonstration of generation-paced change." In doing so, the site memorializes the future and the effects of climate change that come with it. As a result, the memorial can be interpreted as a site that encourages visitors to combat climate change. Meanwhile, the memorial will still remain as a space for the activities such as fishing, picnics, and sports that take place there. During the competition, the Van Alen Institute has documented some "key findings" they observed. The findings, in their words, present "ideas that best push forward our collective notions of memorialization." They are:
  • Engage The Present And Future As Much As The Past
  • Allow For Changing Narratives
  • Universal Experiences In Addition To Places, People And Events
  • Use Local Settings For National Issues
  • Create Memorials With The Public As Well As For The Public
  • Consider Ephemeral, Mobile, And Temporary Forms
  • Memorials Beyond Physical Space
  • Challenges Our Future Memorials Face
This evening, Erik Jensen and Rebecca Sunter's work will be on display in the Hall of Nations at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Members of the four finalist teams will be present from 7:00pm to 8:00 p.m. The exhibition, which also showcases the three other finalists' work, will be free and run through October 20, 2016. The teams will also present their proposals at the National Capital Planning Commission meeting at 1:00 p.m. today, which will be live-streamed at www.ncpc.gov/live.
“The National Park Service Centennial challenged us to think about new ways to engage the next generation and tell stories relevant to them. Memorials for the Future challenged us to think about how we will take the imagination displayed in this ideas competition and use it to spark a new generation of national park visitors, supporters and advocates, not to mention artists, architects and philosophers,” National Park Service Regional Director Bob Vogel said in a press release. “We’re committed to continuing this conversation and engaging people in the stories and commemorations that are important to them and to the shared heritage of our nation.”

Plans unveiled for taller White House fence designed to deter intruders

Donald Trump may want to build a wall on the border between the U. S. and Mexico, but the Obama administration is more focused this week on building a new fence—around the White House. The National Capital Planning Commission was briefed Thursday on plans for a new White House security fence that would roughly double the height of the existing one and have a new concrete foundation—a response to the recent rash of “jumpers” and intruders who have tried to break into the 18-acre compound at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. “We would like to be able to ultimately rebuild the fence as it stands right now. This is an immediate need,” said Tom Dougherty, chief strategy officer for the Secret Service. “The current fence simply is not adequate for a modern era,” Dougherty said in an earlier briefing to federal officials, a recording of which was broadcast by NBC News4 in Washington. “It is entirely scalable, depending upon the circumstances. And we now have a society that tends to want to jump over the fence and onto the 18 acres.” Plans by the U. S. Secret Service and the National Park Service call for the new fence to be about 14 feet high, compared to the existing fence that is about 7 feet high. Entrance gates would be slightly higher. The new fence would have 1¾ inch pickets and “anti-climb” features such as intrusion-detection sensors. Renderings also show spikes along the upper edge similar to the “pencil point” spikes that were added to the existing fence in 2015. Mills + Schnoering Architects of Princeton, New Jersey, has been working on the design, which must be approved by the National Capital Planning Commission and the U. S. Commission of Fine Arts. One challenge is “reconciling contemporary standards of protection with the historic and highly symbolic property,” according to a letter from the Fine Arts Commission to the Park Service and the Secret Service. Federal officials say the fence will be in keeping with the Park Service’s design standards for the historic mansion and surrounding area, which draws millions of visitors a year. The planning commission did not take any formal action on the proposal at its meeting. A preliminary schedule calls for the taller White House fence to be under construction by 2018. A later phase would include a new fence to surround the nearby Treasury Department and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Memorials for the Future

The National Park Service (NPS), the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), and Van Alen Institute are collaborating on Memorials for the Future, an ideas competition to reimagine how we think about, feel, and experience memorials. Memorials for the Future calls for designers, artists, and social scientists to develop new ways to commemorate people and events that are more inclusive and flexible, and that enrich Washington’s landscape while responding to the limitations of traditional commemoration. As the NPS celebrates its centennial in 2016, Memorials for the Future creates new ideas for honoring our diverse histories, heritage, and culture. Three teams will be selected to participate in a research and design process, working closely with the competition partners to develop site-specific designs for memorials in Washington, DC that are adaptive, ephemeral, virtual, event-focused, or interactive. The teams’ proposals will advance a framework for the design of 21st-century memorials and provide future memorial sponsors with fresh approaches to commemorating their subject matter. THE COMPETITION
Memorials enshrine what we as a society want to remember. But the places, people, and stories that we memorialize, and the audiences who engage with them, are in fact constantly changing. A memorial tells its story through subject matter and design. This story is often complex and multi-dimensional as a memorial’s interpretive elements embody ideas of identity, culture, and heritage, and each have intensely personal interpretations for every individual. As a national capital, Washington is a place of collective memory. The wealth of monuments sited throughout the city take on heightened significance as they reflect relationships among nations, of national remembrance, and of many important events and figures in our history. Often the traditional and fixed nature of memorial design does not allow for adaptation and redefinition over time, or encourage more than one interpretation of a given narrative. The traditional approach to developing memorials in Washington has resulted in a commemorative landscape that is thematically similar and increasingly land-intensive, which poses challenges for Washington’s urban park system, and has long-term implications for the potential uses of a memorial's surrounding park setting. The planning and design process is often costly and time consuming, which limits opportunities to groups or individuals with significant resources. Current trends raise a number of questions about the future of Washington’s memorial landscape and the ability to provide space and resources for future commemorative works. Location The competition proposals should be based on specific places or areas in Washington, DC. Proposals may take a physical form or may be virtual. Preference will be given to teams that propose a site or sites outside of the National Mall. The following locations are suggestions reflecting typical opportunity sites for new memorials in Washington: Near the monumental core: The Belvedere Within a residential area: Randle Circle or Tenley Circle Around a natural setting: Hains Point For more information on the types of sites in Washington, DC, and these sites specifically, please visit the project website -http://future.ncpc.gov Provocations The following provocations are meant to fuel and direct the competition submissions. Concepts that address several of these provocations are more likely to meet the competition's goals. Memory • How can we commemorate events or acts with long time frames that are still occurring today? • How can memorials be adaptive or temporal rather than permanent? • How can a memorial’s narrative continue to evolve as new generations evaluate its significance within the larger context of our ongoing national history? Identity • How can memorials advance dialogue around contemporary social, economic, health, or ecological problems that have historical roots? • How can memorials look forward while acknowledging a historical event or person? • How can memorials contribute to a more inclusive and more representative national narrative? • How can memorial designs encourage more, rather than fewer, sponsors? Placemaking • How can we memorialize, while also balancing the need for active public space? • How can memorials engage more diverse audiences, in more flexible and interactive ways around a given narrative? • What unconventional physical or digital forms could memorials take? • How can memorials respond to various neighborhood contexts and scales while also commemorating national events or serving the national interest? The competition partners invite participants to propose additional questions. The goals of the competition are to create new approaches to and forms of memorializing: • That advance a framework for the planning and design of commemorative works in the 21st century. • That demonstrate how temporary, mobile, interactive or adaptive displays can provide powerful and memorable experiences that are cost-efficient. • That develop ways to commemorate that are inclusive of multiple narratives and have the potential to be flexible as perspectives change. • That honor the scale, context and national significance of Washington, DC. The competition results will be displayed online and at an exhibition in Washington, DC, published in an illustrated report, and inform NCPC, NPS, and their partners on future design and policy opportunities.
The deadline for registration and electronic submission of the request for concepts is 11:59 p.m. EDT on May 4, 2016 at the competition website.

Developers get smart on the eventual redo of D.C.’s Brutalist J. Edgar Hoover Building

A long-standing fortress of state secrecy is under siege. The federal government is selling Washington, D.C.'s J. Edgar Hoover Building to a developer who, citizens hope, will turn the FBI's headquarters into a mixed use development. Designed by Charles F. Murphy and completed in 1975, the 2.8 million square foot Brutalist building is praised and reviled for all the reasons Brutalist buildings are praised and reviled. Despite its historical significance and because of $80 million in deferred maintenance, the building will likely be replaced with development that creates a more pedestrian-friendly streetscape. There are, however, massive bureaucratic hurdles to clear before the property can be developed. First, the congressionally-approved 1974 master plan must be revised s0 the site can be developed as a non-office building. However, the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation, the entity that created the plan, folded in 1996. Its responsibilities are now shared by the National Park Service, the General Services Administration (GSA), and National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC). The three agencies must agree on every step of the plan for it to move forward. When and if these master plan revisions are approved, the agencies can develop design guidelines for the site. The design guidelines must be adopted before developers can bid on the property because of a particular arrangement the federal government requires of this site. The GSA, the federal office responsible for securing land for a new complex, must offload underperforming assets (like the J. Edgar Hoover Building) before acquiring new ones. The developer will take a risk in buying this property because the exchange must occur before what can be built on the property is absolutely final. Finally, the developer's plans will go though the city's design review boards. Developers willing to endure a potentially Kafka-esque wait will be rewarded with prime land on the capital's most prestigious avenue.

Gehry’s Updated Eisenhower Memorial Design Gains Key Approval

Frank Gehry's design for the four-acre Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington D.C. has sparked controversy for its departure from traditional memorial design around the National Mall from the president's family and others, prompting a third-party design competition and calls for redesign from Congress. Now the beleaguered memorial is one step closer to reality as the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) voted 3-to-1 this month to approve an updated design with additional changes to proposed woven-metal tapestries that have generated most of the public outcry. Besides the tapestries, Gehry's design has been criticized for its scale and the presentation of the president's humble Midwestern upbringing. Situated at the base of Capitol Hill across Independence Avenue from the National Air and Space Museum, the contentious design, carrying a $142 million price tag, has undergone several revisions from its original design. The commission asked Gehry to remove two of the tapestries still remaining in the latest layout, a request Gehry was receptive to considering. Other changes reflected in the new memorial include reorienting the center of the public space to create a more-defined alleé directing views to the Capitol building and providing more emphasis to Eisenhower's wartime achievements, such as new quotes from his famous Guildhall Address. The CFA includes new Commissioner Elizabeth Meyer, Vice-Chair Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Alex Krieger, and Edwin Schlossberg.  Meyer, the only landscape architect on the commission, held the sole vote against approval of Gehry’s updated design. According to ASLA blog, the Dirt, she was not comfortable approving the design without reviewing it as a complete landscape plan, noting that the success of the memorial is tied to how it operates as a park and that the “architecture of the trees needs more time and refinement.” AECOM is working with Gehry on the memorial's landscape. The revised design now heads to the National Capital Planning Commission for its next approval, but uncertainty remains whether Congress will withhold funding for the $142 million project and force a redesign. Based on past expenditure, legislation to terminate Gehry’s plan, revamp the commission, and select a new design would cost $17 million, according to the Congressional Budgets Office.  

Protest> The Eisenhower Memorial at the Tipping Point

How many Americans know that the Eisenhower Memorial will be the largest presidential memorial in Washington, D.C.? Or that it will be using untested, experimental elements for the first time? Or that it will cost nearly as much to build as the neighboring memorials to Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson combined? These basic facts are still not widely known because the current design has emerged from a planning process that limited rather than encouraged public participation. It has also led directly to a controversy that has stalled the project in regulatory and political limbo and left its supporters and critics without common ground. We need public input to find the consensus that this and every memorial needs. At least one federal agency is already working toward that outcome. Recently the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), which reviews all major physical changes to the District of Columbia, called for more public feedback before it will decide whether to approve the current design. In September, it refused to hear the Eisenhower Memorial Commission’s (unannounced) request for preliminary design approval and published its application online. This was the first full public disclosure regarding the Eisenhower Memorial, and it reveals practical as well as principled reasons for the NCPC’s delay. These include unresolved technical questions about the design’s main feature, a set of suspended steel “tapestries” eight stories tall, and a record of official doubts about their size and placement. The Commission of Fine Arts has even suggested eliminating them altogether. The current design is neither as feasible nor as popular as the Eisenhower Memorial Commission has represented it to be. It won’t be cheap, either. The cost of the Eisenhower Memorial is $142 million, a huge increase over its original budget of $55 to $75 million, which was comparable to those of previous presidential memorials. The skyrocketing cost follows a familiar pattern with architect Frank Gehry, the memorial’s designer. The final cost of many of his buildings exceeds their original budgets, sometimes several times over. Typically, asthese buildings are private, wealthy donors and institutions pick up the additional cost. But the Eisenhower Memorial is public, which means we, the taxpayers,will be paying for it. Do we realize we are being asked to commit an open-ended budget to an experimental design? Public debate has been forestalled as well as squelched. The Eisenhower Memorial Commission rejected established practice to choose its architect through a process that excluded public participation. It considered only registered architects to design the memorial, whom it alerted on one government website. The Commission evaluated these architects on the basis of their reputations and experience, criteria that whittled away all but established contenders. The drawbacks of this closed process, moreover, are well known. The only other time it was tried, for the World War II Memorial, it had to be abandoned after a public outcry over its exclusive and undemocratic character. The Eisenhower Memorial Commission’s decision to revive this discredited process was so unusual that it is the subject of a Congressional investigation by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa. A public memorial conceived in this closed and secretive fashion is unlikely to become a unifying national symbol. We should return to the established democratic tradition rejected by the Eisenhower Memorial Commission. Our national memorials are typically designed through open public competitions, which consider anonymous designs from anyone who wants to submit one. This process echoes and reinforces our democratic political process, which helps explain why we keep using it, from the White House and the U.S. Capitol to four of the last five memorials built on the National Mall and all three of the national September 11th memorials. The current impasse over this memorial shows what happens in a democratic culture of competing ideas when consensus is hoped for at the end rather than planned for from the beginning. No one debates, however, that such consensus is necessary, and we should find paths to it wherever we can. The NCPC has now provided one. The public has the opportunity and the responsibility to make its opinion known. Sam Roche is a writer and a lecturer at the University of Miami School of Architecture. He is the spokesman for Right by Ike: Project for a New Eisenhower Memorial.