Posts tagged with "Washington D.C.":

Placeholder Alt Text

Is D.C.’s WWI Memorial moving to the National Mall?

What is going on with Washington, D.C.'s World War I Memorial? On November 9, the World War I Centennial Commission hosted a symbolic groundbreaking for the WWI Memorial in Pershing Park, a public square designed by M. Paul Friedberg just blocks from the White House. The groundbreaking last week, a day ahead of Veteran's Day (observed), was purely ceremonial, as the project hasn't gotten the requisite approvals or permitting. Some say that the WWI Centennial Commission, the government group in charge of the memorial's construction, is now looking to place the memorial at the National Mall, but the Commission maintains that there are no plans to relocate the memorial at this time. It was just in July of this year that D.C.'s planning board, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), voted in favor of adding a memorial to Pershing Park, and allowing the memorial to move forward from its concept stage to design development. The vote allowed the WWI Centennial Commission and the National Park Service to work with the winning design team to refine the memorial. (At press time, the NCPC could not be reached for comment on the memorial plans.)

The winning design for the WWI Memorial, selected in January 2016 after a two-phase competition, is titled The Weight of Sacrifice, and was submitted by GWWO Architects, New York sculptor Sabin Howard, and Chicago architect Joseph Weishaar. Their proposal would replace an onsite kiosk and cut a path through Friedberg's concrete pool, a defining feature of the 1.8-acre park.

While many in landscape architecture and preservation circles acknowledge the importance of a WWI memorial, they believe the memorial design will alter Pershing Park beyond recognition. In a letter to the NCPC, Friedberg called the memorial's defining feature "a persistent and intrusive one note wall that’s being forced into the space, thus obliterating the scale and meaning of the original design.” The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts had told the WWI Commission in March of this year to come up with a design that wouldn't overshadow the original late modern landscape. For his part, the director of the WWI Memorial Foundation would like a memorial on the National Mall, not Pershing Park. "We're 100 percent for the National Mall," said David DeJonge, president and co-founder of the WWI Memorial Foundation. The park, he said, is a half-hour walk from the other war memorials on the mall, and the park's landmark protections would make it hard for the memorial to be realized in the way stakeholders desire. At the ceremonial groundbreaking last week, Dejonge told Curbed DC that the WWI Centennial Commission had nixed Pershing as the site for the memorial. However, the WWI Commission's Colonel Tom Moe said Pershing is still under consideration as a memorial site. WWI Memorial Foundation Co-Founder and Centennial Commission Vice-Chair Edwin Fountain added that the group hopes the memorial will remain in the park. The WWI Centennial Commission echoed Colonel Moe's statement. "No. We are not moving the memorial. That is an erroneous blog post," said Chris Isleib, director of public affairs at the WWI Centennial Commission, referring to the Curbed piece. To support his statement, Isleib emailed a resolution to The Architect's Newspaper (AN) from a March 22, 2017 Centennial Commission meeting that outlined the group's stance on the National Mall location: "We would obviously like to consider the option of being on the National Mall, but Congress ultimately decides the issue of the memorial's location. ... Congress authorized the memorial for Pershing Park." At the meeting, the 12-member commission voted to consider the National Mall—if the option becomes available. However, shortly before the November 9 groundbreaking last week, according to DeJonge, the WWI Commission again discussed moving the memorial to the National Mall. Isleib at first declined to comment on the encounter, then followed up to say he did not know if any conversation had taken place. DeJonge is hoping to leverage federal law to site the memorial on the National Mall. The former Main Navy and Munitions Building, which sits over Constitution Gardens, was home base for WWI planning headquarters, and given the connection between WWI and the Mall, DeJonge believes a section of the Antiquities Act of 1906 could be leveraged to build the memorial. Among other provisions, the law allows presidents to create national monuments on federal property. To that end, his group is petitioning President Donald J. Trump to authorize the building of the memorial on the National Mall, which is overseen by the National Parks Service. (He outlined the Foundation's plans in a press release last week.) As of now, the memorial is the early stages of design development, and it hasn't gotten final approvals from two key agencies, the NCPC or the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. Nor have any building permits been issued. Any D.C. memorial must comply with the Commemorative Works Act, a federal law that guides the construction of monuments on the National Mall and other areas, and gain approvals from the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission (NCMAC). Whatever site is selected, the WWI memorial still faces a stringent and lengthy approvals process moving forward.
Placeholder Alt Text

Rooftop ice rinks are the new High Line

Just in time for the cold weather to set in, a new trend in urban entertainment is heating up: rooftop ice rinks. The Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. will open a skating rink and lounge on November 16, giving guests and visitors another reason to visit its rooftop bar and a new way to take in views of the nation’s capital, 14 stories above the street. “There are other skating rinks in the District of Columbia, but there isn’t another hotel in D.C. that has a skating rink on the roof,” said Debbie Johnsen, the hotel’s digital marketing director. The hotel's management team was looking for a way to attract people to its Top of the Gate rooftop bar during the winter months, and decided adding a rooftop rink would do that, explained general manager Jeff David. "We were brainstorming about how we could keep the popularity of the Top of the Gate going–how we could extend it for 12 months of the year," he said. "This was almost a no-brainer." Becoming a popular ice skating destination is perhaps an unexpected direction for the Watergate, which is known for its association with the 1972 break-in of the Democrat National Committee headquarters in the adjacent Watergate office building. The hotel marks its 50th anniversary this year, after closing in 2007 and reopening last year following a $125 million, six-year renovation. The hotel's oval rink, called Top of the Skate, measures 70 by 20 feet and can accommodate 40 to 50 skaters at a time. Open during the winter months, it offers views of the Potomac River and the city’s monuments while patrons enjoy S’mores, mulled wine, and German-style pretzels in the lounge. The rink also features a skate-up bar so guests can order a drink without leaving the ice. The Watergate’s rink is the latest in a series of rooftop ice rinks that are opening around the world, often as part of hotels. These rinks constitute a new trend aimed at rejuvenating cities by giving people another reason to come downtown in the winter months, when tourists tend to visit in fewer numbers. They also represent a relatively low-cost, creative use of previously dormant urban space. Their appeal is unmistakable; they combine two things many people like: skating rinks and rooftop bars. For patrons, they offer vistas that ground-level rinks don’t have and a new way to socialize, combining entertainment and exercise. For hotels, rooftop rinks are photogenic and provide a new experience to draw patrons. They’re ideal settings for “selfie” moments that can later be posted on Facebook, further promoting the hotel. The Watergate even has an ice skating package, which includes skating and skate rentals and a reduced room rate for skaters who want to stay overnight. Some rooftop rinks are made with real ice. Others, including the one at the Watergate, are made with synthetic ice, composed of interlocking polymer panels designed for skating with conventional metal-bladed ice skates. The synthetic ice panels don’t add as much weight to a roof as actual ice would and require less maintenance. They can also be installed in a relatively short time and dismantled when the season is over. Europe’s highest rooftop rink opened last winter atop the 354-meter OKO tower in Moscow’s commercial district. London got its first rooftop rink on November 2, when Skylight London opened at Skylight Tobacco Dock in East London. Located on the 10th floor of the Penning Street parking garage, where a croquet court was, the rink doubles as a rooftop bar, complete with cocktails and chocolate fondue. In Toronto, a division of the Molson Coors Brewing Company built a temporary, 100-foot-by-45-foot rink atop a 32-story office building for winners of its #AnythingForHockey contest in 2015. There was so much interest the rink was later opened to the public for group bookings, but it was eventually dismantled. Other rinks prove that winter temperatures aren’t a requirement to enjoy this amenity. Las Vegas has The Ice Rink at Boulevard Pool, a 4,200-square-foot rink on the roof of The Cosmopolitan Hotel, where skaters can take in views of the Strip from four stories up. Construction also began this month on Atlanta’s Skate the Sky, a 3,500-square-foot rink 10 stories above Ponce City Market on Ponce De Leon Avenue. Capable of holding 90 to 100 skaters at a time, it’s scheduled to open November 20. “I don’t think there’s another rooftop skating rink anywhere in Atlanta or maybe even in the Southeast," Brett Hull-Ryde of Slater Hospitality, which will operate the rink, told Fox5 in Atlanta. “We’re happy that we’re getting this opportunity to show people another way to have some fun."
Placeholder Alt Text

The Wharf, D.C.’s massive waterfront development, is now open

The Wharf–a $2 billion new development on a former industrial stretch of the D.C. waterfront–has finally opened. The developers are Madison Marquette and PN Hoffman, and the master architect and planner is Perkins Eastman. Previously the site was a mile-long stretch of boat storage, industrial space, and some back-door barbecue joints. At its northern end, it also includes the oldest fish market in the United States. Before the Wharf could be built, the existing seawall and promenade were torn up and replaced by an underground, two-story parking garage spanning the length of the development. The garages connect from below into an array of luxury residential structures with ground-level commercial space–restaurants, yoga studios, and other amenities. Last week all of these opened to the public–in total, 1.2 million square feet of mixed-use space including office structures, luxury and affordable residential space, a marina, and waterfront parks. The fish market was the only structure preserved as-is. The Anthem, a new 6,000-person theatre venue, is a cornerstone development of the Wharf. Designed by New York-based Rockwell Group, the venue is essentially a concrete volume hedged in by two L-shaped residential structures. The Anthem has a warehouse-like interior and two levels of balconies split into smaller, drawer-like extrusions. Massive steel panels flank the stage, laser cut and illuminated with the pattern of two enormous curtains drawn back, resembling the velvet drapery of Baroque theaters. The space is managed by a 30-year old staple organization in D.C. entertainment–the 9:30 Club–to whom the Wharf reached out in the initial stages. The building’s board-form concrete paneling and industrial facade are intended as a nod to the Club’s famed punk-laden lineups. In the lobby, one can look up through an installation of floating cymbals to four rectangular skylights three floors up. If you look closely, the skylights ripple with water–the underbelly of a pool for a residential structure stacked above. A key design challenge for the Anthem was its siting between two residential structures. To address the noise issue, Rockwell spent several million dollars designing a multi-layered sound barrier between the structures, which are reportedly so effective that amplified concerts are inaudible from the interiors of apartments less than a hundred feet away. Supposedly, a resident could sleep soundly while Dave Grohl shredded away on opening night. The Anthem's neighboring structures include designs by FOX Architects, Kohn Pedersen Fox, Perkins Eastman, Parcel 3A, Cunningham Quill Architects, BBG_BBGM, Handel Architects, WDG Architecture, Studio MB, SmithGroup JJR, MTFA Architecture, SK&I, and Moffatt & Nichol. Only Phase One has opened. Phase Two will add an additional 1.2 million square feet to the overall site footprint, mostly extending south. The roster of new structures will include designs by firms such as SHoP Architects, Rafael Viñoly, Morris Adjmi Architects, Hollwich Kushner (HWKN), ODA, WDG Architecture, and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA). The expansion will include increased office and residential space, an additional pier and marina, as well as increased park space. Phase One is notably without much public greenery. The construction of Phase Two is slated to begin in 2018, with a projected opening of 2021.
Placeholder Alt Text

D.C.’s Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge will be replaced by new AECOM design

Washington, D.C. will replace the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge to the tune of $441 million. Engineering firm AECOM is leading the design of the new bridge with Archer Western Construction and Granite Construction carrying out the project. The Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge originally opened 67 years ago in 1950. A swing bridge, it allows South Capitol Street to span the Anacostia River, connecting Nationals Park and Anacostia Park. More than 75,000 commuters have been taking advantage of the bridge on a daily basis since 2007. The new design will include traffic ovals on either side with greenery and pedestrian plazas added to South Capitol Street around its entrances. In 2014, the District of Columbia Department of Transportation (DDOT) asked four teams to submit proposals for a new bridge; their schemes would also have to include the current bridge's demolition. The winning submission from "South Capitol Bridge Builders" (comprised of AECOM, Archer Western Construction, and Granite Construction) saw off competition from three other teams: Tutor Perini, T.Y. Lin International Group, and StantecSkanska AB, Facchina Group, and Parsons Transportation; and Kiewit Corporation, Corman Construction, and URS Corporation. AECOM's proposal does away with the original swing design and implements a wider (six-lane), fixed span bridge instead. Scheduled to be complete in 2021, it will be the largest construction undertaking in the District's history, with the project including a remodelling of the Suitland Parkway and Interstate 295 interchange.  “Investing in our infrastructure is key to how we can continue to be a growing city and the best city in the world, and improving our bridges is very critical to this mission,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser told the Washington Post. The project is a long time coming. In 1974 the bridge was re-decked, a process which was repeated just 14 years later. In 2007 it was closed for more than a month while a $27 million renovation took place, the work of which was supposed to extend its lifespan by 20 years.
Placeholder Alt Text

Giant inflatable chicken with golden hair appears outside the White House

There's something outside the White House with a quiff that holds a lot of air—and not much else. It is, of course, a giant chicken. The inflatable bird appeared in a public park yesterday right by the White House and was put up—or rather blown up—by Taran Singh Brar. A documentarian, organizer, and filmmaker from Laredo, California, Brar had spent several months planning the event. The 10-foot-by-30-foot golden-quiffed-chicken is, according to its creator, in protest of the President being "weak as a leader." In an interview on Twitter with the Washington Examiner, Brar said Trump was "too afraid to release his tax returns, too afraid to stand up to Putin," and was now engaged "in a game of chicken with Kim Jong Un." Speaking to The New York Times, Brar said it had taken four months to get permission from the National Park Service but had just “kept calling, kept showing up in person and kept emailing,” to get his way. The chicken had cost Brar $1,300 online and was inspired by a similar looking chicken found in a Chinese mall in 2016 when it was the Year of the Rooster. This particular chicken was designed by Casey Latiolais, an artist from Seattle. Latiolais' drawings were, according to Brar, sent to China where they were used to create a cold-air water balloon. Brar had the deflated bird sent to Washington, D.C. where, with the aid of some volunteers, ropes, and sandbags, was able to erect the chicken. The chicken even has an official name. "Donny, official fowl of the Tax March" can be found on Twitter under the handle @TaxMarchChicken. "This isn't my first rodeo. I've been all over the country crashing Trump events," Tweeted Donny yesterday, citing four other instancesAs for Brar's outing of the big bird, the President will not see his doppelgänger. Trump is playing golf (unsurprisingly) in Bedminster, New Jersey, as work is done to the Oval Office. For more Donald Trump public art protests, look no further than the golden pigs coming to Chicago.
Placeholder Alt Text

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.
Placeholder Alt Text

Federal government scraps decade-long search for new FBI headquarters

The federal government ended its decade-long search for a new FBI headquarters, leaving the law enforcement agency in the deteriorating J. Edgar Hoover Building, The Washington Post first reported yesterday. For more than ten years, the government has looked for a new building in either Maryland or Virginia as a replacement for the current 43-year-old Brutalist Hoover Building (the building that everybody loves to hate). According to The New York Times, the building can house only half of the 11,000 FBI employees stationed in Washington, D.C. and its dire conditions warrant security concerns. Years of efforts to persuade Congress and the government to back the project gained momentum under the Obama administration, though those efforts will be brought to a grinding halt with this decision. Officials from the General Services Administration, which manages federal real estate, had planned to trade the Hoover Building to a real estate developer while using $2 billion in taxpayer dollars to fund the remaining cost. The Obama administration had sought $1.4 billion for the project, but Congress left it underfunded by more than $800 million. With escalating costs and a lack of leadership following the dismissal of former director James B. Comey, interest in the project stalled, according to officials and executives involved in the process and reported by The Washington Post.
Placeholder Alt Text

Foster + Partners–designed Apple store approved for historic Carnegie Library in D.C.

An Apple store will be realized in the Carnegie Library at Mount Vernon Square, Washington, D.C. after plans were approved by the District's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) last week. Last year, Events DC (the capital’s convention and sports authority) and Apple filed a letter of intent to lease portions of the 63,000-square-foot historic library. That now-approved plan includes restoring the exterior and retrofitting the interior to create retail, office, and exhibit spaces. Apple’s store will be designed by London-based Foster + Partners and the restoration efforts will be undertaken by New York–based Beyer Blinder Belle. Alterations already made to the neoclassical library, including a rooftop over the original skylight and the conversion of a reading room into a theater, will be reversed as part of the restoration process. The north elevation of the building will see a grander, rounded staircase replacing its current one, and a central pillar will be removed to enlarge the entryway and make space for a glass entrance. Other changes include the removal of the partitions in the library’s stacks and the original lay-lights in the Great Hall ceiling to create an atrium. Some of the proposed additions, mainly concerning 12 exterior banners fixed to the facade, are under revision for the quantity and size of the signage. “This new space, which will feature a massive video screen, new wall openings on both levels, and circulation 'bridges' connecting the upper floors, will significantly alter the historic layout and character of the interior,” a report from Historic Preservation Office (HPO) stated in Urban Turf. The current arrangement allows Apple to ‘co-locate’ in the library with the existing tenant, The Historical Society of Washington. Events DC will be able to use non-retail areas for special events. The building was constructed in 1903 and designed by Ackerman & Ross in the Beaux Arts Style; it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.
Placeholder Alt Text

Ai Weiwei is using LEGOs to represent activists at the Hirshhorn Museum

Ever placed the sole of your bare foot onto a piece of LEGO left on the floor? If you have, you know the and sheer pain and annoyance at 1) How such a harmless looking single brick could cause so much pain and 2) Why it was there in the first place. If one floor-bound LEGO brick is enough to cause you such discomfort, then prepare to be triggered at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., where hundreds of thousands of bricks, courtesy of Ai Weiwei, will be laid on the floor to form portraits. These are not just any old pieces of portraiture, though. In Ai Weiwei: Trace at Hirshhorn, the Chinese artist has chosen to represent activists. Perhaps this is fitting. Activists, to those in power, can be as aggravating as treading on a piece of LEGO. Collectively, they are more daunting—as daunting as say, walking across an entire floor of jagged LEGO. Within the circular museum, 176 portraits all comprised of LEGO and assembled by hand populate the museum's second floor, spanning 700 feet. Ai Weiwei: Trace at Hirshhorn will fill the entirety of the second-floor galleries and also feature two graphic wallpapers, one of which is being exhibited for the first time. This debuting artwork is titled The Plain Version of the Animal That Looks Like a Llama but is Really an Alpaca and will cover the outer wall of the Hirshhorn's second floor. The piece includes images of surveillance and is a monochrome take on Ai's The Animal That Looks Like a Llama but is Really an Alpaca which itself will be found in the lobby of the same floor. This will be the first time Ai's Trace has been shown on the East Coast. Trace was first commissioned in 2014, opening at Alcatraz in San Francisco as a collaboration between the nonprofit FOR-SITE Foundation, the National Park Service, and the Golden Gate Park Conservancy. The exhibition and artwork featured derives from Ai's treatment by the Chinese government stemming back to 2011 when he was incarcerated, interrogated and tracked by authorities for 81 days. In addition to this, Ai was also banned from exiting China until two years ago. Ai Weiwei: Trace at Hirshhorn will be on view from June 28 through January 1, 2018. The evening before the exhibition's opening, Ai will give the annual James T. Demetrion Lecture in the Hirshhorn’s Ring Auditorium marking his first appearance in the city. In 2012, the museum ran a retrospective of the artist's work, the first in the U.S., alas, Ai was prohibited from attending. Free tickets for the lecture will be released online on June 19. More details can be found on the museum website.
Placeholder Alt Text

New RFK memorial project launched for D.C.’s RFK Stadium complex

The start of a new memorial project for assassinated U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy at Washington D.C.’s RFK Stadium was announced by the District of Columbia's Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, the senator’s family members, and Events DC, on May 17. The memorial project is part of an overall plan for the RFK Stadium complex, a $500 million project spearheaded by New York City–based OMA. The proposal involves demolishing the current stadium and its parking lots, transforming the site into a 350,000-square-foot recreation and sports complex complete with three ball fields and a 47,000-square-foot market selling groceries. The memorial will honor the late senator, serving “as a place of remembrance and a place of teaching and practicing the civil rights and equality ideals Robert F. Kennedy championed,” Events DC said in a statement to The Washington Post. The 190-acre site sits on federal government land and will be tied to neighboring Kingman Island and the River Terrace neighborhood by three new pedestrian bridges. Events DC, the city’s official convention and sports authority, will be funding half of the project while city, hotel tax revenue, and team leases will cover the rest. “On behalf of my family, we are delighted… to begin this journey… in tribute to my late grandfather,” Maeve Kennedy McKean, the senator’s granddaughter said in the Events DC statement. “My grandfather lived his life every day in the service of others.” Officials hope that the redevelopment of the new stadium site and the memorial will begin and finish over the next five to seven years, according to Events DC. The D.C. United soccer club currently occupies the stadium and will continue to do so for another year, until the new BIG-designed stadium is completed.
Placeholder Alt Text

James Corner Field Operations tapped to activate Georgetown canal network in Washington, D.C.

Landscape architecture and urban design studio James Corner Field Operations (JCFO) has been chosen to develop a master plan for revisioning the canal network of Georgetown, a neighborhood in Washington, D.C. JCFO has an established pedigree when it comes to re-imagining infrastructure. The firm worked on New York's much acclaimed High Line and is currently planning a similar ten-mile scheme in Miami called the Underline. The name for this project is yet to be announced, but the "The Waterline" wouldn't be a bad guess given JCFO's record. Covering one mile of the Chesapeake and Ohio National Historical Park (C&O Canal NHP), JCFO will work with the National Park Service (NPS), Georgetown Heritage, the D.C. Office of Planning, and the local community to activate underused pedestrian paths through the site and tap into the canal network's forgotten historical heritage. In the coming year, Georgetown Heritage and the NPS will procure community info on how to maximize the site's assets which include: stone structures dating back to the 1830s, locks, towpaths, plazas, and street crossings. These features will aid the educational and recreational aspirations that stakeholders have for the site as well as contribute to the area's aesthetic appeal. The chronology of events for the project is as follows:
  • Conditions Assessment: Documenting and analyzing the current state of the physical structures of the canal, as well as how people currently use the park.
  • Historic Preservation: Inventorying and developing a plan to preserve the historic elements of the canal.
  • Safety & Accessibility: Recommendations to improve access to the canal and make it a safer, more comfortable place to be through interventions such as lighting, ramps, signage, and seating.
    • Recreation Opportunities: In addition to the paddling dock to be built in Spring 2018, the Master Plan will create opportunities and inviting spaces for all kinds of recreation; from active recreation like cycling and kayaking, to passive recreation like bird watching or gongoozling (watching activity on a canal).
  • Transformative Designs: There are five nodes/plazas within this one-mile stretch of canal that are currently underused or not used at all. The Master Plan will explore concepts for transformative designs for these spaces:
    • Zero Mile Marker/Tide Lock
    • Lock 1
    • Mule Yard
    • Fish Market Square
    • Aqueduct Overlook
  • Programmatic Plans: In order to bring life and activity back to the canal, the Master Plan will include plans for interpretation, education, and cultural programming.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity for Washington, D.C., and the Georgetown community to create a transformative public space that blends historic architecture with rich landscapes to create a world-class and unique destination in the heart of the neighborhood,” said James Corner, founder and director of JCFO in a press release. “The Georgetown section of the C&O Canal NHP should be a landmark park for everyone, a lively center for social gatherings, a continuous link for recreation and contemplation, a connector of neighborhoods and networks and a model for urban livability and human health and wellbeing.” “The James Corner Field Operations team brings exceptional ingenuity, boundless energy and extensive experience partnering with cities, parks, and community groups to create stunning, lively spaces that reflect each site’s distinct character and maximize its potential to engage people of all ages and cultures,” said Alison Greenberg, executive director of Georgetown Heritage. Also working alongside JCFO in the design and planning process is: MakeDC, Robert Silman Associates, ETM Associates, and Dharam Consulting. These firms will help to develop the Georgetown Canal Plan, which re-envisions this popular section of the canal.
Placeholder Alt Text

Washington’s Old Post Office Clock Tower (neighbors with Trump International Hotel) once again open for tours

The Trump International Hotel is no longer the only attraction at Washington, D.C.’s Old Post Office Pavilion on Pennsylvania Avenue. The National Park Service has resumed public tours of the Old Post Office clock tower, three years after they were suspended so the Trump Organization could start construction on the $200 million, 263-room luxury hotel that opened last fall. Visitors can once again go up inside the 315-foot-high clock tower for sweeping views of the city. It’s the highest public vantage point in the nation’s capital, with the Washington Monument closed for elevator repairs for at least another year. Built from 1892 to 1899 to house the U. S. Post Office Department Headquarters and the city’s post office, the Old Post Office occupies an entire city block at 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. It was designed by Willoughby J. Edbrooke, in a Romanesque Revival style, and was the first steel-frame building constructed in Washington, D.C. The central clock tower has an observation deck with arched openings that frame views of the city. The building served as the U. S. Post Office headquarters until 1934. For the next four decades, it housed a variety of federal agencies. During the 1960s, it was the headquarters for the wiretapping unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, an agency that President Donald Trump just accused of tapping his wires at the Trump Tower in New York. It also has been the headquarters of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, two agencies that may be eliminated by the Trump administration. Under the Cooperative Use Act of 1976, it was opened to a mixture of public and private development. Now that the hotel is open, visitors to the clock tower have to enter through the building’s south side, off 12th Street N.W. Tour hours are Thursday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the last entry is 4:30 p.m.  Tourists won’t necessarily interact with the hotel guests or management; the clock tower tours are run by the park service.