Architectural Review Committee Report: May 2017

ARC Members attending: Phil Eagleburger, Tina Mead, Danny Ince, Anne Weir, Ron Ngiam, Win Brown, Stefan Hurray, and David Kay. Also attending were Carin Ruff, CPHS Executive Director and Nick Netchvolodoff, CPHS Board President.


HPA 17-247: 3035 Rodman Street, NW

Concept/two-story rear addition (revised)

Owners: Federico Asch and Ana Barac

Agent: KUBE architecture

The house is a Sears kit house built in 1921. The proposal includes the demolition of several previous rear additions, the construction of new rear additions and deck, and new dormer on the east side. The siding on the front of the new second story dormer would match the existing siding. In the rear, hardieplank would be used. The neighbors have been contacted. This the second presentation of the proposal, which has been revised reflecting feedback.

The ARC commends the breaking up of the massing of the rear addition into stepped components of rear dormer, first floor addition, and base (basement) addition. Aligning the sides of the upper two components and having those placed symmetrically in plan on the rear massing of the house are also improvements.

The new east dormer, however, should precisely mirror the size, length, and profile of the existing west dormer. Its prominence and visibility from the front require deference to the pronounced symmetry of the Sears house’s original façade. As presented it extends too far to the east. (See note.) Although an argument could be made that the two dormers should be differentiated to distinguish new work from old, if the difference is too subtle, the ill-proportion dormer (the longer one) will be perceived as a “mistake” or bastardization of the original dormer. The better option is simply to match the original, if a dormer is to be added at all. The ARC feels that deferring to the symmetry of the original house is the overriding concern.

The motion passed 6-2.

Note: The previous ARC recommendation that the east dormer “be indented two feet to reflect the existing dormer,” was intended to do just that: literally reflect the existing dormer and it was expected that the two feet cited would achieve that. Somehow this did not achieve that intent but regardless, and as a possible clue to the confusion, it should be noted that there are numerous drafting errors on the current drawing package (4/28/17): Dwg#2 on A-117 incorrectly shows the intersection of the line of the NE roof hip, and the side of the proposed rear dormer; Conversely Dwg#2 on A-119 incorrectly shows the same condition (NW roof hip and side of rear dormer); Additionally on Dwg#2 on A-118 the existing west dormer (shown in the distance to the right of the rear dormer) is not consistent with what is shown on the west and south elevations – It appears to be shown too short in length, which may have lent to the “two feet” instruction noted above.


HPA 16-053: Tregaron, 3100 Macomb Street NW

Revised concept/construction of new classroom building and site alterations at Washington International School

Agents: Clayton Lewis, Head of School and Doug Bothner, Ziger/Snead

Several previous proposals have been presented by the school. (Please see previous ARC reports for brief background and proposal descriptions). The current proposal, Revision #4 (April 28, 2017), responds to previous criticism by reducing the footprint by ~30%; reducing the height from 31’ to 28’; reducing the building length by 39%, for a total length of 81’; and preserving most of the woodland slope behind the existing gym.

Approximately twenty concerned neighbors attended the meeting, primarily those who border the north side of the property, on Macomb Street. Those who spoke expressed various concerns, from disagreement with the style of the design, to disagreement with placement of any building in the proposed location. Several who spoke raised issues that are not within the ARC’s purview, such as construction management and parking demand management. ARC also received three letters, one supporting the project, and two against the project.

The ARC reviewed the project within the context of four major categories: siting, campus effect, massing, and materials.

Siting:

Within the context of the historic house, landscape, and property, the ARC concludes that the placement of the proposed building on the edge of the north slope neatly conceals the addition from the important viewsheds of and about the historic house while at the same time addressing the haphazardness of the “backside” of the academic campus that has evolved over the years. The several iterations of the proposal have resulted in several reductions in size, to a point that the size of the current proposal is more in keeping with existing buildings on the campus.

One attendee pointed out that the current proposal no longer wraps the backside of the existing gym, leaving its haphazard side exposed. The ARC considered this, but concluded that the dense foliage that would remain under the current proposal mitigates the exposure of the existing gym. As noted in a previous review, the ARC thought that the insertion of the building in the proposed location was acceptable relative to the total acreage of the property and felt that the project represented a reasonable evolution in the usage of the property that was sufficiently respectful of the historic landscape.

Campus effect:

The ARC feels that the proposed building would lend unity and focus to the ensemble of historic buildings and help define them as a campus. It would improve the hierarchy of buildings and connections, both internal and external, producing a pleasing, thriving amenity that complements the Cleveland Park neighborhood as a whole.

Massing:

The reductions in size and massing over the several iterations of the design have been notable. The ARC believes that the current massing is now quite comparable to that of the adjacent carriage house. The roof profile also fits with the existing higher buildings on the campus. Therefore, the proposed building appears to fit well with the existing group.

The ARC has one concern, however: the prominence of the tallest corner of the addition that is physically situated closest to Macomb Street. The removal of the previously-proposed portion of the building that was to have wrapped the existing gym exposed and made more prominent that remaining corner of the addition. This may or may not be a problem but it should be noted as an issue of concern to be addressed in the course of further development of the design.

Materials:

The ARC agrees with the concept of reducing the variety of materials used to render the building. There is also general agreement among ARC members on the mix of glass planes, steel verticals, and silvery masonry base, and with the notion of a “pleated” look to the façade, and a contemporary character to the style of the building. Several public attendees registered negative views of these features, some preferring more receding or a more traditional style.

Additionally, there was some discussion at the public meeting about the path of the sun and whether it would or would not shine directly on the north façade. The proposed building does not face precisely due north (it is rotated somewhat to the east). Nevertheless, the ARC concludes that the low angle of the rising summer sun coupled with dense foliage of mid-summer would mitigate direct reflections.

The ARC concluded that the state of the design of the materials at this point is as yet not clearly resolved, and perhaps teeters between being terrific or being not good at all. One public attendee likened the look to a “shipping container.” Careful execution of the particulars of the exterior rendering of the building will be essential to avoiding too boxy an appearance and to the success of the intention to make the building disappear in the surrounding woods.

Related to the materials discussion is the question of whether foliage will completely conceal the building or not. There are differing opinions on what is possible or desirable in this regard. Some public attendees thought that the building should be totally concealed and believed that the collateral damage to trees from construction, coupled with the time required for new growth, was an untenable prospect.

The ARC acknowledges the concerns about limiting loss of trees and encouraging speedy new growth. However, in keeping with its architectural review mandate, the ARC is evaluating the proposal as a permanent addition to the ensemble of buildings within the landmark, in the context of a natural landscape that will be continually growing and changing around it. By that standard, the proposed building is a compatible addition to the historic estate and to the Cleveland Park Historic District.

The motion passed 8-0.