It's back to the drawing board again for the team redeveloping Washington, D.C.'s Carnegie Library into a new site for the International Spy Museum. On Thursday, the city's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) voted unanimously that the latest designs by Philadelphia's MGA Partners and Philadelphia and Los Angeles–based landscape architecture firm Olin did not meet preservation guidelines.
While no longer the city's central library, the 1903 Carnegie Library remains a significant architectural feature in the District's landscape. Designed by Ackerman & Ross, the 63,000-square-foot structure sits in Mount Vernon Square, a park at the intersection of New York and Massachusetts Avenues. Both the building and the square are D.C. landmarks and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and all construction proposals for city landmarks must be reviewed by the board.
The International Spy Museum and Events DC announced plans to develop the property last fall. The HPRB first reviewed designs in May. D.C.'s Historic Preservation Office (HPO) provided ARCHITECT with a copy of the redevelopment plans submitted for Thursday's meeting (see below), which call for adding roughly 47,000 square feet below ground and 18,000 square feet above, including two glass pavilions and glassed-in walkways (the "hyphens") connecting these pavilions to the historic structure.
The HPO report prepared prior to the hearing explains some of the changes in this round:
The pavilions have been redesigned as larger elements with a clearer separation from the library, and the connections redesigned as simple glass hyphens. To reduce the hyphens in size and transparency, vertical circulation and program that was previously within these areas have been relocated to the pavilions. While the essential landscape concept is the same, the north side of the square has been redesigned to provide more green space and to respond to the redesign of the additions.
Much of the board's concern on Thursday centered around the size of the above-ground additions. "When I think of a pavilion in a Beaux-Arts landscape, they are small," said HPRB member Nancy Metzger. Even the HPO report, which recommended that the board approve the design, included a caveat: "If the proposed program is essential for the project and cannot be reduced, HPO recommends that the Board acknowledge the significant improvements that have been made to the original designs and find the revised concept consistent with the purposes of the Act."
"I think the current design is essential for the museum, but I don't think that should be our focus," said HPRB member Charles Wilson at the meeting.
But the board acknowledged that the design presented on Thursday was closer to the mark. "We don't agree that this meets the preservation guidelines, however we do feel that this is moving in the correct direction and we'd like to see it come back before us for review," said HPRB chair Gretchen Pfaehler, AIA, in her motion which passed unanimously.