I went to an open house a number of months ago for a new project by KUBE architecture. From the street, this Georgetown home, designed by Janet Bloomberg, seems to be yet another Georgian town house. When you open the door you find yourself transported to a modern space more at home in Los Angeles or manhattan than the 18th century streets of DC’s 2nd ward, yet the starck transition works. It sets you up for a series of well lit rooms that play with the modern trope of compression and release but manage to avoid the pitfall of hyper-glossy surfaces that are too often found in contemporary spaces. Instead Janet has chosen a muted palet of textural elements which alternate between the sheen of brushed metal, the warmth of rich wood veneers and the pleasantly imperfect nature of unglazed ceramics. The house is anchored by a floating stair whose verticality is emphasized by a curtain of steel cables running from the ground floor to the second story. While an interesting architectural element, the steel cables at times present a bit of a challenge in visual and physical comfort. When I visited the house was very crowded, the steel cables [...]
The majority of DC is a pedestrian city; it is meant to be viewed up close and slowly. The streets of row houses are hidden behind a protective screen of trees and gardens known affectionately as “The Parking” and can only be fully appreciated by a pedestrian wandering in this ribbon of green. Viewing these neighborhoods form a car is a difficult endeavor, first the greenery obstructs many of the facades and second unless you find a place to park, the buildings go by too rapidly (even at a leisurely 25 mph) to appreciate the finer details. The same goes for the grand vistas of the National Mall and the Federal City, while these are on a grander monumental scale, they are only really appreciated by pedestrians who can walk their lengths. Cars are able to drive down along the mall, but again the view across is screened by greenery and the few crossings do not provide a full appreciation of the structured view. Even the Modernist complexes of near South West are better appreciated on foot. Sure, you can see all of the buildings from the street, but only pedestrians can explore the rabbit warren of tunnels, paths and [...]
Today I headed down to the Solar Decathlon on the National Mall. While there I was able to tour 15 of the 20 homes. I was happy to see that the Mall was crowded with people braving the wet and cold to visit these houses, even if that meant that the lines for some of the more award winning homes (like Germany and California) were so long that I chose to see 8 other houses instead of trying to get into them. These houses all had innovative design solutions to create energy efficient and responsible homes. Interestingly enough, most of the homes used off the rack products, but just assembled them in innovative ways. Where I found the homes to be lacking was that most of them did not fully address their sites. Many of the homes did not interact with the portions of their lots that faced away from the main walk-way (those on the North were predominantly South focused, and those on the south were mainly North focused). Now I know a lot of this had to do with strategic window placement, but for homes which were little more than 15′x50′ rectangles it felt like opportunities to fully [...]
Here are a few images from some of the terra cotta rain screens found on the urban renewal towers in parts of Southwest, DC. I have always been a fan of these semi-enclosed balconies and they way they play with public and private space. Plus the non-rectalinear units create a lovely interplay of form while also creating a regular solid/void rhythm to the facade while still allowing maximum penetrations.
I love how St. Dominic’s Catholic Church in Southwest, DC combines classical masonry construction in the main church with modern design in the Priory.
I know this is being posted later than my self imposed deadline, but I had a meeting this morning for a job that actually pays money, so that took precedence. To add to me weekly schedule (tuesday is links and wednesday iphone apps) thursdays will be image post days. I was walking around near Southwest (Federal Southwest) DC on my way to my meeting this morning and I was totally struck by the fact that as I walked around town I was walking through time. The four photos below show a progresion from the Victorian Eclectic Arts and Industries Building through early International Style FAA building, Brutalism at the DOE entrance to L’Enfant Plaza, and finally historical Post Modernism at the National Museum of African Art in a series of 2 blocks of south west DC. Of course, these buildings are not arranged chronologically on the street, but the feeling is the same. Each is not only typical of the construction and ornament of their respective time periods, but also the treatment of public plazas and spaces.
I love cities, I love the daytime hustle and bustle and the ease of access of everything. I also love the myriad of things to do at night. Yet, my interactions with cities have been largely shaped by the New York City of my Childhood and the New Orleans I knew as an adult. In the 1980s and early 1990s when we used to drive into New York from Long Island it was always a place of mixed emotions. It was tall and grand with countless places to see and visit, but danger seemed to lurk around the corner. We didn’t take the subways, we took busses, and we never walked down dark alleys or empty streets. When someone asked you something on the street you kept your head down and kept on moving, you never knew if they were really in need or pulling some sort of grift. In addition, you never went into Central Park at night, nature was not to be trusted â€” it provided wonderful places for people to hide and attack you. When I moved to New Orleans for college my conception of a city changed. The fear and danger were still there, but I [...]
I was going through my RSS feeds today and I came across a post from the Washington Spaces blog indicating that Yesterday was Consumer Day at the Washington DC Design Center. On this day, the showrooms that are normally open only to the trade (architects, designers, etc) were open to everyone. While this sounds like a rare opportunity, it’s not really: showrooms that are not open to the public are a rarity in the building. In addition, most of the things that you can see in the show rooms are available to browse online, plus you can find out more information without having to interact with a sales clerk. Sure, its nice to have a lot of vendors in one place and be able to see and feel their products instead of having to shop from a catalog, but I wonder about the viability of this market model in today’s world. The Design Center is located mid-block in Federal Southeast, far removed from any of the major architecture and design hubs, like Dupont or Georgetown, and out of the way for most aspiring home owners. On my first and last visit to the Design Center the building was practically empty; [...]
On yesterday’s Kojo Namdi Show Nir Buras, head of Buras Architecture, spoke about his proposal for a new Anacostia River. Mr Buras, who is a Classical Architect, suggested the narrowing of the river and creating of European style quays on both banks of the river. His proposal also included the creation of a Naval Museum and a shopping district and marina development. I have to say, that this is something I could really get behind. I’ve always felt that the waterfront on the Potomac was wasted. The river is too wide to be a focus for development, not to mention that there is the hurdle of getting two different municipal planning bodies to agree. In addition, currently the Rock Creek Parkway extension does a tremendous job of cutting the steps at the end of the mall off from the river. The South bank of the Anacostia, on the other hand, is ripe for development as a new urban node, with its easy access to downtown through the Green Line and the proposed streetcar lines in Southeast. This part of the city has maybe suffered the worst from mid-century urban renewal, with the destruction of the historic waterfront and creation of [...]
I’ve been harboring a secret for the past few weeks and been dying to post about it but had to wait until it went live. I am now a weekly feature writer for the DC architecture and property blogDC Metrocentric. Its one of the reasons O haven’t posted on here very much, that and just plain laziness. I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to develop a writing identity for that site. I will be analyzing and criticizing local architecture within the beltway. If anyone has any suggestions I would welcome the input. You can find my first post,