D.C.’s Current Architectural Landscape: Mixing Modernity with History

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) recently published their DC Chapter Awards, honoring exceptional design practices in architecture. For this blog, I thought to highlight architectural endeavors that merit particular praise in and around the nation’s capital from this list. Like all metropolises, buildings not only shape our skylines (iconic in their own right: New York City, London, Paris), but they are also depictions of creativity – a constant reimagination of function and design. Let’s talk architecture!

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1320 9th Street NW: Before & After Photo Credits: Popville (left) and Pinterest (right)

The rejuvenation of 1320 9th Street, NW is truly an architecture rags to riches story. Renowned interior designer, Darryl Carter found his new showroom in an old, dilapidated, neglected row house in Washington, D.C.’s Shaw district. With the help of Wnuk Spurlock Architecture, the house has been returned to its late 19th/early 20th century splendor with a modern facelift. The facade has retained its original composition; two doors flank a lower series of four rectangular windows resting below a bay of smaller windows that extend from one side of the building to the other. The original fenestration of the second floor, once framed with keystones has been smoothed over and the exposed brick work has been covered with uniform white plaster, providing a distinguished contrast to the dark paint lining the apertures. The result is a sleek and sophisticated office space that embodies urban revival and renewal – a piece of D.C.’s architectural history lives on.

NaCl House Photo Credit: Trends Now

In homage to modern architectural discourse, David Jameson Architect Inc.’s NaCl House, a residential home in Bethesda, MD (famously, the chemical symbol for sodium chloride, i.e.: table salt) adds to the repertoire of geometrical shaped residences. The house is a beautifully rendered cluster of white rectangles, an architect’s rendition of mineral rock formations (the title befitting the building perfectly). The various rectangular shapes create a layering effect, with protruding angles resulting in a asymmetrical exterior. The design itself is a clear evolution of the father of modern architecture, Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye. I like to refer to NaCl House as the Villa Savoye 2.0, a suped-up version of the original; while epitomizing the ultra modern of its time, NaCl House’s additional volume, results in a unique and unconventional home.

Gadsby’s Tavern Ice Well

Last, but certainly not least is Gadsby’s Tavern Ice Well in Alexandria, VA. One of the most challenging undertakings as an architect is updating historical buildings with contemporary additions while maintaining a natural integration. Although rarely achieved, the best measure of success is the demarkation of old and new as indistinguishable. The ice well dates back to the 1790s, however the 1970s period stairway leading to the viewing platform was rather outdated. Bell Architects, PC‘s contemporary design blends in perfectly. Although just a staircase, the organic shape of the stairs themselves mimic the undulating waters of the Potomac River from which the ice was collected and placed in the well (a freezer of days gone by). Also, the half circular shape of the stairs, invites tourists and locals alike to peer inside the well, brightly illuminated. The finishing touches that should not got unnoticed are the inscriptions framing the well highlighting its distinctive history bringing this building and its importance to life.

Holly knows art. These stunning architectural feats are in your neighborhood (or in your backyard!) and I highly recommend you explore them for yourself. See the evolving architectural history that defines Washington, D.C., Alexandria, VA and Bethesda, MD before your very eyes, encompassing the old and the new. Winston Churchill said it best: “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us”

Holly’s Highlights – AIA Awards:
– Darryl Carter Interior Design
1320 9th Street, NW
Washington, D.C 20001

– NaCl House
Bethesda, Maryland

– Gadsby’s Tavern
134 N Royal Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

…Next stop Philadelphia – stay tuned!

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