The DC Preservation League is holding its first Instameet on Sunday, July 16, to explore the mid-century modern paradise of Southwest DC. Beginning at Arena Stage, the group will tour part of the neighborhood and photograph housing that includes the aluminum domes of River Park and one of I.M. Pei’s lesser known apartments. Afterwards we will cool off at Cantina Marina (cash bar) and enjoy free snacks. The tour will start at 5 pm at Arena Stage entrance (two blocks from Waterfront Metro). Sign up here.
If you want to do some cycling and take in some architecture after work this week, join the National Building Museum’s bike tour of Southwest DC. The tour will take place this Thursday (June 11) from 5:30 pm-7 pm. The tour will take in the area’s mid-century modern architecture, the Wharf development on the waterfront, historic rowhouses and new mixed-use development.
More than 50 years ago, Southwest underwent a massive transformation, representing at the time the largest urban renewal project in U.S. history. The effort to create a “modernist Utopia” in the nation’s capital was led by the likes of Chloethiel Woodard Smith, Charles Goodman, I.M. Pei, Morris Lapidus, Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon, Marcel Breuer, Edward Durell Stone and Harry Weese. This mid-century modern redevelopment effort was even highlighted in a exhibition at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels.
So hop on your bike and check the modernist architecture of southwest and the new development taking place along the water.
The major redevelopmet of Southwest DC’s waterfront is slated to kick off later this month. (See the recent Washington Post piece here.) More than 50 years ago, Southwest underwent a massive transformation, representing at the time the largest urban renewal project in U.S. history. The effort to create a “modernist Utopia” in the nation’s capital was led by the likes of Chloethiel Woodard Smith, Charles Goodman, I.M. Pei, Morris Lapidus, Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon, Marcel Breuer, Edward Durell Stone and Harry Weese. This mid-century modern redevelopment effort was even highlighted in a exhibition at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels.
As the new round of redevelopment begins, mid-century modern buildings that contribute to the unique architectural heritage of Southwest will be lost, including the 1966 Saint Augustine Episcopal Church by Alexander Cochran of the Baltimore firm, C, S & D, Inc. (pictured above). From the preservation point of view, the question remains: how will this development ultimately impact the mid-century modern architetcure and aestehtic of Southwest. While revitalization of the area is needed, how can it be done in a way that complements the existing architecture?
In recent year, local activists have worked hard to have local residential complexes recognized as historic, including Tiber Island, Harbour Square and most recently, I.M Pei ‘s Town Center East (above). The expected formation of a local Docom0mo chapter will hopefully add another voice in these efforts to preserve the architecture of Southwest amid the major changes to the area.
Docomomo US, the American chapter of Docomomo International, a non-profit organization dedicated to the documentation and conservation of buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the modern movement, highlights the architecture of Southwest DC in its latest newsletter. The piece is by architectural historian Dr. Richard W. Longstreth, a professor at George Washington University where he directs the program in historic preservation. Dr. Longstreth gives an overview of the ambitious urban renewal project and raises concerns about its future.
Charles Goodman’s River Park (top) and Chloethiel Woodard Smith’s Capitol Park (above) in Southwest.
“Southwest is now a threatened area,” Longstreth concludes. “Zoning for its blocks ignores the implemented plans of the 1950s and 1960s, allowing for considerably denser development. Already one of [Dan] Kiley’s major spaces in Capitol Park has been lost for two medium-rise apartment blocks that insult the spatial order around them. Another portion of the same project is threatened by new construction and insensitive alterations to the adjacent apartment slab. [Hideo] Sasaki’s waterfront park may be destroyed. Two projects, Tiber Island and Harbour Square, have received local landmark status, but residents in some other compounds are wary of such protection, fearing a rise their assessments. The current municipal administration seems to regard the copious amounts of planned open space in the Southwest more as a potential cash cow emanating from new commercial development than a singular and distinguished area worth protecting. In the months and years ahead, it is likely to be the scene of prolonged, heated debates.”
The D.C. Preservation League is holding a lecture Tuesday, Feb. 26 on the mid-century modern architecture of Southwest D.C. The program, Shaping Southwest: Understanding the Past and Envisioning the Future, will be held 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the Jefferson Middle School at 801 7th Street, SW. Speakers will be Richard Longstreth, professor at George Washington University, and Todd Ray, architect at Studio Twenty Seven Architecture. The panel will “explain how the neighborhood came to look as it does and why both individual buildings [such as the Chalk House by Morris Lapidus pictured above] and the overall planning and development are significant.” They will also “look at the role that architects such as I.M. Pei, Harry Weese and Chloethiel Woodard Smith had in shaping the neighborhood and its architecture.”
Harbour Square was designed by Chloethiel Woodard Smith.
River Park by Charles M. Goodman.
If you want to squeeze in some DC architecture before the final presidential debate, the Southwest Heritage Project will be holding a program on Southwest DC’s history, architecture and public parks at Monday night’s Southwest Neighborhood Assembly meeting. The event, entitled Southwest DC: Then and Now, will be held Oct. 22 from 7-8 p.m. in the Molly Smith Library at Arena Stage.
Chalk House West by Morris Lapidus, Harle & Liebman.
Cecille Chen of the Southwest DC Heritage Project will be making a presentation on the history of Southwest with a focus on urban renewal and our modernist architecture, and historian Hayden Wetzel will present his research on Southwest’s public parks. There will be a digital exhibit of historical images of Southwest, including Garnet Jex’s slide presentation, “The Bulldozer and the Rose,” which chronicles the destruction of old Southwest between 1958 and 1964.The event is open to the public and is sponsored by the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly, with generous support from The Humanities Council of Washington DC.
Washington Walks will be holding a walking tour of Chloethiel Woodward Smith‘s archtiecture in Southwest DC on Saturday, Oct. 22. The tour starts at 11 outside the Waterfront Metro. No reservations are required for the $15 tour. “A look at how a remarkable architect used the vocabulary of modernism to design enduring residential buildings in Southwest Washington, D.C.,” the description of the tour reads. “Urban renewal forced stark elimination of the 19th-century Southwest built environment, yet Woodard Smith’s architecture exemplifies why planners placed great hope in redevelopment.” Smith was one of country’s premier modernists–male or female–and one of the driving forces and architects behind the urban renewal plan in Southwest, designing such residential complexes as Capitol Park townhomes and apartments (pictured above) and Harbour Square (pictured below). She collaborated on both projects with the dean of modernist landscape architects Dan Kiley‘s modernist landscape. Seth Wilschutz of Hartman-Cox Architects will be a special guest on the tour.
Charles Goodman's River Park townhomes in Southwest.
The Post’s Lisa Rein has a piece in today’s paper about the revitalization of Southwest. More than 50 years ago, the area underwent a massive transformation, representing at the time the largest urban renewal project in U.S. history. The effort to create a “modernist Utopia” in the nation’s capital was led by the likes of Chloethiel Woodard Smith, Charles Goodman, I.M. Pei, Morris Lapidus, Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon, Marcel Breuer, Edward Durell Stone and Harry Weese. This mid-century modern redevelopment effort was even highlighted in a exhibition at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels. While it received a lot of attention and many appreciate the modernist architecture in the area, many critics believe that the goal the architects and planners sought was not achieved.
“Southwest, in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, is a mix of federal workers, the elderly, professionals and public housing. It was targeted by the federal government for wholesale urban renewal in the 1950s, with blocks of brick rowhouses almost entirely torn down. Thousands of residents were displaced,” Rein writes. “New modernist architecture replaced the old, with vast stretches of concrete, high-rises and minimal stores. It was the opposite of the style favored by today’s city planners, who believe that Washington should be remade into walkable neighborhoods with dense development around Metro stations and first-floor retail.”
Marcel Breuer's brutalist HUD building. Photo by Cecille Chen.
Even Smith, who was one of the key visionaries of Southwest, acknowledged the design’s shortcomings. “Despite Read More >
Architect Gregory K. Hunt, a leading authority on Charles Goodman, will lead a roundtable discussion this Saturday about Goodman’s River Park in Southwest. The free event (including breakfast refreshments) from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. will be held in the River Park South Common Room located here. Hunt, the founding dean of the School of Architecture at Marywood University and the former dean of the Catholic University School of Architecture, has been a long-time resident of Goodman’s Hollin Hills in Virginia. From what I have read about Goodman, he was influenced by Mies van de Rohe and had many books in his library of the master’s work. River Park’s apartment building and townhomes definitely evoke the urban renewal work of Mies in Lafayette Park in Detroit. With the problems Detroit is facing right now, you can pick up Mies-designed townhomes for $100K here and here.
Here are a few shots of the townhomes in Charles Goodman’s River Park in Southwest. The black and white shots pay homage to the work of the the late Robert C. Lautman, who was dean of Washington’s architectural photographers and who regularly photographed the work of D.C.’s modern architects, including Goodman. (Lautman died in October at the age of 85. The National Building Museum hosted a memorial service tonight. View a slideshowof some of Lautman’s iconic work.)
If you’re interested in a barrel-roof Goodman townhome in River Park, which was commissioned by Reynolds Aluminum, there are two on the market. This one is listed at $389K and open this Sunday. This one is at $419K.
I still can’t get over these decidedly non-modern storm doors.
MCM architecture and burgers in Southwest
The Washington Times follows the Post’s recent piece on the hip pool scene at the Morris Lapidus-designed mid-century modern Capitol Skyline Hotel in Southwest. Admission price on Sunday’s allow you to hang at the pool, which was designed to see and be seen, and to chow down on a burger grilled poolside by Spike Mendelsohn of Good Stuff Eatery. I can go for a burger, fries and shake right about now.
Lapidus’ 1962 Capitol Skyline Hotel
With his motto of “Too much is never enough”–a direct rebuke of modern master Mies’ “Less is more”–Morris Lapidus was completely rejected by the architectural elite during his career. Distraught from the years of harsh criticism, Lapidus actually threw away 50 years of his drawings. But toward the laters year of his life–he died at the age of 98 in 2001–the years of rejection turned to celebration as his own brand of Miami Modern (MiMo) designs became hot spots once again as they were back in the 1950s and ’60s, Think the Fontainebleau Eden Rock hotels on Collins Avenue and the Lincoln Road Mall in South Beach. In 2000, Cooper-Hewitt’s presented Lapidus with the American Original award, which was created for him. (See a good Charlie Rose interview with Lapidus shortly before he died.)
So it’s good to see Lapidus’ 1962 Capitol Skyline Hotel in Southwest and the period-sensitive makeover by the Rubell family getting props. The hotel and its Miami-like pool got the Hank Stuever treatment in the Style section yesterday and Fritz Hahn did a recent review of the various “pool parties” held on the weekends for singles and families alike.
Lapidus’ other hotel in D.C. is the Washington Plaza (formally the International Inn), which also has pool for lounging like a movie star. Lapidus always said that his goal was to create a fantasy world where guests could be actors. In addition to some buildings in downtown Read More >
A couple of shots from Sunday.
Saint Augustine Episcopal Church, 1966, by Alexander Cochran of the Baltimore firm, C, S & D, Inc. Nice example of a saddle roof. Tiber Island apartment building (Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon) can be seen in the back.
The corner of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library by Mies van der Rohe.
I just received the new issue of Dwell, which contains a letter to the editor I wrote in response to the magazine’s “Detour” piece on D.C. that ran in the December/January issue. At the time, I wrote that I was surprised to see that the modernist enclave of Southwest was not mentioned in the piece. Hats off to Dwell for running the letter and including the blog’s URL.
As someone who blogs about Washington, D.C.’s modern architecture (moderncapital.blogspot.com), I was excited to see the December/January 2009 “Detour” article. While the piece touched on Richard Neutra’s Brown House, Gordon Bunshaft’s Hirshhorn Museum and I.M. Pei’s Slayton House, you overlooked a major part of the D.C. story: the mid-century modern enclave of Southwest Washington.
As the area goes through another period of urban renewal, Southwest remains the largest urban-renewal project in U.S. history. The efforts in the 1950s and ’60s to create a “modernist Utopia” led to structures by leading modernist architects, such as Chloethiel Woodard Smith, Charles Goodman, Morris Lapidus, Marcel Breuer, Harry Weese and the team of Arthur Keyes, Francis Donald Lethbridge and David Condon.
In his excellent AIA Guide to the Architecture of Washington, D.C., G. Martin Moeller Jr. (your featured expert) writes that while many urban renewal projects have “come to symbolize indiscriminate destruction of neighborhoods (squalid though they may have been) in favor of drab, soulless superblocks … much of the redevelopment in the Southwest quadrant was of unusually high quality, avoiding the pitfalls that plagued many Read More >
More than 50 years ago, Southwest D.C. underwent a massive transformation, representing the largest urban renewal project in U.S. history. The project covered 113 blocks, more than 450 acres and led to the relocation of more than 20,000 residents. Amid new development in the area, the question is how should the mid-century modern architecture of the original renewal effort be protected and preserved. On Oct. 4, the D.C. Preservation League and DOCOMOMO held “Southwest DC: Renewal at Risk,” a walking tour of the key projects from the 1950s and ’60s. Eric Jenkins, an architect, associate professor at Catholic University’s School of Architecture and Planning and River Park resident, led the two-hour tour of the area, which he described like the “Lower East Side up until the 1950s.” Jenkins said roughly 25 to 30 percent of the mostly working-class people came back to Southwest after the massive renewal effort.
In his AIA Guide to the Architecture of Washington, D.C., G. Martin Moeller Jr. writes that while many urban renewal projects have “come to symbolize indiscriminate destruction of neighborhoods (squalid though they may have been) in favor of drab, soulless superblocks … much of the redevelopment in the Southwest quadrant was of unusually high quality, avoiding the pitfalls that plagued many such projects elsewhere. Notwithstanding the sensitive social issues surrounding the genesis of such endeavors, several of the housing developments in Southwest are among the best works of large-scale urban architecture of their era.”
These are the very projects the tour focused Read More >
The D.C. Preservation League is holding a trio of modern-related events in the coming months. The League’s DC Modern Fall 2008 programming kicks off this Saturday (Oct. 4) with a walking tour, “Southwest DC: Renewal at Risk,” which will focus on the area’s urban renewal projects from the 1950s and ’60s and is being cosponsored by the preservation organization DOCOMOMO. A reception before the tour will held at the Thomas Law House and is sponsored by the Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon-designed Tiber Island Cooperative Homes, one of the developments built as part of the urban renewal. Tickets are $20 for non-members, $10 for members.
The second event ($20 for non-members; $10 for members) will focus on the designation and future preservation of modern buildings and sites within Washington. The panel discussion, “Evaluating the Significance of Modern Structures,” will be held on Nov. 20 in one of my favorite MCM buildings in D.C., the 1965 Pan American Health Organization building (see below) by Uruguayan architect Roman Fresnedo Siri. The building is located at 525 23rd St., NW. I’ll have a more on this building in an upcoming post.
The third event, originally scheduled for Oct. 15 at the Mies van der Rohe-designed MLK Library has been postponed until February 2009. The event will focus on a recent study cataloguing mid-century modern buildings in Washington and the importance of modernism to the development of the city.
Make sure to click here for all the details and registration form.
If you are thinking about buying a home in the MCM enclave of Southwest D.C., head to the Southwest Parade of Homes this Sunday. More than 20 homes will be open from 1 to 4 p.m. You will find listings for properties designed by Charles Goodman (River Park), Chloethiel Woodard Smith (Capitol Park, Harbour Square, Potomac Place) and Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon (Tiber Island, Carrollsburg condos).
Following up on an item I did about River Park, the City Paper’s Angela Valdez writes a short update, saying Charles Goodman’s contribution to urban renewal in Southwest during the ’60s is safe for now.
As part of the urban renewal efforts in Southwest during the 1960s, the Redevelopment Land Agency selected a design for a mix of middle-class housing in the form of high-rise buildings and townhomes connected by a web of open spaces by the local modern architectural firm of Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon. The result: Tiber Island and the Carrollsburg Square Condos. Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon won an American Institute of Architects award in 1966 for Tiber Island. Here are some of the homes for sale in the communities:
429 N ST SW #S-806 – 2/2 – $675K
363 N ST SW – 2/2 – $399K – Carpet needs to go in this one, which is open Sunday, Feb. 24, from 1 to 3 p.m.
333 N ST SW – 2/2 – $349K
329 N ST SW – 2/1 – $345K – Nice hardwoods in this one.
As part of the urban renewal efforts in Southwest in the 1960s, Charles Goodman designed River Park, a mix of 134 townhomes and a 384-unit high-rise complex, which is located on Delaware Avenue. Sponsored by Reynolds Metals, Goodman featured aluminum prominently in his designs. The River Park co-op web site has a listing of all the units for sale. Looks like there are currently 20 high-rise units on the market. I’m highlighting a couple of the apartments for sale whose listings have good images, especially of the unique aluminum decorative panels Goodman used in the exterior design.
1 bedroom/1 bath – 185,500 – Good images of the aluminum screens.
1 bedroom/1 bath – $210K – Capitol view from this one.
Here are images of another major apartment building designed by Goodman. The 35-story Houston House was built in Texas in 1963.
As Southwest D.C. goes through another period of urban renewal with the revitalization of the Waterside Mall (the new area will be called the Waterfront) and the new baseball stadium, the area continues to represent one of the region’s largest concentration of mid-century modern dwellings, which were built during the first urban renewal of the 1950s and ’60s. The Redevelopment Land Agency (RLA), created by Congress in 1945, considered two proposals for the area, according to a history by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“The first, proposed by city planner Elbert Peets, called for rehabilitation of buildings and some new construction, with little long-term displacement of current residents and businesses. The second, by two of Washington’s leading modernist architects Chloethiel Woodard Smith and Louis Justement, called for demolishing the old neighborhood completely in favor of creating a modernist Utopia following the most avant-garde socially responsible architectural ideas and ideals.
“Rebuilding in a variety of architectural typologies from high-rise apartment buildings to row houses, all in extensive landscape settings would, they argued, provide better conditions for some of the former residents, but primarily would attract higher income professionals back from the suburbs. In the end, the RLA, with the approval of the District of Columbia Commissioners and the newly-reorganized National Capital Planning Commission, favored a plan based on the Smith-Justement model. Decried by many for decades as socially irresponsible because the neighborhood’s cohesion was broken and historically important buildings were lost, Southwest’s extensive Modernist landscape was again appreciated at the beginning Read More >