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May 17, 2013 Southwest

Docomomo Highlights Modernism of Southwest D.C.

River Park

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.

Capitol Park

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.”

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