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.