Newsletter Subscription
Print Subscription
Change Address
Catalytic Competition
Finalists named for pavilion at old D.C. hospital site.
St. Elizabeth's East Campus.
Courtesy D.C. Mayor's Office

As a campaign-money scandal threatens to engulf D.C.’s Mayor Vincent Gray, there’s some good news from the city’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED). Its plan to erect an “innovative and aesthetically unique” temporary pavilion on the campus of historic St. Elizabeths Hospital is moving ahead. The city has announced a shortlist of three design-build teams for an interim pavilion meant to accommodate food stalls, food trucks, a farmers market, and other community uses at the 180-acre Southeast D.C. site: ISTUDIO Architects and MCN Build; Ayers Saint Gross and Donohoe Construction; and Davis Brody Bond and KADCON.

The architecture firms on the list span the spectrum, from very small and local (D.C.’s ISTUDIO) to midsized (Baltimore-based Ayers Saint Gross) to nationally known (Davis Brody Bond). “The ability of the architecture and design team to deliver on the specific goals of the project” was a major criterion in deciding on the shortlist, said Ethan Warsh, the project manager for DMPED.


The three teams were chosen from a field of 12, Warsh said. All respondents were advised in the RFP that “the budget for this project is limited and designs should consider innovative materials and options for scalability.” The maximum project price is estimated at $2 million. Respondents to the RFP—issued in May—were asked to submit portfolios and qualifications. The three shortlisted teams will take part in a design competition in phase two, and a winning team will be chosen in early September, with input from stakeholders and design advisors.

On weekdays, vendors in the pavilion will feed thousands of employees of the U.S. Coast Guard, which is building a new headquarters set to open on the site in 2013. The pavilion is scheduled to open in May 2013 and will operate until at least 2015, when the first phase of permanent construction on St. Elizabeths’ East Campus is expected to finish. Rick Harlan Schneider, principal of ISTUDIO and a D.C. native, described the St. Elizabeths campus as “a phenomenal site laid out in a fascinating way. Historic, large, prestigious—who wouldn’t want to go for that, as an architect?”

Established in the mid-19th century, St. Elizabeths was the nation’s first large-scale, federal hospital for the mentally ill (famous patients have included the poet Ezra Pound and Ronald Reagan’s would-be assassin, John Hinckley, Jr.). A National Historic Landmark, it now consists of two campuses flanking Martin Luther King Ave: West Campus, owned by the federal government and being redeveloped by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) as the home of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); and East Campus, owned by the District of Columbia. The site is located in the District’s economically disadvantaged Ward Eight. One aim of the larger redevelopment project is to catalyze the local economy.

Amanda Kolson Hurley