Davis Brody Bond Digs In


Courtesy Davis Brody Bond

On October 13, Washington’s Mayor Vincent Gray unveiled the winning design for a new pavilion on the 350-acre St. Elizabeths Hospital campus across the Anacostia River from downtown. From three competition finalists, the city selected a concept by the design/build team of Davis Brody Bond, builders KADCON, and engineers Robert Silman Associates. The 20,000-square-foot pavilion is scheduled to open next summer. City officials hope that it will catalyze private redevelopment at St. Elizabeths, the country’s first federal psychiatric hospital and site of the new headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Made of precast concrete and steel, the pavilion will slope gently upward from its two-acre site off Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, allowing visitors to walk to a seating area on the roof offering views overlooking the historic campus, to the monuments beyond. A boomerang-shaped cantilever facing MLK will shelter areas for dining and community events. The pavilion will house a farmers market and food and craft stalls, and will anchor a fleet of food trucks to serve the more than 4,000 Coast Guard workers once their new facility opens on the campus next year.


The city selected Davis Brody Bond and KADCON over ISTUDIO Architects/MCN Build and Ayers Saint Gross/Donohoe Construction. Ethan Warsh, who manages the project for D.C.’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, said the design stood out for the “subtlety and elegance of its solutions to site constraints”—especially the lack of infrastructure and the proximity of early-20th-century hospital buildings. The pavilion’s low profile will “attract attention to the historic assets,” rather than compete with them, Warsh said. It will also feature a rainwater cistern, solar panels, and equipment for reprocessing fry oil from local restaurants, to provide energy and water until such infrastructure is put into place in the next phase of the redevelopment.


Even as the pavilion moves into fast-track construction, the District is choosing a “programmatic anchor” for the city-owned St. Elizabeths East campus (the West campus, across MLK, is GSA property and will be home to the new federal buildings). Microsoft, SmartBIM, and urban lighting company Citelum are on the short list, and one of them will be selected as the anchor by the end of the year. District officials hope that the pavilion will help brand the campus as an alluring destination for further private investment.

The city’s RFP for the pavilion, issued in May, had sought an “iconic” and “aesthetically unique” design. Warsh is confident that D.C. got one.

Many details of the project—the exact programming and the price tag, which currently floats between $2 million and $7 million—remain to be worked out, but “the stronger the design, the stronger the programming you’re going to attract,” Warsh said.

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