Posts tagged with "Washington D.C.":
The Wharf–a $2 billion new development on a former industrial stretch of the D.C. waterfront–has finally opened. The developers are Madison Marquette and PN Hoffman, and the master architect and planner is Perkins Eastman. Previously the site was a mile-long stretch of boat storage, industrial space, and some back-door barbecue joints. At its northern end, it also includes the oldest fish market in the United States. Before the Wharf could be built, the existing seawall and promenade were torn up and replaced by an underground, two-story parking garage spanning the length of the development. The garages connect from below into an array of luxury residential structures with ground-level commercial space–restaurants, yoga studios, and other amenities. Last week all of these opened to the public–in total, 1.2 million square feet of mixed-use space including office structures, luxury and affordable residential space, a marina, and waterfront parks. The fish market was the only structure preserved as-is. The Anthem, a new 6,000-person theatre venue, is a cornerstone development of the Wharf. Designed by New York-based Rockwell Group, the venue is essentially a concrete volume hedged in by two L-shaped residential structures. The Anthem has a warehouse-like interior and two levels of balconies split into smaller, drawer-like extrusions. Massive steel panels flank the stage, laser cut and illuminated with the pattern of two enormous curtains drawn back, resembling the velvet drapery of Baroque theaters. The space is managed by a 30-year old staple organization in D.C. entertainment–the 9:30 Club–to whom the Wharf reached out in the initial stages. The building’s board-form concrete paneling and industrial facade are intended as a nod to the Club’s famed punk-laden lineups. In the lobby, one can look up through an installation of floating cymbals to four rectangular skylights three floors up. If you look closely, the skylights ripple with water–the underbelly of a pool for a residential structure stacked above. A key design challenge for the Anthem was its siting between two residential structures. To address the noise issue, Rockwell spent several million dollars designing a multi-layered sound barrier between the structures, which are reportedly so effective that amplified concerts are inaudible from the interiors of apartments less than a hundred feet away. Supposedly, a resident could sleep soundly while Dave Grohl shredded away on opening night. The Anthem's neighboring structures include designs by FOX Architects, Kohn Pedersen Fox, Perkins Eastman, Parcel 3A, Cunningham Quill Architects, BBG_BBGM, Handel Architects, WDG Architecture, Studio MB, SmithGroup JJR, MTFA Architecture, SK&I, and Moffatt & Nichol. Only Phase One has opened. Phase Two will add an additional 1.2 million square feet to the overall site footprint, mostly extending south. The roster of new structures will include designs by firms such as SHoP Architects, Rafael Viñoly, Morris Adjmi Architects, Hollwich Kushner (HWKN), ODA, WDG Architecture, and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA). The expansion will include increased office and residential space, an additional pier and marina, as well as increased park space. Phase One is notably without much public greenery. The construction of Phase Two is slated to begin in 2018, with a projected opening of 2021.
Washington, D.C. will replace the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge to the tune of $441 million. Engineering firm AECOM is leading the design of the new bridge with Archer Western Construction and Granite Construction carrying out the project. The Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge originally opened 67 years ago in 1950. A swing bridge, it allows South Capitol Street to span the Anacostia River, connecting Nationals Park and Anacostia Park. More than 75,000 commuters have been taking advantage of the bridge on a daily basis since 2007. The new design will include traffic ovals on either side with greenery and pedestrian plazas added to South Capitol Street around its entrances. In 2014, the District of Columbia Department of Transportation (DDOT) asked four teams to submit proposals for a new bridge; their schemes would also have to include the current bridge's demolition. The winning submission from "South Capitol Bridge Builders" (comprised of AECOM, Archer Western Construction, and Granite Construction) saw off competition from three other teams: Tutor Perini, T.Y. Lin International Group, and Stantec; Skanska AB, Facchina Group, and Parsons Transportation; and Kiewit Corporation, Corman Construction, and URS Corporation. AECOM's proposal does away with the original swing design and implements a wider (six-lane), fixed span bridge instead. Scheduled to be complete in 2021, it will be the largest construction undertaking in the District's history, with the project including a remodelling of the Suitland Parkway and Interstate 295 interchange. “Investing in our infrastructure is key to how we can continue to be a growing city and the best city in the world, and improving our bridges is very critical to this mission,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser told the Washington Post. The project is a long time coming. In 1974 the bridge was re-decked, a process which was repeated just 14 years later. In 2007 it was closed for more than a month while a $27 million renovation took place, the work of which was supposed to extend its lifespan by 20 years.
There's something outside the White House with a quiff that holds a lot of air—and not much else. It is, of course, a giant chicken. The inflatable bird appeared in a public park yesterday right by the White House and was put up—or rather blown up—by Taran Singh Brar. A documentarian, organizer, and filmmaker from Laredo, California, Brar had spent several months planning the event. The 10-foot-by-30-foot golden-quiffed-chicken is, according to its creator, in protest of the President being "weak as a leader." In an interview on Twitter with the Washington Examiner, Brar said Trump was "too afraid to release his tax returns, too afraid to stand up to Putin," and was now engaged "in a game of chicken with Kim Jong Un."
Speaking to The New York Times, Brar said it had taken four months to get permission from the National Park Service but had just “kept calling, kept showing up in person and kept emailing,” to get his way. The chicken had cost Brar $1,300 online and was inspired by a similar looking chicken found in a Chinese mall in 2016 when it was the Year of the Rooster. This particular chicken was designed by Casey Latiolais, an artist from Seattle. Latiolais' drawings were, according to Brar, sent to China where they were used to create a cold-air water balloon. Brar had the deflated bird sent to Washington, D.C. where, with the aid of some volunteers, ropes, and sandbags, was able to erect the chicken.
This magnificent Trump Chicken brought to us by Taran Singh Brar, who hopes to organize a "chicken march" someday. pic.twitter.com/PmSbumcl5P— Jennifer Brooks (@stribrooks) August 9, 2017
The chicken even has an official name. "Donny, official fowl of the Tax March" can be found on Twitter under the handle @TaxMarchChicken. "This isn't my first rodeo. I've been all over the country crashing Trump events," Tweeted Donny yesterday, citing four other instances. As for Brar's outing of the big bird, the President will not see his doppelgänger. Trump is playing golf (unsurprisingly) in Bedminster, New Jersey, as work is done to the Oval Office. golden pigs coming to Chicago.
It appears some protesters have inflated this behind the White House. pic.twitter.com/TduZC591BK— Steve Kopack (@SteveKopack) August 9, 2017
Update 7/18/17: This story has been updated to clarify that there are no axonometric diagrams for the design that was reviewed at the NCPC's last meeting. The Nation’s Capital came a step closer to gaining a World War I Memorial this month when a key federal panel approved a conceptual design for the project—even though panel members and others expressed concerns about the latest plan and its potential impact on the selected site. Representatives from the nonprofit The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) and a retired high-ranking landscape architect with the National Park Service joined the federal panelists in questioning aspects of the design, which calls for the memorial to be added to a 1981 park by the noted landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg. Friedberg, via an email message shared with the commission, expressed disappointment with the proposal. After an hour-long discussion, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) voted unanimously on July 13 to accept its executive director’s recommendations for adding a memorial to Pershing Park, on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House. The vote means the design team and its clients, the World War I Centennial Commission and the National Park Service, can now move to a second, more detailed stage of design work on the project, which is expected to cost $30 million to $32 million. Sponsors of the memorial are aiming to complete it in time for a late 2018 dedication. The design will have to be reviewed at least two more times before any construction can begin. The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts also must give its approval. Congress authorized the World War I Centennial Commission in 2014 to build a memorial at Pershing Park, a 1.75-acre public space bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue, E Street, and 14th and 15th streets N.W. The park is named after General John J. Pershing, general of the U.S. armies in World War I, and contains a memorial to him. To select a designer, the World War I commission held an international competition in 2015. The winner was Joseph Weishaar, a graduate of the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture. He called his entry “The Weight of Sacrifice.” Other design team members include New York sculptor Sabin Howard, landscape architect Phoebe Lickwar, and GWWO Architects, the architect of record. The design presented this month (PDF) was a revision of a concept that the planning commission reviewed last November. The revamped design called for retaining more of the existing park than before, and a memorial consisting of three main components. The first is a 65-foot-long bronze bas relief wall on the site’s western edge, featuring images from the war along with a water feature. The park’s pool would be retained, although a path would be added to provide access to the commemorative wall. A flagpole would replace an existing kiosk. Part of the sensitivity of the project is that Pershing Park is already considered a significant public space, deemed eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Besides the original design by Friedberg, the park reflects a planting plan by the office of Oehme, van Sweden. For those unfamiliar with park in its prime, the video below from TCLF details its conception and features sweeping views of the then newly-completed project, with commentary from Friedberg: During the latest review, a key issue was the extent to which the project should be treated as an opportunity to preserve Friedberg’s work, as opposed to treating the site as a blank slate for new construction. In voting to advance the project beyond the conceptual design stage, the planning commissioners encouraged the memorial’s designers to retain the best features of Friedberg’s design, as much as possible. Commissioner Evan Cash noted that the nature of the project has evolved because of the desire to respect Friedberg’s work. He questioned whether the sponsors shouldn’t just “go back to the drawing board” and launch another competition. “What started as a design to put in a World War I Memorial has turned into a restoration project for the original park,” he said. Commissioner Mina Wright said the design team has a difficult task because it has been charged with adding a major memorial to a key public space while also respecting what’s already there. “This is a really vexing problem, two different … interests that the design team has been asked to resolve,” she said. “It’s serving a lot of masters.” In public testimony about the design, a representative of TCLF, Margo Barajas, stressed the significance of retaining the best elements of Friedberg’s design, especially the waterfall and pool. “Pershing’s waterfall and pool are one inseparable landscape feature located in the heart of the park,” she told the panel. “One need only look at earlier images of the park when the waterfall was well maintained, the pool was full, and cascading water provided animation. The park was a popular destination that was embraced by the public. The waterfall’s gushing sounds, the white noise masking the adjacent traffic, and the cooling mists, all absent from the now-proposed WWI Memorial revised concept design, were keys to its success.” Barajas said the foundation believes the 65-foot-long wall is too long for the location and would be a visual barrier to Pershing Park. “Collectively, the visual and physical barrier created by the insertion of this wall, backed by a pool with sheets of water running down its shorter northern and southern sides, the corresponding loss of more than 50 feet of open physical and visual access between the upper and lower western plaza levels,” the loss of an extensive tree canopy on the western edge of the pool, and the “the loss of the dynamic, animating qualities of water that are fundamental to the park’s feeling, would result in a less successful urban design,” she warned. Barajas noted that the WWI Centennial Commission has presented and then rejected a design proposal called the “Upper Wall Design.” She said TCLF believes it is worth revisiting. “It would retain the existing waterfall and pool and site the 65-foot-long wall along the elevated north-south walk behind the waterfall,” she said. “Depending on the height of the wall and the waterfall, this memorial gesture could be seen from multiple vantage points throughout the park. Barajas quoted a June 25 email from Friedberg to landscape architect Phoebe Lickwar, which was written after the latest design was shown to the fine arts commission on May 18. “To say that I was disappointed in the design presented to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) on May 18th—the 'Restored Pool Concept'—would be a gross understatement,” Friedberg wrote, characterizing the long wall as a “one note” design move. Friedberg said in his email message that he was encouraged that members of the World War I Memorial design team met with him to learn about the original design. He said that gave him a “positive feeling” about the project. “I appreciated that several [Commission of Fine Arts] members suggested we finally meet, and thought that the first meeting with the design team produced a common goal and understanding of how a World War I Memorial could add a layer of content and experience that would enhance both the park and Memorial,” Friedberg wrote. “It was unfortunate that the World War I Centennial Commission’s vice chair, Edwin Fountain, and the Memorial’s sculptor, Sabin Howard, did not attend,” he said. “Their absence from our discussion may account for the design outcome, the persistent and intrusive one note wall that’s being forced into the space thus obliterating the scale and meaning of the original design." “I can only assume that the design team was forced by the insistence of the client (the WWI Centennial Commission) to shoe horn in, at all costs, the wall,” Friedberg continued. “The negative impact on the overall design is too much to pay and unnecessary. The rejection of the numerous previous designs by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts should have sent a clear message that forcing a solution with a preconceived result was not working and any preconceived notion would be a burden on creativity. It takes a good client to produce a good design.” Another speaker from the general public, landscape architect Darwina Neal, retired Chief of Cultural Resources for the National Capital Region of the National Park Service, said she worked on Pershing Park when it was being planned. She said Pershing Park is a “signature designed landscape” by Friedberg, who is considered “one of modern American landscape architecture’s most accomplished urban designers.” Neal said the World War I commission’s objectives, as stated in its design competition, were to come up with a design that would “enhance the existing Pershing memorial by constructing … appropriate sculptural and other commemorative elements, including landscaping.” “Although this design is billed as the ‘Restored Pool Concept,’ this is a serious misnomer,” she told the panel. “Rehabilitation would have been a more apropos treatment description, but it does not achieve that either because, in reality, it would not only destroy the existing fountain … as the major focal point within the central room of the park, but it also compromises the pool itself by putting walks across it.” Neal said she believes it is commendable that the berms enclosing the park would remain intact, but the proposal to remove the existing fountain, change the size and depth of the pool, and cover about 40 percent of its surface with new walks would have “extreme adverse effects” on the integrity of the existing park design, because the existing fountain is the main feature. Replacing the fountain with a 65-foot-long sculptural wall would also disrupt visual and access continuity between the pool area and the west end of the park. The proposed pool behind the new memorial wall, which features what appear to be side “sheets” of water, would not even be visible from the pool area, let alone heard—and thus would not be a “splashing fountain.” Neal said she advocates more of a preservation approach and believes rehabilitating the existing park, with minimal changes, could “considerably reduce” construction costs. “Since the basic well-designed framework of the park still remains, there is no excuse for abandoning the original design,” she said. “Rather, it should be rehabilitated. Demolition by neglect should not be tolerated.” Neal also urged reconsideration of the “Upper Wall Design” that would locate the commemorative wall along the upper north-south walk behind the fountain. “This placement would require little change to the existing park features and have no consequences on the experience and function of the park, other than somewhat affecting views from the west that are already limited by existing trees,” she said. “Most important, the focal fountain and pool would be retained in place, with the wall visible above the fountain, as viewed from the pool area.” Instead of a flagpole, she said, “the existing concession kiosk could be replaced by an interpretive/informational kiosk—perhaps an interactive high-tech one with stations on which users could get information on the war and perhaps even be able to input names of relatives who served in the war and information on them, and/or leave messages/comments, etc. Such a kiosk could increase visitor use, education, and enjoyment.” Above all, Neal said, she believes “it is crucial to maintain the fountain, which is the heart of the design.” When it was working properly, she said, it “pumped life into the focal pool and plaza area, creating a vibrant public space” along Pennsylvania Avenue. “I would hope that this vitality could be brought back to life!” she said. Among the recommendations from the planning commission’s executive director were for the design team to: consider reducing the size of the commemorative wall “to improve views across the park,” consider integrating a water feature into the commemorative wall “consistent with the location and orientation of the existing cascading fountain,” provide additional details regarding pool modifications and what the water-related areas will look like during times of year when they are empty of water, and prepare a “park programming” plan that identifies the proposed urban park spaces and potential activities that can take place there. Weishaar and John Gregg, associate principal at GWWO, attended the meeting but were not asked to speak to the panel or address concerns about the design. They said after the meeting that they would take the panel’s comments into consideration as they work to refine their designs.
The federal government ended its decade-long search for a new FBI headquarters, leaving the law enforcement agency in the deteriorating J. Edgar Hoover Building, The Washington Post first reported yesterday. For more than ten years, the government has looked for a new building in either Maryland or Virginia as a replacement for the current 43-year-old Brutalist Hoover Building (the building that everybody loves to hate). According to The New York Times, the building can house only half of the 11,000 FBI employees stationed in Washington, D.C. and its dire conditions warrant security concerns. Years of efforts to persuade Congress and the government to back the project gained momentum under the Obama administration, though those efforts will be brought to a grinding halt with this decision. Officials from the General Services Administration, which manages federal real estate, had planned to trade the Hoover Building to a real estate developer while using $2 billion in taxpayer dollars to fund the remaining cost. The Obama administration had sought $1.4 billion for the project, but Congress left it underfunded by more than $800 million. With escalating costs and a lack of leadership following the dismissal of former director James B. Comey, interest in the project stalled, according to officials and executives involved in the process and reported by The Washington Post.
An Apple store will be realized in the Carnegie Library at Mount Vernon Square, Washington, D.C. after plans were approved by the District's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) last week. Last year, Events DC (the capital’s convention and sports authority) and Apple filed a letter of intent to lease portions of the 63,000-square-foot historic library. That now-approved plan includes restoring the exterior and retrofitting the interior to create retail, office, and exhibit spaces. Apple’s store will be designed by London-based Foster + Partners and the restoration efforts will be undertaken by New York–based Beyer Blinder Belle. Alterations already made to the neoclassical library, including a rooftop over the original skylight and the conversion of a reading room into a theater, will be reversed as part of the restoration process. The north elevation of the building will see a grander, rounded staircase replacing its current one, and a central pillar will be removed to enlarge the entryway and make space for a glass entrance. Other changes include the removal of the partitions in the library’s stacks and the original lay-lights in the Great Hall ceiling to create an atrium. Some of the proposed additions, mainly concerning 12 exterior banners fixed to the facade, are under revision for the quantity and size of the signage. “This new space, which will feature a massive video screen, new wall openings on both levels, and circulation 'bridges' connecting the upper floors, will significantly alter the historic layout and character of the interior,” a report from Historic Preservation Office (HPO) stated in Urban Turf. The current arrangement allows Apple to ‘co-locate’ in the library with the existing tenant, The Historical Society of Washington. Events DC will be able to use non-retail areas for special events. The building was constructed in 1903 and designed by Ackerman & Ross in the Beaux Arts Style; it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.
Ever placed the sole of your bare foot onto a piece of LEGO left on the floor? If you have, you know the and sheer pain and annoyance at 1) How such a harmless looking single brick could cause so much pain and 2) Why it was there in the first place. If one floor-bound LEGO brick is enough to cause you such discomfort, then prepare to be triggered at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., where hundreds of thousands of bricks, courtesy of Ai Weiwei, will be laid on the floor to form portraits. These are not just any old pieces of portraiture, though. In Ai Weiwei: Trace at Hirshhorn, the Chinese artist has chosen to represent activists. Perhaps this is fitting. Activists, to those in power, can be as aggravating as treading on a piece of LEGO. Collectively, they are more daunting—as daunting as say, walking across an entire floor of jagged LEGO. Within the circular museum, 176 portraits all comprised of LEGO and assembled by hand populate the museum's second floor, spanning 700 feet. Ai Weiwei: Trace at Hirshhorn will fill the entirety of the second-floor galleries and also feature two graphic wallpapers, one of which is being exhibited for the first time. This debuting artwork is titled The Plain Version of the Animal That Looks Like a Llama but is Really an Alpaca and will cover the outer wall of the Hirshhorn's second floor. The piece includes images of surveillance and is a monochrome take on Ai's The Animal That Looks Like a Llama but is Really an Alpaca which itself will be found in the lobby of the same floor. This will be the first time Ai's Trace has been shown on the East Coast. Trace was first commissioned in 2014, opening at Alcatraz in San Francisco as a collaboration between the nonprofit FOR-SITE Foundation, the National Park Service, and the Golden Gate Park Conservancy. The exhibition and artwork featured derives from Ai's treatment by the Chinese government stemming back to 2011 when he was incarcerated, interrogated and tracked by authorities for 81 days. In addition to this, Ai was also banned from exiting China until two years ago. Ai Weiwei: Trace at Hirshhorn will be on view from June 28 through January 1, 2018. The evening before the exhibition's opening, Ai will give the annual James T. Demetrion Lecture in the Hirshhorn’s Ring Auditorium marking his first appearance in the city. In 2012, the museum ran a retrospective of the artist's work, the first in the U.S., alas, Ai was prohibited from attending. Free tickets for the lecture will be released online on June 19. More details can be found on the museum website.
The start of a new memorial project for assassinated U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy at Washington D.C.’s RFK Stadium was announced by the District of Columbia's Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, the senator’s family members, and Events DC, on May 17. The memorial project is part of an overall plan for the RFK Stadium complex, a $500 million project spearheaded by New York City–based OMA. The proposal involves demolishing the current stadium and its parking lots, transforming the site into a 350,000-square-foot recreation and sports complex complete with three ball fields and a 47,000-square-foot market selling groceries. The memorial will honor the late senator, serving “as a place of remembrance and a place of teaching and practicing the civil rights and equality ideals Robert F. Kennedy championed,” Events DC said in a statement to The Washington Post. The 190-acre site sits on federal government land and will be tied to neighboring Kingman Island and the River Terrace neighborhood by three new pedestrian bridges. Events DC, the city’s official convention and sports authority, will be funding half of the project while city, hotel tax revenue, and team leases will cover the rest. “On behalf of my family, we are delighted… to begin this journey… in tribute to my late grandfather,” Maeve Kennedy McKean, the senator’s granddaughter said in the Events DC statement. “My grandfather lived his life every day in the service of others.” Officials hope that the redevelopment of the new stadium site and the memorial will begin and finish over the next five to seven years, according to Events DC. The D.C. United soccer club currently occupies the stadium and will continue to do so for another year, until the new BIG-designed stadium is completed.
Landscape architecture and urban design studio James Corner Field Operations (JCFO) has been chosen to develop a master plan for revisioning the canal network of Georgetown, a neighborhood in Washington, D.C. JCFO has an established pedigree when it comes to re-imagining infrastructure. The firm worked on New York's much acclaimed High Line and is currently planning a similar ten-mile scheme in Miami called the Underline. The name for this project is yet to be announced, but the "The Waterline" wouldn't be a bad guess given JCFO's record. Covering one mile of the Chesapeake and Ohio National Historical Park (C&O Canal NHP), JCFO will work with the National Park Service (NPS), Georgetown Heritage, the D.C. Office of Planning, and the local community to activate underused pedestrian paths through the site and tap into the canal network's forgotten historical heritage. In the coming year, Georgetown Heritage and the NPS will procure community info on how to maximize the site's assets which include: stone structures dating back to the 1830s, locks, towpaths, plazas, and street crossings. These features will aid the educational and recreational aspirations that stakeholders have for the site as well as contribute to the area's aesthetic appeal. The chronology of events for the project is as follows:
- Conditions Assessment: Documenting and analyzing the current state of the physical structures of the canal, as well as how people currently use the park.
- Historic Preservation: Inventorying and developing a plan to preserve the historic elements of the canal.
- Safety & Accessibility: Recommendations to improve access to the canal and make it a safer, more comfortable place to be through interventions such as lighting, ramps, signage, and seating.
- Recreation Opportunities: In addition to the paddling dock to be built in Spring 2018, the Master Plan will create opportunities and inviting spaces for all kinds of recreation; from active recreation like cycling and kayaking, to passive recreation like bird watching or gongoozling (watching activity on a canal).
- Transformative Designs: There are five nodes/plazas within this one-mile stretch of canal that are currently underused or not used at all. The Master Plan will explore concepts for transformative designs for these spaces:
- Zero Mile Marker/Tide Lock
- Lock 1
- Mule Yard
- Fish Market Square
- Aqueduct Overlook
- Programmatic Plans: In order to bring life and activity back to the canal, the Master Plan will include plans for interpretation, education, and cultural programming.
Washington’s Old Post Office Clock Tower (neighbors with Trump International Hotel) once again open for tours
The Trump International Hotel is no longer the only attraction at Washington, D.C.’s Old Post Office Pavilion on Pennsylvania Avenue. The National Park Service has resumed public tours of the Old Post Office clock tower, three years after they were suspended so the Trump Organization could start construction on the $200 million, 263-room luxury hotel that opened last fall. Visitors can once again go up inside the 315-foot-high clock tower for sweeping views of the city. It’s the highest public vantage point in the nation’s capital, with the Washington Monument closed for elevator repairs for at least another year. Built from 1892 to 1899 to house the U. S. Post Office Department Headquarters and the city’s post office, the Old Post Office occupies an entire city block at 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. It was designed by Willoughby J. Edbrooke, in a Romanesque Revival style, and was the first steel-frame building constructed in Washington, D.C. The central clock tower has an observation deck with arched openings that frame views of the city. The building served as the U. S. Post Office headquarters until 1934. For the next four decades, it housed a variety of federal agencies. During the 1960s, it was the headquarters for the wiretapping unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, an agency that President Donald Trump just accused of tapping his wires at the Trump Tower in New York. It also has been the headquarters of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, two agencies that may be eliminated by the Trump administration. Under the Cooperative Use Act of 1976, it was opened to a mixture of public and private development. Now that the hotel is open, visitors to the clock tower have to enter through the building’s south side, off 12th Street N.W. Tour hours are Thursday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the last entry is 4:30 p.m. Tourists won’t necessarily interact with the hotel guests or management; the clock tower tours are run by the park service.
Recently, at The Architect's Newspaper (AN) we have seen an influx of architectural projects—Motown Museum expansion, The Equal Justice Initiative's The Memorial to Peace and Justice, Emancipation Park—which explore methods of memorialization and the celebration of black experiences in America. On the occasion of the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) last September, the museum created greater visibility for these narratives and formed new discourses on race. AN sat down with Mabel O. Wilson, an architect and associate professor at Columbia's GSAPP, to discuss her new book Beginning with the Past which details the hard-fought process of realizing NMAAHC. Wilson also participated in the original competition for the museum in collaboration with DS+R and Hood Design Studio. AN: James Baldwin, in his essay Many Thousands Gone wrote, “The story of the Negro in America is the story of America–or, more precisely, it is the story of Americans.” This quote reiterates a similar statement he made to Congress that you included in your book. Can you talk about that statement in relation to the aim you had for Beginning With The Past? Mabel Wilson: I think what Baldwin was trying to say is that the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, and I would also put into that the genocide of indigenous peoples, are really the original sins of America. I think there is a way in which the notion of exceptionalism has never been able to contend with the violence that was necessary for the shaping of the nation. In 2014, the AIA released a report which surveyed architects and found that racial minorities are vastly underrepresented in both the academy and the profession. At the same time, many initiatives have emerged recently to address these racial inequalities: Paul Revere William's AIA Gold Award, the Phil Freelon GSD fellowship, the AIA's new diversity scholarship, the "Say it Loud" exhibition. Do these initiatives capture the reforms needed to address the systemic challenges that face the profession in the pursuit to increase diversity? What more can architects do? I think there are many factors that have to do with the low number of minorities in the field. It’s like movie production, it’s a field that requires access to vast amounts of capital. And so you have to, in some fashion, be able to gain access to that [capital] as an architect. I always tell people that if you want to find out the history of African American architecture, you have to go back and look at all the black builders who, particularly by the 20th century, weren’t ‘licensed architects.’ There were other ways [that] people were building and thinking about space, but it isn’t the stuff that ends up in the history books or recorded by local chapters of the professional association. But it’s out there so you have to look elsewhere. To build is to have power. That’s not something given up easily, which women have found out in architecture. It’s not an easy ceiling to break because of the ways that buildings are tied to power structures and power relations and wealth. As you describe in your book, the Smithsonian unsurprisingly sought African American-led firms and experts to participate in the competition process, casting a light on the deficiencies of architectural competitions to include minority-owned and operated entities. Beyond hiring black architects when they're able to, what can institutional clients do to include historically disadvantaged voice in the development of large cultural projects? I really respect Lonnie Bunch for insisting that the teams have a diverse range of architects. That’s huge in terms of opportunities because it’s fundamentally who you know; it’s social networking which often in this country is determined along racial lines. Even though I’d say the majority of people [and institutions] don’t think of themselves as racists, we’ve just had a huge racist backlash in this country that is showing up as antisemitism and islamophobia and other things. I think the effort to bring in diverse voices for projects is important. The Smithsonian, particularly under Lonnie Bunch’s leadership, produced teams that would not have perhaps normally come together. Your research into spatial politics and collective memory are present at various points throughout your book, especially with regard to the NMAAHC’s location on the National Mall adjacent to the Washington Monument. What does it mean for all Americans that these African American histories and narratives are consolidated on this particular site? In the wake of the NMAAHC, do you see architecture playing a bigger role in telling the story of black America? Certainly, the museum has brought this kind of sensibility to a lot of issues. It has a very important presence in that it is visible to the world. And, it’s impossible to get a ticket, still, there is extraordinary demand to experience this history because it was never told and the material wasn’t collected. That was the big challenge for [NMAAHC]. Most people think that designing the building and raising the money was the hard part. No, it was building a collection. I think it’s significant now, as we think about these legacies, how people mark these things that have already been forgotten. So that is why I think [NMAAHC] is important because that collection work was never done. I think we are still dealing with issues of race as a nation and as a world; we still have work to do.
On February 16, D.C. United was granted approval by the D.C. Zoning Commission for the construction of Audi Field, the MLS team's new $300 million stadium designed by stadia specialists Populous and local practice Marshall Moya Design. On February 27, this coming Monday, ground will break on-site at Half Street at 3 p.m. The process, however, hasn't all been smooth sailing. Although the five-member committee was unanimous in their decision, zoning commissioners Peter May and Michael Turnbull were reluctant in doing so. "I still do feel like this application left something to be desired," said May. "I am still disappointed in the design. It has been a disappointment all the way through. I hope it turns out better than expected." The stadium will be built at Buzzard Point near the Anacostia River. The site was determined four years ago, but issues raised by the Buzzard Point advisory neighborhood commission and the D.C. Department of Transportation induced delays. Problems relating to public space, retail, parking, and the environment were ironed out in December when the design went before commissioners; the stadium was then awarded prior approval at the time. Even then, however, Commission Chairman Anthony Hood remarked that "major work" was still required with regard to transport in and around the site. In response to neighborhood concerns, the soccer team will donate $50,000 to non-profit organization Breathe DC for the purchase of air purifiers, as well as put in place a bike sharing facility with parking for 447 bicycles. 500,000 square feet (total) of retail space is also now part of the development. Plans, though, are yet to be finalized for parking and traffic management when D.C.'s baseball team, the Washington Nationals, play a few blocks down the road. Aside from the concerns, Audi Field is due to open in 2018. The new stadium will boast a capacity of 20,000 and offer 31 luxury suites. The arena is set to host numerous sporting and cultural events, community activities, and concerts. "We are extremely excited to break ground on this site, a project that has been 21 years in the making," said Jason Levien, United managing partner. "Since Erick [Thohir] and I assumed stewardship in 2012 we’ve been on a mission to deliver to our fans and this community a new, permanent home." D.C. United currently play at the RFK Stadium, the area around of which is the focus of OMA's New York office for a major upheaval. The estimated $500 million proposal includes three ballfields (two for baseball, one for youth soccer), a 350,000-square-foot recreation and sports complex, and a 47,000-square-foot market selling groceries and concessions.