Posts Tagged ‘architecture’

Washington, City of Bollards

September 12, 2011

Washington, City of Bollards

“It used to be that D.C. architecture consisted of graceful Georgetown mansions, neoclassical federal buildings — and, of course, the monuments. When the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts was founded in 1910 to guide Washington’s architectural development, it reviewed designs such as those of the Lincoln Memorial and the Federal Triangle. Over the seven years I’ve served on the commission, however, an increasing amount of time is spent discussing security-improvement projects: screening facilities, hardened gatehouses, Delta barriers, perimeter fences, and seemingly endless rows of bollards. We used to mock an earlier generation that peppered the U.S. capital with Civil War generals on horseback; now I wonder what future generations will make of our architectural legacy of crash-resistant walls and blast-proof glass.”

Wittold Rybczynski, Meyerson professor of urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania. Read more:

“The Blast-Proof City,” Wittold Rybczynski, Foreign Policy

“I Came, Eyesore, I Conquered,” Witold Rybczynski, Slate

Short link:

Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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DC OKs Demolition of Brutalist Church

May 13, 2009

DC OKs Demolition of Brutalist Church

Third Church of Christ, Scientist, Washington, D.C. Oh, wait ….

The DC Historic Preservation Review Board had designated the 37-year-old Third Church of Christ, Scientist a Historic Landmark and prevented its demolition, against the wishes of the congregation, the Mayor’s Office, and anyone with at least minimal eyesight who passes 900 16th St. NW. The structure is in the mercifully-extinct style of “Brutalism,” a term derived from the French béton brut, “raw concrete.” It is a huge concrete blockhouse.

Yesterday Harriet Tregoning, Director of the DC Office of Planning, acting as Mayor’s Agent for Historic Preservation,  issued what appears to be a final ruling on the issue:  junk the joint.

The report observes that “design errors” and “defective workmanship” make the building unsuitable for human pursuits of any kind, even with huge operating expenditures for lighting, temperature and humidity control and ventilation. The DC Government will permit the structure’s demolition. The full document is here. Some excerpts:

— The building’s design and choice of materials, particularly the use of uninsulated concrete, were experimental and it could not have been predicted when the building opened in 1971 whether it would succeed as a place of worship.  …the experiment failed badly.

— Adaptive reuse of the church building is not a viable option.

— The use of uninsulated concrete also resulted in the inability to stabilize the wide range of temperature and humidity levels that exist within the building.

— …the Church could operate in the existing building for only three to five years before exhausting its cash reserves.


Beauty and Barricades

April 10, 2009

Beauty and Barricades

From the National Building Museum:

Beauty vs. Barricades
Charles H. Atherton Memorial Lecture
April 14, 2009
6:30 – 8:00 pm

Robert Campbell, FAIA, architectural critic for the Boston Globe, examines how to balance the need for security with accessibility, transparency, and aesthetics in D.C.’s built environment.

Members: $12.00
Students: Free
Public: $20.00

Prepaid registration required. Walk-in registration based on availability. more information here.

National Building Museum
401 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
(Red Line Metro, Judiciary Square)

Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.



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