Housing Complex

Concrete Details: The Winning WWI Memorial Designer Did Just What Was Asked. And That’s the Problem.

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Pershing Park

Joseph Weishaar, a 25-year-old junior architect from Chicago, performed an architectural balancing act to win the competition to design a new national World War I memorial in Pershing Park.

His design “The Weight of Sacrifice,” with low walls around a rectangular lawn and a minimalist plaza, is clean enough to feel contemporary. But the walls will be made of bronze, carved by the sculptor Sabin Howard into classical bas-reliefs and etched with quotations—a move that has won over traditionalists.

Chosen from more than 350 entries, Weishaar’s scheme unites a celebration of victory with mourning the fallen. The raised central lawn and heroic “Brothers in Arms” bas-relief ease the weight of dark, downward-sloping walls, reminiscent of Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In other words, this is a very well-calibrated design.

Whether equipoise should be the main virtue of a war memorial, though, is another matter.

In 2014, Congress authorized the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission to build a national memorial at Pershing Park, on Pennsylvania Avenue and 15th Street NW. (D.C. already has its own memorial to the war, a small marble rotunda on the west side of the Mall that was restored several years ago.) Reading the competition brief makes it clear that Weishaar delivered exactly what the commission wanted. Read more Concrete Details: The Winning WWI Memorial Designer Did Just What Was Asked. And That’s the Problem.

Why the Bjarke Ingels Group Is a Good Fit for D.C.

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The Washington Pigskins inched closer to realizing a dream of the team's owner, Dan Snyder, when it was revealed earlier this month that the team's next stadium will be designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group. The stadium has no home yet, but the team has a lot of fans who would like to see it built somewhere near them, including right here in D.C.

Football fans may not pay enough attention to contemporary architecture to realize what a big deal it is that Snyder hired Ingels. Projects designed or underway by his firm include a stack-of-boxes tower for World Trade Center 2, a pyramid-shaped apartment mid-rise, and a new campus for Google.

Architecture critics know enough about Snyder, though, and about the perils of stadium projects in general, to sound the alarm. Washington City Paper's Amanda Kolson Hurley wrote that Ingels risks his reputation by working with a client as odious as Snyder. The Washington Post's Philip Kennicott called the arrangement "strange" and questioned whether BIG is "motivated by naïveté or cynicism." And at CityLab, I wrote that Ingels ought to have declined the commission. Read more Why the Bjarke Ingels Group Is a Good Fit for D.C.

Why Architect Bjarke Ingels Risks Reputation With Pigskins Deal

A rendering of Bjarke Ingels' design for the new Google campus

For the past couple of years, Washington has been getting to know architect Bjarke Ingels. The photogenic, 41-year-old Dane who leads the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) is now a global design star, supervising two huge projects in New York: W57, a pyramid of apartments being built in Midtown, and a skyscraper at Two World Trade Center. His firm is also working on a new campus for Google in Silicon Valley.

Busy as he’s been elsewhere, Ingels has kept coming back to D.C. In 2014 he gave us the BIG Maze at the National Building Museum, and soon after, the excellent exhibition "Hot to Cold," also at the NBM. Right before that show opened, a clearer rationale emerged for all the time spent in Washington: The Smithsonian announced it had selected BIG for a $2 billion renovation of the Mall’s south campus.

That seemed to be the whole story—architectural whiz kid takes Washington, and the world. But yesterday, the Sports Business Journal broke some BIG (sorry) news: The firm will design a new stadium for Washington’s NFL team, probably in partnership with a firm specializing in sports-architecture. The ’Skins haven’t announced a location for their new facility, but are expected to reveal plans later this month. Read more Why Architect Bjarke Ingels Risks Reputation With Pigskins Deal

Grayed Expectations: What’s With All the Gray Houses?

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If you live in a part of D.C. where houses are bought and sold like daytrader shares—or if you just have a bad habit of surfing Zillow at work—there’s one aesthetic question that’s probably crossed your mind in recent months.

What’s with all the gray houses?

From Petworth to Anacostia, Riggs Park to Bloomingdale, developers are applying fresh paint in tones of Raincloud or Flagstone to the fronts of newly renovated rowhouses, as subtle as a 25-foot “For Sale” sign. The gray rowhouse shines out to homebuyers not so much as a beacon in the fog but a foggy beacon, its message contradictory: Here is a chance to buy property in D.C., but hurry, it’s fleeting; this neighborhood is desirable but in transition; the house is seemingly pristine, and most likely a flip. Read more Grayed Expectations: What’s With All the Gray Houses?

Here’s Where Home Prices Have Increased the Most in D.C.

The median sales price for single-family homes along D.C.'s north-south axis has ballooned over the past decade and a half—and in certain neighborhoods, has more than tripled—according to a new analysis.

The Office of Revenue Analysis used data from the D.C. Recorder of Deeds to create interactive graphics that show changes in home-sale prices since 2001 (which it adjusted for inflation to reflect 2015 dollars). Still, while neighborhoods like LeDroit Park, Trinidad, and Columbia Heights saw some of the biggest jumps in value, others got hit hard by the national housing-bubble bust towards the end of the aughts and haven't bounced back from their pre-recession levels. Those areas lie far from the city's center, in Wards 3, 4, 7, and 8.

Read more Here’s Where Home Prices Have Increased the Most in D.C.

Brie Husted, 1973-2015

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Bridget "Brie" Husted, an architect who lived in Petworth and designed popular D.C. restaurants like El Centro D.F., Domku, Masa 14, and Southern Efficiency, as well as numerous private residences, died on Nov. 1. She was 41 years old. Her uncle, Steve Cochran, remembers her as whip-smart, driven, and magnetic: “There was absolutely no one else I so loved spending time with.”

A D.C. native, Husted grew up in Upper Northwest and attended Blessed Sacrament and Stone Ridge schools. She studied architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design and graduated in 1996. A study-abroad program in Rome was formative, deepening her interest in drawing and in the architectural qualities of light.

After college, Husted considered doing graduate work in sustainable design in Virginia or moving to the Southwest, but then her brother, Stephen, was seriously injured in a car crash in the D.C. area. Husted stayed by his bedside. “Brie was there every single day,” says Cochran, who credits her with helping her brother emerge from a long coma. Read more Brie Husted, 1973-2015

Maine Avenue Fish Market Buildings to Become Historic Landmarks

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The D.C. Office of Planning's Historic Preservation Review Board is expected to designate two connected buildings at the Maine Avenue Fish Market in Southwest as landmarks Thursday, based on a HPRB staff report obtained by City Paper and an application filed for the property in late July by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.

The facilities—the Lunch Room Building and the Oyster Shucking Shed at 1100 Maine Ave. SW—were built between 1916 and 1918 as separate structures,  then linked sometime between 1946 and 1970. Though they now stand in disrepair, with collapsed ceilings and damaged interior walls, they've also given Wharf developer Hoffman-Madison Waterfront a unique opportunity for historic restoration.

Read more Maine Avenue Fish Market Buildings to Become Historic Landmarks

An Old Misdemeanor Kept Maurice Alexander From Accessing Housing

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Maurice Alexander

A van pulls over on 16th Street NE and several young black men hop out. Walking by is Maurice Alexander, a lifelong Washingtonian in his sixties, on his way home from a friend’s house. Alexander watches the men from the van as they scoop up what looks like various electronics, discarded on the curb.

The van gets as far as the next stoplight before four white Metropolitan Police Department officers rush up on foot, hands on their guns. Alexander hears one of the men in the van yell, “What did we do?” The answer is shouted back: “Receiving stolen goods.”

“They got those off the ground,” Alexander protests, from the sidewalk. One of the cops gets in his face, tells him to mind his own business. Read more An Old Misdemeanor Kept Maurice Alexander From Accessing Housing

What Does a ‘Luxury Home’ in D.C. Cost Now?

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Last month, the first million-dollar home reportedly sold in Brookland: a five-bedroom, four-bathroom abode with 3,000 square feet of interior space, sitting atop more than double that in land.

Today, the District's Office of Revenue Analysis suggests that million-dollar homes in D.C. may be a little passé, at least in terms of how residents define "luxury": An analysis of home sales posted on their District, Measured blog shows that single-family homes costing $2 million or more make up more than four percent of all sales this year.

Read more What Does a ‘Luxury Home’ in D.C. Cost Now?

Council Debates Private Bathrooms for Homeless Families

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The D.C. Council yesterday gave initial approval to a bill that lays out design basics for the smaller shelters that will replace D.C. General and that allows the city to place homeless families in shelter on a temporary basis as eligibility is determined.

But first, councilmembers debated the need for private bathrooms in these replacement shelters, with Councilmember Mary Cheh introducing an amendment to mandate one in each room. "Basic safety, security, and dignity of people would require that we have a private bathroom," Cheh said before growing exasperated as her colleagues voiced opposition to the amendment. "Spend a little more money for dignity and safety. What's wrong with us?" 

The amendment ultimately failed 9-4, with many councilmembers expressing faith in the Bowser administration's plan as presented. Read more Council Debates Private Bathrooms for Homeless Families

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