Housing Complex

Slideshow: The Best and Worst of Downtown D.C. Architecture

One of the best: the National Association of Realtors headquarters. (Lydia DePillis)

It's easy to hate on downtown D.C.'s office buidings, squished as they are by the height limit. And some of them are truly heinous. But others—even the modern ones—are actually quite handsome, and ought to be recognized. So I've spent a bit of time over the last few weeks noticing the architecture downtown, and have narrowed down my completely unschooled, fairly arbitrary judgments to six favorites and six disfavorites. For the purposes of this slideshow, I've also omitted from consideration the historic buildings that have endured over the last century, figuring the competition wouldn't be quite fair.

Here it is. Feel free to disagree!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/mr_t_in_dc/ Mr T in DC

    I pretty much agree with your list, except I'm a little more inclined to give the Lansburgh apartments a pass. Also, the building you described as 1180 F Street NW is actually 555 12th Street NW, the Thurman Arnold Building. The interior features an impressive atrium (disclaimer: I've worked in the building since it was constructed).

  • http://alexblock.net Alex B.

    That's a pretty good list.

    I'd add the Clara Barton to the 'best' list - nice massing, good preservation of more than just historic facades, but the entire streetwall and roofline, plus the inclusion of arts uses such as the Woolly Mammoth.

  • Nat

    Some good choices, though I'm scratching my head about your praise for Lafayette tower (a gimmicky, dark, and uninviting blight on 17th Street) and your attack on the Lansburgh (a few warts, but generally attractive and pleasant, like Falls Church). My favorite building downtown is 1801 Pennsylvania, which is at once sleekly modern and classically beautiful. http://www.pembrokere.com/portfolio/1801-pennsylvania-avenue

  • http://www.mvtriangleblog.com FourthandEye

    Great minds think alike. I actually published a similar, but less flushed out, premise on downtown architecture about 9 hours earlier.


    AARP HQ at 601 E Street NW is one of the better new construction (last 20 years) office buildings in my book.

  • Lampredotto

    I second Nat's comments about the Lafayette tower. Looks like an inhabitable microchip, not a serious work of modern architecture.

    In its stead I can think of any number of far-superior downtown buildings: the Clara Barton, 2) 1152 15th Street; the National Geographic headquarters by Edward Durell Stone (17th and M St); 400 Massachusetts Ave....

    And the WMATA building, while foreboding, is at least expressive, something you can't say about 75% of the monstrosities on K Street.

  • er

    this is a fantastic post! more like this please!

    i'm with mr t about the lansburg.
    and i 3rd the dissenting thoughts on the Lafayette tower.

  • One Tree Hill

    Don't believe that bad taste is caused by the height act.

  • er

    i don't believe that either one tree hill.

  • One Tree Hill


    The writer wants you to make that connection.

    "It's easy to hate on downtown D.C.'s office buidings, squished as they are by the height limit."

    Glad you're not.

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