Housing Complex

Tell Me Your Pop-Up Stories

A pop-up on New Jersey Avenue NW.

One thing I've noticed after a couple years of watching neighborhood blogs and listservs: Few architectural features generate more ire than "pop-ups," as the additions of one floor atop a rowhouse are colloquially known. They're a great way to maximize space in constrained circumstances, capitalizing on natural light and perhaps allowing a homeowner to stick around rather than light out for the suburbs in search of a third bedroom. But they sure can get ugly, when siding doesn't match the original house, or when the addition interrupts a harmonious block. At the moment, the District's zoning code doesn't address pop-ups, and in at least one neighborhood—Barney Circle, east of Capitol Hill—residents tried to pass an historic district in large part to fill the gap.

I'd like to more fully explore the phenomenon of pop-ups and the discussions that happen around them. If you've got one you're proud of, or can't stand a neighbor's, or have any other observations to share, please get in touch.

Photo by Lydia DePillis

  • SashaDee

    Link to get it touch doesn't work. Shall we comment here? I nominate the pop-"out" at the corner of 1st and Bryant, NW.

  • crin

    Slowly undermining the housing pyramid. Eventually we'll be a city of studio apartments and 4-bedroom houses with nothing in between.

  • Thayer-D

    Pop ups should be looked as a natural evolution of our houseing stock. Through out history, this kind of addition has added to the interest of older buildings and you're right that the harmony of the block can be interupted by one that does nothing to fit in. This attitude, which I applaude, seems to be absent though when cheerleading the latest glass box infill project.

    Maybe if we had an architectural culture where people didn't feel the need to trumpet themselves ideologically as a "glass box" guy, we could approach these kind of projects with more pragmatism, regardless of which style or ideology one prefered.

  • Lydia DePillis

    Whoops, sorry everybody, meant to link to my email address. If you'd rather not comment, please send thoughts to ldepillis@washingtoncitypaper.com or give me a call at 202-650-6928. Thanks!