Housing Complex

Is Boring Better Than Ugly?


"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." –Jeremiah 29:11

So reads a banner facing the corner of 16th and I streets NW, affixed to a concrete wall of the Third Church of Christ, Scientist. The thoughts that Washingtonians have held toward the Brutalist building have long been negative: Passersby find it unattractive, and the church itself finds it structurally deficient. But the future has been uncertain. When the church and the property owner sought permission to raze the building, preservationists objected, and the Historic Preservation Review Board voted in 2007 to designate it a historic landmark, meaning it couldn't be torn down. Then, in 2009, Planning Director Harriet Tregoning gave a little hope to the future of the building by overruling the HPRB and allowing the demolition to proceed.

And now, finally, the church at 16th and Eyesore is coming down. The Washington Business Journal, which reported the news yesterday that a development team recently applied for a permit to raze the Third Church of Christ, Scientist complex, calls it "the ugliest church in D.C." While Kriston Capps, an editor at Architect magazine and frequent Washington City Paper contributor, begs to differ in a series of indignant tweets, I think most Washingtonians would agree that the irregular concrete polygon is not only crumbling, but, well, fairly hideous.

The question is whether the office building that will replace it is any better. The developers, ICG Properties and the JBG Companies, have plans for a structure that's about as run-of-the-mill-downtown-office-building as they come: 11 stories, boxy and glassy, and bringing the skyline of the immediate vicinity to a flat plane. The only distinguishing feature is a spiky glass atrium above the entrance to the small church component of the new development. (JBG declined to provide a rendering, and every ICG voice mailbox seems to be full, but the Business Journal has a few renderings here.)

From a use standpoint, it'll undoubtedly be an improvement. The bare concrete walls of the current church do zero for street life. A narrow passageway along the church's west side feels vaguely dangerous. The new development will have ground-floor retail, something most of its immediate neighbors lack. And D.C.'s expensive downtown office market could always use more supply.

But aesthetically, is it an improvement? Is boring better than ugly? In our squat downtown, a little bit of height variety helps keep things interesting. The current church is no beauty, but at least it doesn't simply blend in with everything around it, as the new development appears it will.

At the risk of being a broken record, I'll just note that this is where a significant modification of the Height Act would help, provided it's accompanied by zoning that would encourage a varied skyline. Imagine a downtown where developers could add a few extra stories if those stories had varied architectural features, perhaps with setbacks. Right now, we can hardly afford to do that, since developers are so determined to capitalize on every usable square foot of space in our height-restricted city. But maybe, if the Office of Planning gets its way and federally imposed height limits are loosened downtown and removed elsewhere, we'll get some variety that'll allow the aesthetes among us not to long in some perverse way for the ugly but different structures of old.


Photos by Aaron Wiener


  1. #1

    I don't like Brutalism, but always kind of liked this church -- especially the protruding bells array and the way it was pulled back from the corner.

  2. #2

    I, for one, am shocked, SHOCKED that Kriston Capps wrote something terribly myopic about something. He's certainly never done that before.

    Regardless of your aesthetic preference, this church was undeniably a bad fit for the neighborhood. Its uninviting, creates a dead zone in an area hurting for retail, and it adds nothing to the area. Kriston mentioned strip mall churches as being uglier than this, which could be reasonably argued. However, they're not purpose built and could easily be reverted back to retail if demand called for it. Whereas this church was 100% functionally obsolete, and a burden to the congregation no less.

    And what developer in their right mind would lop off a bunch of rentable space, especially in a location that will command as much money as this one, for architectural flourishes?

    But hey, let's disregard that, and then throw in a total non sequitur about Gentrification, which has exactly zero to do with this project. That'll show em!

  3. #3

    Word on the streets is that they can't make the cool glassy entrance structurally sound.

  4. #4

    Like it or not, Brutalist Architecture was a valid movement. When you look at this building from a city scape or its place within the street scape and its relationship to its neighboring buildings this building works very well for me.

  5. #5

    Everyone has different tastes. (I personally hate Victorian as it's just a pastiche of earlier forms.)

    I suspect when Mid-Century Modern architecture like Brutalism reaches 100 years people will cherish it and regret tearing it down, just as they regret Victorians that were torn down earlier. Have you seen the prices on Mid-Century furniture already?

    The new building is butt ugly Plain Jane.

  6. #6

    Sorry, that church was in NO WAY worth saving. Whoever designed that for any kind of religious use needs to have their architecture degree rescinded.

  7. #7

    Seala que "no me olvido de sus familiares en estas duras circunstancias, ni tampoco del personal mdico que la asiste, suplicando al Seor que le de su luz para que acierte en sus decisiones. Que Jess la bendiga y la Virgen Santa la cuide".

  8. #8

    "It feels a little strange," Battier said after training, "for me, the biggest problem is the shirt is wet, clinging to the meat is not very comfortable

  9. #9

    People need an beneficial coach wallet, right here we introduce a appropriate one precise for you. The profile is extremely functional. it's obtained 4 credit history greeting card pockets within a zippered compartment. Coach billfold wallets would be the normal dimension wallets that most men use now days.

  10. #10

    The comedy site, co founded by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, earned a total of nine awards. That included the Webby for best humor site and a People's Voice award for Jim Carrey's performance as Ronald Reagan in the site's star packed "Presidential Reunion" video.

  11. #11

    Hal Habib's earliest memories of the Dolphins were as a kid, seeking autographs from Bob Griese and Dick Anderson, and a bit later in life, sitting in Section J of the Orange Bowl, wondering why he was sticking around when Dan Fouts and the Chargers were up 24 0 in the first quarter of a playoff game. A few electric hours later, he had his answer and fall Sundays were never the same.

  12. #12

    "No se puede sobreestimar los ingresos cuando no es posible ser realizadas y eso lo estamos sufriendo hoy, de cada 100 guaranes que ingresa al fisco casi 90 se esta utilizando en gastos corrientes y esas son las cosas que queremos primero contener e ir tendiendo a que estos desfasajes se vayan haciendo ms previsibles por sobre todas las cosas", manifest.

  13. #13

    La Oficina para el Control de Activos en el Extranjero (OFAC por sus siglas en ingls), adscrita al Departamento del Tesoro de Estados Unidos, design como narcotraficante al abogado y notario pblico Jos Antonio Nez Bedoya, quien cre y registr a nombre de Zambada tres compaas: Parque Acutico Los Cascabeles y el Rancho Agrcola Ganadero Los Mezquites, en Sinaloa y el Centro Comercial y Habitacional Lomas, en Culiacn. La OFAC declar que las tres empresas tienen vnculos con el narcotrfico.

  14. #14

    Last December, ICE Homeland Security Investigations uncovered $76 million in a six week operation, which uncovered knock off sports jerseys, handbags, sunglasses, and cell phones. Much of the goods in "Operation Holiday Hoax" were sold in Mexico, South Korea, and the United States. 33 arrests were made in the operation for people participating in the distribution and selling the goods.

  15. #15

    Masai unique fitness walking posture and its effectiveness has drawn increasing attention to the medical profession, under which the Swiss company has developed "Masai Barefoot Technology (MBT)", and to use this technology developed a fitness shoes . Strictly speaking, it is not the ordinary sense of the shoes, but a revolutionary fitness tool. Wear it because it is not free to walk on it, but need a simple training. MBT shoes can not only change the way you use muscles, you can improve your use of joints and spine, so to maximize your walking upright backs, so that the spine upright, reduce back, knee, pelvis and feet burden and feet, legs, buttocks, abdomen and back muscles get exercise, increase muscle activity and blood circulation, help reduce cellulite and varicose veins, relieve muscle tension, reduce back and joint problems. These shoes kind of feeling like standing on a sphere, like, you must be carefully controlled balance. After the shoe touches the ground, resulting in rolling from heel to toe, the result ahead of calf muscle stretching, body straight, feet in the middle part of the force equilibrium.

  16. #16

    3 years

  17. #17

    Presenter stepped up the drama in a sweeping red dress with embroidered black flowers, and looked chic in a black sequined jumpsuit by .

  18. #18

    "No solo estamos proponiendo la abolicin del Senado recuerda Bruton , tambin queremos introducir una amplia batera de reformas en la poltica. Hemos acabado con las donaciones corporativas (a los partidos), hemos dado a Dil ms poder de escrutinio y a los cargos pblicos se les exige altos estndares de comportamiento", dijo.

  19. #19

    This web web page is certainly a walk-through pertaining to all of the info an individual wished about this and didn’t learn that to help question. Glimpse here, and you may definitely learn it.
    Cheap Designer Handbags http://bagbranrsalejliea.shareforfree.org/2014/06/10/cheap-designer-handbags-out-of-the-million-of-shades-that-could-be-created/

  20. #20

    There are insider in micro-blog broke the news: "this lineup is certainly not Yang Nargis

  21. #21

    While the other team striker said: "no matter is no such testing in our national game or NBA League, I think even NBA the best pitcher may not be qualified

  22. #22

    El Galaxy lleg a 48 puntos, y es cuarto de la Conferencia del Oeste. Slo los cinco mejores de cada conferencia avanzan a la postemporada.

  23. #23

    About three Easy Ways to Developing a Profitable Subscriber Listing

  24. #24

    La Habana Obras de artistas pl cubanos como Mario Carre Wilfredo Lam y Ren Portocarrero figuran en la pr oferta de "Subasta Habana", la principal puja de arte que se celebra en Cuba y que en noviembre llega a su d edici con la mayor cantidad de lotes y valor de su historia.

  25. #25

    Anne Hathaway est entre un nouveau re de " Couple de stars ", le Agent tait Fox , comme s ' 2010, la plupart prcieux avantages actrice. Il est rapport dcrit que c'est le "Forbes" star commenc conservant donnes depuis 1999 car revenu gagn intrieur a anne civile une toile jusqu' des revenus . Et elle est le plus proche de cette Flux de trsorerie en 2009, elle atteint a total sur cent dix dollars . Made films " que eu t vol cinq ans " Aot 29 atterrissage de la partie continentale de la Grande cran cran . Il s'agit de la libration Aot lancement de la premire six Enjoy major partie , film raconte l' histoire of femmes . Ces types de christian louboutin une concentration of femelle Film est apparu sur le Moniteur , ce qui est rare exceptionnelle sur le march intrieur Film secteur , ce phnomne a suscit gnralise numro extrieur march . Crucial comptences de ce phnomne est que les Chinois femmes Maintenant constituer le primary client groupes film . Surtout Particulirement sur jeune fminin Focus sur public tlspectateurs de la pellicule film , avec substantielle march probable . En fait vrit , de la "Beijing satisfait Seattle " dans la couleur girl , la " petite Petit fois " squence collection louboutin france quipe , une nuit surprise " plus Femme col blanc du personnel personnel , nombre femmes motionnel film de l' an et avoir acquises a trs bon box travail rsultats dfinitifs . Si seule la femelle fminin bb comme Moniteur , assez quipe sur l' background s

  26. #26

    Purchased for my mom--loved the price & free shipping. Thanks!

  27. #27

    very nice

  28. #28

    Enjoyed the bag is beautiful, just a little fragile, however was precisely what I was expecting.It took a little bit, though the fault on the tn post office, is normal after 12 months! I loved it, arrived in top condition! We would definitely recommend!
    Ralph Lauren Polo Outlet Online-Cheap Ralph Lauren free shipping for sale with 80% Off! http://surgery-works.com/news/ralphpolo7.htm

  29. #29

    Excellent!!!!. Xoroshee kachestvo, no eto ne koja, Ne vonyaet, ochen myagkaya i preyatnaya na oshup. Vse shvi idealnie . Ya dovolna pokupkoy.
    more about http://scaspa.com/police.asp

  30. #30

    Expédition rapide, article comme décrit , très bien, merci !

  31. #31

    Parfait celine sac à main - sooo heureux - Merci - grand vendeur de EB

  32. #32

    Lovely! Juste comme décrit et arrivé en 3 jours! Merci !

  33. #33

    Just what I was looking for. AAAAAAA++++++++++++

  34. #34

    perfect, fast shipper , communicates, item just as described I love it thank you

  35. #35

    Thank you! I love it!

  36. #36

    Thank you

  37. #37

    Une livraison rapide & article exactement comme décrit ! A + + + Seller ! L'amour de la chaussure!

  38. #38

    Bag super! ! ! It will be perfectly sewed, fast delivery, I suggest all this sellerbag is sutured qualitative, seams even, colour beige matches, this not skin, price matches quality
    view more http://www.latinovivo.com/debitobaf.htm

Leave a Comment

Blogs Linking to this Article

  1. Theater J Drops Full Run of "The Admission": Arts Roundup - Arts Desk

    [...] The brutalist church on 16th and I streets NW to be replaced by typical blah office building. So what's better: ugly or boring? [Housing Complex] [...]

Comments Shown. Turn Comments Off.