Did the OGB Screw These Up?

Two new projects have appeared on the 3200 block of M St. over the past month: All Saints, and Calvin Klein Underwear. In both cases, the design choices seem potentially troublesome. Did the OGB drop the ball by approving these projects?

All Saints is actually a pretty nice renovation. Between the old billboard-style type in the name across the top of the building and the repeating rows of sewing machines in the window, the building has a vaguely steam punk feel.

And that’s all great and definitely a step up from the generic look it had before. But doesn’t that black building paint give this tall building a rather looming feeling over the block. It has the potential to be a giant black hole in the middle of the streetscape.

The Calvin Klein Underwear store is troubling for a different reason. While Carol Joynt has complained about the anatomy lesson in the window, GM is concerned about the architectural features. The bay window was built to replace the faux-historic bay window that served the Body Shop.

GM remembers seeing the modern design come before the ANC for review. And on paper, the idea of a modern replacement of the old design didn’t seem so bad. Whether the design was good or not, though, the biggest failing of the actual project is the poor execution. Despite the fact that a modern design needs clean lines to succeed, the roof line of this project is already marred by jagged roofing material. And the metal features just seem poorly constructed. All in all, it’s a terrible addition.

Should the Old Georgetown Board have approved them? Maybe not, but both these projects point to limits in OGB’s power. Generally, OGB doesn’t get involved with paint color decisions (unless the decision is to paint over unpainted historic brick). Additionally, OGB can’t require that the project actually be performed to any particular level of quality. The hacksawed job that Serendipity did to its first floor facade is a testament to that.

What do you think?




Filed under Architecture

2 responses to “Did the OGB Screw These Up?

  1. RNM

    About a decade ago I had a conversation with then ANC Commissioner Jonda McFarlane about painting of buildings in Georgetown. Her comments were that basically there were no restrictions on how a building could be painted…that a modern Home Owners Association in the suburbs had far more control than in the Congressionally created historic district of Georgetown. She said that I could paint my house polka dots if I wanted (an idea I toyed with). In the residential district one can look to the home in the 3400 block of P Street with graffiti art painted on the front (granted done originally in opposition of anti graffiti legislation so certainly a form of speech). Historically, look at some of the rather “bold” color choices that have existed in the commercial district…in fact just a week or two ago this page had a photo of the old Wiz or Kemp Mill (can never remember which was which) from 1993 with its almost neon lime/green color. Styles change…think of it as the clothing on top of the body or the paint/facade on top of the bones. The body stays, the bones stay…but the clothes, colors and facades rotate.

    Ultimately, paint color seems to not be a item to be in the purview of oversight. Frankly, that is good. There is a balance between respecting history and being trapped in it. We are not Colonial Williamsburg, so should not be trapped in our history or attire. However, we are also trying to respect that history and merge it a little with the modern. In essence to remain a living, vibrant and surviving community and not a museum filled with ancient relics. This goes to the changing nature of businesses represented too. We are no longer a port town so those businesses are gone…the animal rendering plant that survived in Georgetown into the 1970s is gone. New businesses have come in to replace them…and so it goes. Change is the only constant.

    It is quite reasonable that at some point in the future someone will argue to protect the new facades created today, be it the Apple store or Calvin Klein. This would reflect the effort to protect and preserve the smokestack rising out of the AMC theatre on K Street…a smokestack that was once decried as ruining the skyline. Sometimes that which is hated becomes that which is loved.

  2. Sam

    Yes, the OGB screwed up. This area is historical and the buildings now are NOT.

    Corruption abound in these decisions. Must be the influence of big money.

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