Category Archives: Architecture

GU Releases New Renderings for Athletic Center

Georgetown University has gone back and forth with the Old Georgetown Board over the design of their planned new athletic center. Too big at one point, too small at another, GU has been a bit whip-lashed.

They’ve now released new designs of the facility (h/t the Hoya):

These designs ostensibly address the concerns of the Commission of Fine Arts expressed that the last designs were “too residential”:

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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. Continue reading

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Details on the Hurt Home Condos

As GM mentioned yesterday, the Argos Group is presenting its plans for the Hurt Home to the ANC and Old Georgetown Board next week. GM got a copy of those plans; here’s what’s in them.

The general framework of the plan is the same as it was when it was giving the public nod in the summer. Namely, the building will be converted into 15 condos. The condos will be contained within the original building and the 1924 addition (which is the part of the front facade that juts out to the east, but which looks the same as the rest of the facade). The other later additions to the back of the building will be removed. Thirty parking spaces will be constructed by adding to the existing surface lot.

Here are some new details:

Here is the plan for the parking lot. The existing lot is the light gray part and the darker gray is the proposed additions. Despite the fact they are proposing increasing parking spots by about 50%, the actual area of the lot appears to grow much less than that (particularly in the direction of the grassy area). The plan calls for the use of permeable surfaces such that the total amount of impermeable surface may be lower after the changes. Continue reading

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Field Guide to Georgetown Homes: The Odd Ones Out

GM is at the beach this week, in his absence enjoy this rerun of his series on Georgetown architecture:

This week GM has been delving into the varieties of historic architecture that we have around Georgetown. For the final installment he is going to highlight the odd ones out, in other words the homes that weren’t built in the dominant styles of Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Queen Anne and Romanesque.

First up: Neoclassical

The Neoclassical style was born at the 1893 Chicago’s World Columbian Exposition, where some of the greatest architects of the time gathered to design a grand city of monumental buildings based in the classical style. Since nearly 26 million people visited the “White City”, this new style had wide exposure and quickly became a dominant building style in the early 20th century. Downtown DC was basically rebuilt in the White City’s image. Continue reading

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Field Guide to Georgetown Homes: The Late Victorian Period

GM is at the beach this week, in his absence enjoy this rerun of his series on Georgetown architecture:

This week GM is exploring the variety of historic architecture around Georgetown. Today he explores the late Victorian Period. For Georgetown that means primarily two styles: Queen Anne and Richardsonian Romanesque.

First up: Queen Anne. The Queen Anne style was developed in England by a group of architects in the 1860s and 1870s. It was meant to evoke a medieval period of English architecture, although it was a bit of a misnomer since the architecture popular during the real Queen Anne was actually a formal renaissance style.

The Queen Anne style that dominated American homes during the 1880s is characterized by asymmetrical design with a variety of different towers and hipped roofs that form an irregular roof line. Also, the surface materials included a variety of textures such as scale shingles and the homes were often decorated with elaborate spindles and other fanciful woodwork.  Basically, the classic “gingerbread” home that comes to your mind when you think of Victorian homes is probably a Queen Anne. Continue reading

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Field Guide to Georgetown Homes: The Early Victorian Period

GM is at the beach this week, in his absence enjoy this rerun of his series on Georgetown architecture:

This week GM is exploring the variety of historical architectural styles around Georgetown. Today GM explores the early Victorian period.

The two styles that dominated early Victorian architecture were Second Empire and Stick. However, there are no examples of Stick architecture in Georgetown that GM could find (the Stick style is not surprisingly tailored to wooden homes, which was not a popular building material in bricky Georgetown). So for Georgetown early Victorian architecture means only Second Empire. Continue reading

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Field Guide to Georgetown Homes: The Romantic Period

GM is at the beach this week, in his absence enjoy a rerun of his series on Georgetown architecture:

This week GM is exploring the varieties of historic architecture in Georgetown and offering a field guide to help you identify each particular style.

Today: Romantic Period

For American architecture, the Romantic period stretched from 1820s to the 1880s representing the last years of the Federal Period through to the middle stages of the Victorian Era. In Georgetown the two most common Romantic Period styles are Greek Revival and Italianate.

First up: Greek Revival.

Greek Revival style homes were the dominant style across the U.S. from 1830s to 1850s. So much so that it is also called the “National Style”.  Whereas Roman designs influenced the Federal period, increasingly intellectuals looked to Greece as the more appropriate model for the young democracy. Continue reading

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Field Guide to Georgetown Homes: Colonial and Federal Period

GM is at the beach, so in the meantime enjoy a rerun of his Field Guide to Georgetown Homes:

If there’s one constant in Georgetown real estate listings, it’s that every house, no matter its shape and style, is described as “Federal”. The problem is that only a small percentage of homes in Georgetown could fairly be described as “Federal”.

As GM described during his ten favorite things countdown, Georgetown represents a cross section of 19th century architecture. It has buildings of just about every major style from that time period. To help his readers better appreciate the wealth of architectural styles in Georgetown, GM is going to take a shot at writing a field guide to Georgetown homes.

First up: Colonial and Federal Homes

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The Interesting Story of Dumbarton Bridge

Dumbarton Bridge by M.V. Jantzen.

It’s easy to ignore a thing of beauty when you pass it every single day. It’s even easier to ignore it when you cruise over on top of it in a bus or car. The “it” in question is the Dumbarton Bridge, and today GM wants to stop and take in the bridge’s beauty and tell its interesting story.

Georgetown was formed in 1751, decades before the founding of the District of Columbia and the city of Washington. Even after the creation of the District, Georgetown remained separated from the city of Washington both as a legal and a infrastructural matter through much of the 19th century. In 1871, however, Georgetown was merged with the city of Washington. In the decades after the legal merger, rapid residential developments directly to the east of Georgetown contributed greatly towards a physical merger as well.

Specifically, in the 1890s construction of the Connecticut Avenue bridge (now known as Taft Bridge) was started, Massachusetts Ave. north of Rock Creek was paved, and the Kalorama Estate was subdivided into residential plots. This inspired Georgetowners to push for a new bridge connecting north Georgetown with the quickly growing Kalorama neighborhood. They asserted that Q st. was the best option, although it came with a couple pretty significant complications (GM will get to that later). Continue reading

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Could Georgetown Handle Some More Modernism?

GM is no big fan of modern architecture. He thinks it has its place, but in a walkable urban community it often creates a dismal void. And for Georgetown in particular it presents a distinct problem: Georgetown’s primary competitive advantage over other retail districts is its sense of historical place. If it were to lose the appearance of a 19th century village it would become Clarendon without the Metro access.

But should it be a total prohibition? Can Georgetown incorporate more modernism into its built environment without losing its primary competitive advantage? GM thinks it can. And there’s a great example already here in Georgetown of how Modernism can be incorporated into Victorian architecture without overpowering the sense of historical place: Cady’s Alley. Continue reading

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