Category: architectural criticism

Mies van der Rohe’s only building in Washington,D.C.

Late in his career, Mies was commissioned to design the main D.C. public library, named in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.  In contrast to Mies’s better known projects such as the Seagrams Building, a moderately tall skyscraper in New York City, and 860-880 Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, upscale housing towers, the library is only four stories above ground.  But all three projects display Mies’s trademark emphasis on a highly visible gridded facade.  In Seagrams and MLK Library the facades had a strong vertical emphasis created by steel i-beams welded on to the frame.

Mies, who was awarded the AIA Gold Medal and Royal Gold Medal, among numerous other recognitions as a leading Modernist architect, designed the building from 1965-1966, ground broken July 1968, and the library opened either August or September 1972. (Various sources site different key dates for this building.)

The building very recently closed for renovation (including roof garden and floor plans) and will only reopen in 2020.  Washingtonia Collection is at the DC Historical Society’s space at the Carnegie Library.

The architect for the renovation is Martinez and Johnson.  The architectural historian is Traceries.

Top photo shows G Street (main facade at left) and 9th Street side.  Bottom photo showing I beams detail on 9th Street.  photos copyrighted by Bill Lebovich, 2017MLK Library06072017 (2).jpgIMG_3377.jpg

Advertisements

Architectural Tours

Yesterday,I had the pleasure of giving tours of Dupont Circle to two groups of docents from the Portland Art Museum.  They were enthusiastic,asked good questions,and were fun to be with.  Thanks to Nicole to organizing everything.IMG_0018.jpgDC-265-009.jpgDSCN2187.jpg

Two Historic and Grand Hotels

The current building for the Willard Hotel, 1401 Pennsylvania Ave.,N.W., 2 blocks east of the White House, dates from 1901 and it was designed by the prominent NYC architect,Henry HardenberghIMG_2413.jpgIMG_2401.jpgIMG_2393.jpgIMG_1418.jpgIMG_1416.jpg.  But earlier,more modest versions of the hotel date to the early 19th century.

With its mansard roof, formal lobby,and grand corridor (“Peacock Alley”) running nearly a block to a secondary entrance on F St.,the hotel evokes Parisian architecture and planning.

On another major avenue, Connecticut Ave, in 1925, the Mayflower Hotel was built, and while its lacks French architectural detailing, it also has a grand promenade running from its lobby to a rear entrance. This hotel also has a formal lobby and is an entire block in depth.  (It differs from the Willard in that the rear section of the Mayflower was originally apartments.)

The Mayflower was designed by the same architects who were responsible for New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, Warren & Wetmore.

Other surviving hotels (seen in next posting),built only a few years later, do not occupy entire blocks and, therefore, lack the promenades that define the interiors and to a large degree, how these two hotels are perceived by guests and visitors.

First three photos:Willard   last two photos:Mayflower   (c)Bill Lebovich,2016

Suburban modern

Washington,DC and its suburbs are not known for modern domestic architecture,but in fact, there is a surprising number of distinctive modern houses of the 20th and 21st centuries.  Bethesda,Maryland, an unincorporated area,just north of Washington,DC, has dozens of interesting newer houses,ranging from comfortably sized re-interpretation of the Bauhaus,such as this house, to multi-part mansions,to be shown in subsequent postings.IMG_1136.jpg

New Washington,DC Architectural Tour

I am offering a new architectural/historical tour for October 19,November 2,9,16, and 23. The tour will be of Lafayette Square and the several blocks to the east and west, covering more than 200 years of American architectural styles. Since 1800, the White House has been the epicenter of the city,attracting the most important residents and institutions, housed in many of the architecturally most interesting buildings.

The tour will be from 1 to 3 pm and cost $25/person.

For more information or any questions, please email or call (301) 467-2831.
Old Executive Office Building 2

Eero Saarinen’s TWA terminal, JFK Airport,NY

Image

Shoot through window of another terminal.

Saarinen, who studied sculpture in Paris before going to architecture school,pushed technology to create his unique visions.  During his lifetime, and maybe even now, some architects and critics were dismissive because he did not design and build in one style.

“Style” is a much overused concept.  The belief that all structures can even be catalogued by style distorts the history of architecture and distracts from carefully looking at the building and deciding what the architect and client were trying to achieve, whether they did achieve it, and if it was worth trying to achieve.

(c) Bill Lebovich, all rights reserved, 2013.