Category: urban architecture

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

The Exquisite Thomas T. Gaff House

Built for a Cincinnati industrialist in 1904 and designed by the prominent NYC society architect Bruce Price and the equally prominent Washington,DC society architect Jules Henri de Sibour, this house is strikingly beautiful with its steep Mansard roof, strong visual contrast between the deep red brick walls and white stone quoins, and compact yet soaring massing.

As architecturally impressive as the exterior is, it is outdone by the interior with its rich wood paneling and the sense of movement from space to space, and grand ballroom.

The building is now the Embassy of Columbia’s ambassador’s residence.

De Sibour designed many grand residences in the Embassy Row neighborhood, including 1785 Mass. Ave.,the former headquarters of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. (photograph by (c) Bill Lebovich,2016)Thomas T. Gaff House (1).jpg

Georgetown’s late 18th, early 19th century domestic architecture

One of the most popular rows for tourists is also one of the best rows.  The power of simple motifs repeated down the row creates a sense of harmony, rhythm, and horizontal and vertical movement.  No American architectural style achieved so much with such restraint.  In most periods, such as classical revival, Richardsonian Romanesque — all great styles, and the post modernismGeorgetownIMG_5488_DxOVP (1).jpg, architects depend on bold statements to say their design is important architecture.