In the spirit of Washington’s strong east-west axial avenues, visitors move past the bowed facades in a sweeping gesture toward the Capitol.
The flytower at the northern tip of the building acts as both symbolic marker and hinge between facade planes.
Glass and soft, reflective surfaces are brought into the interior materials, blurring the boundary between inside and outside, public and private.
A monumental stair between the main client floors encourages circulation and interaction. Conference areas anchor the north end of the building.
Roof deck meeting areas offer dramatic views to the Capitol.
A small park and punctuates the north corner of the site.
The building footprint was increased by treating the entire facade as a projecting bay, creating a much more viable floor plate for commercial development.
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National Association of Realtors Building
Washington, DC
This vital crossroads site is located just three blocks north of the U.S. Capitol. The unusual triangular shape of the site is derived from Pierre L’Enfant’s original conception of the city. L’Enfant’s Master Plan envisioned a series of radiating grand boulevards that sliced through the city grid, creating a limited number of special triangular sites. These sites were natural focal points that became centerpieces of neighborhoods and natural locations for monuments, parks and community gathering.

As a key conduit to the civic center of the city, the street plane is a critically important barometer of urban life. The site, which had been abandoned for many years, included a designated National Park Service green space that had fallen into disrepair and misuse. Many years of industrial contamination and pollution as a result of its previous use as a gas station also created a brownfield. Numerous developers had looked at the site for potential reuse, but found the narrow shape of the parcel and strict zoning requirements as a great hindrance to a viable commercial floor plate.

The neighborhood is filled with the familiar masonry and bowfront bays of Washington, soldiers standing in line in deference to the U.S. Capitol. Along the streetwall on both the eastern and western edges, the typical Washington masonry infill allowed little respite for the pedestrian experience. Previous proposals suggested a similar solid masonry wall, with small bays that projected out four feet from the facade, as allowed by zoning. The successful solution proposed a modern interpretation of the zoning regulation for bay windows. By treating the entire facade as a projecting bay, the building form became a single sweeping bowfront along the street edge. This created a much more viable floor plate for commercial development. Exterior materials were chosen to be a light and reflective counterpoint to the heavy masonry neighbors. With the building filling almost the entire site plan, it was also important to reclaim the immediacy of the street as an integrated part of the building solution. Welcoming plazas, restoration of the NPS park, and a careful reknitting of the street fabric into the north-south sequence of the city flow is central to the design solution.

The building tapers from 60 feet wide on the south to about 10 feet on the north. These dimensions accentuate the building’s 130-foot height. The high-density building is a celebration of a Washington crossroads with spectacular views of the Capitol from the upper floors and roof deck and dynamic east-west views slicing across the north-south street. Sheathed in curved planes of a high-performance coated glass, the building skin reflects changing conditions of sun and clouds, summer and winter. Depending on the season and time of day, the two facades appear to slip past each other in hues ranging from deep blue to aquamarine and seagreen. A double-glazed curtainwall utilizes a new type of glazing, Viracon Radiant Low-E (VRE) Insulating Glass, which contains a coating that minimizes the transfer of heat through radiation and provides an improved shading coefficient. Architectural shading is provided by a brise-soleil on the south elevation.

Other sustainable features include use of more than 50 percent of materials with recycled contents; a 30% improvement over ASHRAE 90.1-1999 high efficiency performance standards; a 30 percent reduction in the use of potable water; and a rainfall collection system on the low albedo roof, which is directed to an 8,500-gallon cistern in the garage of the building. Current and future tenants are strongly linked to the larger environmental impact of building, community, and energy consumption. The primary owner/occupant is housed on four floors, with the remaining floors available for tenant leasing. The design team worked with the owner to develop mandatory fit-out guidelines for tenants. The result is a commercial urban office space that is both economically viable and environmentally sustainable. Celebrating this crossroads as a symbol of the workplace of the future is truly in the spirit of L’Enfant’s original vision.

COMPLETION

2004

SIZE

100,000 SF

AWARDS

AIA Washington, DC, Catalyst Award
Presidential Citation for Sustainable Design
AIA New England, People’s Choice Design Award
Boston Society of Architects, Honor Award for Architecture
The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design, American Architecture Awards
Boston Society of Architects, Committee on the Environment and NYC Chapter American Institute of Architects Sustainability Awards, Citation for Design Excellence
Urban Land Institute, American Award for Excellence Finalist
Washington Business Journal, Best Architecture Award Best Real Estate Deals
Washington Business Journal, Best Financing Awards Best Real Estate Deals

PHOTOGRAPHY

Alan Karchmer
Robert Lautman
National Association of Realtors

OTHER PROJECTS