Contemporary architecture contributing to a revitalized historic neighborhood
A primary design objective for this urban mixed-use complex was to create authentic and distinctive architecture that transitioned between old and new in an emerging neighborhood just north of downtown Washington D.C. The clean, modern look of two buildings facing each other across an active street blends with the gritty and semi-raw feel of this unique arts district that sets it apart from more professionally-oriented neighborhoods in the city.
Initially, an alley and pair of historic buildings dating back to the 1870s bisected the site, with prescribed setbacks limiting the amount of developable floor area on site. To address these constraints, we worked closely with the D.C. Office of Planning and the Historic Preservation Review Board to consider a series of design options enabling relocation of the alley and an appropriate relationship to the historic structures. We achieved the developer’s goal of maximizing the allowable floor area ratio while simultaneously reaching the city’s goal of preserving and enhancing the presence of the historic buildings.
The resulting mix of uses consists of residential, retail and commercial spaces with connections to the sidewalk for an enhanced pedestrian experience. Visually, industrial-style elements front the commercial street while metal-clad buildings detail brick in a modern way as they step back toward adjacent historic row houses. Amenity space is prioritized and includes large dining rooms, fitness rooms and shared exterior courtyards which provide privacy with a view of the street for security concerns. The Shay achieves a forward-thinking aesthetic that blends with an historic and ever-evolving neighborhood.