Monday, February 4, 2008

Modernism In Your Neighborhood

Public alleys are ususally a topic for discussions revolving around negative issues. Parking, trash, rodent infestations and crime are a few things that come to mind when the word is referenced. If you are a person who loves getting to know your city on it's most personal terms by exploring these areas, you will know that public alleys also offer a few glimpses of some really great modern architecture. Most of this modernism is hidden behind historical streetfronts. I really appreciate the preservation of the historic aspects of these places on the streetfront, while integrating a more modern approach to the new pieces added along the rear. One such situation is the new stairwell addition to the rear of the German Marshall Fund building on the corner of New Hampshire and R Streets. The main building is a beautiful example of a pre-war Italian palazzo. The rear of the building is smashed into an awkward lot along with several other buildings. From the alley entrance, the new stairwell is visable from the street. It is obviously modern, but it mixes in politely with the other existing historic buildings in scale and with its "lightness". Louvers add a delicate and dynamic layer to the elevation. They are a functional piece of ornamentation, by shading the glass facade. While this example is not the most innovative or groundbreaking design, its simplicity and clarity add to the texture and layers of the urban alley. Modernism might not be obvious in your neighborhood, but take a look around back and you might be surprised at what you can discover.

1 comment:

  1. "Simplicity and Clarity" I concur! Respectfully blending the uniqueness of the present to the past identifies the today to the tomorrow.