Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Appreciation of Space

Back in October in his 'Modernism in Your Neighborhood' series, Bill told you about The Lacey, the latest offering from Division1 Architects. A few weeks ago I had a chance to attend the opening for this very progressive project. And I'm happy to report that this new multi-family building is deserving of all the hype. There is a thoughtful, yet minimal use of materials, with emphasis placed on the inherent quality of the material palette. The wood, glass, concrete, and steel all work together beautifully, with a result that is thoroughly modern. There are, of course, the stray details -- an odd combination of step-lights and wall sconces in the corridors, unfortunate junction box covers behind the vanity lights, and curiously narrow dining rooms (when sliding partitions are closed), but these are few (and any further focus would amount to nitpicking.) What really draws one's attention are the nice, yet simple details - the veneer plywood treatment of the walls, the simple tile flooring in the common areas, and one of the nicest egress stairs I've ever come across.

But what really caught my attention at the opening was how people were interacting with the spaces. Often at an opening people are milling around, looking here and there, but moving quickly from room to room, not really lingering and not really looking at the architecture itself. But here people were truly enjoying the spaces, looking at this detail and that, admiring the materiality, and appreciating the outdoor spaces and views that the project creates. It is refreshing to see a project where the architecture at once takes center stage and simultaneously creates pleasing spaces which the inhabitants don't simply live in, but truly enjoy.

If there was any question as to whether DC was ready for progressive, modern architecture, this project is a resounding YES.

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