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a study in contrasts for a DC row house

by Josh McCullar last modified Feb 10, 2009 05:22 PM
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a study in contrasts for a DC row house

Posted by Josh McCullar at November 07. 2008

This urban townhouse renovation is located in the Logan Circle Historic District of Washington, DC. The client wishes to renovate the ground level and first floor or "Piano-Noble'" of an 1890s brick row house as a single residence. The upper three levels will remain as tenant occupied apartments. We approached this as a study of contrasts to preserve the visual reading of the historic house through a layered effect of modern design.

An extension to the existing rear ancillary (former 1890s kitchen) structure will create a modern sun-lit kitchen, allow direct entry from a covered secure parking space, and make a formal connection to an exterior garden court and master suite below. The addition encloses the existing building footprint, as there are brick site walls that define entry to a basement door. The extension consists of a south facing glass and steel vitrine-like enclosure providing added visibility of the garden and alley, and bringing in much needed light and fresh air into the new kitchen. Casement windows and a projected roof provide natural climate control during the seasons. Interior operable Spanish cedar shutters will be included at ground level along the vitrine to modulate privacy for the new master bath and dressing room beneath the kitchen. The overall form and massing is intended to be in keeping with the diminutive vernacular appearance of the existing rear structure while accommodating the needs of modern use. Large lites of glass and thin steel mullions will contrast with the warm glow of Spanish cedar soffits, bluestone wall caps, and thick 120 year old brick walls of the extant house which will act as a heat-sink in winter to naturally warm the vitrine. The rear of the property will be enclosed with load-bearing masonry walls for secure parking with a deck and screened porch accessible from the kitchen vitrine.

The project has just been approved by the Historic Preservation Board of Washington DC, and is going through the zoning process. Construction should begin in late 2009.

Giving the unique nature of combining modernist design with a century old house, this makes for an interesting case study for us. I think it's something we'd like to do more of in the future. A similar type of project could be done in the Richmond Fan District which is a similar neighborhood to DC's Logan Circle district.

Josh McCullar



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