The District of Columbia doesn’t have much of an industrial past, so the two low-lying warehouses at the corner of 14th and V streets were somewhat of an anomaly. Alleys separated the twin buildings from a perimeter of row homes, and the space between them had eroded into a no man’s land. “The structures were historic, so we wanted to use them, but we needed to build more density around them,” says architect Sami Kirkdil, noting the spot had become prime territory in an emerging mixed-use neighborhood.
Rather than razing and rebuilding, Kirkdil’s strategy was one of shrewd addition. Keeping the site’s original footprint intact, the design team converted the warehouses into parallel volumes of two-story townhomes, topped them off with a layer of flats, and then tacked on a nine-story new building at one end with 30,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space. An open gallery bisecting that retail space becomes the gateway to what now reads as an urban micro-village. Its central paseo takes on a romantic quality with its attractive hardscaping and open-air canopy of third-story bridges and suspended streetlights.
There was one wrinkle in the urban fabric that ultimately proved advantageous to the site plan: The southeast corner of the block was side-swiped by a subway tunnel. “The fact that we had to use transfer beams to carry that part of the [nine-story] building actually helped us break the massing to fit the neighborhood,” Kirkdil says. The building’s northern half is somewhat traditional, while its southern façade sports a curved wall (to accommodate the tunnel) and lots of glass. The eclectic mix is a fitting tribute to the eclectic neighborhood.
ENTRANT/ARCHITECT/INTERIOR DESIGNER: SK&I Architectural Design Group, Bethesda, Md.
BUILDER/DEVELOPER: PN Hoff man, Washington
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: Wiles/ Mensch Corp., Reston, Va.