Sep '09 - Feb '12
We're about one month deep in the IDC project now, and after a few different working schemes, I think our project is progressing in a solid direction.
The project location is Washington D.C. On the Anacostia river waterfront within the The Yards currently being developed by Forest City as part of a larger scheme to redevelop the waterfront through the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative. The program includes 250,000 total square feet broken into 100,000 ft2 of prime office space, 40,000 ft2 of spec office space, 40,000 ft2 of retail/mercantile, and the remainder for service, building systems, circulation, etc. Specific tenants and building users were not defined in the program brief, but the speculation is that the Navy Yards will be occupying the prime space, and private companies contracted by the Navy Yards will be occupying the spec spaces.
View Larger Map
We had plans to visit the site a few weeks ago, but all this snow has kept us from making the 7 hour trip. Initially, the site given to us was provocative in a way, being in the national capital and in a part of town with negative connotations, yet still incredibly close to the Capitol Building and National Mall. However, when we started analyzing the area, we began to realize how difficult this site is due to a few restrictions that I wish could just go away. The worst is The Heights of Buildings Act of 1910 that stipulates that no building in D.C. may be more than 20 feet taller than the adjacent right of way, cutting our building off at 110 feet high. This creates a domain that will produce nothing but a chunky, stout building...what I wouldn't do for an extra 50 feet of height allowance. The orientation is long on the north/south axis and short on the east/west axis making some passive sustainable strategies difficult. Also, because the flood plane is about 6 feet above grade, and the water table 6 feet below grade, placing mechanical and electrical equipment becomes complicated.
But just challenges, right? How can we turn these practical considerations and boring program requirements into something engaging?
Because of the D.C. height restriction, there is little allowance for open green space, undoubtedly creating a large building block . This inevitably intrusive mass must find a way to strategically influence the area's embedded patterns and arrange itself in a way that creates a public scene. Taking precedent from the Waterfront Initiative's master plan, we propose to create a building that fosters a cultural public destination and links Tingey Square directly to the waterfront. We also propose engaging the office space on the upper floors with the pedestrian life on lower levels to expose and mesh public and private functions. This is translating as a sever across the building site creating a pedestrian street with opportunities to place retail.
Environmentally, the new projects on the waterfront inhabit an important role in the future of Washington D.C.'s relationship with its climate and natural habitat. With the project's proximity to the Anacostia River, we find that how the site contains and handles water to be the most important environmental concern. We propose the use of water permeable surfaces where ever possible, as well as the collection of rainwater and the filtration and recycling of gray water as our building's primary water resources. We also envision a building that responds to environmental stimuli, adapting to suit changing atmospheric conditions, creating a holistic and smart building that doesn't merely sit on a site, but engages with it.
Initial massing studies.
Of course, these are the initial ideas. The goal will be to retain these strategies as the design solidifies into a buildable project.