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TO FEB. 26, 2006
In 1849, barely a century before architectural stars Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe escaped the Nazis, Adolf Cluss arrived in the United States, fleeing the failure of Germany’s 1848 revolution. A staunch Communist and a friend of Karl Marx, Cluss came to Washington to see what the capital of a democracy might look like. He found a “village” of 40,000 people; it didn’t impress him, but he stayed anyway, establishing himself as a surveyor, builder, gun designer, and, finally, architect. The city burgeoned in the 56 years Cluss lived here, and he was ready to erect the structures the growing population needed: markets, schools, churches, and D.C.’s first apartment building—67 known edifices in all, mostly of red brick. The bulk of Cluss’ designs were supplanted by the marble structures of Washington’s neoclassical revival and, ironically, the glass-wall buildings of Gropius and Mies’ International Style, but seven survive. These include Eastern Market, Calvary Baptist Church, the National Museum (now known as the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building), and the Charles Sumner School, which is home to this show. Twinned with an exhibition in Cluss’ hometown, Heilbronn, this survey of Cluss’ life and work is also a fascinating chapter in the history of Washington, a city that changed the architect as much as he changed it. Faced with the American character, Cluss abandoned Communism, but he retained his dedication to building for the people. The show is on view from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, to Sunday, Feb. 26, 2006, at the Charles Sumner School Museum & Archives, 1201 17th St. NW. Free. (202) 442-6060. For more information about events scheduled to complement the exhibition, visit www.adolf-cluss.org. (Mark Jenkins)