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JANUARY 29

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Unless they happened to work for Best Products, Washingtonians probably aren’t taking the failure of the catalog showroom chain all that hard. After all, with Evans, Best Buy, and Marlo still around, there are only a few things you’ll have to send off to Lillian Vernon for. But in some areas of the country, Best was known as much for its adventurous architectural patronage as its selection of toasters. In the ’70s, the retailer commissioned SITE, a New York-based architecture and environmental art collective, to create showrooms that poked vertiginous fun at the familiar brick-wrapped or glass-and-steel boxes that dominate the architecture of the suburban strip. Examples of SITE’s “de-architecture” include a Richmond store whose brick veneer curls away from the underlying concrete-block structure as if shrunken by the sun, and a Towson, Md., building whose brick facade appears to have been popped off the front of the building, revealing a window-wall, and then canted improbably against the structure. Toward the end of the decade, SITE began exploring the integration of the built and natural environments. Richmond’s “Forest Building” is invaded by a line of trees, while the glass wall of the false-fronted Hialeah, Fla., showroom (shown under construction) conveys a waterfall in front of a terrarium containing live trees. In tonight’s slide talk, SITE president and founder James Wines discusses the organization’s ongoing exploration of such “green architecture” at 7:30 p.m. at the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s Hammer Auditorium, 17th & New York Ave. NW. $20. For reservations call (202) 629-1770. (Glenn Dixon)