Last Thursday was the first day on the job for seven out of nine Historic Preservation Review Board members, and several of them wasted no time asserting their authority. In particular, they expressed concern over the size and modernity of developer JBG’s plan for the empty lots on the south side of Florida Avenue between 7th and 9th streets NW, which is being designed by the Seattle-based architect Miller Hull.
DCMUD has an overview of the board’s concerns, but they didn’t include my favorite remark, from the bowtied Graham Davidson, a partner at classical architecture firm Hartman Cox. After warning of the “harsh” transition between a glassy, six-story building and the more finely grained neighborhood around it, Davidson said that Miller Hull’s whole aesthetic was just too…Pacific Northwest.
“Your responsibility is not to create an icon…but most importantly to knit the neighborhood back together,” Davidson said. “Knitting the neighborhood back together does not mean bringing west coast housing ideas to the east coast. And this still looks awfully like it belongs in Seattle.”
The board ultimately decided to adopt the generally favorable staff report, with incorporation of their commends regarding height and taking more design cues from the surrounding neighborhood. So I doubt Davidson’s comments will kill Miller Hull’s entire concept. They also won’t impact JBG’s architectural choices on its Atlantic Plumbing site, for which it’s holding a competition between four firms, since it’s outside the U Street Historic District. As Urbanturf noted last year, that area is already turning into a modernist enclave, and some more ideas from the other side of the country can’t hurt.