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The proposed view west from John Marshall park.

The backside of the Moultrie Courthouse, on C Street NW between 4th and 6th Street, is a pretty bleak view at the moment: Limestone walls with thin slits for windows. But the 1970s-era building that houses D.C.’s Family and Superior Courts is about to get some of the glass that’s been sheeting buildings around the city, in an addition that will bring more light to the offices inside and create a friendlier facade for passersby at the same time.

If approved, the planned appendage will create 111,700 new square feet for courtrooms and chambers. To accommodate the protrusion, the Courts would like to narrow the underused roadway from 50 to 38 feet, adding a wider sidewalk and gardens inside a security barrier next to the building. In its staff report on the proposal, the National Capital Planning Commission comments:

“Massing diagrams and renderings of the facade indicate the intention of the District of Columbia Courts and its design team to create a symbolic and actual transparency for the courthouse and to allow light into the building through a curtain wall system that has limestone cladding on selected surfaces.”

The NCPC sounded pretty happy with the proposal at its meeting yesteday, but the Commission on Fine Arts, as is its wont, quibbled a bit more. They wrote:

The Commission members expressed concern about the monolithic scale of the addition, its weak relation to the existing building, and the lack of modulation in the proposed facades. They commented that the uniform facades of the addition need further articulation to create an intermediate scale across the 425-foot-long elevation; they suggested that the individual courtrooms and offices could inform the expression of the facades. They also suggested that the articulation of the addition could be more sympathetic with the existing building’s other elevations, possibly to appear less like a completely new building; and that to incorporate stone into the facades would not deny the possibility of a contemporary design.

The Courts will be coming back to CFA with a modified proposal, so this isn’t exactly what the building will look like, but much of the glass seems likely to remain.

The view west from John Marshall park today.
The C Street elevation.