Despite my aversion to fogyism I’ve been enjoying The Ruined Capitol, a local architecture firm’s photo blog about the physical changes to District blocks. Lydia DePillis caught up with the blog’s author, Simon Jacobsen of Jacobsen Architecture:
“What I’m trying to do is make this a drive-by shooting a little bit, just spark somebody’s interest. I’m not putting any facts down,” Jacobsen says. “It’s just to give the viewer that visceral immediate reaction as they walk from point A to point B, that it didn’t always look like that.”
The Ruined Capitol—a reference to how people used to refer to the city by its most iconic building, rather than as a CapitAl unto itself—started as an e-mail distribution list with images culled from Shorpy and the Library of Congress, and went public in October. Jacobsen, who practices with his father Hugh Newell Jacobsen, calls himself a “glass box guy” when it comes to design (most of their projects are out of town). But he grew up in Georgetown, and remembers many buildings from the Old Washington that were leveled for the giant blocks of the New.
“I was conscious when much of downtown looked like these images,” he says. “A lot of those buildings were there, and they were terrible. Shaw was really beginnning to get terrible…I always thought the buildings were brownstones, it was just dirty.”
Replacements for the quaint old brick structures often seem brutal by comparison: Monolithic office complexes and condo buildings, or sometimes just parking lots. And there’s no better way to hammer home the reality of highways plowed through Southwest Washington than an image of a rowhouse, immediately followed by one of rushing traffic.
Read the rest at Housing Complex.
Photo of 14th and U streets NW via Shorpy