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The biggest new wedgie in town is on the northeast corner of this new 12-story office building, whose one-from-column-A name is “Columbia Center.” (A better tag than “Center Centre,” I suppose.) The Monument Realty–developed structure, which is supposed to be completed by “3Q 2007,” is rising on 15th Street NW, just north of the Washington Post building on the site of the paper’s former parking garage. That corner’s angled extremity stretches all the way to the top floor, suggesting that the structure is some sort of aborted pyramid. Look around the side, however, and you’ll see that this is just another downtown office box.
The front facade is mostly glass, with a transparent four-story entryway at the southwest corner that’s the focus of the development’s marketing effort. If Hickock Cole Architects, who designed the building, devised this unusual off-center entrance to maximize the retail space, they deserve credit for good intentions. Too bad the ground-floor shops will be overshadowed by the odd horizontal shield that appears to float at the second-floor level.
That large piece, which stretches across most of the building’s front, resembles some oversized bit of clear plastic detritus, perhaps left over after unpacking a high-tech gizmo. (A 12-story iMac, perhaps?) It looks cheap, as does the entire affair. The term of art for these glassed-in white-collar corrals is “jewel box,” but no one with real valuables would put them in such a graceless container. Instead, the building suggests an acrylic chest that a six-year-old girl might fill with costume jewelry. Moderately radical geometry aside, Columbia Center is just another low-style attempt to dress up the old midtown-D.C. box.