Last spring, I went to an Eric Owen Moss lecture that began with a proclamation: Architecture needs an adversary. It was as if the economy stopped existing along with other things familiar to architects– things like gravity and rain. Maybe EOM could find an adversary in the Washington D.C. neighborhood Anacostia.
Less than five months separate the above two images. But the process of completing a shiny, new building near the intersection of MLK and Talbert Street has taken much longer. Höwler + Yoon designed the project way back in 2005, but the project was delayed by developers, public review and approval processes not to mention… what’s that? the economy? When Eric Höweler started posting photos of the construction this past winter, there was excitement in the neighborhood to see the building take shape. Of course, the shape had changed since the initial designs back in 2005: a floor and a half were trimmed off the top and the program was scaled down. As as the project neared completion, the neighborhood turned on the project, comparing it unfavorably to a FEMA trailer and poop.
I think the project is fantastic. You can see intersecting volumes similar to the initial design as well as expression of different programs: commercial wrapped in cement board and residential wrapped in corrugated aluminum. It may not match its neighbor, but its neighbor is a Fish House described on yelp as “one of the few places to get non-Chinese carry out in Anacostia.” Even if you’re not crazy about the look of the building, doesn’t a neighborhood benefit from a diversity of not only ideas and people, but also a diversity in the built environment?