October 19, 2019 Mid-Century Modern

Endangered: Concrete Association Building in Silver Spring

A brutalist building made of concrete designed to promote the use of concrete is facing the wrecking ball. The Silver Spring headquarters of the National Sand & Gravel Association (NSGA) and National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) is slated for demolition. The building was designed by John H. Sullivan Jr. and reflects the art of Washington, DC craftsman John Earley and his studio. In the early twentieth century, John Earley developed unique and innovated ways to work with concrete, exposing its aggregate to reveal deep color and texture. His work is found throughout Washington and Maryland including in the walls, balusters, and fountains at Meridian Hill Park and in the bold mosaic on the Scottish Rite Temple on Sixteenth Street. His studio was hired to produce the NSGA and NRMCA Headquarters precast panels, using their exposed aggregate technique. 

Docomomo DC (I serve as a board member) is urging for the designation of the building as a historic site within the Maryland-Washington Regional District’s master plan for historic preservation and opposes its demolition.

“The building [at 900 Spring St.] is a strong example of brutalist architecture that merges mid-century modern corporate design with regional craftsmanship and building technology,” Docomomo DC says in a letter to Sandra Heller, the chair of the Montgomery County historic preservation program. “These three themes are all cast (excuse the pun) in its concrete form. The NSGA and NRMCA Headquarters is an outstanding example of brutalist architecture in the county and region.”