January 7, 2008 Charles Goodman, I.M. Pei, Marcel Breuer, Southwest

Southwest D.C.: A Haven of Modernism

As Southwest D.C. goes through another period of urban renewal with the revitalization of the Waterside Mall (the new area will be called the Waterfront) and the new baseball stadium, the area continues to represent one of the region’s largest concentration of mid-century modern dwellings, which were built during the first urban renewal of the 1950s and ’60s. The Redevelopment Land Agency (RLA), created by Congress in 1945, considered two proposals for the area, according to a history by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“The first, proposed by city planner Elbert Peets, called for rehabilitation of buildings and some new construction, with little long-term displacement of current residents and businesses. The second, by two of Washington’s leading modernist architects Chloethiel Woodard Smith and Louis Justement, called for demolishing the old neighborhood completely in favor of creating a modernist Utopia following the most avant-garde socially responsible architectural ideas and ideals.

“Rebuilding in a variety of architectural typologies from high-rise apartment buildings to row houses, all in extensive landscape settings would, they argued, provide better conditions for some of the former residents, but primarily would attract higher income professionals back from the suburbs. In the end, the RLA, with the approval of the District of Columbia Commissioners and the newly-reorganized National Capital Planning Commission, favored a plan based on the Smith-Justement model. Decried by many for decades as socially irresponsible because the neighborhood’s cohesion was broken and historically important buildings were lost, Southwest’s extensive Modernist landscape was again appreciated at the beginning of the twenty-first century as its open spaces were threatened by new buildings.”

This effort to create such a “modernist Utopia” led to dwellings and other buildings by leading modernist architects, including Charles Goodman (River Park), I.M. Pei, Morris Lapidus, Marcel Breuer (who designed the Robert C. Weaver Building), Harry Weese, who designed the Arena Stage building and Metro, and Keyes, Lethbridge and Condon, who designed the award-winning Tiber Island complex.

Here’s a listing (no images) for a Charles Goodman barrel-roof townhome located in River Park. Look for more posts in the coming days highlighting other MCM properties for sale in Southwest.