Retro Industrial

Retro Industrial

Adjmi’s new mixed-use project in DC.
Courtesy Morris Adjmi Architects

Morris Adjmi does not drape his buildings in all-glass curtains nor does he create historical replicas that reek of mimicry. His firm’s signature style finds itself somewhere in the middle: distinctly modern structures that gesture toward an industrial past through masonry, steel, aluminum, and factory-style windows.

This is the type of work that Morris Adjmi Architects has been putting up around New York City for years. And now, with many high-profile projects completed or underway across the city, Adjmi’s team is lending its talents elsewhere.

In Washington D.C., amid the city’s recent crop of uninspired apartment complexes and office buildings, Adjmi has created a pair of striking mixed-use buildings for an upcoming development called Atlantic Plumbing. The buildings broke ground in the fall of 2013 and are slated to open in two stages this year.


The larger of the two buildings is an eight-story, 310-unit cantilevered glass and aluminum box encased in a latticed Corten steel exoskeleton. The robust shell plays two roles: as a signature design element and a structural support system. “The bracing is functional; it takes all the lateral load,” said Adjmi. “But it also gives the building some scale because it is a really long building with a fairly regular, repetitive window module.” This entire structure rests atop a white masonry podium that includes restaurants, shops, and an independent movie theater.

Directly across the street from this building is the smaller of the two: a 62-unit condominium project that features Adjmi’s trademark aluminum and glass window system. But for this project, the architect takes things one step further, setting the facade into a brick-like pattern with the help of steel channels. While distinct from one another, the two buildings are visually tied together by factory-style windows and masonry podiums.

Adjmi’s new Philadelphia project.

Adjmi said his inspiration for the project came from Bernd and Hilla Becher’s industrial photography, and from the dilapidated factories he saw alongside Amtrak’s Northeast corridor as he traveled between New York and Washington.

Adjmi has also unveiled an addition to a new development in Philadelphia, called East Market. It involves the conversion of an eight-story, 20th century department store warehouse into an office building geared toward creative firms.

Since the building’s old terra cotta cladding could not be saved, Adjmi said the best way to preserve the structure’s warehouse aesthetic was to give the facade depth. He is re-skinning it in precast concrete with an aluminum window system.

The development that Adjmi is joining is an urbanist’s dream, as noted by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Inga Saffron. With East Market’s six planned high-rises comes an entirely car-free passageway that connects people with shops, restaurants, and bars. Adjmi incorporates his building into this pedestrian-friendly environment by carving out a double-height section from his building’s base. Doing so, he explained, creates space for an outdoor restaurant and contributes to the overall sense of a plaza.