As the United States capital,Washington, D.C. is a de facto magnet for smart people who want to make an impact on government. The city doesn’t often make headlines for its contemporary architecture, though occasionally, a sharp new project breaks into the parade of undistinguished office buildings. One of those is a newly unveiled 11-story structure by Brooklyn-based REX at 2050 M Street, between Washington and Dupont Circles.
The building responds to D.C.’s strict zoning codes and its prevailing office building typologies: the Neoclassical, Beaux Arts, or Brutalist box, and the smooth, soulless glass box. Zoning requires buildings to have similar height and mass, but do not regulate, or encourage, aesthetic harmony. As a result, statement buildings with similar width and height, but widely divergent styles, compete for attention.
To reconcile this peculiarity, REX’s building combines the mass of a stately Neoclassical building with a transparent, fluted glass facade. According to REX, the facade is comprised of “nine hundred identical, insulated-glass panels—11.5 feet tall by 5 feet wide—are subtly curved to a 9.5 foot radius through a heat roller tempering process.” The floor-to-ceiling “mullion-less” windows allow sightlines that extend through the interior.
The result is an exterior that catches light at regular but unexpected angles and throws pleasantly distorted images of its neighbors back at the viewer. To offset the rigidity of glass, the lobby is clad in decidedly non-vegan cowhide, and is large enough to accommodate a site-specific sculpture by an as-yet-unnamed artist.
When it is complete in 2019, 2050 M Street hopes to achieve LEED Gold certification. See the gallery below for more images of the project.
2015 was a successful year for REX. In September, principal Joshua Prince-Ramus won the Marcus Prize. The biannual honor (and cash prize) is given to an architect “on a trajectory of greatness.” As part of his Marcus Prize acceptance, Prince-Ramus will teach a graduate studio on adaptive reuse at University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee School of Architecture this Spring.