ZGF Architects designs a new urban space in our nation’s capital.
By Cory Sekine-Pettite
All photos courtesy of Alan Schindler
If you were to visit the site of a new building project and were asked to examine the hardscaping design, your natural inclination would be to look down at the ground. In most instances, you wouldn’t be wrong in making that choice. But if you were to visit the site of 1200 Seventeenth Street in Washington, D.C., you would be encouraged to focus your gaze upward – to the roof.
According to ZGF, 1200 Seventeenth Street is a 170,000 square-foot “trophy quality” spec office building, developed and co-owned by Akridge and Mitsui Fudosan America. Sitework began in August of 2012 with the demolition of an existing eight-story, 1960’s office building that once was the headquarters for the National Restaurant Association. Construction for the new, 11-story building began in January 2013 and was completed in August 2014.
|The LEED-Platinum certified building integrates a number|
of sustainable strategies, including water-saving fixtures
to create a 40-percent reduction in water use, low-emitting
materials, ventilation to increase air quality, and daylight
and views to enhance the overall work environment
for its occupants.
The $39-million building (total development cost was about $130 million) includes a full complement of office building amenities, including ground-level retail, 3.5 levels of below-grade parking, a fitness center, and two spec suites. The building’s primary interior feature is a 3,000 square-foot, two-story lobby consisting of a Chinese Travertine floor, and Brazilian Cherry and Greek Marble feature walls that accentuate the building’s diagonal composition.
“It’s a jewel box of a building,” Benjamin Meisel, managing director of leasing for Akridge, told The Washington Business Journal earlier this year. “From the standpoint of location and efficiency, it meets the needs of law firms today. This is the most efficient building in the city by far.” The law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP was the building’s first tenant.
At Eye Level
Before we look up at the new 1200 Seventeenth Street, let’s keep our focus at eye level. ZGF’s design takes full advantage of the site’s unique characteristics: a highly visible location on a triangular parcel fronting Rhode Island Avenue; a completely unobstructed perimeter on all sides; and spectacular views of landmark buildings and urban spaces in three directions – including the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, St. Matthew’s Cathedral, and other notable landmarks.
The building’s construction used 20 percent recycled content and recycled more than 75 percent of the construction waste.
The site’s prominence and exceptional geometry allow great opportunities for a distinctive architectural statement, the firm says. The building design is inspired by its site, located at the edge of Downtown and the historic DuPont Circle neighborhood – between the Farragut North and Dupont Circle Metro stations, if you’re familiar with Washington, D.C. It incorporates a historically inspired glazed terra cotta façade, juxtaposed against a modern glass tower that visually connects the two distinct neighborhoods. The result is described by ZGF as a light, dignified, contemporary expression with floor-to-ceiling glass, while reflecting the material palette and texture of the surrounding historic environment.
Working with the owners, ZGF chose the building’s exterior materials with an eye toward the neighboring brick structures. 1200 Seventeenth Street is clad in pre-cast concrete panels faced with a custom-glazed terra cotta panel that relates to the scale and color of the masonry used in the neighboring historic buildings. When discussing this, ZGF Associate Partner Allen Beall said, “The building’s design and materials are intentionally timeless. The form and expression acknowledge the basics of architectural scale, while the glazed terra cotta used in conjunction with stainless steel promise an enduring finish.”
The roof offers excellent views of many D.C. landmarks.
The building’s streetscape was designed with the pedestrian experience in mind. The building’s exterior base and perimeter paving are accentuated by a 3cm Absolute Black Granite with thermal finish. The street level planters are clad in the same black granite, and include Ipe wood benches with stainless steel trim and custom design wrought iron planter fences, providing a unique streetscape and highly utilized public amenity. The black granite is contrasted by a light precast concrete paving, which address the historic neighborhood scale. Also noted by ZGF Landscape Design Associate Greg Matto, “The site previously included a small, underutilized remnant park at the end of Rhode Island Avenue and 17th Street, which the neighborhood wanted replaced. Through design and coordination with the city, ZGF was able to distribute publically accessible green space throughout the site with extensive at-grade planters, benches, native plantings and shade trees.” ZGF also pushed to maintain two existing willow oaks in order to preserve the mature tree canopy which characterizes Rhode Island Avenue, helping to tie the building and landscape into the existing neighborhood.
The building’s primary interior feature is a highly visible two-story corner glass lobby, highlighted by wood and white marble walls that accentuate the building’s diagonal composition. The wall stone is a 3cm A2 Grade Greek Thassos, while the floor is a 2cm Chinese Travertine. The range of the interior stone was highly controlled through design specifications, slab selection, and full-scale dry lays approved by ZGF in Greece.
The building’s prominent glass volume terminates at the roof terrace , framing two outdoor spaces that overlook the city and provide a variety of intimately scaled spaces with catering facilities for casual gatherings and events.
Looking Up: The hardscaped roof
|“The building’s design and|
materials are intentionally
timeless. The form and
the basics of architectural scale.”
The main attraction, if you will, for 1200 Seventeenth Street very well may be the rooftop, which was designed to be a useable and tranquil respite from the busy streets below. The building’s prominent glass volume terminates at the roof terrace, framing two outdoor spaces that overlook the city and provide a variety of intimately scaled spaces with catering facilities for casual gatherings and events. The more open areas are at the perimeter, with views of DC’s most famous landmarks; while the more intimate spaces are created through the placement of planters, shade structures, and custom seating.
The inviting atmosphere is achieved in part by its warm palette of natural materials. Corten steel planters fabricated by Planterworx accommodate a variety of plantings, including mature Crepe Myrtle trees, and Custom fabricated Ipe trellis’s by Landscape Forms and outdoor furniture by Janus contribute to the rooftop’s comfortable setting. Hanover precast concrete pavers with charcoal accent bands reinforce the building’s diagonal movement and allow water to be captured and retained, contributing to the building’s LEED-Platinum rating.
Beall noted: “At the roof level, the tower’s massing certainly challenged our engineers to be creative, but navigating the city approvals for height and projections was the most critical element, which ultimately resulted in the greatest payoff.”
|Intimate spaces are created on the rooftop through the|
placement of planters , shade structures ,and custom seating.
About ZGF Architects LLP
Areas of practice: Architecture, interior design, urban design, landscape architecture, planning
Staff: 590 staff members across six offices including Portland; Seattle; Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; New York; and as ZGF Cotter Architects Inc., in Vancouver, BC.
Awards/recognition: ZGF has won more than 770 local, regional, and national design awards, including the AIA’s highest honor, the Architecture Firm Award. Thus far, 1200 Seventeenth has won eight awards, including the AIA Design Award for Detail in Architecture, the ULI Award for Excellence in Office Development, and the Engineering News-Record award for Best Project in Office/Retail and Mixed Use Development.
Architect, Interiors and Landscape Design: ZGF Architects LLP
MEP Engineer: GHT Limited
Structural Engineer: Thornton Tomasetti
Lighting Design: MCLA Inc.
Construction Manager: Balfour Beatty Construction
Stone Contractor: Lorton Stone
Precast Contractor: Modern Mosaic
Terra Cotta Supplier: Boston Valley Terra Cotta
Site Concrete Contractor: Chevy Chase Contractors
Roofing and Green-roof Contractor: Gordon Contractors, Inc.
Landscape Contractor: Tilson Group
The Washington Business Journal says D.C.’s developers are incorporating the latest luxuries on rooftops , and it’s starting to show.