City Center DC is a mixed-use public-private development plan. Our project occupies the final parcel within the multi-building complex.
The overall master plan is comprised of pedestrian streets, a public park, ground level retail storefronts, residential condominiums, and commercial office space. The project, a signature Conrad hotel, is the final built element of the master plan. The urban context of Washington DC is often defined by building volumes which occupy the full extent of the property and are built up to the maximum allowable height, typically only ten stories due to local restrictions. These parameters have created an identifiable box-effect in contemporary architecture across the city as projects maximize their salable area.
In focusing on our client’s brief and maintaining an engaged relationship to the L’Enfant city masterplan of DC, we developed an architectural solution that uses the regulations of the district as opportunities rather than as constraints. The project site is adjacent to a city park resultant from the intersection of the broad diagonal of New York Avenue and the cardinal grid of the city just north of the monumental core of DC. The project design embraces the key elements of the city plan at the scale of the building plan itself. By mirroring and transposing the diagonal axis into the building, we set out to define a pragmatic system to organize the various mixed uses of the program and the shape of the building volume.
At ground level, ribbons of curved storefront glass wrap a band of retail spaces to engage and activate the public sidewalk while reinforcing the street front. The convex shape of the glass also engages with the scale of the pedestrian. In our original concept, the entire building was clad with the same curved glass throughout to underscore the sculptural quality of the building bulk and to create triple bay windows for each hotel room. The built project follows a simplified approach where the upper floor facades react directly to the internal hotel functions and the larger urban context while emphasizing the monolithic aspect of the overall massing.
Above the retail, the conference center at level 2 is the only floor built-out to the property line and forms a plinth upon which the hotel levels are delineated above. Perched on this plinth at level 3 a constellation of hotel public spaces define an elevated ground plane in visual dialog with the street level below. The glass facades of the hotel begin to set back and deviate from the footprint of the property line along the internal axis to further nest outdoor garden terraces.
Analogous to the public parks of the city that result from the diagonal planning of key avenues, these elevated garden terraces activate the adjacent functions of the hotel reception and public spaces. The inward-folding facades at the upper levels provide the advantage of increased daylight exposure for all the hotel rooms while maximizing the FAR (floor area ratio).
Finally at the interior, the center of the hotel volume is carved out as a day-lit void to connect the public space program along the vertical circulation of each of the hotel room floors. It is this hidden and discovered sculptural heart of the planning which provides a unifying orientation to the guests of the hotel from the conference center up to the crown of the roof deck.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2018