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HPRB Approves Design Concept for Addition to Dupont Circle’s Historic Patterson Mansion

Accompanying images can be viewed in the March 2014 issue PDF

By P.L. Wolff

The plan under review by the DC Historic preservation Board (HPRB) entails repurposing the historic Patterson mansion on Dupont Circle to be incorporated into a high-end residential project that will include replacing the early 1950s annex facing P Street just west of the Iraqi Embassy at the corner of 18th Street that had been built for use by the Washington Club which owned the mansion until purchased last year by developer SB-Urban.

At its February 27th meeting, the HPRB voted to accept the recommendation of the Office of Planning’s Historic Preservation Office (HPO) that “the Board find the proposed concept to be generally compatible with the landmark and the character of the Dupont Circle and Massachusetts Avenue Historic Districts.” (The vote was unanimous, though board member D. Graham Davidson abstained in light of him being a principal in the architectural firm whose design was the one under review.)

The plan calls for the creation of a high end residential project consisting of executive efficiencies — 20 in the mansion and 69 in the new glass and masonry structure that will replace the early 1950s annex. The first and second floors of the new structure will be linked to the mansion’s first and second floor levels by a two-story transparent glass “hyphen” set 12 feet back from the front of both buildings. The second floor of the mansion will be renovated and turned into common spaces for the apartment tenants for use in the manner of a private club. The project architects are from the well-known local Hartman-Cox firm.

Unfortunately, despite repeated attempts, the developers did not respond to our request for copies of the architects’ preliminary front and side elevation renderings. The following description contained in the HPO staff report submitted to the preservation board will provide some information:

“The addition has been designed to have a simple, symmetrically, rigorously ordered elevation with repeating vertically-oriented window openings that relate to the proportions, spacing, scale and vertical orientation of fenestration on the Patterson House. The cladding of white spandrel glass is intended to provide a similar polish and crispness to the addition as is provided by the white marble on landmark [mansion] while clearly reading as a contemporary building. The addition’s simple geometric form, symmetrical composition, flat roofline, and smooth wall surfaces are somewhat reminiscent of Neo-Formalist modernism from the 1960s and 1970s, where it was often used in Washington to relate to the city’s context of classical buildings. However, rather than being clad in marble or another stone, as was typical of that era, the addition takes advantage of advancements in glass technology to create a quiet and elegant companion that relates to but doesn’t compete with the landmark [mansion].”