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Photo: Courtesy of RW Restaurant Group
Photo: Courtesy of RW Restaurant Group

Music Venues with a View

It’s no secret that DC is home to some of the best music venues in the country, attracting local to international acts and packing concert halls with fans every night of the week. Besides booking amazing talent, these venues provide beautiful spaces for music fans to congregate. From Frank Gehry-designed outdoor music meccas like Merriweather Post Pavilion to the retro-inspired personal touches of Villain & Saint, we picked a handful of our favorite spots offering more to look at than just the bands onstage.

9:30 Club

Photo: D-Hi aka Donnie G

Photo: D-Hi aka Donnie G

When celebrating 9:30 Club’s 35th anniversary, owner Seth Hurwitz had the idea to create a library of records of bands that had headlined the iconic venue in chronological order based on the album they had toured on. While initially part of their anniversary celebration, the visceral reactions the Hall of Records caused was enough to clear out part of the venue and make it a permanent installation.

“The time, effort and metal work put into the installation made it obvious that it couldn’t just be a one-week experience, especially when we saw the way people reacted to it,” says I.M.P. Communications Director

Audrey Fix Schaefer. The installation continues to draw visitors to the club, allowing them to reconnect with artists and reminisce on shows 9:30 has hosted over the years. 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

Chrysalis Theatre

Photo: Richie Downs

Photo: Richie Downs

In partnership with the nonprofit Inner Arbor Trust, this gorgeous green structure tucked in the woods on Merriweather Post Pavilion’s Symphony Woods property – just 200 yards from the main stage – is a venue by day and lighted sculpture by night.

The Marc Fornes-designed stage is modeled after, you guessed it, a chrysalis, and is made of 4,000 aluminum sheets. While Chrysalis hosts events and concerts with a special focus on family-friendly and communty programming, it’s completely open for use when not hosting an event.

By day, you can sit, read a book, and enjoy the beautiful greenery of the space. By night, you can check out the captivating lights embedded within the structure. 10431 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; www.innerarbortrust.org

Gypsy Sally’s Vinyl Lounge

Photo: Josh Brick

Photo: Josh Brick

Gypsy Sally’s vinyl lounge is “a bit of a mystery,” according to owner David Ensor.

“The Vinyl Lounge is designed to be a getaway,” he says. “As you enter from the main room or back door, you are greeted by an orange 70s VW van in an all-white room with black curtains.”

The eclectic outpost within the Georgetown music venue features a wide range of acts and a retro feel.

“When you reach the end of the darkened red hallway to your left, you find a brightly lit, small stage flanked by a bright red bar,” Ensor continues. “The long, light gray wall ahead is hung with various sized of photographs of the Grateful Dead. It’s a place to explore, scratch your head and wonder what the hell you just walked into.” 3401 K St. NW, DC; www.gypsysallys.com

Merriweather Post Pavilion

Photo: Danielle Lavis Photography

Photo: Danielle Lavis Photography

The roof of the Frank Gehry-designed outdoor amphitheater collapsed from tempestuous winds this past winter. Thankfully, no one was hurt, and the new and improved roof is now ready for Merriweather’s summer season.

“Once you learn everyone’s okay, it just becomes a mechanic’s job,” says I.M.P.’s Audrey Fix Schaefer. “The roof fell on Saturday, and by Sunday, we were in our offices with new plans.”

While the roof is ready for outdoor concert season and lends an even better view to concertgoers with lawn seats, visiting artists also have a top-of-the-line experience in store for them. Recent renovations to the venue also include a 40,000-square-foot backstage area modeled after a 1950s motel that’s able to accommodate up to 10 bands – complete with a pool, cabanas and an onsite masseuse for visiting performers. 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; www.merriweathermusic.com

Pearl Street Warehouse

Photo: Joy Asico

Photo: Joy Asico

The multi-use space is one of three music venues that now occupy District Wharf, but its layout and design make it totally unique.

“We built a convertible space featuring garage doors that can open up the venue to the diner area, or close it off for a private event,” say owners Bruce Gates and Nick Fontana. “We also have the ability to open the doors to Pearl Street, creating an outdoor space where we can interact with the community and people exploring The Wharf, exposing them to great live music. “

The inviting space also features an upstairs seating area for a great vantage point during a live show. 33 Pearl St. SW, DC; www.pearlstreetwarehouse.com

Rock & Roll Hotel

Photo: John Shore

Photo: John Shore

The intimate H Street venue has some spooky vibes, due in part to the fact that it used to be a funeral home. While that didn’t necessarily inspire the design, you can still see its influence in the dark, plush atmosphere of the three-level space. It’s also one of the few music venues in the country to offer a rooftop deck, enticing concertgoers to grab a bite before and after shows and providing a neighborhood hangout for H Street residents.

“We knew how unique it would be to have a music venue with a rooftop deck in DC – a first,” says co-owner Steve Lambert. “We wanted a space that was open year-round where people could socialize without having to go to the concert hall or to the DJs on the second floor.” 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

Villain & Saint

Photo: Courtesy of RW Restaurant Group

Photo: Courtesy of RW Restaurant Group

Owned by local chef Robert Wiedmaier, this Bethesda venue and restaurant takes a “music first, food second” approach to everything that’s done in its 60s and 70s-inspired space.

“It’s comfortable, worn-in and reminiscent of a bygone era, like Keystone Korner in San Francisco,” Wiedmaier says. “It feels familiar. When you walk into a place like Villain & Saint, you can tell a lot of acts have come through. It’s a place [where] musicians would hang out if they were not performing.”

He notes framed artwork of legendary musicians, a saloon-style bar and gramophone “horns” from England turned into lighting fixtures as some of the venue’s most unique design accents. 7141 Wisconsin Ave. Bethesda, MD; www.villainandsaint.com

Wolf Trap’s Filene Center

Photo: Courtesy of Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts

Photo: Courtesy of Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts

Wolf Trap’s programming is as one-of-a-kind as its setting. The venue is also a national park, nestled into the lush forests of Northern Virginia, and is easily accessible to DMV residents.

“Every aspect of the pavilion is designed to enhance the experience for artists and audiences,” says Wolf Trap President and CEO Arvind Manocha about the Filene Center. “I think the extensive use of natural materials, like the Douglas fir, coupled with the setting – nestled in over 100 acres of permanently protected lands, including rolling hills and a forest complete with walking trails and ponds – makes Wolf Trap an urban oasis.” 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap.org

Photo: Courtesy of NoMa BID
Photo: Courtesy of NoMa BID

District of Design

Good, purposeful design makes a difference. Whether you’re dining at a new foodie spot, taking in views from a rooftop or exploring the art-covered exteriors of a city block, our surroundings have the ability to alter our feelings like few other elements can. Luckily, the DC area has no shortage of gorgeous spaces where you can live, work and play. We gathered essential design intel in six different neighborhoods and picked some of our favorite spots, so you can be surrounded by great style no matter where your day takes you.


Shaw

Hip Factors

Shaw has a long history of supporting the performing arts at still-functioning venues like Lincoln and Howard Theatres, and was even dubbed “Black Broadway” for showcasing many African-American artists including jazz musician Duke Ellington.

Ellington Lived in Shaw, and you can visit his home there to this day.

Multiuse apartments buildings like Atlantic Plumbing and The Shay feature restaurants and shops just below living spaces, making them an ideal spot for city dwellers who are looking for an all-access neighborhood.

Shopaholics rejoice. Shaw is just a few skips away from CityCenter DC, known for its high-end retailers.

Foodies will feel right at home in Shaw with a new restaurant to explore every night, including Michelin-starred restaurants like The Dabney in Blagden Alley and recent tastemakers Espita Mezcaleria and Unconventional Diner.

Facts from www.bisnow.com/washington-dc/news/neighborhood/fast-facts-shaw-69685

Art to Admire

Photo: Trent Johnson

Photo: Trent Johnson

Dacha Beer Garden’s Elizabeth Taylor Mural
Painted by muralist Byron Peck, Dacha Beer Garden is home to this mural of the iconic actress and humanitarian. While DC is a city known for its large paintings of famous celebrities such as President Barack Obama, Prince and Marvin Gaye, this mural is definitely among the must-visit-in-person variety. 1600 7th St. NW, DC; www.dachadc.com

Photo: Trent Johnson

Photo: Trent Johnson

Shaw Library
Nestled on the corner of 7th Street, the Shaw Neighborhood Library sports a creative triangular shape with glass windows and a multicolored piece of abstract art waving you into the modern, chic building. Whether you’re a bookworm or not, this library provides a unique twist on a local institution. 1630 7th St. NW, DC; www.dclibrary.org/watha

Delectable Design

Photo: Rey Lopez

Photo: Rey Lopez

Bresca
After inspiration from a trip to Iceland, Ryan Ratino was determined to give Bresca a clean, bold and charming look. And with the help of Richard Marcus Architects, the vision was fulfilled. The design includes a moss wall that allows guests to engage with the natural world and honeycomb accents that are a nod to Ratino’s playful personality and the restaurant’s emblem. 1906 14th St. NW, DC; www.brescadc.com

Photo: Rey Lopez

Photo: Rey Lopez

Hazel
With dark wood and natural light aplenty, this interior designed by Catherine Hailey Design is extremely inviting. The strung lights by artist Rick Singleton are especially eye-catching. Rounding out the patio are comfortable stretches of faux grass accompanied by comfortable seating for lounging and dining. 808 V St. NW, DC; www.hazelrestaurant.com

Design Denizens

Photo: Grant Langford

Photo: Grant Langford

Muralist Lisa Maria Thalhammer, “LOVE”

On Tap: What was the inspiration behind this piece?
Lisa Marie Thalhammer: Cultivating love and inspiring people to actually really care about others is the mission behind my “LOVE” artwork series. I truly believe that love is at the core of every social issue. I hope that my “LOVE” mural and signs encourage viewers to see the humanity in people that they differ from in order to come together to find a common ground that respects human rights. As an activist and member of the LGBTQ+ community, my artworks frequently represent humans in positions of strength and hope. The seven primary and secondary colors represent the chakra energy centers of the body and the accompanying tertiary colors represent interconnectivity. My mural repeats this 13-color spectrum geometrically to indicate each letter of the word “love” on four separate garage doors.

OT: Your piece has become one of the most Instagrammable murals in the city, with locals and visitors seeking it out. How does it feel to be responsible for such a popular work of art?
LMT: I feel honored and humbled by the public’s response to my “LOVE” artwork. It inspires me to keep doing this work of adding color and balance to the world through public art and murals. I’m now imagining a “LOVE” mural campaign that would take my “LOVE” series to other places that need healing.

Follow Lisa Marie Thalhammer’s art online at www.lisamariestudio.com and on Instagram at @lisamariestudio.

Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

Muralist Rose Jaffe, “Let.Go”

On Tap: What was the inspiration behind this mural? What is its significance?
Rose Jaffe: This mural was inspired by a more personal theme than most of my other work. The past few years have involved a deep dive into healing, both mentally and physically. After years of Western medicine, I turned toward Eastern modalities and empowered myself to embrace natural forms of healing from meditation to medicinal plants. The two flowers on the wall are arnica and echinacea – two powerful healing flowers. The idea of letting go – releasing the bird – is a symbol for releasing what no longer serves us, and allowing movement into new stages of life.

OT: There are a lot of excellent murals and works of art in Shaw now. How do you feel the area has changed over the years?
RJ: The area, like many neighborhoods in Washington, has gentrified. And with that comes displacement of the communities that lived there before. There are good and bad parts to a changing neighborhood. I try and focus on what role I am playing in the movement of DC and shed light on the importance of maintaining strong and diverse communities by creating spaces for art.

To learn more about Jaffe’s art, visit her at rosejaffe.myportfolio.com and on Instagram at @rose_inks.


NoMA/Ivy City

Hip Factors

Looking to live the carless life? 86 percent of NoMa residents walk, bike or take public transport to work.

The NoMa Parks Foundation is developing great public spaces throughout the neighborhood. First up: Swampoodle Park, an 8,000-square-foot space at the corner of 3rd and L Streets Northeast that will include a dog park and children’s play structure. Later this year, the nonprofit will begin construction on a 2.5-acre park above New York Avenue that will serve as the neighborhood’s backyard and offer outdoor space for recreation and community gatherings. And in the underpasses at L and M Streets, compelling light installations that resulted from an international design competition are being installed.

NoMa was the first neighborhood in DC to offer free outdoor WiFi.

NoMa is home to many major companies and organizations including NPR, Google, CNN, Sirius XM, REI, Mathematica Policy Research, NeighborWorks and the World Resources Institute.

Hecht Warehouse in Ivy City is not only home to brand new apartments, but also drinking and dining destinations like One Eight Distilling, Atlas Brew Works and Big Chief are just down the block.

Union Market is home to some of DC’s best foodie spots as well, and the area frequently hosts other events at Dock5 next door.

Facts provided by NoMa BID, and the Hecht Warehouse and Union Market

Art to Admire

Photo: Trent Johnson

Photo: Trent Johnson

City Winery Mural
DC artist Aniekan Udofia is responsible for this explosive depiction of the flavor grapes can have. The popping purple provides a terrific contrast to the white brick canvas and can be admired before or after a glass of wine. 1350 Okie St. NE, DC; www.citywinery.com/washingtondc/

Photo: Trent Johnson

Photo: Trent Johnson

Heart Wall
A mural from French artist Mr. Brainwash (we swear that’s what he’s called), the multi-colored hearts provide a burst of color on the white Union Market walls. This famous backdrop has been featured in numerous publications, and also caught the attention of Michelle Obama. 1309 5th St. NE, DC; www.unionmarketdc.com

Photo: Trent Johnson

Photo: Trent Johnson

Yoko Ono x Hirshhorn
If you’ve visited Union Market in the past year, Yoko Ono’s message reading “Relax. Your Heart Is Stronger Than What You Think!” is hard to miss. Using Ono’s text and minimalist style, the artwork is meant to compel folks to be adventurous and further consider what the heart wants. 1309 5th St. NE, DC; www.unionmarketdc.com

Where to Live

Photo: Courtesy of Hecht Warehouse

Photo: Courtesy of Hecht Warehouse

Historic Hecht Warehouse
Hecht Warehouse, originally built in 1937, was purchased by Douglas Development in 2011 and redeveloped into a mixed-use retail and residential complex in 2016. Maintaining its Streamline Moderne style, the warehouse now offers more than 300 residential units with twists on the era it’s from, including concrete flooring, subway-tiled bathrooms, exposed brick and oversized glass block windows. There’s also a speakeasy clubroom with billiards. Even if you’re not in the market for a new apartment, this building is a shining example of how to refresh rather than restart. 1401 New York Ave. NE, DC; www.hechtwarehouse.com

Design Denizen

Photo: Ron Ngiam

Photo: Ron Ngiam

CORE architecture + design Project Architect Christopher Peli, Cotton & Reed

On Tap: Cotton & Reed is DC’s first-ever rum distillery. How did that unique aspect factor into the design of the space?
Christopher Peli: What most influenced the design is not so much specifically rum but that Cotton & Reed distills their product from scratch and does not purchase neutral spirits. Being a small startup distillery and owning the process was a conscious decision with huge ramifications for their business model. So the design had to allow for ease of production and efficient storage in a tight space.

OT: Was there a conscious decision to keep the door relatively unmarked? Did it have anything to do with the low-key location among other, more industrial buildings?
CP:
Cotton & Reed were the first ones to be a part of this new generation of Union Market redevelopment – and they wanted to fit in with the surrounding wholesaler and traditional maker-culture neighborhood without triggering notions of gentrification. To reflect other business signage in the area, we made a conscious decision to place the “Distillery” sign on the roof, much like the historical market signs. There’s also a blade sign with the company name, perpendicular to the façade, which you see as you walk up or down 5th Street. You’ll notice that many existing merchants don’t display their specific brands but keep it more generic. You’ll see “Noodles,” “Wholesale” and “Mexican Fruits” on the building signs the company’s name secondary.

OT: Was keeping some industrial, open ceilings an intentional shout-out to union market’s history? Or was that more of a functional decision?
CP: The design definitely emphasizes the volume of the space. We even reinstalled the existing skylight, which fills the space with natural light the way it was originally designed. The façade was opened up much as before when it was an open market. We made the new architecture in the space seem like discreet elements within the larger volume, so there is a distinction between new and old.

OT: What was it like designing a space that’s part bar, part distillery?
CP: Our mantra as we designed the space was, “Don’t fight the building.” There could have been more structural interventions to the space but we wanted to be surgical and smart. The architecture already worked perfectly for the industrial function Cotton & Reed needed. The one-story section in the front seemed a natural fit for the bar and the two-story back space worked well for the distillery.

OT: How involved are the owners in the design aspect of a project like this?
CP: They were involved extensively. At CORE, all of our clients are very involved in every decision, which is critical to the success of their projects.

OT: What is the overall feeling you and the team are trying to evoke with the design and layout of Cotton & Reed?
CP: We wanted to evoke the feeling of reinhabiting an abandoned industrial space nature had taken over; it’s post-post-apocalyptic. We used building materials directly from the other neighborhood warehouses and supplemented with plant life and botanicals. In all the space is left mostly neutral, open and loose-programmed for flexibility to change seasonally or for specific events.

For more information about CORE architecture + design, visit www.coredc.com.

Cotton & Reed: 1330 5th St. NE, DC; www.cottonandreed.com


Capitol Riverfront

Hip Factors

The neighborhood has 52 local and national restaurants with seven on the way later this year.

There are 15 residential rooftops in the neighborhood, and some even have dog parks.

The Capitol Riverfront area has 10.5 acres designated for public parks.

The Washington Navy Yard Campus, founded in 1799, is the longest continually operating Navy facility in the U.S.

You can easily run a 5K through Capitol Riverfront. The loop around the Anacostia River bounded by the 11th Street Bridge and Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge is equal to five kilometers.

D.C. United’s new Audi Field is only 1.3 miles from the National Mall and 780 feet from the Anacostia River.

Facts provided by the Capitol Riverfront BID

Instaworthy Spots

Photo: Courtesy of Capitol Riverfront

Photo: Courtesy of Capitol Riverfront

Canal Park Fountains
The Dancing Fountains located in the Southern block of Canal Park are a summer exclusive, as the area transforms into an ice rink when the weather chills. While this isn’t the only pretty picture available in the park, the fountains vibe with the warmer season aesthetic. 200 M St. SE, DC

Photo: Trent Johnson

Photo: Trent Johnson

Dock 79 Sculptures
Completed in 2016, these painted steel sculptures stick out like a pleasant thumb, providing must-see stop across the street from Nationals Park. Think yellow is not your color? Give the vibrant shade another shot while posing with these powerful installations. 79 Potomac Ave. SE, DC

Photo: Trent Johnson

Photo: Trent Johnson

Pedestrian Bridge
Finished in 2010, the 200-foot pedestrian bridge connecting restaurants and other establishments to Yards Park is a dazzling, spherical structure. Whether day or night, the geometric piece of art can serve as the backdrop to a picture of people or a standalone Instagram post by itself. 300 Water St. SE, DC

Photo: Trent Johnson

Photo: Trent Johnson

Pepco Substation Mural
Sitting across from the newly completed Audi Field, these abstract murals are multicolored and easily absorbed by both art aficionados and those who like a good distraction. Artist Katherine Mann is responsible for these vivid movements. Across from Audi Field, 100 Potomac Ave. SW, DC

Photo: Trent Johnson

Photo: Trent Johnson

Top of the Yard Selfie Square
The little red square pictured isn’t the art; it’s simply a marker where folks can stand and get a full-on view of Nats Park. Without buildings or other obstructions in the way, the view is crystal clear, and makes for a perfect background for any baseball fan. 1265 First St. SE, DC

Where to Live

Photo: Courtesy of 1221 Van

Photo: Courtesy of 1221 Van

1221 Van
Designed by Hariri Pontarini Architects, 1221 Van encompasses contemporary, sleek living in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood. With easy access to the Ballpark District, a community featuring restaurants, retail and entertainment, you’re a beat away from all of the fun. The interiors offer a warm, modern aesthetic, providing a soothing comfort. Some of the features include wood-inspired flooring, kitchens complete with stainless steel appliances, quartz countertops, high-end fixtures and spa-inspired baths – combine that with the splendid rooftop view of DC’s top monuments, Nationals Park and the Anacostia River. 1221 Van St. SE, DC; www.1221van.com

Design Denizens

Members of DC design and architecture studio HapstakDemetriou+ talk the lavish looks of two of their Capital Riverfront projects, District Winery and RASA Indian Grill.

Photo: Courtesy of District Winery

Photo: Courtesy of District Winery

Bill Young on District Winery

On Tap: Tell me about the impressive installation of 5,000 wine bottles in the mezzanine of District Winery.
Bill Young: We approached this project with a mezzanine level in mind. It was critical to create additional square footage for a landing zone, giving patrons the ability to transition from event use to reception use on the second floor. The mezzanine level also gave us access to the second level of the two-story storage jewel boxes. These towers were designed to provide the extra, much-needed wine bottle storage in a thermally contained enclosure.

OT: What is the overall aesthetic of the winery?
BY: During the design process, the idea of the wooden beams and columns derived from a visit to an older winery in Virginia wine country where an old wooden barn was converted into a tasting room. There was a sense of warmth in this setting that I didn’t necessarily want to recreate, but rather reinvestigate.

OT: Why did you decided to include a colorful wall of presidents in the restaurant space?
BY: We knew this wall was always going to showcase artwork that speaks to DC. The artist of the piece “Dads of Democracy” is Damon Dewitt who worked for Brooklyn Winery, the owner’s first winery in NYC.

OT: There are no other spaces in DC like District Winery. What were the challenges and advantages to working on a project like this?
BY: It’s exciting to be working on anything “first.” It allows for some type of non-preconceived notion in design approach. Essentially, our clients gave us great insight into what to expect in operational organizations since they have experience from their first urban winery in NY, but to create something in the magnitude of three massive programs in one space is challenging.

For more on District Winery, visit www.districtwinery.com and follow them on Instagram at @districtwinery.

District Winery: 385 Water St. SE, DC; www.districtwinery.com 

Photo: Rey Lopez

Photo: Rey Lopez

Michael Mason and Cristian Rosa on RASA Indian Grill

On Tap: The overall feeling of RASA is very colorful, whimsical and inviting. What was it like to evoke this overall aesthetic in a restaurant through design?
Michael Mason & Cristian Rosa: Striking the right balance of color and whimsy was a challenge. Much like when you want to serve very colorful food on dishware that best allows the colors to be fully expressed, the architecture of the space needed to be largely neutral with colors of greys, blacks and warm taupes to really allow the colorful elements to shine to their full brilliance.

OT: Can you tell me more about the art and why it was chosen?
MM & CR: The name RASA has many interconnected stories behind it. Coincidentally, [it contains] the first two letters of each of the owners’ names, but in Sanskrit “rasa” relates to “the essence of all” and “gives life meaning.” It influences art, music, literature and dance, among many others. Here the nine rasas are reflected in the flow and movement of the design in the space itself, and especially in the in the art so kindly provided by [co-owner] Sahil Rahman’s aunt Nandita Madan. Each of the nine paintings correspond to the nine rasas that are “the essence of all of our emotions”: love, joy, wonder, courage, peace, sadness, anger, fear and disgust.

OT: There are some other unique design touches in RASA, like the colorful bakeware used behind the counter and the coconut shell drinks. How did the use of things like this factor into the design as a whole?
MM & CR: The branding, menus, signage and the way the food is displayed all works together with the architecture and the interior design to define and reinforce the brand as a whole. The fun elements of the colorful bakeware were set against a black countertop to let them truly radiate, and the coconut shell drinks are all part of the larger story of a whole that balances on the unique touches.

For more on RASA, visit www.rasagrill.com and follow them on Instagram at @rasa.

RASA: 1247 First St. SE, DC; www.rasagrill.com

For more on HapstakDemetrieou+, visit www.hd-ad.com and follow them on Instagram at @hapstakdemetriou. HapstakDemetriou+: 2715 M St. NW, DC


District Wharf

Hip Factors

District Wharf is a vibrant neighborhood with more than 50 events per year that are free and open to the public.

District Wharf has four different unique piers: District Pier, Market Pier, Recreation Pier and Transit Pier.
The Maine Avenue Fish Market is the oldest continuously operating, open-air fish market in the country; it opened in 1805, 17 years before the Fulton Fish Market in New York City.

Bring your pets! District Wharf is a pet-friendly neighborhood, including public walkways and other gathering places.

Designed to achieve the LEED Gold for the entire Wharf development, the neighborhood features green roofs, 300 new trees, preservation of mature oaks and 340 square feet of floating wetland systems.

Facts provided by District Wharf

Appetizing Aesthetics

Photo: Courtesy of Del Mar

Photo: Courtesy of Del Mar

Del Mar
Paying tribute to Mallorca, Spain, restaurateurs Maria and Fabio Trabocchi wanted their Southwest waterfront dining room to be as authentically Spanish as possible. With Spanish interior designers, the restaurant provides a breezy Mediterranean feel to couple with the delicious food on the menu. 791 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.delmardc.com

Photo: Courtesy of La Vie

Photo: Courtesy of La Vie

La Vie
With designer David Anthony Chenault at the helm, this Mediterranean newcomer brings themed rooms and a large terrace bar overlooking the Potomac River. With hanging chandeliers and greenery throughout, just being in the bar is a refreshing experience. 88 District Sq. Fifth floor, SW, DC; www.laviedc.com

Photo: Rey Lopez

Photo: Rey Lopez

Mi Vida
This 11,000-square-foot space boasts floor to ceiling windows with a panoramic view of the Potomac River. The KNEAD Hospitality + Design interior features The Wharf’s industrial aesthetic mixed with prevalent historic and contemporary Mexican inspirations, including the 19-foot Árbol de la Vida, or Tree of Life. 98 District Sq. SW, DC; www.mividamexico.com

Photo: Courtesy of Whiskey Charlie

Photo: Courtesy of Whiskey Charlie

Whiskey Charlie
An indoor-outdoor rooftop bar, this spot might give you the best birds-eye view of District Wharf. Even from inside the space, wall-length windows provide a mesmerizing look at the burgeoning waterfront. Complete with chocolate brown sofas, and adorable outdoor seating arrangements, this is a terrific spot for the outdoor season. 975 7th St. SW, DC;
www.whiskeycharliewharf.com

Where to Live

Photo: Courtesy of Bozzuto

Photo: Courtesy of Bozzuto

The Channel
With a rooftop pool and stunning amenity spaces, you will never feel the need to leave home. A vibrant community, this residence has dedicated spaces to restaurants and shops on the waterfront. Not to mention, The Anthem can be found at the center of the building, giving this location a cultured vibe through and through. 950 Maine Ave. SW, DC; www.dcchannel.com

Photo: Courtesy of Bozzuto

Photo: Courtesy of Bozzuto

Incanto
Life is better with a view, and Incanto is full of them – whether you’re coming home each day to contemporary finishes, where modern style blends effortlessly with ultimate comfort, or peeking out the window at the heart of the Wharf. This apartment not only provides an opportunity for urban living, but also gives a sophisticated modern apartment feel with light without subtle designs and streamlined features. 770 Maine Ave. SW, DC; www.incantodc.com

Design Denizen

Photo: Mike Kim

Photo: Mike Kim

PN Hoffman Executive Vice President Shawn Seaman on District Wharf’s Public Art and Developing a New DC Destination

On Tap: How did it feel as the ideas for what would look good in this neighborhood came to life?
Shawn Seaman: It was incredibly rewarding. I’m trained as an architect, so I spent a lot of time designing and imagining the between spaces to the parks, and nothing really compares to when you open the doors and see people on the swings and eating at the restaurants.

OT: What were your initial steps in planning the look and feel of District Wharf?
SS: We knew from the beginning we didn’t want a single architect or designer responsible for the entire site; I think that’s why people reacted negatively to the old design. We wanted architectural diversity for each of the buildings. The biggest idea was that we needed to plan waterside first, where the buildings would face the river. That’s sort of contrary to how it was done in the past. Being we were on the water, we had a unique concept to execute what types of uses and how many piers we would have and how they would interact.

OT: How often did you go back and forth on what the overall aesthetic would be, if at all? And how did you decide to go in the direction you ultimately did?
SS: We had a strong vision from the outset as far as the designs of the parks and public spaces. We had different architects on the vertical parcels, and we had different landscape architects on other spaces.

OT: We think some of the more interesting facets of the design, apart from the diversity in architecture, are the thoughtful pieces of artistic design in public spaces – like the torch, the swings and the lighting on Pearl Street. Can you tell me your thoughts on those?
SS: I’m glad you called it art, because it’s not art like a sculpture that you sit and stare at, but each of those in their own right is pretty fantastic. The torch at the end is a beacon for the end of the channel, and you see that and it’s an interpretation of the lighthouse. It’s also something you can sit around and enjoy on a cold night. The swings are something we saw in Charleston, SC that we liked, and it’s probably one of the best used elements of the Wharf. On a busy weekend, you’re hard pressed to find one to swing on. For Pearl Street, we have a lot of energy there at night, and we think the lighting on that street makes it feel more like a festival or market, and that’s important to activate the space.

OT: How much emphasis did you put into the lounge areas, especially with The Wharf’s location on the water?
SS: Yeah, seating was paramount in the design. In fact, the bench that runs the entire project is just that, it’s a bench. We saw an example of that in Copenhagen, and there people can sit on the edge and face in or face out. That was lacking in the old development, and there really wasn’t any place where you could sit and be by the water. It was really trying to create a variety of different spaces and places where people could occupy and enjoy the views, whether you’re buying something at the businesses or not.

OT: What are your favorite aspects of the look of The Wharf, and what new things do you think people will enjoy in the coming years?
SS: My favorite thing about The Wharf are the spaces between the buildings, and some of the more unexpected places like the alleys and through streets. Whether it’s Pearl Street or Water Street or Sutton Square, where a ton of places come together. The Piers, you can’t say enough about, with four public places that you can look on the water and then look back onto the city. The next phase is similar in size, maybe a little smaller, but it has a variety of ground floors and activities.

For more information about The Wharf, visit www.wharfdc.com.


Rosslyn

Hip Factors

Rosslyn has 13 permanent public artworks.

Rosslyn’s public green spaces range from a 90-acre national park oasis situated on the Potomac River to a three-acre urban park. There’s also a 60-foot urban parklet.

The neighborhood’s Continental Beer Garden is one of 25 outdoor dining options, and a favorite of the workforce and residents. All of them merge art, food and drinks.

Every year, Rosslyn hosts its very own Jazz Fest, a 28-year tradition that takes place in Gateway Park with an average of more than 10,000 attendees per year.

Along with Jazz Fest, the neighborhood BID hosts more than 160 events per year ranging from Farmers’s Markets to outdoor movies, concerts and a soon to be unveiled pop-up-shop experience.

Facts provided by Sage Communications, LLC

Art to Admire

Photos: Courtesy of Rosslyn BID

Photos: Courtesy of Rosslyn BID

Cupid’s Garden
The four-ton, stainless-steel sculpture consists of 23 polished arrows, acting as a street sign and abstract representation of movement and progress. The piece was created by DC-based sculptor Chris Gardner in 1994. Near 1400 Key Blvd. Arlington, VA

Darkstar Park (Photo - Courtesy of Rosslyn BID)

Dark Star Park
A mixture of sand and stone, these spheres were Arlington’s first major commissioned art project featuring sculptures resembling dying, extinguished stars. The piece, complete with shadow images inset in the ground, was constructed by Nancy Holt in 1984. 1655 N. Fort Myer Dr. Arlington, VA

liquidpixels (Photo - Courtesy of Rosslyn BID)

Liquid Pixels
Ned Kahn’s 42-foot-high panels are covered with 450,000 stainless steel disks brushed in gold. The piece is said to mimic the flow of air currents and light conditions on its surface. Kahn finished the project in 2002. 1801 N Lynn St. Arlington, VA

Quill 2 (Photo - Courtesy of Rosslyn BID)

Quill
Consisting of 19,500 circular dot elements attached to an aluminum surface, Quill’s glow is charged during the day and enhanced by street and traffic lights. Created by Christian Moeller, the artist partnered with Arlington Arts and Monday Properties to figure out the right pleasant image for folks on the busy corner. 1850 N. Moore St. Arlington, VA

Learn more about these works of art at www.rosslynva.org.

A Picturesque Parklet

Parklet 2 (Photo - Courtesy of Rosslyn BID)

The DC area’s first permanent parklet, a miniature resting place, the area was designed by Ignacia Ciocchini, a man famous for his work for CityBench in New York. The parklet is 30 feet wide and includes 18 chairs, five plaza tables and four planter boxes. If you look closely enough, many of the elements have perforations representing the Rosslyn skyline at night. On the corner of Oak Street and Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, VA

Design Denizen

Photo: Adam Brockett

Photo: Adam Brockett

General Manager Graham Dunn, Central Place Observatory Deck 

On Tap: The Rosslyn BID billed the observation deck as Rosslyn’s “public space in the sky.” What will this space be used for?
Graham Dunn: It’s primarily a tourist attraction, in the style of the One World Observatory in New York City. It offers a 360-degree view of Arlington, the Georgetown Waterfront, the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building. You can pretty much see everything from Silver Spring to Alexandria.

OT: Can you tell us about the full food and beverage program that will be offered there?
GD: We’re featuring all local, Northern Virginia-based beer. That will include Port City, Solace, Lost Rhino and Mustang Sally. We’ll also be serving wine from Virginia wineries. On the 32nd floor, we have a champagne bar where you can grab a glass to enjoy while you watch the sunset. We’re currently working on a full menu of signature cocktails as well.

OT: How is the view offered by the deck different than other places where you can get a panoramic view of the city skyline?
GD: There are similar places like the top of the Watergate hotel and National Cathedral, but the Observation Deck is totally new. The way it’s laid out and the view of the city is incredible and totally unique.

OT: What makes Rosslyn a trendy place to live and sets it apart from other DC area neighborhoods, especially in terms of building design and art?
GD: As far as the Observation Deck goes, Arlington County residents have free access. We want them to become the ambassadors of the space. And we’re working to keep food and beverage prices comparable to other local venues. You can also rent out this space for events.

The Observation Deck: 1201 Wilson Blvd. #214, Arlington, VA; www.theviewofdc.com


Tysons

Hip Factors

The “Tysons Luxury Lilies” mural by renowned artist Naturel is a 25 x 100-foot work of art painted on a cement wall facing the entrance to the Greensboro Metro station. Lilies are the symbols of rebirth and transformation, fitting for Tysons as it goes through a major transformation.

Tysons will soon be organized around eight districts, each with a distinctive character and mix of land uses, that people will be able to seamlessly move between. The connectedness and uniqueness of each place will be mutually supportive, creating a 24-hour, vibrant urban center.

The highest density will soon be oriented toward Tysons’ four Metrorail stations, encouraging people to utilize public transit and helping to ease the burden on vehicular traffic.

Tysons is changing quickly: 14 buildings have been added to the skyline since 2011, and there are currently 2.6 million square feet of development under construction. It’s becoming an attractive place to live, and the number of residential units has grown by 41 percent since 2011.

The Plaza at Tysons Corner Center hosts a summer concert series as well as fitness classes, holiday and cultural festivities, and events for kids. The plaza connects Tysons Corner Center with the Metro station, serving as both a gathering space and a pedestrian connection.

Facts provided by www.fairfaxcounty.gov/tysons

A Beautiful Biergarten

Photo: Courtesy of Tysons Biergarten

Photo: Courtesy of Tysons Biergarten

With a main bier hall, basement bar, mezzanine and 10,000-square-foot patio, Tysons Biergarten is almost four separate experiences rolled into one. The patio is a straightforward outdoor biergarten, while the main bier hall contains a playful blue color and features flags of different countries hanging around the room – and going up a level to the mezzanine gives you much of the same feel. Tucked away underneath, the American Underground basement bar gives off an old-school saloon vibe teetering on the divey side. 8346 Leesburg Pike, Tysons, VA; www.tysonsbiergarten.com

A Metro-Based Mural

Photo: Courtesy of OCRR Tysons

Photo: Courtesy of OCRR Tysons

Speaking of Tysons Biergarten, the massive space arrived at the same time as a massive mural directly outside of the Greensboro Metro. The 100-foot mural, “Tysons Luxury Lilies,” was painted by international artist Naurel, also known as Lawrence Atoigue. The work features a serene foreground with flowers bursting upward from a peaceful stream. Along with teamwork from Tysons and Naurel, the piece was produced by Art Whino Executive Director Shane Pomajambo. www.artwhino.com

Design Denizen

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Photo: M.K. Koszycki

Designer Anna Stratton, Teas’n You

On Tap: How did you come up with the design for Teas’nYou?
Anna Stratton: I met with the owners of Teas’n You and they took me through interior design plans. We bounced ideas around, as well as what spaces they were thinking of activating in terms of display.

OT: How would you describe the overall aesthetic of the design?
AS: The overall aesthetic of the displays presents an enchanting and ethereal feel. I used a lot of soft neutrals and metallics to help enhance the theme.

OT: How long did it take to install and create?
AS: All the displays were hand cut and treated, and therefore took a little more time to prep prior to installing. The window and wall took the longest in terms of installation time – about two hours for each.

OT: There are a lot of bubble tea shops in the DC area. How does the design of Teas’n You set it apart?
AS: I think Teasn’ You really expanded their realm in terms of customer experience and environment. They really took the time to make it a place people could enjoy, relax and even work in. Most shops have an in-and-out type of feel whereas Teasn’ You is very different from that.

Follow Stratton’s art and design on Instagram at @a.duvalart, and learn more about Teas’n You at www.teasnyou.com.

Teas’n You Fusion Tea House: 8032 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, VA; www.teasnyou.com

Photo: Jason Hornick Photography, DCPL Archives
Photo: Jason Hornick Photography, DCPL Archives

Cultivating Culture by Design

There’s more to DC than meets the eye. At first glance, behemoth monuments and countless museums seem like the capital’s main culture source, but they’re really just a small fraction of its identity. Beneath the surface, a dedicated collective of artists, designers and historians join forces to bring the true heart of the city to light. Organizations like DC Preservation League (DCPL) and MuralsDC work tirelessly to showcase the best of DC’s unique and rich history by protecting old and creating new cultural sites for Washingtonians to enjoy.

DCPL began its mission to “preserve, protect and enhance the historic and built environment of DC through advocacy and education” in 1971 when an activist group, Don’t Tear It Down, formed to save the 1899 Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue from demolition. After saving the post office and a number of other sites in the 70s, Don’t Tear It Down rebranded themselves as the DC Preservation League in 1984. Over the past 40 years, DCPL has sponsored more than 200 historic landmarks for nomination to the DC Inventory of Historic Sites.

Rebecca Miller, executive director of DCPL, says preserving historical sites is important not only for understanding the history and development of a city, but also for having a better cultural understanding of everyday people from the past.

“Sites with cultural significance need to be preserved so that we as a society understand that not every great person lived in the big classical house on the hill,” she says. “Everyday people, who lived in everyday buildings, have done significant things that have led to the world as we know it today; some of these sites deserve to be recognized and preserved as well.”

DCPL is currently working toward diversifying the types of historical sites they protect, including sites important to the African American Civil Rights and LGBTQ+ communities.

“Often, the history of these groups of people have been left out of the conversation, and it’s time that we document all people’s history and culture,” Miller says.

To Miller, the “perceived uniqueness” of DC’s architecture and design stems from its position as the nation’s capital. However, one of the most important factors in the city’s building design is the 1910 Height of Buildings Act – legislation restricting building heights to the width of the street it fronts plus 20 feet, as long as they aren’t taller than 130 feet, according to the

National Capital Planning Commission. The Old Post Office Building was grandfathered in after the original act passed in 1899, and remains as the tallest high-rise federal building in the city.

As DCPL guards DC’s culture by preserving historical sites, MuralsDC protects neighborhoods from illegal graffiti with unique and beautiful murals painted by local artists. As a project funded by the DC Department of Public works in 2007, MuralsDC has sponsored more than 50 projects across the city, engaging District youths along the way by teaching them the art of aerosol.
Christopher Shorter, director of the Department of Public Works (DPW), says although MuralDC’s main goal is to keep the city clean by deterring vandalism, they also focus on featuring the cultures of each unique neighborhood.

“MuralsDC makes a point to deliver a sense of history and a personal statement about each community to the city’s art scene,” Shorter says. “We try to paint each mural as a reminder of who we were, who we are and who we’re trying to be as a city.”

To Shorter, DC’s art and design scene is becoming as prominent as its monuments and museums. By transforming alleyways from shortcuts to destinations, residents and visitors can connect with and learn more about neighborhoods they might not have been to before.

“When MuralsDC paints an original work of art on the side of the building, we’ve done more than just help to eliminate graffiti,” he says. “We’ve provided an amazing gift to the community.”

MuralsDC’s last project was on Half Street in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood. The property owner of Friendly Food Market wanted to bring the neighbors together, so naturally, a beautiful mural came to mind. As artist Eric B. Ricks decorated the building’s side, community members would gather around to ask him questions and speak to one another about the mural’s significance.

“That speaks to the power of public art,” Shorter says. “It can bring a community together and evoke a sense of pride. But most of all, it’s a great way for DPW to show DC communities that we don’t just work in the community – we really care about the community.”

Learn more about these DC organizations that enhance and beautify the city’s culture.

DC Preservation League: www.dcpreservation.org
MuralsDC: www.muralsdcproject.com

Photo: Deane Madsen
Photo: Deane Madsen

Brutal Beauties: A Look into DC’s Concrete Architecture

Architecture in DC is often associated with the neoclassical silhouettes of the White House, the Jefferson Memorial and the Treasury. But what about all the concrete that makes up buildings like the FBI Building, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or even the Hirshhorn? Enter the architectural style of Brutalism and its resident advocate Deane Madsen, a writer and architectural photographer living in the city. He founded BrutalistDC, an Instagram account and website that document these widely misunderstood structures. We caught up with him about the basics of Brutalism and what makes the style so important to DC’s landscape.

On Tap: How would you define Brutalism?
Deane Madsen: An architectural style that features bold, structurally innovative forms rendered in raw materials. It stems from a 1950s British interpretation of a Swedish moniker crossed with a Swiss/French architect’s specification of béton brut (raw concrete) in social housing. In the U.S., the style emerged later but proliferated due to low cost of materials during an era in which government set about to redefine itself with monumental structures.

OT: Why is Brutalist architecture so important to the architectural landscape of DC?
DM: For one, there’s just so much of it. Look at any satellite image of Southwest DC and you’ll find enormous superblocks of government buildings rendered in concrete: the Department of Energy, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, L’Enfant Plaza. Two, most of it arose during an era of urban renewal in Washington. The Brutalist architecture in the District breaks from the traditions of Neoclassical, Federal and Gothic Revival to present buildings constructed at the height of post-war optimism.

OT: What are some common misconceptions about Brutalism and how do you respond to them?
DM: Probably the biggest misconception about Brutalist buildings is that they’re somehow brutal. I sometimes joke that these buildings are not, in fact, out to kill you – chunks of concrete falling off the FBI Building are the result of neglect, not malice. The other default reaction to Brutalism is that it’s ugly. I get it, not everyone appreciates the aesthetic. And there’s no way I’m going to be able to change someone’s taste, but when I’m giving tours of Brutalist buildings, I encourage people to get up close and examine tactile features such as board-formed concrete.

OT: What led you to create the BrutalistDC Instagram account and website?
DM: Washington has an amazing breadth of architecture, but the city’s government buildings of the 1960s and 1970s – the urban renewal era – are much maligned, and, quite frankly, I was tired of seeing Brutalist buildings top lists of DC’s ugliest. My goal in creating BrutalistDC was to advocate for an underappreciated set of buildings and to show them in ways that highlight their textural beauty.

OT: What are your favorite Brutalist buildings in DC and why?
DM: The Hirshhorn Museum is easily my favorite Brutalist building in DC. The staff of the Hirshhorn understands the value of their museum’s architecture, and works hard to maintain, promote and improve it. A recent lobby renovation stands out as an example of a sensitive addition to an already great space.

Learn more about Brutalist architecture in the District at www.brutalistdc.com and follow BrutalistDC on Instagram at @brutalistdc.

Photos: Michael Loria
Photos: Michael Loria

A Breezy Summer Home at SAAM: Do Ho Suh

At the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) on F Street, you can now walk down a corridor that leads you through a New York apartment (in pink), a Berlin foyer (in green) and a hallway in Seoul (in cerulean blue). These are the former homes of artist Do Ho Suhand set against the granite columns inside SAAM, they look like an apparition.

These are Do Ho Suh’s fabric sculptures, his Hubs, and the centerpiece of SAAM’s latest exhibition “Do Ho Suh: Almost Home,” which opened on March 16 and is on view through August 5. The exhibition is the most comprehensive Do Ho Suh exhibition on the East Coast and includes work strictly made for the exhibit, according to director Stephanie Stebich.

Specimen from Apartment A, 348 West 22nd Street

Specimen from Apartment A, 348 West 22nd Street

Stebich lays emphasis on the exhibition as being part of a recent initiative at SAAM to feature artists who may not have been born in America, but who SAAM still recognizes. Other artists recently featured at SAAM include Nam June PaikIsamu Noguchi and Rufino Tamayo (whose exhibit was covered here.)

“We are proud to highlight artists who have contributions to the story of American art,” Stebich says. “Often, they are global citizens and have spent an important amount of time during their careers in the United States, and thus we think they impact our art scene and our lives.”

Hubs has drawn the most attention at the exhibit. It’s so large that you can walk through it, and the color of the fabric is arresting. But, it’s not the only art on view. Along the walls of the gallery, there are what Suh terms “specimens,” parts of his other homes rendered in the same style, and his “thread drawings.” Distinguished curator Sarah Newman recounted her first experience with Suh’s work in her remarks.

Seoul Home 1

Seoul Home 1

“I can vividly remember the first time I encountered Do Ho’s fabric architecture works. It was in 2003, and it’s been lodged in my brain ever since. It’s the perfect paradox of form and idea. It was an exquisitely, almost obsessively realized version of the world. But at the same time it was ethereal, almost ghostly to be in its presence.”

Suh’s Hubs and his specimens speaks to an era of globalization, Newman says, and they speak to the experience of longing for an absent home. This is in fact what Suh also says about his work, according to Newman.

Blueprint

Blueprint

“They’re suitcase homes that he can pack up and take anywhere, and they service his desire to live in the presence of places left behind.”

Suh’s “thread drawings” register more like expressionist paintings, only they are thread embedded in cotton, and, for me, the exhibition could fall flat without these. While the specimens are rendered in God-counting-the-hair-on-your-head detail, they can feel clinical (except for maybe the impeccably done toilet seat or the somewhat kinky Seoul Home 1). The thread drawings, however, exhibit Suh’s humor and personality.

Stairwell from Hubs

Stairwell from Hubs

My Homes, for instance, features a series of homes and figures done in a cross-sectional style. Some of homes stand on the head of a figure, while others seem to come out of a figure’s behind. Hubs may be the breezy summer home of my dreams, but My Homes is the one I’d like to take home with me.

“Do Ho Suh: Almost Home” is on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum through August 5. The exhibition is open daily 11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. Free entry.

Smithsonian American Art Museum: F and 8th Streets in NW, DC; 202-633-1000; www.americanart.si.edu

Photo: National Building Museum
Photo: National Building Museum

Building a Story: The Architecture and Design Film Festival Comes to DC

The Architecture and Design Film Festival kicks off on February 22 at the National Building Museum. Founded in 2008 by architect Kyle Bergman, the festival is about more than showcasing beautiful buildings and the architects behind them.

“We look for an interesting and engaging design story as well as a human story; that’s our sweet spot,” Bergman says. “As architects and designers, we talk to ourselves all the time, but film allows that dialogue to go broader and wider.”

Frank Gehry Maggie's Center.

Frank Gehry Maggie’s Center.

That’s certainly true of this year’s lineup. Building Hope: The Maggie’s Centres (2016) is a perfect example of a film with more than one story to tell.

“Was it in essence a film about cancer, or a film about architecture? Obviously, the answer had to be that it was about both,” says the film’s director, Sarah Howitt.

In 1993, a cancer patient named Maggie Jencks was informed that she only had three months left to live and had nowhere to go to process the news but a plastic chair in a hospital corridor. She dedicated the final year of her life to founding care centers for cancer patients that are beautiful, welcoming and comforting – a far cry from that cold hallway.

Howitt worked hard to make sure both the human and design sides of the story were represented:

“Using moving drone and gimbal shots to show the buildings off at their best, and the words of the buildings’ users under some of those shots, helped to strike the balance and bring both strands of the story, literally, under one roof.”

Howitt says making the film changed the way she thought about how architecture affects our daily lives:

“I really had never thought about architectural spaces in such a profound way before, and I’d certainly never been in buildings as special as these ones. ‘Special’ modern architecture for me was always something applied to iconic buildings, not buildings meant for ordinary people just to spend time in, and certainly not on the grounds of a hospital.

She also added some thoughts on how the Centres moved her even as she was filming:

“I still find myself drawn to the Maggie’s Centres. As a filmmaker you often try very hard to be something of a dispassionate observer. Of course, the truth is so much complicated than that. Working with the Maggie’s Centres charity though, you cannot fail to care about the work they do. I hope any viewer will appreciate the work they do and tell others about them.”

Building Hope isn’t alone in its innovative and people-focused approach to telling design stories; Citizen Jane: Battle for the City (2016) is a true David-and-Goliath story about a fight for the soul of New York City itself.

Jane Jacobs was a reporter and the author of seminal book The Death and Life of Great American Cities. The film looks back at her campaign to protect what are now some of New York’s most iconic neighborhoods from power-hungry urban planner and “master builder” Robert Moses, who sought to build a road through the heart of Washington Square Park.

“I saw the book in a bookstore in Greenwich Village, so I bought it and immediately saw why the book has never been out of print since 1961; it makes you see a city differently,” says the film’s director, Matt Tyrnauer. “The power and effect of that book was extraordinary and Jacobs’s activism combined with her brilliance as an observer and chronicler of the city was not well known, so seemed like a ripe subject for a documentary.”

The guiding principle of Jacobs’s book and her community activism was that cities are made by the people who live in them – not bureaucrats.

“Thousands upon thousands of individuals going about their own business come together in this kind of chaotic order to make the city; it’s not the urban planner sitting in their office,” says Tyrnauer. “Cities tend to plan themselves if you let people do it.”

Tyrnauer says we can learn a lot from Jacobs:

“Her activism was very thoughtful and very well-plotted. It took a long time to gain results, but she was dogged and relentless,” he says. “She had several significant successes against an entrenched, egotistical and imperious bureaucrat in Robert Moses, who seemed to be an insurmountable foe before Jacobs came along.” It’s an inspiring story for inarguably turbulent times.

Photo: Alamy

Photo: Alamy

The National Building Museum is an ideal setting for a festival celebrating architecture, but it does present a few challenges: namely, the acoustics in its iconic Great Hall. The essential question for Kyle Bergan (again, the festival director) was:

“How do we show a film there in a good way, because the space is so grand? The solution? Wireless headsets, creating a drive-in movie theater vibe: visitors who haven’t bought tickets can still watch the film without sound, adding a new dimension to the museum experience during the festival. The festival will also feature a lounge where attendees can view short films and even try on a VR headset – seeing a new way to experience the world around us and the buildings where we live, work, and play.”

Bergman says that at the end of the day, the festival is about bringing the untold stories of architecture and design to people who wouldn’t otherwise get to experience them. “It’s not just [about] coming to see the films,” says Bergman. “It’s engaging with people and creating a dialogue.”

The festival runs through February 25. For tickets and showtimes visit: www.nbm.org

National Building Museum: 401 F St. NW, DC; 202-272-2448; www.nbm.org