801 17th Street in Washington, D.C.
The east and west sides of Lafayette Park, as well as St. John's Church ("The President's Church") and Decatur House, are mostly low scale late 18th structures and 19th century row houses. Almost all of these buildings are owned by the federal government. Along the north side and east side of streets facing Lafayette Park are a sprinkling of early 20th century classical columnated facade buildings.
A block farther from the White House, there are the distinguished Beaux Arts Corcoran of Art Gallery by Ernest Flagg and the Metropolitan Club by Heins and LaFarge.
Most of the other buildings along 17th Street and this section of downtown Washington are undistinguished mid to late 20th century, representing the diluted version of corporate office buildings erected in other US cities.
Washington, D.C. and its real estate sector were considered recession-proof, but even this "Trophy" building, boasting of a distinguished architect, proximity to the White House, and elite sustainability status, is only at 90 percent rented.
Sean Cahill, LEED AP, PGP's vice president of development, cited the great success they had with Roche's first project for PGP, Station Place (consisting of three buildings), adjacent to Union Station, his timeless design, their good working relationship, and the tight and thorough drawings Mr. Roche's firm produces. These other buildings by Roche for PGP also are LEED certified. Building 3 at Station Place is Silver and 1101 New York Avenue, N.W., is Gold.
The bold concave glass facade of Station Place seems to allude to voids of the Beaux Arts arcade of Daniel BurnhamÕs adjacent Union Station. At 1101 New York Avenue and at 801 17th Street, he emphasized the carefully worked out proportions of the glass facades.
And at 801 17th Street, he took it one step farther, with the clear glass, carving out corner offices and an occasional balcony. He has created the office building as theater.
Walking along or even driving by the building, the viewer is given a variety of scenes of people sitting at their desks or at conference tables in the perimeter offices along H and 17th Streets. From the street one can see one tall, thin lawyer, standing at his elevatedl desk, working while he looks southwest towards the Metropolitan Club and Corcoran.
The building is a polygon with the narrowest side along the north of the building and the rear ( east) side widening in a southeast direction for approximately 40 percent of the length of the rear. The rear of the building then runs parallel to 17th Street facade until it reaches the sidewalk on H Street. The alley runs the length of the north and east sides of the building, and provides truck access to the rear loading dock. The three-level below ground parking garage entrance is on H. Street.
The building lacks the depth for the long,tall elevator lobby common to recent Washington, DC office buildings. Instead, Roche has a two-story foyer running perpendicular to the short elevator lobby. As second floor elevator lobby is open, it creates the impression that the elevator lobby is two stories tall like foyer and both have mirrored mylar ceilings. His design of the core of elevators (and stairs) is not only efficient, but appears large and open
801 17th Street was evaluated under the United States Green Building Council's (www.usgbc.org) 2006 rating system, with a certified building being 23 to 27 points, Silver 28 to 33 points, Gold 34 to 44, and Platinum 45 or more. The building received the maximum 61 points.
Under the LEED sustainable sites category, PGP scored for reusing an existing site and for being in close proximity to subway stations,bus stops, and several public buildings. Alan Kaden, co-manager of the Washington office of Fried Frank, a law firm and the largest tenant in the building, said his commute is fifteen minutes shorter than it was to the former office on Pennsylvania Avenue. He also said that more young lawyers were riding buses or bikes to work. There is on-site bicycle storage and showers, as well as reserved parking for energy efficient cars.
Much of the roof is covered in drought resistant vegetation.
The exterior lighting is limited and takes advantage of existing street lighting.
Iris Amdur, LEED AP, who consulted on the LEED application, also prepared sustainability guidelines for the tenants. Fried Frank has LEED Silver for its interiors, designed by Gensler. And three other tenants have applied for LEED certification.
Architecturally and in terms of sustainability, the most notable feature of the building is the uninterrupted transparent glass facades. According to Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates "Clear 'water white', low-e coated, structurally-glazed 5 feet wide glass panels span uninterrupted from floor to floor. Cantilevered, post-tensioned concrete structure designed by Tadjer-Cohen-Edelson allows both street facades to be column-free for their entire length."
Not only does the natural lighting flowing into the windows reduce dependency of artificial light, but it creates openness and great views in the offices along 17th and H Streets. Kevin Roche's facade treatment of inverted ziggurats drastically increases the number of corner offices, with views towards the National Mall and Lafayette Park.
Fried Frank and Gensler gave the best views towards Lafayette Park and the White House, from the southeast corner of their four floors to conference rooms rather than partners' offices. But the very best view of the Park and White House is from the rooftop terrace, open to all tenants.
Gensler continued the themes of light filled spaces and transparency, created by Roche's glass facades, into the spaces designed for Fried Frank. The lawyers' offices along the perimeter have frosted glass doors and walls with narrow, horizontal strips of clear glass, preserving privacy without isolating the lawyers and staff from each other.
Kaden commented how much better this open design reflected the team practice approach of firm, than the traditional office layout of its previous building did. Even in the Fried Frank cafeteria which looks out on a narrow alley and building only about 15 feet away, Gensler used diaphanous curtains to let the light in, but soften the building facade across the alley.
These curtains can also be opened and closed. The metal screens on the rest of the windows of Fried Frank lower and raise automatically throughout the day to the position of the sun, and can be manually overrode.
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