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Dupont Circle Building

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1931, Mihran Mesrobian. 1346 Connecticut Ave. NW
  • Dupont Circle Building

A triumph of design over scale, form, and materials characterizes Mesrobian's Dupont Circle Building. An early office building in the area, this structure is a long, tall, thin wedge that rises twelve stories and extends for half a block, yet its size and shape are modulated by the complex changing grid of the ornamental pattern Mesrobian devised to tame them. Within the confines of a regular window placement, Mesrobian avoided both monotony and anonymity by creating varied spatial fields in five distinct horizontal and ten alternating vertical zones. He used limestone (in conjunction with a soft variegated pink brick) as a structural material for vestigial pilasters and friezes, both plain and decorated, with low-relief sculpture. The limestone has been so widely distributed over the facades and projects so slightly from the brick wall surfaces that both surfaces seem to be only light sheathing materials, which they essentially are. The lowest horizontal layer is two stories of limestone with shop fronts at the ground level. In the next five Mesrobian arranged the pilasters to divide the long facades vertically into groups of four bays, imitating the rhythm and appearance of alternating bay windows, although they do not project from the walls. In the third two-story layer the architect changes the rhythm from units of four to five with intermittent hieratic female figures carved in low relief. In the next two floors, narrow limestone pilasters separate each bay, with wide ones occurring every five bays to maintain the new rhythm established below. The top floor is recessed, and a penthouse tower emerges from the center of the building. All of the ornament is Mesopotamian in origin, perhaps Mesrobian's statement about his own origins and history. Of Armenian origin, he was born in Turkey and educated at the Academy of Fine Arts in Istanbul. He emigrated to America at age thirty-two in 1921, becoming chief architect to Washington developer Harry Wardman.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee
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Citation

Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee, "Dupont Circle Building", [Washington, District of Columbia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/DC-01-DU01.

Print Source

Buildings of the District of Columbia, Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 319-320.

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