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Canal Square

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1970, Arthur Cotton Moore. 31st and M streets NW
  • Canal Square (Arthur Cotton Moore Associates)

A pioneering example of the adaptive use of an old, spacious warehouse structure, Canal Square served as a model for similar structures in the nation's worn out industrial centers. New construction also wove the old into the new in a compatible fabric. At completion, it was the largest building effort in Georgetown since early in the century.

Canal Square is barely visible from M or 31st streets, although access is announced with marked passageways. The project is best seen from the interior of the block. Here a plaza serves as the centerpiece for the warehouse at one side and for the new building that encircles the rest of the site. Shops and restaurants are housed on the lower floors, with offices above. Walkways provide easy pedestrian access to the shops; elevator towers serve the offices. The new section of the complex displays glass ribbons of windows and red brick walls.

Moore's treatment of the warehouse, the first of his contextual projects in Georgetown, established an approach to adaptive use that, while efficient, popular, and profitable, robbed the historic structure of its characteristic detail. In a number of cases, including this one, historic buildings were shorn of untidy and hard-to-maintain details, cleaned up, and presented as viable alternatives to modern buildings.

Writing Credits

Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee


What's Nearby


Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee, "Canal Square", [Washington, District of Columbia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of the District of Columbia, Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 403-403.

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