Van Ness Station is one of Washington's earliest mixed-use office and retail complexes to break away from both the modernist box and monochromatic surfaces. It is composed of two masses, the lower stepped one joining a seven-story office block at a slight angle to form a wedge-shaped plaza-cum-sidewalk. This juxtaposition is a response to the open space in front of the adjacent University of the District of Columbia buildings and provides an entry for a Metro stop. Hartman-Cox won a Metro-sponsored competition for the complex because their building's faceted massing organized around an interior court met the client's space needs and was inexpensive as well as elegant. The cladding is brick, predominantly buff colored, interwoven with thin red stripes spaced and located vis-à-vis deep openings and planar strip windows in order to recall colorful early twentieth-century buildings by the Viennese architect Otto Wagner. Concurrently the architects referred to the colors (and even faceting) of earlier large-scale Connecticut Avenue buildings (see The Broadmoor, NW22) built of brick with buff limestone trim. Hartman-Cox reversed the tonal values reinforcing the red brick detailing with window frames painted to match. More significantly, they explored the relationship between decoration and structure—the way in which linear patterns de-materialize volumes perhaps even more effectively than glass.
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Van Ness Station
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