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Embassy of Pakistan (F. B. Moran Residence)

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F. B. Moran Residence
1909, George Oakley Totten, Jr. 2315 Massachusetts Ave. NW
  • Embassy of Pakistan (F. B. Moran Residence)

Totten's response to the triangular sites created by the grid of streets crossing Massachusetts Avenue on the north of Sheridan Circle was to create circular elements as pivots around which rectilinear facades (and interior rooms) are disposed. The Moran house's corner tower makes an effective transition between the comparative level of Massachusetts Avenue and the steep incline of Decatur Street. Its physical separation from each of its lateral facades is achieved both by deep undercutting as it adjoins them and by the quoins that define the edges of each of them. Sculpture on the tower, in the form of sunken reliefs (female figures carrying water urns reminiscent of Jean Goujon's sculpture on the Renaissance Fountain of the Innocents in Paris), garlanded oval and rectangular frames containing marble slabs, and richly decorated window surrounds, is confined to the two major stories.

The focus of the Massachusetts Avenue facade is a two-story, tripartite window composition framed by double Corinthian pilasters, which in turn are flanked by relief panels of additional urn carriers that float on blank walls beneath wide double windows. The tertiary facade facing Decatur Street is enlivened by a dramatic, countersunk, two-story bay window with a copper dome framed by a bold arch that breaks the entablature line. These three disparate facades are held together by two strong horizontals that anchor the building to its site, a simply treated rusticated basement and an unusually deep and plain entablature. Separate high mansard roofs also help define each facade's composition.

The major source of inspiration for the Moran house was the Château of Chantilly, a palimpsest of numerous building campaigns and thus itself implicitly eclectic. The direct relationship between the exterior disposition of elements and the interior plan was a major intellectual tenet of the Beaux-Arts system of design that Totten fully exploited at the Moran house. Its massing predicates round and rectilinear rooms; its window clusters indicate the relative size and importance of rooms they light. Totten often explored the possibilities of asymmetrical, picturesque compositions and eclectic mixtures of French-inspired details: the Moran house is one of his most successful essays. The lower, copper-faced conservatory, which links the Moran house to its neighbor, the Fahnestock house, was part of Totten's original design.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee
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Citation

Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee, "Embassy of Pakistan (F. B. Moran Residence)", [Washington, District of Columbia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/DC-01-SK21.

Print Source

Buildings of the District of Columbia, Pamela Scott and Antoinette J. Lee. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 347-348.

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