By Chris Winnike, Rachel Sposa, Philippe Jentsch & Michael Foster (MTFA Architecture)
Washington, DC is well known as a classical concrete town. From historic stone government buildings to modern concrete offices and apartments, Washington is planned with height restrictions limiting redevelopment. The urban renaissance over the past decade has caused severe housing shortages and forced many non-profit, cultural and faith based institutions to close or move to the suburbs.
Located along the historic barracks row, The Navy Yard Car Barn was built in the late 1800’s and is one four surviving streetcar service barns in Washington DC. This beautiful historic building sits at a prime location at the culmination of two lively commercial corridors, between two Metro transit stops, just outside of the historic Navy Yard.
A full city block, this masonry and concrete structure is part of a historic district with distinguished characteristics that must be preserved, restricting any alteration of the exterior façade or expansion of the footprint. Economics for preservation exceed the market viability of the existing space, thus it has sat underutilized for decades. Many attempts to revitalize the structure have failed or have been abandoned.
National Community Church searched the city for an appropriate site to accommodate a new 2,000 seat auditorium to serve their vibrant urban ministry on Capitol Hill. The church has a unique vision emphasizing “ministry in the marketplace” vs. a “secluded church”. This congregation’s core philosophy involves actively participating in daily urban life with all people and engaging the public in music, commerce and service to the community where they live.
When this site was identified as nearly 70,000 sf for a concrete pad site, elevated 20’ above the ground in a vibrant urban location, an idea for the extreme mixed-use complex was borne. To preserve the historic structure, a light weight structural system had to be utilized. Using laminated wood trusses and beams to span the 200’ auditorium, along with fire rated wood frame construction over the existing concrete podium for five levels of flats and community spaces, made this vertical extension of the historic building a design solution that unlocked the site after many years of decay.
Designed to complement the historic building the new space is set back from the intricately detailed east façade and lifted to float elegantly above the heavy west facade. The diverse programs take advantage of the large footprint with retail, restaurants and service commercial at street level, allowing dark internal spaces such as the large auditorium, backstage, and production studios to be elevated above the concrete podium and located in the center. Light filled mixed-income apartments, classrooms, offices and community spaces wrap the perimeter.
The wood structure allows added area to be accommodated on the roof expressing both the long spans and elevated apartment flats. The exterior façade expression is composed of rhythmic vertical slats over glass, spaced to allow exterior light and view while screening the units from solar gain. The variation of spacing recalls the movement and transit heritage of the building while offering a combination of views and privacy.