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Suzane Reatig

Concrete Details: In Defense of Suzane Reatig and Her Modernist Buildings

Reatig may be the most polarizing architect in the District.

Washington City Paper, May 13, 2016

Soon, the first tenants will move into the latest fancy-schmancy apartment building to open in Shaw, the Bailey Flats at 926 N St. NW. The building’s elevation on N Street is unassuming: two four-story bays on either corner flank a recessed central bay with a stack of balconies above the main door. The facade is (what else?) gray, with one bright note—the green of the balcony railings.

Walk around the corner onto Blagden Alley, though, and the building bursts into color. Stripes of brick in marigold, blue, and eggplant run down the wall into the alley. The bricks are actually tiles, part of a modern rainscreen hung on the building; both the component, made in Europe, and its bold color scheme are unusual to see in D.C.

Already, just from reading this, some District residents will know who designed the Bailey Flats. The architect’s name is Suzane Reatig, her buildings stand out, and they are not universally beloved. In fact, some people really, really hate them. When an early version of this design was published on local blogs in 2012, commenters called it “awful,” “hideous,” “non-contextual,” and that old D.C. chestnut: “too tall.” After the brick rainscreen went up last fall, PoPville readers were divided; their comments ranged from “Beautiful!” to “institutional looking.”

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Photograph by Darrow Montgomery