La Casa Review

Concrete Details: La Casa in Columbia Heights Is a Rare Aesthetic and Policy Success 

Washington City Paper, Oct. 15, 2015

The best building that’s gone up in the District in recent months isn’t a swish law office or a deluxe condo tower—although you might easily mistake it for either of those things, with its double-height lobby and artfully layered facade.

La Casa, which reopened on Irving Street in Columbia Heights in December 2014, is housing for homeless residents. Not only that, but its 40 residents were chosen from the most vulnerable segment of the homeless population. Most of them lived on the streets for years, and many still grapple with substance abuse or mental health problems.

You would never know it from looking at their new home. And that’s the point.

Full story

Photograph by Darrow Montgomery

Why D.C. Teaches Kids to Bike

Why D.C. Wants to Teach Every Kid How to Ride a Bike

Starting this fall, all second graders in D.C. public schools will learn to ride in PE class.

CityLab, Sept. 1, 2015

Before the start of the new school year in Washington, D.C., as families were buying supplies and teachers were drafting their lesson plans, Miriam Kenyon was spending her days in a warehouse in the city’s Northeast quadrant, surrounded by bikes.

She and a group of volunteers were building them: Diamondback Vipers and Mini Vipers, 16- and 20-inch kids’ models. “They’re BMX bikes, so they’re really sturdy and they’re made for multiple uses,” explains Kenyon, the director of health and physical education at District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS).

All the bikes in the warehouse—a huge fleet numbering 475—had to be ready by the time the first bell rang on August 24. Once assembled, they were divvied up and shipped to elementary schools for a novel educational experiment.

Full story



Balls to the Walls: Snarkitecture Creates Gigantic Ball Pit in National Building Museum

Architectural Record, July 7, 2015

New Yorkers can take the subway to Coney Island and Angelenos can cool off in Venice or Santa Monica, but Washingtonians are out of luck if they want to hit the beach—the shore is a three-hour drive away.

Alex Mustonen and Daniel Arsham, partners of the New York design studio Snarkitecture, thought that Washington, D.C. could use a beach of its own. So they created one inside the National Building Museum, filling a giant pit with almost a million plastic balls that visitors can float on or swim through.

Full story

Photograph by Noah Kalina

Filthy Lucre

Bird of Prey: A Macabre Twist on James McNeill Whistler’s Peacock Room

Architectural Record, May 18, 2015

Painted by James McNeill Whistler in the 1870s, the Peacock Room, on display in the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., is one of the most celebrated interiors in history. Decorations in teal and gold swirl over every surface—even the ceiling and shutters.

Now, in a twist worthy of The Picture of Dorian Gray, the Peacock Room has acquired a doppelganger. New York-based artist Darren Waterston has made a full-scale, warped replica of Whistler’s masterpiece, with broken shelves, smashed pottery, and gold paint pooled on the floor. This dark homage, called “Filthy Lucre,” is the heart of a larger exhibition called Peacock Room REMIX, on view through November 2016 in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of Art—next door to the Freer and steps away from the room that inspired it.

Full story

College Park, College Town?

The Plan to Make College Park a College Town

Washingtonian, March 2015

US Route 1 inside the Beltway in Maryland is no crummier than the turnpikes outside Amherst, Massachusetts; Bloomington, Indiana; or any other town that hosts a major state university. A traveler headed south through College Park takes in a view of Taco Bell, Burger King, and Pizza Hut; some insalubrious-looking hotels; and the Great Southern Tattoo Co.

Keep driving toward Amherst or Bloomington, though, and you’ll bump into a historic square ringed with cute bookstores, ice-cream parlors, and funky coffee shops, with leafy lanes leading to quiet, professorial neighborhoods. Route 1, by contrast, defines College Park. About the best you can do by way of downtown charm is Ratsie’s, a beloved pizzeria and gyro joint that, unfortunately, is liable to be dismantled by students in the event of a big Terrapins basketball win, as happened in 2002. A cosmopolitan hangout it is not.

Full story