EARLY 2019



901 New York Avenue NW is a classic Postmodern Class-A office building in downtown Washington DC. Its coveted location on a triangular corner site a mere three blocks from the White House is highly visible and well-positioned for professional services companies. Though a relatively new building, the main entrance on New York Avenue lacks critical street presence because it is deeply recessed and finished in flat monochromatic materials. Boston Properties hired us to increase visibility and building recognition and enliven the entry experience for visitors and tenants. We created a twofold solution by updating the finishes, lights, signage, and material envelope of the space, complemented by a new signature hanging artwork that will help anchor the space and give it a distinguished signature.

We realized from our extensive experience working with other public buildings that often the most effective and
powerful design solutions are the result of minimal yet bold changes. One of the main impediments to the visibility and approachability of the entrance was the low-hanging metal signage feature which created a visual barrier into the entrance portico. We are simplifying and raising this feature to allow greater visibility and light into the space. In addition, we are replacing the dated stair design with a streamlined, monolithic stone stair with recessed accent
lighting in the treads and elegant new handrails, thus transforming the stair into a handsome architectural feature that feels updated and coherently blends with the rest of the building design.

Reconfiguring the shape of the stair allowed
us room to add two large benches on either side as a respite area for visitors and tenants. We replaced the lackluster paving with custom granite pavers cut in a diagonal triangular pattern, thereby visually reconciling the orientation of the building geometry with the angle of the sidewalk. The subtle two-colored paving pattern differentiates itself from the sidewalk paving and catches the attention of passersby and directs it into the portico. The finishing touches are strategic lighting improvements that showcase the entry portico to its full advantage at night.

Using these architectural improvements as a backdrop, we designed a new sculpture to generate a focal point in this previously empty void and help complete a space that appeared unfinished. We searched for historical inspiration and found it in Washington D.C.’s famous cherry trees. “Blossom” is a suspended aluminum sculpture derived from the silhouette and layered transparency of cherry tree blossoms. The sculpture’s organic form, texture, and color create a distinct building identity that animates the entry space, resulting in a beautiful focal element that changes in opacity and texture as passersby move around the piece. 901 New York Avenue NW is the successful result of strategic, selective improvements that gives an austere entry a
unique identity and powerful competitive edge in today’s market.