Landworks Studio has recently completed work on Square 673, a fourteen-story, one thousand unit apartment building—also known as First & M Condominiums because of its location at the crossroads of First Street and M Street in Washington DC. The project relies upon the idea of absolute connectivity to unite outdoor and indoor spaces throughout the ground floor of the complex, whose landscape spaces include an interior courtyard, program-rich roof gardens, an entrance court, and streetscape for three sides of the new buildings. To further supplement the idea of connectivity, the client requested a landscape of a baroque character with rich materiality and an undulating formal language that could easily transfer into an interior topography.
Working closely with Studios Architecture and Archstone, Landworks Studio devised an integrated series of indoor-outdoor spaces that utilize a carefully calibrated sculptural weave as the mechanism for providing multimedia program and varied experiential qualities. As an organizing device, this weave takes the form of interlocking, continuous spline curves that, appearing and disappearing, deform to become seating, water features, planting beds, retaining walls, and media screens. The resulting spaces have been precisely scaled to facilitate uses such as media screen viewing, inward facing seating for group conversation, and outward-facing seating for people watching. In contrast, when these unique spaces are viewed from a distance—such as from the upper story residential units—they visually compress to provide an iconic identity for the project.
The sinuous lines of the Square 673 courtyard act as an armature that guides visitors through sequential outdoor lounge areas, or ‘living rooms’ at different scales. Rather than sequencing these spaces in a linear manner, the circuitous organization of the armature ensures that visitors experience views and activities that are constantly changing as they move through the space.
Materially, the armature takes the form of heat-formed white acrylic benches—fabricated by CAPCO—that glow from within to provide ambient lighting to the courtyard. These benches double as retaining walls that structure an undulating topography comprised of richly vegetated mounds punctuated by Hophornbeams and American Hornbeams. To serve as counterpoint to the curves of the benches and landforms, a wide linear watercourse flows from the front lobby, weaving through the first courtyard in an interplay with the pixelated groundplane paving. This watercourse introduces dynamic sensory phenomena: the white noise—and cooling effect—of falling water, as well as the spectacular effects of sunlight reflecting off the water’s surface.
In an example of the connectivity that guides the project, the bench armatures penetrate the building walls to define interior gathering and program spaces in the indoor public spaces just as they do in the exterior courtyard. This is the result of an excellent working relationship between Landworks Studio, Studios Architecture, and the client, who worked to seamlessly blend disciplines—this has yielded some unexpected ideas and helped attain a complex blurring of interior and exterior spaces along the ground floor. In another example of disciplinary integration, the courtyard creatively interprets the expression of massive vents to the three-level underground parking garage that lies below. By cladding them with dynamic materials such as wild vegetation, lights inspired by the artist Dan Flavin, and an interactive stainless steel “mediamesh” that projects images and colors across its surface, the eighteen-foot tall vents become artistic installations rather than dreary mechanical structures.
CAPTIONS (Top to Bottom)
Nighttime aerial view of completed courtyard (Credit: Jim Sullivan/CAPCO)
Rendered view of acrylic benches (Credit: CAPCO)
Panoramic view of concrete walls
Detail section of bench construction
Rendered view of courtyard (Credit: Josh Katz)
View of bench assembly on site
Collaborators: STUDIOS Architecture, Davis Carter Scott, Paradigm Construction
Consultants: CAPCO – Capital Plastics Company (Bench Fabricator/Rendering), WESCO Fountains Inc. (Fountain Consultant), Art Display Company (Bench Lighting Consultant), Josh Katz (Digital Rendering)
Josh Katz Renderings
Project Location: Washington, DC
Project Size: 9,000 SF
Status: Completed 2012