Which DC Building Would You Demolish?

1400 Block of Irving Street, NW by rockcreek

Far, far away in the small seaside town of Bournemouth, England, residents were asked which building they would like knocked down.  The winner, or loser in this case, was the waterfront leisure complex.  When it opened in 1998, the citizens of Bournemouth (who were found to be the happiest people in Britain) threw a polite fit, claiming that the complex blocked their beloved view of the water.

Councilor Ron Whittaker said, “It has been the biggest talking point in the town for years, and not just among residents but also visitors. It is a hideous and ugly building and whatever happens now it must be demolished so that the glorious views are restored.”

The borough council will spend around £7.5m to raze the complex, giving the residents their view back in what can only be described as a very expensive mistake.  Which brings me to my question.  If you could demolish any building in DC, which one would you choose?

Hailing from the Mile High City, Max has also lived in Tinsel Town, the Emerald City, as well as the City of Brotherly Love. Now a District resident, he likes to write about cool photos by local photographers, the DC restaurant and bar scene, or anything else that pops into his mind.

30 thoughts on “Which DC Building Would You Demolish?

  1. The FBI building. The FBI building. And then the FBI building one more time, just for good measure.

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  3. I totally agree with yatesc. But I also really do not enjoy what I *think* welles is referring to as the FBI building on E street near Metro Center. That thing is fug-ly.

  4. As ugly as those buildings are, my first choice would actually be the vacant office building the Lerners built about a block from Nationals Park. Part of the big selling point for putting the stadium where they put it was the view of the Capitol from the seats, but then they built this big honkin’ office building that blocks that view for most of the seats. And last I checked, it was still vacant.

  5. Unpopular opinion, but I kind of like the FBI building — though I do understand why it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

    As a preservationist (and, in the interest of full disclosure, I work for a preservation org, but speak for me here, not them)I hate talking about demolition. Instead, is there room for a conversation about how to improve the buildings we don’t like?

  6. I’m with Sarah. Even though the FBI is unpopular, by law it needs to be assessed by the General Services Administration to see if they believe it to be significant and eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Everyone can have their own opinion as to whether it’s ugly or not but it really comes down to whether it meets certain criteria.

    Also, between 2006-2008 restoration and rehabilitation of buildings in DC contributed to over 2.5 billion dollars injected into the local economy. That’s nearly 50% of all economic development dollars in the District. So Sarah is right – let’s talk about what buildings can be improved not demolished – it’s the greener way to go!

  7. Of course the question I posed is just for fun. We all know that the DC government doesn’t care what we think.

    If only there were more control over what actually got built, we wouldn’t have thoughts of demolition. Tiffany brings up a good example. Another one that comes to mind is the National Museum of African American History and Culture that is slated to be built a stone’s throw from the Washington Monument. In my opinion, that is sacred ground and should have nothing built on it, and definitely not the ugly monstrosity that was chosen.

    Also, some of the condo buildings being built around town, such as the one at 14th & Florida or the one near the 9:30 Club. I don’t know who approved of those terrible designs.

  8. Max – You can’t blame preservation for either of those. The DC Preservation League was insistent that the NMAAHC be built out at Baneker Circle to overlook the 7th street pier. But we were all over ruled! The leaders of the museum were insistent on being on the National Mall even if it meant to the detriment of the Washington Monument. Be thankful that the building is now only 1/3 of the size originally proposed.

    As for the terrible designs, when a site is not within a historic district, it’s a matter of right project. You don’t have anyone pushing the architects or owners to make these buildings better. Preservation allows for design review and also includes a public process so neighbors can voice their opinions on the design of buildings in their neighborhoods.

  9. I’m not blaming preservation for anything, and that’s good to know about the NMAAHC. It’s really a shame. I have nothing against the organization, just the location of the building.

  10. I’m glad you aren’t blaming preservation.

    So let’s have a poll as to what people’s favorite building in DC is???

    Mine is the Pension Building (National Building Museum)or the East Wing of the National Gallery. Totally different periods of development and architecturally distinct.

  11. Washington Harbour (Georgetown). And UDC.

    I’ll agree the FBI building is miserable. And the ATF HQ is, too. There’s something highly unpleasant about concrete fortresses.

  12. It was a hypothetical question about what your least favorite building is in DC. Nobody’s blaming preservationists for anything, except for possibly getting a chip on their shoulder and assuming we were talking about them. Which we weren’t.

  13. I totally adore the cathedral-esque offices on the VA side of the White House near DAR and the Red Cross. I’m sure that there is a name for them and that I’m exposing my ignorance, but I’m lazy and don’t want to google.

    As for houses, and not office buildings, I have a total house crush on the glass house that overlooks key bridge in Georgetown – you can see it when you’re crossing from Rosslyn to DC – it’s a dark slate grey with a roof deck and gorgeous floor to ceiling windows? WANT.

  14. The gutted and rotting closed-down public market at O & 7th Streets, NW.

    Make more parking for the Giant, or put something else there. It’s an eyesore. :(

  15. Well…it used to be the FBI Building for me. Now, it’s the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Building at Florida and New York Avenues, NW, in Ekington. Spectacularly ugly.

  16. My old apartment building at 3145 Mount Pleasant St that burnt down almost two years ago and is still sitting in its half-destroyed state. It’s a blight on the neighborhood and really half the work was already done by the fire.

  17. APA – you might be pleased that the developer has plans to move forward with a large mixed-use development on that site with underground parking. It will incorporate the new Giant into the facade of the O Street Market, and build new buildings around the sight. Will look similar to a kind of town-center development. So hopefully it won’t sit like that much longer.

  18. The Reeves Center at 14th and U should be torn down immediately. Maybe we could pelt it with snowballs during the next snowpocalypse. The ATF HQ is also godawful.

    Completely disagree with tearing down the MLK library. It’s the only building we have that represents modernist architecture by Mies Van Der Rohe. Instead of tearing it down, the library should be turned into a museum of contemporary art and design. That would be awesome!

  19. I am totally with Philippa & Brendan in surprise that MLK Library was suggested (also, in my opinion, Third Church of Christ). The library certainly could use a sprucing up on the interior, but Washington should embrace the few important works of modernism it has – and encourage more to be built! There are plenty of neoclassical marble slabs to go around as it is.

    As for a building I would like to see not demolished exactly, but more like remodled, I would nominate the Georgetown Mall. Such a huge, prominently-located space with good bones, but could use a facelift to get more traffic to the interior spaces.

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