In the future there may be an effort to preserve Suzane Reatig buildings

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That's my logical conclusion and the thought just makes me want to cry.

Think about it, she and the United House of Prayer (UHOP) have plopped a bunch of her architectural firm's stuff all over Shaw and she is a female architect, a rarity apparently. And because she is such a rare bird it would make sense that in the future (provided we haven't been overrun by aliens or zombies or blown ourselves up) that the portfolio of her work (ie the crappy looking UHOP buildings) 'must' be protected by some do gooder historic group. Because our present is someone else's past.

I work in a history profession that in it's early days spent a lot of time gathering up old papers. These things proved their worthiness to be preserved and saved by manuscript curators because they lasted so long already. Then in the early-mid* 20th century, it occured to people to appraise the old thing and ask if it worth keeping, even if it is old. But sometimes appraisal isn't really picky. I mention this because I'm convinced that those over in architectural history aren't particularly picky either and because of the gender and prolific nature, those multicolored blocks are sure to wind up on some preservation list.

The CCCA prez mentioned that the Reatig firm is set to design another UHOP structure at 926 N St NW. Let's not forget she has at least 3 other UHOP buildings (600 blk S St, 1700 blk 7th and another one near Mt. Vernon Sq) that have been thrown up in Shaw in the past couple of years with another one on Rhode Island Avenue in the process of getting built. UHOP owns a fair amount of property around Shaw so it can be a matter of time before some more Reatig buildings rise up.

So someone please tell me this conclusion is wrong and why. Explain how some preservationist 50 to 70 years in the future won't be fighting to save those quaint, then "historic" Reatig Shaw buildings? And if someone from that far in the future reads this, knock them down when you can. I don't care if the world leader or a dozen Nobel prize winners were raised there or they represent something you hold dear, bring in the demolition crew.

 

*My copy of The Modern Archives Reader has apparently grown legs and walked off, so I'm stuck with another archival management book that doesn't even touch records appraisal. So I'm unsure of dates and going with what I can remember from my History of Archives and Libraries class I took a decade ago.

12 Comments

There are a number of reasons why you are wrong.

Also working in a "history profession", I have witnessed and researched the destruction of numerous historic structures because certain groups of people no longer found them attractive. For example, the Old Post Office Pavilion was going to be demolished less than 15 years after it was completed, due to the fact that by 1910 Romanesque architecture had fallen out of style. What a shame it would have been to have lost that iconic DC building. Different architectural styles, whether you like them or not, create the texture of the city in which we live.

Also consider the fact that the United House of Prayer is providing affordable housing to members of your community. The architecture firm used to design these properties is producing fairly successful modern structures using affordable building materials. Not every lot in Shaw needs to be purchased by a realty company so they can install stainless appliances and granite counter tops and sell the properties at a premium. If you want strict building codes and a sanitized neighborhood, the suburbs of MD or VA may be more appropriate.

The preservation of historic buildings is less about preserving an idea of what you as an individual like but more about what we actually are as a community, good or bad.

Yes, let's preserve what we "are as a community, good or bad." Especially the bad. Obviously we want to preserve the bad forever, I mean what rational person would want to get rid of the bad.

I applaud her for trying to provide modern design at a lower price, but they're built so cheaply. These buildings look dated and run down before the first person moves in. I wish Shaw was more strict on keeping the historic fronts and not throwing up such junk.

Travis, can you explain what you mean by cheaply? I've heard that comment used before to describe her work, but I rarely understand why or how that would be an appropriate descriptor.

Those buildings will age so badly and will crumble down so fast-that there will not be any danger that some deranged future preservationist can become enamored of them.

Wasn't that Modern Archives Reader published almost 30 years ago? So I guess under its own dogma, that reader should be thrown out too.

Double A - Ron,
When I say cheap, I mean don't think cinder block is a good alternative building material. It looks cheap, like a prison. You can have modern design and use a material in a different way to get the desired affect. Plus, I've noticed around the windows that they have black streaks coming from the corners. Not really sure what would cause that, except cheap material. Note, I've never been inside one of these properties, so I can comment on the interior finishes.

The black streaking is from dirt on sills running off in the rain (weathering) you can see this on stone Art Deco buildings too. The aluminum store front window systems are by no means cheap, are very durable, and have glass that is much more energy efficient than your standard window (double pane, low-e coated). The blocks aren't cinder (which is cheap), but manufactured stone. Not all her buildings use those either.

I understand if someone doesn't like the aesthetic (to each their own), but in terms of material and construction they are of very good quality. I only asked because another blog had a commenter that said something to the effect of her buildings are cheaply built and wood framed (which isn't true).

Can someone please show me a Susan Reatig building that doesn't look like she gets her inspiration from Lego brick models? RenewShaw suggested that HPRB indicates that this is just a massing model, but I have my doubts about what Reatig has the potential to design.

Judging from examples and the mission statement on her own web site (and the underwhelming web site intself) [ "Simplicity -- Search for the most obvious, clear and simple solution. Simplicity aims at modesty, reduction, unity of material and in the organization of function. Try to make the simplest the best." ] it does't look like she's the least bit interested in creating beautiful architecture. People put more thought into the design of Habitrails.

Between Reatig and Beverly Bakeir (and her crumbling 509 O Street NW nightmare), I wish we had more women architects capable of building beautiful buildings and women property owners who cared enough about the community to take care of their homes.

I'm confused what kind of community is can play an important role in historial structure preservation?

{Note: This comment came from China, so the URL has been removed}

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