Archive for July, 2010

Crystal Castle

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

At $830 per square foot, this LEED-Gold office tower designed by Helmut Jahn is the second most expensive piece of commercial real estate ever to be sold in Washington DC.  Located at 1999 K Street, the building may seem underwhelming at a distance.  However the uniquely expressed curtain wall is a cleanly detailed system that delivers a completely original experience.  Each curtain panel is buttressed by a vertical fin of glass projecting from the flat surface of the building.  The functional directive of the fins is to provide wind-load support, but their sculptural quality is what makes them so exciting.  From a vantage point on the adjacent sidewalk, the fins create a mosaic effect of angular geometric transparency.   The result is very subtle, and likely missed by the majority of passers by.  But it is exactly this understated simplicity that leads to a profoundly graceful power.  The close-up photos of the wall are worth clicking on.  The lobby at night is also a vivid space.

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Tectonic Botany

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum at the US National Arboretum on New York Avenue in North East DC  houses an impressive collection of specimens, some over 350 years old.   Almost any tree can be made into a bonsai and there are wide variety of species on display.   These miniaturized plants represent a profound control of the human hand over nature and they are surprisingly robust for their delicate size.  Many of the trees do require meticulous care from time to time, but generally they live outdoors fully among the elements.   Beyond the Bonsai exhibit, the huge arboretum offers a great deal of natural and landscaped beauty and makes for a terrific bike ride.

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