Traditional Building Portfolio
Palladio Awards

Project: The Kennedy-Warren, Washington, DC

Architect: Hartman-Cox Architects LLP, Washington, DC; Warren J. Cox, FAIA, partner; Graham Davidson, FAIA, partner-in-charge

Contractor: Clark Construction Group, LLC, Bethesda, MD

 

 

Awards
Multi-Unit

Winner: Hartman-Cox Architects LLP

Then and Now

By Hadiya Strasberg

Washington, DC, architect Joseph Younger (1892-1932) is known for a number of prominent residential, hospitality and ecclesiastical projects in the region, the Art Deco-style Kennedy-Warren apartment building among them. Construction of the original Kennedy-Warren began in 1929, but was halted in the fallout from the Great Depression. In 1931, with only the entry tower and north wing finished, the mortgage holder, B.F. Saul Property Co. of Bethesda, MD, took over from bankrupt owners Edgar Kennedy and Monroe Warren Sr. In 1935, an addition to the back of the east side of the building – one that may or may not have been in Younger’s scheme – was constructed. Now, with the addition of the south wing more than 75 years after original construction began, The Kennedy-Warren is finished according to Younger’s plans.

Another Washington, DC-based firm, Hartman-Cox Architects LLP, oversaw the $48.5-million, 300,000-sq.ft. addition. "In the late 1980s, a cache of Younger’s drawings were discovered and the owner decided to complete the building," says Warren J. Cox, FAIA, principal of Hartman-Cox.

One of "the premiere luxury apartment buildings in the DC area," as Cox describes it, The Kennedy-Warren is located on Connecticut Avenue just north of the forested National Zoological Park and overlooks Rock Creek Park. It has been a District of Columbia Historic Landmark building since 1989 and on the National Register of Historic Places since 1994.

Because of the building’s landmark status, as well as local zoning regulations and initial neighborhood opposition, construction of the new south wing was stalled for several years. "There was a long and difficult series of zoning hearings," says Cox, "because the addition was not a matter of right under DC zoning laws." Eventually, with the backing of the zoo and other review boards, B.F. Saul and Hartman-Cox persevered. To satisfy local residents, the firm also agreed to add considerably more parking than one of its first plans called for.

When construction commenced in 2002, the firm added the missing wing and refurbished some of the exterior elements on the historic wing. A number of the interior spaces, primarily the main lobby, lounges and adjacent promenades, were also restored.

The architects had some of Younger’s original drawings to guide them, but they were primarily perspectives. "There were also some construction documents, but not enough to guide the whole process," says Cox. "We changed the structural system and so needed to make our own measured drawings. It was harder to detail and work out than if we were designing a completely new building."

For the most part, the new south wing follows Younger’s plans. The two façades that can be viewed from Connecticut Avenue were designed according to his drawings. Those façades facing parkland instead of the street, however, do not replicate the original design. "They were modified slightly to accommodate the design of the units," explains Cox. This included the addition of cast-stone balconies, which are sympathetic to the building design.

When designing the new wing, Hartman-Cox used the same detailing and many of the same materials found in the north wing. "We agreed with the owner and review boards that the addition should continue the style, detailing and materials of the historic structure," says Cox.

The original Kennedy-Warren was the first building in the region to feature aluminum trim on both the interior and exterior. The original interior cast-aluminum cornices and exterior trim, decorative paneling and porte-cochere were manufactured by Alcoa Inc. This time around, the 46 new spandrel panels and other replicated aluminum elements were fabricated by Boose Aluminum Foundry, Inc., in Reamstown, PA. For improved aging and maintenance, the spandrels were painted with contemporary coatings. The old aluminum work was refurbished.

The façade also features belt courses and detailing in dimensional and carved Indiana buff limestone. As needed, elements of the existing sections of the building were used as templates for the detailing and decoration of the new wing. "This gave us an appearance to try to match," says Cox. After extensive measurements, photographs and cast-in-place molds were taken, the stonework was replicated. "The detailing of the new addition looks identical to that of the original building," says Cox.

In some cases, the original materials were no longer available. This was the case for the brick. "The historic production method of firing in beehive kilns is no longer commercially viable or environmentally sanctioned," says Cox, "so we chose a custom blend of standard-, modular- and custom-shaped brick [from The Belden Brick Company]. It is subtly different than the brick of the 1930s building, but it pays homage."

The new wing adds 114 luxury rental apartments to the existing 317. "In its time, it was a monumentally scaled modern building," says Cox. Today, the Kennedy-Warren retains that stature and extravagance: all of the apartments are studios or one- or two-bedrooms, though more of the apartments in the south wing are larger, more luxurious and have more modern amenities. Apartments in both wings have hardwood floors, 9-ft. ceilings and large double-hung windows.

Like the exterior, the interior is designed in what Cox calls an "Aztec Art Deco" style. "There are pre-Columbian Mexican motifs," he says, "and the color scheme is silver and green." Hartman-Cox stayed true to original design and finishes in its restoration of the common spaces, which include the double-height lobby, mezzanine, corridors, dining room and resident lounges. Some of the original finishes in these rooms had been lost over time; years ago, the walls and ceilings had been painted off-white, and the carpeting and lighting in the lobby had been replaced.

"We wanted to re-create the ambience and luxuriousness of these spaces," says Cox. To aid the project, Hartman-Cox had a limited number of original drawings and a few historic photographs. "An on-site paint and materials analysis was also conducted," Cox says, "to document the original work and to develop guidelines for the new finishes." The restored rooms are now decorated with wood-grained walls, marble agglomerate, silver leaf and stenciled designs. The unique decorative aluminum trim and railings were also restored, and the chandeliers, sconces and carpet were chosen to match.

The south wing added new amenities for all of the residents. A health club was incorporated into the basement and a 96,200-sq.ft., three-level parking garage was built underground.

Mechanical and life-safety upgrades were performed in the historic building and integrated with the other work in the new wing. In the historic wing, a forced, natural-air cooling system that was original to the building and the first in the United States, is used. Cox explains how it operates: "Several metal fans in the subbasement pull cool air from the park into the building." As an alternative, in the new building, individually controlled air conditioning and heating systems were installed.

Chapel Valley Landscape Company, which has offices in Virginia and Maryland, slightly restyled the courtyard, restoring Younger’s four curved planting strips ringed by a circular drive. New Porphyry and flagstone paving was laid and a central fountain that had been proposed in the 1930s was fabricated.

The courtyard and drive, the construction of the south wing and the restoration of the interiors were completed in October of 2004. With minor exceptions, The Kennedy-Warren now mirrors Younger’s original plans. "This was a great building to work on and we had a great client with which to work," Cox adds. "Now complete, it is again Washington, DC’s largest and finest Art Deco apartment building and one of the city’s ‘best addresses.’"  

 

 

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