We’re used to seeing renowned Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura creating striking modernist forms on a grand scale, but his first project in the United States looks like being relatively restrained by comparison. The 63-year-old Pritzker Laureate was tapped by developers EastBanc for a key site dubbed the “entrance to Georgetown” in Washington and revealed subtle renders of the proposal this week.
The new mixed-use development at 2715 Pennsylvania Avenue NW will rise five stories, including eight 2,000-square-foot apartments above a 70-seat restaurant on the ground floor. Brick is proposed as the primary material to blend with the local context, while concrete floor plates expressed in layers on the elevations. The resulting building reads as a Jenga-style stack of red brick blocks with alternating voids providing covered terraces for each private residence.
At ground level, granite cladding lends weight to the lower reaches of the structure and is designed to give the building “a certain tectonic and gravitational image, like the buildings in Old Georgetown,” according to the planning application. A transparent glass box with slender steel mullions is inserted at an angle beneath the lowest concrete floor plate, housing the restaurant in a modern, light-flooded space.
Architect’s Newspaper reporter Melissa Guerrero outlined the challenges the architect faced in bringing his characteristic “neo-Miesian” style to an area occupied by relatively conservative architecture, Souto de Moura having to negotiate “the city’s 130-foot height restrictions, the lot’s tiny footprint, and the intent to preserve Georgetown’s historic character.”
As a result, the proposals must be approved by the local Zoning Commission and the Old Georgetown Board before a groundbreaking date can be set.