Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Lived-In Modern Icon

A friend of mine who's a writer recently asked us to name and describe our favorite modern building in Washington, DC. That was so easy for me, no need to even compare or consider. Mine is the Ann & Donald Brown House, designed by Richard Neutra overlooking Rock Creek Park in Forest Hills in 1968. I love the way it's perched above the street and park almost like a treehouse. Despite being a glass and steel box (layers of box really) it is very organic and it's hard to tell where the Park ends and the house begins. What I like even more about it is that I ran by it for years (it's in my neighborhood and on my running path) and had no idea it was a Neutra house. It's so clean, crisp and modern; I assumed it was a recent building and kept meaning to find out who had designed it. When I read an article in the Post over the summer about it and realized the house I had been admiring for 2 years was a Neutra, the only Neutra in DC, I was equally tickled and surprised and honored to have it around the block from me. It looks different with the seasons and the hours of the day. Sometimes it's opaque and reminds me of the flatness of a Mondrian painting, other times it looks like a piece of sculpture. The red steel is unexpected.

Heather Cass, a DC architect, designed an addition to the front of the house in the 1990s and it continues the floating perpendiculars that comprise the design parti. A stunning, brilliant house that the orginal owners still live in 40 years later - a testament to its design and functional success. When people come to visit me now, it's the first place I take them to see, even before the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

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