All that urban jazz: Mixed-use center lends a zing to downtown Washington’s skyline


That which could have turned into “another drab stretch … of bureaucratic architecture” has become what Washington Post architecture critic Philip Kennicott has called “a rare example of urban jazz” in the District of Columbia.

The project team behind Midtown Center demolished four buildings (including the Post’s one-time headquarters) at night and erected a hip duo of 14-story, copper-clad towers accented by three enclosed bridges mounted over a 10,000-sf pedestrian way/courtyard. Bureaucratic architecture, be damned!

Credit developer Carr Properties for being hip enough to: 1) give up 50,000 sf of density to create the courtyard; 2) resist the temptation to build yet another mundane box, and 3) commission a nimble-fingered combo to orchestrate the work: Clark Construction (GC), SHoP Architects (designer), WDG Architects (AOR), and SK&A Structural Engineering.

Together, they charted a LEED Gold riff of 786,000 sf of office space 44,000 sf of retail, and a 32,000-sf penthouse. The location couldn’t be sweeter: Midtown Center is just a short stroll to the White House, two Metro stations, and the K Street power corridor.

Clark brought in Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope as design-assist partner with ShoP Architects on the curtain wall. Along with glass manufacturer Tvitec, they created a distinctive glass enclosure with copper louvers that cuts solar glare by 50% and solar heat gain by 18%.

Clark, Berlin Steel, and SK&A coordinated to design and fabricate the 50-ton, 110-foot-long bridges. Clark Foundations crafted a steel platform to support the 550-ton crane needed to lift the 45,000-pound steel chords for the spans. Oldcastle implemented a monorail system to install the glass on the overhead tunnels.

Mortgage lender Fannie Mae took one entire tower and most of the other one; WeWork grabbed 109,943 sf of the limited remaining space.+

Building Team — Submitting firm Clark Construction Group (CM), Owner Carr Properties, Architect SHoP Architects, AOR WDG Architecture, SE SK&A Structural Engineering, MEP Engineer Girard, Design-assist envelope consultant Oldcastle Building Envelope, Steel fabricator Berlin Steel

General information — Size 1,150,000 sf, Construction cost $243 million, Construction time December 2015 to November 2017 (phase 1); November 2017 to May 2018 (phase 2), Delivery method Design-bid-build