Robert Peck on the Height Limit

Greater Greater Washington asked accomplished DC architects to weigh in on the positives and negatives of the height limit. This comment is part of that series

There’s not going to be enough height under any proposal to have slender towers dotting the skyline. However, a slightly higher height limit, slightly higher being around 20 feet, could allow us to indent buildings without losing development density and that would add interest.

But maybe the best outcome would be higher floor to ceiling heights in the same number of floors that we have now; usually a maximum of 12. Washington has unusually low ceilings. Higher ceilings allow more natural daylight to penetrate deeper into the floors, which is good for everyone; providing a healthier environment and lower energy use.

Relaxing the height limit in DC as a means to better architecture is a bit of a trick question. I think that it increases the chances for better architecture than the current regulations do, but it does not guarantee it.

Robert Peck, Hon. AIA leads the Workplace Consulting division at Gensler‘s DC office.

Details, Details: Gizmeaux

In response to a post on Greater Greater Washington, I wondered why the contemporary neotraditionalist movement is so averse to accepting or even embracing technology and innovation. Using, sure, but it’s hidden and tucked away, as if it is an embarrassment among the other monumental parts of the building. This has not always been the case; when traditionalism was not an ideological position but a method, architects were open to experimentation.

Just as an example, consider the way Carrère and Hastings used what was then the relatively modern gizmo of the light bulb in their 1902 rotunda at Yale. C&H’s calculated eclecticism certainly represents the practice that the Modern Movement considered its antagonist, but here, their flexibility paid off. Without going into theatrical crassness, they play light and molding off of each other in a way that adds intensity to the conventional architectural manipulation of space and articulation. Light, for the designers of this space, was becoming a material and not just an condition taken for granted.

Where is this expansive, flexible attitude now?