There is good news in the architecture department, locally and almost locally. Last week, the District of Columbia Public Library announced that Vancouver-based architect Bing Thom will design a replacement building for the aging Woodridge Neighborhood Library.
Thom is the architect of the new Arena Stage facility, the elegant glass terrarium that encloses a vibrant social space and links Arena’s three theaters into a single village. Thom has a habit of adopting places and engaging with projects that have more social than economic rewards.
His decision to create the new library pushes forward an encouraging trend: the connection of progressive architects with meaningful cultural and social spaces in the District. Our federal architecture may be bland, but with two libraries by David Adjaye nearing completion, and ground broken on Adjaye’s Smithsonian Museum of African-American History and Culture, and now another Thom building on the drawing boards, the city’s cultural infrastructure is emerging as an important incubator of architectural innovation and variety.
Not so far to the south, in Richmond, comes news that Virginia Commonwealth University has selected Steven Holl Architects to design a 38,000-square-foot arts building. The building, which will be near Interstate 95 at the intersection of Belvedere and Broad Streets, will house performance and presenting space for interdisciplinary arts events.
Holl designed a magnificent addition to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, and has emerged as a major player in China as well. Residents of Northwest D.C. are familiar with his house for the Swiss Ambassador, which has a minimalist cool, with windows seeming to emanate from behind a translucent skin. Initial renderings of the new VCU building suggest affinities with both the Nelson-Atkins and the ambassador’s residence, including rectilinear forms that have an appealingly chilly glow. It also has a double-height “forum” space that will give the building a distinctive bent-roof profile and help it function as a “gateway” to the university.
Both the new arts center and the Woodridge library are scheduled to open in 2015.