Two Houses in One

By Dina ElBoghdady
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 5, 2008

The architect who oversaw the biggest expansion in the history of "the people's house" is ready to sell his own home.

Alan M. Hantman settled in the Barnaby Woods neighborhood of Northwest Washington in 1997, when President Bill Clinton appointed him the 10th architect of the Capitol. During his tenure, he was responsible for construction of the Capitol Visitor Center, a controversial five-acre underground complex connected to the Capitol's east front. The much-delayed center is scheduled to open in November.

But before then, Hantman hopes to be out of the Federal-style house that he and his wife, Rosalyn, purchased and renovated. The home is on the market for roughly $1.1 million.

Hantman's 10-year appointment ended in February. The couple plan to head back to the New York City area to join their extended family, including the five grandchildren who inspired Hantman to design an addition to their D.C. house.

"We were empty nesters when we came here," said Hantman, 65. "But instead of downsizing, we expanded. We quickly figured out that we had to add onto the house so that our children and grandchildren would have enough room when they came to visit."

Soon after moving into the four-level house and not long after renovating the kitchen, Hantman began sketching what he calls "the pavilion." The idea was to create a distinct part of the house. "We did not try to copy the feeling of the original structure."

That made the transition from old to new critical, he said.

To that end, Hantman created two galleries with floor-to-ceiling windows -- one gallery from the kitchen and another from the dining room -- leading to the pavilion and deck in back of the house.

"If you're familiar with the philosophy of Frank Lloyd Wright, the idea was that you would come into a low-ceiling area so that when you emerge into the next space, there is a sense of wonder and release," Hantman said. "The transition area continued the feeling of the original house, and then once you get through it, you get into a space surrounded by light and trees."

The more-than-500-square-foot pavilion doubled the home's first-floor living space. The couple decided not to add to the second level, a trade-off to make room for the pavilion's 14-foot ceiling.

A tension ring in the ceiling resists pressure from the roof and eliminates the need for support beams or turnbuckles, creating the open feel the Hantmans wanted.

Windows on three sides of the room "borrow views and light" from all around. The largest windows overlook the back yard with a rock garden, a waterfall and a small pond. (The goldfish convey. They have survived three winters, feeding off moss on the rocks.)

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