At 72, Edwin Anderson Weihe, the dean of downtown office building designers here, has earned the right to east his workaholic's pace. And to a moderate degree, he is doing so.
He is the senior partner at Weihe, Black, Jeffries, Stassmann and Dove, a firm that has designed 60 downtown buidlings and a hundred other major structures in the metropolitan area. Weihe's firm has a reputation for understanding the ingredients of a successful commercial building.
Weihe is aware of criticism that the renewed K Street corridor is undistinguished, but he doesn't point the finger in turn at the dollar-pinching of developers or the constraints of building codes.
"Architecture should not direct attention to the sculpture of a building, which is meant to provide shelter and a center for activity," he said. "I do not endorse eyesores or extravagance in private buildings . . . .
"I'd rather be dull and efficient than frivolous," Weihe said. "I'd never want to be remembered for designing anything like those awful big tall fins that were put on cars some years back."
In one design earlier in 1970s, for instance -- the building at 1666 K St. NW he did for the Smith Companies -- the architect said: "We tried to make the building float over an arcade of open space and also used a graduated setback on the granite facade. It's not just another box or wedding cake building. Nor did we lose any square footage of usuable space."
"That's a Weihe trademark: pragmatism," commented zoning attorney Norman Glasgow, who has known Weihe for more than 30 years.
"He made a strong case for the use of arcades and shadow lines on windows without losing floor area ratio. Arcades provide protection for pedestrians as well as architectural excitement. Weihe sold that idea to the D.C. zoning commission."
Among the newer downtown buildings Weihe admires the red brick office and commercial structure that developer Gerry Miller built at 1101 Connecticut Ave. NW, over the Farragut North metro station. It was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and has an arcade over the station entrance and big, open columns on which the building seems to float.
Among the buildings his own firm has designed, Weihe is proud of the Westbridge apartment-office building in West End, the big office building at the southwest corner of 18th and M streets NW, 1666 K Street and the nearly completed Thurman Arnold building at New Hampshire Avenue and M Street NW.
How did he happen to become an architect? "I was good in math and was taking classes with engineers at George Washington University," said Weihe, a Washington native who went to the old Central High School.
"I guess I had architecture in mind from the beginning of college -- and the engineers told me it was a cinch after you got by math." His daughter, Kingsley, is at Tufts University now and is planning to become an architect herself.
After college, Weihe worked for the Chas. Tompkins construction company, designing subdivision houses and other homes. During the Depression, he worked on his own and taught at GW.
After service, in the Navy during World War II, he began to concentrate on designing office buildings and apartments for such local builders as Joseph Howar and Marshall Coyne. In the downtown, he designed 1001 Connecticut and 1701 K for Morris C afritz and John McShain. He also worked for Cafritz and Tompkins on the vast River House apartment complex in south Arlington.
The Weihe firm is currently working on the preliminary design for the building on the YWCA site, at 17th and K streets NW, that John Akridge plans to start in 1981. At $375 a square foot, it will be the most expensive building site ever purchased in downtown.