The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, now under renovation, is the best known landmark of International Style architecture in Washington. A lesser known, but still impressive example, is this 1960 house in the Michigan Park neighborhood of Northeast Washington.
The term International Style was coined in 1932 after an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York that featured Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, architect of the MLK Library. According to the Chicago Architecture Foundation, the three principles of this style are architecture as volume with thin planes or surfaces creating the building’s form as opposed to a solid mass; regularity in the facade as opposed to building symmetry; and no applied ornament. Other characteristics of International Style, which was more often found in commercial than residential design, include flat roofs and large panes of glass.
The Michigan Park house was designed by Lewis Giles Jr., the youngest son of noted black architect Lewis Giles. After graduating from his father’s alma mater, the University of Illinois, Giles Jr. joined his father’s office. He and his father later formed their own firm, Giles & Giles Architects.
Giles Jr. left in 1959 to work for the Department of the Navy. He moved to the U.S. Postal Service in 1968 before returning to the Navy in 1971.
As a side business, Giles Jr. designed churches for African American congregations — Beulah Baptist Church and Purity Baptist Church, both in Northeast Washington — and a few houses, including this one for William and Mary Brooks.
Brooks, who served in the Army Air Forces in Italy during World War II and later became a social worker, and his wife wanted a house like the ones they had seen on the West Coast.
The home was designed for entertaining with three wet bars scattered throughout the house. Its multiple levels cantilever over the primary living space, which features an 18-foot wall of glass overlooking the main terrace and garden. The dining room, mezzanine level and living room each open to an exterior terrace or elevated deck.
When the current owners, just the second owners of the home, bought the house in 2003, they undertook an extensive renovation that respected Giles Jr.’s design while updating it for today’s living. They added a master suite, relocated the kitchen and redesigned the entry foyer. They chose period-appropriate finishes, including 1960 brushed stainless steel plumbing fixtures designed by Danish designer Arne Jacobsen.
Before he died in 2011, the owners invited Giles Jr. and his wife, Minerva, to the home. Because he had provided the plans to the contractor but not overseen the construction, it was his first time in the house.
The three-bedroom, three-bathroom 3,450-square-foot house is listed at $1,050,000.
Eddy Palanzo contributed to this report.
Listing agent: Michael Shapiro, Long & Foster
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