Awards of Excellence 2019
L.F. Jennings, Inc.
Light Music (AdMo Heights)

International Food Policy Institute New Headquarters
Award of Merit
Best Amenity Space

Project Team

Beztak - (Owner)
A+A Studio - (Architect)
L.F. Jennings - (General Contractor)

Executive Summary

The Owner’s goal for the new mixed use residential development at 1777 Columbia Road is an 80-unit multifamily building in the buzzing Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, DC. The project was a blending of past and present, incorporating the façade of the historic Avignone Freres Bakery and Restaurant into a new six-story structure.

The recently completed residential building entry, dubbed Light Music by the design team, is an immersive sculptural lobby and lounge design. The project takes inspiration from the rich musical legacy of the neighborhood, and the city where musical genres such as jazz, Go-Go, punk rock, and electronic music have propelled the vibrant nightlife for decades.

The goal was to ground the new building to its location and to connect the public spaces to the culture of the city and in an authentic way. The result is a unique project that combines cutting edge digital fabrication methods with traditional artisanal techniques to create an interior world with its own pulse and rhythm that pays homage to the vibrant original music of DC.

The space is divided into an entrance lobby and a rear lounge linked by a wide corridor, and the design challenge was to develop two connected yet distinct spaces. The lobby, which is seen from the street, required a strong visual statement while the lounge needed to be inviting with its own mood and vibe.

In the lobby, light is used as a sculptural material to interpret music and shape the experience of architecture. To do this A+A Studio custom fabricated 23 LED backlit panels using the score of Duke Ellington songs visualized similarly to the patterns on player piano rolls and then CNC milled into aluminum composite sheets. These stretch from the floor to the ceiling in the lobby and all the way down the ceiling of the corridor. The surface of the panels are hand gilded with aluminum leaf and the holes covered with translucent acrylic. Light glows through the panels and creates a three-dimensional aura that glistens on the surface of the aluminum leaf producing mysterious luminescent light forms. The patterns also reflect on a mirrored tile wall shaping a syncopated rhythm that dances and shimmers across the space. The combination of computer-driven production with hand applied techniques creates an intriguing techno and retro feel.

Full height CNC milled composite panels, which run from the building entrance down the long corridor and cover all of the lounge walls, unite the two spaces. The design is a topography of interlocking organic shapes that expand across the surface producing a sculptural experience. Light washes down across the bas-relief creating an interplay of highlights and shadows that dance and bounce off the surfaces to form a chamber-of-light. It envelopes you as you walk into the lounge, where the mood is defined by the sculptural relief. Adding to this is an intricate 10 foot tall sculptural Corian screen that separates a communal table from a chic seating area, as well as reverse hand gilded inset glass mirrors. The push and pull of the two and three-dimensional forms and surfaces create a rhythmic and visually rich environment that imagines what a musical score can look like giving life to a resident lounge like no other.

Design of the building lobby was changed close to the end of the project. So that turnover of the building to management and leasing was not delayed, the construction team put in place white box conditions to the space in order to obtain the Certificate of Occupancy. This allowed both leasing and move in to proceed while the space was redesigned.

Construction of the lobby area followed occupation of the building by management and tenants. Because the building was now operational, additional safety and construction coordination measures were needed in order to complete the construction safely. Pathways were created and maintained at all times for tenant access to and from the units and garage. Work hours were limited - construction could not commence before 8AM and tile work for the vestibule had to be completed overnight when use of that space was at a minimum. Daily cleaning and storing of materials was mandatory and application of finishes was labor intensive because of the occupied nature of the space (rolling finishes instead of spraying).

The sculptural nature of the space posed its own challenges. Since the custom panels and light features were provided to the construction team following fabrication, there were coordination issues that arose during installation. Extensive collaboration with the architect and artist responsible for the design was necessary to maintain design intent and deliver the final space as intended.


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