Awards of Excellence 2019
DCS Design
Modera Sedici

Modera Sedici
Award of Excellence
Best Renovation: Adaptive Reuse

Project Team

Mill Creek Residential Trust - (Devloper/Owner)
DCS Design - (Architect)
Mill Creek Construction - (General Contractor)
Interface Engineering - (MEP Engineer)
Fernandez & Associates - (Structural Engineer)
DVR Consulting - (Code Consultant)

Executive Summary

The heart of Modera Sedici is the former Italian Embassy. Displaying iconic Neo-Renaissance architecture, the Embassy faces the District’s renowned 16th Street (“Sedici” meaning “16” in Italian). The building housed Italy’s embassy functions from 1925 to 1977. In the ensuing years this National Historic Landmark was largely abandoned and considerable damage to the original fabric resulted from neglect and vandalism. Now, after almost a decade of design and construction, the former Italian Embassy has been restored to its former glory and adaptively reused to house 22 individually customized apartment homes and the majority of the overall community’s amenities. A nine-story, 112 home tower was designed to complement the Embassy's architectural vocabulary without being replicative. The use of a complementary color palate and materials highlight the original embassy building. Other thoughtful measures were taken to ensure that the newly constructed tower would appropriately and beautifully honor the architecture and legacy of the historic edifi ce. A new landscaped courtyard serves as a bridge between the old and new, echoing the piazza central to the historic Embassy.

The challenge with any restoration/adaptive reuse is preserving the historically significant elements of a structure while repurposing the interior spaces to modern standards, especially when the intended use of that building changes – such as transforming a former embassy into a luxury, contemporary apartment community. To ensure Modera Sedici preserved the history and character of the original Embassy building, the redevelopment team worked hand-in-hand with the city’s Historical Preservation Review Board throughout the entire process. Together, they carefully selected and preserved significant spaces such as the original grand staircase, lobby, ballroom, and library, and effectively weaved them into the modern design of a luxury apartment community. Decaying and neglected elements and materials throughout the Embassy such as the original elevator, fireplaces and mantles, travertine and parquet fl oors, intricate millwork, windows and doors, and the clay tile roofing were carefully and precisely restored to their original luster by skilled local artisans. Whenever possible the names of the various spaces were adopted from the original 1920’s permit drawings:

The original design approval for the community included a new 4-story concrete structure located adjacent the historic embassy, however, the originally submitted design of the addition diminished the perspective of the venerable embassy itself, and eliminated preferred green space. Working closely with building offi cials, the redevelopment team were able to creatively solve this dilemma by replacing all the “lost” floor area with the new nine-story residential tower by restructuring the garage entries and ramps. All of this was accomplished while maintaining the development community's original approvals, and resulted in a community design that was far more desirable for city officials, historical preservationists and future residents alike.

Design, engineering and construction teams were all integrated into one cohesive unit to find creative solutions to very unique and difficult challenges. That is the only way a building, constructed in 1925 for administrative use, could be converted into a beautiful setting for modern living, while also respecting the historic heritage of the property. Throughout construction, hidden elements of the original building were discovered. This demanded an immense amount of flexibility and ingenuity on the part of the construction and design teams to address these unexpected conditions on-the-fly. Newly discovered structural archways were preserved and transformed into a public art gallery, which forced designers to reconfi gure the new fi tness center. Columns and beams located in places that were not identified on the original building drawings ensured the general contractor consistently needed to reframe ceilings and walls to preserve room dimensions and ceiling heights. Mechanical ductwork and plumbing lines needed to be creatively hidden inside design elements, such as the creation of a decorative ceiling feature above the lobby, containing various equipment necessary for modern living.

Historic preservation Renovations can often prove extremely difficult to adapt to contemporary sustainability requirements and were not required for Modera Sedici to meet building codes. The development team felt a strong responsibility to create both an environmental and historical legacy for the new community. Sustainable features included the installation of specialty insulation material in the historic Embassy building that meets energy code while preserving the original structure, storm water detention facilities adjacent the 100-year-old building to prevent fl ooding, and LED light fixtures and low-flow plumbing fixtures throughout the community for energy and water conservation.


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