Thursday, February 14, 2013

It Could Be Worse: Washington's Windowless Apartments

Philadelphia has it's problems, but when it comes to the supply and demand for housing, a healthy balance leads developers to offer the public some exciting architecture. In other words, people want to live here, but they won't just buy or rent something simply because it exists.

My former home, the city that rents $3000 a month "English Basements," has lowered the bar once again, not only allowing the development of windowless lofts, but touting them as trendy, and even affordable.

Adaptive reuse is a wonderful thing. It saves resources and history. But there is no history or significance left at what is now a Harris Teeter grocery store in Washington D.C.'s Adams Morgan neighborhood.

Transforming this attic roller rink into lofts is Douglas Development's cheap and thoughtless attempt to maximize space. What's worse, it sets a precedent for irresponsible residential development in a city that houses a bottomless pit of uninspired and overpriced apartments.

There are no legal accounts of windowless apartments in the developed world. None. There are cheap hotels, hostels, and slum lords renting unregulated rooms without windows, but there is not one record of a legitimate developer providing a new, windowless unit as a legitimate apartment. Not one.

If your Google skills are better than mine, please feel free to let me know. I can't find one.

The Citadel Apartments will provide 31 apartment units, with 8 occupying the center of the domed space. Of course it doesn't take an architect - or a genius - to suggest a better use for this space.

A respectful developer would open the roof to provide outdoor space for the 23 windowed units. The size of the 23 outer units could be expanded, placing the kitchens and living rooms in the center so that windows could light the bedrooms. Even if the developer wanted to reasonably maximize the space, lowering the roof and ceiling of the outer ring could allow for elevated windows in the center apartments.

Instead, architects at R2L provide sun to the center units by way of skylights 20 feet above. Most architects would call this a chimney. L&I would call it a firetrap. 

This isn't even interesting experimental design. Experimental design can be used to maximize space, but primarily benefits the space's audience: the tenant. Instead of providing additional engineering to improve the quality of space in the central units, the only experiment employed here maximizes profit. What's astonishingly devious in this case is that the space is just a bonus to the developer, an unused attic at an already profitable site.

I guess what I'm trying to sum up in this rant is, however many vacant lots we have, while we struggle to improve the property value in our struggling neighborhoods, limited space paired with ample income can be a very, very dark combination.

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