Bonstra: I have always had an affinity for construction. As a kid I used to watch the neighborhood houses being built and helped my father with any number of house addition projects that he undertook over the years. I’ve always been able to draw and many people encouraged me to get into architecture while in school. I think I’ve been fortunate, as David has, to never have wavered from the notion of being an architect.
Bonstra: I think one of the appealing things about the profession is the impact that you have on society. What you do is out there for everyone to see; for this reason it can put a lot of pressure on you because there are just as many critics of your work, as we are critical of others. Each building becomes part of the built landscape and in this way takes a special place in history.
Haresign: We don’t really have a style, but we are contextual modernists. The contextual portion of it is really the key - understanding the constraints and the contexts that we work with.
Haresign: I don’t see any difference in design that people are asking from us. There’s an evolution the folks on the fringe who thought it was really cool to be a developer, now are not in the dance anymore.
Haresign: No. I think the freedom and our ability to do good work comes out of client respect and trust in our experience getting projects entitled and built.
Bonstra: You know, the residential market in DC really began to heat up in 1999. Overall it was resurgence in urban living. Along with our multi-family work, we do a lot of commercial work as well, but the cooling of the residential market hasn’t significantly affected our business. Everyone wants to say the residential market is terrible, overbuilt and nobody can get loans, but our population will continue to grow and those people will need somewhere to live.
DC MUD: And we’re still short on housing?
Bonstra: Yes, and we will be short again, exactly.
DC MUD: So you guys are fans of Smart Growth?
In Unison: Yes.
DC MUD: So let's talk about some of the stuff you're working on.
Haresign: We just renovated two 1960’s medical-office buildings which were side by side, called Pershing Court. We used an allowance within the Montgomery County Zoning Code to do the connection, because it was already over the allowable floor area. We now have one set of bathrooms to service two buildings, one elevator that services two buildings. So we increased the amount of sellable area, that helped pay for the glass-bridge connection. It sold out like that (snaps his fingers). And it’s in the middle of Silver Spring; the owners took occupancy in October.
We’re also working in Wheaton, at the Wheaton Metro stop. Where Georgia Avenue and Veirs Mill Road intersect, there’s a triangular site that is currently being used as a metro bus kiss and ride. Bozzuto Homes entered into an agreement with WMATA, who brought in Spaulding and Slye Investments, which is part of Jones Lang LaSalle, to be the commercial development partner. It will be a mixed-use project with retail and office space, and possibly a hotel or residential tower.
DC MUD: What areas will be developed after Wheaton?
Bonstra: David Haresign (laughs).
Bonstra: The list would be pretty long. I have had the opportunity to work with Shalom Baranes and David King; I respect their work enormously. I like Phil Esocoff’s work; I like his attention to detail and his sensibilities of color, surface, and texture. There are any number of good local firms - Cunningham + Quill; they do similar projects. Cox Graae + Spack, a great local firm – led by a classmate of mine, Bill Spack.
DC MUD: Could each of you pick your favorite building in the city?
Bonstra: If I could only do one building, if I could be known for designing a single building, The Tapies (1612 16th St., NW) would be the building. It’s the most unique site, the quirkiest left over piece flanked by tall buildings of another era. I enjoy talking about it all the time; it is such an interesting piece of architecture. It was fun to design; it was fun to work with the client; it’s fun to look at. It will always be memorable for me.
Haresign: One that’s probably the most recognizable is the Capitol One Headquarters (below left, photo courtesy of Ai, now Perkins + Will). That building is designed in a very specific way - as a contextual response with massing and materials on different faces because of its orientation. And then there’s the detail, it’s very finely crafted. The primary curtainwall face is multilayered and curved to express movement along the beltway. The precast concrete on that building has a blue tint to it, and the aggregate is exposed to catch the sun in different times of the day. Other favorites include AOL’s campus and recently completed Parker Flats at Gage School (below right).
DC MUD: For our last question, we'd like to know how Sustainable Design will change the face of architecture.