LocationWashington, DC, United States
ArchitectsJohn Ronan Architects
From the architect. The historic Yale Steam Laundry structure possesses a rich physical history that is written in its vaulted floor structure, its oddly-spaced floor framing and in its pock-marked concrete and brick. This patina of time imparts a character upon the space it encloses that once erased, cannot be recreated. The project design asserts that this character is important and should be preserved, and that new interventions should be minimal, legible and discrete. The project is as much about what one doesn’t do as it is about what one does.
The proposal pursues a strategy of select intervention that seeks to maximize the preservation of the existing physical history and the character it confers on the space, and defines the new project as the sum total of two parallel realities: the existing structure with its attendant character and the new programmatic interventions, inserted into the existing structure like furniture.
Where new elements meet existing structure, the distinction is pronounced: hot rolled lacquered steel plate insertions in the public areas (entry, lobby, stair, exercise room) stand apart from the glazed white brick to form reception desks, bridges, stairs. In the residential units above, kitchen/bathroom cores clad in birch millwork are inserted into the existing shell to minimally convert the building to its new use. The ground floor of the annex serves simultaneously as building lobby and clubroom. A plate steel wall separates the public areas from back of house (offices, pantry, etc.).