The 41,800 sqm building evolves and merges two existing typologies in the US Capitol: heavy masonry or concrete buildings, with high relief facades and punched windows – in styles ranging from Beaux Arts to Neoclassical, Art Deco and Brutalist – or modern structures with taut glass envelopes, many with applied decorative treatments. To reconcile these two competing strategies, 2050 M Street provides hyper-transparent, floor to ceiling glass, without view-impeding mullions. From the exterior, the panels appear scooped or concave, establishing that an all-glass building can also have a high-relief facade befitting of the nation’s capitol.
Made with approximately 900 identical, insulated glass panels – 3.2 meters tall by 1.5 meters wide (11 feet six inches tall by 5 feet wide) – each curved to a 2.9 meter (9 foot 6 inch) radius, the facade yields structural efficiency that is thinner and more transparent than comparable all-glass buildings. Gaining rigidity in the compression process that forms them, the panels only need to be fixed to floor plates at the top and bottom. Adding to the illusion of weightlessness, exterior columns are set back along the building’s edges and the floor plates taper, aiding in the establishment of a “ethereal lightness of the skin,” say the architects.
On the exterior, the glass is treated with a subtly-reflective pyrolytic coating and the insulating cavity is coated with a high-performance, low-E coating, both of which reduce solar gain and achieve thermal performance requirements. The combined effect of the coating and curves “creates an unusual kaleidoscopic effect of repetitive transparency and reflection that simultaneously animates and dematerializes the façade,” according to the architects.
As a counterpose to the facade, the building’s lobby incorporates warm wood floors and ceilings, and book matched cowhides for wall panels. The effect is meant to be like that of a yacht deck, and the hides are intended to recall the use of stone patterns for ornament by Mies and other Modernists.
2050 M Street is set to open in 2019.
Pictures: ©Luxigon & © Rex