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The Beauty of Brick in Architecture

Dumbarton Oaks Fellowship House is featured in a new book on the best modern uses of brick design in America.

Dumbarton Oaks Fellowship House entrance

Brick – a ubiquitous building material that’s been in use since 4000 BC – remains nonetheless ripe for creativity, as a newly released book illustrates through pages of photographs showing its modern applications. Cunningham | Quill Architects is pleased to be included in Brick Folio, the inaugural U.S. issue, a Glen-Gary publication which “features the most exciting new brick buildings in America, from brickwork emulating computer code in Rochester, to contemporary brick forms nodding to historic neighbors in Louisville, to rounded bricks creating a sculptural façade in New York,” according to the book’s description.

Brick Folio features our adaptive reuse design for the Dumbarton Oaks Fellowship House, which transformed a building that was constructed as a typewriter factory in the 1950s into a modern and highly energy-efficient housing for post-doctoral students who have been accepted for a year-long fellowship at the world-renowned Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. “A goal of the project was to present a public face of Dumbarton Oaks on a public street,” notes Ralph Cunningham, a founding principal at CQA.

The new third-floor brick addition facing busy Wisconsin Avenue is clad in a Flemish-bond pattern, which alternates using the long and short sides of the bricks in each row. The design complements the original façade’s more conventional running bond, which lines the bricks on their long sides, yet the distinction announces the addition’s new presence.

The copper-clad fourth floor and roof terrace are set back so they won’t take away from the original brick façade.

A new three-story structure, oriented on a right angle toward the quieter, more residential R Street, angles away from the original building just as R Street angles in from Wisconsin. This structure is marked with copper bays emerging from a brick frame. “Brick is the champion of the project,” CQA architect David Coxson told the book’s author, “but copper is added to make the additions feel lighter.” He also noted that the pre-oxidized copper marries well with the “rosy red tone of the brick.”

There was more creative leeway with the new residential addition, where copper bays emerge from the brick façade.
The fourth-floor terrace is lined with a brick balcony that blends with the views of Georgetown

A new fourth floor and outdoor terrace is set back from the original building footprint so it’s not obvious from the street; clad only with the copper siding, the addition makes its mark as an entirely new contribution to the overall program.

As author Clare Jacobson notes in her profile: “Old and new, private and public, brick and copper, art and nature – Dumbarton Oaks Fellowship House finds unity in diversity.”


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