The FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover Building may be the District’s most universally reviled landmark. Designed in the 1960s and built in the 1970s, it’s a standout example of why Brutalist architecture came and went with such speed and abandon — a prototypical “design by committee” that was valiantly battled over and rendered, not so much by architects Charles F. Murphy, as by the warring ambitions and demands of Washington bureaucrats.
Here on what may just be the country’s best site for redevelopment and almost guaranteed financial success, however, is a chance to seize one of the few times when government has yielded to the private sector. It has handed architects and developers an extraordinary opportunity to replace a pockmark on the District landscape with something truly thoughtful, useful and timeless. Instead of a monolith that has no connection to the cityscape, no rapport with people in and around it, and no relationship to its place on that grandest of all American boulevards, Pennsylvania Avenue, we can exercise an almost unheard-of prerogative to create something worthy of respect for generations to come.