The Penn Theater project involved two very different historic preservation goals. The first, the save the Art Deco Marquee of the defunct Penn Theater on Pennsylvania Avenue. The other goal was to make the new construction apartment building on C Street compatible with the Capitol Hill Historic District and particularly with the historic Eastern Market Building and the town houses across the street.
While the best way to save the theater façade would have been to save the theater outright, the developer was unable to find an operator willing to take it on. Our client (the developer) consequently proceeded with a commercially viable program for three levels of office space and two of retail on the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the site, and a 35-unit, four-story apartment building on the C Street side.
The only portion of the theater facade of good quality design, and construction was the central limestone marquee and one story retail shop facades. We designed the surrounding office building massing, materials, details and color to emphasize and reinforce the marquee and extended the base to serve as a base for the whole new building. The blue glazed brick was selected as an appropriate Art Deco-like material that would contrast and visually strengthen the limestone. The spandrel panels under the windows that look like carved limestone are actually light-weight, cast polymer concrete, carefully blended for the correct color and texture.
The facade of the apartment building responds to the red brick Eastern Market and the small town houses along C Street. The four projecting bays of this facade create an impression of a row of smaller buildings. The single central gable pulls them back together as one building.
In order to mediate the juncture of these two very different facades, we placed a courtyard of white stucco between them. Accents in blue and red carry through from the front facades. The large triangular, planters, derived from the difference in angle between Pennsylvania Avenue and C Street, step up to cover the entrance to the parking garage.