Judging Buildings


I think this is Children’s Hospital right? It is quite an unusual building. I think it looks super cool especially from the point of view of across McMillian Reservoir. Any fans of the building?

Incidentally I had never seen a helicopter land there before:


Last question – I promise – what is this thing in the middle of the reservoir?


37 Comment

  • it’s HIDEOUS! if i were a child on my way there, i would be scared shitless to go in that building.

  • Agreed. It’s possibly THE WORST possible imaginable architecture interpretation of a children’s hospital. And it’s getting an addition with the same style. Sad.

  • I’d like to continue the use of all caps to express how much I hate it. It is HORRIBLE.

  • Helicopters land there with regular frequency actually. I believe the structure in the middle of the reservoir is perhaps an overflow release so that if the water get that high it will start draining there. Just a guess.

  • Isn’t that thing the best spot for a cup of morning coffee?


  • anyone know if any progress has been made getting the grounds of the resevoir opened up to the public? I mean every other resevoire has a fence around the water only. hell the one in central park only has a small wrought iron fence around it. same with druid hill lake in baltimore. But ours has a large lawn lining the perimeter that would make a great public park and its all fenced off. Ive heard plans are in the works to open it up as that are lacks green space. anyone know what the deal is? Imagine being able to bring your dog for a jog around the resevoire in the morning. or sit out and feed the geese on a nice day

  • I think the architecture is a nice sample of its time and has stood the test of time reasonably well. And thank gods and Santa Claus as well the addition follows the same style, rather than trying to shoehorn in some different style.

  • I am pretty sure that the reservoir is on federal land – the sand filtration site around the water is run by the Army Corps of Engineers. I stand ready to be corrected on that though.

  • K- you are probably right. good thing fenty did some stumping for obama. maybe we will get some favors…

  • Anon Coward, I was going to suggest that little thing would be next week’s “Good Deal or Not.” At $800k, I say hell yea! “Sweeping views of the reservoir” indeed!

  • It is horrible, and it seems like it took forever to build

    Also, up close the windows look like crap because they get dirty so easily.

    Honestly, it is the worst design ever

  • Hideous – have never liked and agree quite frightening!

    Re: McMillan Resevoir. Someone did their thesis on this place, actually quite intersting. If you goggle you will find it.

    The area with the towers was slated for development, parks etc…I think by NCRC, but I am not sure what has happended to that project.

    Finally, one of the MediVacs went down sometime last year right near the Soldiers Home, all survived, but man what a bumpy ride that would have been!

  • This is what federal building contracting gets you! However, I have been inside that glass portion, and the interior views and ambiance are quite nice. Its probably designed to be nice on the inside, less so from the outside. You get great views of the reservoir, and of the skyline, though the angle of the windows steers your gaze away from the immediate area. This might be due to how shitty that area was when it was built (not sure, just a theory, etc). Also, I think the glass portion is the research wing, the actual childrens hospital (ie where the sick kids are) are immediately next to it, on the interior of that whole medical complex. I can attest that the views from that portion of the complex are horrid: ductwork and stuff like that. Having spent many hundreds of hours in the complex as a whole, believe me this building is the nicest part of it.

  • Vonstallin

    Ive only been to that hospital on two accounts…

    that one 9childrens hospital) back in the late 70’s early 80’s and it was HOT 2 me back then….

    Then i caught a ride from West VA on the Ghetto Bird you see to The regular Hospital.
    Staff is top knotch…wait..I mean the Drs are some of the best in the region for emergency accidents.

    Gunshots..major accidents…hmm hmmm take me to WHC…..

    If you find out that they are taking you to PG hospital….
    well get your house in order….

    PG gets 2 thumbs down…..

  • The building looks like a giant crushed soda can.

  • I pass Children’s regularly and I’ll report that when the sun hits it and the water right, it can be spell-binding. It’s grown on me and I too am glad they stuck with the theme for the addition (recently completed, just some little work still going on). It would be just that much worse if they’d grafted something totally new and post modern onto this. It’s a striking and distinctive building in a city that doesn’t always take risks. And I ahve not heard the same nightmares of dysfuntion that you hear from MLK Library. I think this building delivers reasonably on function while being something different.

    So, I like it. I mean, not for my own hose or anything, but as a hospital, it’s pretty cool.

    The Reservoir: There are a series of public meetings going on (or just over?) about the proposed development on the site. Needless to say, it’s highly controversial. I toured the site and I came away unconvinced the site would ever be safe as a public park. The filtration system under the grass and shrubs is huge open 15 foot deep caverns made of reinforced concrete. Water and roots have really done their part to weaken it, oh and there are 2,000 manholes perforating the top. So, yeah, it’s a deathtrap to anyone dreaming of walking a dog in the filtration site.

    The park surrounding the reservoir is a different issue tho. Don’t know anything about that.

  • The reservoir is still operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers (west of 1st St) but they’ve turned over the former sand filtration site (east of 1st St) to the city. There is an underground portion that complicates redevelopment. See an image at the link below.
    I think I heard that the little tower thing in the reservoir is a “cap” or something where an original spring was located. I’ll see if I can confirm.

    See page 170-176 at: http://www.usace.army.mil/publications/eng-pamphlets/ep870-1-67/c-4.pdf

  • I think it’s pretty cool, considering it’s a major hospital.

  • I recently learned that a work friend of mine has a daughter who got a horrible infection — her daugher would have died — and the doctors helicoptered her daughter to this hospital (in my ‘hood) and got GREAT care there. Full recovery, nice treatment. I was actually kind of surprised given what I’ve heard about nearby Howard U Hospital (although my bike accident/emergency room experience at Washington Medical Center was pretty decent).

    Also I didn’t like the building when I first moved here, but now like it; the water from the reservoir reflects off the glass in a cool way.

    PS: PoP I think you have a secret neighborhood crush on Bloomingdale and should just move here already.

  • reading my post: the caverns (which are under the ENTIRE field, except where the filters sit (aka Hobbit Missile silos) are UNreinforced concrete. It’s kinda different ya know?

    Some images: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sophiagrrl/256522646/in/set-72157594306042220/

  • I’ve always been very meh on the building, but it is reassuring to know there are something like 15 emergency rooms within a mile of my house.

  • Vonstallin

    The hospital handle some of the worst traumas in America. When I got F*&k up in West Va, The Hellicopter had a choice of Baltimore Shock Trauma (another good one) of Washington Hospital Center. They Choose right. Dr Street III, Chief of Trauma, and Dr James Debritz, both young (in the 40’s) and the best in this area for the worst that can happen.

    I love those guys….
    They do nice work, lol…..

    WHC had a bad rep, but with the high killings going on they were over work and under staffed back in the days. Now they have learned from those sad times and the skill level is spot on.

    If i get a hang nail…im going to them also, lol
    Ok folks im just home bored…sigh…

  • we call it “the death star” and its growing a twin. but apparently from the inside looking out is much more human, as it has floor to ceiling windows.

  • we call it “the death star”

    Jemals’s office at 111 Mass Ave NW IS the Death Star. His LLC is even called “Darth Vader LLC”…It’s even on the tax record.

  • I see it from the stairwell near my Howard University office. (The stairwell has a spectacular view over the reservoir, but none of the actual offices in the building do.) I generally don’t like “modern” buildings much, and I like the mosque-like Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (technically modern though it is, built circa 1965), the Trinity College dome, and the century-old reservoir-complex buildings a lot more, but I’ve never been able to really dislike Children’s as a building. (Well, maybe now a little, but only because the new addition blocks off the view of part of the Shrine.) Moreover, as a parent I’ve used Children’s almost regularly over the years and like it as an institution. The view from the inside is striking, even when I’ve been pretty distracted by the reasons I was there. On the whole, IMO, one of the rare successes of modern architecture.

  • That thing in the middle of the resevoir? That’s where Gollum lives.

  • i always referred to the jemal office as the darth vader building.

  • petworthy, I guess there’s also nothing that says DC can’t have two Death Stars

  • The building looks like something out of “Battlestar Galactica” – not the old one but the newer crappy one (gag me with a cylon).
    I thought it was a hospital for Transformers.

  • Oh no Binklesworth, thems is fightin’ words. The new Battlestar Galactica is fracking awesome! The old one was good for what it was, a campy sci-fi dramedy, but the new BG is great!

  • Unless it’s an emergency, take your children to Johns Hopkins…you’ve been warned.

  • Dude, Darkside, back that up or just leave it. I’ve been twice to Children’s Emergency and it’s been really spot on. Better than any care I got for myself in a regular ER. They have also handled some friends’ truly heartbreaking and frightening health scares (kids needing brain surgery? yikes!) very well.

    WHC (not this building but part of the complex) is also well regarded. Several neighbors here are nurses there and speak with great pride in the awards and recognitions that the hospital has. Sometimes I think folks in DC dis this complex because it’s not far enough NW. Get over it. Driving to Sibley to give birth or JHU for a kid’s emergency is your call, but it’s not because you can’t get good care here.

  • The area surrounding the reservoir was originally open to the public as a park but was closed during World War II due to security concerns. Good luck getting it reopened now.

    Some old pictures at http://www.washingtonhistory.com/ScenesPast/images/SP_1104.pdf and Post article at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/21/AR2006042101819.html.

  • Vonstallin

    Fellow Petworthian Says:
    December 19th, 2008 at 10:54 am
    Oh no Binklesworth, thems is fightin’ words. The new Battlestar Galactica is fracking awesome! The old one was good for what it was, a campy sci-fi dramedy, but the new BG is great!

    I’m with you…..
    Love the story..sad it’s on its final season….
    It’s listed in my forum TV shows thingy….

  • what the building does and represents: awesome.

    how it looks: unequivocally hideous.

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