Centennial of the 1910 Height Act with Larry Beasley Tues. May 18th

Photo by PoPville flickr user Tyrannous

Back in Jan. ’09 we had a very interesting discussion on whether or not DC’s building height restrictions should be lifted.This looks like it could be a really interesting event at Burke Theatre:


Density and the Form of the City in the 21st Century
Centennial of the 1910 Height Act with Larry Beasley | 1.5 CM (AICP)

When: Tuesday, May 18, 2010
6:30 p.m.

Burke Theatre
The Naval Heritage Center at the US Navy Memorial
701 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20004
Map it | Metro: Archives – Navy Memorial – Penn Quarter | RSVP


Love it or hate it, Washington’s Height Act was instrumental in shaping an unmistakable skyline. Can the Act coexist with the contemporary architecture, density, and sustainable policies of modern times? Join self-described evangelist for urban density Larry Beasley, Vancouver’s former Planning Director, as he challenges our assumptions about density and the form of the city in the 21st century.

Mr. Beasley, one of the world’s top urban planners, is current special adviser to the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and former director of the Vancouver Planning Department. He helped establish the City of Vancouver as one of the most livable cities in the world. In 1996, the United Nations honored Beasley’s work among the “World’s 100 Best Planning Practices.” The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada presented him with the 2003 Medal of Excellence as Advocate for Architecture. In 2004, Beasley was appointed a member of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest honor for lifetime achievement. He is a distinguished practice professor of planning at the University of British Columbia, founding principal of Beasley and Associates, an international planning consultancy.

RSVPs are appreciated, but walk-ins are always welcome. Please contact us by email or
phone (202) 482-7200 to RSVP, if you require special accommodation, or if you have questions.

7 Comment

  • This is one of those special things about Washington DC.

    Don’t touch it.

  • Growing up here, I have to say that I love the height limit. I had to go to Chicago a few years ago for work; I rented a car and stayed a few extra days, and while driving around downtown, I felt like an absolute rube staring up to/gawking at the tall buildings! It felt overwhelming…

  • shouldn’t you have a photo of the Cairo apartment building since that’s the entire reason we have the 1910 Height Act…

  • You don’t have to be Chicago to think about raising the height limit. Or even altering it in such away that say Friendship Heights could build incredibly tall but downtown couldn’t. Or say East of the River could relatively high, while the historic center wouldn’t.

    The bigger question is — is the height limit encourage sprawl, forcing up rent and land prices in general and making the city less accessible. Those would often be a big yes.

  • Do you also love boxy office buildings replacing human-scale residential neighborhoods? Because that’s what the height limit creates, when it meets a mass of well-monied companies who will pay to have an office in the District.

  • Chicago in the late 1800’s was the birthplace of the modern tall buildings where the advent of steel skeletal structures and riveted steel I-beams (as opposed to load-bearing masonry construction) allowed for the first time in the world engineering and construction of skyscrapers.

    Unlike now, we had some wise and very forward looking people here in Washington, looking at Chicago and the subsequent 1894 construction of the Cairo Hotel at 1615 Q Street, NW who rose to the occasion put together and passed through Congress the Heights of Buildings Act of 1910 which to this day limits construction heights within our capital city to the width of the right of way of the street or avenue on which a building fronts.

    With the exception made in 1959 for the Basilica of our National Shrine of Immaculate Conception, this Act governs accordingly as DC remains relatively low profile and uniquely so to other cities and metropolitan urban areas.

    This centennial milestone and gathering is noteworthy, well deserving and understated in many respects, as sadly there remains relatively little written about this marvel of urban planning during the turn of the century at that time. Aspiring authors and researchers take note.

  • I just returned from a trip to Chicago – while their high-rise buildings displayed beautiful architecture, like JohnnyReb said, they weren’t very enjoyable to walk between. While I agree with urban density as an aspect of sustainable development, I think there remains room in DC for new high-rises and so there isn’t the need to do away with our unique and longstanding height restrictions.

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