News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, May 20, 2016

Brutalpocalypse Soon: Yesterday's Dated Architecture To Be Supplanted by Tomorrow's Dated Architecture (Updated)


We can all gloat about the potential demise of one of Reston's brutalist masterpieces, the former American Press Institute building, which after being vacated back in ought-thirteen, along with most of the hopes and dreams of the, whazzitcalled, "press," is now slated for demolition if a townhouse developer wins approval to build 34 townhouses and 10 condos on the property.

NewImageAnd to be sure, few will mourn this poured concrete exemplar of vaguely Soviet architecture, despite its pedigree (modernist architect Marcel Breuer). We have plenty of similar, arguably even more dated examples of the excess of the style that aren't going anywhere.

But are we seriously going to believe that the cutting-edge bollardy goodness that's popping up now is going to age any better?

Behold the "wave-like treatment" of the garage planned for the mauvescraper that will become Reston's tallest building.

Fancy garage

What, exactly, will this look like after 30 years? Something tells us all those angular panels that make up the "wave-like treatment" will start looking like the dental records of the residents of Reston's English doppelganger after another derecho or two. But hey -- we may be getting our bocce court after all!

Then there's this:

Reston Station 2

Designed by Helmut Jahn and rising from the bollard and pop-up store-studded plaza of Reston Station as we speak, this will be Reston's first "starchitect" building since the modernist/brutalist hoi polloi descended on the Virginia countryside in the 1960s, confounding the Virginia Gentlemen-swilling locals with offerings like this. And to our eyes, it's a big improvement over the bland, boxy 80s and 90s office construction that plagues most of Fairfax County. But will future generations of Restonians wonder if the angular design was yet another rounding error during construction?

And then, of course, there's this:

Metro art

This was so dated it was killed, we think, before it even began.

While we may not mourn the loss of API's brutalist bunker on Sunrise Valley Drive, let's also not pretend that what's being built now will necessarily stand the test of time any better than all those sunken living rooms in our swank 1970s townhomes.


Except these, of course. Fads come and go, but fanciful concrete bollards are forever.

Update: Turns out there's now some support for rethinking the preservation of this Brutalist gem. Who knows, maybe the building could be used as a clubhouse for the neighborhood that will be built around it. Or a really, really big handball court.


  1. Hey now... I am the owner of a 70s sunken living room, and it won't die no matter how badly we treat it. So I think they're holding their own.

    I think we're going to have to smother it in concrete, or hide it under plywood and more shag carpet.

  2. Restonian's kindred spirit:

    or @SaintBollard on Instagram (

    1. Honestly, this is the only bollard on that site that really meets the definition of the term "fanciful":

  3. The American Press Institute building is a real tragedy. I don't think a lot of people realize the importance of Marcel Breuer in architecture. I drove around the building last night and there is a broken window, overgrown trees plus just a lot of dirt over the structure. I wonder if some historical architect group would have any interest in preserving this. Makes me sick to think that this building looks so bad and is destined to be torn down. I think the planners of Reston are going to regret it in the long run.

  4. In the long run, we are all dead. In the short run the only the imaginations of our planners are dead.


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