News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, June 9, 2016

With Proposal to Become Library, Former API Newspaper Building Could Become Slightly Less Obsolete


After standing vacant for three years, the brutalapooza American Press Institute building on Sunrise Valley Drive got a brief reprieve from plans to convert the property to townhouses and condos after its historic Marcel Breuer pedigree led to a postponed planning commission decision in order to determine if its brutalist style is sufficiently brutalist to earn it historical status. An online petition has begun circulating urging that the building be saved, started by, among others, "news media executives" (who know a thing or two about endangered historical relics.)

Now county library supporters, the purveyors of frottage-friendly booksales, are making a Modest Proposal: Take the old newspaper building and make it a library -- basically the equivalent of replacing a covered wagon factory with a buggy whip factory. But Reston Regional Library is slated for the wrecking ball at some point anyway, in favor of some high-rise bollardy goodness adjacent to where the elite meet, so a replacement site does need to be found for our irreplaceable trove of magazines and 1990s "web-enabled" computers. It's so crazy, it just might work!

Give us some good blockquote, BFFs at Fairfax Library Advocates:

Fairfax County's Architectural Review Board has asked that the county reconsider bulldozing the American Press Institute (API) building on Sunrise Valley Drive in Reston. They believe the building, designed by Hungarian-born architect Marcel Breuer, has historic architectural significance and should not be taken down and replaced with townhouses. API is the only building in Virginia designed by Breuer.

This building at 48,000 sq feet is large enough to house a regional library. It's in an excellent location. The $10 million library bond approved by voters is enough to purchase and renovate the building. Current development plans for the library parcel in Town Center North and for the API site on Sunrise Valley Drive need to be paused to consider an adaptive reuse of the API building as a public library.

Please write the Planning Commissioners and the Board of Supervisors as soon as possible to ask that this option be considered.

We like this plan, actually. The more brutalist reminders of Reston's awesome concrete past, the better! Also, it makes a lot more sense than preventing the property owner from tearing the building down without a plan for what could be done with it. It beats the RA trying to add another aging (and with our luck, probably leaky) property to its stable. And its stark aesthetics aren't that different from the current library -- think soul-numbing 60s austerity instead of soul-numbing 80s austerity.

If you're a fan of this idea, you should probably write county officials soon -- the Fairfax County Planning Commission is now slated to decide whether to approve rezoning the API property on June 16, after taking a "tour" to determine if it's brutalist enough to save (to be determined, we guess, by how many members bash their shins on various concrete abutments?)

Of course, if you like the idea, you're exactly the kind of person who would would dash off a written letter and put it in a, whazzitcalled, envelope, with a stamp and everything, and drop said envelope in one of those, whazzitcalled, mailboxes for speedy delivery. Get those fountain pens and quills cracking, folks!


  1. Whew. What a relief. Hope this happens. This building is in need of some TLC and a good chain saw for overgrown trees! Thanks for keeping us updated on this!

  2. An historical building analyst who toured the API site said she was amazed at what good shape the building was in... Brutalist architecture and a well-built one at that! Another person said it had "charm." Sure makes me interested to see if a library is a good fit. Heaven knows, Reston is due for some good news after a long spate of unfortunate stresses in the last several years! Perhaps this will be our Cinderella story!

  3. Restonian, we need you at RCA. Think about joining us. In the meantime, for those who like the idea of this potential new home for the library, signing the petition by Monday that will get presented to the Planning Commission to try to stay the executioner will be a fast way to "write" the letter.

  4. If you sign this petition by Monday, June 13, all the signatures will be submitted to the Planning Commission in advance of the June 16 meeting. The first step in considering the library proposal is to stop the demolition permit!

  5. Despite the desire to save the building, moving the library there would be a mistake. The library should be easily accessible by as many people of possible. Keeping it in RTC will ensure that people around all of Reston (especially those traveling by bus who would need it the most) can get to it quickly.

    1. Would expanded bus service to south Reston be bad? Also, perhaps we could get a bike share spot -- something else that is not yet targeted for the south side of the toll road (see locations at

  6. Likely there will be restricted parking for any new library at Reston Town Center. "Urban" parking restrictions which means very little parking. There is a bus route on Sunrise Valley Drive.

  7. True fans of brutalist architecture, check out this birdhouse! For a mere $143.56:


(If you don't see comments for some reason, click here).