News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Bye, Bye, API: It's Too Late For Reston's Brutalist Masterpiece, But Maybe We Can Still Save This Nearby '80s "Gem"

Bye Bye API 2

Pour one out, as the kids no longer say, for the Marcel Breuer-designed brutalist bunker that was the American Press Institute headquarters. After winning approval to demolish the legitimately recognized architectural masterpiece in late July, the developer wasted no time getting the ball rolling on the long and arduous process of tearing the API building down, scattering pulverized bits of shredded concrete and god knows what other bits of 1970s goodness to the winds. Demolition started earlier this week, and the last brutalist chunks should be gone by the end of the month.

And yet, Tall Oaks still stands. There is no justice.

While a last-ditch effort to preserve the API building on its historical merits failed, fear not! We have a chance to redeem ourselves, as an equally architecturally significant property right next door is also slated for demolition. Give us some good blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:

RP 11720, LLC, part of Rooney Properties (which also owns the API building), plans to tear down a 30-year old office building at Sunrise Valley Drive and Roland Clarke Place to build the urban-style homes.

The parcel is at 11720 Sunrise Valley Dr., just west of the Mercer Condos, (part of JBG’s Reston Heights) and right across Roland Clarke Place from the American Press Institute property, where 34 townhouses and 10 condominiums are planned.

The property also sits across from Reston National Golf Course, which has fended off redevelopment for now.


You may be thinking to yourself, "I don't remember an architecturally significant building along that stretch of Sunrise Valley." Well, silly rabbits, let us refresh your memory:

80s gem

We can say with the full authority of our certificate of completion in architecture from one of the Caribbean's most prestigious correspondence schools that this is one of the finest examples of an architectural style that is unique to Fairfax County. Namely, the F--k It, Just Hurry Up Already And Put Up A Nondescript Office Building And Sell It Before The Office Space Boom Ends and We Wind Up Holding The Bag With Tens Of Thousands Of Vacant Square Feet Of Commercial Space We Can't Give Away school of architecture that characterized Fairfax County in the go-go 1980s and early 1990s. If anything, it's almost too nice -- many of the buildings of this era featured appealing rectangular shapes, often adorned with fake pointy roofs to hide the air conditioning. Your Restonian went to at least a dozen unrewarding temp jobs in office buildings that looked exactly like this one, including a stint rejecting low-dollar-value credit applications for a mall jewelry chain, which wasn't as depressing as it sounds. It was worse. Far, far worse.

But we digress. It's only because Restonians had this crazy idea that low-slung concrete monstrosities from the 1970s still represented a viable environment for office space (we're looking at you, Issac Newton Square) that we don't have more of these gems.

So before this proposal goes back before county planners later this month, we should start a petition, or something, to preserve this bit of Fairfax County hubris rampant development greed history. You could call this architectural monument to a lost era "dated," and not in keeping with the styles of today, but the one thing we've all learned in recent years is that greed never goes out of style, the end.


  1. As bland and boring as that building is, it's probably better than what they're going to replace it with.

  2. "Other bits of 1970s goodness to the winds."

    Time to break out the N95 masks.

  3. Great article, Restonian! Can't wait to see what architectural gem (er, piece of crap) replaces it!

  4. Gamester of TriskelionSeptember 17, 2016 at 12:09 PM

    I bid 50 quatloos for 11720 Sunrise Valley Drive to house the future thralls of Reston.

    Cathy Hudgins is my Provider.

  5. Let's knock down the whole RTC while we are at it! After all it is over 15 years old now, and completely out of fashion with all that caulking and fake stucco over Styrofoam growing every kind of mold willing to survive the Virginia climate and owners' ego.

  6. Another one bites the dust. I am flummoxed as to why the International Center was spared the wrecking ball in all of that redevelopment on Sunrise. The lobby is being redesigned --but it is still sorely dated and worn out.


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