The Detective and the Architectural Statement

by Mark Wellborn

The Detective and the Architectural Statement: Figure 1
990 Florida Avenue NW

In anticipation for an article that we are running tomorrow on DC’s residential architecture scene, we decided to republish a piece from two years ago about an adventurous architectural undertaking at 9th and Florida Avenue NW.

This article was originally published in August 2011.

In 2003, Jeff Speck moved to DC to become design director at the National Endowment for the Arts, and almost immediately began looking for an empty lot to build the flatiron-style home that he had been thinking about for some time.

After an extensive search, Speck found what he wanted — a north-pointing arrow at the tip of the original L’Enfant plan for the city (Florida Avenue and 10th Street NW).

The name of the owner was listed in city records, but the address was wrong, so, with the help of a detective, Speck set about trying to find him. They found the owner’s address after a few months of searching, and Speck drove out to P.G. County where the two hammered out a deal.

After purchasing the lot, Speck set about working through the arduous process of changing the zoning to allow for construction of a true flatiron property.

“I knew that the zoning code worked against development of these lots, and that with the proper variances, I could create an example of how the code should be changed to encourage their development,” he said.

Speck eventually got the variances he needed and set about designing a four-bedroom, triangular glass and steel home, which was built over an 18-month period in 2007 and 2008 in collaboration with architect Brie Husted and Maryland-based Shelterline Construction. The property address is 990 Florida Avenue NW (map).

The Detective and the Architectural Statement: Figure 2

“The plan for the house was to efficiently fit rectangular rooms into a triangular footprint” Speck explained. “I describe it as a wooden rectangle superimposed on a brick triangle, which has created two residual smaller triangles that are vertical and steel.” One of the smaller triangles houses the wood-burning stove and an overlook that allows heat to rise to the master bedroom. The other is the self-supporting five-ton steel staircase, that was dropped in by a crane.

The Detective and the Architectural Statement: Figure 3

Additional permissions were required for certain aspects of the home, including the sections that overhang the street. “On the east, that overhang consists of the bay windows that make the living room and the master bedroom square,” Speck told UrbanTurf. “On the west, it is the balconies for both of those rooms. When you stand in one of the overhangs, you can see straight to the Washington Monument.”

The Detective and the Architectural Statement: Figure 4

The house has been outfitted with a number of green features including a roof covered with photovoltaic panels, bamboo floors, dual-flush toilets, and radiant heated floors. The main living areas of the house have floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides, as do some of the bedrooms.

The Detective and the Architectural Statement: Figure 5

“I believe that it is possible to insert a modernist building into a traditional neighborhood in a way that contributes to the existing architectural stock,” Speck said. “My ultimate goal was to create a piece of art, without in any way compromising the practicality of the home, and I am proudest of the fact that it lives as well as any vertical urban row house.”

All photos courtesy of Sid Tabak.

See other articles related to: shaw, modern architecture, dclofts

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/this_weeks_find_a_flatiron_architectural_statement/4030


  1. Pierre Viger said at 5:19 pm on Monday August 29, 2011:
    Hello T A Lafavors, As one of the principals of Shelterline Ltd, the builder of Jeff's house, the answer to your question is yes ! The architectural firm which Jeff engaged to produce the working/for-construction drawings is Husted Design in Norhtwest Washington, DC. Brie Husted (principal) was excellent to work with in terms of problem solving and asthetics. The house does in fact have a small yard on the western side where the Specks have a wonderful veg garden, and sitting area. Of course, yard and/or garage are a function of lot size. If you are inclined to discuss further please feel free to contact me the e-mail address above or tel numbers (off)301-608-8723, (Cell)301-252-7007, regards, Pierre Viger
  1. SRT said at 2:31 pm on Tuesday August 23, 2011:
    Amazing looking home!
  1. T. A. Lafavors said at 3:47 am on Wednesday August 24, 2011:
    Would the architect and builder be willing to replicate this house? I absolutely love it but it has no yard or garage
  1. CMB said at 9:02 pm on Thursday August 15, 2013:
    Living close by, the intersection of Fl Ave & 10th has been a part of my daily drive to/from work. I watched with amazement at what was being built on the oddly shaped lot. Since completed, I have always admired the home because as Speck said, it is a modernist home that fits in a traditional neighborhood. I've even taken an out-of-town guest who is an architectural student by the house. Now it is great to see photos of the interior. Thank you for republishing UT!
  1. zcf said at 9:44 pm on Thursday August 15, 2013:
    beautiful house.
  1. Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre said at 9:58 pm on Thursday August 15, 2013:
    It is lovely. But isn't 18 months kind of a long time to build a 4 bedroom house?
  1. M said at 10:16 pm on Thursday August 15, 2013:
    I'm sure the 18th months was due to abiding by DCRA new construction codes. They are a complete nightmare to maneuver through. How about an article about DCRA needing an overhaul! 😉
  1. John in TakPak said at 6:10 pm on Monday August 19, 2013:
    I appreicate postings like this - it's valuable education for other local homeowners about what is possible if your vision and drive is strong enough. But, what might be even more useful is an article about how hard it is to get financing for such an endeavor. How do I get my grand creative vision funded?
  1. roots said at 6:46 pm on Monday August 19, 2013:
    great house, and even better family. Hope you are doing well, Specks!
  1. calvin broadus said at 3:38 am on Tuesday August 20, 2013:
    I live near this house. It's at the corner of 10th and Florida, not 9th and Florida. Secondly, the owner tried to sell it recently, but alas no one wanted to pay some $1.3 million to live next to a housing project--to the north--or the daily fish, across the street, where the homeless panhandle all day for change to buy malt liquor there.

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