Today I took my interior design students from the Corcoran College of Art + Design to one of my new favorite places in D.C.: the formerly-decaying-now-under-renovation old Baptist church at 700 Delaware Avenue S.W. that has recently been painted by Atlanta-artist Hense Brewer. None of the 12 of them knew what was coming; all they had was an address. So they were all pretty surprised – pleasantly I think – to arrive and find this:
I was here about a month ago and didn’t see anything going on, but now it’s pretty clear they’re deep into renovating the interior. I spoke with the building’s owner, Steve Tanner, and some of his partners in this endeavor over at Art Whino, and the plans are for this to eventually become an event/gallery space.
We walked around the building a bit to see it from all the different angles.
There’s a lot to see.
They even let us inside, which was thrilling. It’s not as dark as it looks from the foreboding open door…
One of the first things we saw in the vast first floor space was this baptismal pool. We all thought it was going to be an altar as we approached…but it wasn’t. Very intense, a little freaky to see it in such a run down state, and ultimately really interesting. It really drove home the type of space this was intended to be, versus the new functions it will house. Steve tells me this building was officially decommissioned by the church a while back, which is when there is an official ceremony conducted that figuratively takes the soul of the building and makes way for the building to move on and serve another purpose.
But back to that baptismal pool, I suppose this is where the DJ booth is going to go… This is adaptive reuse in action. I think it’s fascinating.
The upstairs, which is quite different from the plain downstairs, is just as interesting as the exterior. Here’s a little peek.
The windows are particularly eye-catching, because many are stained glass AND have the exterior paint on them, so the colors they transmit and reflect are really powerful.
(The image immediately above is a panorama, so the wall is not actually curved.)
After the tour, we sat outside and did some sketching. A big component of this particular course is becoming more comfortable with sketching, and this was a great opportunity to sit before a fantastic, very out of the ordinary subject.
Next week we’ll work with this space in class a bit to brainstorm alternative possible uses for it as an exercise in space planning. This will be hypothetical of course, because it’s being developed right now as a cultural, social, and artistic hot spot for a dynamic neighborhood. That’s a function that’s hard to beat!
Additionally, if you’re interested in seeing this building house the G40 Art Summit later this year, or if you want read a bit more about the aspirations of those involved in this project, please visit this page to read up and help out!