23. How to Turn a Corner

How to turn a corner

A former professor referenced the current Washington DC convention center as having over a dozen moves/gestures that help it turn a corner.

23 DC Convention Center

I’ve always had trouble understanding just what he meant. There is a lot going on, but it is hard to say what moves are in service of turning the corner. I do have fond memories of walking up Dearborn St in Chicago as a high schooler, walking past the Monadnock Building and Mies van der Rohe’s Federal Building as a mini history course.

23 Dearborn St

The two buildings are separated by decades and show different ways of addressing a corner condition. The Modandnock was one of the last masonry wall bearing buildings, with giant 12′ wide walls at the bottom. This buttress defines the corner. As for the Federal Building across the street, subtle spacing and placement of the decorative mullion address the corner condition. For a more contemporary take, see 100 Eleventh Ave by the High Line in New York City from architect Jean Nouvel. That building has hundreds of gestures helping to turn the corner, but at some point the gestures become pattern and the corner becomes smooth.


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