Postmodernism

Arthur Cotton Moore dies; the architect designed Washington Harbor

Arthur Cotton Moore, a Washington architect who painstakingly renovated landmarks such as the Library of Congress and gave the capital a new waterfront destination with the development of the Port of Washington, preserving the city’s cityscape even as it l pushed to evolve, died Sept. 4 at his home in Washington. He was 87 years old.

The cause was pulmonary fibrosis, said his wife, Patricia Moore.

A sixth-generation Washingtonian, Mr. Moore established his practice, Arthur Cotton Moore/Associates, in 1965 and over the next half-century became one of the capital’s preeminent architects, overseeing more than a billion dollars just for office buildings. “I wish I had designed as much of my city as he did,” Hugh Newell Jacobsen, another of the city’s leading architects, told The Washington Post in 1981.

Drawings of Arthur Cotton Moore on Washington

In the 1980s and 1990s, Mr. Moore served as consulting architect for an $81.5 million renovation of the Thomas Jefferson Building, the centerpiece of the Library of Congress, which reopened after renovations in 1997. The ceilings hanging have been removed to reveal long-forgotten items. paintings. The works of art have been cleaned of years of dust and buildup. Stained glass and mosaics have been restored. Structural changes brought the cavernous building – which Mr Moore said only had two fire extinguishers – finally up to safety codes.

Praising the “dazzling restoration”, New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp wrote that visitors to the newly renovated library found themselves in a “place of radiance”.

Earlier, Mr. Moore helped save the old post office on Pennsylvania Avenue NW from demolition. He played a leading role in the renovation of this building as well as the Phillips Collection, the private art museum in Dupont Circle where paintings had once been stored in the bathroom for lack of space, as well as of Cairo, the apartment building on Q Street NW which is the tallest residential structure in Washington.

In these projects, Mr. Moore demonstrated a respect for history that endeared him to conservatives and advocates of traditional design.

At the Old Post Office, his “intervention did not remove the character of the original building,” Dhiru A. Thadani, a Washington-based architect and urban planner, said in an interview. At the Jefferson Building, Thadani added, “It’s almost like you didn’t know he was there.”

“We could all be grateful that Arthur Cotton Moore humanely preserved the best of Washington,” Michael Curtis, author of the book “Classical Architecture and Monuments of Washington, DC,” wrote in an email.

In his own designs, Mr. Moore was more exuberant, defying the Washington aesthetic which seemed to hold, he wrote, that “good architecture is but a utilitarian building whose greatest virtues are to gain money and not to run away”. The city, as he saw it, was full of square structures erected to house the city’s lawyers, lobbyists, and “green-shaded bureaucrats.” Even the Kennedy Center, he told Washingtonian magazine, was “like a Whitman Sampler, with toothpick-shaped columns.”

Mr. Moore sought to give the city’s architecture a touch of lightness, even whimsy, with its characteristic curved and futuristic forms. His design for the fashion store of the former Rizik on Connecticut Avenue NW, with its undulating lines, exemplifies the style he called “industrial baroque”.

“People are tired of endless computing grids,” he told The Times in 1990. lacking in modern design. »

Mr. Moore’s most notable design was the Port of Washington, a $200 million complex located along the banks of the Potomac River in Georgetown. In the 1960s, he had undertaken the restoration of nearby Canal Square, a 19th-century warehouse that he had converted into retail and office space, marking the start of his decades-long effort to transform the neighborhood.

For many years, the Georgetown waterfront was hardly a destination. It included a concrete batching plant and parking for impounded cars. During a period in its history, a stench emanated from a building used for animal rendering. “One day they tried to make the smell better by pouring chocolate in the thing,” Mr. Moore told the Post, “and there was a rancid chocolate smell all over Georgetown.”

Still, he saw the potential for a new landmark in Washington – a combination of luxury condominiums, restaurants, office space and retail with a promenade along the water. After years of battles with Georgetown community activists demanding more parks and public spaces, the Port of Washington opened in 1986.

The project was not universally popular. Writing in The Times, architecture critic Paul Goldberger described it as “an over-laden cacophony of curves, arches, turrets, columns, domes and bay windows”.

“As a work of architecture, Washington Harbor looks like a modern building trapped in a postmodern belt,” he wrote. “Its parts seem to clash intensely, and the complex has neither the integrity of a truly classical structure nor that of a truly modern structure. It is heavy and graceless, a reminder that commercial architecture at Washington is still years behind.

Mr. Moore was undeterred by the criticism.

I was well aware,” he wrote shortly after the opening of the Port of Washington, “that while no one has ever been pilloried for building a boring building in Washington, the most beloved buildings here, such as that Cairo, the Old Post Office, the Smithsonian Castle and the Library of Congress…all received terrible reviews from architectural critics when they opened.

Decades later, as people continued to gather and dine on the waterfront, he seemed to consider his vision fulfilled, at least in part.

“Before the Port of Washington, people didn’t even know they lived on a river,” Moore told the Washingtonian in 2005. “The Potomac wasn’t part of the collective consciousness.”

At the water’s edge, calm after the storms

Arthur Cotton Moore was born on April 12, 1935 and grew up in a Victorian house in the Kalorama district which was later destroyed to accommodate the Chinese Embassy. Her father was a sea captain and her mother was a housewife.

After graduating from private St. Albans School in 1954, Mr. Moore enrolled at Princeton University – in part to avoid the Naval Academy, he said. In his first year, he enrolled in an architectural drawing course.

“What hooked me was the idea of ​​bringing your designs to life,” he told The Post. “I find great excitement in seeing my paper scribbles constructed. The only real reward in architecture is when hundreds of people make your buildings real.

He received a bachelor’s degree in 1958 and a master’s degree in 1960, both in architecture.

His marriage to Yolanda Andrea Clapp ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of nearly six decades, the former Patricia Stefan of Washington; a son from his first marriage, Gregory W. Moore of Highland Park, NJ; a sister; a brother; and a grandson.

Mr. Moore and his wife lived for a time in Talbot County on Maryland’s east coast in a stainless steel mansion designed by Mr. Moore. For the past few years, they had resided in a penthouse apartment in the Watergate building along the Potomac.

In addition to his work as an architect, Mr. Moore was a painter, cabinetmaker and novelist. He is the author of books including “Interruption of the Cocktail Hour: A Washington Yarn of Art, Murder, and the Attempted Assassination of the President”, as well as “The Powers of Preservation: New Life for Urban Historic Places” and “Our National capital: pro bono publico ideas.”

This latest book, published in 2017, detailed his vision for projects he hoped to one day see in Washington: a staircase connecting the terrace of the Kennedy Center to the Potomac River; a ferry linking the Kennedy Center, the Port of Washington and Rosslyn, Virginia; an expanded National Mall with underground parking; even outdoor art and book stalls line the towering sides of the FBI headquarters.

“They retreated at night,” he suggested, “like Parisian bookstores.”

Among his latest creative projects, his wife said, was a stainless steel sculpture of a tree, its shiny branches bent as if bending in the wind. The artwork will be installed later this month, she said, on her grave in Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown.