Center of I.M. Pei-designed plaza part of Washington redevelopment

The L’Enfant Plaza, a three-story below-grade mall, was renovated to include a new glass atrium pavilion and a 40-foot-long, interactive LED.

November 24, 2015 |
Center of I.M. Pei-designed plaza part of Washington redevelopment

Photo: Judy Davis, Hoachlander Davis Photography.

Each weekday, more than 29,000 people, including 4,000 workers on site, make their way to the L’Enfant Plaza area for business, shopping, transit, dining, and tourist activities. Designed in 1965 by I.M. Pei as a series of buildings set apart from the surrounding neighborhoods to form a large open plaza, the master plan places 1.3 million sf of buildings around a central courtyard. At its center is L’Enfant Plaza, a three-level, below-grade mall with 200,000 sf of retail space, an auditorium, 1,600 parking spaces, and connection to the adjacent L’Enfant Metro Station.


Building Team: SmithGroupJJR (submitting firm, architect, MEP); JBG Companies (owner); Smislova, Kehnemui & Associates (SE); Whiting-Turner (GC)
General Information: Size: 200,000 sf. Construction cost: $22 million. Construction time: June 2011 to January 2013 (phase 1), January 2014 to March 2015 (phase 2). Delivery method: Design-bid-build

Local developer JBG Companies purchased the property in 2003 with a vision of creating a destination and link between the National Mall and the soon-to-open, 27-acre waterfront development, The Wharf. The first step in its plan involved renovating the dim, dated retail plaza into a vibrant, light-filled shopping and dining experience.

The gut renovation project reorganized food vendors and cafés along a pathway that extends across 300 feet north/south and 600 feet east/west. The team opened up the east side of the space by introducing windows into a former solid wall, offering views to the adjacent landscaped courtyard. Along the pathway, a gently curved metallic ceiling reflects light from the windows and is uplit by a continuous, suspended light source. A 40-foot-long, interactive LED wall at the top of the Metro escalators serves as the gateway to the retail plaza.

The centerpiece is a new glass atrium pavilion, topped by a 3,000-sf skylight, at the west end of the mall. This simple glass box, which required review and approval by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, was designed to complement Pei’s architecture, and accommodate future buildings within the plaza. 


Photo: Judy Davis, Hoachlander Davis Photography.

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