The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has embarked on a $4 million plan to renovate its headquarters building to create a Center for Landscape Architecture.
The Society purchased the 12,000 square foot building located at 636 Eye Street, NW, in 1997 for $2.4 million, just as D.C.’s Chinatown neighborhood was being revitalized. After 17 years of occupancy, any building would be in need of renovation. However, ASLA leaders saw the opportunity to do much more.
“Today, our headquarters is in a vibrant neighborhood and the building is valued at $6.9 million—a 189% return on our investment,” said Mark A. Focht, FASLA, immediate past president of the ASLA, in presenting the renovation plan to the Society’s Board of Trustees for approval in late November 2014. “This is an opportunity to create a facility to reflect the image and ethic of our profession—a world-class Center for Landscape Architecture that will inspire and engage our staff, our membership, allied professionals, public officials and the general public.”
The ASLA Board of Trustees approved the $4 million plan with nearly unanimous support. “ASLA paid off the original mortgage last summer, so the Society is in an excellent financial position to take out a $3 million mortgage and raise the balance of what we need through fundraising and product donations,” said Nancy C. Somerville, Hon. ASLA, executive vice president/CEO of the Society.
Focht made a personal pledge to contribute $15,000 to the project and challenged the other Board members to join him in launching the fundraising efforts. James Burnett, FASLA, founder of award-winning landscape architecture firm The Office of James Burnett, donated $25,000 to the project and volunteered to chair a fundraising task force to raise the remaining funds needed. “Since the Board approved the project on November 20, we’ve received more than $330,000 in payments and pledges—that’s over 33 percent of our goal,” said Burnett. “We’ll also seek in-kind product donations lighting, furniture, green walls, kitchen appliances, surfacing and other items. We’re committed to creating a space for ASLA’s national headquarters that reflects the complexity and vitality of our profession, and the more successful our fundraising is, the more successful the project will be.”
Gensler was selected through a request for proposal process to lead the design team, which includes landscape architecture firm Oehme, van Sweden, to ensure the profession’s values will be well-represented. The building will be designed to LEED Platinum and WELL™ building standards. Gensler has developed a number of exciting design concepts to modify the building:
- The façade will be slightly altered at the ground level to provide more of a street presence.
- The street level will be reconfigured to become the public face of the Center for Landscape Architecture and will feature flexible meeting/event space, exhibit space, a catering kitchen and restrooms to provide for increased industry and public engagement.
- The current closed, double staircase will be opened up to create a three-story, day-lighted atrium, engaging the floors vertically and providing an opportunity to display elements of landscape architecture.
- Office space will be reconfigured and furnished to meet current staff needs, and to provide for future growth. Staff will also have access to a wellness room, focus rooms, small conference rooms, and upgraded kitchen, break, administrative, and restrooms.
Conceptual drawings are available on the Center for Landscape Architecture website, along with a list of donors, naming rights opportunities, and information on making a donation to the project. Currently, construction is planned to begin in fall of 2015.
About the American Society of Landscape Architects
Founded in 1899, ASLA is the national professional association for landscape architects, representing more than 15,000 members in 49 professional chapters and 72 student chapters. Members of the Society use "ASLA" after their names to denote membership and their commitment to the highest ethical standards of the profession. Landscape architects lead the stewardship, planning, and design of our built and natural environments; the Society’s mission is to advance landscape architecture through advocacy, communication, education, and fellowship.