Morris Adjmi Architects

Atlantic Plumbing Placemaking

717,000 square feet
4 buildings
Washington, D.C.

Atlantic Plumbing is a large mixed-use development intended to help revitalize a creative, up-and-coming neighborhood near Howard University in Washington, D.C. It comprises four structures on three sites previously occupied by parking lots or abandoned and overgrown warehouses, including the Atlantic Plumbing Supply Company.

The sites brought to mind the large industrial buildings that line the railways leading into Washington—buildings that, seen from a passing train, evoke the work of artists Bernd and Hilla Becher. The Bechers are best known for their black-and-white photographs of industrial structures, which are typically exhibited as a grid of images depicting one specific type—water towers, blast furnaces, or silos, for example. The deadpan photographs illustrate the beauty of industrial forms and invite an appreciation of the variations that can be found within a single type. Atlantic Plumbing’s industrial setting and the Bechers’ photographs together inspired the design and planning strategy for the Atlantic Plumbing development. 

The four distinct but architecturally related structures combine modern and industrial languages by means of brick, glass, and steel. Inside, the buildings’ various units feature high ceilings and wood floors, as well as industrial-style fixtures and cabinetry that nod to the neighborhood’s history while creating a consistent design experience.

Although its design may be rooted in the recent past, Atlantic Plumbing’s bold graphic forms, contextual material palette, and thoughtful public programming are drawing people to the area, cultivating a sense of community, and, ultimately, inspiring better buildings throughout the neighborhood to give it an apt new identity. In that sense, the Atlantic Plumbing project isn’t just about responding to its context; it’s about creating a new one.