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From Icon to Iconographic: The Re-invention of a Landmark

Photo: Grimm and Parker Architects Copyright 2018

Antonio Rebelo, AIA, IIDA
Vice President and Director of Design, Grimm + Parker Architects
President, AIA Potomac Valley

Timing is everything. David Stembel III, the director of Housing and Urban Design at Grimm + Parker, and I, have been talking for quite some time about the future of RFK and its surrounding site when an article in the Washingtonian, What Should We Do with the RFK Site? It Matters More Than You Think propelled us to share our ideas on the subject. We agreed with the author, Dan Reed, that the site of RFK Stadium is one of the City’s few remaining opportunities for smart redevelopment. In fact, the area of the Stadium is much more than just a site for redevelopment, the structure itself is an icon of the City and should be saved through adaptive reuse as the center piece of the redevelopment of the area along the Anacostia River on axis with the U.S. Capitol Building.

RFK Stadium is a historic edifice and exceptional part of the urban fabric and life of Washington. It is uniquely designed with an undulating soft roller-coaster roof-line and rhythmic surround of vertical fins that enclose ramps leading to the seating that overlooks a field of the greenest grass imaginable. Over the years the Stadium reverberated with football fans in the fall, sunbathed baseball fans under the summer skies, and most recently hosted the players and fans of professional soccer. It was the first of the multi-use stadiums, and the first to embrace ramp-based circulation as the prime means for conveying spectators to their seating levels.

It was constructed on land still owned by the National Park Service on the western side of the Anacostia River, and opened as “the District of Columbia Stadium”, home to the City’s baseball and football teams, in 1961. President John F Kennedy attended the first football game and threw out the very first pitch for baseball. Though the Senators left Washington in 1972, and the Redskins left in 1996, RFK has been the home field of the DC United since 1996, and was shared with the Nationals from 2005 to 2007. While the stadium will have no tenants once the United move to their new home in SW Washington in 2018, every Washingtonian has a story about events that took place inside this icon of the City. 

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