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1412 I Street Northwest
Washington, DC, 20005
United States

With a professional working relationship spanning three decades, Gary F Martinez FAIA and Thomas E Johnson FAIA founded Martinez+Johnson Architecture in 1994 to bring their design sensitivities to institutional and cultural projects in urban locations. The 25-architect firm has since established an expertise in three main architectural areas – the restoration and adaptive reuse of historic structures, institutional buildings in urban areas and community settings, and the design and planning of performing arts venues.

Known for a thoughtful design approach to public facilities, M+J develops an intimate understanding of the needs of users, patrons, and operators destined to inhabit the projects of the firm. M+J looks to the future in their design aesthetic even when the context may be firmly rooted in the past and executes creative solutions to facilities both new and historic, where flexibility, ease of operation, and high but versatile performance characteristics are requisite. Venues express aspirational values and goals of the communities within which they are located, and at the same time conform to issues of economic value at the highest levels of environmental sustainability.

Howard Theatre

Photos by Tim Cooper, Jeff Martin, + Jose Valcarcel

 
 

howard Theatre

Washington, DC


The recent renovation efforts include an adaptive reuse of the Howard Theatre as a 600-seat multi-purpose, contemporary performing arts facility that accommodates patrons in a mixture of fixed and flexible seating.

 

Opportunity

Built in 1910 and predating New York’s Apollo Theatre by a decade, the Howard Theatre was at the center of a vibrant African American community. During its heyday the theatre resounded with the raw talent of greats Duke Ellington and his “American Music”, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Eckstein, Miles Davis, Marvin Gaye and the Supremes.

Early alterations stripped the building of its classical detailing, its brick façade and windows were covered with a layer of stucco, and the portico was replaced with a streamlined marquee. The building was further altered in 1941, 1974 and closed in the early 1980’s.

 

Creation

M+J’s design takes the Howard Theatre’s exterior back to its original 1910 appearance, which was guided by on-site investigation and historic photographs. The recent renovation efforts include an adaptive reuse of the Howard Theatre as a 600-seat multi-purpose, contemporary performing arts facility that accommodates patrons in a mixture of fixed and flexible seating.  

To make the theatre more versatile and economically sustainable, the architects excavated a 10,300 square foot basement which houses a new 2,700 square foot kitchen to cater to the theatre’s full-service dining menu and events such as weekly Gospel Brunches with the Harlem Gospel Choir and other special functions geared to the needs of entertainment that will be performing at the venue. “We want to bring the community together and ensure that this iconic theatre thrives,” the architects state. To ensure that it does, a second phase of this project is proposed as an adjacent educational center that includes recording facilities, classrooms, and a museum.

This design won unanimous approval from the DC Historic Preservation Review Board. The firm’s work is designed in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation in order to qualify the project for the Tax Credit.


Owner: Howard Theatre Development Group c/o roy ellis

Completion: 2012

Size: 30,00SF

Cost: $30M

AWARDS: 2012 AIA | DC AWARD for Excellence in Historic Resources

2012 International Design Awards for the category of renovation – honorable mention

2012 Washington building congress – craftsmanship award winner

2013 District of Columbia Historic Preservation Office and Office of Planning – Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation

2013 AIA Presidential Citation

 
 
THE HOWARD THEATER’S RESTORATION, GIVEN ITS SIGNIFICANCE TO THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY IN DC, WAS A PROJECT OF SPECIAL INTEREST TO THE HISTORIC PRESERVATION REVIEW BOARD.

IT WAS WITH GREAT PLEASURE AND DELIGHT, AS EVIDENCED BY THE BOARD’S APPLAUSE AT THE END OF M+J’S PRESENTATION, THAT WE UNANIMOUSLY APPROVED THE THOUGHTFUL DESIGN FOR THE HOWARD THEATER.

WE KNOW THE BUILDING WILL ONCE AGAIN BE A LANDMARK, AFTER ITS RESTORATION FOLLOWING M+J’S DESIGN.

- Catherine Buell, Former Chairperson DC Historic Preservation Review Board
 
 
 

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