Sunday, October 18, 2009

Architecture x Power



I guess it says something about the state and history of modernist architecture in the Washington DC area that two of the best buildings are electrical substations that no one seems to have ever mentioned before.

There's an ominous-looking, gridded steel&glass box thing tucked in between the railroad tracks and NASA's Headquarters just south of the National Mall.

And then there's the Crystal Substation [above], owned by Dominion, which is south of the Pentagon in Crystal City. [Which, put that way, sounds like the poorly translated setting for a 3rd-wave Akira knockoff.]

When I first stumbled past the Crystal Substation on our way out of Costco, I immediately thought of the futurtopian paradise that was Expo 67 in Montreal. The tubular space-frame roof resonated with the Expo's giant, perfect, and pointless structures like the Gyrotron, an ur-Space Mountain by Kenny & Auger, and the Netherlands Pavilion by Eijkelenboom and Middelhoek.

Eh, no. Up close the substation is ghetto busted, neglected and as uninviting...uh, as a conglomeration of deadly electrical equipment should be, I suppose. At least it looks good in drive-by.