Home Entertainment Arthur Cotton Moore, Washington’s defining architect, dies at age 87

Arthur Cotton Moore, Washington’s defining architect, dies at age 87


Arthur Cotton Moore, a Washington architect who painstakingly renovated landmarks such as the Library of Congress and repurposed the capital’s waterfront with the development of Washington Harbor, preserving the city’s urban landscape even as he prompted it to evolve, died on September 4 at his home in Washington. He was 87.

The cause was pulmonary fibrosis, said his wife, Patricia Moore.

Mr. Moore, a sixth-generation Washingtonian, founded his firm Arthur Cotton Moore/Associates in 1965 and over the next half-century became one of the most prominent architects in the capital, with over $1 billion in funding alone. office buildings. “I wish I had designed as much of my city as he did,” Hugh Newell Jacobsenone of the city’s leading architects, told The Washington Post in 1981.

Arthur Cotton Moore’s Designs in Washington

In the 1980s and 1990s, Mr. Moore served as an architect consultant on an $81.5 million renovation of the Thomas Jefferson Building, the centerpiece of the Library of Congress, which reopened after work in 1997. Suspended ceilings were removed to make long-forgotten paintings. Artwork had been cleaned of years of dust and build-up. Stained glass and mosaics were restored. Structural changes finally brought the cavernous building—which Mr. Moore said only had two fire extinguishers—up to safety regulations.

praising the “dazzling restorationNew York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp wrote that visitors to the recently renovated library were in a “place of radiance”.

Previously, Mr. Moore in rescuing the… Old post office on Pennsylvania Avenue NW from demolition. He played a leading role in the renovation of that building and in the Philips collectionthe private art museum in Dupont Circle where paintings were once stored due to lack of space in the bathroom, as well as the cairothe apartment building on Q Street NW, the tallest residential building in Washington.

In those projects, Mr. Moore showed a reverence for history that endeared him to conservationists and advocates of traditional design.

At the old post office, his “intervention did not take away from the character of the original building”, Dhiru A. Thadanic, a Washington-based architect and urban planner, in an interview. At the Jefferson Building, Thadani added, “It’s almost like you don’t know he was there.”

“We could all be thankful that Arthur Cotton Moore has humanely preserved the best of Washington,” Michael Curtis, the author of the book “Classical Architecture and Monuments of Washington, DC,” wrote in an email.

In his own designs, Mr. Moore was more exuberant, challenging the Washington aesthetic that seemed to hold true, writing that “good architecture is but a utilitarian building whose greatest virtue makes money and does not leak.” The city, as he saw it, was full of square structures erected to house the city’s lawyers, lobbyists, and “green shadow bureaucrats.” Even the Kennedy Center, he told Washingtonian magazine, was “like a Whitman Sampler, with toothpick-like columns.”

Mr. Moore tried to give the city’s architecture a touch of lightness, even quirky, with his signature curvaceous, futuristic shapes. His design for the old fashion boutique of Rizik on Connecticut Avenue NW, with its wavy lines, illustrated the style he called “industrial baroque.”

“People are tired of endless grid-cracking,” he says told the Times in 1990. “Baroque is about modern design’s fear and aversion to the curve – exactly what I think is missing in modern design.”

Mr Moore’s most famous design was: Washington Harbor, a $200 million complex on the banks of the Potomac River in Georgetown. In the 1960s he had the restoration of the nearby Canal Squarea 19th-century warehouse that he converted into retail and office space, marking the beginning of his decades-long efforts to transform the neighborhood.

For years, Georgetown’s waterfront was hardly a destination. It included a concrete plant and a parking lot for impounded cars. At some point in its history, a stench came from a building used for animal destruction. “One day they tried to improve the smell by dumping chocolate in the thing,” Mr. Moore told The Post“and there was a smell of rancid chocolate all over Georgetown.”

Still, he saw the potential for a new landmark in Washington—a combination of luxury condominiums, restaurants, office space, and shops with a waterfront boardwalk. After years of fighting with Georgetown community activists calling for more park and public space, Washington Harbor opened in 1986.

The project was not popular everywhere. Writing in the Times, architecture critic Paul Goldberger described it as “an overly crowded cacophony of curves and arches and turrets and columns and domes and bay windows.”

“As an architectural work, Washington Harbor feels like a modern building trapped in a postmodern belt,” he wrote. “The parts seem to collide intensely, and the complex has neither the integrity of a truly classical structure nor that of a truly modern one. It’s heavy and graceful, a reminder that commercial architecture in Washington is still years behind.”

Mr Moore was not deterred by the criticism.

I was well aware,” he wrote shortly after the opening of Washington Harbor, “that while no one has ever been pilloried for producing a dull building in Washington, the most beloved buildings here, such as the Cairo, the old post office, the Smithsonian Castle, and the Library of Congress… all received horrendous reviews from architecture critics upon their openings.

Decades later, as people continued to gather and dine on the waterfront, he seemed to view his vision as fulfilled, at least in part.

“Before Washington Harbor, people didn’t even realize they lived on a river,” Mr. Moore told Washingtonian in 2005. “The Potomac was not part of the collective consciousness.”

On the waterfront, rest after the storms

Born on April 12, 1935, Arthur Cotton Moore grew up in a Victorian home in the Kalorama neighborhood that was later destroyed to house the Chinese embassy. His father was a captain in the navy and his mother was a housewife.

After graduating from private St. Albans School in 1954, Mr. Moore enrolled at Princeton University — in part to avoid the Naval Academy, he said. In his first year, he enrolled in a course in architectural drawing.

“What struck me was the idea of ​​making your drawings come to life,” he said told The Post. “I love seeing my squiggles build on paper. The only real distinction in architecture is when hundreds of people actually make your buildings.”

He received a bachelor’s degree in 1958 and a master’s degree in 1960, both in architecture.

His marriage to Yolanda Andrea Clapp ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of nearly six decades, the former Patricia Stefan of Washington; a son from his first marriage, Gregory W. Moore of Highland Park, NJ; a sister; a brother; and a grandson.

Mr. Moore and his wife lived for a time in Talbot County, on the east coast of Maryland, in a stainless steel mansion designed by Mr. Moore. For the past few years, they lived in a penthouse apartment in the Watergate Building along the Potomac.

In addition to his architectural work, Mr. Moore was a painter, cabinetmaker and novelist. He was the author of books including “Interruption of the Cocktail Hour: A Washington Yarn of Art, Murder, and the Attempted Assassination of the President”, as well as “The Powers of Preservation: New Life for Urban Historic Places” and “Our Nation’s Capital: Pro Bono Publico Ideas.”

The latest book, published in 2017, details his vision for projects he hoped would one day become a reality in Washington: a staircase connecting the Kennedy Center terrace to the Potomac River; a ferry connecting the Kennedy Center, Washington Harbor and Rosslyn, Virginia; an extensive National Mall with underground parking; even open-air art and book stalls line the imposing sides of FBI headquarters.

“They fold up at night,” he suggested, “like Parisian bookstalls.”

One of his latest creative projects, his wife said, was a stainless steel sculpture of a tree, whose gleaming branches were bent as if bending in the wind. The work will be installed later this month, she said, at his grave at Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown.

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