ZGF designed 500 L’Enfant Plaza, a new 247,000 SF commercial office building in Washington, DC. With a site surrounded by brutalist midcentury buildings designed by I.M. Pei and Marcel Breuer, ZGF was challenged to establish a sculptural response to the setting. A bold design was developed for the urban infill project—one that pays homage to the site’s history while engaging in a dialogue with the surrounding buildings. The design provides formal echoes of the existing L’Enfant Plaza architecture through its form and through its façade expression of repeating framed proportions of glass and metal panel. However, 500 L’Enfant’s contrasting materiality provides respite from the surrounding brutalist, precast-concrete buildings.

Through its urban design, the new building contributes to the improvement of L’Enfant Plaza’s public space. The design involved the reconfiguration of the plaza drive to improve vehicular and pedestrian access to the site. Pockets of landscaping along the drive feature pod seating with views to the new District Wharf, establishing a more inviting environment at the street level. Visitors approaching from the reconfigured drive are greeted by a dramatic porte-cochere, which provides a dignified sense of arrival. Inside, a triple-height lobby welcomes those entering from the street level as well as from the existing L’Enfant Plaza complex at the retail-promenade level.

The Class-A building offers a full amenity package, including two levels of below-grade parking and a fitness center. An 8,000 SF landscaped rooftop terrace, complete with a fire pit and catering kitchen, offers sweeping views of the Potomac River, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, and the Northern Virginia skyline. A typical floor plan offers 20,000 SF of space to prospective tenants with efficient, flexible 45-foot-deep floor plates. Eleven of the 12 floors are finished with high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows that offer panoramic views and abundant natural light.

Sustainable strategies include energy-efficient mechanical systems, a high-performance envelope with glazing and sunshade strategies, and water conservation capabilities. Native plantings were selected for the landscaped roof terrace, which also integrates stormwater management systems. The project is registered with the certification goal of LEED Gold®.

Graphics

A prominent environmental graphic in the promenade-level fitness center is inspired by the history of the site, as well as the history of Washington, DC’s built environment. The graphic honors the namesake of L’Enfant Plaza—Pierre Charles L’Enfant—the architect and planner who first designed the street layout for Washington, DC. The teal graphic features Pierre L’Enfant, the famous McMillan plan drawing, as well as iconic historical photos of L’Enfant Plaza.