Constitution Center


Constitution Center

LocationWashington, DC
ClientDavid Nassif Associates
ServicesSite Design, Construction Documentation, Construction Observation, Site Perimeter Security Design
Site Area1.0 acre (0.4 ha)
Budget$800,000 USD
Date2006 - 2010

As part of the large-scale renovation that rebranded the 1960s-era David Nassif Building as Constitution Center, OCULUS provided landscape architectural design services for the building’s one acre (0.4 hectares) interior courtyard and streetscape. Occupying a full city block, the structure—formerly the headquarters of the Department of Transportation—is the largest privately-owned office building in Washington, DC. Extensive streetscape improvements and courtyard were designed by OCULUS. Outdated hardscape areas were replaced, building security was improved, stormwater runoff was reduced, and new building amenities were introduced. The renovated building meets Interagency Security Council level IV standards and the streetscape is designed to be adaptable to Anti Terrorism / Force Protection K12 perimeter security.

The signature courtyard space is visible from the L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station entrance, building lobbies, and office spaces on all four sides of the building. The courtyard therefore serves as both an outdoor space for tranquility and repose as well as a soothing visual element to be enjoyed by workers inside the building. Built over existing structure, the courtyard required particularly strategic design to provide maximum impact while limiting weight load.

The two focal points of the courtyard are connected by a central stone walkway. At one end of this axis, a water feature provides a calming atmosphere for thought and reflection; at the other, Legacy, a sculpture by Richard Deutsch, commemorates the building’s pre-renovation design by Edward Durrell Stone. A winding path intersects the primary axial path, spaces for small gatherings and individual reflection are provided along each route. Native planting is used to provide year-round interest and climatic comfort.

Recycled materials were also utilized in the design. The stacked stone benches were custom-designed to be constructed from black granite salvaged during the demolition of the former hardscape design.

Watercolor illustrations credit: Vladislav Yeliseyev Architectural Illustration