Speaking of vitrolite…

I spotted the lovely modernist apartment building on California street in DC, noting it has an apartment just waiting for me.  Several things about the building appealed to me, for example, the lettering, the tiny mosaic tile in two different colors, the round support column, and the aluminum handrails and door frame.  Letters were generally made of stainless steel, aluminum, or bronze, and pinned to the wall or braced on a canopy (Dyson, 2008).

The colored panels, possibly designating an apartment wall? were stand-outs to me also, coupled with all the glass and the striking simplicity of the building itself.  The Envoy is circa 1959, located in the Sheridan-Kalorama Historic District of DC.  Many large, luxury apartments were concentrated along Connecticut Avenue and California Street, near the metro line.  Opaque structural glass, known as vitrolite and carrara, were used up until the 1960s to “modernize” buildings.  Spandrel glass, panels of clear glass back-enameled with paint, were also popular during the 1950s.  These panels do not seem to be vitrolite, but possibly some type of enameled panel, used to supply color and design.  However, as I could not get that close to the panels, it is difficult to determine what the material is.  At any rate, it is another striking building, illustrating the complexity and variety of architectural styles evident in DC.

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3 Responses to Speaking of vitrolite…

  1. ELMalvaney says:

    Nice catch and good eye for the details. Many people pass up these buildings as bland but once you stop to look for a while you notice the ways all the details fit together in an interesting and elegant way. DC has some great Modernist buildings, from apartment high-rises to government buildings. I was thankful for the opportunity to take a tour of the southwestern quadrant a few years ago, which was redeveloped in the 1960s and I took a bunch of pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/26519181@N06/sets/72157624450262669/

  2. ELMalvaney says:

    And of course the beautiful new concourse at Reagan National! Love walking into that place!

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