DISTRICT WHARF FISH MARKET
Washington, DC, SW
Studio MB (architect)
A. Morton Thomas & Associates (civil engineer)
The District Wharf Fish Market, located on the Potomac River at the northwestern end of Washington, DC’s District Wharf development, is the oldest continually operating fish market in the US. Landscape scope for the project includes a riverside promenade that connects to the remaining District Wharf development, several plazas for outdoor dining and small gatherings, a new streetscape along Maine Avenue, areas for automobile parking, and a series of shared spaces that accommodate automobile, pedestrian, and service traffic.
The neighborhood surrounding this site was largely demolished during the urban renewal movement of the 1960s. Since then, the Fish Market has become an important symbol of continuity to the community that was displaced at that time; it is also an indispensable cultural artifact treasured by the entire city. The new development left intact the heart of the fish market – a series of floating seafood barges and associated piers – while incorporating five new retail-oriented buildings, renovating an existing historic building, and reorganizing the pedestrian and vehicular circulation as a series of shared spaces. Service functions for the active fish market were also reworked in order to reduce issues associated with unpleasant smells.
The LAB design team brought a local historian onto the project and studied the site carefully in order to develop an approach that was respectful to the cultural, spatial, and material character of the place. The resulting design employs a richly textured ground plane punctuated by a series of functional material interventions. In addition to clarifying site circulation, the design took advantage of a six-foot grade differential between Maine Avenue and the water by establishing a series of terraces and stepped thresholds at key locations throughout the site.
Because of the prominent location of this project and the complexity associated with its cultural legacy, the LAB team was deeply involved in a rigorous approvals process that involved numerous local and federal agencies including the US Commission of Fine Arts.
Renderings: LAB, Hoffman-Madison Waterfront