mass timber 'sycamore & oak' designed as catalyst for minority businesses

mass timber 'sycamore & oak' designed as catalyst for minority businesses

a place for opportunity in washington dc

 

Sycamore & Oak, a new mixed-use development by Adjaye Associates, has brought a vibrant hub to Washington D.C.‘s neighborhood of Congress Heights. The development is at once a collection of shops and eateries, and an example of community-led design, economic empowerment, and environmental consciousness. The structure itself takes shape with an open-air design built of mass timber and punctuated by skylights, Covering 22,000-square-feet, the space is flooded with natural light. A distinctive canopy offers protection from the elements while fostering a sense of intimacy, a ‘community within a community’ as the architects describe it.

sycamore oak adjaye associatesimage © Dror Baldinger

 

 

the open-air, mass timber design by adjaye associates

 

Inside Adjaye Associates’ Sycamore & Oak, a Retail Village offers a mix of uses. Wellness and entrepreneurial support services share space with food vendors, event space, and retail incubators. A key feature is the elevated plinth, which the architects shape to transform into a central gathering and performance area, complete with a viewing deck overlooking the bustling activity below. Designed for disassembly and reassembly, Sycamore & Oak makes use of a modular system with reclaimable joints. This approach positions the project as a model for supporting local businesses in underserved communities across the country.

 

We are building the community that Ward 8 deserves,’ says Muriel Bowser, Mayor of the District of Columbia. More than a commerce space, Sycamore & Oak serves as a launchpad for local talent, especially Black entrepreneurs. Thirteen local businesses now have a platform to thrive, with adaptable storefronts that can grow and evolve alongside their ventures.

sycamore oak adjaye associates
Adjaye Associates’ Sycamore & Oak brings a community hub to Congress Heights | image © Dror Baldinger

 

 

the sustainable architecture of sycamore & oak

 

With Sycamore & Oak, the architects at Adjaye Associates further prioritize environmental responsibility. Constructed entirely from FSC-certified timber, the building stands as the largest free-standing mass timber structure in D.C. This sustainable material boasts a lower carbon footprint while further allowing for efficient assembly. Atop the structure, a multifunctional canopy serves the dual purpose of collecting rainwater and harnesses solar energy through photovoltaic panels, contributing to the project’s ambition of net-zero operation.

 

Sycamore & Oak marks the first phase of a larger vision for St. Elizabeths East Parcel 15. The forthcoming mixed-use development will integrate commercial spaces, healthcare facilities, public areas, and residences, leveraging public and private investment to revitalize the entire campus. As a temporary structure, it is expected to serve the community for two to four years before being disassembled and redeployed elsewhere. sycamore oak adjaye associates
the modular design allows for disassembly and redeployment in other communities | image © Dror Baldinger

 

 

Architect Pascale Sablan, CEO of Adjaye Associates New York Studio, describes the goals of the project in a recent panel discussion with designboom and iF Design USA:We wanted to make sure that we designed with sustainability in mind, with mass timber and all these different technologies. We want to create amazing opportunities for the local businesses that are there.’

 

It takes a few years between the design concept through documentation, but in that interim, what can that be as a resource for the community? Currently there is a temporary pavilion that acts as an incubator for local businesses in the community, where they’re actually able to rally together, take business classes, create their patronage. So when the larger development comes to fruition, they already have all the tools to not just the exist but to thrive.’

sycamore oak adjaye associates
the open-air structure features a mass timber design and a welcoming canopy | image © Dror Baldinger sycamore oak adjaye associates
a Retail Village offers a vibrant mix of shops, services, and event space | image © Dror Baldinger

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a central plinth serves as a gathering and performance area | image © Dror Baldinger

sycamore oak adjaye associates
sustainable elements include FSC-certified timber and a solar-powered canopy | image © Adjaye Associates

adjaye-associates-sycamore-oak-designboom-08a

Sycamore & Oak prioritizes local businesses, especially Black entrepreneurs | image © Dror Baldinger

 

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project info:

 

project title: Sycamore & Oak

architecture: Adjaye Associates@adjayeassociates

location: Congress Heights, Washington DC

architect of record: Winstanley Architects & Planners
structural engineer: StructureCraft
construction: HEP Construction
general contractor: Banneker Ventures
mechanical/electrical engineer: CS Consulting Engineers, Inc
civil engineer: Wiles Mensch Corporation DC

photography: © Dror Baldinger | @drorbaldingerphotographer (unless otherwise stated)

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