Walking Tour: Modern Dream Houses of SoSo

South of Soapstone Valley, between the Hillwood Museum and the Howard University School of Law, both the trees and the architect-designed houses grow lush and sometimes large. Known for Jazz Age villas, embassies, and the occasional celebrity resident (Marjorie Merriweather Post, George McGovern, Kelly McGillis), this tip of Forest Hills also shelters a rich collection of modernism from 1949 to the present.  Join AIA|DC and SoSo homeowner Robert Miller, FAIA, in exploring Midcentury, Postmodern, and Neomodern classics, a 1980-89 “Street of Dreams,” an earth-sheltered “hobbit house,” and recent, radical remodelings including one under construction.  Non-residential surprises include an almost invisible five-story embassy and a miniature Kennedy Center in need of restoration.

This tour will survey three generations of mostly local architects, including some of their earliest work.  Discussion will focus on the strengths of modern house design in accommodating steep topography, awkward lots, indoor-outdoor living, and big views, as well as the challenges of being contextual—both fitting in with older neighbors and managing stylistic conflicts with contemporaries.

Participants can end their tour with a visit to Hillwood and its outdoor café.

Photo courtesy of Robert Miller, FAIA

After attending this course, participants will be able to:

  • Describe the basic style characteristics of Midcentury, Postmodern, and Neomodern houses;
  • List local architects who had a significant impact on the SoSo neighborhood of Washington;
  • Explain how remodeling is changing the aesthetic of the SoSo neighborhood; and
  • Analyze how architects have accommodated challenging situations such as steep topography, awkward lots, and fitting in with a variety of styles.