Anthem House – In some residential neighborhoods, art is bigger than ever
The Washington Post
July 12, 2018
Gigantic, colorful murals and art installations are popping up in the most unlikely places.
In Crystal City, Va., four 12-story buildings are wrapped in designs painted on transparent vinyl panels.
In Baltimore, a 20-foot-high cement wall is painted with portraits of beloved local historical figures.
And in Scottsdale, Ariz., huge red, yellow and blue toylike sculptural pieces are scattered outside a residence.
Across the country, the face of residential neighborhoods is changing, as developers team with artists to make their buildings stand out with original artwork. These aesthetic projects are altering the normal expectations of what a neighborhood looks like, and what developers are spending their money on.
“We’re always looking for what differentiates our buildings and neighborhoods, what will make people want to live in them, what will make them inspiring,” said Brian Coulter, chief development officer for JBG Smith in Chevy Chase, Md.
When JBG Smith acquired four buildings in Crystal City — a mixed-use neighborhood of government-occupied buildings, tall residences and street-level restaurants that didn’t exude excitement — company officials wanted to add color and vibrancy.
JBG Smith called on Peter Nesbett to serve as creative consultant and tap his Rolodex of artists who could enhance the street’s visual appeal.
“The Crystal City panels are a fantastic opportunity to explore art at gargantuan levels for the aesthetic improvement of an existing neighborhood,” Nesbett said. He brought on board artists Tim Doud and Adrienne Shisko to create the mural building wraps.
“We pride ourselves in considering the total environment. We think a lot about the space on the ground, 20 feet out and 20 feet up — bottom of the building, street level, entry doors — because that’s people’s viewpoint. That’s why we also painted sidewalks, crosswalks and driveways. We wanted to provide unexpected moments as people walk around,” Coulter said.
Annapolis artist Jeff Huntington painted this multi-portrait of Francis Scott Key, Billie Holiday and Edgar Allan Poe on a concrete wall around the Anthem House, an apartment building in the Locust Point neighborhood of Baltimore. (Younts Design Inc.)
Aconcrete wall rings Anthem House, the nine-story apartment building at the gateway to the Locust Point neighborhood in Baltimore.
“We saw the wall as an opportunity to bind the building with the neighborhood and celebrate the city’s history,” said Rohit Anand, principal in the Tysons Corner, Va., office of KTGY Architecture and Planning, and the building’s architect.
The developer hired Annapolis artist Jeff Huntington to paint a multi-portrait mural of Francis Scott Key, who composed the national anthem in Baltimore, and city legends Billie Holiday and Edgar Allan Poe.
“Art has the opportunity, if done right, to become part of the building and neighborhood’s identity. It can become iconic. People will say, ‘I live in the mural building or meet me by the mural,’” said Anand.
In Evanston, Ill., John McLinden, managing partner of Hubbard Street Group, grappled with a concrete embankment across the street from the 12-story Centrum Evanston residential tower.
The 16-foot-high-by-90-foot-long wall surrounded a transportation hub.
“We went to the city and the neighbors and asked to take ownership of this wall,” McLinden said. “We hired artist Shawn Bullen. We worked with him on themes. He sent us sketches. We said, ‘Go for it.’ ”