- Joseph Wnuk & Alex Oporto
The Watergate is the masterwork of the renowned Italian Mid-Century Modernist Luigi Moretti. Often overshadowed by the less glamorous, but very “Washington” scandal, The Watergate complex is like nothing else in the Nation’s capital. In the late fifties, Societa Generale Immobiliare, an Italian real-estate company, financed in part by the Vatican, purchased ten acres in DC's Foggy Bottom’s shore on the Potomac to build DC's first mixed-use development, with shops, offices, a hotel, and luxury residential units. Controversial from its inception, the design of the complex had plenty of opposition for its scale and the radical departure from Washington’s traditional Neo-Classical style. However soon after, the Watergate name would become synonymous with luxury attracting diplomats, lawyers, doctors, high government officials and the Hollywood elite.
50 years after creating controversy in Washington and its recent decline, the Watergate is experiencing a renaissance. In July of last year, following a multimillion-dollar face lift and much awaited fanfare, the Watergate Hotel reopened offering upscale bars, restaurants and impressive river-view guest rooms.
Equally, the complex is attracting new residents lured by its proximity to Georgetown and Washington Circle’s restaurants, nightlife, transportation and unique waterfront location.
The new owners of this 2000+SF unit saw beyond the layers of years of traditional missteps, at the modern “bones” of this unique apartment. A complete overhaul was done to eliminate these layers and to unveil and create a space that is clearly of today but yet respects the Mid-Century pedigree.
The owners/designers Joseph Wnuk, founder of WnukSpurlock Architecture and his partner Alex Oporto, an architect/project manager at the State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operation, who together own an impressive modern art collection, chose to allow their new residence to be the background canvas to showcase their artwork. Initially unbeknown to them at the time, Oporto and Wnuk purchased their unit from Josephine Thornton, who in 1969 became the first person to move into the Watergate West building and was an avid supporter of local artists herself. This apartment became well known to many Washington residents and commuters for the blue and yellow neon sculpture visible from Rock Creek parkway.
The interior renovation brought the apartment to its essential structure, mechanical, electrical and plumbing infrastructure. The architects realigned vistas and axis while redirecting and taking full advantage of the unparalleled views of Washington’s Potomac River. Large format porcelain tiles on the floors throughout all the public areas contribute to a sense of expansiveness. Translucent glass walls maintain the feel of openness while creating very functional and open areas for entertaining that could be transformed into cozier spaces for private times. Generous work surfaces in the kitchen are hidden behind white and natural wood cabinets maintaining elegant and simple clean lines.
With walls of glass facing along the entire Southeast side of the apartment, it was a challenge to find wall space of the artwork, say Oporto and Wnuk, but it is difficult to argue with the ever-changing vistas nature provides across the river and thru Roosevelt Island. But now it feels like the apartment belongs in the building. It is modern again.
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Den, Dining, Living
Living, Dining, den
Shower-Bath comb. enclosure
Shower-Bath comb. enclosure