Channel Square is also one of the very few apartment buildings in DC by noted architect, Harry Weese. Though he was trained under and appreciated the Modernist approach, Weese is often considered one of the first postmodern architects, which can be recognized in Channel Square’s luxurious archways. Hailing from Chicago and remaining one of that city’s most prolific architects throughout his life, Weese was also a very important architect to the nation’s capital and a significant contributor to the Southwest Urban Renewal Project.
Channel Square follows the “tower in the garden” layout that defines residential development in Southwest DC, inspired by London squares. It features 5 buildings: one 10-story high-rise apartment building and 4 rows of townhomes and garden apartments; 75 in total. All the buildings of Channel Square have tan brick facades. The high-rise apartment on the southernmost part of the site features the brick and concrete, minimalist, modernist facades typical to the apartment complexes in Southwest. However, instead of balconies, the vertical bands of windows that indicate the individual units alternate between flat, basic fenestration and angular bay windows.
The Channel Square townhouses are arranged in what was called the “residential square” scheme that consists of town houses arranged in rows bordering a central, open space for the common use of all families living on the square. Each house will have its own small back yard in addition to access to and use of the common which consists of about 30 percent of each square. This common area would be restricted as to use by legal device that also would guarantee each homeowner use of the area.
There are two sets of these rows in Channel Square, one on the east side of the site and one on the west side, helping to enclose the complex’s private parking lot and complete the square. The townhouse facades are distinguished by the semicircular arched openings on the brick faces of the units, which echo the vaulted roofs of the adjoining River Park and serve as the complex’s identifying feature, as well as paying homage to the rounded openings of the car barn that once stood on the sight. These arches, and the lack of concrete in the townhouses overall, tend to give Channel Square’s smaller buildings more of a Postmodern influence.
Although new housing in Southwest was originally intended to span virtually a full range of income levels, from lower middle income to upper income (allowing former residents to find housing in their newly renovated neighborhood), the majority of housing constructed was oriented toward middle or upper income residents.
Channel Square served those residents who fell between the income restrictions of public housing and the level of income required to live in the other Southwest residential communities. Families of various sizes could be accommodated in the one to four bedroom apartment units – a contrast to the emphasis on efficiencies and other low occupancy units in many of the other apartment buildings in the area. Those eligible families that had been displaced by public action were given priority among the long list of initial potential residents. Today, this tradition continues as Channel Square persists in accommodating working class families by offering one, two, three and four-bedroom units.