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Citizens and Architectural Review Group Want County to Pause Before Bulldozing Reston Building

by Karen Goff May 23, 2016 at 1:15 pm 15 Comments

Former API building/Credit: Showcase.comSeveral concerned citizens  — as well as members of the county Architectural Review Board — want Fairfax County to take another look at the historical significance of the former American Press Institute Building in Reston before giving the go-ahead for a residential neighborhood to be constructed there.

Developer Sekas is looking to rezone the 4.6-acres of land from industrial to residential in order to build 34 townhouses and 10 condominiums at 11690 Sunrise Valley Dr.

The Brutalist-style building, designed by noted architect Marcel Breuer housed the API from 1974 until API merged with the Newspaper Association of America in 2012. The building has been vacant since.

The Fairfax County Architectural Review Board will hold a meeting on the subject at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Fairfax County Government Center in Fairfax.

The application will also have a public hearing before the Fairfax County Planning Commission Thursday at 8:15 p.m.

Carol Ann Riordan, who worked at API for 26 and served as its final executive director, says both the architectural significance of a Breuer building and the history of the API in the news business should be considered before the application moves forward.

Interior of API BuildingShe says the API building is the only Breuer building in Virginia.

Many of the citizens seeking to save the structure are former API employees.

“Fairfax County — and Reston — has many examples of colonial architecture and has perfected the glass box,” Craig Branson, former Marketing Director of the American Society of News Editors (located in the API building), said in a statement distributed by Riordan. “But it only has one stellar example of whole-site architecture using Brutalism, the American Press Institute building. … I urge the board to reject a motion that would destroy this beauty — that would demolish this modern cathedral of learning — and instead work toward keeping it intact.”

Riordan said the headquarters was somewhat of a mecca of learning for nearly 40 years in Reston.

“More than 42,000 people walked through those doors,” she said of the former API HQ, where journalists from all over the country would converge for meetings and training. “There was great work done in that beautiful and significant building.”

Riordan said the county staff report was only made available to the public about a month ago, which is not enough time to accurately review the project.

There were also several letters submitted last November to Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova. The letters expressed concern with the statement in the rezoning application that said “there are no known heritage resources on the developed site.”

“The county has not conducted an inventory to identify potential heritage resources in any of the designated transit station areas along the Silver Line corridor,” wrote Jason Sutphin, Chair of the Fairfax County ARB. He said the county to should suspend the application until the historical and architectural significance of the site can be reviewed.

The Fairfax County History Commission also wrote to Bulova asking the same.

Photos: Exterior, top, and interior, bottom of former API building.

  • Mike M

    Thanks for the link to Breuer. Very interesting.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    It’s one fugly building in my opinion, but preferable (and more aesthetically appealling than) to a gazillion apartments. I say “Leave it alone”.

  • kbikeva

    I suspect that if it could be converted to some use that makes sense and money, it would have already happened. I’m not wild about putting in a whole bunch more residential there (and adding to the traffic issues), but apparently the design wasn’t so wonderful that it inspired re-use and re-purpose. I agree that the interior photo really makes one wonder what might have been possible but not pursued.

  • PU

    The inside looks really cool (almost like a movie set) but the exterior honestly looks like a prison. No wonder it’s been vacant since the original tenant left.

    • Karen Goff

      That’s also an interior shot from its heyday. More recent photos are not so nice.

  • Reston Resident

    For the love of God, do people in Reston need to oppose everything?!???

    • Mike M

      Tis not for the love of God. Nor do we oppose everything. Take meat loaf and dark chocolate for example. We Restonians are very much in favor or meatloaf and dark chocolate. Oh, and driving from one side of town to the other in less than an hour. We are very much for that too!

  • Merriman Allbright

    It could be made into an insane asylum for RIF-ed newspaper reporters. I guarantee it would always be filled to capacity.

  • Brian

    What? Historical? This is an ugly building. Why must the county be held hostage by a few people with affection for Soviet style bunkers?

  • Arielle in NoVA

    Could it be turned into a new elementary school, NVCC or GMU extension site, arts center (larger home for GRACE, plus art studios for local artists), maker spaces, community center (include that indoor pool people keep asking for, plus an archery range), CIT-like small-business incubator?

  • pw20194

    Just broke my own rule and read the comments. NEVER read the comments. You can feel your IQ drop.

    • Mike M

      If you’ll take the time to write something in here why not be specific?

  • MaggieSays

    This is not one of those cases of “so ugly it’s cute”. This is just plain hideous.

  • Sam

    Ugly or not, it’s been sitting vacant for four years. What is the best use of the space? I’m not thrilled with adding another traffic light on Sunrise (for new housing) but it’s better than a ghost town.

  • Greg

    Reston has its monument to Brutalism — Lake Anne — and how successful has that been? Tear this hideous eyesore down, ASAP.

    And, the county better let some of today’s sunshine disinfect its secretness about everything. The sewage dump? The cop killing? Saving this eyesore? Enough!


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