Op-Ed: API Hosted Pulitzer Prize Winners, Visionaries

by RestonNow.com June 14, 2016 at 1:15 pm 34 Comments

Front of API BuildingThis is an op-ed by William L. Winter, Executive Director of the American Press Institute from 1987 to 2003. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

The many voices now calling for action to save Reston’s historic, Marcel Breuer-designed American Press Institute (API) building from demolition are singing in close concert with the city’s founding principles. This unique planned community called Reston was intended to be, and has, since its creation in the 1960s, been true to its founding principles of “Live, Work, Play, and Get Involved.”

As Reston has grown and matured, its leaders and most prominent institutions have worked hand-in-hand with residents to make sure the community is, in all ways possible, a special place. Reston today thus is a careful reflection of the city’s founding principles. Its parks, schools, golf courses, and other public venues exist comfortably and in careful balance with residential and commercial development, and echo founder Robert E. Simon’s call for a community of, by, and for those seeking immersion in the very best life that a true “community” can offer.

There can be no doubting that the historically and architecturally significant API building on Sunrise Valley Drive has contributed greatly to Reston’s feel of distinctiveness. To have within its borders a classic structure created by the famed designer of the Whitney Museum (now the Met Breuer) in New York City, the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, the headquarters of the U.S. Departments of HUD and HEW in Washington, D.C., and many other noted structures around the globe gives Reston an air of style, class, and grace — a sense that the community truly understands and appreciates the best work of the world’s most talented individuals.

Adding to the API building’s special aura has been the flow of supremely talented women and men who came there as faculty members, guest speakers, and honored guests, including:

Washington Post Publisher Katharine Graham and Executive Editor Ben Bradlee, both of whom stood firm in supporting their newsroom’s dogged reporting during the Watergate saga;

Al Neuharth, newspaper visionary and chairman of Gannett Co., Inc., the largest publisher of U.S. newspapers. Neuharth created a national newspaper (USA TODAY) and turned it into a historic success despite critics who lampooned it as “McPaper” because of its reliance on brief stories. He then leveraged that success into the creation of The Freedom Forum and its Newseum, the highly popular Washington, D.C., museum devoted to celebration of the First Amendment. Neuharth also played a major role in API’s decision to move to Reston.

Pulitzer Prize winner Ellen Goodman, among the most widely syndicated columnists in the U.S., was the first woman to open the op-ed pages of newspapers across the country to female voices during an era when women began to speak loudly about equality.

Arthur Sulzberger Sr. and Jr., dynamic publishers of The New York Times. To this day, the Sulzberger family continues to pour huge resources into The Times’ newsroom, even as most other newspaper owners are in financial retreat.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists such as Washington Post investigative reporter Bob Woodward, who, in tandem with Post reporter Carl Bernstein, revealed the government corruption that came to be known as Watergate.

Janet Hill, a member of the board of directors of the general partner of the Carlyle Group, and a director of The Wendys Company, Dean Foods Company and Esquire Bank. From 1981 until her retirement in 2010, she served as Vice President of Alexander & Associates, Inc. She is married to Calvin Hill, a running back in the National Football League for 12 seasons. Grant Hill, a graduate of Reston’s South Lakes High School and a retired professional basketball player, is their son.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize winner, biographer, historian, and political commentator. Kearnes Goodwin has written biographies of several U.S. presidents, including “The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga” and “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.” “Lincoln,” the Steven Spielberg film that was nominated for 12 Academy Awards in 2012, was loosely based on Kearns’ biography of the 16th U.S. president.

Jeff MacNelly, three time Pulitzer-Prize winning editorial cartoonist and creator of  the popular comic strip “Shoe,” and Jack Ohman, 2016 Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist.

World-renowned management consultants/authors Tom Peters and Alan Weiss. Peters, who has been called “the Red Bull of management thinkers,” is best known for “In Search of Excellence.” Weiss’s consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients such as Merck, Hewlett-Packard, Mercedes-Benz, The Federal Reserve, The New York Times Corporation, and more than 500 other leading organizations.

National political figures such as New York City Mayor Ed Koch and Republican operative Lee Atwater, the man largely responsible for the GOP’s “Southern Strategy.”

Cristiana Chamorro, noted journalist and daughter of former Nicaraguan President Violeta Chamorro.

Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz, owner-publisher of Mexico City’s largest daily Newspaper, El Universal.

In addition, prominent university presidents and faculty, leading business executives, entrepreneurs, and scores of top newspaper editors and business-side executives flowed through the API building’s magnificent entry foyer. They engaged seminar and conference attendees in candid conversation and vigorous debate about organizational leadership, and contemporary trends and issues in the world of journalism, and beyond.

Tens of thousands of program attendees participated in seminars that lasted three to 14 days. When they departed Reston, they left behind millions of dollars spent for hotels, meals, entertainment, and other expenses. Returning home, they shared stories of a special planned community tucked into the rolling hills of Northern Virginia. A Place Called Reston.

Clearly, the Breuer building has brought countless blessings to the Reston community. It is only right that the city now returns the favor by ensuring that the remarkable structure stands for many more decades. That would be a declaration that Reston appropriately honors its past, embraces its future, and clearly understands how to marry the two for the good of its citizens.


  • Chuck Morningwood

    “As Reston has grown and matured, its leaders and most prominent
    institutions have worked hand-in-hand with residents to make sure the
    community is, in all ways possible, a special place. Reston today thus
    is a careful reflection of the city’s founding principles. Its parks,
    schools, golf courses,…”

    …are threatened with destruction by overuse from our burgeoning, teeming masses.

  • Ming the Merciless

    It’s an empty box of concrete. And not a very attractive one. I don’t care who walked through its doors at some vague time in the past. Knock it down and build something useful.

    the Breuer building has brought countless blessings to the Reston
    community. It is only right that the city now returns the favor

    No. The building existed because it served the private purposes of the API. Any “blessings” it brought were incidental to that purpose. Reston owes it nothing.

    • dictionary.com

      [fil-uh-steen, -stahyn, fi-lis-tin, -teen]
      Spell Syllables
      Synonyms Word Origin
      See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
      (sometimes initial capital letter) a person who is lacking in or hostile or smugly indifferent to cultural values, intellectual pursuits, aesthetic refinement, etc., or is contentedly commonplace in ideas and tastes.

      • Young gun spello

        Merica snot sposed to have history so it mustn’t be created.

      • Ming the Merciless

        I agree, this building and those who created it are fine examples of mid-20th century American philistinism. It lacks all aesthetic refinement and is entirely commonplace in ideas and tastes. It is not a beautiful cathedral, it is not historically important, it is not even interesting. The world will be a better place without this concrete eyesore, this miserable box whose creators reveled in soul-crushing, nihilistic vileness.

        • Dr. Zarkov

          Ming’s Palace is a gaudy mess, so your’e not exactly the best arbiter of taste.

          • Ming the Merciless

            Ming is the final arbiter of taste because he can use his battlecruiser’s fusion drive to turn buildings that displease him into slag.

  • AP

    It seems recently there is a movement to save damn near any building, citing some narrow interest or “historical” significance. I don’t buy it. Forgive me for straying from Reston…but one other glaring example is fire station 108 in Arlington. While it may have been the first Arlington fire station to integrate black firefighters into its ranks, it’s still an old, ugly building now. If it played a central role in the Civil Rights movement as a whole, I’d say you have an argument, but it didn’t.

  • Greg

    Tear the Brutalist eyesore down! No one has expressed any interest in years and suddenly we have to save the concrete box? Even Baltimore is getting rid it it’s Brutalist mistake: the McKeldin fountain.

  • what

    Is anyone clamoring to occupy this building in its current state? It’s a visually interesting structure, but unless you are intentionally going there, it’s not very noticeable to passers-by. From the outside, it doesn’t look like it’s stocked with the amenities potential tenants expect in this area. And as for all those journalists who flowed through, giving it a ‘special aura,’ is it possible they all stopped at Popeye’s on their way home? Should Popeye’s be saved too?

  • Terry Maynard

    Folks, this building may be suitable as a replacement for our current pathetic Reston Regional Library–which has no architectural or much other structural value at all. Just getting up the steps is a hazard. It will be replaced, and the API building may be a suitable substitute that costs us less than a new library building.

    Let’s at least not condemn this unique architectural piece until we can at least determine if it can fulfill a major community need. Even if it doesn’t, it still has substantial architectural significance that may well be worth preserving.

    • John Farrell

      Will the Library Trustees pay the building owners the same price that Mr. Sekas has contracted for?

      Otherwise, it would be confiscatory.

      • Fairfax Library Advocates

        The Library Trustees have no funds. The current library land was given by Bob Simon. The county owns the land the library is on and the county is in the middle of creating a PPEA with a developer to put three high-rise residential buildings on the library parcel. 39,000 sq ft would be set aside for the library in one of the buildings. Town Center is not an ideal location for a regional library. The API building on Sunrise Valley is in a much better location. The API building has 48,200 gross sq ft with many gathering spaces, meeting rooms and conference rooms that are what is needed in a modern library facility. Fairfax County owes the people of Reston the value of the land we are giving up in exchange for the additional revenue the three high-rise buildings will bring in to the county. A land swap between the developer/county and the owner of API would be the way to go. No confiscating necessary. Please sign the petition. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/breuer

        • John Farrell

          Lots of contingencies to unpack here.

          Let’s start with:

          Are the valuations of the two parcels proposed to be swapped even close?

          Sekas doesn’t build high-rise so not sure what he would do with RTC land.

        • Greg

          Tear the Brutalist concrete box down!

  • CallingYouOut

    Restonites commenting here will complain about the most trivial of things. If instead of your quippy little comments here, why don’t you direct some of that energy towards 3 minutes complaining in front of the RA board meeting tonight with regards to the “Lake House Task Force”. Make a difference where it counts.

    • Greg

      Most of us are either at work or in traffic at 6 PM. Many others are preparing or enjoying the evening meal or spending time with kids and pets. Since we supposedly live in the enlightened home base of the interwebs, why doesn’t RA allow for interactive participation, email comments or other than a showing up for a three-minute speaking? Or, better yet, all of those AND host a meeting at a date, time and place (like the Lake House) when many more can attend?

      • Password in snail mail

        Let alone electronic voting RA is pushing the envelope with video conferencing. Don’t even raise the possibility because if and when fees will quadruple.

      • CallingYouOut

        There are alternatives… You can send them a written statement and request it to be read during the board meeting. It’s a lame excuse you have there for non-action, you are simply sitting on your arse and just complaining for the sake of complaining. If you want to see change you have to initiate the change using the channels that are available to you. Your comments here are the same as those by MikeM paraphrased as : there is no use, the deck is stacked against me, whoa is me , whoa is me, it’s everyone elses fault.

        • Greg

          STOP with your lecturing and scolding and profanity. None of them bolser you or your arguments.

  • Paul

    Wonder how many Restonians walked through the doors of the Reston Kabob and 7-11 over the years. Guess that wasn’t worth saving from re-development, those were just people living, working, and playing here full time…and paying those ever increasing RA fees, toll road fees, and property taxes. Why did API leave Reston?

    • North Restonian

      The Newspaper Association of America merged API into its own foundation. (They had many overlapping board members.) The building was part of that. Their vision for API was different from what it had been. NAA, based in Arlington, then sold the building. NAA also used to own 11600 Sunrise Valley, which it also sold.

  • Paul Graham

    This horrific reminder of Soviet architecture should be torn down on those merits alone, but I appreciate that Mr. Winter has given us more reasons, most prominent among which is that any building that has been used to honor Arthur Sulzberger Jr. deserves this fate. Bring in the wrecking ball and let’s use this acreage for something that we can all enjoy.

  • John Farrell

    NIMBYism masquerading as historic preservation.


    • Sally Forth

      John, shocked at your comments. You are usually more thoughtful…

      If you don’t like the exterior (beauty is in the eye of the beholder), have you seen the interior of this beautiful building? And to those who wish a TH cluster there – Whoa! Go over there and walk around… the noise of the Dulles Toll Road is shocking. Can’t imagine who would want to buy there with that. Talk about stressing. And then RA can take over the pipeline and add to its list of common ground maintenance obligations… yes, of course that is a brilliant idea as we all need to fund even more tasks for RA which is flush with our dues money. After Tetra, sign me up! Oh, wait..

      Maybe a beautiful library there makes better sense and actually solves a problem!

      • John Farrell

        Sally, it would be a replay of Tetra.

        The Library Trustees would have to pay the owners the same amount of money that Sekas has promised to pay.

        A waste of County funds for a truly ugly building.

        • Sally Forth

          Your personal aesthetics (or mine) aside, the Tetra building bears no similarity to the API building which is appears to be rock solid and beautifully planned for acoustics and function. Tetra, designed as a temporary marketing center above water, was/is a rotting dump that had smelled like mildew even when serving as the Reston Welcome Center. The people who toured the API gem were shocked the wonderful condition of the interior. The exterior looks to be in fine shape too but that all needs to be determined by a team focused on a new purpose. In no way, would this re-purposing be handled like the Tetra disaster where common sense was ignored.

          About price and suitability for a library, what do you know that no one else does? No studies have been done yet! Petitioners now number over 1,300 and are asking for time to determine what other function this masterpiece could serve. An impressive number of people who were not aware that the API building was endangered are now excited about the idea of having an inspiring public use space, especially our important Reston Regional Library.

          Isn’t this how the public process is supposed to work? Taxpayers get to have a say before the wrecking ball swings and an architectural prize is destroyed.

          • John Farrell

            Brutalist architecture is inspiring?! Architectural prize?!

            But personal aesthetics were being put aside, right?

            No, Sally Anonymous, that is not how it is supposed to work.

            It’s private property. If the current owner wants to knock it down, it is free to do so pretty much whenever it wants.

            If the taxpayers want it they have to pay Mr. Sekas or the current landowner (depending on the contract) the fair market value which is the price that Mr. Sekas has signed to pay the current owner.

            We don’t know what that price is but it is probably far higher than what a replacement library building at RTC North would cost.

            And the API building will not be as energy efficient or environmentally friendly (LEED Platinum Standards, green roof, etc.) as a new building at RTC North. How much would it cost to wire API for today’s library functions including internet and wifi to say nothing of the other retrofits like a 40 year old roof or HVAC system requires.

            Thus, the Tetra analogy.

          • North Restonian

            The HVAC system is less than 15 years old. It also has plenty of modern telecommunications infrastructure.

          • Sally Forth

            Why are you continuing a conversation about details that no one has investigated yet? Why your reluctance to grant time to see if this might work? What would we lose? No one involved in this exercise would be ignorant of energy saving ideals and a huge list of other requirements… You already assume that Marcel Breuer was energy ignorant. I don’t know that but am willing to find out.

            You win, John. You obviously have a direct line to the MAN for the correct answers. I just hope the Reston community does not lose out on a smart move. Heaven knows we sure deserve a break.

            BTW, are you hot to have RA take over more expense and common ground in the corridor? Seems like it has more than it can handle on its plate now.

        • Restonlover

          Sekas has a contingent contract to buy the property based on the re-zoning. The price to buy the property as is would not be the same.

    • what

      I have been in Reston for many years and never even looked at the building until a recent walk from Metro to Reston Pkwy along Sunrise Valley – a walk that could be improved substantially with adequate pedestrian infrastructure. I’d much rather see people organize to build better sidewalks or improve bus service than “save” the old building.


Subscribe to our mailing list