3300 Prospect Street NW, Georgetown, Washington DC – 2021

I’m convinced that shadow is essential to beauty in architecture.

This Queen Anne confection, perched atop a three story brick townhouse, includes sumptuous amounts of pressed clay ornamental bricks as well as a line of offset corbeled brackets that step up with the pediment. The corbeling, especially, creates a delightful visual effect as the late afternoon sun slides sideways across it; geometric patterns of light and dark interweave with the materials.

Why shadow? My crackpot amateur hypothesis is that much of what we value aesthetically ties back to our ancestral existence as hunter-gatherer primates. Shadows indicate shelter, spaces of concealment and protection. The small scale intricacy of the brickwork evokes the visual complexity of a vegetated forest or a field — sources of food and shelter.

Even though this ornament-heavy facade by itself doesn’t offer anything physically useful for the bodies of people passing by — you’re not going to wait out a storm by crouching under one of those brackets — it still evokes comfort, shelter, and security with its mix of pattern and shadow. I think that’s why it’s so easy to love.