City of Alexandria, VA
The new Charles Houston Recreation Center opened in February 2009. The two acre site is located on Wythe Street between N. Patrick Street (Route 1 North, a one-way street) and N. Alfred Street and Madison Street to the rear. There are parallel parking spaces along Wythe Street and a parking lot to the back of the building along Madison Street. The Wythe Street frontage, which functions as a civic open space plaza incorporates low seat-walls, plantings, benches and special paving to enhance the main entrance to the facility, as well as to accommodate gathering during recreational activities. This plaza receives a considerable amount of pedestrian traffic and youth activity which helps to activate this space.
Located directly across the street on Wythe Street (also known as Parker-Gray Way) are the Black History Museum and the Watson Reading Room. Other properties surrounding the site are residential, except for a small area across N. Patrick Street, which includes light industrial and commercial uses. Once a year, the block of Wythe Street between the Recreation Center and the Black History Museum is closed for a Juneteenth celebration, which attracts between 400 – 600 participants.
The Center functions as the neighborhood anchor and an important connective element for the City. It serves as a bridge for a racially and socioeconomically diverse group by providing a unique place within the community for all residents to come together and participate in common interests. The one-story recreation center offers an array of amenities including an arts and crafts room, dance room, library/computer room, boxing center, fitness/weight room, locker room, seniors room, multi-purpose room, kitchen, meeting spaces, pre-school area, state-of-the art playground, gymnasium and neighborhood pool.
Complete design proposals are not accepted at this stage. However, the following information is provided to aid the artist/design team in the concept development. Please see RFQ for complete details.
The memorial along Wythe Street will be experienced both passively and actively by visitors to the Center and the Black History Museum, nearby residents, those walking to and from the Metro, and drivers passing through the neighborhood. A vertical sculptural element should be a part of the memorial and located in the sight line of the entrance to the Black History Museum across the street. An area of approximately 20 feet x 12 feet is available for the vertical sculptural element.
A timeline of important milestones in the Parker-Gray History and its correlation to the national struggle for civil rights should be incorporated – whether within the pavement, along the existing seat-walls, as a part of the sculpture, or in some other fashion. There are two sidewalks that could be used – one is 10 feet wide x 140 feet long and runs closer to the building, the other is 8 feet wide x 140 feet long and runs closer to the street and will receive a high amount of pedestrian traffic. The seat-walls provide approximately 110 feet in length of wall on one side. The memorial should be incorporated into the plaza but not attached to the building itself.
To fund this project, a brick-selling campaign has been organized. These bricks will be located on the plaza in a yet to be determined location. It is at the artist’s discretion to choose whether or not to include the location of the bricks within their concept. Any artwork and new design elements must be durable, low maintenance, and appropriate to Alexandria’s Parker-Gray Historic District. Applicants should consider the high amount of pedestrian traffic around the center, light (both natural and electric), outdoor weather conditions, and the architectural design of the new recreation center when designing the proposal. It is intended for the sculpture to have lighting, possibly from uplighting or from the building. It is at the artist’s discretion to choose whether or not to include the lighting within their concept. Inclusion of a water feature is discouraged.
Images of the Charles Houston Recreation Center taken on August 9, 2009