DC Water (The District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority) commissioned the design of a new water tower and enclosure located on the Anacostia hills of the East Campus of the former Saint Elizabeths Hospital (SEH), a national historic landmark. The water tower will serve new redevelopment and established residential areas in Southeast Washington DC, and the newly designated home of the Federal Department of Homeland Security located on the SEH West Campus.
The design diminishes the visual impact of a 2 million gallon water tower by surrounding it with a light metal framework, an “iconic scrim or veil” allowing the structure to be perceived in multiple layers. Drawing upon the historic precedent of water towers in urban settings, the layered composition design creates an iconic image for the tower with the scrim transforming the standard utilitarian water tower form by giving it scale, rhythm and material variation more appropriate to its historic surrounding. Proactively addressing sustainable design approaches to water, the veiled framework will collect rainwater from the top of the tower and distribute it to a series of spiraling rain gardens at the base that demonstrates environmental sustainability, water conservation and honors the landscape principles of the historic setting in a newly established public park for the new east campus mixed-use development. The new St. Elizabeths Water Tower and garden is destined to become a future landmark of the new Saint Elizabeths neighborhood of Southeast Washington, D.C.