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Suzane Reatig, the Architect Transforming Shaw Through Design

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"Architecture is about resolving problems"

For over 25 years now, Israeli-born Suzane Reatig has influenced the nation's capital through architecture. Her minimalist structures challenge the communities they're in, influencing them through design, glass, and metal. The crisp lines and modern style she utilizes for residential units in particular often contrasts the surrounding communities' more traditional row houses. In Shaw especially, this can be seen through projects like the Metropolitan Community Church and the "See-Through House" at 5th and O streets NW.

The American Institute of Architects continually awards her for her designs, from the 2013 Honor Award in Architecture from the D.C. chapter to the 1998 Public Project of the Year award from the Maryland chapter. She has not only earned awards, but respect as well. In 2010, Washington Business Journal described Suzane Reatig as an anomaly and "the best little known architect in D.C."

To learn more about Reatig and her works, Curbed was able to speak with her and ask her a few questions. Below, take a look at what she had to say on her goals and the challenges she has had to face along the way.

How do you view the growth of your company?

Our work begins with designing a building, but we measure our growth in terms of social and environmental impact. Our main goal is to make people’s lives better by improving quality of life in the city. Having experience in development and design-build, our knowledge of construction and finance can ensure the implementation of a successful project.

We see ourselves collaborating with new clients and professionals in order to design larger, innovative and sustainable multifamily projects.

Has there been a single goal or mission when it comes to how you manage your company or design developments?

Architecture is about resolving problems. We build from our experience but always challenge the status quo and test new ideas. We ask ourselves, how can we make the most out of an urban site? How can we get the most value out of the property and at the same time improve the quality of urban living?

We promote healthy living conditions by providing cross-ventilation and multiple exposures to each apartment, which often requires carving out a courtyard. Blurring the lines between inside and outside brings the outside in and extends the interior space out, a rarity in the inner city.

What was your goal when it came to redeveloping Shaw?

Shaw had been witness to crime and blight for years when we started our work in the neighborhood. Our goal was to improve the area and present a new image to the community. We do this by building open and inviting buildings while at the same time addressing privacy and security concerns.

Are there any unique challenges when it comes to designing and working in the D.C. area?

Historic preservation is about preserving authenticity and respecting the old. It is a work in progress to shift the dialogue from "how do we want our buildings to look" to "how do we want to live in the 21st century." Architecture historically has been and should continue to be a platform for creativity and innovation.

In 2013, you told the Washington Business Journal, "Women leave architecture because the workplace does not adjust to allow them to return after having children and allow for a balanced family and work life." Do you think this has improved or worsened since then?

Women have a lot to offer in the work place. They are hard-working and present a different point of view. Many firms will lose these qualities if they don’t provide a flexible work option. Architecture firms will greatly benefit if they allow all employees to balance family life and work.

Final question: what are your favorite places in D.C. in terms of architectural beauty?

Washington is an amazing city. There are many buildings and public spaces that I love. I will mention just a few: the National Portrait Gallery, The Freer Gallery, the Corcoran Museum and the National Gallery of Art, East and West buildings. For contemporary buildings I love the new libraries by David Adjaye and Davis Brody Bond, as well as the German and Finnish embassies.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Suzane Reatig Architecture [Official Website]