Between two nondescript buildings in the Palisades, stairs descend to a red door set in cinderblock walls painted white and gray. Few would guess that the basement space within houses one of DC’s most celebrated architecture firms, Robert M. Gurney, FAIA.
When Gurney decided to move his studio from Alexandria to the District a few years ago, he saw potential in the 22-by-110-foot space. Windows could be incorporated on the southern end, allowing light to stream through the space he designed to fit the needs of his eight-person firm—plus interior designer Therese Baron Gurney, ASID, of Baron Gurney Interiors, who frequently collaborates with her husband on projects (including this one).
Instead of a maze of compartmentalized offices, Robert Gurney created an open plan with clear sight lines from one end of the space to the other. “This fosters and invites discussion and dialogue with the people who work with me,” he explains. “It’s clean-lined. It’s modern. It’s ordered and organized—all the things I try to do in my projects I did in this space.”
The architect points out the contrast between exposed brick and industrial concrete floors and sleek panels of glass and quarter-sawn white oak. “I like the juxtaposition between the raw and the refined,” he says.
During client meetings, the studio—which won a 2013 AIA Northern Virginia award—often provides design inspiration. “For us, our work space is our library,” says Therese. “We tried to make selections you see in our normal repertoire.
“We want clients to see how they’re going to feel in a Bob Gurney space,” she continues. “As you know, it’s pretty special.”