The Writer's Center
In his youth, future architect Mark McInturff spent much of his free time at the Bethesda Youth Center, located just off Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Bethesda.
Designed in the 1960's by the young modern firm of Keys Condon and Lethbridge, who would go on to play a major role in the development of Washington, the Montgomery County-owned venue provided the local teenage community with classes, dances, and other social activities.
The youth center closed in 1970, and the building spiraled downward over the years, serving a variety of uses but chronically uncared for and poorly maintained.
Fast forward to the present day, and this mid-century modern building is now the home of the Writer's Center. The non-profit community-centerd organization is dedicated to the creation of an independent home for the literary arts, nurturing writing talent and celebrating writers through classes, lectures, workshops, publications, and readings.
A master plan calls for an addition and a renovation of the entire building. The completed first phase reorganizes the lower floor, recapturing some spaces that were largely uninhabitable, and reconfiguring and rejuvenating the offices and classrooms on that level. The now-effecient plan allowed space for additional classrooms, a lounge area with coffee bar, and the creation of a Writer's Studio, where local writers can come and work in private workstations, on their own schedules. The studio can be accessed directly during off-hours by an exterior ramp.
The removal of a dropped ceiling revealed the existing main floor structural system, a cast-in place concrete waffle slab, now exposed and painted white. Daylight is maximized throughout by taking advantage of the windows on the west side, along the original service ramp; glass walls in the classrooms extend the natural light into the adjacent spaces. Douglas fir woodwork and punches of vivid color further enliven what still is, but no loner feels like, a basement level.