Robert C. Weaver Building History
The Robert C. Weaver Federal Building is located at 451 Seventh Street, Southwest on a site bounded by D Street on the north, a frontage road along the Southwest Freeway/I-395 on the south, and L’Enfant Plaza/Ninth Street on the west. The building was designed to face east across Seventh Street and the unique shape of a double “Y,” elongated “X” with a central core curving out to diagonal wings.
This site chosen for its prominent location as part of the District of Columbia’s Southwest Washington Redevelopment Area, a post-World War II effort to revive an underutilized quadrant of the nation’s capital, for the newly created Department of Housing and Urban Development, devoted to urban renewal and upgrading seemed only fitting.
Design & Construction
Built between 1965 and 1968, the 10- story Brutalist government office building designed by international modern architect Marcel Breuer is the first federal building in the US in which precast concrete was primary structural and exterior finish material. In addition, the building is the first fully modular design for a federal office building. The four building facades are a series of massive load-bearing and reinforced concrete elements with formwork markings for building structure and skin. Breuer’s combination of massive sculptural forms with advanced technology; functional design and an expressive use of materials are exemplary in this modern model.
The Robert C. Weaver Federal Building fulfills the directives President John F. Kennedy issued in an effort to improve the quality of public building design, “Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture.” It is unclear whether the HUD Building was actually a direct response from Breuer to the “Guiding Principles.” It does not negate from the fact that it remains one of the most notable Modern federal buildings of the 1960s which may simply be a product of Breuer’s mature design work. The HUD building is an extremely successful example of New Brutalism with its dramatic use of reinforced concrete, geometric purity, and a reduction of ornamentation to its simplest means.
Robert C. Weaver
On July 11, 2000, HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo presided over the renaming of the HUD Headquarters Building to honor Robert C. Weaver, the first HUD Secretary and the first African American member of a President’s Cabinet. The building was formally opened and dedicated by Secretary Robert C. Weaver on September 9, 1968. Dr. Weaver served as HUD Secretary from 1966 to 1968.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Weaver to head the Housing and Home Finance Agency (HHFA) – a collection of agencies that included the Federal Housing Administration, Urban Renewal Administration and the Federal National Mortgage Association. When President Lyndon B. Johnson elevated the agency to Cabinet-level in January 1966, he nominated Weaver to become Secretary, rejecting objections from some to the appointment of an African American to the Cabinet. During Weaver’s tenure at HUD, he is credited with increasing the availability of affordable housing, fighting to end housing discrimination by working for the passage of the landmark Fair Housing Act, and launching a comprehensive revitalization of America’s urban centers.