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Watching any town or city develop from the sidelines is amazing. Take a step back, and you’ll see time passing by as places evolve, neighborhoods gentrify, and skylines rise from the dirt. It’s a fascinating concept, and in today’s environment, it’s happening fast. Leave your neighborhood for a few years, and when you come back, you might recognize little more than the bones of your favorite spots. The city doesn’t do this on it’s own, though. Of course, there are masterminds hard at work behind every construction scene, mapping out the details and drawing up the next attraction. That’s one of the many reasons I love covering local architecture firms: showcasing the talent that’s so often hidden amongst the shadows. Today, I wanted to introduce Bonstra Haresign Architects.

On the highest of levels, Bonstra Haresign is a firm “rooted in community values and collaboration,” but even behind those promising words, there’s more to love about these masterminds of some of our city’s greatest spaces. What perhaps separates them from a long list of other impressive architecture firms in the area is that Bonstra Haresign operates in a collegial studio environment, meaning that team members are invested throughout the entirety of the project. This approach differs from the handoff approach in that all team members are involved in project design, development, and execution –– coupled with the encouragement of open discussion, as detailed on the firm’s website.

The firm’s sense of a team effort doesn’t end when they step outside of the office, either –– they’re also commited to being a positive force working with (and for) the community at large. In their own words:

“Our team lives and works in the neighborhoods in which our project are built. Partners and team members give back to the community through teaching and involvements in local professional, civic, and volunteer organizations. This ethos of community involvement is encouraged at every level.”

The commitment to community and clear connection to projects aren’t the only thing that should raise your eyebrows and peak your interest in relation to this firm. They’ve also received enough accolades to prove that their work is top-notch. Examples of awards won include an Excellence in Housing Development Award from ULI Washington Trends for Ten at Clarendown, Best In Class – Residential (Multifamily) Award from Brick in Architecture Awards for The Aston, and Best Washington/Baltimore Adaptive Reuse Condominium Community from Delta Associate Awards for Excellence for The Sanctuary. And quite honestly for this firm, that’s only a modest showing.

Bonstra Haresign’s work is not hidden amongst DC’s streets, instead their work so often makes the streets. Some project examples that might have you saying been there, seen that:

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The Sanctuary: A Gothic Revival Church that was preserved and repurposed into a building that now houses 30 unique residential condominiums, all with distinct floor plans and one-of-a-kind features such as exposed brick and cast-iron columns.

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Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church: A symbol of faith and history, this church has been a part of the Capitol Hill community since the 19th century. Bonstra Haresign helped renovate to make way for new needs, while staying true to the architectural integrity of this landmark.

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The Studio Theatre: Once again staying true to an original structure, this converted car showroom was tweaked to expand to next-door buildings all while keeping original facades front and center.

Of course, these works cover only a small portion of Bonstra Haresign’s impressive portfolio. To see more, please visit their website. Or, just walk around town…you’re bound to find something they’ve had their hands on.

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