WASHINGTON -- For years, the FBI headquarters building on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, about halfway between the White House and U.S. Capital, has been described as one of the ugliest structures in the city. But it may not last as an enduring landmark in D.C.'s cityscape.
As mentioned in a Government Accountability Office report released Tuesday, the J. Edgar Hoover headquarters building's "original design is inefficient ... making it difficult to reconfigure space to promote staff collaboration. Staff dispersion across annexes likewise hampers collaboration and the performance of some classified work. Furthermore, the condition of the Hoover Building is deteriorating, and [General Services Administration] assessments have identified significant recapitalization needs."
While the drawbacks of the Brutalist building, dedicated in 1975, have been known for years, two options mentioned in the GAO report, beyond modernizing the existing structure, could spell big changes for the building and downtown. The first: "[D]emolish the Hoover Building and construct a new headquarters on the existing site." And the second: "[A]cquire a new headquarters on a new site."
The behemoth structure, constructed of poured concrete, has been criticized for "its elephantine size and harshness [that] creates a black hole" in the middle of downtown, according to architect Arthur Cotton Moore. As Larry Van Dyne wrote in Washingtonian in 2009: "Someday a decision will have to be made: Save it? Tear it down?"
While that decision appears years away, the GAO report indicates we're one step closer to figuring out what to do with the Hoover building. According to the GAO report: "The FBI and GSA plan to discuss the FBI's facility needs with the Office of Management and Budget, and GSA and the FBI will need to present a business case, including current, comparable cost estimates, to support the choice of a preferred alternative and financing strategy."