Vlastimil Koubek (March 17, 1927 – February 15, 2003) was a Czech
American architect who designed more than 100 buildings, most of them
in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. When he died, he had
designed buildings worth more than $2 billion. Most of his work is
Modernist in style, although he developed a few structures in other
vernaculars. He created the site plan for the redevelopment of
Rosslyn, Virginia, and his Ames Center anchored the area's economic
recovery. He also designed the World Building in Silver Spring,
Maryland, which sparked redevelopment of that town's downtown and the
L'Enfant Plaza Hotel
L'Enfant Plaza Hotel in
Washington, D.C. amongst many other buildings.
In 1985, Washingtonian magazine considered him to be one of 20 people
"who in the past 20 years had the greatest impact on the way we live
and who forever altered the look of Washington." In 1988, The
Washington Post newspaper said his Willard Hotel renovation was one of
28 projects in the area which made a signal contribution to the "feel"
and look of Washington, D.C.
1 Early life
2.2 Other works in the 1960s
2.3 Works from the 1970s
2.4 The Willard renovation
2.5 Other 1970s projects
2.6 Works of the 1980s
2.7 Final works
3 Other activities
4 Later years and death
5 Design philosophy
Vlastimil Koubek was born in Brno,
Czechoslovakia and received his
degree in architecture from the Faculty of Architecture at Czech
Technical University. After graduation, he worked for several Czech
architecture firms, designing office buildings.
Because he and his father held strong anti-communist beliefs, Koubek
decided to flee
Czechoslovakia after the Communist coup d'état of
February 1948. He tried to cross the border into the American Zone
of Occupation of Allied-occupied Germany, and failed. A second
attempt in July succeeded. Koubek emigrated to the United
Kingdom in October 1948, where he worked in a brickyard, as a
draftsman for the city of
Gloucester and county of Gloucestershire, a
draftsman for the Ministry of Works, and announcer for the Czech
language news service of the BBC. He encountered his future
wife, Eva, in a bookstore in London. Eva was born in Prague, the
daughter of a Czech Army officer. Her brother, whom she later
rescued, was imprisoned in a concentration camp in Nazi
World War II.
The couple emigrated to the United States via Ellis Island on February
8, 1952, and initially lived in New York City. When they arrived
they had $6 in their pockets. They married in
New York City
New York City on
August 9, 1952, with Eva (the only one with any funds) paying the $2
marriage license fee. He worked as a draftsman for the
architectural firm of Emery Roth and Sons, the city's largest
architectural firm and a noted designer of office buildings, for a
year. In 1953, Koubek entered the United States Army,
where he worked for the Army Exhibit Unit (a unit which creates
displays and presentations about Army history, organization, and
culture for the public). Koubek and his wife became naturalized
United States citizens, relocated to Washington, DC, and later had a
daughter, Jana. He briefly worked for the D.C.-based Edward
Weihe architectural firm.
Rosslyn, Virginia, in 2007. Koubek was responsible for the master site
plan which led to its high-rise developments.
Vlastimil Koubek passed his architectural exam and established Koubek
Architects in 1957. One of his first commissions to be built
was Southern Maryland Medical Center (now Southern Maryland Hospital
Center) in Clinton, Maryland. His first major commission in the
area was for 1701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, a 13-story building with a
facade of gold-anodized aluminum and white marble. But the United
States Commission of Fine Arts, which had design approval authority
over all private buildings adjacent to federal buildings in the city,
objected to this facade. Koubek submitted a revised design which
utilized larger, octagonal window designs of marble with recessed ribs
of bronze aluminum, which not only was accepted but highly praised
by influential architect
Frederick Gutheim as pushing District
architectural design "forward 10 years." A similar design was
created for the facade of One
Farragut Square South, which began
construction in November 1960. A more Modernist glass-wall
building was planned in October 1961 for 1666 Connecticut Avenue NW
(the southwest corner of Connecticut Avenue NW and R Street NW).
Koubek was instrumental in helping to redevelop Rosslyn, Virginia, an
unincorporated area of Arlington County directly across the Potomac
River from the Georgetown neighborhood of
Washington, D.C. In 1960,
Rosslyn was a seedy area of bars, pawn shops, small industry, and used
car lots. But land values in Rosslyn had been significantly
revalued upward, and in order to take advantage of the building
boom they believed was coming, Arlington County county planners
required site plans that emphasized tall, free-standing buildings. In
1961, Koubek drafted a site plan for the 80-acre (32 ha) site
around the proposed Ames Center (an area which represented about half
the total acreage in the Rosslyn area). Koubek also was the
architect for the Ames Center itself, a complex which included a
13-story office building, bank, church, and civic auditorium located
at 1820 N. Fort Myer Drive.
The construction of the Ames Center and approval of a site plan for
the area around it led to the wholesale economic and architectural
redevelopment of Rosslyn, Koubek also developed the site plan for
the area bounded by Wilson Boulevard, North Arlington Ridge Road, 19th
Street North, and North Kent Street. This included the London
House and Normandy House apartment complexes. Although it also
proposed constructing two apartment complexes in the center of the
area, three office buildings were built instead.
opened in January 1965.
Other works in the 1960s
Numerous commissions came his way throughout the 1960s. His Jefferson
Building (1225 19th Street NW), built in 1963, was an eight-story
glass-and-marble clad structure that was the first skyscraper in the
city to feature a columnless interior. It became home to the
upscale The Palm steak restaurant in December 1972, although
building's exterior reflecting pool and numerous fountains were
replaced by a mundane garden and short trees. Later that year, he
designed a sister building across the street (1234 19th Street NW)
which incorporated solarized glass windows, dark bronze panels, and
dark brown aluminum ribbing. He was the chief architect of the
World Building (8121 Georgia Avenue) in Silver Spring, Maryland,
The World Building helped revitalize the long-blighted Silver Spring
downtown business district, and became home to long-time home of
top-rated radio stations WWRC and WGAY. One of Koubek's less notable
efforts, however, was the 1963 five-story Del Ray Building (4905 Del
Ray Avenue) in Bethesda, Maryland, a bland office building with
penthouse clad in grey brick. In 1964, Koubek received his first
commission from outside the District of Columbia and its immediate
suburbs. This was Horizon House (1101 N. Calvert Street) in Baltimore,
Maryland, an 18-story apartment building with rooftop pool and
ground-floor retail area in the historic Mount Vernon
In March 1963, he created a design for 1050 31st Street NW, a spare,
Federalist-style red brick building—the first such non-Modernist
structure he designed. He had initially proposed in 1961 a
building with an all-glass first floor and exposed stone upper floors,
but the Commission of Fine Arts rejected his design as too modern.
After redesigning his building along Federalist lines, the Commission
approved the design but the D.C. zoning board refused to approve it
because of the changes. The zoning board also was unhappy with the way
Koubek intended to conceal the elevator and air conditioning equipment
on the roof. After redesigning the rooftop, the building began
construction in March 1963. The first major office building to be
constructed on the Georgetown waterfront in 50 years,
Koubek's 1325 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Construction began in April 1963 on his Brawner Building (888 17th
Street NW), a 12-story office building on
Farragut Square which
incorporated dark bronze panels and solarized windows much as his 1234
19th Street building had. By the late 1960s, it was one of his
best-known designs. In January 1964, Koubek designed what was then
the D.C. metropolitan region's tallest office building, the 19-story
steel-and-black glass clad Barlow Building (5454 Wisconsin
Avenue). In August, the Freed family commissioned him to build the
eight-story Chatham Apartments, the first high-rise, medium-income
apartment building to be constructed among the two-story
Georgian-style townhouses that comprised the 125 acres (51 ha)
Buckingham Historic District. His first major D.C. residential
structure was a nine-story apartment building (now turned to
condominiums) at 1800 R Street NW, which opened in October 1964.
In April 1965, construction began on the seven-story 1325
Massachusetts Avenue NW, a Modernist building with broad horizontal
swaths of grey brick and glass. (The structure was home to the
National Air Traffic Controllers Association
National Air Traffic Controllers Association and National Gay and
Lesbian Task Force in 2011.) Another major office building, 1200 17th
Street, NW (at the time, the headquarters of the American
Psychological Association), opened in October 1965. It was a
neo-Brutalist structure featuring repetitive polished concrete panels
and deeply recessed rectangular windows, and one of the first
high-rise office buildings on the downtown business district portion
of Connecticut Avenue. That same year his 18-story Ross Building (now
known as Wytestone Plaza) in Richmond, Virginia, opened—the first
high-rise built in the city since 1928, and the first glass-curtain
wall building constructed in the city. Koubek was also lead architect
for and an investor in a syndicate ("Reservation Eleven Associates")
which designed a new
United States Department of Labor
United States Department of Labor (DOL) building
at 2nd Street NW and Constitution Avenue NW in 1966. The group
proposed an arrangement in which it would construct the building,
lease it to the federal government for 30 years, and then donate it to
the government. Congress, cutting back on construction funds as well
as interested in the build/lease/donate proposal, refused to
appropriate funds for the DOL structure. Eventually, however, Koubek's
syndicate lost the commission, and a new DOL building (jointly
designed by the firm of Brooks, Barr, Graeber & White and the firm
of Pitts, Mebane, Phelps & White) was completed in 1974.
Air Line Pilots Association Building, 1625 Massachusetts Avenue
Koubek's D.C. area output slowed in the late 1960s. In February 1967,
Bureau of National Affairs
Bureau of National Affairs (a privately held publisher of
government news) commissioned him to design a six-story Modernist
building at 1231 25th Street NW. (This glass-and-white concrete
neo-Brutalist building was stripped to its frame in 2007, four floors
added, and joined to both an existing and a new structure to create
luxury apartments.) In October 1967, construction began on his design
for 1401 I Street NW, west of Franklin Square. (The bland
glass-and-steel box underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation in
1991. It was given a postmodern facade of finished grey concrete
panels and brown granite, the center portion of the building on the
south and east sides extended slightly outward to break up the
flatness of the building, and twin giant six-story-high non-structural
Doric columns topped by a non-structural colonnade and entablature.
The building is now called Franklin Tower.) In December 1967,
Koubek designed a new home for the Motion Picture Association of
America at 1601 I Street NW, described as a "bronze-tinted glass box
on stilts enclosed by a bold screen of tan concrete". Another
critic later called it "elegant" and as good as the work of I. M.
Pei. Construction began in February 1968 on his building for One
Dupont Circle NW, an eight-story office building with vertical
concrete ribs over glass walls.
Meanwhile, Koubek was at work designing Bayfront Plaza, a $50 million
"scaled-down Rockefeller Center" complex of hotels, apartment
buildings, retail shops, and piers on the waterfront of St.
Petersburg, Florida. Proposed in 1966, the project was
significantly delayed by lawsuits from local citizens. Costs began to
climb, interest rates on the proposed development loans soared, and
the project was cancelled in 1969. Koubek sued lawyer Hubert
Caulfield and businessman Martin Roess, who led the legal challenges
against Bayfront Plaza, for $7 million, claiming legal harassment and
abuse of the judicial process. The Supreme Court of Florida
eventually ruled in favor of the developers, but it was too late.
The parties settled out of court in 1972 for an undisclosed sum, and
Koubek said he was pleased with the settlement. A 23-story
office building planned for downtown Roanoke, Virginia, in 1969 was
The Willoughby of Chevy Chase Condominium
Several of Koubek's buildings for important clients began or completed
construction in 1969. The Willoughby, at the time the largest
apartment building in the D.C. metropolitan area, opened at 4515
Willard Avenue in Friendship Village, Maryland, in January. Koubek
assisted former First Lady
Mamie Eisenhower and developer William
Zeckendorf in breaking ground in February for the West Building (475
L'Enfant Plaza SW; now
United States Postal Service
United States Postal Service headquarters), at
640,000 square feet (59,000 m2) the largest private office
building at the time in Washington. Eight months later, his
headquarters at 1133 15th Street NW for
Fannie Mae (the secondary
mortgage market packaging corporation) opened.
Works from the 1970s
Vlastimil Koubek's USF&G Building (now the Transamerica Tower), as
of 2012 still the tallest building in Baltimore and its most prominent
Additional commissions from important clients as well as notable
buildings continued in the 1970s. Construction on the Koubek-designed
1,000,000 square feet (93,000 m2), $23 million L'Enfant Plaza
Hotel and office building began until June 1971. In July 1970,
construction began on his 37-story, pink granite United States
Fidelity and Guaranty Company Building in Baltimore. It was the
largest building yet constructed in the United States to employ the
slipform method of continuously poured concrete. The USF&G
Building successfully sparked the economic revival of the Inner
Harbor. Opened in 1974, as of 2010 it remained the tallest building
in Baltimore. Forty years later, it is considered a Baltimore
landmark. Richard Burns of Design Collective Inc. has said, "In my
opinion, his USF&G tower, now Legg Mason, is one of the best if
not the best office buildings in downtown Baltimore. It is simple,
direct and honest..." David Wallace, whose Wallace Roberts and Todd
designed the master site plan for the Inner Harbor, declared it the
"linchpin for the Inner Harbor. If you look at it from a boat, it's a
punctuation point at one corner of the Inner Harbor, signifying where
the central business district meets the waterfront." Construction
started on his eight-story 2021 K Street NW office building in
November 1970. In the summer of 1971, he completed his site plan
for Friendship Heights, a 150 acres (61 ha) site straddling the
boundary between the District of Columbia and Maryland border at
Friendship Heights/Friendship Village. The plan contemplated
several high-rise office buildings, a loop roadway around the site,
pedestrian concourses, and several multi-story shopping malls
clustered around the intersection of
Wisconsin Avenue and Western
Avenue. (The project was built throughout the 1970s and into the
1980s.) In March 1971, the American Automobile Association
commissioned him to design a six-story, $10-million headquarters for
the group at 8111 Gatehouse Road in Fairfax, Virginia. Eight
months later, the
Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) began
construction on a Koubek-designed headquarters at 1625 Massachusetts
Avenue NW, three blocks northwest from his 1965 office building
and across the street from the Philippine Embassy. In March 1974,
developer Melvin Lenkin commissioned Koubek to design an all-glass
Modernist building for 1900 M Street NW. Koubek designed an
eight-story cubist building with an all-glass facade; cutaway,
cantilevered front corner; and ground floor arcade. In March 1975,
the National Bank of Washington, one of the city's oldest and most
storied banks, commissioned a new operations center (4340 Connecticut
Avenue NW) from Koubek. In May 1975, Koubek joined a
consortium of prominent local architects to design the Washington
Harbor complex of buildings on the Georgetown waterfront. The
three-block-long, eight-building complex, which contained luxury
condominiums, office space, restaurants, luxury retail space, a
boardwalk, and plaza, was the first large-scale redevelopment of
Georgetown's waterfront in the city's history. By the end of 1975,
The New York Times
The New York Times was reporting that Koubek's firm had designed
roughly half the office buildings built in the District of Columbia
since the 1950s.
The Willard renovation
The Annex at the Willard Hotel, with concept by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer
Associates and implementation by Vlastimil Koubek.
In 1974, Koubek was hired to help renovate the long-shuttered,
historic Willard Hotel. The original hotel (consisting of six
townhouses joined together) was built in 1816, renovated and enlarged
by leaseholder Henry Willard in 1847, and the current 12-story
structure erected in 1901. Due to mismanagement and competition from
more modern hotels, the Willard closed in 1968. With the redevelopment
of Pennsylvania Avenue in the 1960s and 1970s, the Willard was
threatened repeatedly with demolition. In May 1974, the National Trust
for Historic Preservation paid Koubek $25,000 to study saving the
hotel, either as a hotel, as a mixed-used structure, or as an office
building. The Willard's owners, Charles Benenson and Robert Arnow,
had earlier commissioned Koubek to design a modern office building for
the site which would have required demolition of the structure.
New York City
New York City architecture firm of Hardy Holzman
Pfeiffer Associates was hired to lead the hotel's rehabilitation and
expansion. After this firm pulled out of the project, Koubek executed
their concept, overseeing work until the hotel's reopening in
1986. Declaring the design worthy of "genuine
The Washington Post
The Washington Post architectural critic
Benjamin Forgey noted that Koubek was responsible for adding the giant
ocular windows in the office complex, the marble office entryway with
its marble canopy and columns, and the restructuring of the diagonal
courtyard between the original hotel and the office additions.
Forgey concluded that "...a lot of the details, such as the exquisite
storefronts or the sequence of pilasters, entablatures and cornices in
the same elongated courtyard, are a treat to the eye." Critic Paul
Goldberger, writing for
The New York Times
The New York Times in 1986, declared the
renovation ingenious. In 1988, the Washington Chapter of the
American Institute of Architects
American Institute of Architects gave its 1988 Award for Excellence to
Koubek for the Willard Hotel design and renovation.
Other 1970s projects
The historic Car Barn building, renovated by Koubek in 1979–1980
In February 1976, Koubek contributed a third high-rise office building
to Farragut Square, this one a brick-and-solarized glass structure
with a glass-and-aluminum penthouse at 818 Connecticut Avenue NW.
His massive, grid-like 400 North Capitol Street, one of the few office
buildings he designed with a plaza between two wings, opened in
June. His 12-story International Square building—with its
inverted setbacks above the Farragut West
Washington Metro station,
ninth-floor balcony with non-structural columns, interior atrium, and
ground level set-back retail concourse—opened in November.
Originally just a single office building on a corner for a city block,
it expanded to occupy nearly the entire block with the addition of two
almost identical towers in 1979 and 1980. (The atrium was upgraded
and a fountain added in 1992.) Two blocks to the west, in April
1977 Koubek also designed a fairly nondescript office building at 1990
K Street NW.
Koubek also helped co-design Metropolitan Square, a 12-story hotel and
office building complex that occupies the entire block between F and G
Streets NW and 14th and 15th Streets NW (due east across the street
from the Treasury Building). In November 1977, developer Oliver T.
Carr proposed tearing down the entire block, which was occupied by the
Beaux-Arts Keith-Albee Building and Metropolitan National Bank
Building as well as the 180-year-old Rhodes Tavern. A years-long
legal and political battle ensued, as historic preservationists fought
to keep all three buildings. Carr eventually agreed to retain the
facades of the two Beaux-Arts buildings facing G and 15th Streets.
The battle to save the entire Rhodes' Tavern, however, lasted into
1983 and involved a citywide ballot initiative and an appeal to the
Supreme Court of the United States. To preserve the facades,
Carr hired Koubek and the
New York City
New York City firm of Skidmore, Owings and
Merrill and charged them with designing ground-floor retail entrances
and two upper floors which would reflect but not mimic the Beaux-Arts
style of the retained facades which building a more modern structure
behind them. Construction on the new building began in 1980.
Koubek's 635 Massachusetts Avenue NW, formerly home to National Public
Radio, was demolished in 2013.
In late 1977, Koubek also completed the Camden Yards Sports Complex
master site plan, which laid out projected baseball and football
stadiums, museums, restaurants, and retail shopping buildings in an
attempt to revitalized the economically depressed Camden Yards area of
downtown Baltimore. In September 1978, Koubek was commissioned to
design an addition to the American Security Bank operations center at
635 Massachusetts Avenue NW. (
National Public Radio
National Public Radio purchased
the building in 1992, but sold the black-glass and travertine marble
Boston Properties in 2008. After the broadcaster's new
building at 1111 North Capitol Street was completed in 2013, Boston
Properties tore down 635 Massachusetts Avenue. A Class A office
building will be erected in its place by 2015.) Also in 1978,
Koubek's 22-story Virginia Electric and Power Company headquarters in
Richmond also opened. (It is now known as One James River Plaza.)
In March 1979, Koubek agreed to design the interior renovations to the
East Capitol Street Car Barn, an 83-year-old trolley barn at 14th and
East Capitol Streets NE listed on the National Register of Historic
Places, turning the old industrial site into a $10 million apartment
and condominium complex. The renovation was called "striking".
Koubek also participated in the redevelopment of Vermont Avenue NW. In
June 1979, as buildings were razed across the street for the
construction of 1090 Vermont Avenue, he was commissioned by the D.C.
chapter of the
American Medical Association
American Medical Association to build a Modernist
12-story office building at 1100 Vermont Avenue NW. A month later,
construction began on Koubek's Spring Valley Center, a luxury
shopping, restaurant, and office building located at 4801
Massachusetts Avenue NW (on the site of the old Apex Theater). The
six-story post-Modernist brick structure was not well received. In
1998, one critic noted that it is "a structure easy to dislike. Clad
in brick and encircled by horizontal window bands, it [is]
volumetrically and dimensionally out of scale with its more
domestically scaled neighbors. Unrelieved planar walls and minimalist
detailing made it even less charming." (The structure was sold to
Washington College of Law
Washington College of Law in 1994 after a
lengthy legal battle, and turned into classrooms and professors'
Works of the 1980s
The Westin Grand at 2350 M Street NW, designed by Koubek.
The 1980s saw the last of Koubek's major projects. In August 1980,
ground was broken on the 18-story
Hyatt Regency Crystal City hotel
(2799 Jefferson Davis Highway) and adjacent 12-story office building
(2687 Clark Street) in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington,
Virginia. The same year, construction began on Pentagon City I and
Pentagon City II—12-story twin office towers built by Rose
Associates prior to the construction of the Fashion Centre at Pentagon
City, Pentagon Centre mall, Southampton Condominiums, and Claridge
House condominiums. Koubek was also the lead architect for Capitol
Place, a 2 acres (0.81 ha), $125 million project at the southeast
corner of F Street NW and New Jersey Avenue NW. The project
involved construction of a 13-story office building (now the
headquarters of the American Federation of Teachers) and a hotel with
a glass atrium (now the Washington Court Hotel). Groundbreaking
began in December 1982, by which time another two office buildings
(integrated with the first) had been added. In 1983, construction
was completed on Koubek's black-glass curtain-walled Union Labor Life
Insurance Company headquarters at 111 Massachusetts Avenue
NW. (Commonly called the "
Darth Vader Building" for its
imposing black surface, the company sold the building to developer
Douglas Jemal in 2003.) In 1984, Koubek partnered with architect
Robert Brannen of Brannen/Jung Associates to design 1615 L Street NW,
a 12-story office building with a two-story red brick facade on the
ground surmounted by light-green glass and dark-green spandrels on the
upper floors. The building was highly praised by The Washington
Post for its deeply recessed and double-wide entrance and its
spectacular, two-story lobby with seven different kinds of polished
marble. In 1988, 1615 L Street NW won the Tucker Award of
Excellence, "the stone industry's most prestigious award," for its use
of stone in the building's lobby and other interiors. In March
1986, Koubek was commissioned to design One Judiciary Square, an
11-story office building on top of the Judiciary Square Metro
station. He designed the Westin Georgetown hotel (2350 M Street
NW) in 1988, a structure which successfully used large glass walls to
"mingle outside with inside". He also designed Shockoe Slip
(formerly Shockoe Plaza), a seven-building complex at E. Cary and
Governor Streets in Richmond, Virginia.
Although by 1990 Koubek Architects was the 12th largest architectural
firm in D.C.-Baltimore area, Koubek personally worked on only a
few projects in the 1990s. With John V. Yanik AIA as Associate
Architect For Design, Koubek was the
Architect of Record for the
conversion of the 1919 gymnasium at The Catholic University of America
into "The Edward M. Crough Center For Architectural Studies." In 1990,
The Washington Chapter of The American Institute of Architects
presented a Merit Award to the Center and the Architects "For
extraordinary Achievement in Architecture."  Although
he was not the lead architect on the project, he did the working
drawings for the
AARP Building at 601 E Street NW. He also did
the working drawings for the massive, block-long new headquarters for
the International Finance Corporation at 2121 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
1414 Water Street (the "Water Tower"), one of Koubek's last projects.
Some of his last projects were the 13-story, Beaux-Arts Holiday Inn
Crowne Plaza in 1992 (1001 14th Street NW), the 29-story,
post-Modernist 100 Harborview Drive condominiums in Baltimore in
1993, and Baltimore's 33-story, post-Modernist Water Tower (414
Water Street) condominiums in 2000 (in association with Sasaki
In addition to his architectural work, Koubek performed civic service
as well. He and his wife, Eva, were both highly active in the Czech
émigré community in the United States and especially the Washington,
D.C., area. In 1990, Czechoslovakian President Václav
Havel appointed Koubek to a 15-member international board of
consultants. In 1969, President
Richard Nixon appointed Koubek to
serve on an architectural advisory panel to the General Services
Administration. In 1984, Koubek served as a consultant to the
United States Department of State, inspecting security arrangements at
United States Foreign Service
United States Foreign Service housing in Europe and Asia.
Koubek was a nationally known authority on how to draft construction
documents for commercial buildings. He also became a
multi-millionaire through his architectural work and through
Later years and death
Although Koubek designed more than 100 apartment buildings,
condominiums, hotels, office buildings, and shopping malls during his
long career, he did only a handful of private residences. He
actively continued his architectural career and his office until the
end of January 2003. By the time of his passing he had designed
buildings representing a combined investment of more than $2
Vlastimil Koubek's marriage to Eva Koubek ended in divorce. He
married Peggy Koubek in 1984.
Vlastimil Koubek died of cancer on
February 15, 2003, at his home in Arlington, Virginia.
Koubek's architectural philosophy has been described as cosmetic and
practical. Because the height of buildings in D.C. was limited to 130
feet (40 m) by law and the cost of land was so high, buildings in
the city were built to the maximum size possible. "There is
nothing left for the architect to do except apply the cosmetics,"
Koubek said. Koubek limited his "cosmetics" to the needs and
budgets of his clients, often falling back on the design aesthetics of
Marcel Breuer, I. M. Pei, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. His work
was described as restrained, and an unnamed D.C. city planning
official once described Koubek's work as "last year's Skidmore, Owings
Koubek defended his work from criticisms that it was boxlike, sterile,
repetitive, and dull. "Good architecture ... has to fit the
fabric of the city and be functional inside and make economic sense.
The most wonderful building in the world is not going to get built if
it will not make money." Others defended his work as well. Oliver
T. Carr, chairman of the giant real estate developer CarrAmerica,
said, "He was good. He was different from so many architects of that
time. His buildings had clean architectural lines, and yet they were
functional and practical and offered good work space. For that period
of time, he was a perfect fit."
Koubek did not like mixing older, smaller buildings with his designs.
"There is no place for big buildings next to little buildings," he
The Washington Post
The Washington Post in 1979. He was also critical of
Federalist architecture. He once scathingly noted, "I think that on
Georgetown architecture I'd rather not comment at all. You may quote
me on that. I wish you would."
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Vlastimil Koubek.
The Koubek Auditorium in the Edward M. Crough Center for Architectural
Catholic University of America
Catholic University of America is named for Koubek in honor
of his many contributions to architectural design.
Among Koubek's most notable buildings are:
American Automobile Association
American Automobile Association (former headquarters in Fairfax,
International Finance Corporation headquarters
L'Enfant Plaza Hotel
Motion Picture Association of America
Motion Picture Association of America headquarters
USF&G Building (now the Transamerica Tower)
World Bank Annex
^ Willmann, John B. "It's Happening In Real Estate." The Washington
Post. March 22, 1969.
^ a b "Owner Turns Up His Nose at Prospect Of Tearing Down
Odor-Tainted House." The Washington Post. June 11, 1988.
^ a b "D.C. Area Ranks 4th in Office Space." The Washington Post.
October 29, 1988; Forgey, Benjamin. "Looking Over Local Heroes." The
Washington Post. November 5, 1988.
^ a b c d e f g h i Gunts, Edward. "Designer Believed: Koubek's Vision
Brought Tower to Inner Harbor." Baltimore Sun. February 24, 2003.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "
Vlastimil Koubek Dies at
75." The Washington Post. February 18, 2003.
^ Conconi, Chuck. "Personalities." The Washington Post. September 25,
^ Lewis, Roger K. "Critics Pick 28 Projects That Contribute to Area's
'Built Environment'." The Washington Post. March 12, 1988.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Whitney, Elizabeth. "Koubek: Escape to
Success.", St. Petersburg Times. December 31, 1967.]
^ a b c d e f g h Willmann, John B. "It's Happening in Real Estate."
The Washington Post. February 3, 1968.
^ a b c d e f g "In Memoriam," Zprávy SVU. #1, 2003, p. 7.
^ a b c Donihi, Rosemary. "Emigre Nobility: 'We All Cling Together'."
The New York Times. February 14, 1971.
^ "9 Become Registered Architects." The Washington Post. August 10,
^ "Southern Maryland Medical Center." The Washington Post. February
^ Eisen, Jack. "Glassy Building Gives Arts Board a Pane." The
Washington Post. April 21, 1960.
^ Hailey, Albon B. "New Olmsted Building Plans Approved." The
Washington Post. May 19, 1960.
^ Gutheim, Frederick. "Gutheim Declares Revised Design Puts District
Forward 10 Years." The Washington Post. May 19, 1960.
^ "12-Story Building for District." The Washington Post. November 12,
^ Willmann, John B. "Multi-Million Program Of Building Set in '61."
The Washington Post. December 23, 1960; "Building Planned." The
Washington Post. October 7, 1961.
^ a b Andelson, 2000, p. 161.
^ Carrier, 1999, p. 24.
^ a b c Willmann, John B. "Rosslyn's Rebirth As 'Hottest Area'
Attracts Builders." The Washington Post. October 20, 1962.
^ "Rosslyn Is Selected as Site For Large Methodist Church." The
Washington Post. March 17, 1962.
^ Donahue, William T. "SP #1 Minor Site Plan Amendment Request for a
Comprehensive Sign Plan." County Board of Arlington, Virginia.
September 16, 1999.
^ "Luxury on the River." The Washington Post. January 16, 1965.
^ "Jefferson Building Under Way." The Washington Post. January 12,
^ Dresden, Donald. "The Palm: A Capital Copy of a New York Favorite."
The Washington Post. January 14, 1973.
^ "MBG Plans 8-Story Building." The Washington Post. March 16, 1963.
^ "Five Buildings Planned." The Washington Post. March 30, 1963.
^ Willmann, John B. "High-Rising Office Expected to Revive Silver
Spring Section." The Washington Post. April 13, 1963.
^ "Nearing Completion." The Washington Post. May 11, 1963.
^ "Under Way." The Washington Post. May 2, 1964.
^ "New Georgetown Building." The Washington Post. March 31, 1963.
^ a b c Schuette, Paul A. "Building Plan Becomes Career." The
Washington Post. June 21, 1962.
^ "New Georgetown Building." The Washington Post. October 19, 1963.
^ Willmann, John B. "Office Buildings Are Encircling Farragut Square."
The Washington Post. April 20, 1963.
^ "Area's Tallest Office Building." The Washington Post. January 24,
^ Allie S. Freed was an automobile salesman who became a housing
developer during the Great Depression. He was President Franklin D.
Roosevelt's director of the Committee for Economic Recovery and Social
Progress. Freed developed the Buckingham housing complex in 1938 after
discussing housing needs with President Roosevelt. The Federal Housing
Administration (FHA) considered it a model of housing redevelopment,
and it was only the second FHA-approved subsidized rental housing
project in the D.C. area. See: Willmann, John B. "Things Are Happening
at Buckingham." The Washington Post. August 22, 1964.
^ "New Apartment on R St." The Washington Post. October 17, 1964.
^ "New Office for Thomas Circle." The Washington Post. April 17, 1965.
^ "Psychological Association Headquarters." The Washington Post.
October 16, 1965.
^ "Funds for New FBI, Labor Buildings Killed by House Appropriations
Unit." The Washington Post. May 6, 1966.
^ "Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site." National Register of
Historic Places. National Park Service. United States Department of
the Interior. May 29, 2007.
^ "BNA Building." The Washington Post. February 25, 1967.
^ "Benjamin Franklin." The Washington Post. October 28, 1967.
^ Hilzenrath, David S. "Building In Defiance of the Bust." The
Washington Post. December 31, 1990; "Franklin Tower." Washington
Times. January 17, 2000.
^ Von Eckardt, Wolf. "MPA's New Quarters: A Glass Box on Stilts." The
Washington Post. December 9, 1967.
^ a b c d e f g Goldberger, Paul. "Washington Buildings: Low Profile
and Boxlike Design." The New York Times. December 29, 1975.
^ "One Dupont Circle." The Washington Post. February 3, 1968.
^ Durant, John. "A Rebuilt St. Petersburg." The New York Times.
November 6, 1966.
^ "Downtown Dreamers." St. Petersburg Times. May 29, 1991.
^ a b Masters, Kay. "Bayfront Plaza Lawsuit Settled." St. Petersburg
Evening Independent. November 3, 1972.
^ a b "Bayfront Plaza Lawsuit Is Settled Out of Court." St. Petersburg
Times. November 4, 1972.
^ "23-Story Building Planned for Roanoke." The Washington Post.
January 9, 1969.
^ "Willoughby Completed." The Washington Post. January 11, 1969.
^ a b c d e f "Crough Center Marks 20th Anniversary." CUA Magazine.
^ "New L'Enfant Plaza Unit Underway." The Washington Post. February
19, 1969; "New Building to Be Largest." The Washington Post. May 17,
^ "FNMA Building to Be Dedicated." The Washington Post. October 11,
^ Jones, William H. "New Hotel Planned." The Washington Post. June 23,
1971; Hodges and Hodges, 1980, p. 38; Williams, 2005, p. 120; Moeller
and Weeks, 2006, p. 59; Scott and Lee, 1993, p. 237; Kousoulas and
Kousoulas, 1995, p. 213.
^ "Ground Broken." The Washington Post. July 4, 1970.
^ "'Slip Forming' Technique Introduced in Baltimore." The Washington
Post. May 1, 1971.
^ "Renovations at 100 Light Street to Be Unveiled." Baltimore Sun.
June 9, 2010.
^ "New Building Is Started At 2021 K St." The Washington Post.
November 28, 1970; "Topped Out." The Washington Post. September 18,
^ "The Future of Friendship Heights." The Washington Post. July 9,
^ Jones, William H. "
Friendship Heights Battle." The Washington Post.
May 28, 1972.
^ "AAA Plans Move to Suburban Virginia Site." The Washington Post.
March 13, 1971.
^ "ALPA Building." The Washington Post. November 6, 1971.
^ "1900 M." The Washington Post. March 2, 1974.
^ "Operations Headquarters." The Washington Post. March 25, 1975.
^ a b Willmann, John B. "Three Notable Preservations." The Washington
Post. May 24, 1975.
^ a b Conroy, Sarah Booth. "Studying the Fate of the Willard." The
Washington Post. May 18, 1974.
^ Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site. National Register of
Historic Places. National Park Service. United States Department of
the Interior. August 31, 2007.
^ a b c Forgey, Benjamin. "Willard Hotel: Well Worth the Wait." The
Washington Post. August 9, 1986.
^ a b Goldberger, Paul. "On Pennsylvania Avenue, A Restoration With
Wit." The New York Times. September 22, 1986.
^ "New Building." The Washington Post. February 7, 1976.
^ "Leasing." The Washington Post. June 19, 1976.
^ Jones, William H. "Office, Retail Complex Set at 19th & K." The
Washington Post. December 17, 1974; "International Square." The
Washington Post. November 13, 1976.
^ Jones, William H. "First Building Set to Open in Big Downtown
Complex." The Washington Post. May 6, 1977; "Razing." The Washington
Post. March 15, 1980.
^ Bosco, Pearl. "International Square: A Classic in Concrete."
Buildings. November 1, 1992.
^ Willmann, John B. "Short Takes On Real Estate." The Washington Post.
April 30, 1977; "Double-Deck Mall for Downtown." The Washington Post.
June 23, 1978.
^ McCombs, Paul and Oman, Anne H. "$40 Million Mall Is Planned." The
Washington Post. November 12, 1977.
^ Oman, Anne H. "Downtown Mall: Talks Begin on Status of Landmarks."
The Washington Post. April 13, 1978; "Court Order Temporarily Halts
Demolition of Albee-Keith Facade." The Washington Post. April 24,
1979; Wheeler, Linda. "Solomon-Like Court Order Is Slicing District's
Historic Keith-Albee Building." The Washington Post. June 15, 1979;
Oman, Anne H. "Developer Has New Plan For Historic Buildings." The
Washington Post. August 2, 1979.
^ Eisen, Jack. "Developer Denied Right to Demolish Historic Building."
The Washington Post. December 22, 1979; Bowman, LaBarbara. "Fight to
Save Tavern Site Moves to Hill." The Washington Post. December 1,
1982; Perl, Peter. "Panel Approves Rhodes Demolition, Calls for Delay
Pending Vote in Fall." The Washington Post. May 11, 1983; Kamen, Al.
"Judge Orders Demolition Delayed On Pennsylvania Avenue Buildings."
The Washington Post. August 30, 1983; Pichirallo, Joe. "Rhodes Tavern
Initiative Carries 91 Percent of City's 137 Precincts." The Washington
Post. November 10, 1983; Sargent, Edward D. "Barry Names 7 to Rhodes
Tavern Panel." The Washington Post. June 8, 1984; Bruske, Ed. "Court
Ruling Blocks Demolition of Rhodes Tavern." The Washington Post. June
30, 1984; Barker, Karlyn. "Appeal to Save Rhodes Tavern Turned Down."
The Washington Post. September 7, 1984; Barker, Karlyn. "Demolition Of
Rhodes Tavern Starts." The Washington Post. September 11, 1984.
^ Citizens Committee to Save Historic Rhodes Tavern Papers, Special
Collections Research Center, Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library, The
George Washington University. Retrieved November 15, 2014.
^ Bredemeier, Kenneth. "Plan for High-Rise Where Tavern Stood To Mix
Old and New." The Washington Post. September 12, 1984.
^ "Camden Yards Master Plan Due." Baltimore Sun. December 11, 1977.
^ "Addition Started At Bank's Center." The Washington Post. September
^ O'Connell, Jonathan. "
Boston Properties Buys NPR Headquarters."
Washington Business Journal. September 30, 2008.
^ Page, Walter; Bevans, Connor. "Demand for the modern leads to
knocking down older office buildings". The Washington Post, July 28,
^ Oman, Anne H. "Trolley Barn Housing Complex Approved." The
Washington Post. March 29, 1979.
^ Evelyn, Dickson, and Ackerman, 2008, p. 32.
^ Willmann, John B. "Local AMA to Build New Headquarters." The
Washington Post. June 21, 1979.
^ Willmann, John B. "Office, Retail Center Begun On Apex Site." The
Washington Post. July 4, 1979.
^ Lewis, Roger K. "Jumble of Old and New at AU Ruins Campus Face
Lift." The Washington Post. October 17, 1998.
^ Nuckols, Melanie. "Permits Now Only Obstacle to Construction at
Spring Valley Center."
American University Eagle. September 4, 1994.
^ Willmann, John B. "
Hyatt Hotel-Office Beginning Construction in
South Arlington." The Washington Post. August 13, 1980.
^ Willmann, John B. "Pentagon City Development Blossoms After 10-Year
Wait." The Washington Post. July 16, 1981.
^ "Offices and Hotel to Be Built on 2-Acre Hill Site." The Washington
Post. January 25, 1982.
^ "Teachers' Union Moves to Hill." The Washington Post. August 30,
^ Pyatt, Jr., Rudolph A. "Sheraton in Venture to Build Office-Hotel
Complex on Hill." The Washington Post. December 2, 1982.
^ "Region's Largest Insurance Companies." The Washington Post. May 7,
^ Madigan, Sean. "ULLICO Buy Shows Force Is With Jemal." Washington
Business Journal. February 10, 2003.
^ a b Forgey, Benjamin. "Just as Good as Old." The Washington Post.
November 24, 1984.
^ "In Business." The Washington Post. June 11, 1988.
^ Simpson, Anne. "District Weighs Plan For Judiciary Square." The
Washington Post. March 10, 1986; Griffin, Sandy. "One Judiciary Square
Building Over Subway." The Washington Post. December 19, 1988.
^ Forgey, Benjamin. "Now, Playing in the Lobby." The Washington Post.
February 26, 1988.
^ "Merchants Object to Size of Shockoe Plaza Project." Richmond
Times-Dispatch. April 15, 1988.
^ McQuaid, Kevin. L. "Largest Architectural Firms in the
Baltimore/Washington Area." Baltimore Business Journal. September 24,
^ Moeller, Martin (October 1990). "Winning Entries". DC/AIA News:
^ Forgey, Benjamin (November 3, 1990). "
Architect Awards". The
Washington Post. p. D10.
^ Blake, Peter (May 1991). "Old Gym into New School". Interior Design:
^ Forgey, Benjamin. "Out of the Past, Into the Future." The Washington
Post. July 20, 1991; Lewis, Roger K. "
AARP Building Out of Place and
Time." The Washington Post. November 14, 1992.
^ Forgey, Benjamin. "Fortress Washington: Solid but Spare." The
Washington Post. June 21, 1997.
^ "A Well-Suited Site Downtown." Washington Times. August 2, 1992.
^ "Architects Have Gone Back to the Drawing Board." Baltimore Sun.
December 26, 1993.
^ Cohn, Meredith. "Harbor View Offices Planned." Baltimore Sun. August
^ "Mrs. Koubek to Head Czechoslovak Benefit." The Washington Post.
December 21, 1966.
^ Conconi, Chuck. "Personalities." The Washington Post. February 21,
^ Beale, Betty. "Roosevelt Sons Set Aside Differences For Centennial."
Birmingham Times Daily. October 20, 1984.
^ Siegal, Ann Cameron. "Tysons Is Close, But Nature Is Closer." The
Washington Post. April 17, 2010.
^ a b c d Wheeler, Linda. "New Washington Emerges on Downtown K
Street." The Washington Post. November 23, 1979.
^ Forgey, Benjamin. "CU's Gym-Dandy Transformation." The Washington
Post. October 21, 1989.
^ Forgey, Benjamin. "The West End's New Face." The Washington Post.
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