Riverview Ballroom (DC Pavilion)

The client wanted a new standalone ballroom building with associated pre-function and support spaces added to their large resort and convention hotel. The hotel is located on the edge of the Potomac river and the new ballroom was to be positioned between the hotel and the water.

Design Challenge

The initial project design challenge was how to place a 16,000-sf column free ballroom between the hotel and the water, without blocking views of the water from the hotel. The depth of a truss to span over 110’ would have been significant, so a structural approach of using a cable stay truss was developed. This allowed the structure to be very delicate so it did not block the view, with the masts being referential to the ballroom’s waterside location. Given the ballroom’s proximity to the water there was a strong desire to have as much glass as possible. The design team was able to develop a façade vocabulary that provided transparency on three sides while introducing a series of fins that screened the harshest sun angles coming into the West facing room, while not blocking the view. Well into the development of the project the design team was asked to introduce operable walls to subdivide the ballroom into four different rooms. With the arched ceiling form and the shallow structural depth, this presented quite a challenge. The introduction of the operable walls initially wreaked havoc on the order of the ballroom ceiling. To resolve this, a unique approach was developed that introduced an orderly looking pattern, that allowed for the irregular moments where the walls needed to turn corners. The irregular pattern allowed for an organic placement of the lighting so that at night, when the lights are dimmed, the pattern is star like rather than a traditional grid.

Physical Context

There were several ways that the physical context influenced the design. The narrowness of the site and the location along the Potomac drove the placement of the ballroom to be in close proximity to the river, so that from the interior it feels like the building is sitting directly on the water. The glass on three sides of the room provides panoramic views up and down river and across the water to Alexandria. The physical relationship to the hotel allowed the building to connect to the existing central plant and banquet kitchen, allowing the ballroom structure to be a sculptural pavilion in the landscape. The west facing view created the challenge of glare and solar heat gain. A combination of vertical aluminum fins, deep projecting roof overhangs, terrace roofs, horizontal brise sole and mechanical rolling shade systems were employed to control glare and heat gain.