The Bar + A City

“Rather, cities and metro areas are defined by the quality of the ideas they generate, the innovations they spur, and the opportunities they create for people living within and outside the city limits.” 

Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley

Finding itself situated between two major metropolitan areas – Washington D.C. and Richmond, VA – Fredericksburg is rapidly growing without much control over its city design.

Just like many other historical cities, Fredericksburg has a unique relationship between the historic core and its more contemporary counterpart. However, this relationship deteriorates as the town has expanded outwards. 

A question arises.

Is there a way to design considering both history and future to progress this city?

With this as a consideration, I strived to create an anchor connecting the fabric of its historic downtown to its more contemporary counterpart while initiating a conversation about a future where its governing authority can support growth while respecting the history and environment of the City of Fredericksburg. 

More than an anchor, “The Bar” becomes a gateway connecting the urban fabric to the Rappahannock River while maintaining a space that has the flexibility to adapt for future re-use. 

However, this design effort seeks to capture the quality of the environment that exists in Fredericksburg downtown rather than copying the language of the historic core.

In 1727, Fredericksburg received an official charter from the House of Burgesses and was named in honor of Frederick, Prince of Wales.

As a meeting ground for patriots during of growing unrest that led up to the American Revolution, a number of notable political figures, many of whom were Revolutionary war heroes lived near here. Two emerged in Virginia during this period as founding fathers of the new nation, George Washington and James Monroe. 

After the war in 1781, Fredericksburg was officially incorporated as a township within the new Commonwealth of Virginia. 

The city played a major role in the Civil War as the battleground for what was then the largest battle in America and the first urban battle since the Revolutionary War.

Beginning this conversation requires several questions or conditions that must be addressed:

  1. How much change to the physical environment is needed for the city and its inhabitants to create a cohesive civic life?

2. How does a/the space attract the public?

3. Identifying the qualities of different planes which could equally engage the public?

  • The sky, ground, and underground

4. How should the relationship between the pedestrian and vehicles be handled? Is there a time and place for each where they both assist and contribute when constructing the quality of this place?


Sao Paulo Museum of Art

Italian-born Brazilian Modernist architect Lina Bo Bardi allowed the public to enter from multiple levels of the museum through the use of planes while she dealt with road and elevation changes, a similar question needing resolution at the Fredericksburg site.

Bloch Building at Nelson-Atkins Museum

American architect Steven Holl addition to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri demonstrated the quality of attraction across a site at night to provide another question that should be addressed – the idea of an “anchor.”



The site consists of a forested area near a large clearing; one factor in the development of the concept was to accentuate the landscape to invite community engagement.


To preserve the substantial dimension of the landscape found here, minimizing the ground the building would cover was critical, which resulted in a larger disruption to the skyline. This was vital to preserving the relationship of Earth to man.


By this action, the architecture becomes an anchor for the city.

Adaptable Program

The intention was to create a community center that would connect the residents together through social, educational, and recreational use. However, as exploration continued, the development of a program wasn’t important as creating a space that best served Fredericksburg City.

Structure Study Sketches

Experiential Line Sketches