When the co-owners of the Broad Branch Market in Chevy Chase DC decided to open a sister market in Van Ness, they turned to Inscape Studio, a DC architecture firm.
Inscape’s focus is socially responsible and environmentally sensitive design in commercial and residential projects, whether they be high-end or affordable housing, commercial buildings or nonprofit spaces.
Inscape’s current projects include eCasa net zero energy affordable housing in the District, a new home for the Pyramid Atlantic adaptive reuse arts center in Hyattsville, Maryland, and renovations and additions to Maryland’s Olney Theatre.
A senior associate at Inscape Studio, architect Rayya Newman was tasked with designing a community-focused, sustainable Soapstone Market at 4455 Connecticut Avenue. She answered our questions about the process and challenges of designing this space.
How did you and Soapstone Market connect?
Rayya Newman: Inscape Studio’s founding principal, Greg Kearley, had met Soapstone Market owner Tracy Stannard several years ago while she was a permit expediter in Washington DC. He bumped into Tracy at her other market, the Broad Branch Market, while visiting a friend in Chevy Chase, and they started talking about plans for a new market in Van Ness.
What were they looking for?
Tracy and her business partner, John Fielding, were looking to create a welcoming market for the Forest Hills community. A space that you felt comfortable coming into for a quick errand or lingering for a while to catch up with a friend. They wanted a market + restaurant concept, keeping the space activated and used at all times of the day. Plus, a multi-use concept is more sustainable for cities and the planet, reducing sprawl and the built environment’s footprint.
What were the challenges?
Although the market + restaurant concept is gaining popularity in the USA, it is still new enough to have challenges with meeting local code requirements since most officials have not reviewed this typology and code has not been adopted for this specific type of establishment. We worked closely with Tracy and her team to navigate through this process together. With a great and communicative team – contractor, client, engineers, vendors, and landlord – we were all able to work on any questions that came up.
What were your goals?
As a SEED (Social Economic Environmental Design) public interest designer, I focus on triple bottom line sustainability considering the social, economic, and environmental impact of every project. The goal with Soapstone Market was to weave together a successful project that would meet the needs of our client, while supporting the community, environment, and building owner. With Soapstone Market, I worked with a local quarry in Virginia to provide all of the soapstone countertops and a local vendor for the reclaimed wood above the deli.
Soapstone Market’s soapstone bar
Selecting these products supports the local economy and also reduces our carbon footprint, since the materials didn’t have to travel far to reach the job site.
Can you explain the bar area concept?
One of our favorite concepts is the central bar. Placing the bar at the center, instead of against a wall, gives patrons a view of the action and puts them at the heart of the space. Early on in the project, when I visited the space, I realized that it had several canted structural columns, which made it challenging to design a market + restaurant with good flow. Working with that challenge, I chose to use the columns as anchors for the bar, check-out, and coffee areas.
The canted concrete columns presented a design challenge.
We put community gathering at the center of market with the bar, just like Soapstone Market has community at the center of its concept.