Given the looming Watergate break-in anniversary in June, I thought it apropos to post some images of the historic complex to let folks get an idea of what the place looks like. The name itself is so iconic, so much larger-than-life, I think it tends to overwhelm all thoughts of what the place actually is. This was not some garden-variety office tower. Even back-in-the-day, this was a very high-end residential, hotel and office complex, with views of the Potomac River, Georgetown and the Kennedy Center. It is across the street from the Saudi Embassy and a scant several blocks to the State Department headquarters. The place positively reeks of old money – it’s quiet as a tomb at all hours of the day and night.
There are people around, as you can see in the image above, but they never seem to be coming or going in groups, or with any volume. Spaces where you’d expect to see lots of people, like around the fountain, or in the courtyard, are usually very quiet.
I’m particularly pleased at how well the first fountain shot turned out because of the white-on-white challenge. I was able to photograph it so that the white stayed bright but retained detail. It’s kind of like the egg challenge often assigned in studio photography classes – put an egg on a white backdrop and photograph the egg so the shell texture retains detail but is still white.
A very different mood for the same subject, just by changing the camera position and therefore the lighting on the subject.
I love the balconies on the Watergate complex – they wrap around it in undulating curves and add texture to what would otherwise be an extremely plain building. Seen from a distance, as a colleague of mine put it, the Watergate does look a bit like a cruise ship the 1960s forgot.
Another view of the courtyard. Again, just one person sitting alone at a table. There’s a restaurant down there, believe it or not.
The Watergate is a great place to practice architectural abstraction because of its size, shape and textures. This view feels like a whole bunch of zippers fanning out in a display.