“The Most Beautiful Walmart Ever”

The story behind Massa Multimedia Architecture's work on the Georgia Avenue Walmart in a rundown DC–Maryland neighborhood

Historic photographs of the area were borrowed from the Library of Congress and reproduced to decorate the Walmart’s entryway. (Photo: Ken Wyner)
Historic photographs of the area were borrowed from the Library of Congress and reproduced to decorate the Walmart’s entryway. (Photo: Ken Wyner)

When Massa Multimedia Architecture (MMA) began work on the Georgia Avenue Walmart project in the blighted Brightwood neighborhood connecting Maryland with DC, it aimed to transform the district into “a real destination,” principal Gabriel J. Massa says.

The big-box chain commissioned MMA to transform an aging neighborhood car barn into a singular, out-of-the-box store, and the firm then spent three years negotiating with Washington’s formidable DC Preservation League, several Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, and representatives of the community itself to come up with a design. “Typology is important,” Massa says, noting his firm’s efforts to understand local cultures and enlist community support for its work whenever possible.

The $28 million, 104,000-square-foot multilevel Walmart No. 5968 that MMA ultimately conceived—built by Foulger Pratt Development, with a 150,000-square-foot below-grade parking structure—playfully interweaves the historical and the modern and is, Massa unabashedly speculates, “probably the most beautiful Walmart ever.”

(Photo: Ken Wyner)
(Photo: Ken Wyner)