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Seattle-based consultant Paula Rees shares her experiences in enriching real estate developments with art and design “It’s all in the combination of great details,” said Paula Rees, principal of the Seattle-based firm Foreseer, while revealing her secrets to placemaking to a large audience at the Montgomery County Planning Department. Rees showed image after image of public artworks, quirky signage, “tattooed” facades and inviting storefronts to demonstrate her points. Her lively projects at Pike and Rose in North Bethesda, Santana Row in San Jose, Assembly Row in Boston and other locations were part of an inspiring presentation that drew a standing-room-only crowd to the Planning Department’s auditorium on December 2. Rees started her talk with a basic definition of place as… Read more »

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A new trend was the design of concrete buildings which expressed the natural character of this building material. Starting in the 1960s, Montgomery County business districts were punctuated by statement buildings that celebrate the raw nature of concrete.   The design of monumental buildings constructed with unfinished concrete cladding were influenced by the work of pioneering modernist Le Corbusier and his use of béton brut, or raw concrete.  The name was anglicized as Brutalism, a term which has acquired negative connotations.  More recently, the style has been dubbed Heroic architecture, as more people have come to appreciate these buildings for their honest expression and as a product of their time. An early local example of Brutalism was the award-winning National Sand… Read more »

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The Montgomery County Planning Department, in cooperation with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG), recently developed a new forecast of population, households and employment from 2010 to 2045.  These data-based forecasts are used by government entities and the private sector for various uses, including transportation, water and air quality modeling, and analyzing commercial and residential markets.  This latest forecast, known as Round 9.0, is a major reassessment of assumptions made about people, households and jobs in the county. The draft Round 9.0 forecast anticipates that Montgomery County households, defined as occupied housing units with related or unrelated persons, are expected to increase from about 374,800 in 2015 to 461,900 in 2045, an increase of 87,100 households or 23 percent. … Read more »

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Reimagining suburbs in the 21st century draws on the best of the past   The communities that started the trend of 20th-century suburbanism shared a number of common traits. Many of them were focused on rail or trolley lines. Most had some retail uses in close proximity – corner stores or small retail blocks. They connected to nature through tree-lined curvilinear streets and small neighborhood parks and open spaces. Montgomery County’s earliest suburbs – Chevy Chase, Kensington and Takoma Park — all exhibit these features. As suburbs grew and the areas between the rail and trolley lines filled in with auto-centric swaths of single-family homes, some of the essential traits of the older, original suburbs were lost. Now, in the… Read more »

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Winning county projects set high standards for developers to follow   The dynamic image of the Purple Line speeding through the Silver Spring Library site convinced an independent jury to choose that building for the Montgomery County Planning Department’s 2016 Design Excellence Award. “The design makes a statement about the importance of public transportation. It’s a great gift to the community,” said jury chair Yolanda Cole during the awards ceremony on October 20. This year’s Celebrate Design event, co-sponsored with the Potomac Valley AIA, was held at the Silver Spring Civic Building, just down the street from the new library with its ground-level space reserved for the future light rail station. The first part of the evening program showcased the… Read more »

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Zoning codes literally shape our communities, governing the spacing of driveways, the number of spaces in parking lots, the heights of buildings, the placements of sidewalks, and the size of blocks along with the activities (or “uses”) allowed in each neighborhood. These codes determine whether we will live in a compact, walkable community or in a place where an automobile is needed to get anywhere.   Some codes have been found that date back thousands of years. Many European cities have been continuously coded since the 11th or 12th century, contributing to the character that makes these cities appealing today. These rules were created to govern the relationship between what gets built on private property and the public spaces around… Read more »

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David Frey’s “Mad About Modern” in the new issue of Bethesda Magazine highlights mid-century modern design in Montgomery County, featuring modernist tract houses in Rockville, Wheaton and Bethesda. Three residences in the article are in Montgomery Modern tours—past and future!   Carderock Springs house (1963) Owners: Jonas Carnemark and Wendy Ann Larson National Register Historic District Architect: Keyes Lethbridge & Condon Photos of Carnemark-Larson House, from our 2013 Montgomery Modern Bus Tour   Hammond Wood House (1950) Owner: Michael Cook Architect: Charles M. Goodman Photos from our 2014 Montgomery Modern Bike Tour   Oak Spring House (1966) Owners: Mike Lecy and Kit Yeoh Architect: Deigert & Yerkes This house will be included in our tour of Oak Spring for this… Read more »

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“If you design communities for automobiles, you get more automobiles. If you design them for people, you get walkable, livable communities.” Parris Glendening – Former Governor of Maryland “Our streets and squares make up what we call the public realm, which is the physical manifestation of the common good. When you degrade the public realm, the common good suffers.” James Howard Kunstler – Writer, Urbanist   Studies throughout the country have drawn the same conclusions regarding the relationship between house and garage. Townhouses with garages placed inconspicuously at the rear of the property create better neighborhoods and generate greater economic value than townhouses with garages fronting the street.   Look at the townhouses in our region built over the past… Read more »

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Sometimes a parking lot lies between you and your heart’s desire – reaching the café to buy a frappucino, enjoying a quiet moment along a shaded stream, dropping by your favorite lunch spot.  Or perhaps the car-choked lot is the gateway to your workplace. Parking lots are rarely places of delight and walking through one often feels like being trapped in a nasty computer game. Well, a couple of us who regularly advocate for squeezing every possible bit of walkability into communities decided to get our own house in order. Witness the bright new path through our parking lot at the Planning Department’s headquarters in Silver Spring. This walkway connects the Woodside Park neighborhood to the north with Downtown Silver… Read more »

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The Planning Department has launched its second annual Design Excellence Award competition. We are looking for exceptional work in architecture, landscape architecture and urban design that has been completed in Montgomery County over the past decade.  The goal of the awards program is to promote outstanding design that improves the quality of the built environment in our county. By recognizing this work, the bar will continue to be set higher to further enhance the quality of community at all scales of development, from our urban centers to our rural reserves. Award submissions are now being accepted through the Montgomery County Planning Department webpage through July 21, 2016. To enter, go to: www.montgomeryplanning.org/design/designaward2016.shtm This year’s awards competition jury features highly regarded… Read more »