Posts by elza hisel-mccoy
I like the concept of Jolie-Laide: Beauty and the Beast. ¬†While Montgomery County undoubtedly has a burdensome share of beastly buildings, some so crystallize the product of their time that they rise above. ¬†Taken head-on it is not much to look at, but obliquely the minimally monikered (sorry) ¬†Silver Spring’s “Garage 2″, at the intersection of Fenton Street and Cameron Street, is a civic building with moments of majesty that reminds me of Peter Behrens 1909 Tubinenfabrik in Berlin.
For your delectation:
Right around the corner from the parking garage I showed yesterday is a very nice integration of retail into a parking garage. ¬†It is difficult to say if the result was intentional or serendipitous and I think the success relies in part on the proximity of the surrounding buildings. ¬†But I appreciate what looks like design intent made manifest.
The sharp contrast between the stark bright(ish) white and the shock of red establishes a nice hierarchy and rhythm for that side facade, while the tower anchors the corner and announces there is something there.
What you wouldn’t know from the pictures, however, is that the door on the longer facade is somewhat of a side door, entering into a vestibule with steps down to the bank floor. ¬†The “front” entrance faces the street, as opposed to an interior courtyard, but is overshadowed (literally) by what appears to be a pre-existing and inadvisable pedestrian bridge. ¬†(The entrance is in the corner behind the lamp post.)
A lot of attention has been paid recently to parking. ¬†The National Building Museum has an exhibit that closes in a couple of weeks. ¬†Herzog and DeMeuron has their new disco garage in Miami, 1111 Lincoln Road. ¬†Trenton, NJ, has a new scheme afoot.
Last month the International Parking Institute announced their 2010 design awards (bigger pictures available on ArchDaily). ¬†Among the winners is part of the recent expansion of the Towson Town Center Mall north of Baltimore. ¬†And while the street activation there is probably mostly still indoors, the project shows a successful integration of retail and parking.
The primary facade, as it were, holds the corner of Dulaney Valley Road and Fairmount Avenue, on what used to be a surface parking lot.
There is a similar treatment on Clarendon Boulevard in Arlington, but the building is not as tall. ¬†One might carp that the discontinuity between the treatment of the base, garage, and tower is somewhat discomfiting (a contrast to Part 2), but the presence of sidewalk dining tables at this busy intersection is certainly a blow against the Automobile Empire by the ragtag Streets Are For People rebellion.
Facade-ism. ¬†Facade-omy. ¬†Building facades are harder to design than they look. ¬†Especially with bigger buildings. ¬†Look around you.
DC architect Phil Esocoff also does a nice job with attractive facade design.
There are far more stinkers, however. ¬†For design, I prefer smaller buildings. ¬†Like small gardens or landscapes, there is usually room for only one organizing principle and its elegant elaboration. ¬†The rowhouse is a good urban example of this and the DC area has a wealth of fetching specimens in Alexandria, Georgetown, Dupont Circle, and of course Capitol Hill. ¬†Another local architect, Amy Weinstein, has done beautiful work in southeast DC on the¬†Ellen Wilson Homes¬†(and on a HOPE VI affordable housing budget!).
This is all to deliver to you a link I received this morning for a street of contemporary rowhouse facade design on Lonnekerspoorlaan in Roombeek, Enschede, in the Netherlands. ¬†The detail below is from a larger streetscape. ¬†This looks a bit like a facade project we did one semester in school, where we each made cereal-box scale models and placed then next to each other. ¬†Lots of ideas here. ¬†Dig away.
Saturday’s DC Garden Open Day, hosted by the Garden Conservancy, took us down the exclusive streets and well-screened back yards of six well-heeled — and pooled — Washingtonians (did my sons crawl under author Christopher Buckley‘s trampoline?). ¬†We were about do head into another beautiful garden when my wife got my attention by asking “Is that a zinc house?”
Indeed it was. ¬†This house, at 3530 Newark Street, NW, was designed by¬†Travis Price Architects and has a sleek LucasArts starship feel. ¬†Assumedly pre-weathered zinc cladding form an outer shield, with minimal openings and a blunt-faced bay on one side and a curved slicing edge on the other. ¬†Atop a stone base, the soft underbelly of this creature is mostly glazed, with red clapboard/fiberboard siding.
The stair on the right would suggest a piano nobile scheme with a¬†side entrance, while a peek down the driveway on the left promises a spacious terrace level with a terraced garden.
The scale of the house is compatible with its neighbors. ¬†The house has a narrower face on the street — the others don’t typically have driveways — and the large side setback of the house to the east provides the side elevation with a generous eye-catching aspect. ¬†The contrast is a bit jarring, but refreshing at the same time.
One of the nice things about being an architect is that the world is your ongoing precedent research. ¬†Tell people — including security guards — that you’re an architect, and you may be granted special access to spaces not regularly opened to the average citizen (or perhaps even forgiven a slight trespass?).
Although the forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms, architects, landscape architects, and our fellow citizens at large are all invited into the backyards of a selection of (usually fairly upmarket) private residences in the DC area this Saturday as part of the Garden Conservancy’s Garden Open Day program.
There is a modest entry fee for each garden. ¬†We’ve gone several times over the last five years or so (there were a couple of years where there were no DC dates), and the variety of neighborhood, house type, site, design, and foliage is great. ¬†I love checking out what people do with their houses and gardens, and you get everything from townhouses to estates typically represented. ¬†Check out the link above for more information. ¬†Now if only I could get into the houses…
Frank Lloyd Wright is supposed once¬†to have said that “A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.” ¬† Our new CR zone provides bonus density for doing the same thing (not burying mistakes…nevermind). ¬†But all irony aside, Green Walls, Living Walls, Vertical Gardens, etc. ¬†are gaining currency and are being installed with greater frequency in a variety of locations.
Other Parisian examples include the Fondation Cartier and the BHV Homme Department Store.
(photo: urban greenery)
Another cool garden spot faces Herzog & deMeuron’ Caixa Forum in Madrid.
(photo: green packs)
Soil is not required and the systems are light enough to be installed on most wall types, interior and exterior (see the recent NYT article). ¬†With a building scale, these vertical gardens have the potential not only to create dynamic visual interest for structured parking and secondary building facades, but to soften the transition between redeveloping urban edges and adjacent residential communities. ¬†Coming soon to a CBD…er…CR near you? ¬†Could be!
Last weekend we visited the Glover-Archbald Community Garden, near DC’s National Cathedral (and 2Amys Pizza!), to drop off some straw for a friend’s patch (Image above lifted from Prince of Petworth). ¬†Nearly three acres, the community garden is one of several associated with the District’s Field to Fork Initiative. ¬†Our Montgomery County Parks Department Community Gardens Program is a similar effort. ¬†For folks without the proper room or aspect for gardens in their yards, community garden plots are an excellent opportunity to bring nature into more urbanized areas, connect people back to the soil, and produce some mighty fine fruit and veg in the process.
In addition to the programs mentioned above, urban agriculture is on the minds of many communities, planners, and gardners, both far and near (there’s even a magazine)¬†. ¬†The Southlands Development in Tsawwassen, British Columbia, for example, strives to integrate agricultural land into their community plan, and outfits like¬†Growing Power in Milwaukee and Chicago, are re-introducing food crops into city neighborhoods.
Locally, Engaged Community Offshoots (ECO), together with M-NCPPC and Kaiser Permanente, is organizing a Chesapeake Urban Farming Summit on June 18 in Beltsville, MD, to talk about everything from the hands-on aspects to policy approaches. ¬†The keynote speaker will be Will Allen, founder of Growing Power, who was recently featured in a¬†New York Times article. ¬†The summit is an all-day conference and there is a modest registration fee. ¬†See you there!
Fitting “contemporary” design into existing neighborhoods and development can be a tricky business, especially where the existing character is strongly defined and fairly uniform. ¬†As new projects fill in holes in our more-developed areas of Montgomery County, designers will mount these challenges with greater and lesser success.
A good case study is the Split-Level House in Philadelphia. ¬†Designed by local architect Qb, it has been featured in several design magazines and websites (including the fantastic archidose.org). ¬†But seeing the buildings close-up and in context (which is often conspicuously absent in much architecture coverage) is the real test for how the design works.
So here’s the shot down 4th Street. ¬†The height is in the right place, but I think the excavated corner and the material change at the garage is visually disruptive. ¬†Perhaps if that area at the entry could be used as a patio it might connect better to the street, but I seem to remember it being a (vacant) planting bed. ¬†(More on the cupola down the street in a moment.)
Looking down Poplar, however, I think the house is more successful. ¬†The height is good, the change in materials recalls the base-middle-top of the rowhouses, and the windows continue the established rhythm. ¬†Much better.
You also don’t often get to see the back of the buildings very often either. ¬†The patio will probably be a little enclosed, assuming a party wall neighbor, but for now it is quite airy. ¬†Maybe when the neighbors put something up they will move the tables out front!
Also a bit of a detail of the corner, for your delectation.
And finally, for contrast, a bit more of the neighborhood: most positively 4th Street. ¬†Awesome. ¬†Enjoy.
Brooklyn continues to reclaim its waterfront for public use. ¬†The Brooklyn Heights Promenade, perched atop the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, offers a delightfully open place to…promenade…and has great views of Manhattan (even in the rain).
The newest piece of this collection of public spaces will be¬†Brooklyn Bridge Park, an extensive redevelopment of the Brooklyn waterfront south of the Brooklyn Bridge. ¬†Pier 1, the only completed section, opened while we were there. ¬†Our lads, while not tots, gave it a thorough going over.
Portions of the riverwalk had also been completed and were open. ¬†With the rain that bedeviled our time in the borough, however, only park maintenance staff and people whose kids had been cooped up and needed exertion were about.