From Corporate Offices to Centers of Learning

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Changes in work patterns and population growth are leading to new types of schools Walking past 8000 Jones Branch Drive in Tysons Corner, it is easy to assume that offices occupy this regular, three-story building. Entering its light filled atrium, however, does not reveal a corporate lobby or water cooler talk, but a gathering space where hundreds of chattering students dart between classes and engage in extracurricular activities. Welcome to Basis Independent School, a new type of center for learning.     Basis Independent is a private K-12 school that sits within the 120,000 square feet of this former Tysons Corner office building. This renovation project was designed by the DC architecture firm Perkins Eastman with Gilbane as the design-build… Read more »

Celebrate Design Excellence in Montgomery County

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Planning Department’s annual awards will be announced on October 19 The Montgomery County Planning Department is finalizing preparations for its third annual Design Excellence Award celebration on October 19, 2017 at the Silver Spring Civic Building. This event will be held from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. in conjunction with the American Institute of Architects Potomac Valley Chapter’s design awards program. This year, the Planning Department will recognize two top awards, one for excellence in architecture and urban design, and a second for great spaces and landscapes. More than 25 exceptional works of architecture, landscape architecture and urban design completed in Montgomery County over the past decade have been submitted for review in September 2017 by another outstanding independent jury of… Read more »

The Future of Aging Office Buildings

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Transit-served locations, less parking and affordability in urban centers are behind the successful recycling of offices into residences and other uses Walking past the Octave 1320 on Fenwick Lane in Downtown Silver Spring, it is hard to imagine that not too long ago, this glimmering, 102- unit condominium housed vacant offices and a greasy spoon eatery in its basement. The transformation of the 10-story building, developed by Promark Real Estate Services of Rockville and designed by Washington, DC-based BKV Group, is impressive and likely to become the norm rather than the exception in Montgomery County’s urban centers. Several factors are influencing such conversions of aging office structures to other uses: Our downtowns are mostly built up with high density office… Read more »

Designed for excellence

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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 »

Bethesda zoning overlay – creating a better place through height and quality design

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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 »

Enter the 2016 Design Excellence Award Competition

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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 »

The Legacy of Eason Cross FAIA (1925-2016)

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Accomplished modernist architect Eason Cross died on January 28, 2016. A Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Cross was a principal of Cross & Adreon, a firm known for modernist residential developments designed to harmonize with nature. Their projects received prestigious design awards when they were first built 50 years ago, and these communities have continued to receive recognition for being outstanding places in which to live. The work of Cross & Adreon was recently featured in David Frey’s “30 Great Neighborhoods” in the current issue of Bethesda Magazine (Mar/Apr 2016) (pdf). Cross worked seven years in the offices of prominent local architect Charles Goodman, first as draftsman and later as associate architect. In this capacity, he designed houses in… Read more »

Docomomo in Montgomery

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This past Saturday, the Montgomery County Planning Department and the Potomac Chapter of the American Institute of Architects participated in the nationwide docomomo event by sponsoring a tour of some of Montgomery County’s mid-century modern buildings. The tour began at GEICO, where the soft, sweeping lines of the Victor Kling campus contrast with the rectilinear facades and composition of buildings. Across the street, The Irene apartment building displays the same rectilinear façade patterns. The neighborhoods of Potomac Overlook and Glen Echo Heights tucked their glass-walled homes amid the natural landscape, capturing views and light. Many tour-goers thought the highlight was a visit to the Seymour Krieger House, designed by internationally recognized architect, Marcel Breuer. Breuer’s work on this house, delicately… Read more »

Putting a value on historic preservation, revisited

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I like to revisit posts I have done. Not long ago I wrote about putting a value on historic preservation. Three recent developments bring me back to the subject. First, the Historic Preservation Commission recently approved 39 applications for the county’s historic preservation tax credits. The 39 projects represent nearly $1.5 million in private investment in historic properties in communities across the county. This is a good thing. As discussed in the previous post, money spent on historic preservation projects demonstrates a strong multiplier effect, making investments in historic rehabilitation particularly beneficial for local economics, jobs and businesses. The number of tax credit projects also bears note. The 39 projects represent perhaps a quarter, or less, of the projects that… Read more »

Un-graying Infrastructure

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Roads, parking garages, even trails rarely have the urban glamour of Italian hill towns, grand plazas, or museums and symphony halls. For many planners and architects, they are the unfortunate necessities that make a place work and are often treated accordingly. But as this article in Better Cities and Towns shows, infrastructure can add drama to the urban profile and fun to daily life. What particulalry got me interested in the topic was looking at how we talk about parking garages. The only solution appears to be hiding them, screening them, making them look like something else. While some of these examples in Miami are truly extraordinary, more of them are replicable and through their design, location, and tenanting, add… Read more »