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As I do every year, I took off my birthday yesterday (38 Special!).  This year I drove up to Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties and Fishtown neighborhoods to check out some architecture.  A developer called “Onion Flats” has been putting up some cool contemporary constructions, and I went to investigate.  What I found was that MANY developers are working on smaller and larger sections of these older residential communities, where the module is overwhelmingly the brick rowhouse, and every other block seemed to feature a new intervention. Enter Liberties Walk, Tower Investment‘s mixed-use development designed by local architect Erdy McHenry, features a pedestrian-only walkway that runs for 3+ blocks.  According to Plan Philly, the 4-acre site accommodates 25 galleries, restaurants, and shops on… Read more »

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We have a Greek cousin who tried to explain our front lawn to his friends. “Do they park their cars there,” they asked?  “Do they grow food, do they sit there?”  “No, it’s just grass,” he said. “They don’t do anything with it.” And when our Greek uncle built a little villitsa by the seashore, in true lord of the manor style, he fronted it with a lawn. But he couldn’t let the rectangular grass strip alone and planted shrubs right down the middle, a somewhat confused aesthetic.  In Edible Estates: An Attack on the Front Lawn , Fritz Haeg unpacks the front lawn—why are we mowing instead of growing? In various essays, landscapers, designers, and gardeners point out that… Read more »

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Last week, the County Council approved a new kind of hybrid zoning — the Commercial Residential (CR) zones. Combining traditional zoning provisions, such as use and dimensional standards and form-based provisions, such as street façade requirements and angular plane setbacks, these zones have been created to ensure : • Better predictability of allowed use, density, and height • More integrated services, residential opportunities, and public amenities • More sustainable growth patterns concentrated in existing commercial areas The CR zones are a family of zones based on a combination of use, density, mix, and height. A zone combines these factors and will be seen on the zoning map as, for example: CR2 C1 R1.5 H60. This sequence means that any property… Read more »

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The Building Museum’s current exhibit, Drawing Toward Home, begins with the spidery lines of a Samuel McIntire plan of a Federal style house to be built in Salem, Massachusetts in the late 1700s. The rooms aren’t labeled, but simply marked with their measurements. The single sheet is a design, a contract, and a builder’s directive. Very quickly, the exhibit’s drawings of houses turn into drawings of home. Along with color and detail, they add emotion. “The architect must keep his client’s enthusiasm alive and active by sending or submitting bright, jaunty little perspective sketches of his contemplate work,” wrote Benjamin Linfoot in Architectural Picture Making (1884). The drawings are partially the ploy of an architect to keep his client engaged and… Read more »

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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe — yes, THAT Goethe — is credited with describing architecture as “frozen music.”  As the snow melts away from the brightly colored and delightfully detailed Pyramid Atlantic, some of that music will be pooling for public consumption. Sonic Circuits, an organization dedicated to providing “DC’s music and art communities with the opportunity to sample experimental and avant-garde electronic music, with an emphasis on improvisation and artistic use of new technologies,” will be holding its next performance at the center on Friday, March 19, 2010, at 8:00 pm. Last week I saw Ms. Chen perform as part of a ten-piece improvisational group playing John Zorn’s “Cobra”, part of Baltimore’s excellent Mobtown Modern series; her contributions were among… Read more »

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Parking garages aren’t always the most attractive members of built society. If a group of buildings got together for a social event, skyscrapers would be the leggy blonde at the center of attention while parking garages would play the overweight louse, disheveled and stinking of cheap cigars, that foils the attempts of potential suitors. (What, you don’t think about buildings talking to one another?) Yes, far too often parking garages are the ugly brutes ruining all the fun, occupying whole city blocks, deadening street life, and filling the air with noxious fumes. It’s hardly a coincidence that they are featured most prominently in movies where the threat of evil looms in every shadowy crevice. Parking structures have experienced a bit… Read more »

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Well, at a cost of more than $100,000 per space, it had better be. High design–using Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron–costs and the New York Times takes a shot at figuring how the numbers work. But never mind the numbers, the structure is a location scout’s dream. Look for it soon on an episode of CSI Miami. See it on film here Miami Beach is actually developing a reputation for cool parking garages, using design than relies on more than just a tropical climate that can soften and structure with palm trees and cushions of impatiens. Okay, this one is palmed and cushiony, but it also has a strong retail base, a car entrance that is as narrow as… Read more »

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LOCAL A Visit To Velatis Silver Spring Singular SSS samples the caramels from Velatis, which recently opened on Georgia Avenue in a building previously occupied by trees. Mouth watering images included.  Lessons from a South American Bus Rapid Transit system Greater Greater Washington Councilmember George Leventhal traveled to Curitiba, Brazil to test out their BRT system. He shares his thoughts with GGW.  It’s Worse Than You Thought… but maybe better too Friends of White Flint An interesting recap of where Montgomery County is strong, and where it needs to improve relative to the Washington region.   How Silver Spring Park could be a good neighbor Greater Greater Washington / Just Up The Pike Wednesday Eclectica Thayer Avenue Two blogs share their thoughts on… Read more »

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Via Fast Company Portland has long been one of the most celebrated cities in terms of planning and sustainability. Peter Calthorpe is one of the original pioneers of transit-oriented development. In this video, Calthorpe does a nice job of succinctly laying out the principles of transit-oriented development, namely walkability and diversity of population and land use.

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Earlier this winter, the New York Times ran an article on a CEO’s for Cities study revealing a substantial premium on home sale prices in areas with an above average Walkscore, the informative, if simplistic online measurement tool that ranks neighborhood “walkability” based on proximity to community services and amenities. According to the study, for every additional Walkscore point a neighborhood earns, home prices increase by $700 and $3,000. On average, highly walkable homes sold for $4,000 to $38,000 more than their auto-centric competition. This past weekend, I attempted to use Walkscore in conjunction with Zillow.com to (at least loosely) confirm the study’s findings for Montgomery County. While zip-code data gave a soft nod in the affirmative, I couldn’t find data fine-grained… Read more »