The Montgomery Planning Department sponsored a lecture by Boston architect Rodolfo Machado on May 25 at the Silver Spring Civic Building. Machado and his firm Machado Silvetti designed the civic building and the Planning Department honored them in October 2015 with the first annual Design Excellence Award for this remarkable project. Experiencing the Silver Spring building with the architect on site and learning more about his design made the event even more special.
Machado creates buildings that are positively urban and of their place. Although he truly loves architecture, the Argentine-turned-American loves even more the places his architecture creates. A smile was on his face as he explained how civic buildings are about social interaction and the everyday messiness and chance encounters that great urbanism creates.
Machado’s designs are certainly innovative, but the innovation is based on a strong understanding of architectural history and context that informs all of his firm’s contemporary work. These designs also support and enhance their urban context.
The Silver Spring Civic Building exemplifies this contextualism in that the plaza is all about the building that faces onto it, yet the building itself seems to be all about the space and the axis of Ellsworth Drive. Building and plaza are inextricable. The sidewalk along Ellsworth continues through the building to connect the civic city to the residential district beyond. The interior courtyard providing bright natural light draws you in and provides sanctuary along the axial journey.
Another great project explained during the lecture was Boston’s Atelier 505, an expansion of the historic Cyclorama theater, the former home of the 360-degree painting of the Gettysburg battle during the Civil War. This new complex is a conglomeration of different buildings that responds to the various heights of surrounding historic buildings while still accentuating the original theater building. Each of the primary entries are placed on axis with adjacent perpendicular streets. A corner residential tower faces onto Berkeley Street to extend the high-rise core of Boston to the north. An iconic new theater element frames a new civic square to the south where it receives full sun exposure all year round.
Both of these projects take cues from the culture and character of their locations. They are responsive to the conditions of their sites while firmly related to the history of architecture and urban design. They are truly urban and the pedestrian and community are the real winners.
This blog will illuminate many ways of creating extraordinary, well planned communities without losing the neighborhood elements of landscape and open space that we all cherish. We hope to stimulate creative insight, constructive thought and meaningful feedback. Stay in touch with The Third Place!