Silver Spring’s AFI is One of the Best

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Reusing an old movie theater is one of historic preservation’s toughest challenges. Often they are large downtown spaces that have been made obsolete by suburban multiplexes that can out-compete with free parking and lots of screens.

But every once in a while, they manage to survive, sometimes through re-use. The MacArthur Theater in the District’s Palisades neighborhood has lost a good deal of its romance, but at least the streetfront landmark survives, if only as a CVS drugstore.

I spent many hours in Brookline Massachusetts’ Coolidge Corner Theater, sureptitously unwrapping bagels and cream cheese while gorging myself on Frank Capra, Bette Davis, and Cary Grant. Even in this era of Netflix couch potatoes, that theater survives with membership and vigorous … Continue reading

A Learning Opportunity from NCPC: Contemporary Design, Historic City

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What: 2011 NCPC Speaker Series Contemporary Design, Historic City: The Balancing Act Between Innovation & Preservation When: Tuesday, June 7, 2011 6:30 – 8:00 PM Where: Koubek Auditorium – Crough Center for Architectural Studies School of Architecture and Planning Catholic University of America

 

As a city filled with historic structures and landmarks, architectural preservation in the nation’s capital receives a lot of attention. Yet, as Washington continues to evolve, there exists a growing need for new development and a desire for more modern and inventive architecture. Making sure the two can successfully co-exist is the responsibility of the agencies involved in the planning and design review process. Join a panel of distinguished design and planning experts as they explore … Continue reading

learning with legos at NBM

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The ongoing Lego (R) exhibit, Towering Ambition, at the National Building Museum has some very cool models of famous buildings, but also provides a play area for kids and families.

More interesting than the models, however, are the prompts about land use and community planning hanging around and adorning the space where kids (and adults) can play with the Legos.

Rather than focus on cool buildings, like the exhibit, these prompts ask budding designers to think about places beyond the bounds of an individual building, to think like a town planner (and a rather progressive one at that).

Unfortunately the prompts still relegate land uses to separate building forms, but do suggest locating them near one another.

I think … Continue reading

Building of the Month, April 2011 – GEICO (1959)

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GEICO, Wisconsin and Western Avenues, Friendship Heights

The corporate headquarters for GEICO (1959) is an International Style complex of carefully articulated buildings designed by architect Vincent G Kling. Long low wings are contrasted by higher opaque blocks and sheathed in porcelain enamel and textured glass panels. The 26-acre landscaped campus includes flying saucer light fixtures, a Hovercraft-like fountain perched at the entrance.  Terraced parking lots  are shaded by mature trees.  A taller office tower (left) was added in 1964.

 

Architect Vincent Kling of Philadelphia worked for Skidmore Owings & Merrill before establishing his own firm in 1946. His expertise was in research labs and commercial space. As he designed the GEICO building, he was engaged in creating, with Edmund Bacon, the master … Continue reading

Oh Hi, Ohio

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Last week, I had the opportunity to spend a full day in Cleveland, Ohio. And I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. As it turns out, Cleveland is a pretty nice place.

I’d only ever passed through Cleveland on Amtrak’s Capitol Limited in the middle of the night. So I was unsure of what to expect, but my perceptions certainly focused on Cleveland as a rust belt city with some pretty serious environmental problems.

What I found was a city (and a region) facing a severe economic crisis, but one whose downtown and core neighborhoods cling to vibrancy. I was impressed with the urban form of Downtown, a district which has seen better days, but whose architecture … Continue reading

A Sustainable Decision in Twinbrook

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guest post by Kristin O’Connor

Now If We Can Get the Brook Back in Twinbrook

Ah, the environmental benefits of reusing a building—a very large building with tons of existing steel and concrete. Built in the early 1970s, the 18-story Parklawn building is the tallest, most prominent in Twinbrook. Formerly, it housed the Food and Drug Administration before it consolidated employees in White Oak. Since then, much of the building has been vacant.

The cost savings of building materials and energy make this a good sustainable decision. Additionally, the building’s proximity to the Red Line Metro station and the WMATA/JBG’s Twinbrook Station development, makes re-using the 1.3 million square foot building a good financial and sustainable option for any … Continue reading

April 2011 Building of the Month

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guest post: Clare Lise Kelly

Can you identify this Montgomery County Building? Here’s a hint: This complex share ties with Penn Center in Philadelphia.

Tune in next month to find out what building it is and its architectural merits.

Montgomery Modern explores mid-century modern buildings and communities that reflect the optimistic spirit of the post-war era in Montgomery County, Maryland. From International Style office towers to Googie style stores and contemporary tract houses, Montgomery Modern celebrates the buildings, technology, and materials of the Atomic Age, from the late 1940s through the 1960s. A half century later, we now have perspective to appreciate these resources as a product of their time.

Gehry’s Back? What About His Front?

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According to Witold Rybczynski in Slate, Gehry’s New World Symphony in Miami Beach proves he’s back. I’m not sure where he went, but the building is a well-detailed box that adds the civic-friendly option of turning itself inside out by broadcasting performances on the building to a lawn park.

This is bascially a programming decision as much as a design decision, as is the building’s interface with the the park and the way the park functions. Interface and progamming are a lot of what makes a place pleasing and interesting. So an empty lot in Silver Spring becomes a weekend market or a Miami warehouse becomes a Sunday afternoon hangout.

Gehry’s building is nicely detailed, but it’s … Continue reading

Let’s Not Cross That Bridge When We Get To It

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Guest Post by Alex Hutchinson

Whether it’s the Boundary Bridge that straddles Rock Creek right outside Silver Spring or the Cabin John Bridge nestled into Glen Echo, I love the bridges our region boasts.  I’m no gephyrophobiac, bridges don’t scare me one bit. But there is one bridge that makes me uneasy–and no, it’s not the Tacoma Narrows— it’s the Downtown Silver Spring Library bridge. Despite the fact the Planning Board voted 8-1 against the bridge, it has once again become part of our local discourse. Here’s why I hope this bridge wobbles into oblivion.

It’s been argued that the proposed bridge is the best and most economic way of achieving accessibility for all. Silver Spring already has a skywalk: the bridge that … Continue reading

Parking Mad?: Jolie-Laide (Part 3 of 3)

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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: