Planning Reality Check

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Recent analysis of three past plans reveals goals for housing and public facilities were accomplished, while visions for commercial spaces and transit have been slower to achieve

Planning, by design, is a forward-looking field and with 20 to 30-year plan horizons. Planning departments don’t often look back to see what happened with their visions. Such analysis is usually too challenging – staff who have worked on the plan have moved on and departments don’t often have the capacity or resources to handle such a task along with their day-to-day planning work.

The Montgomery Planning Department, however, decided to tackle this task in 2016 with three plans.  We wanted to find out what had happened in different types of … Continue reading

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 … Continue reading

Boskey House, 5116 Baltimore Ave (1949) Deigert and Yerkes, architects

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Last fall we featured the work of architectural firm Deigert and Yerkes in our Montgomery Modern Bus Tour 2017. Now a custom Deigert and Yerkes house has been listed on the market. The Boskey House is tucked away on a wooded lot in the Westgate subdivision, between Massachusetts Avenue and River Road. The low, horizontal form of the one-story front is well-anchored to the site.

Characteristic of Deigert and Yerkes-designed houses, the Boskey House is designed for maximum privacy, with an expert site plan and well-preserved natural setting. Dark-stained redwood siding, neutral-painted trim, and fieldstone base accents are features which serve to connect the house to its setting.

At the back, windows open to a view of mature trees, … Continue reading

Montgomery County Employment Trends: Federal Government Plays Key Role

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The Great Recession had a profound impact on industry and labor conditions throughout the United States. The ensuing recovery has been uneven – both geographically and across time – and today, many places have not recovered or have economies that differ from the pre-recessionary period.

Montgomery County’s economy was also affected by the Great Recession, however, its employment shrank less than those of other jurisdictions during the height of the recession. Our research shows that employment in the county declined 1.8 percent between 2008 and 2011, compared to 3.9 percent nationwide.

The reason for this tempered loss is the role played by the federal government in the county’s economy. Industries such as finance, construction, retail and others were supported … Continue reading

Heroic Architecture: a new look at Brutalism

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A new trend was the design of concrete buildings which expressed the natural character of this building material. Starting in the 1960s, Montgomery County business districts were punctuated by statement buildings that celebrate the raw nature of concrete.   The design of monumental buildings constructed with unfinished concrete cladding were influenced by the work of pioneering modernist Le Corbusier and his use of béton brut, or raw concrete.  The name was anglicized as Brutalism, a term which has acquired negative connotations.  More recently, the style has been dubbed Heroic architecture, as more people have come to appreciate these buildings for their honest expression and as a product of their time.

An early local example of Brutalism was the award-winning National … Continue reading

Back to the Future: New Suburbanism

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Reimagining suburbs in the 21st century draws on the best of the past

The communities that started the trend of 20th-century suburbanism shared a number of common traits. Many of them were focused on rail or trolley lines. Most had some retail uses in close proximity – corner stores or small retail blocks. They connected to nature through tree-lined curvilinear streets and small neighborhood parks and open spaces. Montgomery County’s earliest suburbs – Chevy Chase, Kensington and Takoma Park — all exhibit these features.

As suburbs grew and the areas between the rail and trolley lines filled in with auto-centric swaths of single-family homes, some of the essential traits of the older, original suburbs were lost.

Now, in the … Continue reading

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 … Continue reading

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 … Continue reading

Modern Tract Houses

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David Frey’s “Mad About Modern” in the new issue of Bethesda Magazine highlights mid-century modern design in Montgomery County, featuring modernist tract houses in Rockville, Wheaton and Bethesda. Three residences in the article are in Montgomery Modern tours—past and future!

Carderock Springs house (1963) Owners: Jonas Carnemark and Wendy Ann Larson National Register Historic District Architect: Keyes Lethbridge & Condon

Photos of Carnemark-Larson House, from our 2013 Montgomery Modern Bus Tour

Hammond Wood House (1950) Owner: Michael Cook Architect: Charles M. Goodman

Photos from our 2014 Montgomery Modern Bike Tour

 

Oak Spring House (1966) Owners: Mike Lecy and Kit Yeoh Architect: Deigert & Yerkes

This house will be included in our tour of Oak Spring for … Continue reading

Garage Location Makes a Huge Difference in Community Livability

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“If you design communities for automobiles, you get more automobiles. If you design them for people, you get walkable, livable communities.” Parris Glendening – Former Governor of Maryland

“Our streets and squares make up what we call the public realm, which is the physical manifestation of the common good. When you degrade the public realm, the common good suffers.” James Howard Kunstler – Writer, Urbanist

 

Studies throughout the country have drawn the same conclusions regarding the relationship between house and garage. Townhouses with garages placed inconspicuously at the rear of the property create better neighborhoods and generate greater economic value than townhouses with garages fronting the street.

 

Look at the townhouses in our region built over … Continue reading