Robots in Silver Spring
Who knew? Silver Spring was home to a pioneering robot. The TransfeRobot was an early standardized, off-the-shelf programmable robot, developed in 1958 and offered for sale in 1959. U. S. Industries started making the robots at 949 Bonifant Ave (more on that later). The firm quickly outgrew that building and moved out to the new Montgomery Industrial Park.
The sleek, modern building at 12345 Columbia Pike was designed in 1960 (architect unknown) and opened for production in 1961. It was originally called the USI Automation Center, and was operated by the Robodyne Division of USI. This is the front façade of the headhouse that faces Columbia Pike.
The TransfeRobot 200 could perform adaptable, repetitive tasks that made … Continue reading
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, … Continue reading
for an idea who’s time has come.
Slate magainze recently posted an article about the efficiences of bus rapid transit, noting that its success lies in addressing some of the frustrating things about riding the bus–getting stuck in traffic, getting stuck behind fellow riders, getting stuck in the rain.
But the author points out that dedicated lanes, proof-of-payment systems, and station infrastrcuture can combine to make bus travel efficient and appealing. While the Planning Board’s Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan doesn’t go into detail about how you’ll buy your bus ticket, it is an important step toward maximinzing the use of our existing roadways, establishing initial standards for routes and stations, and ensuring that everyone can travel around … Continue reading
Depending on your media preferences, you may have heard about a new book by the Brookings Institute, The Metropolitan Revolution.
In it, authors Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley postulate that with the Federal government in partisan gridlock and facing the costs of caring for an aging population, large infrastructure, education, and economic investments are taking place in America’s metropolitan areas through coalitions of local government, business, labor, philanthropic, and education leaders.
In an NPR interview, Katz makes the point that as the economy changes so does American geography. From the primacy of port cities to swaths of industrial acreage, each economy has its spatial geography. Katz says the new digital economy that seeks interaction to create innovation is locating … Continue reading
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, … Continue reading
Today, the National Trust for Historic Preservation released their annual list of the 11 most endangered places in the U.S. While none of them are in Montgomery County, the list includes two mid-century modern buildings–the Worldport Terminal at JFK Airport and the Houston Astrodome–a recogonition that recent history is also historic.
In fact, The National Register of Historic Places, which sets out criteria for historic designation, generally recognizes that 50 years is a reasonable remove from which to conisder history. The register is alos looking for buildings associate with events or a noted person, those that can share information or reflect the work of a master, and those that exhibit unique construction or artistry.
That age deadline and those criteria … Continue reading
ULI recently announced the finalists in its Urban Open Space Award competition and a local site is in the mix. I really love the Yards Park, for its re-use and upgrade of an abandoned resource–the Anancostia Rvierfront and for its design details.
You can read more of our observations and see pictures here, but these finalists all embody features of good urban spaces. ULI is looking for spaces that “encouraged economic and social rejuvination in their neighborhoods” and these projects in Nashville, Vancouver, California, as well as DC incorporate urbansim into park design.
They are places to watch other people–strolling. splashing, or sitting. People in cities take their energy from other people–whether it’s on sidewalks or in parks.
These … Continue reading
By the end of the summer, the first Capital bikeshare will be open in Montgomery County. In the meantime, here are some interesting statistics about bike riding and bike-friendly places.
Capital Bikeshare has released the second part of its user’s survey–who report spending less money on transportation, and being more physically fit.
But it takes some infrastrucutre investment to get those benefits. American Bicyclists have released some nice infographics on increasingly bike-friendly places–the DC metro region has increased by 315%.
Ding, ding–on your left!
Montgomery County in the mid-century era experienced great change. Montgomery was the fourth fastest growing county in the nation. The population grew from less than 90,000 in 1946 to nearly 580,000 by 1974. Change also came in the pace of life, as cars and new highways enabled ever increasing speeds, but also in the scale of the perceived environment, as space exploration made the universe seem to be the limit. A new era called for new building forms, made possible with innovative technologies. By the early 1960s, architects were experimenting with a variety of roof forms.
The zigzag roof of the Sligo Adventist Elementary School must have been a striking contrast to the traditional flat roof schools that had … Continue reading
The value of historic preservation is often expressed in terms that are difficult to quantify. We are preserving cultural patrimony, maintaining a sense of place, safeguarding our architectural heritage.
But what if we could hang a number on the value of historic preservation? Actually, we can.
Look at tax credits issued for rehabbing historic properties. Montgomery County provides a 10-percent tax credit for qualified work on properties listed in the County’s Master Plan for Historic Preservation or located in County-designated historic districts. The State of Maryland and federal government also offer rehabilitation tax credits that some property owners may be able to receive on top of the county’s program.
In 2012, the historic preservation commission reviewed applications for the … Continue reading