Designing for Joy

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At a panel discussion in late October, where architect David M. Childs of SOM received the George White Award for Excellence in Public Architecture from the American Architectural Foundation, the notion of joy in planning came up.

Amid discussions of floor area ratio, compatibility, function, and infrastructure, bringing up joy seems frivolous in the least, perhaps even foolish.

Childs recalled that he and George White, the ninth Architect of the Capital between 1971 and 1996, proposed allowing ice skating on the reflecting pool, an idea that was quickly dismissed as not serious.

But imagine the feeling of gliding between Lincoln and Washington. That stretch of city would become a place for people as well as a place for history. I … Continue reading

Operations Research Institute (1963), 1400 Spring Street

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This sleek blue building, constructed in 1963, is another mid-century modern gem in downtown Silver Spring. Built three years after the American National Bank Building, the Operations Research Institute building was designed by prolific local architect Ted Englehardt. Previously we blogged about Englehardt’s Weller’s Dry Cleaning. For the Operations Research Institute, Englehardt designed an International Style office building with beautiful turquoise spandrel panels made of porcelain enamel.

Developer Carl M. Freeman moved his offices here in 1964. The firm occupied the first and part of the second floors. Freeman, who pioneered the modernist garden apartment in the DC area, was at this time one of the top 12 builders in the country.

Some part of the … Continue reading

Maybe Money Does Grow on Trees

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Who doesn’t love trees? As we’ve learned, shoppers perusing downtown shops for the latest bargains are among the tree lovers. That’s why property owners in the Silver Spring and Wheaton Central Business Districts should take advantage of the Planning Department’s new program offering free trees.

Last month, the Department unveiled Shades of Green, a pilot program that provides trees of choice to qualifying property owners, plants them, and ensures care and maintenance for two years. That’s quite a deal.

Download our online maps for details on who qualifies – CBD property owners and property owners in Montgomery Hills – as well as tree species on offer.

Learn more about how the Shades of Green program works … Continue reading

Architectural photographer of modernism, Julius Shulman

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This post is not specifically about Montgomery County, but it’s about a great film I recently saw that really sets modernism in context. It’s Visual Acoustics, the documentary of a man helped bring modern American design into the forefront: architectural photographer Julius Shulman (1910-2009). Through his spectacular photos, it is said that Shulman defined the way we look at modernism. His photos of works of Richard Neutra, Frank Lloyd Wright, and other modernist designers great and small appeared in architectural journals and books throughout this era. Shulman’s work was not always credited at the time. My copy of Leonardo Benevolo’s History of Modern Architecture bears witness to this, with great photos of Neutra houses which are not credited (!) … Continue reading

“Forbes Ranks Bethesda Among America’s Coolest Cities”

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And I hardly know what to make of this. Did someone redefine cool or cities or  Bethesda? And as one commenter on Bethesda Patch noted, Baltimore ranked 14, just beating Bethesda at 17.

Cool is subjective, and (she says snarkily) is the measure of cool the number of  hipster pickle makers per loft? By the way, Brooklyn, which seems to be the epicenter of cool hipster pickle-makers, did not make the list. Though I suppose it was subsumed into the NYC-White Plains-Wayne (NJ) census mess.

And moving on from snark to bureaucratic nerdiness, Bethesda is not a city or even a town. It’s an unicorporated place that can leap perceptual boundaries whenever a realtor needs to gin up another … Continue reading

A new(ish) Park in DC

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The Yards Park has already won a list of awards, but I’ve just discovered it.

I can see why it’s won awards–there are so many things I love about it–the variety of spaces, the classic Holly Whyte bits of urbanism (movable chairs, touchable water, something to eat, people to watch), and its connections, running from Diamond Teague Park at National’s Stadium and through the Navy Yard, with a few bikeshare docks along the way.

 

 

 

 

 

Walkable Communities vs a Walk-in Closet

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Suburbs have always been an indicator of economic status. If you lived in them, you were wealthy enough to take on a mortgage, maintain a house and yard, and eventually own and maintain one or even two cars.

At some point, that shifted. Living in the city and maintaining a middle class lifestyle took an upper class income. Limited attractive neighborhoods and buildings cost a premium. And if local schools and services were not up to par you needed to pay tuition and fees.

Now, according to Christopher Leinberger and Mariela Alfonzo in the New York Times, a larger number of city neighborhoods are outstripping the suburbs in desirability and thus in per square foot value. Their recent report finds that walkable … Continue reading

How far can you get on transit in 10, 30, 45 minutes?

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What a fun toy!  Mapnificent shows you how far you can travel on transit from any address for several cities around the world.

You can choose the travel time along a sliding bar and choose specific addresses or drag a pin on the map around.  Here’s the blob from the Planning Department’s address set at 30 minutes:

I was able to quickly look at Chicago and Philadelphia, two cities I’ll be visiting soon, and the times looked about like I’ve experienced before (as does Silver Spring’s).  Nothing for Providence, another city I’ll be visiting this summer, although I know RIPTA has a decent system.

Maybe more soon.

More info and examples were posted on The Atlantic Cities site.

What Does the Future Look Like?

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According to a report on NPR, population worldwide is moving to cities. This is not a new trend; cities have always been centers of opportunity, but now that population threatens to overwhelm capacity it is more important than ever to build them right.

While some countries are building new cities from scratch, places that will “win” are those that already have infrastructure and are making best use of it. As Harriet Tregoning, D.C.’s planning chief pointed out at a panel discussion at the National Building Museum, even in this recent recession, communities that did best were those that are “dense, mixed-use places.”

As part of the Washington metropolitan area, Montgomery County has long recognized that it faces a growing … Continue reading

Bikeshare Coming to Silver Spring, etc.

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I have a confession: i don’t own a bike. The bus and metro are a bit too convenient for me. And with DC’s Bikeshare program and the soon to come Silver Spring program, why would I need one? (And we’re beginning to reserve spaces on land in White Flint.)

With a grant in place and plans under way, the first project to propose a bikeshare station with integrated public art, Fenwick Station (on the corner of Second Avenue and Spring Street), was reviewed by the Planning Board on April 26.

This is just in time for national bike month!

So maybe we can give DC, named the 6th most bikeable city by walkscore.com, a run (ride?) for their money.

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