Some Recent Articles & Links

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On Housing

A report from the Brookings Institution: restrictive (read, “exclusionary”) zoning may lead to lower test scores for kids.

“As the nation grapples with the growing gap between rich and poor and an economy increasingly reliant on formal education, public policies should address housing market regulations that prohibit all but the very affluent from enrolling their children in high-scoring public schools in order to promote individual social mobility and broader economic security.”

Report.

An analysis by US Today shows the recession accelerated trends towards urbanization.

“The shift to more urban housing development has been growing slowly during the past couple of decades and thanks to the recession and housing crash, this trend has accelerated. It is probable … Continue reading

MoCo Considers Cyclists and Pedestrians, too

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guest post by Larry Cole

On April 24, the Prince George’s County Council passed a law that requires developers to make improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists to ensure adequate public pedestrian and bikeway facilities in County Centers and Corridors.

The Washington Post article, “Prince George’s Backs Plan to ease the way of pedestrians and cyclists,” on this progressive measure, however, does not fully portray similar measures already in place in Montgomery County to improve the environment for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders and trail users. Montgomery County has had similar requirements for developers for almost a decade, and has moved on multiple fronts to further strengthen measures to achieve a pedestrian, bicyclist, and transit-friendly and accessible environment.

With each application … Continue reading

Take a Walk

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Or try to. That’s the message of Tom Vanderbilt’s series this week on Slate about pedestrians–or without the perjorative that he points out–people walking.

He makes a point that’s long frustrated me. Sooner or later, we all walk, even if it’s only from the parking lot to the mall. Something inside us loves to stroll. What is a mall if not a re-creation of an urban boulevard and witness the success of retail neo-main streets.

But we spend so little of our time, money, and thought on establishing and securing pedestrian environments. Even the fact that I describe it as a “pedestrian environment,” as a place apart and separate, rather than woven through our lives and communties–speaks to our separation … Continue reading

American National Bank Building (1963), 8701 Georgia Avenue

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This article has been corrected with two facts: the exterior panels are glass, not porcelain, and in the summer of 2012, the horizontal band over the parking lot entrance was taken down for construction of 8711 Georgia Avenue. Thanks to readers for your comments. Clare Lise Kelly 9-12-12

Designed by architect Edwin Weihe in 1960, the American National Bank Building, at 8701 Georgia Avenue, is a fine example of an International style office building. When it opened in 1961, it was the tallest building in Silver Spring and featured several design innovations.

 

Architect Edwin Weihe placed the building’s heating, cooling, and elevator equipment in a low roof penthouse, designed so that it is not immediately apparent from the streetview. … Continue reading

Branding or Building a Neighborhood?

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Developers in D.C. are proposing a “pop-up” restaurant on a vacant U Street lot that would be constructed out of shipping containers and there are a lot of good questions about whether this is a good or bad thing. Online commenters wonder whether this is cool urbanism or just a descent into third world, make-do architecture.

Looking at other examples, in London and New York, it seems these are a retail opportunity for branding,  and by-the-way, an urban pheonmenon. London’s very cool Shoreditch box park describes itself as “low-cost, low-risk, unique, and flexible,” meant to draw tenants like local artists and artisanal manufacturers.

At New York’s Dekalb Market, tenants are a roster of hipster cliches from an excessive number of … Continue reading

Mid-Century Architecture Gets its Due

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Guest post by Scott Whipple

The Washington Post’s “Where We Live” blog recently featured Washington area mid-century architecture (Washington’s mid-century modern neighborhoods | Washington’s mid-century modern neighborhoods, part 2), making mention of a number of Montgomery County’s recent past resources — including the Rock Creek Woods, Hammond Wood, and Carderock Springs National Register historic districts.

As Amanda Abrams writes in the first post, “I’ve found that once I look for them, I start seeing modernist communities everywhere.” We expect to be seeing more mid-century resources, too. So we’ve started the MontgomeryModern initiative to explore our county’s mid-century architectural history. We share the excitement about this architecture that Michael Shapiro mentions in his post, and we hope you will come … Continue reading

Rising Cities

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Cities have always drawn the best and the brightest, who are drawn by urban energy and in turn, contribute to it.

A new world economy is creating new up-and-comers, reviewed in this New York Times article. And what do these cities have in common–connectivity of varying sorts. Lots of cities are putting in free wi-fi and most of them, from Aukland to Vilnius, are expanding and improving mass transit. Sometimes in the most unlikely places and in the most unlikely (and exciting) ways!

Round House Weirdness

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Like a triple play or a blue moon, round houses are rare and wonderful things. But even though we always stop to look, we rarely buy. Round houses just don’t fit our image of home–a front door tucked under a gable roof. Instead, they look like something that’s just landed from another universe.

Building materials may be one reason we live in boxes rather than bowls. Teepees and yurts made of cloth and skins are self-supporting without a foundation. Even more contemporary materials like steel and concrete can be molded into round structures. But most home-building is stick-built construction. It takes effort and skill to shape two-by-fours into a round structure. (A more subtle influence might be lot shape–you … Continue reading

D.C. Environmental Film Fest

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This year’s festival features films about the built environment, from the Mohawk ironworkers in Skydancer to Dutch architect Rem Koolhas coming to terms with rapid urbanization in Lagos, Nigeria.

Venues are all over the city, and screening times throughout the day. Find one that works for you, but tickets sell quick, so don’t delay.

Preservation and Change

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Washingtonian magazine recently ran a long article about preservation in the Washington, D.C. region, including early efforts at Mount Vernon after the Civil War to more recent efforts recognizing Modern architecture.

You can read about the local battles and inspirations here, but to me, the most interesting paragraph in the article was this one:

“Sometimes historic buildings are sacrificed for what is considered the greater good. The Federal Triangle was Washington’s first great example in the 1930s, when several square blocks were torn down to make way for a federal office complex. Construction of the National Archives meant demolition of the city’s central food market. The Kennedy Center replaced the city’s largest brewery. And the Army Medical … Continue reading