Discover Montgomery County’s Historic Gems

Posted: by

Guest post: Scott Whipple

May is National Preservation Month and this year’s theme, “Discover America’s Hidden Gems”, got me thinking about Montgomery County’s rich collection of historic places.

Montgomery County has 430 sites and 22 districts designated in the County’s Master Plan for Historic Preservation. More are identified in the Locational Atlas and Index of Historic Sites in Montgomery County. And more still are waiting to be identified and investigated.

Historic and architectural gems we have. But hidden? In a county just outside the nation’s capital, with a population rapidly approaching a million people, it is hard to think of much as being hidden. Whether or not we live or work in a historic building, most of us encounter historic buildings or landscapes … Continue reading

Take a Walk

Posted: by

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

Mid-Century Architecture Gets its Due

Posted: by

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

The Food Truck Challenge

Posted: by

No, it’s not about who’s got the biggest twitter following or who makes the best fusion taco. As always, follow the money. In many cities, trucks compete with local and chain restaurants and as this article points out, since there are only three meals a day, competition gets fierce.

D.C. Environmental Film Fest

Posted: by

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.

Food Trucks Roll On

Posted: by

You heard it here first, food trucks are a coming community issue. Participate in the County’s survey and let them know how you feel about a rolling lunch.

Book(s) of the Month: Last Harvest

Posted: by

To keep up with emerging ideas, highlight especially important works, and provide diverse views on issues in planning and design, I will be highlighting some of my past and current readings over the next year. To begin, I’d like to feature a pair of books from one of the best authors in architecture and urban studies: Witold Rybczynski. Two of his books contrast the extremes of development: Last Harvest (2007) and City Life (1995). (For now, I will forgo his wonderful biography of Frederick Law Olmsted, A Clearing in the Distance, and his latest, Makeshift Metropolis.)

The subtitle of Last Harvest is a summary of its theme: “How a Cornfield Became New Daleville: Real Estate Development in America from … Continue reading

Superblocks in Palm Beach

Posted: by

On a busman’s holiday, I had a chance to bicyle around Palm Beach and noticed that, not surprisingly, the one percent get some pretty nice urban design.

But what is surprising is that whether you’re in the one percent or the 99 percent, the bones are the same. Palm Beach’s Worth Avenue was created very much the way Federal Realty does a Bethesda Avenue or Foulger Pratt does an Ellsworth Avenue.

Worth Avenue, Bethesda Avenue, and Ellsworth Avenue are all parallel or perpendicular to the main traffic artery. You get onto Palm Beach island via Royal Palm Way, a spectacularly landscaped boulevard with green median and four travel lanes. But make no mistake, shopping and strolling are a few blocks to … Continue reading

Duany is in the Details

Posted: by

Part of what makes Seaside and its ilk so successful is their attention to detail. And by detail I don’t mean what one observant designer called “frosting”– banners, lamposts, and fountains.

A more structural approach to designing a space or place begins with elements that are obvious in plan view–terminated views, street grids, and a central square. That initial street grid is punctuated by a square, then further embroidered with paths and smaller spaces.

But even those public spaces and paths are treated with varying levels of complexity. The formal public lawn is neatly mown and edged, but other spaces are more casual.

The path in front of your house is paved and raked, the one behind a barefoot … Continue reading

Public? Space

Posted: by

No matter what you think of the expanding Occupy Wall Street movement, the 99 percenters have staked out a share of the public space along with the public conversation.

But is it really public space? Zuccotti Park, like many urban parks in other cities and in Montgomery County, is privately-owned public space, generated in exchange for increased zoning density, which equals increased leasable space.

The land remains in private ownership, and though there are rules set by the public agency for its use, there are always questions about political protests, leafletting, and canvassing.

Amid our discussions of bricks vs. pavers and setbacks vs. build-to lines, it’s important to recognize that territory staked out in public spaces is not only … Continue reading