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
On a recent trip to Savannah, we not only had a wonderful time – we learned a few unexpected things. There’s more to the city than the beautiful downtown (with omnipresent SCAD buildings), there’s the economy built on an infrastructure that allows Savannah to be the fourth busiest port in the country (according to our boat tour guide) linked to an extensive heavy rail system. And evidence was obvious on the river – even from the window of the restaurant where we had lunch one day. Transit, however, is generally absent; the free Downtown Transportation (DOT) bus is fine, but it covers an area that’s easy enough to walk.
MoCo’s economy seems more diverse than Savannah’s, but is becoming … Continue reading
While we’re sitting here writing plans, guerilla urbanists are on the streets, identifying what they love about their communities.
The Walk Your City Kickstarter project will provide open source access to crisply designed signs that can be zip tied to telephone poles to encourage people to walk. As the signs point out, if it’s only a seven minute walk to a local park, why not?
The project has gotten a lot of media attention (fat, lazy Americans, etc.) but beyond addressing the surface problem–where to go and how to get there–the signs open a larger discussion of what is valuable in a community. What places are we proud of? What does it really take to make … Continue reading
It’s not news that the suburbs are changing. Mom works, Dad may be at home, and kids, when they’re not strapped into their car seats, are scheduled to the max.
But there are other changes as well, as documented in this Washington Post interactive map tracking racial changes in the ‘burbs. The map allows you to see the mix of people in the region as well as in various census tracts.
It also shows change since 1990, and not surprisingly, some places change very little. The quick pattern I see is that most tracts are less exclusively white than they used to be, but overall patterns in the region are the same.
As the Post points out, it’s still … Continue reading
American Century types like to complain that this country doesn’t make anything anymore or if we do it’s artisanal cheese and not steel. But as this article points out, that cheese or other basement production is often where the big stuff starts. How can we forget Apple’s garage beginnings.
So if economies are shifting, at least in some small way, to local production and services, are our communities able to accomodate new jobs?
According to Mike Pyatok, interviewed in Better Cities and Towns, “Most planning regulations are based on the Euclidean model that separates cities into zones accommodating a single use, which true live-work is decidedly not.”
While Pyatok is pointing out that the rules of subsidized housing preclude small scale economic ventures, … Continue reading
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
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.
In my last post, I began reviewing two of my favorite books from Witold Rybczynski, someone I consider one of the best authors in architecture and urban studies. The first post covered Last Harvest (2007) . Contrast that to City Life (1995), where Rybczynski theorizes:
“…the American city has been a stage for the ideas of ordinary people: the small business man on Main Street, the franchisee along the commercial strip, the family in the suburbs. It all adds up to a disparate vision of the city. Perhaps the American urban stage is best described as cinematic rather than theatrical. A jumbled back lot with cheek-by-jowl assortment of different sets for different productions….”
Like Last Harvest, … Continue reading
Building a successful and attractive transit system takes more than drawing lines on a map and buying snazzy vehicles. In addition to the many technical issues, one of the most important factors is values. Who is the system for, and why will they use it?
International transportation consultant Jarrett Walker, who writes the blog Human Transit, has a new book by the same title about the values behind transit, transit’s limits and opportunities, and why people do and don’t ride.
On Tuesday, February 7, the Planning Commission is hosting Jarrett as a part of our speaker series. The talk will start at 7:30 pm in the Planning Board auditorium at 8787 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring.
If you can’t … Continue reading
While the Planning Board, staff, and County are facing down the challenges of retro-fitting bus rapid transit into the suburbs, some transit planners are thinking about the soulfulness of mass transit.
Beyond the engineering and economic calculations, the languge used to describe the service, its frequency and legibility, whether you can eat on a train car or check your email all contribute to how you feel about transit and whether you’re likely to use it.
I am not a frequent Metro user, but when I think about a local trip I consider it an alternative. I usually find it timely and convenient, but am always stymied by figuring the fare. Am I in the peak or peak of the … Continue reading