Parking Space

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In March, one of our planners, Claudia Kousoulas, showed the difference in scale between urban development and the infrastructure underlying suburban development by overlaying the I-270/I-370 interchange on top of Bethesda’s Woodmont Triangle area.

The amount of space we devote to moving cars is almost surreal at times. At Montrose Road, Interstate 270 is a whopping 14 lanes wide. At that rate, it seems we’re trying to rival places like Atlanta and Los Angeles.

But what is even more amazing is the amount of space we devote to storing cars. When people think of the automobile, it is invariably involved in going somewhere. But cars spend the vast majority of their time parked.

In Montgomery County, we devote about … Continue reading

More Vegetable News

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guest post: Mary Dolan

The hot and humid weather has brought on a problem for the cucumbers and squash vines in the garden. Powdery Mildew, a common problem in this area, has attacked the plants causing the leaves to whiten and die. Some gardeners simply do not plant squash any more due to the heartbreak this disease can cause.

Since we are trying to solve these problems organically, we searched for an answer to our problem and found milk. Yes, spraying a 1 part skim milk to 9 parts water on all leaf surfaces once a week (after removing all infected leaves) is supposed to retard the spreadof the disease. Also, increasing air circulation by removing leaves and/or staking the plants should help.

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A Vegetable Garden Update

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The MRO vegetable garden is thriving, despite record high heat and a watering restriction.

We’ve had a small harvest of herbs and greens and are watching the potatoes, beets, and peppers stretch out.

The garden also has a web page where you can see a video of staff gardeners talking about their goals for the garden.

Positively Parking (Part 1 of 3)

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A lot of attention has been paid recently to parking.  The National Building Museum has an exhibit that closes in a couple of weeks.  Herzog and DeMeuron has their new disco garage in Miami, 1111 Lincoln Road.  Trenton, NJ, has a new scheme afoot.

Last month the International Parking Institute announced their 2010 design awards (bigger pictures available on ArchDaily).  Among the winners is part of the recent expansion of the Towson Town Center Mall north of Baltimore.  And while the street activation there is probably mostly still indoors, the project shows a successful integration of retail and parking.

The primary facade, as it were, holds the corner of Dulaney Valley Road and Fairmount Avenue, on what used to … Continue reading

Complexity and Confusion in the Suburbs

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The suburbs are often derided for being one-dimensional–row after row of “ticky-tacky.”

Turning a corner reveals no surprise, but sameness to the point of confusion. Isn’t the tired Dad who pulls into the wrong driveway a popular trope of movies, sit-coms, and commericals?

We can’t expect urban richness of the sort described by Alfred Kazin in A Walker in the City. The noise, smells, and general decrepitude would be unacceptable. But the hand of generations  can add layers, paths, and landmarks to a suburban landscape.

In Bethesda, a place more varied than you might imagine, there is some complexity created by the old B&O rail line that is now a segment of the Capital Crescent Trail. You can walk … Continue reading

How Does Our Garden Grow

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Well, so far, so good. We survived that freaky hail storm a few weeks ago and the seedlings are grabbing whatever sun they can. With the invaluable help of our building maintenance crew we’ve worked out a way to water the garden with minimal hose lugging.

At last night’s weeding party we even harvested a few sprigs of basil, grabbed as they were about to flower. We also thinned the beets and swiss chard, and staked up the tomatoes, cukes, and pole beans.

 

Rethink Health: The Power of Play

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Last night, Joan Almon, Executive Director of the Alliance for Childhood, reminded us of the importance of mud puddles.

She began by outlining the importance of play (that is, undirected messing around, preferably outside). It helps children develop negotiation and social skills, and coordination between their brains and hands. They learn to wonder, concentrate, and overcome challenges.

But these days, children 6-8 years old spend only 12 percent of their time outdoors. Children 10-16 spend only 12 minutes a day in vigorous physical activity, but 10 hours a day in sedentary activities (is that an oxymoron?). You won’t be surprised to learn that they spend a whopping 53 hours a week (about 7 hours a day) with media–whether its … Continue reading

This Sidewalk is Made For You and Me

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Designers think a lot about how wide sidewalks should be, what they should be made of, and how they should be decorated with wastebaskets and benches. Should they also think about what happens on a sidewalk?

A book from the MIT Press, Sidewalks: Conflict and Navigation Over Public Space, (reviewed here) explores the role of sidewalks; more than a transportation route, they are our most prevalent public space. We know sidewalks are promenades for “the consuming public” but should they also be available to the homeless, to panhandlers, and to protesters?

What makes sidewalks so challenging and interesting is the interaction between public and private—the storefront enticing a passerby, a sidewalk café creating a public stage. In America we … Continue reading

Climbing the Walls…

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Frank Lloyd Wright is supposed once to have said that “A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.”   Our new CR zone provides bonus density for doing the same thing (not burying mistakes…nevermind).  But all irony aside, Green Walls, Living Walls, Vertical Gardens, etc.  are gaining currency and are being installed with greater frequency in a variety of locations.

The leader in the field seems to be Frenchman Patrick Blanc, with many installations to his credit including Jean Nouvel‘s Musee du Quai Branly in Paris.

(photo: deconarch)

Other Parisian examples include the Fondation Cartier and the BHV Homme Department Store.

(photo: urban greenery)

Another cool garden spot faces Herzog & … Continue reading

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

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Apparently, Park and Planning is keeping pace with Google, PepsiCo, and Best Buy. As this New York Times article recounts, corporate vegetable gardens are the thing. Whether they are a way to break down corporate hierarchies, provide an employee benefit, or build green credibility, velvety sod is giving way to staked tomatoes.

Our garden is also linked to another news story. Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity task force released its report yesterday and among its recommendations: access to healthy affordable food. If the sun cooperates, our vegetables will be right outside our front door, just a few steps past the vending machine.

We planted yesterday and will post pictures soon.