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Guest Blogger: Michael Brown, Urban Designer, Kensington Sector Plan

After nearly 30 years, the Town of Kensington is inching closer to an updated sector plan. Thumbing through the 1978 Plan, you quickly realize the need for the updated document. While the overall vision of maintaining Kensington’s single-family, historical character has not changed, the updated plan promotes a new vision for the center.

In the 1960s, Kensington was designated as a Central Business District, in anticipation of a Metro route along the existing rail line. When Metro decided instead to build the Red Line along a different route, the 1978 plan eliminated the CBD designation to preserve the low-intensity character. Conversely, the updated plan promotes a mixed-use center with connections … Continue reading

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What would one notice if a map was created based on the geographical entries in Wikepedia? A confirmation that “we” [viz., the countries in dark red below] are more interested in ourselves than other places.

This may be obvious, and not necessarily self-serving, but it does point to our lack of knowledge of other places and peoples. In any event, the visualization of this information is a pointed reminder that much of the world isn’t even involved as part of the conversation on knowledge and information. If nothing else, we should remember this when we speak of “the greater good”.

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On communities having more input. Not sure I’m down with the program advocated in all – or even most – cases.  But important for particularly important locations and projects, e.g., civic buildings and open spaces.

An example of the grassroots process advocated above that did work:  Paint Your Faith.

Paint Your Faith Video

On artists taking to the streets. But what isn’t more fun in Rome?

Share something in your local park. This is what the right to assembly is all about – knowledge pursued in public spaces.

Last, as if Rybczynski didn’t explain why our cities aren’t like Europe’s well enough – we’re still experimenting with ways to integrate bike transportation.

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One of the nice things about being an architect is that the world is your ongoing precedent research.  Tell people — including security guards — that you’re an architect, and you may be granted special access to spaces not regularly opened to the average citizen (or perhaps even forgiven a slight trespass?).

Although the forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms, architects, landscape architects, and our fellow citizens at large are all invited into the backyards of a selection of (usually fairly upmarket) private residences in the DC area this Saturday as part of the Garden Conservancy’s Garden Open Day program.

There is a modest entry fee for each garden.  We’ve gone several times over the last five years or so … Continue reading

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Several sculptural seating elements were created in the plaza space at the new United Therapeutics campus in Silver Spring (corner of Cameron and Spring) and I’ve only begun investigating their interactive potential. Scattered throughout the space and into the sidewalk, these 17- 23-inch poly-resin pieces are shaped like inverted cones stuck into the ground. Several have the symbols of elements, others have designs, most are undecorated.

Although fun and functional during the day, their real impact is seen – and heard – at night. The translucent poly-resin material houses LED lights that change color in random patterns based on pedestrian motion or according to a program. Whether this feature is “on” yet, I can’t tell – the colors intensified … Continue reading

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Recently, I discussed the effort underway in Montgomery County to rewrite an aging zoning code. Over three decades, the code has grown unwieldy and hard to use. Thirty-three years of additions and amendments has left the code with a mess of outdated provisions, orphaned words, and a baffling table of permitted uses.

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Guest Post by Lisa Mroszczyk

Think of all the energy it has taken over generations to build the County’s existing building stock. This expenditure is embodied energy—the energy already invested to process materials, transport them, and finally construct a building.  Demolition wastes embodied energy.  When that waste is factored in with the energy needed to transport demolished building materials to a landfill and the energy needed to construct a new building on the site, any net energy savings typically doesn’t kick in for three or four decades.

Reusing existing buildings conserves energy and reduces construction and demolition debris in landfills. During National Preservation Month, we are reminded of historic preservation’s role in sustainability.

The Brookings Institution predicts that by … Continue reading

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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

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Continuing with the local theme of the Rethink Speakers Series, last night economist and author Michael Shuman spoke about opportunities to build Montgomery’s local economy by identifying “leakage.”

Leakage, in economic terms, are those goods and services that you are importing that you could provide for yourself, whether in your own household or community. The longer your money stays in the community, the more local jobs and wealth it can create.

For example, buy a local apple and the farmer takes your dollar and spends it with a local tax preparer, who uses it to buy daycare services for her kids, who may spend it at a local haridresser…  And the apple probably tastes better too.

Though he hasn’t … Continue reading