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One phrase in this Slate Magazine article about hand-drawn maps snagged on my brain–“ruthless editing.”

Sometimes planners love their stuff so much it’s hard to let it go. On a map about bike routes, do you need to show lot lines? Does the boundary line need to appear on every map?

We know we’ll hear what you think about our zoning recommendations, but check out our plans and tell us what you think about our maps.

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The debate over “plop art” continues – especially when art seems to provide more fizz than substance. Four sculptures by Niki de Saint Phalle, which now sit outside the National Museum of Women in the Arts on New York Avenue, have some wondering if our exterior public spaces are given the same respect as our hallowed museum walls.

Despite their rotund nature, our local Post critic thinks they lack “weight”. Agreed. To a point. His take on it is that such engaging and fun works lack the potency of the subject matter on the canvases and sculptures within the area’s museums; that there is a dichotomy between our expectations of exterior and interior sculptures. As noted, some of de … Continue reading

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I think there is a particular kind of aesthetic beauty in the simple repetition of forms over large expanses of contrasting landscape. Even more so when those repeated forms provide sustainable energy.  The just-approved off-shore wind farm is one such example, solar “farms” are another.

Artists’ rendering of Cape Wind, via NY Times 

The well-heeled opposition to the mentioned wind farm has only posed the aesthetic argument that this visual intrusion into the seascape must by definition be negative.  I disagree.  I think it’s quite attractive, calming, and interesting.  I think the connotations only increase our appreciation of the natural environment that serves as the backdrop (or, more appropriately, the visual context/physical participant).  My interpretation is built on the … Continue reading

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For a County with few options when it comes to food cart dining, their potential sure has garnered a lot of attention. While I’ve always supported the idea of street vendors, much like I’ve supported the Washington Nationals since they moved to town – quietly, from a distance, without much thought – today I found new reason to throw my support behind sidewalk food sales.

After a meeting downtown this morning, I walked out of a drab, aging K Street office lobby overcome by hunger. In the block and a half between me and the Farragut North Metro entrance were three separate carts, each peddling their own heat-lamp and steam-cooked delicacies. My mouth watered. My stomach growled. My saliva … Continue reading

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The group got together last week to lay out the garden and quickly realized it was bigger than we thought and gets less than ideal sun. Nonetheless, we are planning on carrots, lots of chili peppers, some dwarf tomatoes, and a few central trellises of beans and cucumbers. And we are counting on that garden-workhorse, zucchini, to do its part.

Laying out a garden always makes me think of urban deisgner, Kevin Lynch, who taught at MIT for 30 years and was the author of the still influential book, Image of the City. In it, he coined the word “wayfinding” to describe how people identify the paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks in their communities to navigate the places … Continue reading

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Funny thing, the number of project plan applications in Silver Spring peaked right before the requirement for workforce housing became effective. The now voluntary program would have required affordable housing for any projects over a certain residential density threshold. The fact that we had a rush of applications to beat that deadline was bad news for those of us in the “workforce” that need affordable housing, but it turned out to be good news for those of us who love art in public places.

Three examples, originally approved in 2005, have recently been installed around the Silver Spring area. Each uses various metals in significantly different ways and achieves distinct effects. Generally, they add a touch of contemporary style … Continue reading

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LOCAL

Thayer Avenue: Date Night 8407 Thayer Avenue hits up 8407 Kitchen Bar and calls it: “Awesome. Possibly the best restaurant right now in Silver Spring.”

Thayer Avenue: Suck It Up and Pay for Saturday Thayer also thinks that Silver Springers should grin and bear the Saturday metering, and he’s not afraid to tell you.

DCist: First Look: Sidebar Rave reviews all around for Sidebar, Jackie Greenbaum’s latest creation in Silver Spring. We’re a little late on the link – Sidebar opened in early April – but further investigation will be conducted soon.

Just Up The Pike: Putting the Brakes on Food Trucks What to do with all those vacant lots in Silver Spring? Park some foods … Continue reading

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Wednesday night, planners held a community workshop and guided about 25 residents in using visual building blocks to express the characteristics they’d like to see in their community. The future Purple Line stations will change the neighborhood’s character and opportunities. This workshop and upcoming workshops are a chance for the community to define its future.

They began with maps, markers, and photos—the visual building blocks—and after talking about what they want their community to be—a place where you can walk to a hardware store or ride your bike to the park, they started to put their ideas on paper.

Planners Kathy Reilly and John Marcolin said the people here know their community and all its issues, an even though … Continue reading

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Do you know where your food comes from? Probably not from Montgomery County, even if you shop at one of the County’s 14 farm markets, and even though nearly one third of the County’s land is in the Agricultural Reserve.

At last night’s 3rd Rethink event, the panel of two longtime farmers, Wade Butler and Ben Allnut; the County’s Agricultural Services Division Manager, Jeremy Criss; and community garden activist, Gordon Clark, discussed the difficulty of farming in Montgomery County.

Soil health is a challenge, but one that an experienced farmer will learn to deal with. More challenging are the regulations that require an expensive special exception for facilities that allow on-farm food processing. So, local meat and dairy are … Continue reading

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Ever feel like you’re being watched by the Green Police? Have a loved-one who thinks that tossing a newspaper in the trash is the equivalent of clubbing a baby seal? Tired of transparent marketing campaigns for products with dubious environmental benefits? You’re certainly not alone.

In this video from TED Talks, Catherine Mohr rightly calls out the insanity of nitpicking over every paper towel or coat of paint, and identifies the real elephant in the room: embodied energy. Embodied energy is the total amount of energy necessary for an entire product lifecycle, including everything from transportation to installation to decomposition. When used as a metric to evaluate sustainable construction construction practices, it can reveal the real opportunities for … Continue reading