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
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
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 Thirty-three years of additions and amendments has left the code with a mess of outdated provisions, orphaned words, and a baffling table of permitted uses.
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.
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.
Other Parisian examples include the Fondation Cartier and the BHV Homme Department Store.
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.
I loathe the term starchitect. All too frequently it’s employed to broadly dismiss any form of new architecture by painting architects (not just the good ones) as a ego-driven prima donnas. So you can imagine my dismay when Frank Gehry, the starchitect’s starchitect, opened his mouth and gave critics plenty of fodder by declaring that sustainability and the LEED rating system were “bogus” and “political.”
On the one hand he has a point. LEED is fraught with shortcomings. The fact that it gives equal weight to bicycle storage, which encourages environmentally responsible behavior, and heat island reduction, which actually provides an environmental benefit, is nutty. LEED-rated buildings in transit-inaccessible locations are generally less environmentally friendly than typical construction in … Continue reading
Yes, you read that right. Many older buildings, particularly those constructed prior to 1920, are green. May is National Preservation Month and the National Trust for Historic Preservation is using the month-long celebration to highlight the important role that older and historic buildings play in environmentally and economically sustainable communities.
Often, older buildings were designed and built to work with the environment. Buildings with operable windows provide natural ventilation and daylight. Covered porches, awnings and shutters reduce solar heat gain in the warmer months. Thoughtful orientation of the building on its site maximizes wind and sun patterns. In fact, U.S. Energy Information Agency research establishes that buildings built prior to 1920 are more energy efficient … Continue reading
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.
Last night, a full and diverse audience enjoyed a panel discussion with Tebabu Assefa, Rassa Davoodpour, Megan Moriarty, and Reemberto Rodriguez about the County’s changing demographics.
And I’m talking to you about it on this blog. While technology can make it easy for us to reach out, Davoodpour wonders if we are really communicating. Moriarity and the other panelists agreed, the best way to use social media is to layer it with personal relationships.
Despite the fact that Montgomery is about to become a non-anglo majority County, we still have “a way” of doing things, sometimes, as Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson pointed out, the same 200 people moving from room to room to make decisions.