You’ve probably heard someone criticize a neighborhood or shopping area as “cookie cutter.” This description, often used to identify construction that has standardized or repetitive features, usually implies the buildings lack character and will diminish their surroundings. There is a lot to like about “cookie-cutter” construction; sameness can be enriching, and this type of design can help build great places quickly and affordably.
Good cookie-cutter design is ingrained in the urban fabric of America, enabling the rapid settlement and expansion of the United States. In New England the repeated “cookie” is the 6-by-6 mile square township administered by a central village. These townships were organized around the quintessential church, meeting house, and … Continue reading
The 2019 awards will honor multifamily housing along with top-quality buildings, public spaces and landscapes in the county
Design excellence requires balancing the functional goals and artistic vision of a building, a space or a landscape to serve and inspire people. In Montgomery County, design excellence is about elevating architecture and urban design to make the mundane more compelling and create streetscapes and spaces that enhance human interaction in rural, suburban and urban settings.
Design excellence is becoming increasingly important in Montgomery County as available land for development is shrinking, densities in our centers are increasing and the need for attractive buildings, parks and public spaces. Quality design is now more urgent as competition for the best and brightest … Continue reading
Seattle-based consultant Paula Rees shares her experiences in enriching real estate developments with art and design
“It’s all in the combination of great details,” said Paula Rees, principal of the Seattle-based firm Foreseer, while revealing her secrets to placemaking to a large audience at the Montgomery County Planning Department. Rees showed image after image of public artworks, quirky signage, “tattooed” facades and inviting storefronts to demonstrate her points.
Her lively projects at Pike and Rose in North Bethesda, Santana Row in San Jose, Assembly Row in Boston and other locations were part of an inspiring presentation that drew a standing-room-only crowd to the Planning Department’s auditorium on December 2.
Zoning codes literally shape our communities, governing the spacing of driveways, the number of spaces in parking lots, the heights of buildings, the placements of sidewalks, and the size of blocks along with the activities (or “uses”) allowed in each neighborhood. These codes determine whether we will live in a compact, walkable community or in a place where an automobile is needed to get anywhere.
Some codes have been found that date back thousands of years. Many European cities have been continuously coded since the 11th or 12th century, contributing to the character that makes these cities appealing today. These rules were created to govern the relationship between what gets built on private property and the … Continue reading
The Planning Department has launched its second annual Design Excellence Award competition. We are looking for exceptional work in architecture, landscape architecture and urban design that has been completed in Montgomery County over the past decade.
The goal of the awards program is to promote outstanding design that improves the quality of the built environment in our county. By recognizing this work, the bar will continue to be set higher to further enhance the quality of community at all scales of development, from our urban centers to our rural reserves.
Award submissions are now being accepted through the Montgomery County Planning Department webpage through July 21, 2016. To enter, go to: www.montgomeryplanning.org/design/designaward2016.shtm
Excerpts from David Korten’s “Living Buildings, Living Economies, and a Living Future” from Yes! online, May 18, 2011:
“Integrating multi-purpose buildings into a larger multi-building neighborhood or district system adds opportunities to develop public green spaces, community gardens, edible landscaping, and small-scale poultry and livestock production, as well as natural wetlands and living machine water purification to continuously recycle nutrients, water, and energy.
Integrative projects also create opportunities to balance the utility loads of businesses, which generally have greater energy needs during the day, and residences, which have greater needs during nonbusiness hours. Bringing residences, employment, shopping, and recreation together in close proximity minimizes transportation requirements and facilitates the sharing of autos, bicycles, appliances, and tools, and community connections … Continue reading
The ongoing Lego (R) exhibit, Towering Ambition, at the National Building Museum has some very cool models of famous buildings, but also provides a play area for kids and families.
More interesting than the models, however, are the prompts about land use and community planning hanging around and adorning the space where kids (and adults) can play with the Legos.
Rather than focus on cool buildings, like the exhibit, these prompts ask budding designers to think about places beyond the bounds of an individual building, to think like a town planner (and a rather progressive one at that).
Unfortunately the prompts still relegate land uses to separate building forms, but do suggest locating them near one another.
If you don’t have a plot of land, you can still grow flowers, herbs, and vegetables. Fern Richardson writes a great blog on container gardens, Life on the Balcony. And Treehugger has put up a synopsis of her recent designs for using pallets as vertical planters.
This past weekend, the Capitol Riverfront area celebrated the grand opening of the Yards Park.
The new park is located along the Anacostia River between 3rd Street SE and the Navy Yard. It was built as a public-private partnership between the developer of the Yards, the government of the District of Columbia, and the General Services Administration. It’s managed by the Capitol Riverfront BID.
A festival marked the opening this weekend. It included bands, artists, vendors, and more. I had the opportunity to stop by, and I snapped some photos. The park is very well designed, and I can only hope it is an example of future waterfront parks in the area.