Preservation and Change

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Washingtonian magazine recently ran a long article about preservation in the Washington, D.C. region, including early efforts at Mount Vernon after the Civil War to more recent efforts recognizing Modern architecture.

You can read about the local battles and inspirations here, but to me, the most interesting paragraph in the article was this one:

“Sometimes historic buildings are sacrificed for what is considered the greater good. The Federal Triangle was Washington’s first great example in the 1930s, when several square blocks were torn down to make way for a federal office complex. Construction of the National Archives meant demolition of the city’s central food market. The Kennedy Center replaced the city’s largest brewery. And the Army Medical … Continue reading

Considering the Environmental Value of Existing Buildings

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guest post: Scott Whipple

Last Wednesday, the National Trust for Historic Preservation released a report demonstrating something some will find counterintuitive or even dubious, but which many of us in the historic preservation field have thought for years: reusing existing buildings almost always offers more environmental savings than demolition and new construction.

The study, The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse, includes some interesting findings: A new, high-performance building needs between 10-80 years, depending on the building type and where it is built, to offset the environmental impact of its construction. In comparing new and retrofitted buildings ofsimilar size, function, and performance, energy savings in retrofitted buildings ranged from 4-46 percent higher than new construction. The benefits of retrofitting … Continue reading

Sycamore Revisited

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guest post: Scott Whipple

Back in June I wrote about the Historic Preservation Commission’s approval of a proposal to install solar panels on the roof of the Sycamore Store, a historic site designated in the Montgomery County Master Plan for Historic Preservation. 

The panels have been installed.  Have a look. 

As discussed back in June, putting solar panels in a highly visible location on a historic resource is not the preferred alternative from a historic preservation perspective, and it is not appropriate in many instances. But sometimes, as with the Sycamore Store, it may be the only place on a site where solar panels will operate effectively. And, given … Continue reading

Silver Spring’s AFI is One of the Best

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Reusing an old movie theater is one of historic preservation’s toughest challenges. Often they are large downtown spaces that have been made obsolete by suburban multiplexes that can out-compete with free parking and lots of screens.

But every once in a while, they manage to survive, sometimes through re-use. The MacArthur Theater in the District’s Palisades neighborhood has lost a good deal of its romance, but at least the streetfront landmark survives, if only as a CVS drugstore.

I spent many hours in Brookline Massachusetts’ Coolidge Corner Theater, sureptitously unwrapping bagels and cream cheese while gorging myself on Frank Capra, Bette Davis, and Cary Grant. Even in this era of Netflix couch potatoes, that theater survives with membership and vigorous … Continue reading

A Learning Opportunity from NCPC: Contemporary Design, Historic City

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What: 2011 NCPC Speaker Series Contemporary Design, Historic City: The Balancing Act Between Innovation & Preservation When: Tuesday, June 7, 2011 6:30 – 8:00 PM Where: Koubek Auditorium – Crough Center for Architectural Studies School of Architecture and Planning Catholic University of America

 

As a city filled with historic structures and landmarks, architectural preservation in the nation’s capital receives a lot of attention. Yet, as Washington continues to evolve, there exists a growing need for new development and a desire for more modern and inventive architecture. Making sure the two can successfully co-exist is the responsibility of the agencies involved in the planning and design review process. Join a panel of distinguished design and planning experts as they explore … Continue reading

Building of the Month, May 2011

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The Seymour Krieger House (1958), in Bethesda’s Bannockburn neighborhood, was designed by internationally renowned architect Marcel Breuer. The structure is the only single-family dwelling designed by Marcel Breuer in Montgomery County, and is one of four residential buildings he designed in Maryland.  The residence was built for Seymour Krieger, a communications lawyer, and his wife Rita.  The Krieger family lived here until 1964.

The resource is an outstanding example of an International Style residence.  Its transparent volumetric form, exposed steel framing, lack of applied ornamentation and balanced asymmetry are hallmarks of the style. The triangular-shaped corner lot was landscaped by prolific landscape designer Dan Kiley.  The project was the first of five collaborations between Breuer and Kiley nationwide, and was one of only two … Continue reading

Building of the Month, April 2011 – GEICO (1959)

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GEICO, Wisconsin and Western Avenues, Friendship Heights

The corporate headquarters for GEICO (1959) is an International Style complex of carefully articulated buildings designed by architect Vincent G Kling. Long low wings are contrasted by higher opaque blocks and sheathed in porcelain enamel and textured glass panels. The 26-acre landscaped campus includes flying saucer light fixtures, a Hovercraft-like fountain perched at the entrance.  Terraced parking lots  are shaded by mature trees.  A taller office tower (left) was added in 1964.

 

Architect Vincent Kling of Philadelphia worked for Skidmore Owings & Merrill before establishing his own firm in 1946. His expertise was in research labs and commercial space. As he designed the GEICO building, he was engaged in creating, with Edmund Bacon, the master … Continue reading

Old Becomes New in Downtown Silver Spring

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Guest Post: Scott Whipple

Montgomery County residents of a certain age will recall when the Colesville Road J.C. Penney’s was a back-to-school shopping ritual. Its Art Deco façade, neon signage, and brightly illuminated windows attracted shoppers from across the region. Combined with Hecht’s and Jelleff’s, it contributed to the vibrancy that made Silver Spring Maryland’s second largest shopping destination.

In 1985, the Planning Board recognized the store’s architectural and historical significance, listing it in the Locational Atlas and Index of Historic Sites as part of a historic district in Silver Spring’s Central Business District. But the Locational Atlas provides limited protection for identified resources.  Subsequently, the building’s owners were allowed to demolish the rear of the store but were … Continue reading

Historic Preservation Can Mean Sustainable Communities and Sustainable Jobs

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 guest blogger: Lisa Mroszczyk

There is another angle to the sustainability argument.

Rehabilitation projects are labor intensive rather than materials intensive. The need for skilled labor creates jobs that are often sourced locally, whereas manufacturers of materials for new construction are not. This results in more dollars going to people within the community, who turn around and spend that money locally, contributing to the viability of the local economy.

Donovan Rypkema, with the Washington, D.C.-based real estate and economic development consulting firm PlaceEconomics, completed a study on The Value of Historic Preservation in Maryland in 1999 which asked “Does historic preservation mean jobs?” The study concluded that, “In Maryland the answer is an unequivocal ‘yes.’”  The report also found … Continue reading

Recycle More than Just Your Water Bottle

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guest blogger:  Lisa Mroszczyk

Recycle your house and neighborhood.

During National Preservation Month, the National Trust for Historic Preservation reminds us that just as old buildings are sustainable, so are old communities. Older communities are often built closer to economic centers, they are smaller and have viable existing infrastructure, and can be retrofitted for walking, biking, and transit use. In contrast, developing previously undeveloped land is energy and material intensive and can have significant environmental impacts. The rehabilitation and reuse of buildings in denser, centrally located historic districts and the preservation of agricultural land prevents sprawl and reduces impacts on the environment. 

Architect Carl Elefante, author of “The Greenest Building Is…One That Is Already Built,” describes the relationship of preservation to … Continue reading