Greater Greater Washington will be hosting a happy hour in Tenleytown, co-sponsored by Ward 3 Vision later this month.
We will be Guapo’s at 4515 Wisconsin Ave, Tuesday, April 27th after 6:30 pm. If you live in Tenleytown, I hope you can come by on the way from work, or take a moment to go home beforehand. The event is in the upstairs room, and we have margarita and beer specials.
If you don’t live in the area, you should come as well. Not only will you meet many of the GGW contributors, you can meet other residents who have been working hard to make Upper Northwest a more livable place for all ages. I know that it’s far from downtown, but the restaurant is just steps away from the Tenleytown-AU metro station.
Tenleytown has undergone a number of positive changes over the last year, so if you can come out early, you might actually take a look around the neighborhood.
I mentioned Sam West, auteur and gentleman scoundrel, once before. A graduate of the prestigious Janney Elementary School, a couple years back, he produced this film called Sand Moon, which is embedded below.
It’s a sort of tale of karma passed through the lens of Upper Northwest slackers. Produced in 72 hours in 2008, is also a showcase of DC’s highlights, such as the roof of the Tenleytown CVS, truck barrier planters, Mazza Galerie, the Chevy Chase Starbucks, and Potomac Video.
I finally got some images of the proposed Janney School extension. I like it – but it could have been better. With a few objections, I like its conception. Devrouax + Purnell, best known for the Washington Convention Center, the Pepco Building, and Nationals Park, here produced an interesting and attractive school building. However, the location where they have chosen to place the wing results in a lost opportunity for Janney and the community in general. Like too many developers and architects, they approached Tenleytown planning to not upset the status quo. However, any public facility should be designed with an eye to the future – and the current state of Tenleytown cannot last.
Beginning with the generous setback along 42nd street, the architects attempted to hide the building as much as possible, so as not to intrude on the neighborhood. Although the Albemarle façade extends to the cornice line of the 1923 building, the masses of the building gently diminish into a low white structure that encloses the gym. Moving south along the western face, the building curves gently, from a tower to the first private residence down the block. The architects employed the shape subtly, repeating the curve in each mass to limit its effects. It does successfully integrate into the site.
However, this hesitant approach is not appropriate here. The architects should not have set the building back from the street so much. In doing so, they have reduced the feeling of enclosure afforded by a consistent streetwall, produced an marginally useful green space, and missed an opportunity to relocate the playing field at the center of the Tenley Library Public-Private Partnership debacle.
For the 2007 plan to build a library with several floors of condominiums on top focused on the loss of recreation space (the rightmost field in the image above) for Janney Students. Some of that space would be consumed in the footprint of the condominium structure. However, had the architects located the new wing closer to the property line, they might have opened up space to relocate the eastern soccer field. In a political environment as vicious as Tenleytown’s, a mutually agreeable solution would have been a rare happy ending.
That lost opportunity is my main complaint – but there’s much more review below.
This is just an update I think I need to make to make the next recap more clear. When I was working on the locality map, I made some of the decisions based on the principles furthered in Kevin Lynch’s The Image of the City, a crucial text of urban planning.
When he wrote the book, Lynch interviewed a wide array of urbanites to understand how laymen organized, remembered, and navigated their neighborhoods and the city at large. He found that most individuals organized their cities with five archetypal patterns: paths, edges, nodes, districts, and landmarks. One caveat of this induction is that for each person, the definitions vary. The perception of paths depends on a destination and the familiarity with the neighborhood. On the other hand, the designation of edges and districts tends to be more consistent among locals. So, unlike my neighborhood maps, I drew more on personal experience, while also searching for objective measurements.
For example, the paths map (below) is based on the map of locality. The route to a front door might be unique, but there’s an appreciable amount of travel along certain major roads. So, I picked out the bigger paths. I’m willing to bed that most people would see these as frequent routes. Note that this does account for vehicle travel.
The second element is the edge. Edges form in gaps and hard shifts between building types. Parks and hills constitute much many of the edges unrelated to zoning. These breaks are some of the more prominent physical characteristics in a city, and I believe they encourage neighborhood division like nothing else.
Before I work on the history of the Tenleytown-Tobago area, I am going to recap some of what I have done. I think of my blog as a gradually developing document that occasionally requires summary and revision. So, I am going to go back over the content in simpler terms, to make it accessible. I will be crossposting three of these summaries at GGW.
Loyal readers of цarьchitect probably know that I hate the official name of the neighborhood I grew up in, North Cleveland Park “Wakefield.” Hopefully, that name will finally die. But my grouchiness about this coincided with an interest in the way that architects determine, delineate, and represent the concept of place. The goal of renaming an insignificant neighborhood in DC did dovetail nicely with my less modest plans to overturn planning and real estate practice.
So, the stupid name I did not know until I was 23 forms the starting off point for this discussion. That name lacks the lacecurtain cachet of “North Cleveland Park” or the actual uniqueness of “Tenleytown.” It’s a white-bread name reminiscent of too many other suburban developments. And, in fact, most of the area West of Connecticut Ave, North of Albemarle St., and East of Nebraska Ave was developed shortly before World War II and is one of the last areas to be developed as a tract in DC.
Because this name and others in the area came with the developments, neighborhood names tend to be bounded by major roads. Yet the centers of community and busy commercial areas. So, residents have ended up with indistinct locations bearing forgotten names and very popular ones with no names but provisional monikers, like “Comet Corner” and “Van Ness.” Or, according to City Paper, the area consists of Upper Caucasia, Connecticut, and Subarubia.
People have been attempting to name the area between Chevy Chase and Cleveland Park for over a century. Tenleytown may have grown up around John Tennally’s Tavern, but family names like Nourse and Dryer have disappeared from maps. In the late 1900s, the first developers came along and tried to add Armsleigh Park, Colorado Heights, Mount Airy, and Gizor. What seems to make a difference in whether the names stuck or not is whether the neighborhood has a clear social and commercial center. Tenleytown and Georgetown have such places. Forest Hills and AU Park do not.
Last Thursday, neighbors from all over Tenleytown worked together open up paths and make walking safe and easy again.
We ended up focusing on the streetcorners, which had become less passable with every visit by the plows. The delay of one day had allowed most owners and businesses to clear their sidewalks, but the hardening slush in the streets was still tripping people up. So, at Albemarle and Wisconsin, we cleared and widened the busy crosswalks with shovels and a garden edger. We spread out along Wisconsin Avenue, clearing sidewalks to the south and opening up more crosswalks in the north. We even put down some salt and sand provided by the local Ace hardware store. After a few hours, we ended by clearing a few spots on River Road and bypassing a monumental pile at Albemarle and Fort Drive.
We capped the afternoon’s work at the local Mexican restaurant, where, as one participant described it, “Guapo’s cleaned up.” The snowball fight never went down, due to low interest from participants. However, the news media were interested in us. The Northwest Current sent out a reporter, who stopped by WAMU to pick up audio equipment. You can hear her handiwork here, or read it on Page 1 of the February 17th issue of the current. I think everyone was glad to get the recognition. Residents for the most part expressed gratefulness – and a little delight – at the gumption of my co-shovelers.
I got a lot of credit for proposing the idea, but the whole event would have been ineffectual without the work of the dozen-or-so people who came out: Ben Nieva, Mike Sires, Steve Kelley, Athan Manuel, Angie Das, Hedda Garland, Felix Garland, Jenny McCarthy and Chris Frantz. ANC 3E Chairman Jon Bender deserves special thanks for his work organizing the group. I know there are a few individuals who aren’t listed above, but deserve attention. If you are or know one, please post the name in the comments.
Of course, some other people deserve attention for their lack of effort. Snow on most sidewalks that were busy simply condensed into packs of ice, so we ended up not clearing most. But some businesses, perhaps abandoned by their landlords, did not do their duty. Neisha Thai and several other establishments south of the Metro stood out. Circle Management left their construction site next to the metro uncleared, while they or their tenants fulfilled the responsibility on the rest of their properties. The Georgetown Day School shoveled its 42nd Street Sidewalks well enough, but its long stretch of sidewalk on River Road was left completely untouched. Finally, the National Park Service proved the worst offender, shoveling none of their many properties around Tenleytown.
But while other people let down their neighbors, it was reassuring to see so many people out on a snow day, helping each other out. Everyone came away knowing the others a little better as well.
I just thought I’d share this time-lapse video of Tenleytown getting caked in snow. The Kojo Nnamdi Show put it up, but I’m not sure who filmed it, since it appears to have been filmed at the CityLine condos.
I promise I’ll get back to writing about architecture someday.
The past few days, I’ve been bothered by the failure of this Gold’s Gym at 4310 Connecticut Avenue. Although they shoveled a path from the Van Ness metro to their door, they decided to not shovel any further. The path is used heavily by pedestrians of all age groups. Lingering there for about five minutes, I saw around ten people falter and otherwise walk delicately.They were lazy during the first SnOMG, and they’ll probably be lazy and negligent this time around. UPDATED BELOW
Perhaps what is most infuriating is that the building exclusively employs fit and strong people, who can clearly see the havoc they’re wreaking right out of the huge plate glass window in front. Hell, all the people trying to get fit through absolutely non-productive activities could be getting exercise and simultaneously preventing negligence. It is, after all, illegal to not shovel your walk:
“It shall be the duty of every person, partnership, corporation, joint-stock company, or syndicate in charge or control of any building or lot of land within the fire limits of the District of Columbia, fronting or abutting on a paved sidewalk, whether as owner, tenant, occupant, lessee, or otherwise, within the first 8 hours of daylight after the ceasing to fall of any snow or sleet, to remove and clear away, or cause to be removed and cleared away, such snow or sleet from so much of said sidewalk as is in front of or abuts on said building or lot of land.” (D.C. Code § 9-601)
But that’s not good enough if scofflaws just get fined weeks from now. People could get injured, and people sure are getting inconvenienced. But residents should have recourse besides whining to the government or bitching on listservs. I think we can take the cleanup and retribution into our own hands.
So, I’m organizing the First Tenleytown Volunteer Snow Removal Battalion.The plan is to form a band of husky citizens to clear off snow from spaces that suffer from negligence or the tragedy of the commons. We’ll counter common neglect with community action. We will primarily clear the mounds of plowed snow at street corners and bus stops, but we will also remediate careless private plowing and people who don’t plow at all. Call me altruistic if you want but I intend to share the businesses that don’t shovel or plow right into pedestrian areas on this blog. I hope to punish them with a boycott, which could cost more than any fine ever would.
We’re going to meet up tomorrow afternoon at 4PM at the Tenleytown Metro station. ANC overlord Jon Bender has made it into a snowball fight as well, so uh, come for the fun and stay for the hard labor. Bring a shovel and a flask if you care. There’s no reason fun can’t have a good social outcome.
Update: Tuesday afternoon, Gold’s Gym finally cleared their snow, sources say, after a neighborhood woman tore the manager a new one. Because the snow had been compacted, a bevy of strapping young men were witnessed chiseling the brownish ice apart. Sources report that they “felt the burn.” Many thanks to the woman. Hopefully Gold’s will not let this happen again.
I’m going to recap some of the analyses I did for Reno Park within the next week or so. After that, I will be getting into a historical analysis of the geography. For now, here is a broad map of historical names no longer used at the site. Names in red were designated organically or based on the farm tracts’ names, while names in blue were attempts to brand new developments.
One: First, let’s start with what’s in the room. My friend Anna at NOMOFOMO informed me of the publishing of a rather serious book about John Cage’s rather infamous piece 4’33”. The plainly titled book, it turns out, is by Kyle Gann, probably one of the most famous people ever driven off of Wikipedia. Hopefully the book will cool some of the really obnoxious commentary that trots its tired ass out whenever you mention the piece. On a related note, I was at the Smithsonian American Art Museum when some man wearing a North Face vest walked into the room with his brood and began ridiculing the works as “The Painter who Couldn’t draw curves, The Painter who Couldn’t Draw Faces, the Painter Who Didn’t Care,” repeated smugly for several minutes. Unfortunately for his smugness, we were in a gallery entitled, GRAPHIC MASTERS III. There were no paintings so … no painters either, boss.
Two: Anyway, over in my neighborhood, Richard Layman wrote a simple piece in regard to the recent efforts to build a streetcar on Wisconsin Avenue – and the consequent vicious opposition. The arguments are not that new, but he does break down the current bogeyman that guided transit will be hopelessly snarled up by obstructions. His point: it happens more often on highways, and can be minimized with design. On that note, and getting much bigger (153 comments at writing), is the thread on DCMud about the Safegate Pause.
Three: Moving out to the general idea of the neighborhood, Kaid Benfield penned a remarkably concise and thoughtful definition of Transit-Oriented Development. He emphasizes the oriented part, making the point that it’s the way the neighborhood and buildings facilitate transit use and walkability that is most important. It’s worth a read.
Four: Getting a lot bigger, Mammoth covers mammothly (as they promised) the best architecture of the decade. Unlike so many lists of flashy blingitechture and navelgazing critiques of said blingitechture and excess, the list contains projects emblematic of new directions in architecture. Included is the Large Hadron Collider, cheap manifest-traditional housing, Chinese High Speed Rail, geoengineering, and using good design to recover from years of terror. After reading it, I feel like calling this next decade for Latin America.
Five: Finally, getting into centuries and abstract ideas, Kirk Savage will be doing a live chat tomorrow on Greater Washington. Savage is the author ofMonument Wars and Standing Soldiers Kneeling Slaves. The latter book is about the depiction of slavery in public art. The former traces the role of the monument in America over two hundred years as the changes played out in Washington, DC. I’m only about halfway through the book, but it is really good. He puts an impressive amount of information about monuments, memory, and architecture into a genuinely enjoyable read. I don’t have enough thoughts at the moment, but there will be more coming from it.
Until 1 PM Tuesday, you can always submit questions at this page, and I’ll let you go with some bonus Eames: