Tag Archives: anti-neighbors

Architecture Local

Don’t Just Preserve History at Tenley Campus, Interpret It.

With a more creative approach to preservation, American University’s plan for its Tenley Campus could produce better urban design and a more compelling presentation of the site’s history.

Capital Hall and its lawn. Image: Wikipedia.

AU has agreed to preserve several structures on the site: the a former farmhouse called Dunblane House, Capital Hall the main building visible from Tenley Circle, and a Chapel. Together, these buildings form an axis that the Historic Preservation Office has insisted on preserving.

The Historic Preservation Office is right to emphasize this axis; it is probably the most interesting part of the site. The architects at SmithGroup have worked within these requirements to create a private quadrangle between the old house and Capital Hall, which looks good so far.

But AU has also decided to build on the footprints of the existing 1950s buildings and not construct anything that would obscure Capital Hall. The buildings are preserved, but no part of the campus will feel different from the others, even if they are in a slightly different style. The new buildings offer no key to understand on the site they inherit.

 

An abstracted amphitheater frames the Getty Villa. Image: The Consortium/Flickr

To understand what I mean by interpretation, take a look at Machado & Silvetti’s renovation of the Getty Villa. They combined the pragmatic need for an an entry stairway with architectural promenade that helps visitors understand the museum’s curatorial approach. Treating the 1970s replica of a roman villa as an object in a collection, stairs and pathways frame the building in a sequence that calls to mind an excavation. The stair gives visitors a lens with which to understand the building and clears their minds of the drive out to Malibu. read more »

Local planning

Rename or un-name the Bi-Purple County Line Transitway while it’s still possible (or cheap)

So the political wars over the Purple Line largely ended last week, when the light rail option was selected over the BRT one by the National Capital Transportation Board. The decision now frees the transportation enthusiast crowd to fight over petty and superficial little things, like, for example, the name.

The name “Purple Line” was born back to a day when a legitimate discussion was ongoing between an outer heavy rail line, and the inner light rail line. More specifically, it was born when the Bethesda-Silver Spring light rail line was a separate project from the Silver Spring-New Carrollton Purple Line altogether. But they were merged sometime back under Gov. Glendenning (Wikipedia says it was under Erlich, but that contradicts my memories), and suddenly everyone stopped paying attention to the PG County side. Governor Erlich had the decent sense to not oversell the mid-tier transit line, but managed to make the name situation worse. His DOT’s name, the Bi-County “Transitway,” is an unadulterated sample of bureaucraspeak, managing to say absolutely nothing about anything, while also sounding incredibly unexciting. Bi-County? Which counties? Washington and Allegheny? Marin and Cook? Transitway? There’s no meaningful thing that the term “transitway” promises, although it does sound a bit like a moving walkway or even a slidewalk. I hear that when you visit the mausoleum of Kim Il-Sung, they have one of those things.

But calling it the Purple line unfairly associates it with heavy rail lines that operate in a very different way. Mixing the modes damages the legibility of Metro’s human-interface concept, embodied in its map. More importantly, it disassociates the particualr line from its value as part of a larger network of streetcars. When extensions are made elsewhere and it is connected to the Georgia Avenue Streetcar, it will be possible to run trains from Bolling AFB to Bethesda. Rather than hype up one particular service, instead reminding potential riders of the total extent of the system will likely increase ridership.

Frankly, I think any distinctive branding should simply disappear into the area’s future streetcar network. David Alpert had it right in his metro scheme, simply drawing all overground rapid transit purple. But if named it must be, then let’s go with this spiffy dollop of NIMBY fears, presented in the style of Jim Graham:

That Bastard O’Malley/Erlich/Glendenning’s Inflationary-Federal-Fiat-Currency-Funded-Puce-Hued- Two-County-Not-Underground-New-Carrollton-Silver-Spring-Chevy-Chase-Bethesda-Oh-God-Won’t-Someone-Think-of-the-Trees/It’s-a-Combine-Harvester-for-Toddlers-All-Singing-All-Dancing-Thug-Travelator.

Anyone have a better idea? I, for one, can’t wait for the epic battles between the Sharks and the Jetsons.