Tag Archives: fort reno park

Architecture Reno Park Studies

Reno Park Update 131228: Traces

Oh hey, I didn’t see you standing there. It’s been a while. No, no, I should have called you! Look, the past few years have been a little weird. There were a lot of martinis and I think there was orange carpet.

So I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about Tenleytown’s history. What can it do for us? What are the traces of the past buried in our daily lives? How have we adapted our environment? How can we continue to do so, in a more profound way. Let’s look at the traces of the pre-industrial past within the Fort Reno study area.

Start here: 
building alignments

It shows the orientation of each building. Gray is for the cardinal grid. Purple buildings face the avenues, while light green ones face curvilinear roads. Blue ones were doing their own thing. Dark green buildings didn’t really fit in any one box. Orange buildings face roads we know to be historical.

Yeah, I know what you’re saying. We’ve all been here. But, and you don’t have to look at it, let me break this down.

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Architecture Local Reno Park Project Theory

How can Fort Reno’s history come to life?

Fort Reno Park is not a great park. It’s mostly unstructured green space: empty and unpleasant. It does have a great community garden, tennis courts, and two playing fields. But, those uses collectively occupy only a fraction of the land. And they don’t really draw anyone in. Even Fort Reno’s most popular event, the summer concerts, are a lucky accident.

In fact, the only users who really enjoy the park are dogs. The empty fields at Fort Reno are great for letting dogs run free. The only problem is that it’s illegal. Dogs must be on a leash on NPS land. There is just nothing right with Fort Reno Park, is there?

renodogs

Now, it’s easy to spitball amenities to fix the park, but Fort Reno is uniquely charged with history. There’s was a Civil War Fort and then a Black town bound up in its formation. Buried under the grass are vast possibilities to impregnate our lives with history. On the other hand, as more and more residents return to the district, we will really need useful parks.

So, how do you take this kind of site and interpret it while also making it a great urban place?

A recent project in Brooklyn shows us a few ways.

photo copyright nic lehoux

Strategy One: Put a frame on it 

Take a look at the Weeksville Heritage Centerlocated in northeastern Brooklyn. Not so much of an open space as a corner of East New York, the site preserves five houses from a historical Black settlement. Most of Weeksville came down for projects during Urban Renewal, but a tiny portion remained, wedged laterally into a block.

Like Tenleytown, Weeksville was quite some distance away from the city (Brooklyn), but was later absorbed by urbanization. Unlike Tenleytown, none of the roads were converted into the grid, and few of the houses were. Tenleytown used to be two settlements: a largely White area near the Wisconsin-River intersection, and the Black town occupying what is now Fort Reno Park. Very little of both remains.

1907 tenleytown baist s

Weeksville was “rediscovered” in the 1960s by an extension class at the Pratt Institute. Residents were still floating around, but its history was unofficial and uncollected. In the same sense, Tenleytown was rediscovered in the 1970s, as the last people to remember it tried to collect their memories. Weeksville has been slowly doing the same for years.

Dig deeper

Architecture Local

Washington’s Fort Circle, now in studios.

The Van Alen Institute and the National Park Service have announced a program that would create new designs for several national parks, Parks for the People. The program is a competition limited to entire studios of architecture students, who will propose designs as part of their education. In the program’s words:

Participating schools will work with park administrators to create model solutions for seven park sites in each geographic region of the U.S., and use these design paradigms to create a stronger national identity for our open space ideals. Throughout the competition, schools will have an opportunity to engage with the Park Service and its rich cultural and historic assets, including access to park leadership, in-depth encounters with park sites, and the chance to build long-term relationships with park staff and resources.

They have selected seven interesting sites, one of which is the Civil War Defenses of Washington, presumably including Fort Reno. It is the only site in a major city and the only site that is used for day-to-day recreational purposes.

Students will have to consider these uses in addition to the interpretive and conservational missions of the NPS. These parks are back yards for some people, and not just precious destinations. There hasn’t been a lot of work in terms of creating commemorative spaces that are also great places to spend time, since memorials shifted from illustrative work to psychologically engaging complexes (even as they got bigger.)

Another program related to DC that I would love to publish is Leon Krier’s Spring 2010 studio at Yale, which asked students to design a monumental replacement for the MLK library on the CityCenter site.

Other

2011 Fort Reno Concerts

The Fort Reno Concert Series has uploaded their schedule. Concerts start a week from tomorrow, June 27th.

Reno Park Studies

Reno Park Update 100302: Lynch

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.

paths s

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.

edges s

OK, keep going, there are three more elements…

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Reno Park Studies Uncategorized

Reno Park Update 091212B: Finding Place

So in the last post, I pointed out that it was easiest to demonstrate that some location is a place by showing the density of people there. That’s what this map is. It’s an imprecise but useful tool to map and note the actual behaviors of pedestrians in the T-T area. I’ve made a point of making it blurry and gradated. There are not borders, so much as dips in circulation and public activity that result from the popularity of one area and the amount of effort pedestrians are willing to exert to get from one place to another.

Take, for example, Friendship Heights. Most people arrive by Metro or driving to the retail district. But within only two or blocks of that hub of activity, the circulation patterns change: there are fewer people and they are generally more local. The walkable distance matters more. It’s clear that the locality ends, even if it is slight and gradual.

The character of the architecture changes slightly as one travels south on Wisconsin. It’s shorter, somewhat dinkier. But at Fessenden Street, the entire block is suddenly small, two-story local retail. It looks like little to the north, but also seems slightly different from Tenleytown, up a steep hill to the south. Someone who lived a block to the south would feel like it might be part of Tenleytown, and someone who lives a block to the north might feel it’s Friendship Heights. This is hard to define; just like foot traffic, it comes in gradients. However, due to its higher pedestrian traffic, small public park, and consistent look, I would argue it is effectively a between-place. So let me show you what I’ve come up with:

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Reno Park Studies

Reno Park Update 091125A: Preservation / PUD

Two small additions to the analysis of zoning regulation. First are PUDs. PUD stands for Planned-Unit Development. In a PUD, a developer negotiates with community representatives, offering certain amenities to the public in exchange for some reprieve from aspects of Zoning Codes. There are four PUD structures (in red) here: Van Ness Station, the Saratoga, Friendship Center, and Mazza Galerie.

PUDs

The other major legal framework is the landmarking system. There are a handful of landmarks (red), the Grant Road Historic District (blue), and the not-landmarked-but-sensitive Fort Drive area (yellow). The master plan will have to harmonize with the legal strictures imposed by them.

landmarks

Reno Park Studies Uncategorized

Reno Park Update 091005B: Zoning

So what is the relationship between zoning and buildings? (Again colors are off!)

zoning-building-forms

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Reno Park Studies

Reno Park Update 091005A: Zoning Definitions

So, property and school districts are both legal structures that have strong effects on the perception of space and the organization of social networks. But generally, the legal structure that affects the commercial and economic growth of spaces is zoning.

zoning-property

Zoning, quickly, is a Progressive-era policy from the early 1900s that dictates what uses can or cannot exist on a certain piece of property or in a general area. The Modern Movement picked up the concept as a way of guaranteeing a healthy city, as did the Garden City and Regional Planning movements. Generally, its effects have been good – like keeping smelting plants away from residences. But it’s also led to unhealthy homogeneity and a commuter culture that was less prominent before governments began micromanaging the fabric of cities.

This is one of the wonkier posts, but it’s important to understand what has been planned for the area. read more »

Reno Park Studies

Reno Park Update 091004B: Bike Routes

OK, so the color here is seriously off. I may have to redo some of these maps in a RGB color space. For now, enjoy the eye strain!

I haven’t discussed the role of bicycles in the T-T area, but here’s a map of suitability for bike access. Bear in mind that there are no facilities for bikes, only one designated routes.

bike-routes1

Blue is the one designated bike route that passes near Fort Reno Park, and therefore gives bikers a little more respectability. Green is sidewalks and dark gray is alleys, both places where cyclists have to share the road with pedestrians as well as drivers. Light gray paths represent neighborhood streets with little traffic and generally no center dividing lines. Yellow indicates busier, possibly divided streets where bikers might have some problems with the cars. Red streets are arterials where biking is either dangerous or “disruptive” for automobiles.

That’s it for now.