Tag Archives: property

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

Reno Park Studies

Reno Park Update 091115: Cyclist’s Perception

Sorry for the break between posts; the past few weeks have been pretty hectic, but there’s some good stuff coming down the pipeline. First off, let’s finish off the analysis of space and access. The subject now is the bicyclist.

bike buildings

Bicycling exists in a strange middle-area of the law. A bike is a vehicle in DC, but bikers can ride on the sidewalk and don’t have to register or undergo inspections. Culturally, cyclists travel in a more uncertain space, not all that welcome on the street or the sidewalk. A lack of any particular bicycle infrastructure means that there is no place of positive certainty anywhere near Tenleytown. I have to admit that judging conditions was more difficult here because of the more varying conditions cyclists find themselves subject to.

That’s reflected in the composite above; It’s really gray. And pretty dark.

To look at the way the image was composed follow down below. read more »

Reno Park Studies

Reno Park Update 091028: Driver’s Perception

driver-buildings

In the last two updates, I showed that the disconnect between physical and social boundaries complicates any analysis of the spatial architecture of the Tenleytown-Tobago area. Of course, it’s worth looking at the vehicular perception of space.   read more »

Reno Park Studies

Reno Park Update 091022: Property as Figure

pedestrian-fg-buildings3

In the last post, I showed this map of the neighborhood, which expressed the gradients of permeability the T-T area. But this might not perfectly show how different the city looks without property laws. Look after the break. read more »

Reno Park Studies

Reno Park Update 091021: Pedestrian’s Perception

I wrote in the last update that any analysis of the spatial relationships of a suburban-style city needs to consider the legal rules and social sentiments that coexist with physical boundaries. Of course the laws vary based on your “mode” of travel, with pedestrians getting a bit of leeway in terms of “travel.”

But let’s do pedestrians. How do they interact with space? read more »

Reno Park Studies

Reno Park 090725: Property

As promised, a map of all of the property lots in the area of Reno/Tenleytown area. Fascinating ain’t it?

property

Even without squinting, you can see diagonal lines that don’t seem to match up with any roads or lots. I’m fairly certain these cuts line up with older borders and roads, putting a whole new volume of evidence of the past fossilized in the modern legal form of the city. The erasure and remainder of various structures as a history appears too. Why did some lines stick around? Perhaps one owner sold out before the other, and a divided lot just went up for sale as two later. More comparisons under the fold. read more »