Yesterday, I wrote about the historic preservation fight underway in Silver Spring as a developer seeks to add more housing right near downtown Silver Spring. There’s a strong dose of NIMBYism in the drive to landmark the existing Falkland Chase low-density apartments, but as commenter Dan Reed pointed out, there’s also a strong dose of bad design in the proposed redevelopment.
This building typifies what I call “suburban sensibility,” placing something that looks generally like a suburban hotel in the middle of an urban grid, like Newport in Jersey City, NJ (right across the Hudson from Manhattan), the Hilton Washington just north of Dupont Circle, the Marriott Wardman Park, or the Watergate apartments. Each of these uses architecture to separate from rather than connect to the city. Each sets its entrance away from the road, separated by a driveway loop, forcing people on foot to cross wide car-oriented spaces. And each creates large visual empty spaces rather than the continuous streetscape found in vibrant urban neighborhoods.
The left-hand picture shows the main resident entrance. Cars have a very wide driveway while pedestrians are crammed into a much narrower space. And the entire driveway loop, with wide turns and a green but unusable space in the center, will force people to walk all the way around to get in and out.
On the right is the project’s attempt to somewhat engage the street by putting a grocery store near the sidewalk. But they’ve still put a landscaped barrier in between, still separating the complex from the rest of the city. And what’s with that winding path the woman is walking along, which for no discernible reason winds one way and then the other? Do they really think people will walk all the way around instead of just cutting across those bushes?
Critics also say this building is too tall. Ironically, the pressure to preserve the rest of the Falkland Chase apartments may contribute to the height—by allowing the developer to make money on only a small portion of the property, it increases the need for height on that one fragment. Moderate height throughout the area with a more street-oriented urban feel would serve Silver Spring much better.
Update: Dan has more on his blog.