Prototyping and municipal capital improvement programs
DC built a slew of recreation centers during the Williams Administration.
While it's great that many facilities were built and that the array of facilities was improved, at the same time an opportunity was lost to rethink recreation centers.
Should they have been transformed into community centers?
Could other functions have been added?
Would that have required the construction of a different type of building?
And should the facilities have been planned in terms of achieving broader program/city objectives, not just within neighborhoods?
For example, I don't think any recreation center has an indoor track. Every neighborhood doesn't need an indoor track, but certainly couldn't a couple have been constructed as part of a citywide planning and capital improvement program?
Most of the new recreation centers are one floor. If they had an additional floor, other programs could be offered, such as more structured adult education programs, or the inclusion of art programs and studio space. Etc.
Probably they could have/should have built one facility first as a test, and then had anybody and everybody "tear it apart," criticize, compliment, and bring up ideas for improvement.
Then they could have modified the construction plans, incorporated these ideas into the other facilities, without having built them all roughly at one.
And just like there are regional malls and super-regional malls, a couple of the facilities should have been designated "super-regional" recreation centers with even more enhanced facilities, such as the Thomas Jefferson Recreation Center in Arlington County, which has a exposition center/indoor track and a theater-auditorium (which also houses a resident theater company).
But without testing, and expecting otherwise constrained patterns of government thinking, these kinds of changes aren't likely to result, without a big planning-charrette-experimentation phase preceding the massive construction phase.
That's what prototyping is about, and it typically isn't a significant part of the rational planning model that marks public adminstration and urban planning processes.
The design method needs to be more widely adopted in municipal planning processes.