Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Joseph Passonneau (obituary)

Image of the bike path along Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon, Colorado. From Rocky Mountain Scenery.

Yesterday's Washington Post ran an obituary for Joseph Passonneau, one of the city's leading urban designers.

He is known for his work on DC urban design issues--e.g., he suggested that the Southeast-Southwest Freeway be converted to an at-surface boulevard, and is the author of Washington through Two Centuries: A History in Maps and Images, although the book is focused on the central business district (Downtown), and it has a great set of maps of the district at different points over the past 200 years.

And in the Catholic U architecture library, I came across the Central Washington Transportation and Civic Design Study from 1977, which had, among other graphics, this one, which I publish in various blog entries from time to time.
Mobility efficiency -- Passonneau

But the obituary, and two from St. Louis, "Joseph Passonneau dies, architect who fought to build Arch" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch,) and "Joseph Passonneau: Architect and engineer who designed part of interstate highway system" (far more detailed than the others, from the St. Louis Beacon), informed me about stuff I didn't know, that he had been dean of the school of architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, and he was instrumental in the development of the Gateway Arch there.

Plus, I had no idea he was one of the lead designers of the Glenwood Canyon section of Interstate 70 in Colorado (see "Glenwood Canyon 12 Years Later" from Public Roads. From the standpoint of integrating bicycling as a mode of transportation, and providing connections to park resources, this freeway project is an outlier in the history of U.S. freeway building--the only fault I have "with the project" is that for whatever reason, the Federal Highway Administration didn't capture these practices and processes and communicate them far and wide to the highway departments in other states.

From the St. Louis Beacon article:

Glenwood Canyon in Colorado has been the primary route through the Rocky Mountains since before wagon trains gave way to the iron horse. But a 30-year controversy over environmental concerns, aesthetics and economics kept the canyon outside of the interstate highway system until 1992. Finally, a long-planned engineering feat by Passonneau and fellow architect Edgardo Contin transformed the 2000-foot-deep I-70 passageway into a transportation work of art.

"It's a monumental accomplishment of great beauty and engineering skill," said Eugene Mackey III, an architect and former student of Mr. Passonneau. "His negotiation with the public was also an extraordinary accomplishment."

The canyon highway's final design included 40 bridges and viaducts, five tunnel bores (traffic openings) and 15 miles of retaining walls for a stretch of freeway 12 miles long.

In 2000, Mr. Passonneau received the Presidential Award for Design Excellence from President Bill Clinton for the canyon work.

Mr. Passonneau's daughter said the beauty of the Glenwood Canyon project epitomized her father's philosophy of his work. "He wanted to ensure that the ecological impact was minimal," Polly Passonneau said. "His maximum focus was on the human."

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