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.

Monday, September 29, 2014

11th Street Bridge Park presentations today and tomorrow

Final submissions by the four teams:
  • Balmori Associates/Cooper, Robertson & Partners
  • Olin/Office of Metropolitan Architecture
  • Stoss Landscape Urbanism/Höweler + Yoon Architecture
  • Wallace Roberts & Todd/ NEXT Architects/ Magnusson Klemencic Associates
are online here:  11th Street Bridge Park Competition

Seeing the presentations (click for calendar)

1.  Online
2.  At exhibits at TheARC in Ward 7, the District Architecture Center, and the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum
3.  In public presentations by the teams on September 29th and 30th at TheARC.

The site presents "some issues" given that the Navy Yard is still in use and presents serious security restrictions, which at time, close certain areas of the Riverwalk on the north (west) bank.

The decision process.  The Jury will be seeing presentations from the four teams today and tomorrow and the selection will be announced on October 16th at a press conference at TheARC in Ward 7.

The finalists will be presenting to the public this afternoon and tomorrow morning at TheARC as well.

Design oversight committee.  I am on the design oversight committee, which is a mix of representatives from various stakeholders (like the Navy Yard and the National Park Service), knowledge experts, and members of the community.

The committee participated in site visits and other information sharing with the teams after they were selected in June.  And in July and August the teams presented their in-process work to the committee for their response.

The committee wasn't supposed to say "we like this" or "we don't like that" and it wasn't a critique either, but a reaction with responses to questions posed by the teams.
11th Street Bridge Park project, Washington, DC
Me.  After the final submissions, based more on a reaction to the renderings, I had a preference, but because I am on the the design advisory committee (we react, we don't select, that's up to the jury) so I am not at liberty to express a public opinion.  In any case, I'm glad I'm not on the jury because selecting a winner will be difficult.

(More than 200 teams expressed interest, more than 80 teams submitted a response to the competition notice, and 4 teams were selected from this group to make proposals.  Each received just under $30,000 to cover the cost of preparing responses.)

Interestingly, the committee met last week and evaluated the four proposals (based on the more complete response document submitted by each team, which haven't been made public), as an analysis provided to the Jury.

At this stage, the task of the committee was to weigh each proposal against the design principles and evaluate whether or not the proposal as submitted would do a superior job creating a great park that is flexible, that will help to knit the two sides of the river together, and is "iconic."

But iconic is an interesting word with many meanings.  Does it mean a visual stunner, something that is "known around the world" not unlike the Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, but not a great park?

In the end, I ended up changing my preference from my initial reaction, after a more careful and systematic evaluation of each proposal.  Iconic has different meanings and in the end, I decided that the "visual stunner" didn't follow through and also create the framework for a great park.

My reaction to the process.  The design review iterations and the ideas that were engendered led me to write four entries touched off by the interaction:

-- "The Anacostia River and considering the bridges as a unit and as a premier element of public art and civic architecture
-- "DC has a big "Garden Festival" opportunity in the Anacostia River""
-- "A world class water/environmental education center at Poplar Point as another opportunity for Anacostia River programming (+ move the Anacostia Community Museum next door)"
-- "Saving the South Capitol Bridge as an exclusive pedestrian and and bicycle bridge"

which could be considered an extension of various posts I've written about the area including:

-- "Wanted: A comprehensive plan for the "Anacostia River East" corridor"

Rather than considering the teams not selected as "losers," I'd prefer that we consider utilizing elements of their work  on other sites in the city, and continuing to work with all the teams.

Interestingly, the two firms that impressed me the most at the initial presentations by the finalists in June were the ones that impressed me at the end of last month's "review" meetings. It was interesting how the teams each looked at the project, and which elements.

(But in the end, I wasn't as impressed with those proposals, as I was with the one that in August I thought was the least interesting.)

Some of the elements that really surprised me and opened up my thinking included a recognition of the importance of wildlife sustenance as an element of "nutrition"/urban agriculture and how to program the space on a day-to-day basis (one of the firms ideas lays out a framework that I think is a substantive advance in parks planning, although maybe some business improvement districts are doing a form of this).

All the teams stepped delicately around the fact that there was more to the preferred program than can actually be accommodated on the bridge, and they made various proposals to extend programming on and along the banks of the Anacostia River.

Frankly, if I had been on one of the teams I would have advocated for an evaluation of the scope as part of the response, and pointed out the difficulty of realizing all of the program in the space available, just as each team evaluated the structural engineering elements of the bridge piers to determine what type of span could be accommodated and the constraints the bearing loads imposed on what could be achieved.

No swimming barge.  And in the end, no team suggested an in-river swimming barge.  See "From lidos to plunge pools: urban swim projects around the world" from the Financial Times.  What's up with that?

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