Archive for March, 2014

Retro-Future Washington, DC

March 13, 2014

 

View of street in SW Washington

When I visit Washington, DC, I generally stay in the quiet, friendly, tree-lined neighborhood known as Southwest.

View of SW

It’s not the well-known Washington of stately neoclassic buildings, famous monuments, and cherry trees.

Much of Southwest was wiped out by so-called urban renewal in the 1950s and 60s, when planners were in love with the idea of destroying the old-fashioned urban grid, with its pedestrians and human-scaled buildings and street life, and replacing it all with freeways, giant buildings, and parking lots.

Old and new building together

Such a freeway separates Southwest from the very heart of Washington — from the National Mall, in fact — and the result is incoherent and strange. The zone between Southwest and the Mall is a sort of demented, brutalist Radiant City¬†gone dark.

 

Building on stilts

Buildings on stilts with highways running under them!

 

Underground parking zone

Soulless, creepy zones devoted entirely to automobiles!

 

More stilts

More stilts on top of crumbling overpasses!

 

Ugly structures and Smithsonian

… All within a few minutes’ stroll of the Smithsonian Castle, the other museums, and the Mall.

 

It’s the result of a conscious decision by planners and politicians to favor the automobile over people — a bias that is still very much evident in the Washington metro area today. I hope that some of my future posts will examine the consequences of that decision.

 

Monterey Bay Fisherman’s Wharf: Runaway Success

March 1, 2014

View of crowds on Fisherman's Wharf

 

Fisherman’s Wharf is the heart of a highly successful and heavily used public space in Monterey, California. On a mild afternoon in February, the crowds were thick and cheerful.

 

View of the wharf, late afternoon

Unlike the wharf in San Francisco, this one actually has fishing boats nearby, and the restaurants serve a certain amount of fresh local seafood.

 

Strollers on trail

The Wharf is just one feature along the Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail, which runs for miles along the shoreline of the Monterey Bay. A very popular paved and accessible part of the trail connects the Wharf and downtown Monterey with the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

 

Strollers and wheelchair user on trail

 The trail, a converted railroad line, is a great example of a public space that actually encourages public use. A wide variety of  people of all ages and physical abilities were getting out and enjoying themselves along the shore of the beautiful Bay.

 

People enjoying the trail and the bay