Avenues, Volume 3: Urban Transparency

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urban transparency

a publication of the Urban Design Committee (UDDC) of the Washington Chapter of the American Institute of Architects avenues volume three


Urban Design Committee American Institute of Architects, Washington, DC

managing editors Scott Archer, AIA, AICP Saakshi Terway, Associate AIA Katherine Tiarsmith, AIA

published by AIA, Washington Chapter 421 7th Street NW Washington, DC 20004 aiadc.com


contents 07

letter from the chair: transparency into action by Katherine Tiarsmith aia




towards and open-ended architecture by Rebecca Soja, assoc. aia


dc’s public buildings rise to the climate challenge by Jen Croft


establishing a bridge between data and nature by Michael W. Smith


flowers for mr. cole by Duilio Passariello


openness+(in)security for civic architecture in the next generation by Jill Cavanaugh, aia, aicp


another #!!?# scooter parked in the middle of the sidewalk by Don Paine


the future of affordable housing: transparency in policy and process are key to successful outcomes in the washington urban fabric by Michael Wiencek, faia


the anacostia river pool: transparency as openness, inclusiveness, and access by Merrill St. Leger, aicp cud


submerged: the future of urban waterfronts in dc & beyond by Kevin Storm, aia, aicp



letter from the chair


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Urban Transparency

transparency into action Who We Are I am proud to introduce the third annual publication of Avenues, the journal of the Urban Design Committee of the American Institute of Architects, Washington Chapter (AIA|DC). The committee looks different every year, but as a testament to the urgent relevance of our mission, the work continues. Since our founding in 2017, we have acted on one simple mission: to “improve the quality of cities and people’s lives.” That mission is supported by five goals: 1. Create a forum to engage peer organizations in urban design. 2. Raise public awareness of the value of urban design thinking. 3. Promote visionary thinking about the future of cities. 4. Advocate for public policy that promotes livability, spatial equity, and environmental

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stewardship. 5. Develop greater allies among architects, planners, landscape architects, and policy makers.

Urban Transparency We adopt a theme each year to frame our critical thinking on contemporary urban design issues. The theme for 2019 was “Urban Transparency.” We deliberately chose an openended topic, and this journal reflects that intention. Here are a few of the useful ways we considered transparency as a lens for urbanism, touching on the physical, experiential and symbolic. Transparency as a material property Transparency of buildings and spaces permits views of the activity within, choreography

that becomes part of the urban realm. As a physical property, transparent surfaces are typically reflective, creating ephemeral plays of light and showing us glimpses of ourselves and the city around us. These qualities can generally be seen as adding value to the city, animating the streetscapes and in-between spaces that we are passionate about as urban designers. Visual transparency sometimes signifies permission for physical access, such as where the ground floor of a building becomes an extension of the public realm. In commercial settings, transparency is essential to draw foot traffic inside. If we consider that income inequality is at an all-time high and racial segregation persists undeterred, however, visual transparency may heighten the message that some places are off-limits to those who


are not in positions of power. Ultimately, visual transparency is about seeing something that you might not otherwise encounter. We remain hopeful that the more we see each other (both in informal exchanges and more meaningful dialog), the more we are summoned to break down systems of racial, social and economic inequality. While proximity alone is not enough, we know that cities like DC have great potential for interaction and engagement. Transparency as spatial porosity DC is famous for its building height restrictions and protected view corridors that privilege the monumental core. Transparency offers a language to talk about the composition of buildings, streets and public spaces and the resulting spatial experience at ground level. It is dependent on movement and views, for what feels impervious from one vantage point looks expansive by shifting perspective. The desire for open space — a kind of spatial porosity — is paramount, but too much porosity — i.e. too little density — is also problematic. The richest urban environments offer a mix of experiences, ranging from intimate pedestrian-scaled blocks to generous open spaces and wide boulevards with sweeping views, and brushes with nature that offer both.


Transparency as accountability and access We demand transparency of our democratic institutions because it affirms that power comes from the governed rather than the government itself. We believe our design professions would benefit from greater transparency. Our work as urban designers impacts many people who will never have a say in its creation, and as such we have an ethical obligation to actively design and advocate for equity and access. We acknowledge that cities are shaped as much by public policy as they are by design decisions, and call on designers to take a proactive role as citizens. Transparency as an act of revealing things that otherwise go unseen Transparency is a powerful metaphor for bringing clarity to city-shaping forces that do not fit neatly on maps. As urban designers, we often work as amateur historians and sociologists to uncover and amplify the essence of a place. What makes DC unique? How do we want to be seen? What historic systems and events have shaped where we are today? How does good design reckon with and challenge that culture? At a more tangible level, we saw how ecological and environmental systems that are literally below the surface

can have a huge impact on the city’s potential. We focused particularly on water, equity and climate change — our event “Submerged” comes from the meaning of being obscured, as well as literally under water. While DC largely turned its back on the Anacostia River for decades, unprecedented waterfront development calls for a reexamination of the river, its legacy, and how it serves the communities on its shores.

Journal Overview Section 1, Provocations, is a collection of thought pieces from a selection of the collaborators from our year’s happenings. The authors have chosen to take on “urban transparency” in many ways, inspired by their own work and the discussions that emerged at our events. The section title is deliberate: the writing is intended to raise more questions than answers, and to challenge our typical assumptions and ideas. The pieces are organized thematically by the editors. Section 2, Happenings, highlights the major events the committee organized this year to further our mission under the annual theme of “urban transparency.” We hosted our popular “Open House” series in the Spring, visiting the studios of four leading architecture and urban design firms, and organized

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Urban Transparency

Submerged, a film screening and panel discussion on cities and water. We brought architects and landscape architects together for two events during the global City Nature Challenge. We organized a presentation and dialog around the new Urban Design element of the DC Comprehensive Plan. In addition to those events, we hosted outside speakers from diverse organizations — including City Parks Foundation, Capital Nature, and Dupont Underground — and engaged

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in critical discussions during our monthly meetings.

What’s Next If Urban Transparency has a conceptual weakness, it is that it skews towards observation more than action. As practitioners and passionate urbanists, we must strive to affect positive change on the very real challenges of our time. Our city, our nation and our global community need the critical multidisciplinary practice

of urban design more than ever. We invite you to find new avenues for exploration in the text that follows, and to join us as a member or collaborator in 2020. Find us on social media @aia_ud_dc.

Katherine Tiarsmith, AIA Co-Chair, AIA|DC Urban Design Committee


provocations this section challenges our assumptions and explores the meaning and application of our theme URBAN TRANSPARENCY

towards an open-ended architecture by Rebecca Soja, Associate AIA, HKS The only thing left to do on your project is hand over the keys to the owner, but then what? Somewhere along the way, you justified how design decisions will accomplish something, for example reduce energy costs or increase productivity, but how will you know for certain? All too often, design professionals are guilty of resuming a practice of fixed accountability, leaving behind a trail of building stock bursting with useful information that remains hidden in the wall cavities and the distant memories of users. In contrast, championing performance and utilization evaluation services can initiate a new model of continuous accountability, one which delivers an open-ended architecture that intentionally links strategies to outcomes at any point in a project’s lifespan.


The concept of the Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE) is nothing new. The first formal example is credited to Sim Van der Ryn and Murray Silverstein’s groundbreaking research, published in 1967 as Dorms at Berkeley: An Environmental Analysis. While POEs can vary in scope, they ultimately aim to answer the question: is the built environment performing as intended? The process consists of methods for collecting, analyzing, reporting, and archiving findings. Ideally, POEs are performed at least a year after occupation to capture relevant and reliable data. The knowledge gained from the studies conducted (interviews, surveys, operational and environmental data analysis, observational studies, parametric

analysis, etc.) can be translated into building performance criteria, with outcomes related to health and safety, materials and functionality, operations and maintenance, as well as social, psychological, and cultural factors. A systematic POE framework supports an evidence-based approach by creating a constructive feedback channel for continuous improvement, bridging planning assumptions and real utilization. While POEs can be an integral value-add that support the business case for both the project team and the owner, they are not standard procedure on most projects. Lessons learned to inform future designs, increasing intellectual capital and credibility through validated functional and satisfaction

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Above: HKS has been conducting their equivalent of the POE, Functional Performance Evaluations (FPE), for over a decade to create a database of information on their healthcare projects. Image courtesy of HKS inc.

metrics, and maintaining client relationships are promising benefits to revisit the project. So why the resistance? The most popular excuse is that data collection, analysis, and documentation are too expensive, time-consuming, and labor intensive. Another culprit is our contracts. When POEs are tacked on as additional services, or worse, completed for free, they do not carry the same weight as the basic services architects are expected to offer. If we diminish the value of research, a client won’t be convinced of the value either.

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Teams may also lack awareness or comprehension of the benefits of implementing POEs. Similarly, a firm may not have access to tools, methodologies, or examples to guide and support them to properly conduct a POE and reap those benefits. Concerns about liability or issues of privatized data access is another hurdle. The last thing we want is for our deliberate investigations and follow through to morph into a lawsuit or tarnish relationships and reputations. However, it is the ‘P’ in POE that is the most problematic.

The word Post implies it is an exercise that comes after the real work. It is by association, an afterthought, and an assumption that there is a binary end goal, when in fact it is a moving target. Perceiving the deliverable as a permanent condition is the first mistake most firms make because they rely on intuition or past success instead of questioning design decisions that unfold in constantly variable contexts. Removing the ‘P’ means an Occupancy Evaluation does not happen once at a particular time in a project schedule; instead, more rigorous


Above: A summary of an FPE for a Children’s Hospital. Surveys and other metrics are analyzed together and evaluated within a rating system for each category. Image courtesy of HKS inc.

intent and execution emerges because environmental and experiential analysis both informs and reveals the justifications behind decisions throughout the entire design process and beyond. It does not matter if a project is existing, on the boards, or newly occupied. There is an opportunity for deliberate investigation and continuous improvement at any or all of these stages – there is always a current state to inform a future state. A more appropriate label for these ongoing studies could be performance or utilization


evaluations. For example, HKS calls the current state analysis of the conditions before design begins a Design Diagnostic, and the comparable examination six months or a year after project completion is known as a Functional Performance Evaluation. Regardless of what the assessment is named, it inherently encourages a culture of transparency and openness. Performance and utilization studies enforce the analysis and documentation of building operations and user experience that would have otherwise gone unmeasured. A

structured feedback loop inspires collective responsibility and action to care for our buildings and the people inside them. The untapped potential of occupancy evaluations extends beyond, and long before, post occupancy. Embracing this evidence-based approach can be a process culture shock for most firms. However, shifting our mindset in this way is necessary to improve outcomes and achieve lasting positive impact for all stakeholders and a triple bottom line. Consider the following tactics to effectively integrate research methodologies in everyday practice:

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Above: Sample of potential methodologies that can be added to an evidence-based design toolkit for triangulating quantitative and qualitative information. Images courtesy of HKS inc. Avenues, Volume 3


Previous Page: Intent and goal setting document. Image courtesy of HKS inc.


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1. Develop and maintain a framework and toolkit. A consistent structure for assessing projects and the deployment of useful tools and templates will eliminate reinventing the wheel and crafting custom surveys and metrics for each project. It also facilitates easier comparison across a portfolio of similar project types.

2. Don’t wait until post occupancy to determine desired outcomes; start with intent. There are infinite sources of unobtrusive data that can be collected on any given project, but you can sift through to the most meaningful metrics by establishing goals and targets before design even begins. Then during design, you can rationalize, measure, and track decisions based on how effectively they will achieve desired outcomes. During occupancy, routine performance evaluations will demonstrate how well the project meets the original intent.

3. Use a triangulation methodology. A combination of statistical and empirical evidence will capture a holistic image and lead to more dependable and actionable conclusions. Environmental

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and operational data (sensors, meters, organizational information, etc.), reported data (surveys, interviews), observed data (shadowing, behavior maps), and spatial data (proximities and travel distances, visibility) should be analyzed together to fully understand patterns that emerge.

4. Disseminate your findings and benchmark progress. Be prepared to record both successes and lessons learned. Honest benchmarking allows us to see where we are at, even if it is not where we want to be. Taking the time to archive information in an internal database or a shared platform such as the Construction Industry Institute or 2030 Challenge reporting, will be instrumental for future work. Additionally, we need to be more transparent about sharing data and content. Although proprietary tools or services might differentiate your firm in an RFP, hoarding case studies and resources leads to duplicated efforts and doesn’t contribute to advancing the industry as a whole.

5. Leverage technology and a data-driven approach. Making informed decisions mandates a balance of creative

instinct and rational logic. Evolving technologies equip us with powerful tools to process data and manage information within emergent digital flows throughout the design process. These tools enable us to test against predictive energy models and simulations with actual or predicted building and occupant data inputs. Designing ‘smart’ buildings that use cloud-based devices, monitors, sensors, analytical models, and machine learning can further aid evaluation and optimization. The possibilities are endless. Imagine how ongoing monitoring and improvement could produce living labs that adapt to user preferences in real time.

6. Empower others to support the effort and ask for help. Buy-in and alignment of the project team and stakeholders will result in dedication to striving for collective goals. When everyone is on board, you may not be able to gather and analyze data and anecdotes forever, but the responsibility can be passed on to others, such as property managers or building engineers, to track metrics and recognize success and opportunities for improvement. Embedding research into the design process may also require new skills. Take time to learn, pace yourself without feeling the need to throw in every study possible the first


what IMPACT did VCUHS’


VERTICAL EXPANSION: planning for future 7-story, 280,000 SF addition


WATER: cistern collects condensate from mechanical units, reducing potable water consumption for irrigation by estimated 100%, and anticipated 24% overall below baseline through specification of high efficiency plumbing fixtures

have on...

REDUCED CARBON FOOTPRINT: energy recovery heat wheel system to retain heat EUI: 134 kBtu/sf/yr (predicted)






ENERGY COST SAVINGS: 16% savings compared to ASHRAE 90.1-2007 baseline (predicted) INCREASED FLEXIBILITY & MARKET SHARE: strategic shell space for strategic growth for anticipated patient growth rate of 15%; Level 06 Clinic Pods and MRI open





PREMIER ACADEMIC INSTITUTION: entire level and integrated areas dedicated to academic / educational spaces for teaching, research, and broadening clinical expertise



SKY GARDEN: integrate physical and visual access to nature / outdoors to reduce anxiety for staff

construction completed


STANDARDIZATION: 12 exam room pod configuration; flexibility to transition pods 2-3 times per month

52 days

SATISFACTION in the new building

UNIVERSAL EXAM ROOM: design for multiple specialties enables providers to see patients in other pods

ahead of schedule

number of patient visits =

3-STORY ATRIUM: glass curtain wall along southern exposure brings natural light into the building

24,000 sf


ARTWORK: artwork contributes to healing environment and all works are from local artists

COMMUNITY SPACE for education, meetings, and events

APPOINTMENTS in the first year


INTERACTIVE DISPLAYS: digital displays provide positive distractions and opportunities for exploration and play

consolidation of

new 3T MRI

INTEGRATED DIAGNOSTIC AREAS: imaging, phlebotomy, pharmacy, etc. support clinics


FAMILY AMENITIES: sibling play area in pre/post-op, Arthur Ashe Reading Rooms, and Ronald McDonald Sibling Center; lactation rooms


INFLUENZA VACCINE CLINIC: 100% staff vaccinated; vaccine offered to over 82% patients during flu season


24% reduction

VERTICAL CIRCULATION: separate elevator banks for staff, clinic levels, and parking separate flows and enhance security SKY TERRACE: biophilia, access to views, outdoors, artwork, and light; positive distractions reduce anxiety to support healing




distinct on-stage / off-stage flows



PEDIATRIC NEPHROLOGY US News Best Hospitals Pediatric Specialty National Rankings

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: lobby spaces for meeting, education and events




at ONE location N

FLEXIBILITY to convert to outpatient cancer services in the future


doors with sound isolation reduce noise and enhance acoustic privacy

INFECTION RISK REDUCTION: rate of CLABSI in cancer patients consistently below goal rate of 0.60 CLABSIs per 1000 catheter days

ANTIBIOTICS: time to receive antibiotics in Hem / Onc for cancer patients with a fever is on average 37% faster than goal of 60 minutes

MATERIALS: responsible material selection without compromising aesthetics IMPROVED FACILITY IMAGE & BRANDING: an oasis for children; themes of nature (river, forest, garden, sky) and local culture

WORK CORE: 50% off-stage collaboration area promotes teamwork, and education




WAITING AREAS: waiting spaces with bright colors for wayfinding and comfortable furniture








DROP-OFF ZONE: covered, curb-free drop-off for wheelchairs and strollers SITE OF CHOICE: state of the art facility, centrally located, consolidation of children’s ambulatory services (one stop shop) RETAIL: grab-and-go healthy food court, gift shop, and pharmacy STREETSCAPE: brownfield site remediation; pavers and planters encourage pedestrian traffic; bus stop on site and bicycle storage MATERIALS HANDLING: connect the docks and support services to maximize efficiency




WORKSPACE OPTIONS: improved ergonomics and accommodation for different tasks




locate medications, supplies in each pod to increase efficiency

VALET & SELF PARKING: 602 spaces provided; average patient visit time reduced by 30 minutes; 48,264 cars parked in the first year PEDESTRIAN-FRIENDLY: walk score of 88 out of 100 - “very walkable”; amenities and services in walking distance

Urban Transparency


investigation, evaluation + criteria



INTENT continuous improvement



Above: Continuous Feedback Loop. Image courtesy of Rebecca Soja

time or consult with partners that can fill in the proficiency gaps. When architecture is closed and static, it is limited. Determining a degree of openness and transparency before the role of the architect begins and after it ends will advance both your firm and the building industry. Occupancy evaluations as part of a rigorous evidence-based approach, results in an openended architecture that is not restricted to a predetermined set

of possible solutions. Instead, projects evolve and flex over time in response to incremental contextual and user-driven parameters for continuous improvement. It is critical to acknowledge that buildings are dynamic, and furthermore, the physical environment is only one aspect of the project, which must be designed in correspondence with considerations for operations, programming, and user experience. We must redefine our value proposition to

drive innovation and keep pace with oscillating expectations in an ever-changing technological, social, and political landscape. Encouraging inquiry, discovery, and scrutiny in the design process through the consistent and purposeful use of exploratory methodologies is one way our profession can expand our service offerings and relevance. It’s ok to not know all the answers. Our buildings and their occupants can help us find them if we are willing to let them.

Previous Page: Design Impact document used to track meaningful metrics and measure success. Image courtesy of HKS inc.

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dc’s public buildings rise to climate challenge by Jen Croft, DC Department of General Services In 2013, the District of Columbia government released its plan to make DC the healthiest, greenest, most livable city in the nation. The District’s Sustainable DC Plan remains one of America’s most ambitious, innovative city sustainability plans. The plan holistically addresses areas such as equity, economy, health, and the built environment. Sustainability plans are designed to address the built environment, including the building sector which is responsible for three-quarters of total greenhouse gas emissions in the District, and therefore presents the most impactful climate change mitigation opportunity. It makes sense for public buildings to “walk the talk” and lead the way


Where We Stand The city agency that manages public buildings – the Department of General Services (DGS) – was bestowed with a mission to reduce emissions, in large part through improved facility efficiency and renewable energy. To achieve ambitious sustainability goals, DGS first created the Sustainability and Energy Management Division. This team is dedicated to optimizing the agency’s building footprint while greening its electricity supply. In 2015, we inked the largest municipal wind power purchasing agreement (PPA) of any American city. Since then, this agreement sources roughly 30 percent of the District Government’s electricity from 23 wind turbines in southwest Pennsylvania. It saves District Government taxpayers $40 million over the 20-year contract

term, compared to anticipated electricity market costs. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser further demonstrated the city’s commitment to greening its electricity supply by launching America’s largest municipal onsite solar project in 2016. Two onsite solar PPAs have already added more than 12 megawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV) electric-generating capacity to roofs and parking lots at 50 District Government facilities. The PPAs are saving District taxpayers roughly $25 million over their 20-year term. This includes the avoidance of costly transmission and distribution charges that are often invisible to consumers. A valuable social benefit is that these solar PPAs bring millions of dollars of investment into the local green economy while lowering the government’s energy cost. The

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Above: DC’s Leckie Elementary School outdoor classroom by HRGM Corporation (aerial). Image courtesy of HRGM Corporation

Above: DC’s Leckie Elementary School outdoor classroom by HRGM Corporation. Image courtesy of HRGM Corporation Next Page: One of 23 wind turbines making up DGS’s wind farm in PA. Image courtesy of DC Department of General Service Avenues, Volume 3



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project increased the city’s solar generation capacity by more than half. To realize this “shovelready” undertaking, DGS laid the groundwork by previously assessing the solar viability of its entire roof and parking lot portfolio. We carefully looked at buildings’ anticipated future uses, historic designations, roof size (focusing on locations with at least 5,000 square feet), and remaining roof lifespan. In the process, DGS also restored or replaced more than 1.8 million square feet of roofs that were unsuitable for solar, but were nearing end-of-life, with highlyreflective cool roofs. On top of the solar development’s benefits, these cool roofs will mitigate the urban heat island effect, save energy costs, and last another two decades. The cool roof upgrades also employed 19 people during installation. In 2017, Washington, DC, became the world’s first city to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Cities Platinum certification, the highest-level, from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The USGBC recognized how we have set meaningful sustainability and resiliency goals, and had already met several of them. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser notes that “it is in the best interest of Washington, DC’s safety, economy, and future to take sustainability and resiliency seriously. As the nation’s capital,

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we have a special obligation to lead the way on environmental issues.” In line with this commitment, DGS builds to LEED Gold or greater standards while retro-commissioning and retrofitting existing buildings through a robust, data-driven program. We also launched an organics composting and materials recycling education program for the city’s public schools. In 2017, DGS worked with DC Public Schools to divert 480 tons of organic waste to a commercial compost facility instead of incinerators or landfills. In this work, we engage all levels of stakeholders: from students, teachers, and custodial staff; to principals, administrators, and construction teams.

Where We Go From Here As DGS Director Keith A. Anderson says, the climate crisis is already here in the form of extreme weather. Last summer, unprecedented rainfall flooded homes and stranded cars due to high water on major streets. Then daily high-temperature records were shattered in October. These events, along with extreme winter snowstorms in recent years, are important reminders that climate change’s effects have arrived – and they’re only getting more dangerous. In 2013, there were 29 heat emergency days in the District. We expect approximately 50 such days this year, 70-89 by 2050, and

75-105 heat emergency days by 2080. By mid-century, riverside neighborhoods and even some of DC’s downtown areas will be at risk of flooding from storm surge. These are important reminders that policymakers, designers and builders must become more proactive, and make our communities more resilient to Earth’s increasingly wet, warm, and extreme climate. The District’s population has boomed by more than 11 percent since the Sustainable DC Plan launched just seven years ago. In 2018, the plan was updated to reflect the city’s changing needs, and to ensure that all parts of the city are served. Mayor Bowser also signed the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018, one of the most aggressive and impactful clean energy laws passed by any state or district. The Act’s many goals include a requirement that 100 percent of electricity sold in DC come from renewable sources by 2032, and a mandate for substantial energy efficiency improvements in the city’s existing buildings. Public buildings are at the forefront of the Clean Energy DC law. The Act contains Building Energy Performance Standards that require all public buildings 10,000 square feet or larger to meet or exceed the local median ENERGY STAR score (or an equivalent benchmark)


Above: DCs Ballou High School solar array by Sol Systems. Image courtesy of Sol Systems

by property type. Starting in 2021, DGS will have five years to achieve these results before another round of comparison against updated performance benchmarks begins. While the new building performance standards will be a massive undertaking for DGS and the rest of the city, combating climate change is not something we can afford to postpone. If we don’t take immediate action, our children and grandchildren – not to mention whole ecosystems – will be saddled with a far less livable, less vibrant planet. The new law helps by creating jobs, advancing cleaner air and water, saving District taxpayers on energy costs, making public buildings healthier and more


comfortable, increasing capital asset value, and bolstering resiliency. DGS will soon be embarking on creating a Strategic Energy Management Plan – a roadmap for how we will achieve these ambitious mandates. The agency is looking to expand the scale of its retro-commissioning/ retrofit program, and is piloting an Energy Services Agreement (ESA). The ESA investments could make schools more energy and water efficient, without any upfront capital costs for the government. While LEED certification has become common for large buildings in DC, Net Zero Energy

is the next frontier. Net Zero Energy designers are not just analyzing energy models, but are also looking more closely at the embodied carbon of the building structure, envelope, and finishes, plus emissions from the construction process. We are finalizing design of the District’s first two net zero energy schools – another pilot the agency plans to scale across a broader swath of the DC government building portfolio. DGS, in partnership with the District Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE), is finalizing the installation of a 2.65-megawatt community solar facility on a 15-acre brownfield site. The project is expected

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to reduce electricity costs by $500 per year for more than 700 low-income households in the surrounding Ward 8 community. We’re also embarking on the next major round of solar PV installations. Now that the solar “low-hanging fruit” has been picked, DGS has been reassessing modernized and/ or smaller District government facilities for solar feasibility. We’ve already identified space with potential for at least six to ten additional megawatts of solar PV capacity. We’ve also used lessons learned to create Solar-Ready Guidelines so that designs of new or modernized buildings are ready for the future installation of a solar electricity system. The guidelines help maximize the size and efficiency of future rooftop PV installations, and avoid the need for infrastructure changes at the time of installation. Finally, addressing the climate crisis across a real estate portfolio calls for addressing a massive deferred maintenance backlog, while improving buildings’ ongoing operation and maintenance. In 2013, DGS began connecting the building automation systems of several newly modernized buildings to a single cloud-based platform called Enteliweb. This allows building operators to remotely change temperature set-points, see whether a room is falling out

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of its defined temperature range, and perform light diagnostics. We’ve already connected to more than 60 buildings, and intend to expand this integration to all viable building automation systems in our portfolio. DGS is also looking to expand our operator training program on both the monitoring software, and on how to perform on-site building re-tuning. Together, these actions help operate buildings more efficiently – and for a modest cost. While the importance of mitigating climate change cannot be stressed enough, DGS is also making buildings more resilient to future climate stressors. The DGS Resilience Design Guide will provide tools for selection of roof, envelope, and resilience technologies related to interior and exterior wall construction, windows and doors, insulation, indoor air quality, occupant comfort, building controls, on-site solar energy generation, off-grid backup power, disaggregation of critical loads, facility orientation optimization, stormwater management, future-proofing for rising storm surge, and access to drinking water.

Why It Matters

Impactful climate change mitigation depends on sharing lessons learned to help scale initiatives beyond the District’s boundaries. Cities and states are stepping up to lead with action. Climate change is a key driver for plant and animal species loss, and a pivotal issue of our time. At the current rate, humans risk causing ecological collapse comparable to ancient extinction catastrophes. The convenience of “staying the course” is not worth eroding the complex natural web of diverse and crucial food sources, medical resources, and ecosystem services that billions of people depend on. Even apart from the gravity of this crossroads, climate action is a no-brainer because practically everything that reduces environmental costs also advances other noble policy objectives, like cleaning the air and water, creating economic opportunities, saving money, and preserving biodiversity. Even climate skeptics can agree that jobs and affordability matter. Food security matters. The health of current and future generations matters. These issues are inexorably linked, and it’s time to boost each other up as we rise to the climate challenge.

All these efforts are not only helping the city reach its sustainability and climate goals, but also creating a blueprint for other municipalities to follow.


establishing a bridge between data and nature by Michael W. Smith, Landscape Architecture Bureau (LAB) The world is emerging as an infinite web of data. This data has become the fundamental currency of contemporary life. Across the planet, the frequent manipulation of physical space is becoming increasingly quantified by humans; this information is increasingly captured and translated into cartographies of digital mass and amplitude which comprise a virtual topography of latent, but powerfully relevant, information. Urban designers have become dependent on this flow of information as a tool for revealing complex and subtle – fundamentally important – spatial relationships. With increasing regularity, real events and tangible material are being converted into digital matter. “Fiber optic fragments” installed underneath our landscapes since the late 70’s


have since connected to form the vast, contemporary, digital communication infrastructure network. These passive data structures, previously embedded into our tectonic systems, now hold the capacity to activate latent landscapes. The maturation of these communication lines in and around the modern landscape now activates infrastructure networks, which instantaneously collects data and transmits information. This binary swarm of information is collected and generates “clusters of big data”. Implanted sensory inputs are orchestrating batches of big data, tracking, discovering and transmitting to the end user. Chunks of information critical to the understanding of physical landscapes lay dormant among this data. In the contemporary practice of landscape

architecture, superficial bits of this data are collected and evaluated to extract the relevant information which impacts the immediate microenvironment. Data is the new physicality: a landscape can no longer be measured by how robust it’s materiality and flora are; a more accurate scale would measure how intelligent and receptive it is, as well as how it’s reactionary to change and adaptation. If we evaluate a landscape as an embodiment of “the information that it pertains to” then we must also acknowledge the superficiality of the temporal data that it was derived from. This is to say that the stream of information that is translated into “crystalized activity patterns” and represented by the vector’s architects draw doesn’t expire the moment the information

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Above: NW Washington, DC Canopy Plan. This figure ground mapping shows the location of urban canopy in Washington, DC. Image courtesy of LAB.

Above: Infinity Edge competition entry for Chicago Lakefront Competition. (Image by Ramiro Diaz-Granados & Georgina Huljich).

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Above: Access Road Ecotone Infrastructure. This Exploded Isometric breaks down the various infrastructure components of the Access Road Project. Image by Michael W. Smith, Marjorie Woodbury and Lyn Wenzel.

is captured. It does, however, expire with the formation of the landscape. Instead of drawing upon a fixed diagram, why don’t more designers build upon a sequential series of events or patterns of temporal information? Our landscapes are increasingly machined into homogenous monocultures rather than developed as complex ecologies within a larger systemic network. This creates closed systems that generate constructs without the ability to respond to change. While torrents of information are rapidly becoming available in relation to the temporal and spatial dynamics of natural and designed ecologies, the isolated


application of this information remains inadequate. The gaps in the feedback loops between the designer and the ecosystem need to be closed down if we are to create landscapes which harness, rather than impede, the powerful flows of natural systems. We are at a pivotal moment in the evolution of data gathering and technological innovation, one where we can continue to use our devices to further divorce ourselves from nature or augment and redesign our urbanization to grow with it. Passive data structures previously embedded into our tectonic systems now hold the capacity to activate latent landscapes.

Designing Urban Realms with Metadata Inside our virtual windows to the physical world we continue to typically design on static ground for an active environment. Innovations in computer-­aided design (CAD) programming support new methods of projecting simulated realities in synthetic space. Stan Allen reveals that “Information is indifferent to its material expression; it encompasses the abstractions of codes and management structure as easily as it encompasses the physicality of a rock in the landscape.” Among these projections there is the ability to generate new

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relationships from metadata. These projections are increasing our spatial understanding of the natural environment by tracing causality and effects across a field. The ability to interpret these relationships is beginning to reorient the role technology plays, both as a measuring device and as a utility for augmenting the natural environment. The emerging capabilities to design in programs that provide real-time feedback and calculations with simulations capable of tracing the results of any given intervention is becoming a relevant strategy for evaluating spaces and operating strategically across a site. This shift is significant because it moves towards a more systemic, generative approach to the creation of space.

Open source data sets from banks such as Data.gov, Sage Maps, Gapminder and the U.S. Census Bureau provide robust metrics of numerous data sets across the world. Algorithmic scripting functions and increasingly robust CAD programs provide new methods structuring information and drawing new relationships. An example of this process can be found within Ramiro DiazGranados & Georgina Huljich’s winning Chicago Lakefront Competition entry titled “Infinity Edge”. The team designed a public park whose outcome was the “morphological impact” of social, real estate, growth, and environmental pressures. The design solution intertwined these opposing forces by

finding common threads in the unbiased data extracted from numerous sources. The team used these strands to develop a homogeneous intervention that stitched seamlessly into the fabric of the existing edge. The designed intervention was organized to accommodate future growth demands by proposing a land development strategy that scaled to the city’s population. Environmental fluctuations were negotiated by dedicating territories for seasonal surge and by building a buffer to protect the water’s edge. The locations and form for these interventions grew directly out of a series of temporal data sets. In professional practice, firms such as Landscape Architecture Bureau (LAB) often use data and

Above: Pershing Site Analysis and Conditional Site Criteria. These diagrams illustrate the hydrology and shade analysis as well as the conditional criteria along the shared-use path. Image courtesy of LAB.

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Above: Trash Track project tracing. Diagrams illustrating the movements of trash across the Pacific NW and North America (Image by MIT’s SENSEable City Lab).

technology to render invisible forces visible and data flows to influence the design of the

which projected the amount of water that will flow across the surface as well as the sun and

and temporal information sources and applies this information across landscapes as a more

urban environment. The Access Road Ecotones project, a one-and-a-half mile-long urban infrastructure in Washington, D.C., aims to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes for both human and natural environments. Encourage neighborhood revitalization with pedestrian and vehicular infrastructure connectivity, while benefiting local wildlife with curated groupings of native plantings. The site holds a vast array of conditions and microclimates which were mapped and analyzed by LAB to find a systematic method into the design of the landscape.

shade exposure. Understanding these varying conditions across the site and through time was seen as the key to the durability of the Access Road Ecotone. These mapping exercises revealed a variety of microclimates across the project area and yielded a nuanced approach to planting design that capitalized on the localized conditions.

sensitive method of interpreting information flows and generating adaptable and appropriately designed ecologies.

Analysis using advanced computation techniques were executed using a threedimensional model of the roadways, the shared-use path, retaining walls and landscape areas within the localized watershed. LAB ran scripts that use algorithms to measure the hard surfaces’ and softscapes’ topographical characteristics,


Towards the Sentient City A growing variety of utilities in landscapes allocate continuous flows of measured data that can be used to augment designed landscapes to react more sensitively to microecologies while responding syncretically with macro environments. Exploring deeper interoperability of geospatial data and representation methods is a way forward in academia and professional practice. This approach takes advantage of recent technological innovations

Using many different documented and live information resources, such as data sets and spatiotemporal data flows­ ­­collected from archived data sources and field sensors, researchers at advanced academic institutions are developing new techniques for deciphering raw chunks of data extracted from both micro and macro environments. Innovative visualization techniques are enabling designers to find patterns in this otherwise opaque data, and in turn providing solutions for augmenting the built environment in a way that is congruent with natural and artificial flows. Another example of how data is being used to better understand systems in the built environment is the “Trash Track” project at

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MIT’s SENSEable City Lab. This academic investigation was conducted by tracking the migration of trash from the point of disposal to its final destination. Smart tags were assigned to 3000 garbage objects in Seattle, Washington. After three weeks, garbage items that were assumed to travel to the local garbage centers on the edge of the city were tracked to locations as far afield as South Florida and Maine. Among all of the tagged garbage 95% reached EPA compliant facilities, begging the question as to why didn’t the remaining 5% reach an appropriate location? This project provides a concise demonstration of the potential that installing a more robust metadata infrastructure can aid in understanding the supply, disposal and removal flows in our urban areas. If more microelectrical-mechanical systems became a routine infrastructure embedded into landscapes, it would radically transform how cities are

designed, constructed and managed. Real time visualizations fueled by torrents of georeferenced information are beginning to render visible the enigmatic infrastructure networks that flow through and support urban landscapes. Moreover, this process can provide key insights into the impact that material and environmental flows have on the changing city. The world’s cumulative digital information is growing exponentially, approximately “doubling every two years”. In the modern metropolis, smart cities utilize gathered information and digital reasoning to aid in interpreting daily ebbs and flows by running unstructured data across clustering algorithms to reduce statistical noise and draw nonlinear relationships as a means to increase efficiency in the city. In Manhattan, spatiotemporal geolocations of taxi cabs are measured against

statistics from the Department of Transportation’s traffic count stations to adjust the frequencies of traffic signals to reduce vehicular congestion and improve mobility. Here, metadata is used to support safety and welfare while improving transportation efficiency in a large and complex metropolitan area. This phenomenon is generating new potential for designers to render these once enigmatic forces visible, enabling new relationships and using the parameters from these inquiries to develop generative strategies for future landscapes. The future landscape designer must operate as arbiter of these digital topographies using metadata as the prima and ecology as the materia, producing an ecological alchemy of intelligent landscapes. The future of the discipline rests at the intersection of data, ecology and design - connecting threads of information across sites, regions and continents.

Sources 1. Gantz, John, and David Reinsel. “Extracting Value from Chaos.” EMC Corporation, June 2011. Web. <http://www.emc.com/collateral/ analyst-reports/idc-extracting-value-from-chaos-ar.pdf>. 2. Mitchell, William J., Me++: The Cyborg Self and the Networked City (The MIT Press), 162-163. 3. Mayne, Thom, and Stan Allen. “Thom Mayne’s Information Landscapes.” InCombinatory urbanism: the complex behavior of collective form. Culver City, CA: Stray Dog Café, 2011. 61. 4. Haque Design+Research, “Natural Fuse Research Book”. Haque Design+Research, 2. 5. Picon, Antoine. “Substance and structure II: The Digital Culture of Landscape Architecture.” Harvard Design Magazine36, no. Landscape Architecture’s Core? (2013): 126. 6. Maki, Fumihiko. Investigations in collective form. St. Louis: School of Architecture, Washington University, 1964. 7. Mitchell, William J.. “Pulling Glass.” In City of bits: space, place, and the infobahn. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1995. 3. 8. Martell, Kayla. Big Data: A Problem / An Opportunity. 2012. Data space. 77.

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flowers for mr. cole by Duilio Passariello, Duilio Passariello Studio (DPS)

We need to change public lighting embracing a biophilic approach using with digital lighting devices better suited for the environment. My objective is to elicit joy through art. My sculptures have the power to evoke emotions through forms, colors, and proportions. Artwork inside Cole Park is a clear sign of the vitality of my neighborhood. Trinidad is an up and coming area of Northeast DC, from a traumatic past of crime, drugs, prostitution, and unemployment, after years of community efforts. Joseph H. Cole Park is one of the many facilities the DC Department of Park and Recreation has created around the capital to contribute to the wellbeing of its inhabitants. For this public art project, my foundational principle


was the idea of nesting a piece of sculpture into an existing lamppost without compromising the quality of the infrastructure or posting any risk for persons and property. My art project was conceptualized to be structurally subordinated but visually dominant to the lamppost. For years, living in front of Cole Park was the sight of white lighting oozing from a deserted park in the middle of a neighborhood. The senseless spilling created a blemish version of the landscape, produced glare in two streets, and consumed electricity to no avail. Newly arrived in Trinidad, one of my interests was to change the current state of affairs at Cole. After the first night, I started to work on how to turn those lights off. Keeping blemish and glaring lights all night long, inside

a fenced and locked park, had no meaning for the wellbeing of people. Within the city grid, parks stand as independent spaces. Precluding most vehicular traffic parks have networks of paths for circulation. Pedestrians use those paths to move around freely. During the night, those same paths should be illuminated festively, to avoid fear. The gothic novella Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by R.L. Stevenson, seems to represent the unfortunate transformation of parks from welcoming to dangerous once the sun sets on the horizon. I am interested in enhancing parks as a lighting artist/designer, by altering the industrial designs of common lamppost with the addition of sculptural elements to create hybrids.

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Above: Flowers for Mr. Cole Installation. Image courtesy of Duilio Passariello.

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Flowers for Mr. Cole allowed me to produce a tangible representation of this idea of a hybrid between a lamppost and a sculpture. But things took a different turn, several months after its dedication. The installation Flowers for Mr. Cole became the catalyst of a reaction no one expected to occur in the park; one night, and out of the blue, the lights went off, never to return. General Services’ decision to turn off all the 18 lampposts came to us residents as a surprise, even though my project required lighting, and aimed to address the problem of trespassing and glare. I applied for a grant from the city as a way to implement my hybrid approach a year before this dramatic outcome. The public art building communities (PABC) grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) aims to foster works of art that enhance the living conditions of all of the eight wards of the District of Columbia. The funds helped create, design, fabricate, and install art projects throughout the district regularly. After several years of backburner thinking, and with the urgency that comes from seeing the blight every night, I proposed an original sculpture to neutralize the glaring lighting fixtures of the park and adding a new and attractive feature visible by day. The specific circumstances of


working with park lighting in DC precluded any alterations of the 18 lampposts, and the conditions of the grant limited the expenses to the available funds of $50,000. Overcoming both limitations, in August 2018, I submitted my project to the Commission; my entry received one of the PABC grants praised as witty and innovative. The contract assured the funds and gave me six months to perform a work of art. Once dedicated, I had to donate the artwork to the city as a personal contribution. By the time I signed, I had already solved most of the formal and technical issues and had a clear strategy for installation. What I proposed to the DCCAH and my neighborhood was an innovative approach to park lighting using a sculpture based on the shape of a four-petal flower, to create a visual language describing the park as a place of delight. The idea of attaching optical artifacts to lampposts using a mechanical system is a consequence of my training as a sculptor in New York and my experience as a product designer in a factory in Lyon. Back then, when the LED technological revolution was starting, I imagined the future of lighting focusing on the flexibility of solid-state to create lighting fixtures mimicking tree branches. That experience set in motion a double effect in my mind; the

sculptor submerged in the world of manufacturing became a different type of artist interested in creating a relationship between the public lighting infrastructure for parks and art. The influence of art and manufacturing resulted in sculptures with the industrial process, and industrial products with sculptural qualities. For Cole Park, the solution was to insert a piece of artwork into an industrial product. I want to design an appealing solution to the lighting problem using a hybrid. Hybrids like Flowers for Mr. Cole create better lighting environments by altering the optical qualities of the park, with biomorphic, colorful objects, passively responding to daylight, and actively modulating light at night to enhance the visual experience of unique places serving for recreation. By the time of the competition, my exploration into biomorphic structures with small prototypes and models manipulated with Grasshopper needed a boost. My work focused on developing sculptures reactive to light and attached to existing lighting fixtures, like vines to a tree - to keep them firmly attached, visually prominent, and out of reach. The product-sculpture hybrid maintains the structural and electrical characteristics of the original pole, adds visual value by day and, modifies the lighting qualities of the lamppost at night. The concept

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of adding artwork to an industrial product draws its inspiration from symbiotic relationships typical of the plant kingdom; in my case, the lamppost gives support, while the artwork provides delight. In this my first large scale commission for this kind of artwork, I concentrated most of my efforts in solving a certified mechanical attachment, and an optical array capable of modifying the lighting of the lamppost positively. With the PABC grant, I could fabricate and install my first park intervention. Using parametric design, I found that a four-sided aluminum structure, similar to a hat hanger, was the most elegant and efficient form to

solve the hybrid. The presence of color near the lamps is an unusual and remarkable feature that enhances the perception of parks as places of delight. The sculpture, attached to the neck of the pole, below the lantern, is anchored in a position where the color petals act as shades tinting the light emanating from the lamp with seven different vivid hues. By night, the LEDs projects light through the ellipses and tint the landscape with a patchwork of color; the lamppost becomes an attractive sequence of blobs of color, changing with the movements of the observer. By day, the sculptures create one type of an image by the projection of sun rays on the pavement. The artwork creates

a constant transformation of its image as the sun moves from sunset to dusk. In my work as a lighting artist, I create sculptures responsive to two sources of light; daylight and artificial lighting. I use reflective, refractive, or transparent mediums like stainless steel, aluminum, or colored transparent acrylic to produce optical effects, like patterns of irregular wavy lines by the superposition at a slight angle of two or more sets of closely spaced lines, or the juxtaposition of two colors. I am also interested in generating glow, using the petals of acrylic to capture the luminosity of daylight. In Cole Park, the projections on the floor catch the attention of toddlers, as

Above: Flowers for Mr. Cole Installation. Image courtesy of Duilio Passariello.

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Above: Flowers for Mr. Cole Installation. Image courtesy of Duilio Passariello.


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they stroll around with their parents, they react to the colored shadows on the ground with interest – the pavement is closer to them than to us. The balloonlike elliptical shadows result from the projection on the floor as solar rays traverse the elliptic colored petals. Those shadows are unusual, round, vivid, colorful for the pavement of a park, which tends to be more neutral in tone. The shadows projected from the top of the lamppost swing around the pole during sunny days. They are close to the base of the lantern in summer when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky, and they are far away during winter when the sun is at its lowest. The flowers are my first large scale sculptural symbiosis plant/ lamppost; for this first occasion, I used balloon-like elliptical forms with transparent colors to create a visual transformation of the space. The sculptures, inserted into the top, midway between engineering and art, are a focal point that is reminiscent of nature. Placed high, in harmony with the trees in the park, the hybrid lamppost breaks away with the typical XIX century replica of a gas lantern. I work in public lighting, focusing on improving the way we illuminate parks; my work explores new ways of rendering more attractive places, with fewer disturbances for flora and fauna and curtailing

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lighting pollution. My approach is artistic especially in parks, where there is a real need to create an experience and not a calculation. Using different tools, like installing the flowers on lampposts, it is certain that the ubiquitous fixture attains a loftier goal. C] Exchanging the pursuit of safety and security for one that includes pleasure will determine the way in which we illuminate parks. The flower-like sculpture structured around a grip (made of a ring divided in half attached by four bolts) carries four arms and four different petals. The grip secures the position of the crown on top of the lamppost. In turn, four arms bolted to the ring carry the elliptical petals using a screw, capped by a shiny sphere. The shape of the crown is similar to a four-petal flower, with four perpendicular arms at 90 degrees rotation ending with a petal. Flowers for Mr. Cole generates many different images with a simple circular shaped form, each ellipse changes form with the observer viewing from different perspectives. The sudden new practice of never turning on the lights, warped the initial art project intent taking away half of its meaning – an irony of sorts that ended up achieving my initial desire of turning off the lights all the way. By now, residents have all forgotten that before

there was lighting in the park. Since the power cut the alluring use of color, with the round blobs floating near the lights and the patchwork on the landscape are no longer visible either. The neighborhood has acknowledged the lamppost flowers artistic value for the park and express their satisfaction every time they discover that I am the artist. The achievement is there, despite the loss of half of its value. The experience left abundant knowledge on how to proceed with other parks even though the symbiosis between a colorful flower-like sculpture and an acorn-shaped lamppost got reduced. Dedicated to the community and christened in memory of DC parks and recreation first director, Cole Park became a unique testing ground for the use of hybrid lighting fixtures. But the life of my idea was brief. Residents quickly became accustomed to a darker park, more natural, like a real forest perhaps. Something remarkable must have happened inside the administration for the sudden shutdown to occur, right after the art installation. Maybe we will never know, but the blackout of the park has created a benefit to the community after 18 years of visual stress. With a little bit of good luck, I will continue my exploration in other parts of the country.


openness + (in)security for civic architecture in the next generation by Jill Cavanaugh, AIA, AICP, Beyer Blinder Belle Openness and security are basic elements of contemporary civic architecture. While traditional security planning relies on the premise of deterrence, and therefore ‘exclusion’, democratic openness is inherently associated with ‘inclusion’. In the wake of 9/11 and the current pandemic, architects, landscape architects, and urban designers are tasked with resolving this perceived paradox: to simultaneously welcome and deter; to bring people together but also keep them apart. However, this conflicting design objective need not be a limitation. Arguably, it may signal a new approach to physical security, one that places equal emphasis on inclusion as well as deterrence. Architecture and design must reflect the society it serves. In the last half century, its pendulum


has swung between extremes. In the late 60s, Urban Renewal policies emphasized the belief that the built environment should impose social order. This was followed in the late 70s and 80s by an individualistic and selfexpressive Postmodernism. In the 90s, new social movements rooted in civic awareness such as accessibility and sustainability began to reshape policy and design. Then, in the wake of 9/11, there was a paradigm shift. Borne out of a singular, significant large-scale domestic event, rather than a continuum, the architectural response to 9/11 was not a logical extension of, or mindfully resistant to, what came before. It was nevertheless extreme. The resultant physical and operational security strategies exuded vigilance, implying social order. Yet in the intervening decades,

a new zeitgeist emerged. Today, traditional social structures and their attendant power, imposition, and exclusion are being challenged. The current pandemic, compounded by the ongoing racial tension, reminds us that we are again at a moment of extremes. So if architecture must be reflective of the society it serves, we have a responsibility to mediate exclusion and inclusion and reconcile security and openness without compromising public safety. Can security be inclusive? What will be the next act for openness and security in civic architecture to both inform and reflect the next generation?

Civic Architecture Classical architecture is based on the principles of strength,

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Above: Existing Visitor Screening Facility in 2009. Image courtesy of Jill Cavanaugh

Above: New Visitor Screening Facility September 2019. Image courtesy of Alan Karchmer

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Above: New Visitor Screening Facility September 2019. Image courtesy of Alan Karchmer


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symmetry, and proportion. For more than two centuries in the US, civic architecture has been defined by these formal characteristics, representing a sense of power commensurate with America’s perceived place in the world. However, at several watershed moments in history, architects have been challenged to respond to movements or events that required building modifications to accommodate things that were unforeseen at the time of the original design, such as accessibility, sustainability, and security. In the past 50 years, a combination of legislation and sentiment has compelled us to invest in the retention of existing buildings. Yet the original design of purposebuilt buildings is often at odds with contemporary society and its ethos. For example, grand monumental stairs undermine ADA compliance; closed perimeter office layouts conflict with the desire for open, daylit workspace environments; and the porosity of successful public places creates security vulnerabilities. Interventions in existing public buildings that respond to contemporary challenges must be cognizant of the past and mindful of the future. Just as the original architects couldn’t anticipate that their design innovations might become future liabilities and deficiencies, neither

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can we adequately or reliably anticipate tomorrow’s unforeseen issues or threats.

Planning for Security Versus Openness Security planning addresses current issues and future controls to mitigate threats, reduce vulnerabilities, and create resilience to safeguard assets. Security plans are specific to individual organizations and must align with their goals and objectives. Fundamentally, security plans define specific assets, threats to those assets, and resultant methods to mitigate those threats. In buildings, security strategies encompass physical, operational, and electronic measures. Typically, these measures work in concert to create a layered approach, comprising both visible and invisible elements, to represent an overall image of resilience. However, specific security approaches and strategies are based on specific threats to specific assets, so depending on an organization’s mission, goals and, objectives, the projected image and method of representation varies. For example, in developing security plans public organizations, institutions, and agencies must balance a variety of human factors (the degree and intensity of public access), physical

factors (the location, context, and setting), and operational factors (organizational assets). Security planning relies on analysis and prioritization of this combination of factors to represent a specific physical security approach. In the aftermath of 9/11, security responses were immediate. Almost overnight, magnetometers and jersey barriers became the pervasive language of physical security. However, in the past two decades, the level of sophistication in threats, threat awareness, and threat mitigation has grown exponentially. Accordingly, our behavioral response and tolerance to physical security has also evolved. Yet the public perception of physical security in civic architecture remains an opposing struggle between openness and deterrence, a cautious and hesitant welcoming. For example, consider two agencies whose primary missions are to serve the interest of the American public. The National Park Service (NPS) and the US State Department must consider the visitor experience, public perception, and symbology of their buildings, landscapes, and structures when developing plans for physical security. However, they have distinct approaches to physical security planning, applying the proportion


Above: Aerial rendering of museum. Image courtesy of Beyer Blinder Belle and ArchiBIM

of openness to security in different ratios because they are representing their mission in very different ways . The NPS mission is focused on the preservation of natural and cultural resources for future generations whereas the State Department mission is driven by diplomacy and advancing the safety and economic prosperity of the American people. While both agencies provide a high degree of security for visitors, the NPS often pursues a less visible strategy, discretely incorporating security elements by embedding them into the surrounding environment. Conversely,


in diplomatic buildings domestically or overseas, the State Department implements a more overtly visible physical and operational security strategy. As a result, the perception of openness remains high at National Parks but relatively low at government buildings.

Planning for Security and Insecurity Physical security and the polemic of security and openness has taken on new relevance as the profession of architecture encounters another significant moment, one which recognizes

the unbalanced demographics in the profession and the effect that a lack of multivalent points of view and collective experiences has on the built environment. This movement acknowledges that the reflection of society upheld by architects has been obscured by the historic lack of diversity, equity and opportunity in the profession. The next generation of designers will be more diverse and will likely have directly experienced and confronted the effects of inequity and exclusion embedded in traditional power structures. As a result, the next generation may approach design solutions from

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Above: Ceremonial Stair with Berlin Wall. Image courtesy of Beyer Blinder Belle

Above: View of Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool from top of the Washington Monument in 2019. Image courtesy of Jill Cavanaugh Next Page: The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. Image courtesy of Sasaki, Inc.

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Above: Granite boulders as perimeter security and goelogic exhibit in front of the National Museum of Natural History. Image courtesy of Joe Romeo

a basic posture of openness and inclusion. In addition, organizations, agencies, and institutions will be comprised of a more diverse constituency and leadership that might be more willing to reflect in their missions, goals and objectives a less traditional outlook, one not steeped in the conventional representation of strength and power. Just as building interventions today must correct design deficiencies that were once upheld as models of thencurrent technology and progress, traditional security planning must


move towards a new approach that does not polarize but actively mediates exclusion and inclusion, closeness and distance. Throughout history, civilizations have relied on basic strategies like walls to keep people out. However, effective strategies are based on specific threats. Threats are dynamic and change. Consequently, static interventions lose their effectiveness. The permanence of interventions and their inherent effectiveness must be measured against the nature of the threat. Following 9/11, there was a clear concept of a specific threat. However, in

the past 20 years, the concept of threat has evolved and become more multi-dimensionalpolitically, racially, and culturally. To compound matters, there is an emerging new public health threat, one that is invisible and requires social distancing. The pendulum continues to swing between extremes and architects, landscape architects and urban designers must respond. It is not responsible to posit scenarios without any physical security, and the field of biometrics is not yet capable of obviating conventional

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Above: Security plinth with Aeronautical display in front of the National Museum of Air and Space. Image courtesy of Joe Romeo

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Above: Perimeter wall combined with public seating along Constitution Avenue. Image courtesy of Joe Romeo

physical security measures, but the fundamental mindset towards both representation and perception must reflect the society we serve. In 1943 in his Theory of Human Motivation, psychologist Abraham Maslow posited that safety is a basic and primitive need. His theory suggests that security, order, law, stability, and freedom from fear all need to be satisfied before individuals can attend to more complex needs, such as socialization and selfactualization. Conversely, a state of insecurity results when those needs are not met. Insecurity is underpinned by fear, shaped by our past experiences and guided by perception and how


we interpret the world around us. When individuals interpret environmental information as potentially threatening, there is an emotional response that raises our vigilance. However, social scientists suggest that as individuals become more acclimated visually to highly secure environments, their threshold for what triggers their insecurity is lowered. For example, consider the difference in reaction to a car backfiring on a suburban street versus a non-permissive environment like Afghanistan. This would suggest that highly fortified environments instigate reactive approaches to insecurity that may have unintended consequences in the basic pursuit to mitigate fear.

Arguably, the proliferation of firearms, construction of border walls, and use of military force to quell civil protest is doing more harm than good. In the current pandemic, as public spaces are overlaid with ad hoc measures to maintain distances and regulate behavior, there will inevitably be cognitive changes that affect how we inhabit space and relate to each other, recontextualizing the perceived paradox of security and openness, closeness and distance. Ultimately, the notion that an excess of security could actually make us less safe, however seemingly counterintuitive,

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affords us the possibility to consider how to design not just for physical security, but also for physical insecurity, by adopting an approach that is less motivated by deterrence and exclusion, and refocused on equity, diversity, and inclusion. As traditional power structures and the demographics that have long underpinned those structures are being challenged

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in an unprecedented way, the classical model of strength, beauty, and proportion must recognize a new archetype, one representing minorities, women, and people of color. In doing so, the approach to physical security should be less focused on architecture overpowering people and one more intent on representing a shared experience, an architecture that once again empowers people.


Opposite: Scooter Blocking Sidewalk. Image courtesy of KGP Design Studio

another #!!?# scooter parked in the middle of the sidewalk? by Don Paine, KGP Design Studio

...or what happened when a 21 century transportation mode met a 20th century city? It is a fact of nature… in fact, of human evolution, that all great strides in progress start with a conflict, or at least a succession of irritants that sometimes violently sometimes quietly, motivate change, without which we’d have neither pearls nor democracies. This lone scooter (and the potentially 10– 20,000 others in DC this year) is our Stamp Act, our loathsome grain of sand in which I promise you’ll see hope, not despair, if you hear me out. This is the initial twitch, a reluctance that precedes any change as a city evolves, not seen since bicycles were first displaced from the streets with the introduction of that novel means of mobility,


the automobile; the streets that ironically, were brought us by the first cycling advocacy group, the American Wheelmen only few decades earlier.

of potential users, a critical mass of acceptance could be approaching that will alter how we move in and around our cities.

We are approaching the next trial period in 2020, when the latest evolution of this nimbler means of transport will roll out on the District’s streets. Less a silver bullet in the struggle of acceptance of micro mobility, the scooter arguably has limited capability to appeal to the full range of demographics in the city but clearly with its 70% public approval rating in multiple surveys, it is a sign of a latent demand for a simpler, less burdensome option of personal mobility for some. As the initial lustful intrigue wears off, and Personal Mobility Devices (PMDs), diversify to accommodate, a range

The real challenge is survival in the automobile biased urban/ suburban transportation network that the past century has carved out of our American landscape. Fortunately, the feedback loop spurred on by the continued growth of mobility choices will in short time spur more growth as infrastructure is demanded by the broader segment of users. This is already happening and will continue to evolve as the market matures, but this trend needs to be nurtured proactively on all levels; individual, political, and by us as designers. After all we are witnessing the rare convergence of public demand and a sane mobility strategy that

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Above: Figure 2 – Provo White Bicycle Plan, Amsterdam. Image courtesy of http://lamanivellebuissonniere.blogspot.com/

can potentially address the dire environmental issues we face. I am happy to report that I, unwittingly, have been a proud early adopter in the micro mobility revolution since first pedaling my 1959 Schwinn four blocks to Buckley Elementary School in Manchester, Connecticut, where regional schools and reluctant parents/ chauffeurs in SUVs have since replaced us free rangers, the products of a bygone kinder gentler localism. At least the DNA of an earlier mobility era lies at the core of us suburban refugees joining the “woke” demographics of DC. As a principal at KGP


design studio, where transit is our focus and mantra is urban walkability and bikeablilty, my bike continues to be my second pair of legs. Unfortunately, I am an outlier, even in a city that leads the country in bikeablilty. Without a broader micro mobility revolution, the District’s bike ridership is destined to languish at 5% of all commuter trips, for the foreseeable future, given the panoply of challenges ranging from: safety to insufficient infrastructure to overcoming cultural inertia. The micro mobility revolution, specifically the e-bike and e-scooter revolution is a game changer for, yes, the early adopters, sometimes oblivious

to a sidewalk’s intended shared purpose, but more importantly a catalyst for a broader urban transformation.

Invasive Species The only possible way to derail the micromobility trend, as it would now seem to be inevitable, is to time travel back to 1965 and infiltrate the community minded group of Anarchists, in Amsterdam, before deploying their 100 strong, free of charge, fleet of white spray painted, recycled bicycles hoping the derail the nascent stage of shared mobility (Figure 2); or dial to 1995, and casually drop

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in on the Portsmouth University administrator in England armed with a demagnetizer, to scramble the first successful personal tracking innovation, tying the user to trips, a giant leap for shared vehicle management (1). Technology and the emerging latent desire to bridge the wide gap between our feet and the automobile. has brought us to where we are. Riding this wave, at a global scale, the full weight of legions of venture capitalists, automobile conglomerates (disguised as “Smart Mobility “ teams, Departments of Transportation), and a few surviving micromobility companies, are attempting to supplant our tired, failing 20th century means of mobility with another vision. “Micromobility could theoretically encompass all passenger trips of less than 5 miles, which account for as much as 50 to 60% of today’s total passenger miles traveled in China, the European Union, and the United States,” states the McKinsey report (2). Checking many of the boxes (lower carbon footprint, congestion reduction, and mobility equity) we seem to be moving in the right direction. But beware. Not paradoxically this is practically the same team that brought us the first “urban upgrade” promising mobility, with the pernicious disruption of urban (and rural Life) leaving us with its legacy of: the suburbs,

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malls, strip malls, highway Interchanges, limited access roads, drive-in-you name it, unwalkable streets, parking lots, barriers – divided communities, and regional dispersal replacing compact towns. That said, only with the right goals in place, the next evolution in mobility can bring as dramatic a positive change to our lives, transforming our diminished urban and rural landscape. Given the players at the table or, in this case, on the street: Ford, Alphabet, Uber, Ofo, Lyft, chasing the largest growth in any transportation sector, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) reports that over five million dockless bike and scooter trips were taken in DC in 2019 (3) Even after the initial dockless bike explosion of 2018, investment in electric bikes, scooters, and mopeds has exceeded $6 billion. Amazingly micro mobility grew its customer base 2 to 3 times faster than ride hailing or car sharing, both established success stories in reshaping mobility (4). Despite the growing pains, several startups have valuations of more than $1 billion within a year of inception, causing continued buyouts by companies such as Ford and Uber. The reason I quote these figures is that after 43 years of business, Trek, the leading bike manufacturer in the US, also valued at 1 billion,

also considered a success in its own right, but clearly is not a game changer in mobility if today’s sluggish adoption rate is any indicator. Until cycling is more broadly accepted as a commuting rather than recreational mode its acceptance will be limited. “This challenge requires broadening options to include scooters, e-bikes and their future successors, as well as bicycles to a critical user mass and market segment. How do we support the shift from automobile dominance of mobility, filtering down to all other aspects of our daily experience? I suggest we embrace micro mobility and its path to a saner lifestyle.

Expanding the 5%: The Evolution Looking back to 2018, the dockless phase was driven largely by short term economics rather than user preference or long-term economics. According to Ofo, a global dockless leader based in China, a typical docked system costs $1,500 to $2,000 per bike, while the dockless bike investment is $100 to $200 per bike (1). At the time, they were as common as a lawyer in DC, on every street. But just as they appeared out of thin air, they disappeared by the end of 2018. As the dockless bikes were then displaced by dockless scooters, quickly preferred by the early adopters, a different set


of criteria drove the profitability of the investment. Required to pay “Juicers” as much as $12 per scooter to recharge a fleet, the potential revenue was cut in half for the struggling scooter companies. Reassessing their strategy, they are now repositioning themselves as the competition grows and diversifies but with the demand still strong. Various charging and docking strategies are being explored after the original rollout. (5).

The Vehicle Advocates for change are now armed with the seductive draw of whatever mix of PMD technologies the future has to throw at us. In two years, the technology has evolved dramatically testing us, the market, with innovation far from complete. Bicycle purists lament the displacement of their traditional bike and its health benefits with the e-bike. They are close to the point of rage with the ease that the scooters have seemed to win the most recent street skirmishes and tactical challenge of the fittest. Where there is a market there is a way. As in all disruptive environments, a one trillion-dollar market is on the horizon with a unfortunate “cannibalized” victim. In venture capitalist jargon, the automobile, is the necessary “sacrifice”. If the market can expand as the venture capitalists, and


advocates fantasize, a retreat of the automobile could be in progress, ironically and just as dramatically mirroring the retreat of the bicycle from our streets at the turn of the last century. The feeling among industry leaders, the consultancy, Delloitte, Touche, Tohmatsu, is that “we are only scratching the surface with what is possible in terms of vehicle shape, size, and capability. We expect to see a variety of designs in the near future that stretch the definition of what might be considered micromobilty” (6). This can already be seen, in the diversity of scooters, vehicles with a range of shapes, sizes, wheel arrangements to serve various transportation needs and personal criteria. The diversity of mobility creatures emerging from this evolutionary phase already includes more robust scooters, mopeds, trikes, heavy duty cargo bikes, even an egg-shaped mini car, all targeting a more inclusive group of users, ages and needs. At the heart of this diversification is the goal to expand ridership by broadening the market. The early adopters of scooters were largely limited to twentysomething white males (8), but as the designs evolve and the user majority enters the market, those percentages will shift and expand. By broadening the micro mobility demographics curve,

a meaningful boost in ridership can be made. This is possibly one area that electrification can affect where bicycles haven’t. Unlike the bicycle, other PMD’s don’t require the sweat equity, and fitness level that a bicycle demands on a challenging commute. As the population ages, e-mobility offers a significant and effective means to extend one’s radius of mobility, as more user appropriate options become available. If the Netherlands is any indication of an expanding US market to come, e-bikes are one third of current sales with fifty percent sold to those over fifty (9). Regarding gender, DC’s twentysix percent female biking population is increasing but not as dramatically as in West Coast cities. In Portland, an impressive forty-five percent of bike commuter riders are women. One tool in the chest to expand the base of riders among genders and age groups, is the e-bike. To the dismay of the bicycle purists, e-bikes have left a bigger impact, having the highest use frequency, (i.e. rides per vehicles per day) among PMD modes. They are beginning to replace many of the conventional bikes in bikeshare fleets across the country. E-bikes reportedly have a frequency rate double that of standard bikeshare bikes. Both New York and San Francisco’s fleets will

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Above: Figure 3 – Union Station Bike Transits Center. Image courtesy of KGP Design Studio

soon be composed of one-third e-bikes, while Minneapolis will transition their entire fleet to e-bikes in 2020 (10). DC’s Capital Bikeshare roll-out of e-bikes will begin this spring after a false start due to braking issues. In the private sector, at the close of 2019, Jump had 1000 e-bikes in DC. For 2020, while 10,000 scooter permits have been approved by DDOT, 5,000 e-bike permits have been approved. That is more than double the 2019 permits.

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A Vision: Cities Respond The Battle for Protected Lanes Notwithstanding DC’s heroic adoption of Metro in the 70’s, inspiration for the more recent reclamation of its streets from the automobile can be traced back to 20007 in New York, as then-Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn opened the city’s newly protected bikeway on Ninth Avenue. It was initially received with fierce public and

media opposition, but soon became a model of success for municipalities across the country. Riding this wave of enthusiasm, DDOT’s Gabe Klein soon opened DC’s first protected bikeway on 15th Street in 2009. By then the city was the first in the US to launch a bikeshare program, SmartBike in 2008, followed by the hugely successful Capital Bikeshare program in 2010. The Union Station Bikestation, designed by KGP, opened concurrently in 2009 (Figure


3). Not surprisingly, ridership expanded, and DC won the 2018 Bike-Friendliness award from the League of American Bicyclists. After an impressive start, sadly 10 years in, DC seems to have plateaued at 4.6% ridership. Despite its 11 miles of protected bike lanes, won over fierce special interest opposition to change, the District struggles to transcend the plateau established years ago. Even with DDOT’s lead, and the hardfought advocacy work of groups such as the Washington Area Bicycle Association, decisions often come down to who shows up at the DDOT community meetings. The bicycle “lobby” going it alone, is outnumbered by well-organized special interest groups making a fully executed cycle track or bike lane difficult, to the dismay of the bike community. The growth of protected bike lanes within the city, has not kept pace in recent years with the efforts of special interests. But now the increased pressure that pedestrian and micromobility modes are putting on urban areas is real. Paralleling the growth in personal mobility, safety is a growing issue both nationally and here in DC, with rider fatalities up 20% in 2019...”, according to the Washington Post (11). Across the country, this increase was concentrated


in urban areas and a reminder that the city is not evolving to keep pace with the needs of its inhabitants. In the 1970’s the Netherland’s responded to a sharp rise in bicycle fatalities with increased investment in bike infrastructure. A key safety resource behind the shared-street approach taken in the Netherlands is the Crow Manual, which recommends a clearly prioritized designation of user modes, e.g. pedestrian, micro-mobility, transit, and automobile. With separated bikeways installed, analysis has shown a 44% drop in fatalities in the Netherlands. Measures short of protected lanes such as painted lanes have often shown to provide little improvement in safety which were typically the default solution in DC. In Seattle, after a painted lane was upgraded on major roadway, to a protected lane, ridership increased 413 percent (12). There is the added pedestrian benefit of ensuring that typically scooter or bike riders will choose to not use a sidewalk that is adjacent to a protected lane. Studies show, with a 92% frequency, scooter/bike riders will default to the protected lane rather than a sidewalk, reducing the conflict with pedestrians and PMDs. On roads with no protected lanes of more than 35 mph that frequency shifted to 35%. (12a)

Not formally endorsed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) until 2013, the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide, based largely on the Netherlands’ CROW manual, is giving form to our slowly evolving bike infrastructure in the US (13). No surprise, the elephant in the room with regards to bike safety, comfort and the resulting ridership is the protected lane and complete connectivity within a network. On a bittersweet note, after the increase in fatalities last year, the hardlearned lesson, has led locally to multiple pieces of legislation to improve safety. This has spurred DDOT to accelerate bike facility projects already in queue. In stark contrast to the 0.4 miles of protected bike lanes installed in 2019, DDOT is now committing to an additional twenty miles within DC by 2024! (14)

Urban Consolidation: Curbside Management Protected lanes or not, PMDs continue to disrupt and flex their wheels on DC’s sidewalks. After the volatile feeding frenzy of its untethered 2018/19 roll-out of dockless bike, e-bike, and e-scooters, DDOT is tightening its reins. DDOT’s 2020 Mobility permit application does require that a scooter must be removed from “obstructing a right of way by the operator within 2 hours”, clearly a temporary

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fix for a much more extensive management challenge for cities. What’s more, DDOT is assigning 15 scooter “corrals” throughout the DC in reclaimed parking spaces to help reduce the sidewalk encroachment Issue (Figure 4). Whether this limited and unenforced “solution” will impact the problem, remains to be seen, but clearly the dramatic change imposed by the need for pedestrian access and vehicle diversity in the coming years will require an equivalent change in design and operations perspective. “Stepping back, onto the curb”, so of speak, the curb takes on a significant status meditating the complex relationship between

the pedestrian and its newly expanded roles. It will now need to accommodate a range of potential vehicle options, car and ride share delivery, and not to mention it’s hard to shed function as car storage. The explosion of curb dependent shared uses as well as micro modes significantly aggravates the congestion of public space and the travel lanes. Assuming DC won’t be instituting a 20-mph speed limit anytime soon, the dramatic expansion of protected bike lanes will be essential for our urban landscape but will result in increased conflict points for curb access. Rather than urban design as a piecemeal, reactive tool to correct the status quo, the major shift in mobility

should be accommodated by a forward-looking proactive vision of complete streets in a complete city. At a more granular scale “Curbside Management” practices include the tools that will be required to accommodate micro mobility in our cities’ existing structure. The Institute of Traffic Engineers, suggests “public agencies must take proactive steps to design, measure, price, and manage their curb space, and they must do so in collaboration with transit agencies, private mobility operators, tech sector innovators, and key local and governmental stakeholders.” (15) To support the forward trajectory

Above: Figure 4 – Scooter Corral on Q Street. Image courtesy of KGP Design Studio.

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Above: Figure 5 – Ballston Streetscape. Image courtesy of KGP design Studio

of cycles and other PMD’s several measures can be taken as summarized below.

PMD Parking and Access Bicycle and shared mobility device storage may be provided in the public right of-way, adjacent to bikeways. The urban design should not only accommodate this need but emphasize it as a visible and active public node paired with compatible uses. Located in a consistent relationship to the block or corner or urban landmarks such as a metro station, will improve their access and usage. These prime locations should be used for long-term parking for private PMD and shared devices


as the market shifts more to private ownership as predicted. Both private and shared PMDs will benefit from charging docks in these clustered locations as many shared companies are now providing. Limiting the less controlled, dispersed parking to short-term for private PMDs will reduce conflict with curb access and pedestrian uses. Following these principles, KGP’s streetscape design for the Ballston metro block, integrates short term parking into the perimeter planters with future long-term parking located in a secure, covered, facility on Fairfax Drive (Figure 5). Though dockless PMDs were initially preferred by the mobility companies because of their low initial investment, they

are proving to be a difficult business model due to operating costs and damage, as well as presenting a challenge to pedestrians. The “Juicer” will soon be an obsolete occupation. The scooter company, Spin, is installing forty charging dock stations this year throughout DC and Arlington. This is presumably the path forward for the other companies, to reduce costs while solving the other operational challenges. With this model, the District will be able to better coordinate usage and reduce conflict throughout the city. Acknowledging this shift in travel modes used by arriving and departing passenger at metro stations, WMATA is currently studying station entry alternatives to include expanded passenger amenities, and trip planning

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as well as a “Mobility Hub” as part of their ongoing efforts to evolve station facilities with user demand.

Freight / Delivery Access. Freight and delivery access are increasingly competitors for the curbside and are both in conflict with protected lanes. Restricting delivery to a loading zone, even if a slightly reduced proximity to its destination, can be a win-win, if optimally located in coordination with other businesses. As a leader in this area, the District is now using Paid Permit Control, requiring vehicles some areas, to purchase loading space time via a smart phone app. This is a huge benefit for users because

of the reliability of access. More importantly delivery time and locations can be coordinated by the city to optimize accessibility for pedestrians and other vehicles (15).

Micromode Priority: Layered Network In 10 years’ our 2020 streets will look like the wild west if urban policy and design evolve with the growing demand and with our responsibility in a carbon conscious world. Key bicycle corridors in DC, such as the protected lanes on 15th Street, M/L Streets, and Pennsylvania Avenue, east of the Whitehouse, are a sign of DDOT’s progress to create protected corridors

that provide safe comfortable passage for riders and representative of infrastructure to come. The concept design for the Pennsylvania Ave Streetscape, west of the Whitehouse, by KGP Design Studio, provides a strategy to rebalance the avenue to accommodate expanded demand for bicycles and PMDs. It will be the District’s first protected bikeway defined by a planted median, and flanked by generous pedestrian spaces and amenities. Providing a highly critical east west PMD link, it will de-emphasize car parking and allow expanded areas for well distributed rideshare, ride hail, and PMD access (Figure 6).

Above: Figure 6 – Pennsylvania Ave. Streetscape. Image courtesy of KGP Design Studio

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Above: Figure 7 – WMATA Station Access. Image courtesy of KGP Design Studio


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A “Layered Network” takes the concept of prioritizing modes and uses in a street network a step further, as other cities such as Detroit and Dallas are attempting. In order to avoid conflict between mode lanes, in a homogeneous grid, prioritizing modes by street can be retrofitted into an existing street grid. This way, priority use, and priority access to and from these corridors for all micro mobility modes can be better accommodated. As a major protected corridor, they can include facilities such as consolidated parking for private and shared PMD vehicles, as well as consolidated rideshare facilities. Automobile storage can then be de-emphasized, while pedestrian amenities and curb access would be supported on these streets. Without fully excluding particular modes, either cars or PMD’s can then gravitate to the appropriate corridor. The planned Toyota City in Chubu, Japan, is based on the Layered Network concept which exclusively segregates modalities by street, rated by slow- or fastmoving vehicles. This approach acknowledges that these two categories, distinguished by the vehicle and need, can be optimized by alternating streets, This in some respects would be a revival of an already familiar urban form in DC with its street and alley network.

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Suburban Consolidation Connecting the Nodes Urban Mobility Daily poses the question “Has Public Transit Finally Found Its First Mile-Last Mile Partner In Micromobility?” Clearly acknowledging the potential impact of the affirmative, the article goes on to explain that few Americans will bother to walk more than one half mile to public transit, but increasing that radius to only one mile and a half will capture nine times the potential riders (16) (Figure 7). With DC already walkable and with a variety of transit options accessible within the city, the fertile ground for increasing transit ridership is the suburban periphery, where Metro can only serve major centers and where bike commuting is typically under one percent. Outside the half-mile radius of the station, ridership quickly diminishes. The “first mile-last mile” dilemma has been a hard nut to crack, with both the vehicle and route choice being limited. The suburban periphery of DC is a challenge that WMATA is now effectively addressing with its Bike & Ride facilities as a viable means of encouraging bicycle and eventually other micromobilty modes. With about thirty percent of all Capital Bike Share trips used to access Metro, Capital Bikeshare is now integral with most metro stations. Notably

Bikeshare trips are typically about one mile, with three miles at the upper limit of a trip distance, potentially expending Metro’s reach considerably. Given sufficient infrastructure ensuring a comfortable ride to the metro on a morning or evening commute, this option will continue to expand and grow ridership. In a similar vein, WMATA’s Bike and Ride program promotes bike access addressing the “first and last mile” by providing a secure option for parking privately owned bikes. The prototype, designed by KGP, will be installed in several urban and suburban stations in the District, Virginia and Maryland, MD as one approach to expand the reach of Metrorail ridership (Figure 8). An expanded variation of an earlier more compact prototype tensile structure, “Meshroom” (Figure 9), it has a capacity of 182 spaces, with flexibility to accommodate PMDs as they evolve. The suburban fabric surrounding DC is slowly evolving to make the last mile access by PMDs plausible in many areas. The eight and one-half mile Route 1 BRT, spearheaded by Fairfax County DOT, with KGP as Station Architects, improves connectivity to the Huntington Metrorail Station as well as the future Hybia Valley Metrorail Station. A vibrant micromobility network within the corridor,


Above: Figure 8 – WMATA Bike and Ride Facility. Image courtesy of KGP Design Studio

Above: Figure 9 – Meshroom: Bike/PMD Parking. Image courtesy of KGP Design Studio


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ultimately connecting to the BRT is a critical aspect of the strategy. The local news source, “Covering the Corridor” says “[t]he ‘transit-oriented design’ will place emphasis on multi-modal forms of transportation, with BRT running through the Community Business Centers (CBCs) from the Huntington Metro station to Fort Belvoir. Dedicated bike lanes and large, connected sidewalks (will) make a place known for being less-thanfriendly to pedestrians and bikers into something urbanists can get excited about” (17). (Figure 10).

The Last Mile and PMDs But as the “first and last mile” is replaced by “first and last miles” with efficient electric-assisted bikes and scooters hitting the market, more distant suburban residential and commercial now centers are now accessible.

The one-mile or one and a half-mile distance to Metro, that conventional riders would consider, would double or triple. A once inconceivable sweat-free five-mile ride on the WO&D trail to a WMATA Silverline station is now an option with an e-bike or scooter. Micromobility Hubs at transit stations with smaller satellite hubs at neighborhood locations could provide extended first mile/last mile options for WMATA riders as well as a direct commute option to DC (Figure 11). The National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) noted in a 2018 study, that typically e-bike trips are longer and more frequent than bike trips, not surprisingly, but also the “percentage of people who felt safer on an e-bike was even greater when the respondents were women, over

55, or had physical limitations.” Given the currently poor bike infrastructure in many US cities, the added confidence and security level that e-bikes enable will make them indispensable in the effort to expand the range of users. Recognizing the potential of an expanded base of users, bike manufacturers are shifting their focus to e-bikes. Though e-bike sales in the US have grown by 8-fold since 2014, the CEO of Trek predicts e-bike sales will represent 35% of the market in the US by 2025. Significantly ahead of the US market, Shimano reports from a recent study in bike-eu.com that as the new technology is being adopted, 24% of Europeans would consider commuting by an e-bike, (with the Netherlands at 47% and Italy at (37%). Citing the reasons “to keep fit”, (34%); “to protect the environment”, (30%); and “to save money”, (30%) (18).

Above: Figure 10 – Ballston Transit Center Streetscape. Image courtesy of KGP Design Studio

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Convergence: Technology, Policy, Markets E-bikes are already a major factor in the Netherlands behind the expansion of many of the local protected lanes into longer “Bike Superhighways” connecting the smaller towns and more limited cycling networks. The wellknown Arnhem-Nijmegen Cycle Superhighway, the Rijn Waalpad was the result of cooperation between municipalities to build the infrastructure necessary to allow cycle commuting between towns resulting in increased users and a 20% increased use of e-bikes (9). In this way technology and policy can work hand in hand to drive the evolution of vehicles but also the protected cycle/TMD network that will be required to solve the suburban access problem.

Similarly, the Green Commute Initiative is Britain’s innovative nudge to get commuters out of their cars and into e-bikes or bikes by establishing a finance program and a tax break through employers. (Unfortunately, scooters are currently illegal in London while they determine how to legislate their use). E-bike sales are growing now but are still in their infancy unlike northern Europe where they are already transforming cycling culture and further expanding the market base. As a means of fighting climate change and promoting health, this does show how effective policy can change commuting habits when coordinated with the marketing power of the private sector. Just as the 1950s American suburb emerged through

the convergence of multiple industries, primarily automotive and real estate, enabled by a transformative planning and transportation policy, a similar pattern is emerging in 2020. A leading national real estate brokerage firm, Cushman Wakefield notes that “[a]t the city level, an increase in public transportation can result in increased transit-oriented development (TOD) premiums for real estate. In addition, the use of micro-mobility modes increases the “walk” or in this case “micro-mobility” zones around public transit modes. This enables the TOD premiums to be felt across a wider area and by more properties.”(19). The suburbs surrounding DC are ripe for an increase in density. For those skeptical of the scale of micromobilty’ s growth potential

Above: Figure 11 – Neighborhood Mobility Hub. Image courtesy of KGP Design Studio


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and the impact on real estate, according to the market analysts, CB Insights, in the US alone, the micromobility market is estimated to be valued between 200 and 300 billion by 2030, trailing, but not significantly behind the automotive market. The dots are waiting to be connected.

The overwhelming adoption of micromobility in Greater DC is a clear indication that we are either at the cusp of the next transportation wave, or cynically, it is just a brief distraction from our otherwise unyielding trajectory. Given the current political will, a nascent

technology coming of age, an impending climate catastrophe, and the public’s real but fleeting “trans-curiosity” with mobility, we as urban designers would be foolish not to fully embrace this journey, and explore its potential to reshape our cities and suburbs.

Sources 1

https://www.nlc.org/sites/default/files/2019-04/CSAR_MicromobilityReport_FINAL.pdf | History and Policy Overview


https://www.forbes.com/sites/carltonreid/2019/03/18/bicycling-take-a-hike-the-micromobility-revolution-will-be-motorized/ - dc32574135dc | Bicycling Take A Hike The Micromobility Revolution Will Be Motorized


https://www.washingtonpost.com/transportation/2019/10/07/dc-wants-add-lot-more-scooters/ | There could be up to 10,000 scooters on D.C. streets come January


https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/automotive-and-assembly/our-insights/micromobilitys-15000-mile-checkup | Will the micromobility market boom or bust? With billions already invested, here’s an assessment of its potential.


https://www.forbes.com/sites/adeyemiajao/2019/02/01/everything-you-want-to-know-about-scooters-and-micro-mobility/-136d921d5de6 | Electric Scooters and Micromobilty


https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/focus/future-of-mobility/micro-mobility-is-the-future-of-urban-transportation.html | Small is beautiful Making micromobility work for citizens, cities, and service providers


https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2020/01/electric-scooter-industry-safety-design-micromobility/605179/ | Predictions for the Electric Scooter Industry


Building the Cycling City, The Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality, Melissa Bruntlett, Chris Bruntlett, Island Press, 2018

10 https://nacto.org/ | Shared Micromobility in the US: 2018 11 https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/pedestrians-continue-to-be-at-high-risk-on-washington-regions-roads-datashow/2019/02/09/e6a4e7a8-1f52-11e9-8b59-0a28f2191131_story.html | Pedestrians continue to be at high risk on Washington region’s roads, data show 12 https://usa.streetsblog.org/2019/05/29/protect-yourself-separated-bike-lanes-means-safer-streets-study-says/ | Protect Yourself – Separated Bike Lanes 13

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/03/a-new-bible-for-bike-lanes/554450/ | The Design Bible That Changed How Americans Bike in Cities

14 https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/dc-vows-to-create-20-more-miles-of-protected-bike-lanesby-2022/2019/11/23/d8b7e614-0ae2-11ea-8397-a955cd542d00_story.html | D.C. vows to create 20 more miles of protected bike lanes by 2022 15 https://www.ite.org/pub/?id=C75A6B8B-E210-5EB3-F4A6-A2FDDA8AE4AA | Institute of Transportation Engineers: Curbside Management 16 https://urbanmobilitydaily.com/has-public-transit-finally-found-its-first-mile-last-mile- partner-in-micromobility/ | Has Public Transit Finally Found Its First Mile-Last Mile Partner In Micromobility? 17 https://alexandrialivingmagazine.com/news/richmond-highway-embarks-on-a-new-era/ | Alexandria Living - Richmond Highway Embarks on a New Era 18 https://www.bike-eu.com/sales-trends/nieuws/2019/04/study-reveals-widespread-e-bike-adoption-coming-10135676 | Study Reveals: Widespread E-Bike Adoption Coming 19 https://www.cushmanwakefield.com.ua/en/micro-mobility-impact-and-opportunities-cre-sector-usa | MICRO-MOBILITY IMPACT AND OPPORTUNITIES BY CRE SECTOR IN USA 20 https://www.cbinsights.com/research/report/micromobility-revolution/ | The Micromobility Revolution: How Bikes And Scooters Are Shaking Up Urban Transport Worldwide

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the future of affordable housing: transparency in policy and process are key to successful outcomes in the washington urban fabric by Michael Wiencek, FAIA, Wiencek + Associates Architects + Planners

Washington’s Urban Fabric Designed for Social Justice L’Enfant’s original plan for Washington, DC created a framework for an almost biophilic system focused on spatial transparency, which recognized the need for connectivity, social and cultural amenities, open space, and opportunities . His intricate street network, intertwining the orthogonal and the diagonal, created a framework for the large as well as the intimate, defining space with the built environment. L’Enfant utilized urban planning’s most fundamental building blocks of Paths, Nodes, and Borders to create and define Neighborhoods punctuated by Landmarks. These fundamental planning principals were eloquently codified in urban theorist, Kevin Lynch’s book, “The Image of the


City” in 1960. Historical planners have all recognized the beautiful, fractal simplicity of L’Enfant’s plan and have continually demonstrated an adherence to his overall vision. Today, DC’s unique urban fabric still evokes L’Enfant’s influence. One only needs to look to DC’s triangular intersections of diagonal avenues and orthogonal streets to recognize the community amenities this plan encourages. Many parks, landmarks, and even DC public library branches, including Wiencek + Associates’ (W+A) own Francis Gregory and Woodridge libraries, occur on or near these complex intersections.

resources to all parts of the city. The same approach must be incorporated in developing affordable, mixed-income, mixed-use, intergenerational and all types of housing. The placement of housing adjacent to public amenities at these key diagonal intersections creates a collection of visual landmarks that encourage community interaction. These amenities are an important part of DC’s network of community resources and thus are inextricably tied to social equity. Since residents of all ages and incomes depend on parks and public libraries, the placement of these and adjoining housing opportunities is essential in maintaining an equitable neighborhood.

These libraries and parks were intentionally placed to bring accessible community

Site selection is a key driver in creating transparent social equity in affordable housing

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Above: Design of the Federal City. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

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Above: Francis Gregory Library. Image courtesy of EricTaylorPhotography.com

Above: Woodridge Library. Image courtesy of Ema Peters


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today. One must recognize not only the opportunities inherent in L’Enfant’s plan, but also a neighborhood’s historic evolution to create sensitive, inclusive designs. W+A always attempts to recognize these key social factors and opportunities. Our 801 Rhode Island project, adjacent to the new Shaw library on its triangular site, will replace a deteriorating low-income senior housing building with a new mixed-income community. Located on one of the crossing diagonals in a quickly gentrifying area, the developers and W+A have designed the project to provide 100 percent replacement housing for all current residents, while adding affordable and market-rate housing to create a diverse and equitable property. This building would otherwise be gentrified to accommodate only new market-rate residents displacing the existing lowincome residents. Injustice and inequity in housing and opportunity have been prevalent in DC, and throughout American society, for much of history. Institutional segregation by race, economics, culture, religion, and other forms of oppression have created barriers to social justice. Inequity in housing has been long supported by policies and politics including redlining, gerrymandering, economic initiatives, and even zoning. Seemingly equitable

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Above: Dedicated Affordable Housing Production Goals. Image courtesy of Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Sept 11, 2019

initiatives, such as Inclusionary Zoning (IZ), have been structured to satisfy the collective social conscience, but do not provide the numbers of affordable units needed to address the current crisis in equitable housing. In the instance of IZ , economic competition between the many adjacent jurisdictions places significant economic pressure on any single jurisdiction that attempts to establish meaningful IZ requirements. DC stands at a threshold where a real impact can be made in developing equitable numbers of affordable units throughout all developments in all Wards. A recent focus on the affordable housing crisis by key

governmental and economic institutions can, if applied in an inclusive process, finally bring equity and opportunity to a consistently underserved population. However, the process must embrace the thoughts and ideas of the current residents of the community to be truly inclusive. They are ignored and ultimately displaced, while hearings and planning reviews serve only to claim inclusion in the media. Social justice demands a focus not only on economics, profitability, and displacement, but on community need, access to equitable housing and services, and real attention to the needs of those who are living in a community today.


Mayor Bowser’s “Housing Equity Report” provides goals f or the equitable distribution of affordable housing in DC, including the vision for creating 36,000 new housing units by 2025, while increasing the supply of dedicated affordable housing by 12,000 units. This initiative could be a game changer for the City currently experiencing so much economic and social distress. The current pandemic and social challenges facing the City and the nation point towards a much larger need for affordability than the one third of units stated in the report. If affordable housing development is viewed as separate from the total units required, this plan will not succeed. If token pockets of affordable housing development are placed in each Ward while an overwhelming press towards gentrification continues, the initiative will fail. Woefully inadequate IZ requirements will also result in failure. DC must have the courage to create affordability and “Housing Equity” throughout the City and not only in areas of current poverty. New legislation, incentives, and exploration of international best practices and social programs must be implemented to challenge the entire development community to look at the affordable and market rate needs holistically. The need must be addressed by every development project and not seen as a


Above: Regional Housing Targets. Image courtesy of Housing Equity Report: Creating Goals for Areas of Our City October 2019

“separate but equal” issue. The Mayor and City Council can make this happen. DC can and should be the example of social opportunity during a national atmosphere of social challenge. Another initiative that should spur real change in DC and all surrounding jurisdictions comes from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG). COG agreed to collaboratively address the area’s production and affordability challenge. This promise of collective action, outlined in a resolution approved by the COG Board of Directors, is the culmination of a year-long effort by local planning and housing leaders and COG to determine 1) how much housing is needed to address the area’s

current shortage and whether the region could produce more, 2) the ideal location for new housing to optimize and balance its proximity to jobs, and 3) the appropriate cost of new housing to ensure it is priced for those who need it. This initiative can be seminal in making a fundamental change in the placement and development of affordable housing. It faces the same challenges as DC’s Housing Equity Report. If all local governments can embrace new models of inclusion and opportunity both initiatives can lead to success. These inclusive initiatives should assist in taking advantage of DC’s underlying urban fabric to create social equity in housing and all aspects of opportunity:

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Urban Transparency

social, political, economic, racial, gender, cultural, religious, age. The list is nearly endless. The design and development communities are at a unique point in history as our community has finally begun to recognize the urgent need for equity in all housing types. An inclusive, forward-looking process can redefine and undo the past inequities in housing and opportunity. The Black Lives Matter movement has helped all to recognize the patterns of injustice in our overall society that are so prevalent in our traditional approach to affordable housing and housing policy. What has been touted as inclusive and equitable housing development in the past has been exclusionary. We can continue defending the status quo by placing economic benefit and implicit classism ahead of equitable opportunity in our housing policies. Or, we can implement and support fundamental changes to challenge current planning, development, and displacement polices. We can support integration of housing types, social and economic class, and access to transportation and services in all developments throughout the City. We must transform the “us and them” approach to the concept of an integrated “we.” We can utilize the wonderfully integrated urban fabric of DC and transparent processes to build places of

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opportunity that begins with housing and weaves itself into our culture, benefiting and equalizing all.

Affordable Housing Today – Traditional Modes are Inadequate The failures of historic trends, the opportunities inherent in DC’s planning and neighborhood fabric, and the potential vision for change tenuously represented in current initiatives can be viewed as disheartening or as a challenge to provide inclusionary opportunity in the future. However, the stigma of economic distress is pervasive and must also be addressed if social equity is to be successful. The term “Affordable Housing” is stigmatized in today’s society. While some have become more progressive, affordable housing for others still connotes residents who are inadequate or unwilling to work. Affordable housing is often envisioned as a need for social subsidy, creating an underlying bias of class and social standing. However, the demographics and circumstances of those who will need to access affordable housing, vary widely. As our population continues to grow, DC’s powerful economic engine, swiftly rising property values, and cost of living will result in

a greater need for affordable housing. This is especially true as rents rise and wages do not, pushing rents above the traditionally accepted norm of 30 percent of annual income. The minimum wage does not equate to a living wage. Young people are entering the workforce at low salary levels. Skilled immigrants are unable to translate their experience into viable jobs. All the while, a disproportionate percentage of our population is aging out of the workforce and into fixed incomes. Unions, the AARP, and others focused on economic pressures and equality are continuously measuring, evaluating, and publishing studies on these trends. However, their research is largely ignored by the housing industry. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines “low-Income” as any household with an income between 50 percent to 80 percent of the Median Family Income (MFI) for their region. “Very low-income” households are those making between 30 percent to 50 percent of MFI, and “extremely low-income” households are those making less than 30 percent of MFI. Affordable housing includes low-income households but also touches those in the “Workforce Housing” income strata, typically defined as those making 80 percent to 100 percent of Area


Above: DC renters stats. Image courtesy of National Equity Atlas

Median Income (AMI). Look to the large number of workers in our community in jobs which are traditionally undercompensated including the entire hospitality and restaurant service industry, teachers, firemen, young people starting out in a professional career, and see those who are not served by the trends in development that focus only on those making well above 120 percent of AMI. Traditional models of affordable housing build all-affordable units in single purpose buildings or complexes. Often, new affordable communities are located in existing underserved areas lacking access to basic services, transportation, amenities, education, and employment. Developers and


governments justify this unjust housing policy by stating it places affordable housing in communities where it is needed. However, this discriminatory development pattern perpetuates inequities, concentrates poverty, and creates and perpetuates economic exclusionary zones. DC has also recently undergone a process of gentrification that has displaced systemically oppressed residents from their community ties and connections. Gentrification by displacement allows development of housing that targets only those of a certain economic status, codifying the model of a classed society. Displaced residents’ connections to their traditional communities, neighbors, and neighborhoods disappear

as they are forced to find affordable alternatives, often in underserved, sub-standard buildings and communities. According to the National Equity Atlas, 62 percent of DC residents are renters and 48 percent of those renters are cost-burdened, meaning they pay more than 30 percent of their income for rent. These cost burdened renters are particularly vulnerable to displacement when rents rise. While many try to point to IZ as a key to providing equity in housing opportunity, this has never been the case. As noted, the percentages of affordable units required to achieve the significant economic and density benefits of the IZ program are extremely low. IZ income restrictions are aimed mainly at those in the upper

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Urban Transparency

limits qualifying for affordability. IZ has contributed to an illusion of a policy of equality in housing opportunity while failing to reduce displacement and gentrification Tracey Zhang provides an excellent summary of the history, current inadequacies, and future needs of the IZ policy and growing trends towards displacement and gentrification in DC in her Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy article, “Making Inclusionary Zoning More Inclusive: How D.C. Should Reform Its Inclusionary Zoning Policy to Account for Income, Racial, and Geographic Segregation.” In her summary Ms. Zhang states “Washington, D.C. has experienced major demographic shifts in the past few decades as white, upwardly mobile individuals increasingly moved into the city. These changes have simultaneously resulted in high levels of displacement for older residents in gentrifying neighborhoods. In response to the displacement of lower income, predominantly Black residents, the D.C. government has implemented an inclusionary zoning (IZ) policy […] Inclusionary zoning is a step in the right direction but fails to play a more expansive and effective role in affordable housing production. In particular, the policy currently ignores the realities of D.C.’s income, racial, and geographic segregation.”

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She further points out, “A recent study by the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity found that D.C. had the worst gentrification and low-income displacement trends of any major city, with nearly 36% of the population living in areas with strong displacement under way.” Opponents of IZ requirements state concerns that development of affordable housing is too difficult and complicated, especially when projects involve financial models using programs like Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). Some argue that requiring the addition of even one more affordable unit to a new housing development targeting a high-end market will cause the project to be financially constrained . These types of comments influence policymakers who, like corporations, must continually show profitable growth to their constituents and shareholders. Education for those involved in housing development and housing policy is needed to guarantee all processes are transparent and ensure that housing needs are met in a manner that provides the greatest benefits to residents and the entire community. There are a large number of policy think- tanks and nonprofit organizations focused on improvements in housing

policy, including ULI, The DC Policy Center, the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing & Economic Development, The Georgetown University Law Center, Street Sense Media, and others, that present, support, and teach innovation and best practices. However, while they have all testified before the City on important housing policy changes, those opposed to significant equitable change use the economic and tax base arguments to justify ignoring these recommendations.

Recognition Is Upon Us The Council of Governments recent resolution outlining specific goals for affordable housing production, location, and the costs required to achieve these goals took a huge step toward transparency, advocating for a holistic approach to creating a diverse range of affordable housing throughout the entire DC region. As previously mentioned, many in the media and socially responsible institutions are raising their concerns and attempting to bring recognition to the importance of affordability and opportunity as a basic social need. DC has for many years been at the forefront of encouraging affordable housing development with its Housing Production Trust Fund, which now provides over


$100 million a year to encourage affordable housing development. As other local jurisdictions have not taken anywhere near this level of commitment, hopefully DC’s forward-thinking initiatives will set an example. However, even with DC’s progressive initiatives and strong local leadership, gentrification, and displacement persist. Recognition of the dire need for housing equity is finally in the mainstream. Now is the time to do the hard work and make fundamental changes to bring equitable housing policy to DC . DC’s actions can and will affect the surrounding communities. Leaders in all aspects of policy, development, planning, design, and social justice must act to implement necessary change.

Breaking the Mold – The Future of Affordable Housing in the Washington Urban Fabric Affordable housing developers, policymakers, and stakeholders must recognize the complex demographics and the social and economic situations of those needing access to housing . Quality housing is a fundamental human right. Everyone should be able to rely on an equitable distribution and mix of housing as an integral part of their lives. Everyone should have access to well-developed resources in


their surrounding neighborhoods. Affordable housing is an evergrowing need and must not be relegated to undesired and underserved areas. Forwardthinking policy and practice can distribute opportunity and equity to all communities, negating the stigma of the undesired and creating a city where all areas offer desirable opportunities and amenities and attracts residents from all economic and demographic strata. The new norm must be wellplanned communities tied into the greater urban fabric in all neighborhoods throughout DC. As with development for the economically privileged, affordable housing must be located along the major “Paths” of the city with greater access to transportation and opportunity. It must be located at the current and future “Nodes,” established by the planning of DC, to be near services, shopping, education, and jobs. It must recognize the “Boundaries” of current established communities and respond to the needs of that population and not a new imposed culture based on profit and displacement. As Wiencek + Associates and other socially sensitive designers and planners have demonstrated, these new building and communities can become strong and empowering “Landmarks” breaking the history of the substandard housing

development for those most challenged in our society. The task is hard but achievable. Redefinition of the planning, development, and design processes are necessary to encourage the creation of mixedincome, mixed-demographic housing of all types and in all communities. Policies must be modified, withdrawn, and rethought. Public education and dialogue will play a major role in the success of reenergizing the urban fabric to empower our ever-growing community. A unique, intriguing, transparent, and understandable vision is the key to the success of this housing revolution. Mixed-demographic housing comes in many flavors. Each opportunity must be wellresearched to recognize the needs of the community in which it is created. The planning, design, development, financing, research professionals, in cooperation with a transparent community-involvement process will define the needs of today. The process must also be forward-looking. Each proposal must recognize the varied and changing potential needs of the future to create designs that have built-in social flexibility. L’Enfant gave DC good bones, a great infrastructure, and the urban fabric upon which

AIA|DC Urban Design Committee

Urban Transparency

to build a socially, culturally, and economically transparent community of opportunity. Recognition of current needs and missed opportunities of the past can change the future. An inclusive process for creating equitable housing solutions is needed that recognizes the needs of all, uniting rather than dividing our population. Such a process can lead not only to equitable housing, but also to a city where opportunity is an integral and visible part of our communities.

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Washington, DC stands at the forefront of this movement. With political will, economic capability, and, foremost, social responsibility, the city can create a national, and ultimately worldchanging model of how housing equity can change societies. The structural integration of community amenities within the urban fabric of DC was created long ago, but is still recognizable and beneficial today. This integration presents a unique opportunity to change the future

of affordable, mixed-income, mixed-demographic, and mixeduse housing on a City-wide scale. In this work, the ability of our design professionals, policymakers, and institutions to embrace a truly transparent process is necessary to maintain a viable city into the future. A return to the past cannot be an option.


the anacostia river pool: transparency as openness, inclusiveness, and access by Merrill St. Leger, AICP CUD SmithGroup Transparency is both a physical condition and a social construct. As a physical condition, transparency is about seeing through a space or a material. As a social construct, transparency is about openness, communication, and accountability. In urban design, transparency translates into openness, inclusiveness, and access. Urban design helps determine the organization, character, and quality of land, open space, and systems of transport and infrastructure. Done well, it can contribute positively to community members’ sense of connection to places and to each other. One recent proposed project that embodies this idea of transparency as openness, inclusiveness, and access is the Anacostia River Pool project,


an initiative in the District of Columbia exploring the creation of a permanent facility for swimming in the Anacostia River. River pools, or harbor baths, have been created in many major cities including Copenhagen (Islands Brygge), Paris (Bassin de la Villette), and Zurich (Seebad Enge). Many more are planned for cities including Boston (Charles River Pool), New York (Plus Pool), and London (Thames River Pool). Washington DC hope to soon join this illustrious group. A feasibility study was conducted for the Anacostia River Pool project by SmithGroup working with the Anacostia Waterfront Trust. It describes the many initiatives that are making the river safe to swim in following years of pollution from combined sewer overflows, industrial waste and agricultural

runoff. They include the new Anacostia River Tunnel, a 7.7 mile, 100-million gallon tunnel system that collects and stores combined sewer overflows, and conveys them to the Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant; the Northeast Boundary Tunnel, coming online in 2023, which will increase overflow storage capacity and further reduce CSOs by 98%; as well as the DC Department of Energy and Environment’s Anacostia River Sediment Project, which addresses polluted sediment at the bottom of the Anacostia River. These, together with ongoing government and citizen monitoring of river conditions, will make it possible to swim in the Anacostia in the very near future. The feasibility study includes case studies from around the world and identifies design

AIA|DC Urban Design Committee

Urban Transparency

Above: Visitors enjoying the Islands Brygge Harbor Bath in Copenhagen, Denmark. Image courtesy of Erin Garnaas-Holmes.

opportunities based on research into existing and planned pools and an internal SmithGroup firmwide design competition. The study also examines the feasibility of nine potential sites for the pool along the Anacostia River. This document will inform the development of a future process that will engage nearby residents and potential users in envisioning the type of facility they want at a suitable location to best serve the community. A major goal of this project is to make swimming in the Anacostia inclusive and accessible to people of all ages and abilities

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regardless of socio-economic status. While swimming is an increasingly popular activity in the District, there continues to be a low rate of self-reported ability to swim among African Americans. Swimming has historically seen serious inequities in the past. In the days of segregation, while white residents were swimming in public pools, the Anacostia River was often the only alternative for summertime swimming for African American children, sometimes with tragic consequences. As Dennis Chestnut, a civic ecologist, environmental

conservationist, and a lifetime resident of Ward 7, recalled: During segregation, on hot summer days there were only a few swimming pools that he and his friends could go to, and none on his side of town: “My friends and I decided to go to our local “swimming hole” in Watts Branch and our “beach” on the eastern branch of the Anacostia River. Although we had to navigate our way through the Kenilworth landfill to get to the river to swim, we felt that it was well worth it. We felt that it was our local beach! We felt very free, as children should


Above: Dennis Chestnut. Image courtesy of Dennis Chestnut.

Above: A dock along the Anacostia River allows people to enjoy activities along the water’s edge. Image courtesy of Merrill St. Leger, SmithGroup


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Urban Transparency

feel. We played in the river and at the dump until we were discovered. We would leave the same way we came in, through the streambed of Watts Branch. I was fortunate that I was able to learn to swim in the river and make it home safely. That was not the case for some youth, especially those who lived in the Langston and Carver Terrace neighborhoods. Some were not so fortunate and drowned in the river, mainly on the western side where the river was deeper and where undercurrents were more prevalent. People drowned in the river, which is why our parents warned us to stay out of the river.” Once Public Accommodations laws were passed to desegregate pools, Dennis and

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his friends went to the pool in Anacostia Park: “I leaped at the chance to go to a regulation size pool with two diving boards, a high dive and a low diving board. Once at the pool we were surprised to see the white kids get out of the pool when we got in, but didn’t mind because it meant more jumps off the diving boards with no lines. Our return trip home was not so pleasant. We had to travel back through the all-white neighborhoods near Fort Dupont Park, where we were assaulted with rocks and bottles by some of the kids who lived there.” The creation of a swimming pool in the Anacostia River for all to use celebrates the joys of swimming for everyone and

honors those who were directly affected by this history. This river pool would be a new and exciting venue for swimming that would be open, inclusive, and accessible to all, while providing learn-to-swim opportunities in a unique setting. The Anacostia River has historically been something of a dividing line in the District. The Anacostia River Pool could further celebrate and reinforce the steady transformation of the river into a connector and amenity shared by everyone in the District.

To learn more about the Anacostia River Pool, please visit anacostiariverpool.com.


submerged: the future of urban waterfronts in dc & beyond by Kevin Storm, AIA, AICP, District of Columbia Office of Planning As we consider the future of our urban waterfronts, Washington, DC is emblematic of both the hyper-local and the universal challenges faced by many waterfront cities. After decades of planning, re-envisioning and the transformation of waterfronts from industrial arteries into amenity-laden destinations, we are confronting the very explicit threats of sea-rise and flooding. Beneath this rising surface, more nuanced issues are often submerged: distant, forgotten, or erased cultural histories;

invisible structures, both physical and organizational; indirect policies; and intangible human experiences. In this context, the “rising tide lifts all boats” aphorism is subverted. Now, the rising tides threaten our most vulnerable communities, stress our infrastructure, and collide with high-value locations where we need more and affordable housing. Planners, urban designers, landscape architects, architects, engineers, artists, and designers

of every stripe must rise to the challenge. Below are five lenses, situated primarily within the DC context, to consider in shaping the future of our waterfronts:

1. Legacy In order to look forward, we should start by looking back. It is important to acknowledge that our urban waterfronts have developed on the traditional land of indigenous people. In Washington, DC, along the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers,

Above: DC artist and city planner Andrea Limauro’s “A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats”, 2018, captures an imaginary dystopian view of a submerged Washington, DC.


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Urban Transparency

this includes the Piscataway and Nacotchtank Peoples, past and present. To honor the land and the people who have stewarded it throughout the generations, we should commit, in our future work, to becoming better stewards of the land we inhabit as well. DC’s colonial and post-colonial urban history is well-known, starting with the founding of Georgetown in 1751, and followed by the establishment of the nation’s capital in 1790. Capital city status resulted in a unique planning legacy as compared to other American cities; the L’Enfant and McMillan Plans are the most commonly cited, but others, such as Olmsted’s Highway Plan, had tremendous influence on DC’s urban form. The Anacostia Waterfront Initiative Framework Plan (AWI Plan), from 2003, is the newest addition to this legacy of bold, impactful plans. It has recentered a new generation of planning along a long-neglected river, its waterfront edges, transitioning land uses, and surrounding neighborhoods. 17 years later, there are major transformations at the Navy Yard, The Wharf, and Buzzard Point, with Poplar Point on the horizon. All of this is set against a backdrop of improved parks and trails, and the increasingly clean waters of the Anacostia River. Above: Historic maps of DC.

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Above: Anacostia Waterfront Initiative

Above: Hydrology Map of the United States


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Urban Transparency

2. Invisible Infrastructure Our natural water systems are far more pervasive and complex than initially meets the eye. Over time, our waterways lost their primacy as channels of transportation, commerce and orientation. Urbanization re-organized around rail and road networks. Rivers, streams, and watersheds receded as interdependent regional and continental networks. Cities paved over streams and riverbeds, neglected their environmental health and ignored downstream consequences. This hydrological diagram of the USA shows every river and stream.

Waterways are re-centered in this counterpoint to our streetbased mapping paradigm, rendered as capillary-like vessels sustaining a body of land with an interconnectedness that surpasses political boundaries. Urban waterfronts offer us a chance to re-engage with the bigger picture again, to better understand our roles in addressing climate change and environmental issues. They are also sites of conflict, where we confront the precarious relationship between urbanization and the natural world. Our man-made rivers, in the form of water management systems, are mostly invisible.

They include monumental feats of engineering, as in DC Water’s 2.4-mile, twenty-three-foot diameter Anacostia River Tunnel, snaking its way under and along the Anacostia River at a depth of eighty to one hundred-twenty feet below the surface. Since its completion in 2018 as part of the Clean Rivers Project, the tunnel has diverted more than 90 percent of combined sewer overflow into the river, mostly during extreme rain events. To reduce strain on tunnel capacity, 498 acres of land managed by green infrastructures reduce stormwater runoff and pollution at the source- inland support for a healthier waterfront hidden in plain sight.

Above: DC Water Tunnel Boring

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We are not limited to humanbuilt infrastructure, though. Since 2018, the Anacostia Watershed Society, in partnership with the DC Department of Energy & Environment and others, has placed thousands of mussels in the river to help remove algae, bacteria and other harmful sediments. This human-assisted ecological infrastructure works quietly and efficiently to clean the water, restore populations of native species, and push towards the goal of a swimmable and fishable Anacostia River by 2025.

3. Resilience Urban resilience planning attempts to maximize a city’s

ability to bounce back after acute shocks and chronic stresses. Unsurprisingly, the list of shocks and stresses is broad: extreme weather events, economic downturns, cyberattacks, sea-level rise, public health emergencies, inequality, and the list goes on. Urban waterfronts are generally impacted by a narrow subset of these issues focused on flood risk and climate change. Washington, DC, as a delta city, must simultaneously plan for the slow-moving stresses of sea-level rise, and the increasingly frequent and intense shocks of heavy rains. The following two diagrams show the resulting interior, riverine and coastal flood-risk typologies,

and the 100/500 -year FEMA floodplain projections overlaid with at-risk critical infrastructure. Often, the political will and resources needed for innovation and long-range planning happen only after disaster strikes. This poses unique challenges for cities dealing with many of the same issues. New York City’s “The Big U” proposal, led by Bjarke Ingels Group, was one of seven winning ideas that came from the REBUILD BY DESIGN competition launched by HUD’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force. Its eyecatching renderings captured the imagination of many, but has failed, to date, to yield tangible

Above: Maps for resiliency planning in Washington, DC


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Urban Transparency

Above: “The Big U” by Bjarke Ingels Group, Resiliency By Design NYC

Above: Flooring in Miami, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty)

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results that measure up to its ambition. In Miami, another city on the climate-change front lines, pre-emptive response has been slow, but is slowly gaining traction. Flood mitigation has not been tested by a singular disaster on the scale of Hurricane Sandy – at least not yet – but by the insidious rising of waters caused by “sunny day flooding”, king tides and underlying geologic porosity, which are compounded by increasing vulnerability to large climate events. In DC, at the time of the AWI Plan in 2003, the term

“resilience” had not fully entered the lexicon of city planning in its community dialogues. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth came out in 2006, the same year DC’s Federal Triangle experienced severe flooding in a 200year storm event; Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Initiative launched in 2013, with DC joining in 2016; and, 2018 saw a record 66 inches of rainfall. Resilient DC, released in 2019, is an important comprehensive and forward-thinking roadmap. Evolving technological capabilities, such as compound flood modeling, allow us to measure multiple flood-risk types

simultaneously. Together, these types of tools will inform the next generation of waterfront planning.

4. Culture Resilience and sustainability transcend our physical surroundings. They are also about people, neighborhoods and culture. What is the story, or stories, of a river, its communities, and the changing neighborhoods around it? Whose story gets told? And who gets to tell it? DC’s Office of Planning asked these very questions during its

Above: Step Arfika! performance, Washington, DC


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Urban Transparency

Crossing the Street Initiative. With support from the Kresge Foundation, Crossing the Street tested the principles of DC’s Cultural Plan, whose tagline included “All infrastructure is a stage, all residents are performers”. One of the 17 projects was StepFest on Kingman Island, curated by Step Afrika!, where DC percussive dance traditions were the centerpiece of an event that raised awareness about a lesser known Anacostia River island. Environmental education and stewardship, cultural expression, and communitybuilding intersected at an event

that has become an annual occurrence. Public art is another tool for revealing the unique qualities, histories and undercurrents of our urban waterfronts. The controversy around Canadian artist Mia Feuer’s unbuilt proposal for an Anacostia River sculpture reveals the fundamental importance of meaningful community engagement from the start. The sculpture, “Antediluvian”, was a replica of a gas station partially submerged in the river, powered by solar energy. As a bold statement at a civic scale, the piece conveyed

a harsh indictment of the fossil fuel industry’s contributions to pollution, climate change and rising sea-levels, a message that seemed in keeping with years of prior efforts to clean up the river. Opposition to the project emerged from a coalition of Anacostia River advocates, who saw the artist’s message, however well-intentioned, as undermining years of hard work and activism towards shifting public perceptions away from neglect and pollution towards one of optimism, health and greater potential. Community aspiration and stewardship prevailed, and the project was

Above: Antediluvian art project, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities

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stopped. In the end, though, the effort was not completely without success: we are left with the artist’s poignant, dystopian images warning us of a future worth fighting against, and a community strengthened in their public advocacy, centering important voices around climate change, community identity and their future.

5. Equity Equity has emerged as one of the most important issues of our time. In the context of urban waterfronts, cleaner rivers and more amenities attract more people and greater development pressures. This desirability translates to higher land values, decreasing affordability, and inevitable displacement. A cleaner river also translates to better health outcomes and more opportunities for public life and recreation. Who benefits

as our waterfronts adapt and transform? Who feels welcome in their public spaces? What are the unintended consequences? For many decades, the Anacostia River has been more of a divider than an attraction. Racist policies and practices, along with demographic shifts – a snapshot of which can be seen in this loathsome diagram of projected “racial enclosures” – resulted in a largely divided city. Two more current diagrams illustrate the lingering disparities in housing cost burdens and life expectancies across the District, with truly astonishing results: up to 27 years difference in life span between areas east and west of the river. Multiple systemic failures have led to these types of divisions and racial injustices. The transformation of our urban waterfronts plays a supporting

role in rectifying them. We can choose to degrade our natural systems with speculative, exclusive development for the wealthy, without regard for social and environmental resilience. Or we can balance environmental health with inclusive development that addresses our growing housing affordability crisis, provides inclusive open spaces and amenities, and pre-emptively mitigates displacement in nearby communities. The imminent development of Poplar Point, the last remaining large-scale parcel from the AWI Plan, is our last big chance to get this right. We can also choose to build places that both literally and metaphorically bridge divides and make connections. The 11th Street Bridge Park project attempts such a feat. Spawned by DC’s Office of Planning, shepherded by Building Bridges Across the River (BBAR),

Above: Mapping of factors of equity in Washington, DC over time


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Urban Transparency

Above: 11th Street Bridge Park by OMA and OLIN

and designed by OMA and OLIN, the 11st Street Bridge Park re-purposes an obsolete bridge span into an elevated park, connecting Anacostia on the east with Navy Yard and nearby Capitol Hill on the west. The competitionwinning design weaves together environmental education, arts, cultural programming, and varied recreation spaces. As ambitious as this sounds, it is only half of the story. In addition to the hundreds of community meetings and charrettes, the community-driven development of the competition program, and the design of the park,

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BBAR created an Equitable Development Plan to guide workforce and small business development, create strategies to mitigate potential displacement, and address broader issues around equity. Philanthropic donations towards equitable development strategies have matched fundraising costs for construction, resulting in a number of ongoing initiatives: a Homebuyers Club to help residents east of the river purchase their homes; monthly tenants’ rights workshops; the 11th Street Park Community Trust for property to be purchased and managed as

affordable housing; organization of the Anacostia River Festival; and an urban agriculture program. Unlike quick-build projects where neighborhood benefits may be promised and not received, the 11th Street Bridge Park inverts the model with upfront support for vulnerable communities and residents. While the final results are yet to be seen, the process can provide some tangible lessons along the way and serve as a model for its aggressive commitment to equitable outcomes.


happenings this section exhibits the committee’s milestone events that have convened thought leaders throughout 2019

urban design open house The Urban Design Committee annually organizes a series of four open houses at leading architectural and urban design firms showcasing their urban scale projects of their own selection. Landscape Architecture Bureau (LAB), Wiencek+Associates, KGP Design Studio, and Beyer Blinder Belle were featured in 2019. Each firm took a unique approach to presenting their work and reflecting on the theme of Urban Transparency. Taken together, the open houses displayed an ambition and sensitivity to the task of citymaking, weaving together diverse project narratives with fundamental issues of social, spatial, process, biophilic, infrastructure, and visual transparency.


AIA|DC Urban Design Committee

Urban Transparency

Open House at Landscape Architecture Bureau (LAB)

Open House at Weincek + Associates

Open House at KGP Design Studio

Open House at Beyer Blinder Belle

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submerged: the future of urban waterfronts in dc & beyond This year the Urban Design Committee screened two short films, Anacostia River: Making Connections and Water and Architecture Part 1: A River Runs Through It, followed by a panel discussion. The event was centered on the topics of cities and water: focusing on aspects of waterfront redevelopment, water as a resource and platform for many uses, public and civic space, equity, climate change, and ecological resilience. The first part of the evening was the screening of two short films: one focused on DC and one with an international perspective. Following the screening, a panel of leading designers, policymakers and thinkers from different fields discussed the films and expand on a vision for DC’s future.


AIA|DC Urban Design Committee

Urban Transparency

From left to right: Kevin Storm, Merrill St. Leger, Jen Croft, Rebecca Soja.

Avenues, Volume 3


All image courtesy of the Urban Design Committee, 2019

city nature challenge AIA|DC Urban Design Committee in collaboration with Design + Wellbeing Committee, ASLA Potomac Chapter, and Capital Nature hosted an event for DC’s City Nature Challenge 2019. The City Nature Challenge brings together cities around the globe in a friendly competition to observe and identify the most biodiversity in their communities while tapping the greatest network of local volunteers. More than 160 cities in 30 countries worldwide will participate in this two-part challenge over 10 days, and the data collected gives scientists valuable information on the biodiversity of a region – and the planet.


AIA|DC Urban Design Committee

Urban Transparency

Avenues, Volume 3


dc urban design element: designing for a more inclusive dc The District of Columbia Office of Planning has released a new Urban Design Element for DC’s Comprehensive Plan with the aim of addressing the question: “How do we design for a growing city while enhancing our public life, livability, and diversity of neighborhoods?” The Element attempts to look beyond traditional urban design prescriptions at issues including contextual density, creating a city of play, designing a resilient waterfront, and enhancing architectural creativity. This event was specifically tailored to architects, landscape architects, urban designers, planners, and related professionals in order to understand how the Urban Design Element of the Comprehensive Plan affects the work that we do every day.


AIA|DC Urban Design Committee

Urban Transparency

Thor Nelson of the DC Office of Planning presenting the Draft DC Comprehensive Plan Urban Design Element.

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contributions Urban Design Committee AIA|DC

managing editors Scott Archer, AIA, AICP Saakshi Terway, Assoc. AIA Katherine Tiarsmith, AIA

editorial review

contributing authors

Marc Dennis Mary Eveleigh Mary Fitch, AICP, Hon. AIA Ana Gabriela Mendoza Flores Cassandra Huntington, Assoc. AIA Sachini Wickramanayka Samir Yakhou

Jill Cavanaugh, AIA, AICP Jen Croft Don Paine Duilio Passariello Michael Smith Rebecca Soja, Assoc. AIA Merrill St. Leger, AICP CUD Kevin Storm, AIA, AICP Michael Wiencek, FAIA

co-chairs Michiel De Houwer Saakshi Terway

past co-chairs Scott Archer, AIA Katherine Tiarsmith, AIA

graphic review Dita Bittenbender Michiel De Houwer Ana Gabriela Mendoza Flores Ana Maria Nicolich, Assoc. AIA Sachini Wickramanayka

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