Tuesday, May 8, 2007

turf town meeting: on pavement, first dates and figure skates

BUT FIRST: The bloggers meet in Silver Spring TONIGHT.

Part Two of Just Up The Pike's coverage of last Saturday's "Turf Town Meeting." Also check out part one: staking out your turf, the proposed plans for Veterans' Plaza and our previous entries about "the Turf." Additional coverage at the Silver Spring Penguin.

Last Saturday's "Turf Town Meeting" included a brief panel discussion at the Round House Theatre on Colesville Road. Supporters of turf and ice alike were able to get different takes on the Veterans' Plaza project from the architects, Post columnist Roger K. Lewis, and Gary Stith, director of the Silver Spring Regional Services Center. Here's a look at what the experts had to say:

Roger K. Lewis, Columnist

Roger K. Lewis, the Washington Post columnist and professor emeritus at the University of Maryland (the sole reason, I must add, why I decided to attend their School of Architecture) was nothing short of ecstatic about the potential of the space, no matter whose hands it was in. "I think you'd have to be really incompetent to make this place not work," he said. "['The Turf'] proves if you build it, they will come . . . you've validated the decisions made for where a public, urban space should be."

In the break-out session that followed, Lewis explained how the ice rink could be used in the off-season, using plazas in D.C., Italy and other places as an example. "A whole bunch of tables are gonna go in there," he proposed, "a couple of vendors . . . that's a large enough area that could support two or three franchises, and that's where people are gonna be sitting." In the summer, artificial turf could even be installed over the rink, he stated, creating an area similar to what already exists in the Rockville Town Square, which he was involved in the design of.

And the possibilities don't end there. "I can see once a year . . . they should show Blades of Glory [on the converted ice rink]," Lewis said, referring to the recent movie starring Will Ferrell and Jon Heder as competing figure skaters. "It's a send-up of ice skating . . . it's worth seeing for the costumes alone."

Rodolfo Machado, Architect

Rodolfo Machado (left) is a professor of Urban Planning at Harvard and the principal of Boston architectural firm Machado and Silvetti, who won the competition to design the Silver Spring Civic Center. Everything about him suggests the arrogance that architects are often stereotyped with, from the aloof stance he takes in this photograph from the firm's website, to the thick accent (he is originally from Argentina) with which he gave a presentation on Veterans' Plaza, to the blunt way he spoke to the crowd.

"Remember, it is called Veterans' Plaza," Machado said, "it is for Veterans, and it is a plaza. It is not a park," which elicited groans from some members of the audience. His presentation about the plaza included a list of programmed events that would take place there throughout the year. "We are trying to provide the frame, the carpet, for where things are going to happen," he proclaimed. There were several references to the ground as a "carpet," ironic if only because he wants to replace the artificial turf with brick or other pavement.

"People are concerned that these hard pavers will not be as comfortable on our . . . anatomy," the panel moderator nervously suggested.

"That's why we have benches," Machado shot back.

Gary Stith, Silver Spring Booster

According to Gary Stith, director of the Silver Spring Regional Services Center, the only reason that County-run rinks in nearby Wheaton or Cabin John are successful is because of ice hockey teams that rent them out for practices and games. As a result, Montgomery County is not interested in subsidizing the Silver Spring rink. Nonetheless, Stith has set his sights high for the ice rink, going so far as to compare it to the famous rink in New York's Rockefeller Center, which is only slightly larger than the one proposed here.

"If you want to put it in, we want it to work," Stith said, explaining the exhaustive process County experts have gone through in research. "The use of the rink is a function of size and covering," he added. In other words, the larger it is, the more people can use it, and if it's covered, the rink can be used in inclement weather as well. As it is currently designed, the ice rink could attract as many as 35,000 patrons from October to April, using the rinks in Annapolis, Reston and Pentagon Row as examples.

"It'd be a great place to go on a date," Stith said. "You won't see me out there . . . [but] I think you'll attract a lot of spectators."


Sligo said...

At this point I just want this issue to be decided one way or another so we can all just move on...

Silver Springer said...

Yes, Rodolfo Machado was sooo predictable. Exactly what I thought he would be by simply reading the name of the firm. Arrogant.

What a waste, did we really have to go all the way to Boston to design our civic center?

And I bet the panel who chose the winning design was a bunch of 60 year olds who got all nostalgic about wind swept plazas, orange and green.

2007 people, not 1967.

Anonymous said...

No one mentioned the ice rink at the Bethesda Metro Center, which was far more analogous to the Silver Spring location. It failed and had to be closed down.

Anonymous said...

"In the summer, artificial turf could even be installed over the rink, he stated, creating an area similar to what already exists in the Rockville Town Square, which he was involved in the design of."

Rockville Town Square has neither an ice rink nor astroturf. It does have REAL grass designed in a way that it won't be trampled like some of the Silver Spring naysayers claim.

I think Silver Spring has something unique for once. Too long we have been trying to replicate Reston and Bethesda. Keep Silver Spring unique. I can't think of any other city that has a plot of astroturf as its main green space. But it works here. Lets keep it.

rtsind said...

No matter what is done - skaing rink, astro turf- doggie walk or just a place to sit and hang out- the main question should be--"Who is going to maintain it?"

With the threat of budget cutbacks,and possible freeze in hiring, can the County afford to maintain an ice rink, or whatever else will be built.?

The space should be left alone, maybe covered with more dirt, and some seeds and let nature take its course.

Anonymous said...

The space and the social scene around it is currently attracting more than 35000 people a month, rather than 35000 people a year.