Thursday, June 17, 2010

one last look at the civic building

It's been little over a year since the Silver Spring Civic Building first broke ground, but next month, our community's "living room and patio" has its grand opening with a four-week series of celebrations. Over the past year, we've watched the pieces fall into place - windows, an ice rink, and so on. We've even gotten to go inside for a glimpse of the striking, if ill-fitted, spaces within.

Looking at the finished product, I can't believe I called the new Civic Building a "a piece of modernist crap" four years ago and made fun of how snooty its architects seemed. There's often a lot of resistance to modern buildings, whether out of nostalgia or concerns that modern buildings haven't always been done very well.

A lot of modern buildings (like most of the buildings in downtown Silver Spring built during the 1960's) are terrible and mean to be in or around. But some can be pleasant and even uplifting, like the Civic Building. "Finally! Modern architecture in Montgomery County!" exclaimed Rollin Stanley at an event last week. In other words, forget everything you've seen before.

Silver Spring Civic Building, June 2010 (2)
You can see the canopy over the ice rink is largely complete. It looks different than in the renderings - clear glass in a steel frame, as opposed to whatever was originally intended. But it's also a really bold form, one that draws the eye into the plaza.

Silver Spring Civic Building, June 2010 (1)
We can finally see the plaza coming together as well, with a set of wide steps coming down from Ellsworth Drive (at right). I can definitely see those steps filling with people sitting down and hanging out - much as they do a block away in Silver Plaza.

Silver Spring Civic Building, June 2010
We're all seeing paving materials for the plaza and portico as well, though what material it is I can't tell. But the color of the pavers works well with the deep brown of the wood and the red brick.

Silver Spring Civic Building, June 2010 (4)
And as we've noted before, the entrance to the Civic Building is on axis with Ellsworth Drive, meaning you can look from the end of that street right through the front door. Beyond the shoppers and flaneurs of Ellsworth we can see the most important part of the Civic Building has appeared: its name (see close up), written in sleek, sans-serif fonts. Very modern, but very classy as well, not unlike the sign on Northwood High School, which I've always enjoyed.

Silver Spring Civic Building, June 2010 (5)
They've already turned the lights on at night, and the Civic Building's presence in downtown Silver Spring can already be felt. The building glows!

Anyone who's complained that downtown feels too "commercial" or should definitely take note: the public realm's got a marquee of its own, just as bright as the Majestic's. I can't wait for the plaza to open this summer so we can pick up right where "the Turf" left off.


Terry in Silver Spring said...

What are the doors on the brick wall that go from the canopy area under Baja Fresh? A "green room" for concerts, maybe?

Dan Reed said...

That's going to be a "skate shop" where you can rent ice skates before using the rink. The space has basically been unused since the building containing Baja Fresh (et al.) opened in . . . what, 2003?