Friday, January 21, 2011

top ten favorite photos in east county (yours and mine)

High School Musical Sign (Which Is Blue)
Flickr, the site where I keep most of the photos for JUTP, has a list of my most popular photos, arranged by the number of views. Whenever I look at it, I'm always surprised at the results. For instance, the most popular photo of all time is one of this sign for Blake High School's production of High School Musical, taken three years ago by my friend Gili while I was driving. (I'm still not sure why my camera was on its "blue" setting.)

Second place went to my alterations to a map of racial integration in Montgomery County, and the infamous "Sushi Girl" who appeared at Georgian Towers' rooftop party two years ago came in third. Surprisingly, seven of the top twenty images are either maps or plans, and nine are images I didn't make myself.

Nonetheless, the list of YOUR favorites doesn't line up with the list of MY top ten photos that I've taken in East County for JUTP. Here they are, in reverse order:

#10 Chick-Fil-A Tent City

The First 100, Tech Road Chick-Fil-A
It's not every day Chick-Fil-A comes to town, and when ours opened on Tech Road, fans of the fast-food joint came from all over the country to wait in the blazing July heat for a chance at being first in the door.

#9 Allen Theatre Burns Down

Allen Theater & 'The New Ave' Sign
The 50's-era Allen Theatre in Takoma Park was destroyed in a spectacular fire during a snowstorm in December 2009. I was amazed that, even though the building and everything inside was gone, the "The New Ave" banners hung on the outside - for the new marketing campaign along New Hampshire Avenue - were miraculously intact.

#8 K-Town

'K-Town,' Summit at Knowles, Kensington (Cropped)
I was driving by K-Town, the makeshift skate park in Kensington a little before sunset two summers ago and I found this scene inspiring. I don't know why. I just like that the kid is basically in silhouette but everything else is visible.

#7 The Water Tower House

The Water Tower House
What's not to love about a house with its own water supply? One of six houses being built at the end of a cul-de-sac in Montgomery Hills, the Water Tower House shows how difficult infill development can be while letting us all enjoy a good laugh in the process.

#6 Wheaton Safeway

'Where We Value Our Customers'
There's nothing more gloomy than an abandoned building, especially when it's a suburban supermarket whose sole purpose is to make visitors feel happy and want to buy things. I spent an afternoon photographing the shuttered Wheaton Safeway which will eventually give way to a new apartment building.

#5 A Porch in Silver Spring

A Porch In Silver Spring
When he saw this picture I took in the Courts of Woodside, awesome photographer/friend of JUTP Chip Py said, "Did you take this? It's pretty good." There is no higher honor. The concrete foundations in the middleground are now houses, meaning that this photo couldn't be replicated today.

#4 Tai Lam Memorial

People Gather Around
Sometimes, the most powerful moments come unexpectedly. For people visiting Ellsworth Drive in the fall of 2008, it was this memorial for Tai Lam, a local teenager who was shot going home from downtown Silver Spring on a Ride-On bus. I nearly broke down while taking these photos - not just because of how sad the display is, but because of everyone else's reactions.

#3 Kid Falls Off Board, Everyone Laughs

Kid Falls Off Board, Everyone Laughs
Back from when it was legal to skate in downtown Silver Spring. The best parts of urban places is the spontaneity and the way multiple things can happen at once in the same space. This single block of Ellsworth Drive is at once a skate session and a show; on the sidewalks around them, people are grabbing dinner, going to a movie, waiting for a bus. I wish Montgomery County had the balls to let people be rather than trying to stop things like this from happening.

#2 World Cup Fever on Ellsworth Drive

World Cup Fever On Ellsworth

Playing soccer in downtown Silver Spring is, thankfully, still legal. I always show this picture to anyone who complains that DTSS has become "generic."

#1 (tie) "The Turf" (above) and Veterans Plaza (below)

Veterans' Field At Night

Veterans' Plaza At Night
For six years, the corner of Ellsworth and Fenton has been where East County goes to hang out, whether as Veterans Plaza or its predecessor, "the Turf." The roll of plastic grass that had landscape architects fearing for their jobs is a memory, but it looks like people are still coming back, even if they can't run around barefoot.

When asked in my Urban Design Case Studies class last week what a significant place in my life was, I had to say Ellsworth Drive. Even though it's still very new and by no means a masterpiece, it's probably had the most influence on me, hence why it appears so many times in the countdown. It's weird: as I look at many of these photos, I can see how my beliefs about people and places and planning came to be. That's not to say that the places I'd design would all look like Ellsworth Drive. But I'd say that I learned a lot about how cities work while people-watching outside the Majestic on a Friday night.


David Rotenstein said...

Dan, nice article. One quibble, though. Is No. 7, the water tower house, really a water tower house or a "telecom tower house"? I always have trouble with these because of all the attached antennas and cables ....

Among my favorites (besides the one you illustrated and which I used as an example in teaching classes on the visual impacts of telecom towers) are this one in Rocky Hill, NJ and this one near Burtonsville.

Terry in Silver Spring said...

Have to admit I'm still torn. The new Veteran's Plaza turned out nicely as is well used so far. I do miss the casual spontaneity of the Turf, though. In the middle of busy, it encouraged you to just sit or lay down and watch the world go by. The fact that it was artificial turf gave it a charming goofiness.