September 22, 2005

Thursday Travesty or Triumph I

Martha Schwartz: HUD Plaza Improvements, Washington, DC

Planters and Lifesavers

In 1990, the Department of Housing and Urban Development hired Martha Schwartz to redesign the 6-acre plaza at the front of its Washington, DC offices. Schwartz's redesign introduced two primary new elements: first, grass-filled concrete planters that serve both as seating and green intrusions and, second, white vinyl "lifesaver" lighting rings to provide shade in the day and lighting at night. Secondary design elements include a backlit mural (it is essentially invisible during daylight) and lighting elements in the concrete planters. It received a 2000 Merit award from the ASLA in the category of design.

View from across the Street

The plaza's original (1960's) modernist design was extremely sparse and intended to showcase the building's design, which left it essentially incapable of performing traditional plaza functions such as providing a comfortable public meeting space and insterting green organisms into the concrete environment. HUD felt that these characteristics were contrary to its stated mission of providing livable space.

So, do you think Schwartz has been successful? Is this still a travesty of inaccessible and unattractive design, or is it a triumph of po-mo over simple mo? As explained in the rules in the previous post, please leave a comment giving this either a "Triumph" or a "Travesty", even if you think your opinion is not valid (and it may very well not be!) I report, you decide.

Posted by eatingbark at September 22, 2005 9:17 AM
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