Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dream Team Nightmare

Last week, despite the objections of board members Tom Coale and Andy Stack, the CA Board of Directors awarded a no bid contract to Cy Paumier to develop design sketches for all of the public spaces in Town Center. Some board members consider Cy and his group of original Columbia designers and planners as a "dream team" because of their early experience with Columbia and The Rouse Company. They hired this dream team with the understanding that a good number of public spaces in the redeveloped Town Center area will be outside of CA control.

In other words, any design sketches produced by Paumier and his dream team for non CA space are a waste of time, money and energy. Or worse…

Cy is already heavily engaged in the design of a redeveloped Symphony Woods and that process isn’t going very well right now. As part of the enabling legislation for Columbia Town Center redevelopment, a Design Advisory Panel was established to oversee all new development. This would include Symphony Woods. The Panel has been somewhat unimpressed by Cy’s work so far. A recent meeting with Cy to go over his plans was described by one member of the panel as a “complete waste of time.”

Or worse...

The overall concept was chastised by Rob Hollis, the panel chair, as being “engineered for grade but lacks an overall theme.”

“The plans lack adequate information as to the existing tree locations, new tree locations, additional planted areas, clearings, seating areas, amenities (if any), etc.  I assume more information will follow with subsequent submissions, but is there more to the park design than paths?”

He singled out the futility of the café in the woods as well.

“Parks that most successfully accommodate a café will usually have enough mass of park users for the economics to work.  The café is not the draw but the support for the place to go.  There needs to be an amenity of significance to populate the café (i.e.: a playground, skating rink, etc).  Aside from concert days, is there such a draw?”

The answer to that would be no.

His conclusion was equally harsh.

“A park should be a very special place that offers a place for everyone with a variety of spatial, environmental and communal experience.  However, all too often, a park can also be a one loop through and never return again.  As one of the first projects in a “new” Town Center, this park should set the example for other projects to follow.  It is imperative that Symphony Woods Park be of the highest design standards.  The Merriweather-Symphony Woods Neighborhood Design Guidelines do establish a good foundation for the ultimate build out of the park and greater neighborhood.  However, without stronger design influence Symphony Woods Park will be just an assortment of paths, a fountain, a café and a set of stairs.  At this point, I fail to see strength of design in the Symphony Woods Park submission.”

And now this is the guy that the CA Board just hired to design the rest of Town Center! Wouldn’t it be more prudent to see if he and the dream team can pull off Symphony Woods first?
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