Greening the Iron Curtain, Finding L’Enfant, and Signs of the Times

  • A benefit of the Iron Curtain.  Yale Environment 360’s blog discusses how the 870 mile “Death Strip” which divided East and West Germany from the Baltic Sea to Bavaria has amazingly become a green belt.  The area was left alone for so long that it developed into a haven for endangered species and an incredible mix of undisturbed habitats. Years of effort by scientists, politicians, and conservation groups are now culminating in its dedication as a nature preserve.

Remarkably little information remains from this time period.  What began as a simple effort to use 3D digital re-creation and display techniques has become full-scale research to uncover the original landscape.  In 1791, Pierre-Charles L’Enfant arrived in Georgetown Maryland with orders from President George Washington to lay out the new Federal City.  What did he actually see as he rode the land on horseback?  This is just one question that we are trying to answer.

  • Keeping up the Capital.  DC Mud has a great interview with Mary Oehrlein, the new preservation officer for the Architect of the Capital, and only the second in its history.  Her firm, Mary Oehrlein & Associates (which she is slowly winding down), is behind a number of major preservation and redevelopment projects in the District – the Pentagon’s exterior restoration after 9/11, stone conservation of the Washington Monument, and the redevelopment of the Old Post Office into the Hotel Monaco in Penn Quarter, among others.

  • The Glass Factory.  Urban Turf profiles an interesting Logan Circle loft whose former lives include a carriage facility, glass factory, and truck repair shop.  Although many of the buildings in Automobile Row have lost many of their original features, this one still has its original (unworkable) pulley system.
  • More on healthy cities!  Kaid Benfield, Director of the Sustainable Communities and Smart Growth program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, discusses the Philips Corporation’s Center for Health and Well Being, and its focus on creating healthy cities. Although he feels that “we need to be cautious about placing blind faith in high-tech panaceas for cities that come from corporations with a large financial stake in the adoption of high-tech solutions…, this particular initiative is not so easily caricatured, and appears to deserve to be taken seriously.”  One of the Center’s experts describes its goals:

The Center’s Livable Cities think tank has begun the task of defining how a fit-for-the- future city can be created and sustained, in emerging markets. So ‘success’ will not be judged solely in terms of economic growth and efficiency, but will include more subjective factors including social, economic and environmental resilience, and inclusiveness for all parts of the population and diversity–as well as remaining authentic during transition. Perhaps ‘equal opportunity’ or ‘percentage of green spaces’ will one day sit alongside GDP as a component in future rankings of successful cities.

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