Being 18 and 22, my kids are just a smidge old to have experienced the beginning of the Lego Renaissance. Those of you with kids younger, and those of you all into things pop culture, will know what I mean. But awhile back Lego began to obtain licenses to popular franchises and so you had and have: Lego Harry Potter, Lego Batman, Lego Avengers, Lego Star Wars, and all that stuff. And moreover, with the rise of Lego collector's clubs, Lego movies and video games, and even a Lego Documentary (!), Legos have moved from being a children's toy to a popular form of play and fun for adults. It's all pretty cool.
But one of the endearing things about Legos is what also clearly separates them from being, as an art form, anything close to life-like. Legos are blocky. They're quadrilateral. They have lots of right angles. And they have those pegs that allow for their capability to become ever-larger, but that are also aesthetically non-pleasing. So like any medium, Legos are limited.
Which brings me to Howard County. Columbia, specifically. Funny, but my recent post about the approval of the TIF-- apparently, according to people who've contacted me, I'm both a TIF hater and a TIF lover! Too cute. So let me be clear where I stand on this TIF thing. I think the TIF's limitation is that it didn't go far enough, to do more. I woulda liked to have seen it extended to include the Oakland Mills Village Center, for example. Or even the lakefront. But I also think that supporters of the Kittleman Administration and others, who said that if the TIF wasn't approved, that HoHu woulda just packed up and left-- I think those people were simply sycophants for the Chicken Little stuff that HoHu was putting out.
On the third hand, I think that, had I been a Council member, I woulda wanted to have seen more direct connectivity between approval of the TIF and the existence of affordable housing in downtown. Some people tell me that the Memorandum of Understanding the Council has entered into with HoHu creates that connectivity. I hope so.
But now we are on to the next phase. We approved the TIF; there was more than enough concern that, should the TIF not be passed, downtown would become a land of Wal-Marts and garden apartments. And so now what?
In my view, "what" is that we demand a downtown Columbia that looks like nothing like it in Maryland, that leads suburban design in the state for at least the next 50 years. And so what does that look like?
We have no better example for an answer to this question that one that's in our own midst. Have any of you in Readerland been to the Chrysalis project in Symphony Woods lately? It's part of the Inner Arbor project. If you haven't, then behold some pictures I took there recently:
These are pictures of the two stages of the amphitheater, which will be completed in January and will host its first show in April. Visiting the site, one feels peaceful and has a great sense of space just in walking around the environment. By the way, did you know the Chrysalis will be open to the public at pretty much all times? It will be. It's a work of art as well as a work of function and it seems like it'll be a great place to read, meditate, rest, or gather.
See what else about it's distinctive design? Bright hues with subtle color changes, yet all staying within the "earthy, natural" color motif? Lots of open air and open space-- very airy. Oh, and lots of curves-- not blocky. Not like Legos at all.
I believe that as a county, when it comes time to design the buildings that will go into the Crescent property and other parts of downtown Columbia, that we need to demand innovative design like this. Not some nonsense that's a knock-off of Bethesda or Reston or somewhere near Union Station. That's a load of bat guano. Something world-class instead of locally unique? Now you're talking. And I mean really world class, not faux world class like we talk about here in HoCo way too much.
I hope to bring to you news regarding the Howard County Human Rights Commission in my next post. News that might surprise you! I could tell you now, but that would be.....telling! Patience, please. And besides, this may not pan out. Then again, it might.
Let's be careful out there.
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