Month: October 2016

Something to Hide? A Look at Cambridge Row Condominiums

According to Google Maps, 197 feet separate Potomac Gardens Apartments from Cambridge Row Condominiums. Roughly 200 feet away from an apartment building defined by its violent past is the newly renovated Cambridge Row with studio spaces starting at $200,000 (“Cambridge Row”). In 1989, the neighborhood surrounding Potomac Gardens was deemed “the most dangerous in America” by talk show host, Geraldo Rivera (Sheir). Today, McWilliams Ballard Real Estate, the developer of Cambridge Row, describes the neighborhood as “ beautiful” and “walkable.” How can the same neighborhood be both “the most dangerous is America” and beautiful and walkable?

Before Cambridge Row was a luxury condominium complex, the building housed the historic Salvation Army Capitol Hill headquarters. Architects redesigned the building to offer thirteen brand new condominiums. In efforts to make the building appear more modern, it was painted a cream color, but the original shape and style remains unchanged. In addition to the Salvation Army building, Cambridge Row constructed a new adjoining building that offers twelve spaces (“Cambridge Row”).

These Google Map screenshots show the transition of the Salvation Army Headquarters as it became Cambridge Row Condominiums.

These Google Map screenshots show the transition of the Salvation Army Headquarters as it became Cambridge Row Condominiums.

The original Salvation Army building

The original Salvation Army building

The additional building built by Cambridge Row developers.

The additional building built by Cambridge Row developers.

When walking up to Cambridge Row, the first thing I noticed was how out of place it looks. The complex is next store to Potomac Gardens Apartments, which looks like it could easily double as a prison, and is across the street from Cesar Chavez Public Charter High School for Public Policy, a building whose main entrance features a graffiti styled portrait of the school’s namesake. The freshly paved sidewalks, bright green grass, and beautifully renovated building that welcome you to Cambridge Row do not appear to belong on the same street as everything surrounding it.

The area outlined in red is Potomac Gardens Apartments. The yellow dot is Cambridge Row, and the blue dot is Cesar Chavez Charter School.

The area outlined in red is Potomac Gardens Apartments. The yellow dot is Cambridge Row, and the blue dot is Cesar Chavez Charter School.

Cesar Chavez Public Charter High School for Public Policy

Cesar Chavez Public Charter High School for Public Policy

The day I visited Potomac Gardens, Cambridge Row happened to be having an open house. When Cambridge Row first opened they had 25 residencies for sale; now, there are only two spaces available. When I first walked into the space the first thing I noticed was how modern it looked. The space was very bright due to the large windows, and while the majority of the colors found in the space were cool-toned, the space was very inviting. The bright white cabinets in the kitchen stood out against the various blue, black, and grey elements throughout the space. Although the condo was quite small, whoever staged the rooms did so in a way to make them all feel larger.

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While researching Cambridge Row, I noticed that in many of the images posted on their website, large windows are shown, but the view of the outside cannot be seen. I found an image that appeared to be the living room of the available unit I toured. Directly outside the large window is the back of Potomac Gardens Apartments, a detail that is not visible in image found on the website. Was this intentional? Did the developers specifically chose this image? Was the photographer asked angle the shot in a way that blocked the view of Potomac Gardens? If this was intentional, what is McWilliams Ballard Real Estate trying to hide?

Directly outside this window is the back of Potomac Gardens Apartments, but from this image you cannot tell.

Directly outside this window is Potomac Gardens Apartments, but from this image you cannot tell.

After this discovery, I was curious about Potomac Gardens Apartment’s website. While there is not a website specifically for Potomac Gardens, there is a page about the complex on the District of Columbia Housing Authority’s site. I was surprised to see that all the images of the apartments found on this website did not include the iron fence that surrounds the perimeter of the complex. All the images were specifically taken inside the fence or cropped so the fence is not visible. While the blocked views found in Cambridge Row’s images may be a coincidence, the lack of fence found in Potomac Gardens’s images is most likely not.

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While both of these complexes reside on the same block, they cater to very different residents. Cambridge Row appeals to young professionals by describing the complex as follows: “Located just moments to two metro stations, Barracks Row, Eastern Market and all of Capitol Hill. Cambridge Row offers the finest quality living in a beautiful walkable neighborhood filled with the Capitol’s best restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, open markets, grocers, and public transportation” (“Cambridge Row”). Potomac Gardens appeals to families by describing each apartment as a “family unit,” and by providing a list of nearby schools (“Potomac Gardens Family”). The differences between these two residences are vast, but it appears they have one similarity: both appear to be hiding something from possible future residents. Cambridge Row’s website is full of images that highlight large windows, but the outside view cannot be seen. They purposely fail to mention that the majority of the building’s “beautiful views” include the back of Potomac Gardens. The District of Columbia Housing Authority also has something to hide by not mentioning the controversial eight foot iron fence that surrounds Potomac Gardens. They also fail to mention the large security cameras that make the complex look more like a prison than the “family friendly” environment they describe on their website. It seems like both Cambridge Row and Potomac Gardens have something to hide.


Works Cited

“Cambridge Row.” McWilliams Ballard, www.livecambridgerow.com/.

“Potomac Gardens Family.” District of Columbia Housing Authority, www.dchousing.org/.

Sheir, Rebecca. “What Does the Future Hold for Capitol Hill’s Potomac Gardens?” wamu.org, American University Radio. 16 January 2015. Accessed 2 October 2016.

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College Campuses as Holistic Learning Spaces

In their article “Recognizing College Landscapes as Learning Spaces,” Kathleen G. Scholl and Gowri Betrabet Gulwadi argue that today’s universities should provide students a holistic learning environment with both indoor and outdoor spaces so they can experience both community interaction and personal reflection. Using the evolution of college campuses, the benefits of human-nature interactions, and the characteristics of holistic learning spaces, Scholl and Gulwadi argue their point.

Laboratories were the first spaces on college campuses that were specifically designed for learning.

In order to fit the needs of a twenty-first century college student, universities are having to evolve. Scholl and Gulwadi argue that simply upgrading technology and adding on to buildings is not enough; instead, universities should create spaces that provide a holistic learning experience. Early American colleges were built to be self-sufficient. The goal was to build a space away from the city in order to limit distractions. College campuses consisted of “closely clustered buildings designed to protect students from the lures of the outside world” (Scholl and Gulwadi). With the addition of laboratories and observatory spaces in 1862, physical campuses were beginning to add to student learning. The previous “closely clustered” buildings were being replaced by open spaces and zones for specific disciplines. For the first time, college campuses were being looked at as learning spaces, not just groups of buildings set up outside of the city. Scholl and Gulwadi state that “older campus plans emphasized disciplinary boundaries and newer campus designs are more amorphous and integrative.” This transition shows the evolution of college campuses and their response to changes in education.

Outdoor spaces, like this one at the University of South Carolina's campus, provide students with the opportunity to experience human-nature interactions.

Outdoor spaces, like this one on the University of South Carolina’s campus, provide students with the opportunity to experience human-nature interactions.

Using the Attention Restoration Theory, Scholl and Gulwadi argue that certain campus design features “help mentally fatigued individuals.” The Attention Restoration Theory (ART) states that exposure and interaction with nature “has specific recovery effects on the human attentional system” (Scholl and Gulwadi). A university’s learning environment is more than just classrooms; Scholl and Gulwadi believe that the learning environment also includes the open space found outside. These open spaces add to the holistic learning landscape by providing students a place to interact with nature. Spending time in nature is beneficial for restoring cognitive functions such as concentration and direct attention. Scholl and Gulwadi urge universities to find a balance between indoor and outdoor learning spaces so their students can experience human-nature interaction.

An example of a traditional university classroom.

While human-nature interaction is necessary for the productivity of all students, outdoor class instruction is not suited for all academic subjects. Scholl and Gulwadi argue that a holistic university landscape, combining both human-nature interaction and the traditional indoor classroom, is the solution. Traditional classrooms “provide ample opportunities for structured learning experiences that draw upon students’ direct attention” (Scholl and Gulwadi). The typical classroom setting, while necessary, requires all of a student’s direct attention. Human-nature interactions allow students to restore this direct attention, equipping them with the cognitive functions needed to productively work in a classroom. In order for college campuses to be as efficient for student productivity as possible, Scholl and Gulwadi believe a holistic landscape is necessary. This landscape includes the open space outside and the traditional indoor classroom.

 


Works Cited

Scholl, Kathleen G., and Gowri Betrabet Gulwadi. “Recognizing College Landscapes as Learning Spaces.” The University of North Carolina Greensboro, 2015.

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The Gender Revolution and Its Affect on Interior Design

In her article “His & Hers: Designing for a Post-Gender Society,” Suzanne Tick argues that interior designers and architects should set out to create non-gendered spaces that will better accommodate the evolution of traditional gender roles and identities that is happening in today’s society. Tick uses the gender shift in today’s workplace, the ever-evolving definitions of “male” and “female,” and the nationwide focus on bathrooms to support her claim that interior designers need to embrace the gender revolution and work with it.

As traditional gender roles are evolving to fit the advances of today’s society, designers should use their spaces to promote change.While a new wave of feminism has begun to break down hierarchy in the workplace, Tick argues that today’s office landscape “is still deeply rooted in Modernism.” Modernism is design style shaped solely by male necessity. Even in today’s society, as women become more prominent in positions of power, the design of most workplaces specifically cater the needs of men. Tick believes that it is time for interior designers to change this. Instead of creating spaces that only accommodate one group of people or a specific gender, designers should join the gender revolution and begin to incorporate gender sensitivity into their work.

Annemiek van der Beek’s Primal Skin is a makeup collection is designed for men.

Annemiek van der Beek’s Primal Skin is a makeup collection is designed for men.

As androgyny becomes today’s norm, the traditional definitions of masculine are feminine are changing. The fashion and beauty industries are the first to fully accept this phenomenon. Fashion designers such as Alexander Wang have even begun to create gender neutral pieces, and makeup lines like Annemiek van der Beek’s Primal Skin are being designed to attract male buyers. Tick states that the processes of architecture and interior design are much slower than those of fashion and beauty. If designers do not take it upon themselves, Tick believes that the opportunity to create accommodating spaces for all, will be missed. What was assumed about gender is changing as individuals begin to identify themselves regardless of their assigned sex at birth. Students have started not specifying their gender on forms and others are asking to have their gender unspecified. Schools are even accepting this, which is huge. Tick argues that designers cannot fall behind the gender revolution, and instead should embrace it by creating spaces that promote acceptance and change.

As gender neutrality becomes a societal norm, signs like this one are being used instead of the "typical" restroom signs we are accustomed to.

As gender neutrality becomes a societal norm, signs like this one are being used instead of the “typical” restroom signs we are accustomed to.

Due to the evolution of gender identity, bathrooms have become the focus of change, and have created controversy across the country. In order to accommodate all individuals, large corporations like Google have created gender neutral and unisex bathrooms in their offices. This movement is providing individuals the choice to not choose a gender while at work. Tick realizes that bathrooms, while “only part of the puzzle in addressing gender inclusivity in the office,” are spaces that are sensitive to personal issues. Tick believes that designers can help address these new and sometimes uncomfortable situations revolving space. Gender neutral bathrooms are vastly different from the gendered restrooms we are all used to, but making everyone feel accommodated is what is important. Tick pushes designers to think of ways to address the bathroom situation by stressing the importance of creating an office landscape where everyone is safe and comfortable. Offices are places “where everyone is expected to collaborate closely,” so they need to be accommodating to all. Instead of waiting for gender neutrality to become a regulation, Tick pushes interior designers and architects to get ahead of the movement and to begin creating gender neutral spaces today.


Works Cited

Tick, Suzanne. “His & Hers: Designing for a Post-Gender Society.” Metropolis Magazine, http://www.metropolismag.com/March-2015/His-or-Hers-Designing-for-a-Post-Gender-Society/. 

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Commonplace Book Entry #5: Georgia Referendum

“Shall Property owned by the University System of Georgia and utilized by providers of college and university student housing and other facilities continue to be exempt from taxation to keep costs affordable?”

The root sentence is: Should student housing be exempt from taxes? The four words that jump out to me are property, university, exempt, and taxation. We do not know where this sentence is from, but it may be a proposal for new legislation. Although, the question is written using simple language, it is difficult to understand. The author did this on purpose, so readers can make up their own interpretation. The sentence poses a question: should University of Georgia student housing be exempt from taxes? The author poses the question in a way that expects a response.

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Violence, Controversy, and A Fence: A Look at Potomac Gardens Apartments

 

This sign welcomes you to Potomac Gardens Apartments. Instead of being on the main building, the sign is located on a side building.

This sign welcomes you to Potomac Gardens Apartments. Instead of being on the main building, the sign is located on a side building.

Built in 1968, Potomac Gardens Apartments is a public housing project owned by the District of Columbia Housing Authority. The complex is located at 1225 G Street SE, just thirteen blocks southeast of the United States Capitol Building. The 352 units that make up the complex are divided into family and senior housing (“Potomac Gardens Family”). The large, run down, and bleak looking building houses low income families and a large senior population. It would be easy to walk past Potomac Gardens, writing it off as just another old building in need of fresh paint, but there is more to the building that what first meets the eye. Potomac Gardens Apartments has a rich history filled with violence and controversy. There is more to the building than just its appearance, which is one of the many reasons why I am so intrigued by it. 

When first walking up to the complex, it is difficult to notice anything besides the eight foot tall iron fence that surrounds it. The tops of the fence are bent out, making it is impossible for anyone to get in. In an effort to combat drug related violence, Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly had the fence installed in 1991. While drug arrests significantly declined after the installation, the fence was built against the wishes of many residents, who often compare themselves to prisoners or caged zoo animals (Blakely and Synder). Twenty-six years have gone by since the installation of the fence, and while crime has become close to nonexistent, the fence remains a constant reminder of Potomac Gardens’ violent and dreary past.

The 8 foot iron fence that surrounds Potomac Gardens sends a bleak message to pedestrians walking by.

The 8 foot iron fence that surrounds Potomac Gardens sends a bleak message to pedestrians walking by.

The fence completely surrounds the perimeter of the building, serving to both keep everyone inside and to prevent outsiders from coming in. The fence sends a message and it is definitely not a good one. According to a Metro PD lieutenant, the fence, while helpful in apprehending possible suspects, gives “the impression that something dangerous is going on” (Depillis). There have been plenty of conversations about destroying the fence but decisions are never made. I have a difficult time accepting that the fence still exists under the false pretense that it keeps residents safe. In reality, the fence is merely a tool used by MDP to apprehend any possible suspects. How is that acceptable? Keeping an entire community locked up in their own homes so that one or two possible suspects can be detained. Crime in this neighborhood has gone down significantly since the 1990s and is practically nonexistent today. The area surrounding Potomac Gardens is booming and has become relatively high income (Sheir). Right next store to Potomac Gardens is Cambridge Row luxury condominiums. These two complexes are so close to each other that you could throw a paper airplane from one building to the next.

Cambridge Row Condominiums

Cambridge Row Condominiums

Built in the lot of the previous Salvation Army Capitol Hill headquarters, stands Cambridge Row. Cambridge Row describes itself as a “boutique community of 25 thoughtfully designed condominium residences… located in a beautiful and walkable neighborhood” (“Cambridge Row”). The price of these condominiums range from $200,000 to $650,000. A price that seems quite high for a neighbor that is supposedly ridden with crime and drug violence. The building’s appearance is vastly different from Potomac Gardens. Green grass, fresh cement, and beautiful brick sidewalks welcome you to Cambridge Row. Next store at Potomac Gardens you are greeted with broken windows, chipped paint, and security cameras typically found in prison yards.

Times have changed, and it is obvious that the population and neighborhood surrounding Potomac Gardens has as well. It is no longer necessary for the building to look like a prison and residents should no longer have to feel caged in their own homes. While the fence may have been needed in the early 1990s, it is not needed today and something needs to change.


Works Cited

Blakely, Edward J. and Mary Gail Snyder. “Separate Places: Crime and Security in Gated Communities.” Reducing Crime Through Real Estate Development and Management, edited by Marcus Felson, Urban Land Institute, 1998, pp. 53-70.

“Cambridge Row.” McWilliams Ballard, www.livecambridgerow.com/.

Depillis, Lydia. “What’s in a Fence? At Potomac Gardens, It Doesn’t Matter What Side You’re On.” Washingtoncitypaper.com, 11 March 2011. Accessed 2 October 2016.

“Potomac Gardens Family.” District of Columbia Housing Authority, www.dchousing.org/.

Sheir, Rebecca. “What Does the Future Hold for Capitol Hill’s Potomac Gardens?” wamu.org, American University Radio. 16 January 2015. Accessed 2 October 2016.

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Commonplace Book #4: Gender Inclusive Bathrooms

The sign below explains that the bathroom is gender neutral/gender inclusive and was most likely written by someone from AU Housing and Dining. The sign explains the concept of a gender neutral bathroom, addresses any possible concerns, and then provides a solution to these concerns. What I find strange about the sign is the last statement. If AU is trying to make gender inclusive bathrooms the new “norm” on campus, why are they allowing people to opt out by locking the door. Locking the door seems to defeat the entire purpose of the all inclusive bathroom. How are you supposed to adjust to a new situation by avoiding it entirely?

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Digital Records #5

I wanted to include an image that solely shows Potomac Gardens Apartments. This picture showcases just how aggressive and invasive the fence surrounding the complex really is. It also shows one of the many security cameras situated throughout the site. The camera can be seen in the upper left hand corner. Many residents feel as though they live in a prison, and after walking around the building, it was obvious why.

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Digital Records #4

These images show the various locks found along the perimeter of Potomac Gardens’ fence. I found it interesting that nearly every entrance was locked. Isn’t the point of having a gate the freedom to both enter and exit? In the background of the second image you can see a broken window. As a walked around the complex, I noticed that broken windows greatly outnumber fully intact windows.img_2557-2fullsizerender-2

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Digital Records #3

These images show the vast difference between the fence that surrounds Potomac Gardens and the one that surrounds Cambridge Row. It is easy to feel intimidated standing under Potomac Garden’s massive, eight foot tall, iron fence. The fence once used to combat drug related violence, seems unnecessary today. The fence surrounding Cambridge Row is similar to the gates found at most high-end apartment buildings. It is an aesthetic design choice that shows where the complex begins and ends.

Potomac Gardens

Potomac Gardens

Cambridge Row

Cambridge Row

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Digital Records #2

This image shows a relatively new crosswalk right in front of Potomac Gardens, as well as a resident of the complex. I did not get the chance to talk with this woman, but I noticed that everyone she encountered while walking from her apartment to the bus stop knew who she was. Both the mail man and bus driver stopped in the middle of their routes to say hello and to wish her a good day. It was obvious that there is a strong sense of community in Hill East, especially in Potomac Gardens.

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