Concurrent with the Howard County Master Plan for Downtown Columbia, we should be engaging architects to create a Downtown Columbia Design Plan. The elements of the design plan should provide a clear delineation of what parts of downtown are inviolate, and what areas can be developed. It is my understanding that the downtown focus group has put forward the idea that the lakefront area from the Rouse Building to the Exhibit Center should be preserved. This includes the American Cities Building and the Teachers Building.
Caution: Tangential Rant
I believe this is a good idea, but with one caveat. The pavilion that overlooks Lake Kittamaquandi (where “outdoor Clyde’s” used to be) must be upgraded such that seasonal, outdoor dining can be restored. I find dining under the People Tree to be a treat every summer; however, to be seated at a table that has a view of an unused pavilion which in turn has a marvelous view of the lake is beyond ironic.
Now Back to the Story
The Design Master Plan should also state which sites in downtown are to be “signature” building sites. Complicit in the signature building sites must be the recognition that those structures that are considered historic (or at least worthy of preservation) represent the highest order of signature buildings. All other signature buildings in downtown should compliment, and take some styling cues from these highest order buildings.
A short list of styling cues I can come up with (in my admittedly not-so-creative engineering mind) would be:
The glass pyramid structures atop the mall.
The tan brick that is predominant throughout downtown.
The hanging gardens and vertical/horizontal aspects of the Rouse Building (GGP headquarters).
The contemporary design and wall/window ratios of the Rouse Building, the American Cities Building, and the Teachers Building.
The white materials used on the Rouse Building, American Cities Building, and Teachers Building.
The use of rectangles, arcs, and circles to form the lakefront amphitheater.
Below the cues of the preserved buildings and signature buildings would be the other buildings that will populate downtown (I am sure there is a better architectural term for these buildings, but I do not know what else to call them). These buildings should provide differing elements so as to avoid monotony, but should be integrated within the block and streets such that they show some coordination and repeatability.
I believe this is crucial. As Winston Churchill once said, “We shape our buildings, thereafter, they shape us.”