Has it ever struck you that plans for the Anacostia waterfront seem like they were designed by 12-year-olds? Well, now you can compare.
At the National Building Museum last night, as part of a 16-year-old program called CityVision, several dozen pre-teens from Stuart Hobson Middle School presented their visions for three sections of the Southeast waterfront. Dressed in suits, they came with flashy powerpoints, videotaped interviews, scale models and traffic studies—for all the world like the ForestCities and W.C. Smiths of the future.
The template was clear: Each presentation included a standard developer’s vocabulary, running through commercial, institutional, residential, and mixed-use elements. Within those parameters, though, there were some distinctly kid-like twists.
The Flaming Marshmallows team, in their design for the Florida Rock area, included an underwater library. “We decided to put it in the river,” said one presenter, explaining that there was not enough space for both a library and their grandiose, marble-and-granite commercial building.
The Poplar People team, working on a design for Poplar Point, included an ornamental garden, a tranquility garden, a botanical garden, a dog park, and a riparian buffer zone. “You get this overwhelming feeling that you’re in a very beautiful spot,” said one of the mini-planners. “Even if the river does smell some.”
The last development plan was less pastoral. The Yardsters, in their design for the Navy Yards, envisioned a “Sky View Entertainment Row,” complete with a boardwalk, drive-in movie theater, ferris wheel, and sports bar.
Methodologically, grown-up developers could probably learn something from the middle school planners. During a Q&A session, an adult asked how they had worked out their differences during the design process.
“Um, I think we just sort of talked it out and used some of everyone’s ideas,” a kid answered.
Photos by Lydia DePillis.