Silver Spring Library Wins County Planners’ Top Design Award

Designers of Somerset Elementary School and The Music Center at Strathmore among other honorees


The Silver Spring Library

Andrew Metcalf

The architects who designed the Silver Spring Public Library are the top winners of second annual Design Excellence Award competition sponsored by the Montgomery County Planning Department.

The Lukmire Partnership of Arlington, Virginia, was awarded the department’s 2016 Design Excellence Award during the Celebrate Design reception held Thursday night at the Silver Spring Civic Building, which was co-sponsored by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Potomac Valley Chapter and also included that organization’s awards presentation.

The  awards are intended to inspire architecture, landscape architecture and urban design of the highest quality, Planning Director Gwen Wright said.

“Design excellence is becoming increasingly important as the amount of available land for development is shrinking and densities in our centers are increasing, and it’s an important tool for attracting residents and businesses to the county,” she said. “We want developers and architects to bring their A-game to our communities.”

The four-member awards jury called the library “a great gift to the community.” In downtown Silver Spring, the library opened in 2015 and integrates a sheltered outdoor space for a future Purple Line light-rail station.

“We loved the concept of the Purple Line breaking through the building to make a statement about the importance of public transportation, bringing the public to the library and to other public services,” the jurors said. The library’s embrace of urban vitality, proximity to affordable housing, high-quality materials and visible display of indoor activity were cited by the jury as contributing to its success, as well as the building’s proximity to affordable housing.

The jury also recognized the designs of five other local buildings. It presented an award to Somerset Elementary on  Warwick Place in Chevy Chase, because it is “a great example of how to transform a school from a bland formula that could be located anywhere to a well-considered design that reflects and enhances its immediate community.”

The jurors appreciated the sensitivity of the school renovation and design to the residential neighborhood around it, particularly the building’s proportions, roofs and brick detailing. They noted that the front and back entrances are both treated as important to the overall design, another signal of respect for the neighborhood.

The school was designed by Muse Architects of Bethesda.

“This is a comfortable and welcoming design,” they said. “It is well-suited to its context, turning an eyesore into a community asset.”

The Music Center at Strathmore on Tuckerman Lane North Bethesda also received a jury award.

Designed by William Rawn Associates of Boston, the regional cultural center was praised by the jury for its performance venue and educational programs, and being “ahead of its time” in inspiring development near the adjacent Metrorail station.

The jury, composed of architects, a developer and a landscape architect, met in September. The jury visited several projects and selected the winner and five citations, making their decisions independently from the Planning Department.

Also cited were Holy Cross Hospital Germantown, The Crest at Congressional Plaza in Rockville and Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard in Dickerson.

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