Tuesday, March 17, 2015

East Silver Spring Articles by Steve and Karen Burditt

{This is a guest blog posting by Steve and Karen Burditt, local architects and proud residents of East Silver Spring.}

We were asked about four years ago by founder and then-editor Eric Bonds to start writing a monthly column in The Voice about our community in East Silver Spring. At the time we had not grown fully aware of the digital world’s emerging blog culture. With this as background, we agreed to take the task on with some trepidation, having never committed to something like this before (what, people really want to read something in print written by a non-professional writer?).
We are both practicing architects and have developed a great appreciation for what we call the discovery phase of our projects. This is the initial set of steps a design professional takes with their client to explore a set of precedents, requirements, needs, goals and aspirations for the project, all in an effort to build a shared understanding before picking up a pencil to start a design. 

With this mindset we saw this column as an opportunity to take readers on a discovery tour of East Silver Spring. We wanted to shine a light on many aspects, covering the neighborhood’s history, diversity, and sensibilities of what we have come to see as a wonderful place to live, work, and play. We wanted the articles to be one part education, one part reflection, one part discovery and three parts boosterism for a place all too often overlooked by many, including visitors, investors, elected and appointed officials, and even those of us who live here. 

At the heart of everything we wrote was this question: Isn’t East Silver Spring almost all right? We borrowed (or rather stole) this basic question from Architect Robert Venturi, who coined it in a pioneering book he co-wrote in the 1960’s, called Learning from Las Vegas. This book explored the cultural, historical and emotional influences that help shape places. By posing the topics we did we were asking readers to ponder the unique history and cultural influences that shaped the physical qualities of our historic, walkable community. By asking this compelling question we wanted readers to take pause and embrace what makes this neighborhood special, hopefully before pushing forward with change and improvement. 

While some change is needed and well-intentioned, some of it also runs the risk of canceling out what makes East Silver Spring unique. Qualities we think worth embracing include the ethnic diversity of those who live and work here, the quirkiness of the small independent businesses populating our commercial center, Fenton Village. We think also of other more nebulous characteristics that make East Silver Spring simultaneously attractive, sometimes-hard-to-define, but nonetheless lovable. We wanted readers to consider these traits not only as assets, but also as the DNA that forms the fragile organism that is our neighborhood (as it is with all neighborhoods). We wanted readers to ponder how this could or should evolve over time. We wanted our readers to actively participate in a spirited dialog about what East Silver Spring was in the past, what it is now, and what it should be in the future.
We hope you enjoy reading what turned out to be a rather short series of only a dozen articles. We likely would have continued to write the column, covering other aspects and corners of East Silver Spring, had The Voice not gone through a rough patch at the height of the Great Recession. We are happy to see The Voice is alive and well again in digital form, presenting myriad opportunities for others to continue what we started. We have since moved on to other endeavors, advocating for our community through our work with our local civic group and involvement in preservation organizations. These new efforts are still rooted in the same goal of discovering, educating and celebrating our unique neighborhood.
Much change has come to East Silver Spring and Fenton Village in just these last couple of years. While we can debate what we like and don’t like about it, it will continue. One thing we are heartened to see is the addition of many thriving independent restaurants and businesses as well as so many people desiring to call East Silver Spring and Fenton Village home. We hope we never stop asking ourselves the question that got us started: Isn’t East Silver Spring almost all right?
- Karen Burditt & Steve Knight


The Different Paths of Preservation Part II, Preserving a Sense of Place: 
Staying Put in East Silver Spring – Part I: 
Staying Put in East Silver Spring – Part II: 
The Eyes of Your House: 
A Silver Spring Streetscape: 
The Neighborhoods of Silver Spring: 
A Community Arts Center for East Silver Spring: 
Fate of Historic Bank Building Uncertain: 
Weller’s Dry Cleaners: 
Architectural Detail Photo Essay: 
Silver Spring Park, 100 Years of Smart Living: 

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