As an architect who worked for the Rouse Company for 30 years and managed the design of many buildings in Town Center, I am concerned about the feasibility of the Inner Arbor Plan shown last Thursday (Jan. 31) at Slayton House. I am not opposed to the idea of building some cultural facilities in the woods, but the choice of a site, with a 55-foot change in grade elevation from top to bottom, that necessitates burying the theaters substantially underground is unrealistic. As places of public assembly it would be impossible to comply with the building code's exiting requirements in case of fire or the barrier-free accessibility requirements of the handicapped without prohibitive costs. Also, the idea of building Columbia Association's headquarters on top of the theaters shows a lack of understanding of practical building construction. Theaters require unobstructed views to the stage, therefore to build on top of what has to be a column-free auditorium is only achievable with excessive costs. For the theaters to share their entrance foyer with Columbia Association's offices as proposed is a lost opportunity. If we are to have two new theaters, they should have a distinctive presence in our downtown and standout architecturally from the office and retail buildings that predominate. The PowerPoint presentation showing examples of interactive fountains, sculpture, unique walkways and garden structures was great and certainly broadened my "vision," but the Arts Village building on the Inner Arbor Plan is ill-conceived and impracticable.
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