News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, July 22, 2016

Simon Says: New Lake Thoreau Public Art Project Resembles Real-Life Pokemon Gym, Prompts Complex Interpretations


When we first saw this mysterious structure land atop the Lake Thoreau spillway, presumably from outer space, we first thought it was one of those, whazzitcalled, Pokemon gyms, and that we were going to get the power up and capture the wild Restonatta and win the game! But then we realized we'd left our phone in the car and this was, somehow, real life in our favorite earth-toned community. So whazzit?

Turns out whazzit is "Simon," the first public art project to grace our beautiful spillways -- concrete masterpieces of the form in their own right -- since the awesome Prog Rock Pyramid of Ought-Fourteen.

"Looks like a house with a bunch of squiggly lines coming out of it," you uncultured types might be thinking to yourselves. "Looks like a combination of the approved Redwood and Goldenrod exterior trim colors," you DRB types might be thinking to yourselves. Let us tell you, silly rabbits, why you're both wrong. Clue us into the Deeper Meaning, BFFs at IPAR:

Inspired by Robert E. Simon’s Seven Principles of Community, Simon shows that beauty, both structural and natural, is a necessity of a good life and should be fostered. The house structure represents how the hospitality of Reston draws people into the community, its warm colors creating an inviting atmosphere, and the curtain + window illustrating Reston’s welcoming nature. Reston is our home, and the house serves as a representation of such. The pieces radiating out from the house express an organic shape that changes the way the structure is viewed to communicate something that is less industrial and more attune to nature and the form it takes, like roots of a tree. The gradient emphasizes the diversity of the people within our community, who come from many different walks of life but still intend to be part of one single entity. The white accents draw the eye towards the structure and represent the bright impression of the inside view. From the initial conception to the present, the combination of both organic and geometric structure has been a consistent part of the sculpture.
WHAT THEY SAID. What, with our Ph.D. in art appreciation from one of the Caribbean's most prestigious correspondence schools, we actually saw it more as a representation of our elite town center, literally elevated above our mundane natural environment by virtue of its high-quality midscale chain retail and dining, yet somehow glassed off from the rest of the community, which can only peek through the curtain -- an ironic representation of the lack of transparency about the introduction of paid parking -- with envy at the Pottery Barn furnishings on offer while the smugness of those who choose to frequent it literally radiates out of it. Just goes to show you that art is in the eye of the beholder. Plus there's not a Triffid in sight.

Designed by South Lakes High School students under the guidance of Marco Rando, the project is actually pretty cool. You can come to a celebration of "Simon" with the school's STEAM team at 7 Monday evening if you're so inclined.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Gotta Park 'Em All! Reston's Newest Smartphone App Is Way Cooler Than Pokemon Go, But You'll Have To Wait Until September To Pay--Er, Play

Parking 1

Less than a week after Pokemon Go made Reston lose its collective mind and filled Lake Anne Plaza with happy screen-obsessed flaneurs for the first time in recent memory that ukuleles weren't involved, Reston has an even cooler, more exciting, and -- dare we say it? -- more elite smartphone app to play with.

Parking 3ParkRTC doesn't have, whazzitcalled, Pokeballs or anything, but it does grant you the right to continue parking at our gritty urban core shrine to elite midscale dining and retail offerings, plus the promise of exclusive discounts from participating merchants. Rad!

You know how you can tell ParkRTC is elite? Pokemon Go may have run into a little trouble with its privacy settings, but this app doesn't even have privacy settings! Give us some good blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:

Left blank was the FAQs section and the privacy policy, which has been a source of concern for some would-be visitors.
Bah. Having all our personal information sifted through by some dude named Dimitry in Smolensk is a small price to pay -- certainly less than the $2 an hour that RTC will soon charge for access to its state-of-the-art automated parking garages -- to be able to get a primo space for our Starbucks runs.

We can't wait to claim the basement level of the parking garage for Team Mauve! But wait, what's this?

Paid parking at Reston Town Center will be pushed back to September, Boston Properties representatives have told store owners.

Reston Town Center was supposed to go to paid parking ($2 an hour) on weekdays beginning Aug. 1. Weekends and special events will remain free.

Boston Properties also told merchants “we are also working on another innovative element of our plan which will provide for an even safer place to live, work and shop – we are very excited about this element of our plan which we, unfortunately, are not able to discuss publicly at this time due to business disclosure issues.”

Some people are hoping the delay means that public opposition to the elite paid parking plan may prompt Boston to change -- or at least soften -- its plans to charge for parking. We're not holding our breath, but we're hoping they'll use the extra time to "gamify" the app even more. Instead of Pokeballs, maybe you'll be able to fling virtual, "Great" Falls-sized sacks of money towards corporate logos to "capture" various retail experiences. Perhaps you'll "battle" parking enforcement golf carts by getting back to your spot on level 5 before time runs out! Maybe you'll be able to pick which "team" you want to battle for (we're calling dibs on Team World of Beer.) We're almost certain there will be a way to virtually scorn all the teenagers, poors without smartphones and other non-elite visitors to RTC. We literally can't wait. Gotta park 'em all!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Forget Invasive Plants: Pokemon Go Critters Infesting Reston


Forget the eight verboten invasive plants that are making the native vegetation in our beloved earth-toned community more imperiled than Marcel Breuer-designed concrete bunkers. We've got a whole new series of critters to worry about on our lovely (and smoke-free) pathways.

A Confidential Restonian Operative who may or may not be a resident of Restonian World Headquarters tried to explain to us this whole Pokemon Go phenomenon, geez Daaaad, just SWIPE UP, OKAY?. All we know is that we're frightened to go outside now.


Wouldn't be the weirdest thing someone's found in one of Reston's lakes.

2016 07 11 10 14 43

Each of those balls contains a DRB violation letter. Time for a trip to Home Depot!

2016 07 11 10 11 27

At first, we thought this was our hopes and dreams for the Plaza flying away. But wait! We think we're getting the hang of this whole cellular telephone game now:

Squirrel eating grass


Trojan Horse


Did we get the power-up and win the game?

Friday, July 8, 2016

Reston's Hottest New Housing Option: You Choose the Caption


Confidential Restonian Operative "Adrian 'Chip' Monk" shared this photo of South Reston's hottest new single occupancy residential unit... or is it? We'll let you pick the caption:

1) Latest edgy IPAR performance art installation depicting Reston residents trapped in their soul-sucking suburban environment

2) RA reveals final design of Leak Lake House, complete with likely users and well under initial renovation budget

3) Fairfax County's proposed studio apartment zoning welcomes its first tenant

4) Test run for entering and exiting new elite parking facilities at Reston Town Center (with metal cages to keep out the teenagers and poors without smartphones riffraff)

5) Contemporary housing with appropriate Millennial-friendly branding: TNY HS

6) Whatever it is, appropriate earth tones ensure it will not be blasted back to the stone age 1963 by the DRB's fleet of drones, the end.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Talloakspocalypse Soon: With Planning Staff Approval, Prepare Yourself For a 'Retail Terrace,' Same Old Retail Buildings

Peeping tomWith plans to convert the Tall Oaks Stucco Wasteland Village Center into a mostly residential neighborhood with a smidgen of retail now moving forward, with county staff recommending approval ahead of a planning commission meeting next week, we got a new look at the 350-page planning report (PDF of computer-crashing dimensions; consider yourselves warned). And along with our favorite dead-eyed CGI Peeping Tom granny, staring blankly at the wall, we learned a thing or two.

First of all, the slightly larger than initially proposed (but still less than local residents wanted) 8,000 square feet of retail space is concentrated in two existing buildings, the former 7/11/Curves and that deserted office building thingy we always assumed was used by some shadowy outfit that straps bombs to dolphins. (Sadly, the former Burger King's days appear to be numbered.) But they're going to look "great," as another real estate expert once said. Behold!

New 7 11

AWWWW YEAH NEW FABRIC AWNINGS! We can't wait until "Tenant Sign" moves in and sells... signs we guess.

But for Stucco Wasteland purists, never fear: They're keeping some things old school:

New 7 11 2

That'll give CGI Granny something to stare at.

Then there's the existing office building.

New office building

That new two-story entrance tower thingy doesn't look bad, actually. "Tenant Sign" is going to give "Tenant Sign" across the way a run for its money, though.

The townhouses and condos have a decent, if somewhat monochromatic, look about them:



We know what you're saying to yourselves. "I enjoy fiber cement cladding as much as the next person," you're saying, "but what is the design intent?" Glad you asked:

Design Intent

True to their word, "various shades of brown" are definitely "harmonious with its context" in Reston.

But that's not all! The various bits of open space, a point of some contention, may not have gotten much bigger on this go-around, but they do have fancier names. There will be a "Central Plaza," a "Retail Terrace," a "Linear Green" (isn't that what Metro shut down this week for repairs?), an "Entrance Plaza," a "Village Promenade," and a "Community Recreational Area," where you can participate in such popular fitness activities as Grab the Metal Pole and Wonder What to Do Next:


Or stare at confounding metal spheres:


The kids will thrill to play on the one foundation that wasn't quite level:

Play Area

And the rest of us will find hours of entertainment perusing the different materials, particularly the "Taupe Fancy."


Or maybe that's just us.

All in all, it's not a Wegman's, but it's been nudged more in the right direction than the developers presumably wanted on the first iterations. These days, that might be all we can hope for, the end.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Just In Time For July 4, The Reston Used Car Deal of the Century

Car Corner

Don't let all those "transit-oriented development" ninnies tell you that you won't need a car in the Reston of tomorrow. This sweeeet ride, available for the viewing by commuters returning home to our earth-toned nirvana by way of Rt. 7 and Baron Cameron, could be yours for the taking. Imagine the message you'd send about the unintended consequences of suburban urbanization as you enjoy the al fresco motoring experience whilst sitting in traffic trying to cross the Toll Road during rush hour. Its top speed of approximately 7 mph is, frankly, probably a bit too fast for our rapidly approaching world of what's euphemistically called "level of service" by VDOT. One word of warning, though: the wide wheelbase and that weird hook thingy sticking out of the back would make it nearly impossible to pick up your overall-clad spouse at the subterranean Wiehle Metro Kiss-n-Ride without taking out a Ford Focus or two going around the corners, the end.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Flashback Monday: A Look Back at the API Building, Reston's Brutalest Brutalist Architectural Gem (Updated)

API above

Set the controls of the Earth-Toned Wayback Machine to January 1972, when this lovely rendering hinted at the arrival of yet another Brutalist batch of poured concrete in Reston. But at the hands of architect Marcel Breuer and his charcoal etchings, what would become the API building looked so... nice.

Not burtal

Flash forward four and a half decades. Now that the Fairfax County Planning Commission has acknowledged that fast-tracking an awesome townhouse development that would have demolished the now-vacant API headquarters without considering the building's historic pedigree was, to use complex land-use development terms, "a major screw-up," let's see what vast cultural treasures we'll be preserving for future generations if it becomes a library, or combination indoor boccedrome/dog park, or Hall of DRB Violations with an Eternal Flame of Approved Pantone Swatches, or whatever.

Lease sign

That "Lease" sign's been there for a while.

Check out the welcoming lobby, below. Concrete, glass, and some pretty scary office furniture.

Lobby leaves

Nice use of color on the wall to alternate between mind-numbing anomie and rage-inducing neurosis. But wait -- what's on the floor?

Leaves closeup

Leaves. Hmm. Not something you see inside your major office building/historical landmark, or at least the ones that the RA didn't decide to buy as fixer-uppers, but okay.


All these names of API's former, whazzitcalled, "news papers," are so quaint. In another 20 years, they'll be as inscrutable as hieroglyphics.

Indoor and out

Uncomfortable and dehumanizing meeting spaces both indoors and outdoors. Nice!

War room

Legend has it that Stanley Kubrick rejected this location for Dr. Strangelove because, in his words, "there's no tacky red carpeting in the war room."

No clue

What do these three images have in common? What's the significance? WE DON'T KNOW.

Update: Fancypants architects weigh in. Closer to home, Confidential Restonian Operative "Mary Anne" shared this photo from a recent excursion to the API building:


"Thought this was pretty cool," our CRI wrote. "Custom downspout that survived in good shape -- living among weeds and mildew." "I still have hopes for this building. Just the question of how much the space can be updated to get it look less like a WWII bunker."

If worse comes to worse and the API building meets its fate with the wrecking ball, perhaps the downspout can be repurposed. We have a feeling they might need it across the Toll Road at Lake Newport, the end.