News and notes from Reston (tm).

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.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Forget Our Elite Town Center: A Cornucopia of Premium Home Furnishings Awaits In South Reston

Ever since our favorite fake downtown gritty urban core has decided to cast off its aspirations for urban authenticity in favor of eliteness (and paid parking to keep out the riffraff), many fellow Restonians have vowed to never darken the 3/5th scale doors of RTC again. But where to find a midscale chain dining experience or high quality home furnishings?

We can't help with the former, but our favorite correspondent, The Peasant From Less Sought After South Reston, has made an important discovery about the latter. Here's what he found in South Reston:

A classic saying that legend attributes to the U.S. Navy -- "two percent never get the message" -- certainly is holding true in our little slice of paradise.

Braving both the beat-up Ford F-250s of Luke Duke's distant kin as well as crazed vegan Prius drivers, The Peasant recently executed a covert recon mission at the Reston South recycling center, known more officially as the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services West Ox/I-66 Transfer Station Recycling and Disposal Center's Reston South Park & Ride Recycling Drop-Off Facility (or, FCDPWESWO/I66TSR&DCRSP&RRD-OF, for short).

With the first Earth Day 46 years in the past, one might be excused for thinking that by now everyone grasps the ABCs of what to recycle: tin and aluminum cans, plastic and glass bottles, paper and cardboard. Simple, no? But then again, there's that aforementioned two percent who have transformed a well-intentioned recycling center into Ye Olde Rubbish Dumpe. Let's have a lookee-see photo tour, shall we?


Here we are at the Reston South recycling center; containers for paper recycling on the left, charity drop-off bins on the right. But wait -- what are all those mysterious artifacts in between? A closer look is certainly in order.


A cornucopia of consumer castoffs, almost enough to fully furnish a millennial's first crash pad after moving out of the old folks' basement. And you even get your pick of mattress sizes, queen or twin -- is this better than going to Sleepy's or what!


Oh, wait. Someone obviously wasn't paying attention back in third grade reading class. Or spelling class also, to judge by the plural of "mattress"


And to help with the move-out, here's a slightly used piece of what must be the finest Louis Vuitton luggage. Just the thing to impress your new next door neighbors when moving into Ashburn.


No truth to the rumor -- as far as we know -- that Jimmy Hoffa was found in that wooden crate.


Hey, was Tommy Silva and the rest of the gang from This Old House here in Reston and we missed it? Everything the do-it-yourselfer needs for a fun outdoor home improvement project. Maybe these items can even be re-purposed for renovating the Lake House to reduce the $428,000 capital cost overrun by, say, $27? Let's just hope there's no shade of verboten Trump orange, Sanders pink, or Hillary chameleon in those paint cans.


We're not quite sure what to make of this -- maybe some edgy IPAR art installation? Do those three paint cans precariously perched above Beyonce like a contemporary Sword of Damocles symbolize the angst of her once having been Destiny's Child?

After our tour of the flotsam and jetsam of Northern Virginia consumer culture, we can only conclude that while the recycling center started out as a good idea, matters seem to be heading south thanks to a few lazy self-centered slobs. Proof indeed that it's not just the road to hell that's paved with good intentions -- it's also the road to the FCDPWESWO/I66TSR&DCRSP&RRD-OF.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

With Proposal to Become Library, Former API Newspaper Building Could Become Slightly Less Obsolete


After standing vacant for three years, the brutalapooza American Press Institute building on Sunrise Valley Drive got a brief reprieve from plans to convert the property to townhouses and condos after its historic Marcel Breuer pedigree led to a postponed planning commission decision in order to determine if its brutalist style is sufficiently brutalist to earn it historical status. An online petition has begun circulating urging that the building be saved, started by, among others, "news media executives" (who know a thing or two about endangered historical relics.)

Now county library supporters, the purveyors of frottage-friendly booksales, are making a Modest Proposal: Take the old newspaper building and make it a library -- basically the equivalent of replacing a covered wagon factory with a buggy whip factory. But Reston Regional Library is slated for the wrecking ball at some point anyway, in favor of some high-rise bollardy goodness adjacent to where the elite meet, so a replacement site does need to be found for our irreplaceable trove of magazines and 1990s "web-enabled" computers. It's so crazy, it just might work!

Give us some good blockquote, BFFs at Fairfax Library Advocates:

Fairfax County's Architectural Review Board has asked that the county reconsider bulldozing the American Press Institute (API) building on Sunrise Valley Drive in Reston. They believe the building, designed by Hungarian-born architect Marcel Breuer, has historic architectural significance and should not be taken down and replaced with townhouses. API is the only building in Virginia designed by Breuer.

This building at 48,000 sq feet is large enough to house a regional library. It's in an excellent location. The $10 million library bond approved by voters is enough to purchase and renovate the building. Current development plans for the library parcel in Town Center North and for the API site on Sunrise Valley Drive need to be paused to consider an adaptive reuse of the API building as a public library.

Please write the Planning Commissioners and the Board of Supervisors as soon as possible to ask that this option be considered.

We like this plan, actually. The more brutalist reminders of Reston's awesome concrete past, the better! Also, it makes a lot more sense than preventing the property owner from tearing the building down without a plan for what could be done with it. It beats the RA trying to add another aging (and with our luck, probably leaky) property to its stable. And its stark aesthetics aren't that different from the current library -- think soul-numbing 60s austerity instead of soul-numbing 80s austerity.

If you're a fan of this idea, you should probably write county officials soon -- the Fairfax County Planning Commission is now slated to decide whether to approve rezoning the API property on June 16, after taking a "tour" to determine if it's brutalist enough to save (to be determined, we guess, by how many members bash their shins on various concrete abutments?)

Of course, if you like the idea, you're exactly the kind of person who would would dash off a written letter and put it in a, whazzitcalled, envelope, with a stamp and everything, and drop said envelope in one of those, whazzitcalled, mailboxes for speedy delivery. Get those fountain pens and quills cracking, folks!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Flashback Monday: Reston's X-Rated Past

We all know about Reston's antecedents as a colony of homicidal nudists. Turns out some of that DNA carried over into our plastic fantastic planned community.


Dial back the controls of the Earth Toned Wayback Machine nearly four decades to be enjoying, courtesy of the Facebook group Reston Remember When, this ad for the Reston Twin Cinemas, which begat Chilis, which begat more recently a pile of rubble that will soon become Reston's most inscrutably named new development.

The Goodbye Girl was a bonafide 1977 hit, although we're not sure what that obscure sci-fi art film in Theater # 1 was about. Space muppets maybe? Two screens of cinema was certainly an entertainment smorgasbord in the days before Netflix, but it seems... there was also chill:


All of the sudden, this guy makes a lot more sense:

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

With BB Gun, A Previously Unthought-Of Interpretation of 'Get Involved'

BBsWhen the Reston Association coined the phrase "Live. Work. Play. Get Involved," this probably wasn't what they had in mind:

Metal pellets from a BB gun were aimed at a Reston Association official’s Reston home on Sunday night, police confirmed.

Sometime late Sunday night, a shooter shot at the front and back deck of the home, according to a report filed with Fairfax County Police.

The unnamed RA official told Reston Now that they were "concerned that the shooting was done by someone in the community 'who has an issue' with Reston Association." If true, that's pretty frightening. There's obviously plenty to be less than thrilled about when it comes to the management of our groovy homeowners association of late, but this is scary.

Before we pick up our pitchforks (or department store-accessible firearms), let's maybe make sure that all the seats on the RA board are actually contested (for a change). Or show up to an RA meeting (and hope they let you speak). Or write some trenchant comments on your favorite news site or filthy "web log." Trust us, you'll feel much better! Or maybe visit the local zoo, which now has 100 percent fewer wallaby drownings. Or maybe go to a dairy and learn how milk is made. Any of these seem like better options than pulling a Ralphie, the end.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Earth-Toned Autobots, Unite! An Alternate Future Vision for Tall Oaks

Peeping tom

We've all thrilled to the CGI-laden future vision of Tall Oaks, a place where, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, autonomous, elderly Second Life-like sims stare at walls, mourning the loss of sexist bread. But Confidential Restonian Operative "Joel" shared this photo of another possible post-singularity future for our beloved Stucco Wasteland. Behold!

Tall Oaks Autobots

We, for one, welcome our future robotic automotive overlords. Though if they are to reflect the unique character of our beloved earth-toned community, they really all ought to be Priuses (Prii?) or Ford Foci, the end.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Meanwhile, Back at the Leak House: RA Apparently a Fan of Handshake Deals, Losing Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars (Updated)

Leaky Roof

You know that fun envelope that comes from the RA every year, asking you to part with $657? Apparently, you can maybe just say "yeah, nope, changed my mind" and not worry about it. Who knew?

Ha ha, no, you can't do that, silly homeowner rabbit! Only the company involved in a contentious multimillion-dollar property transaction with the RA can, even if it leads to an operating loss compounded by significant cost overruns. Give us some infuriating blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:

Former tenant Tetra commercial real estate was expected to rent back the property through 2016.

Instead, the company, which had its offices in the building since 2003, left at the end of 2015. That means RA did not receive about $107,000 in payments and was also responsible for paying $20,000 in property taxes. Tetra did not break a contract — the contract ended at the end of 2015. It did, however, unexpectedly opt not to sign two six-month renewals, said RA CEO Cate Fulkerson.

Oops. That was awkward.

Having endured renovation projects for some sweeeeeet '70s construction, we're somewhat sympathetic to the idea that things wind up costing more than you'd like to believe when Surly the Contractor jots down an overly optimistic "estimate." Maybe even nearly a half-million dollars over budget, which will buy a lot of shingles. Hey, stuff happens, right? But assuming folks will sign contract extensions a year out, and planning budgets around that as though they were done deals, not handshake agreements? Not such a great way to run a railroad.

So, um, thanks, Reston Association, for making us backers of the Tetra purchase look really, really smart in retrospect.

Fortunately, the RA has, as they say in the movies, a plan to make up some of the overrun: Hearkening back to the child labor cubbies in their new headquarters building, they're going to offer afterschool childcare, and maybe teach the little tykes a thing or two about applying shingles with a nail gun, at what they're now calling the "Lake House."

Why Lake House, you ask? Because Leak House would just be cruel, the end.

Update: Sounds like the RA meeting where this was discussed went well. Give us some worrisome blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:

The board turned down a request by members to speak after the long Lake House discussion.
First rule of Leak House? Don't talk about Leak House.