Grid, Not Wedges

Grid, Not Wedges

Roger K. Lewis is a visionary architect and retired professor who writes the “Shaping the City” column for the Washington Post. He recently appeared with Montgomery County Planning Board Chair Royce Hanson to discuss the White Flint Sector Plan on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi radio show.

Today, Lewis has a column discussing “Washington’s Future: More Cobweb than Wagon Wheel.” Lewis thesis is that we are moving into a more modern paradigm in urban design:

Fifty years ago, planners generated the famous “wedges and corridors” master plan for the Washington metropolitan region. It envisioned the District as the hub from which transportation corridors — think of them as spokes — radiate into the surrounding counties and along which dense development would occur. The wedges of space between corridors would have low-density development, a combination of residential subdivisions and open space in the form of public parks and natural landscape.

The configuration of the Metro system was based on the “wedges and corridors” model. Likewise, the Capital Beltway was designed as a circle that would connect these transportation spokes radiating out from the District hub, while allowing interstate drivers to go around, rather than through, the District.

But this half-century-old planning model has been superseded. The evolving pattern of the future will be a lattice rather than a hub-and-spoke network, looking more like a cobweb than a wagon wheel.

Lewis notes causes for the shift, including changes in families (from nuclear to diverse), increasing demand for walkable communities (both for environmental and cultural reasons), and a better understanding of traffic and congestion. “Some willingly walk, ride bikes or use transit rather than driving, a behavioral shift that relieves traffic congestion and reduces carbon emissions.”

I recently attended the 112th presentation on the White Flint Sector Plan by a group of businesses, property owners and residents to a local business. Evan Goldman, Co-Chair of Friends of White Flint, made a point that leapt out at me again when Lewis’ column:

The congestion on the Pike, parking lots, paved-over areas, and overhead wires in White Flint, even the very tall buildings now going up along the Pike, are all exactly what we planned for in the 1950’s. They all conform to local county codes. They are what we asked for, and now that we have them, we see that we were wrong. We need to rethink our reliance on the automobile, and our planning that makes the automobile King over all, and relegates the pedestrian to an after-thought.

Traffic on Rockville Pike — we asked for it, and we got it:

Traffic on Rockville Pike: we asked for it, and we got it

You can find Lewis’ column at: 

Barnaby Zall

Barnaby Zall


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