Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Reston, Virginia: Robert E. Simon Jr.'s "far out" concept in conceptual town planning

In 1960, a young developer from New York, Robert E. Simon, had a plan.  He sold Carnegie Hall to the city of New York.  One year later, he purchased 6,750 acres of land in  rural Northern Virginia, 18 miles west of Washington, D.C.  Simon was developing a new town that would redefine how people live in the suburbs.  

In the early 60's, the suburbs was homogeneous residential communities which Simon believed lacked the vitality of a city.  

"I envisioned a community built as a place to live, work and play."  (Robert E. Simon)

Simon development a plan for a suburb that would not be "sub-urban".  Simon's plan brought townhomes from the city to the suburbs; clustered homes, shops and offices to create open space; brought European style village centers to the suburbs; and mixed recreation, housing and business. 

"In 1964, Reston was considered "far out", not just in location, but "far out" in concept."  (Chuck Veatch, first salesman)

Reston was the first "Open Community" in Virginia.

"We had the privilege to dream what a wonderful life would be like in a village center."  (William Conklin, architect and planner).  

"Fun and fantasy are missing in our country.  That stairway goes no place, it serves no function, but it's fun!"  

Today 65,000 people call Reston home. 

Reston is recognized as one of the finest examples of 20th century conceptual town planning and a thriving community in the 21st century.  

Town center is the focal point of the community.  

"The town center urbanized the suburbs."  (Jim Cleveland, Reston Land Corporation)

"Town Center represents urbanity, fitting into its natural surroundings, a balance that has earned Reston an international reputation."  (Robert E. Simon)

"This city will be one of the few places where a person can wander off and be by himself."  (Jim Rossant, Planner)

Simon's plan set aside 1,350 acres of open space.  

"From the beginning, Reston was meant to be a place where nature would not just co-exist with humans, but would thrive."  (Vern Walker, Naturalist)

The place in which you live is more than just an address."  (Leila Gordon, Reston Community Center)

Robert E. Simon Jr., Who Created a Town, Reston, Va., Dies at 101.  (The New York Times, 9/21/2015) 
He planned seven shopping plazas, each serving a “village” of 10,000 to 12,000 residents; 35 houses of worship; 21 schools; an industrial park to employ half of Reston’s work force; and a downtown area with transportation, medical, hotel and entertainment facilities. Reston — its name incorporated its founder’s initials — would also have a 35-acre artificial lake surrounded by town houses, shops and recreational green spaces.

Reston Virginia websites:

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