Marvin Gaye didn’t sing “Love The One You’re With” — that would be Stephen Stills. But the line seems appropriate when we talk about biophilia and urban green field sites. While these sites are often overused, there is still much of the natural environment to love. Here is a little lyric about the site in Northeast Washington DC where Marvin Gaye grew up. There is a path in a park and a recreation center that bears Marvin’s name. The park is entered from a neighborhood street of brick rowhouses + duplexes on the north end of the site. The path moves south through a grove of majestic willow oaks. Folks play basketball beneath towering specimen trees planted in rows over a hundred years ago.
A footbridge crosses a wandering stream — a riparian zone working to regenerate itself with some help from the Army Corps of Engineers. Pass through a belt of trees that line both sides of the small ravine. Fields open up to the south — football, baseball, soccer, anything can be played here on a carpet of green.
The treeline forms a backdrop for the outfield. Here the recreation center is raised on berms above the floodplain. The path rises on a ramp to a high plaza and passes into the lobby. The building can be felt taking a breath. Fresh air is drawn in through louvers above windows and exhaled through high fans on the roof — natural ventilation.
Daylight pours in through high clerestory windows, draws visitors to the gallery on the second floor. The ramp leads to stairs; stairs lead out over the fields up into the boughs of the trees cantilevered above the stream. A point of prospect from within provides a view out over the fields. A perforated sunscreen filters light like the canopy of leaves on either side.
Step out onto the balcony and the building disappears — replaced by the sense of being in the trees beneath blue skies with the sound of water coursing through the stream bed three stories below.