County Defends Architect Selection for Wheaton Library, Recreation Center
The director of the county’s Department of General Services says the public still will have a role in the design.
David Dise, the man charged with overseeing construction of a first-of-its-kind combination library and recreation center, faces a challenge: How to build the project on an accelerated schedule, while still giving the community a say on its appearance and use.
Dise, director of the Montgomery County Department of General Services, said he wants to start the public participation process in January and continue into the spring with at least two charrettes in Wheaton. At these intensive planning sessions, community members could weigh in on the architect’s design strategy and, later, offer reflections on final design concepts.
DGS chose Grimm + Parker Architects from its pool of general contractors. The selection method was a departure from discussions of the project that took place this summer.
Instead of holding an open design competition for the project, as some community members advocated, Dise proposed issuing a request for proposals from architecture firms. A committee that included community representatives would then select a firm.
Instead, Dise shifted course. He sees the most potential for community input in the designs themselves, rather than in the selection of the architecture firm.
“Design competitions are a gamble,” Dise said. The county runs the risk of getting a firm that is very good with design, but that does not execute it well, he said.
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In addition, the Department of General Services must keep pace with an accelerated schedule laid out by the Montgomery County Council in its construction budget. Dise said that saving six months in the early stages of the process will provide buffer space later on for complicating factors that could cause delays, such as redirecting the road that currently runs between the Wheaton Library and the Wheaton Community Center.
Dise laid out three reasons why the county is going with Grimm + Parker Architects.
First, as part of a competitive process done every three years, earlier this year the county awarded the firm a general services contract specifically for recreation centers and libraries. This creates an expectation that the county will give the firm work.
Second, Grimm + Parker has more experience than any other firm in designing recreation and library facilities for Montgomery County, Dise said. Grimm + Parker has designed Montgomery County’s two most recently-built recreation centers: the Mid-County Recreation Center and the White Oak Recreation Center. It also designed the Rockville Memorial Library, which opened in 2006.
Third, Grimm + Parker has proven its expertise in both design and execution, Dise said.
In addition to the charrettes, a design review team will provide more formal and more technical feedback to Grimm + Parker, Dise said. Members will include staff architects, representatives from the libraries and recreation departments and various stakeholder groups such as Friends of the Library. The Mid-County Citizens Advisory Board will also have a representative, to reflect the regional nature of the library.
Dise said he recognizes that this new center is something that Wheaton has looked forward to with great anticipation, and that he wants to honor those expectations.
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