Finalists for Hobbit's Glen clubhouse underwhelm

Letter to the editor

October 31, 2011

Last week I attended Columbia Association's public meeting to hear presentations by the four finalists being considered as architects for the renovation or replacement of the Hobbit's Glen clubhouse. I found the presentations very disappointing.

They focused on how good each firm is at responding to their clients' needs, on being team players, working within budgets and meeting schedules. All were cautious not to say anything that might jeopardize their chances of getting this job. Consequently, they were noncommittal and vague when asked about the style of architecture that they considered appropriate for a renovated or new clubhouse. Surely, in evaluating architects, their views about the appearance of the building should be as important as their firms other attributes!

A good guide to to the quality of design and the creative abilities of a firm is its recognition by the architectural profession through the American Institute of Architects' Awards for Design Excellence and a firm's reputation among its peers. Such criteria were not solicited by Columbia Association and no such awards were cited by the four finalists. Awards by Golf magazine were mentioned and may have some merit, but are no measure of architectural design talent.

Alterations to the existing clubhouse over the years have been poorly designed and detract from its appearance, but the original architecture is unique and was thoughtfully conceived with an unpretentious, rustic character inside and out that is attractive and of a scale that is perfect for its residential and woodland setting. I doubt that any of the four finalists will be able to design a new building with these qualities. In comparison, the architecture that was presented was commonplace. I hope that the residents of Columbia and of Hobbit's Glen in particular, will speak up and urge the Columbia Association to renovate and expand what we have rather than replacing it with an entirely new building.

Also, I believe as Columbia matures as a city it should show pride in its unique beginnings as a renowned planned community by keeping the best buildings that played a significant role in its early days. This is one of them.

Jervis Dorton

Oakland Mills

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