Reston, Va.: The Visionary and His Dream

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January 01, 2005

 

Visionary architect Robert Simon introduced a method of community planning that had at its core building a strong sense of community.

 

The Evolution of Master-Planned Communities
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Celebration, Fla.: Celebrating Innovation
Kennecott, Utah: Brownfield/Greenfield
Centennial, Calif.: Heritage Unbound
Additional Information
The Future of Master Planned Communities
33 Guiding Principles and Strategies for Communities of the 21st Century

Robert Simon was a dreamer and an architect. He was fascinated by what made communities work: their social interactions, their economies, their institutions, their self-images and motivation. He worried about all of these things and more, and this introspection shaped a community named Reston outside of Washington, D.C. in what was then rural Fairfax County, Virginia. His comprehensive vision set a new standard for how to think about community building.

Reston introduced clustering residences around common parks and open spaces, mixing land uses, providing large open spaces for recreation, offering attractive public transportation options, promoting an appreciation for design, and protecting the environment.

To be sure, his reach may have been a bit beyond his grasp; the development didn't really achieve market success until it was taken over by the Gulf Oil Company in 1967. They found ways to market the housing mix that Simon believed was needed. His notion of cluster housing was ahead of the market, but it remains one of Reston's enduring legacies. Perhaps one of Reston's other notable contributions to the craft of community building is its built-in anticipation of—no, commitment to—change. This was one of the qualities that allowed Gulf Oil to focus marketing strategies that finally succeeded.

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