Discovery light beam abandoned, company official says
Discovery Communications' planned Silver Spring tower will not be capped by a beam of light shooting into the sky, despite architectural renderings of the tower that showcase the beam, a senior company official said last week.
The lighting scheme for Discovery's 300-foot tower, part of the media firm's future Silver Spring headquarters, has been criticized by amateur astronomers worldwide, who believe a skyward beam would add to urban light pollution and waste natural resources.
Discovery's $160 million headquarters, slated for completion in 2002, is considered the cornerstone of Silver Spring's urban redevelopment.
But Domenick Fioravanti, Discovery's senior vice president, said in a phone interview Friday the proposal has been taken off the table permanently.
"There will be no laser beam [on the tower] shooting into the sky," Fioravanti said. "There is no plan for a beam."
Detailed architectural drawings of the Discovery headquarters by SmithGroup, the D.C.-based firm in charge of designing the project, feature a light beam emitting from the top of the tower. The beam is also prominently mentioned in a recent written description of the Discovery project drafted by the county Planning Board.
Fioravanti, however, argued the radical proposal was never seriously considered by Discovery.
"Simply architectural meanderings," he said of the beam. "At some point, an architect muttered something about the beam, and then it took on a life of its own."
When asked about the SmithGroup drawings, which were recently presented before the county Planning Board during a public hearing, Fioravanti said the Discovery headquarters' layout has been in constant change.
"I can show you about six different versions of the [Discovery] building," he said. "This is a design-development process. The [design of the] building looks a lot different now than it did when we started."
In recent weeks, officials at both Discovery and SmithGroup received phone calls, letters and e-mails from a handful of amateur astronomers worldwide, who read about the beam in a June 7 Gazette article that was posted on the Internet.
Some correspondence came from as far away as Vancouver, British Columbia, company officials said.
The astronomers' objections mark a minor, but unforeseen public relations blunder for Discovery, which is the foremost global provider of science and nature programming, and portrays itself as "nature-friendly."