Posts tagged with "Baltimore":
Johns Hopkins University has hired Italian architect Renzo Piano to design a building for its Homewood campus in Baltimore that will “reinvent the ancient Athenian agora for the 21st Century.” Hopkins commissioned the Renzo Piano Building Workshop of Genoa, Italy, to design a home for the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute, an interdisciplinary center dedicated to “strengthening democracy by improving civic engagement and civil discourse worldwide.”
The Foundation announced in June 2017 that it would commit $150 million to launch a joint effort with Hopkins to create the institute, assemble a faculty, and build a home for it on the Homewood campus. The project is called the Agora Institute because one of its goals is to reinvent the ancient Greek agora, or public gathering place. A budget for the building has not been established. The target completion date is 2022.
At 81, Piano is considered one of the world’s leading architects, with major projects on five continents and awards such as the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the RIBA Gold Medal, and the AIA Gold Medal. He is the subject of a retrospective that opened this month at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Past projects include the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; the Shard skyscraper in London; and, with Richard Rogers, the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris. Piano has worked with the donor before to design the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens, Greece.
Piano said in a statement that he accepted the commission because he has “great respect” for what the university and foundation want to build. This will be his first project in Baltimore, which has a “sister city” relationship with Genoa. “I was attracted to the Johns Hopkins project for its humanistic nature and also because I have always been interested in making places for learning,” Piano said in a statement. “I am very happy and honored to start this new adventure.”
University president Ronald J. Daniels said he believes Piano is the best choice to design the project. “SNF Agora Institute seeks to reinvent the ancient Athenian agora for the 21st Century,” Daniels said in a statement. “The institute will serve as a forum for scholarly research, the robust exchange of ideas, and for sharing strategies to repair civic discourse and strengthen democracy in America and around the globe.”
As “a visionary who understands the power of public space to foster conversation and create community,” Daniels said, “Renzo Piano is the ideal architect and artist to give physical form to the SNF Agora Institute.”
The institute is envisioned as an “academic and public forum” that will bring together experts in fields such as political science, psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, ethics, sociology, and history. Its mission, according to Hopkins, is to “forge new ways to address the deterioration of civic engagement worldwide and facilitate the restoration of open and inclusive discourse that is the cornerstone of healthy democracies.”
The building will house a director, 10 faculty members, 10 visiting scholars, and both graduate and undergraduate students. It will be the setting for a wide range of public events, including an annual conference bringing together “representatives of different viewpoints to examine contested public policy issues.” There will be lectures, symposiums, dinners, and performances.
A site for the institute has not been finalized, and Piano is expected to help make that decision, along with determining the building’s size. Given the nature of the project and stature of the designer, officials say, it is likely that Hopkins will want it to be in a prominent location facing out towards the city, rather than buried deep within the campus.
The City of Baltimore is hosting a citywide design competition to seek proposals for the redevelopment of McKeldin Plaza in downtown Baltimore. The call follows plans to demolish the existing McKeldin Fountain later this year and the Department of Planning will supervise the open competition.
This follows years of talk about redesigning the plaza, which is currently dominated by the 1982 Brutalist concrete McKeldin Fountain. The fountain stands adjacent to the Inner Harbor area and memorializes former Baltimore mayor Theodore McKeldin, who was instrumental in revitalizing the harbor area in the 1960s.
The Waterfront Partnership recently released plans for “Inner Harbor 2.0,” which will improve the area with new green spaces and pedestrian connections using Brooklyn Bridge Park and Waterfront Seattle as precedents.
McKeldin Plaza is an important fixture of Downtown Baltimore, and a designated free speech zone that was the focal point for the city’s Occupy and Black Lives Matter protests. In addition, the fountain is a historically significant holdout from the Brutalist movement, and its design attracts tourists and office workers from the surrounding area.
The Downtown Partnership of Baltimore supports redevelopment of the plaza into an open space, while many local artists, designers, and architects support its preservation as a public art piece.
The fountain itself has fallen into disrepair, and according to the Downtown Partnership its mechanics are prone to expensive breakdowns that leave it non-functional for months at a time. However, maintenance and enhancements could also go a long way toward revitalizing the plaza while preserving the fountain.
Up until recently the Brutalist design of the fountain matched the nearby Morris A. Mechanic Theatre, which was demolished in 2015. The theater was designed by John M. Johansen and opened in 1967, remaining in use until 2004. After its owners chose not to renew the lease on the building in favor of the newly reopened Hippodrome Theatre, the building fell into disrepair. A new high-rise residential and commercial space is now under construction on the site. Since the demolition of the Mechanic, McKeldin fountain is the only example of Brutalist architecture in Baltimore.
The fountain has its share of defenders, including Baltimore’s City Council president, who introduced a bill to block the demolition last year.
A Change.org petition calls for the postponement of demolition until a new design is approved. Others—including the fountain’s designer—are against the demolition entirely and want to preserve the site.
The Downtown Partnership plans to move forward with the demolition in Summer 2016 pending approval of permits. The fountain and the skywalk across Light Street were recently closed to pedestrians.
The architecture firms Ayers Saint Gross, Mahan Rykiel, and Ziger/Snead will oversee the project and finalize designs. Details about the public competition are still taking shape.
The lobby of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in central Baltimore is a loud, busy space—double-high with hard marble surfaces, designed in 1930 in a Beaux Arts Greek Revival style. Curator and architect Jillian Storms is in the middle of this uncharacteristically noisy and crowded room, telling a story about Poldi Hirsch. “When looking for a town in Maryland to start her husband’s medical practice, they made a pit stop in Havre de Grace and heard they could use doctors. They thought the town quaint, a lovely place in which to raise a family.
Demand for the professional services of an architect was harder to find, much less so a woman who followed the tenants of modernism. So Hirsch ended up acting as her own developer, and eventually as her own contractor too. She was a pioneer in design-build, building her own house with space for both her husband and herself to practice. When I caught up with her kids, they told me that they had never fully understood what their mother had accomplished, they just knew that she was the only mom in town who was on the phone all day!”
Hirsch is one of a dozen women whose work and lives are sketched in a show curated by Storms. “We just ended up using all of their first names in the text,” Storms said about putting together the show with help from students at Morgan State University. “Otherwise, with name changes due to marriage and other reasons, it was getting too confusing.”
Names weren’t the only source of confusion that arose when Storms and her collaborators started their research. While looking for women in the AIA’s records in Maryland and Washington, D.C., they found no way to search by gender. Before 1970, there was no opportunity to check a box on the application form indicating whether you were a man or a woman because architects were so overwhelmingly male. Still, Storms and her team persisted, conducting their search one microfiche file at a time.
Today, only about 16 percent of the AIA’s membership is women, but thanks to initiatives like “The Missing 32% Project,” the AIA is trying to keep better track of them. That 32 percent is the rate at which women leave the profession, or don’t pursue licensure, after graduating from architecture schools where they make up about half of the student population. This percentage is, in part, the audience that Storms hopes this show might reach. Storms, who is on AIA Baltimore’s Women in Architecture / Diversity Committee, said the show is about asking, “How did the women who came before—who had even fewer role models or members of a support group—how did they do it?”
One theme that emerged was flexibility. Like Hirsch, many of the women included here founded their own firms so that they could manage family and practice with a greater degree of self determination than would have been available working for someone else. The home studio that Hirsch designed for herself is a standout in the show, making fluent, strikingly contemporary architecture out of the divisions and flow between work and life, spaces and solids.
Another thread was independence. Chloethiel Woodard Smith, FAIA, led a Washington, D.C.–based practice that was, at its peak in the 1960s, the largest woman-owned architecture firm in the nation. Former members of her staff remember her determination that her work would not be defined by her gender. “She would walk into a room full of male developers and put them in their place,” one former staffer told Storms. “I’m an Architect with a capital A,” Smith wrote to her school’s alumni publication in 1979. “Being a woman has nothing to do with it.” “She wouldn’t have wanted to be in this show,” Storms said, with a laugh.
It’s the resonances between moments like these and contemporary conversations that linger in the mind after visiting this collection of work and stories. Throughout her career, the late Zaha Hadid was continuously asked to address these same issues about the relationship between architecture, gender, and the disparities that exist within the profession. “I used to not like being called a woman architect. I’m an architect, not just a woman architect,” Hadid told CNN in 2012. “Guys used to tap me on the head and say, ‘You are O.K., for a girl.’ But I see the incredible amount of need from other women for reassurance that it could be done, so I don’t mind that at all.”
It is this tension between the existence of these early women of architecture as both individuals and role models that drives the show that Storms has put together. She is on a first name basis with the architects here, “I’ve visited most of their projects and I’ve gotten to know their kids.”
Back in the Pratt Library lobby (a space that in 1932 then-library president Joseph L. Wheeler said was designed to be “a building that women could wheel their baby carriages [into]”), Storms has an impromptu audience gathered around her as she wraps up her tour of the show. “I’ve found some of them through friends of friends on Facebook and LinkedIn. That’s how research goes in the 21st century.” This show is about “who came before and what they had to deal with,” but it’s also about “trying to understand these women as people.”
Early Women of Architecture in Maryland is on display at the AIA Maryland Gallery through June 26.