Posts tagged with "Baltimore":

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What Baltimore can teach us about the future of public monuments

With little fanfare, under the cover of night, the City of Baltimore took down four Confederate monuments last week. The removals may be read as a response to the violence in Charlottesville, but the city's decision marks a decisive new chapter in public commemoration, one that goes much deeper than the nightly news.  The monuments depicted Confederate soldiers, generals, (white) women of the South, and one Supreme Court justice best known for his role in the Dred Scott decision. The Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument (1903) and the Confederate Women's Monument (1917) were both put up by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, while the Lee-Jackson Monument was erected in 1948 by the Baltimore Municipal Arts Society with $100,000 from a 1928 bequest by local business executive J. Harry Ferguson. The statue of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney was given to Baltimore in 1887 by William T. Walters, who commissioned a copy of an 1871 statue of Taney on the Maryland State House grounds. Since last Wednesday, all four bronze monuments have been sitting in an city storage yard under cover of blue plastic tarps. For the past week, curious neighbors, activists, and news crews have toured the four empty stone plinths full of questions about the past and the future. How did these monuments end up here? How did the monuments affect Baltimore while they stood, and what do we do now that they're gone? It might seem odd to see Confederate monuments in Baltimore when Maryland remained part of the Union throughout the Civil War. Thousands of Marylanders fought for the Confederacy but thousands more fought for the Union, including over 8,700 black men in six Maryland regiments of U.S. Colored Troops. But slavery was still legal in Maryland until nearly the end of the war, when the state passed a new constitution in 1864. Former Confederates and their allies quickly returned to political power. Maryland did not ratify the 14th Amendment and 15th Amendment to the Constitution (what one historian called his "favorite Civil War era monuments") until well after they came into effect: 1959 (for the 14th) and 1973 (for the 15th). Across the country, efforts to remember the Civil War first appeared in cemeteries. Between 1865 and 1885, 90 percent of Confederate monuments contained some form of funerary design and a majority (70 percent) stood in cemeteries. (Confederate monuments still stand in southwest Baltimore's Loudon Park Cemetery. That all changed after the end of Reconstruction. When the federal government retreated from protecting black voters from the growing threat of violence by white neighbors in the 1870s, most monuments were stripped of their funereal designs and semi-public settings and moved decisively into the town square. Between 1885 and 1899, only 40 percent of new monuments used funerary designs, and towns increasingly chose to locate monuments in public places (like streets and courthouse lawns). From 1900 to 1912, the nation witnessed the erection of 60 percent of all Confederate monuments built before World War I. Of those, only 25 percent used funerary design and 85 percent were located in public areas. This dramatic move—from private sites of mourning to public sites of celebration and honor—reflects the success of a ''reconciliationist'' memory of the Civil War that focused on the bravery of soldiers and generals while avoiding any discussion of slavery or the unfinished work of emancipation. In the last chapter of Black Reconstruction in America, W.E.B. Du Bois noted the role historians at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore had played in rewriting the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction around themes of "endless sympathy with the white south" and "ridicule, contempt or silence for the Negro." In his landmark 2001 book, Race and Reunion, historian David Blight observed that "[a] segregated society, demanded a segregated historical memory."  The white supremacist politics that accompanied the rise of "Lost Cause" memory make it impossible to avoid comparing monuments to other strategies designed to exclude African Americans from urban space. During the same period white Baltimoreans put up Confederate monuments, the city enacted the nation's first racial segregation ordinance in 1910 and, in the wake of the ordinance's legal defeat, white residents created a patchwork of racially restrictive housing covenants. The Confederate Women's Monument was located in Bishop's Square Park near the southern entrance to Guilford, an exclusive suburban enclave established in 1913 and developed by a company that pioneered the use of racially restrictive covenants. It is important to remember, however, that the context for Baltimore's Confederate monuments (and the new empty plinths) is more than just the social history of racism and the "Lost Cause." Whether they stand in a private cemetery or on a public street, the meanings of monuments are shaped by the surrounding physical context. All of Baltimore's monuments have seen radical changes over the decades including the physical relocation, the demolition of surrounding buildings, and the reconfiguration of street grids. The Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument once sat in the center of Mount Royal Avenue, flanked on both sides by Victorian rowhouses, until the rowhouses were cleared away and the road dramatically widened for the construction of I-83. In 1959, construction of ramps for I-83 forced the Union Soldiers and Sailors Monument to move to the southeastern corner of Wyman Park Dell. The new site may even have been selected to provide "balance" to the Lee-Jackson Monument located on opposite side of the park. The map below depicts the present-day location of two of the four monuments in Baltimore: The way people use the urban landscapes surrounding the monuments has also evolved. When Baltimore's Confederate monuments were built, the people who sought permission for their installation, raised money for their design and production, and planned the dedication ceremonies often lived nearby. They wanted their neighbors to see the structures—whether their neighbors wanted to see them or not. In 1887, the statue of infamous Chief Justice Roger B. Taney was just a few hundred feet from the home of the statue's donor, William T. Walters at 5 West Mount Vernon Place—one of the the dozens of large townhouses facing on the four squares that surround the Washington Monument. But, by 1890, the neighbors also included over 11,000 African Americans living in the city's 11th Ward, which began just one block west of the park. Around the turn of the century, hundreds of Confederate veterans gathered around Mount Vernon Place to march up to Mount Royal Avenue for the dedication of the Confederate Soldiers Monument. Residents on or near the route included the former home of Confederate General Lawrason Riggs (where his widow flew a Confederate flag from the window as the parade went past) and Confederate officer McHenry Howard who spoke at the ceremony. But less than 100 years later, the center of Confederate memory had moved to the suburbs. The Baltimore chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans was re-established there in 1981, and a city that once welcomed celebrations of Confederate memory slowly began to turn against it. Since the 1950s, Confederate groups had organized an annual celebration for Robert E. Lee's birthday at the Lee-Jackson Monument. Celebrating Lee's birthday on the third Monday in January took on a new meaning after the federal government adopted Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a national holiday in the 1980s. In 2008, Johns Hopkins refused to rent the group the meeting hall they had used for years. Four years later, members of the Homewood Quaker Meeting House, located just a five-minute walk from the statue, began organizing a silent vigil calling on the group to "Change the Date." In June 2015, protestors used the Lee-Jackson Monument as the backdrop for a press conference calling on then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to remove Baltimore's Confederate Monuments and the Taney statue. Community members gathered there again on Sunday, August 13, a day after activist Heather Heyer's death, for a rally and march in solidarity with Charlottesville. The speakers called on Mayor Catherine Pugh to take down the city's Confederate monuments. When activist group Baltimore BLOC called for direct action to take down the Lee-Jackson Monument (#DoItLikeDurham), the city responded quickly. A little over twelve hours later, all four monuments had been taken down. What monuments or statues best represent the city today is still to be determined, but these four monuments will surely be remembered long after they were taken down. As some Baltimore’s own Frederick Douglass remarked in 1884: "It is not well to forget the past. Memory was given to man for some wise purpose. The past is … the mirror in which we may discern the dim outlines of the future."
Eli Pousson is the director of preservation & outreach at Baltimore Heritage where his work includes the Explore Baltimore Heritage website and app, as well as ongoing research about Baltimore's civil rights heritage. Pousson wrote this piece as an individual and not on behalf of Baltimore Heritage.
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McKeldin Fountain is the latest Brutalist work to be pulverized in Baltimore

In Baltimore, contractors have begun demolishing a symbol of the city’s renaissance and the mayor who sparked it, the McKeldin Fountain at Pratt and Light streets. The Downtown Partnership of Baltimore has led the effort to tear down the fountain, named after former Mayor Theodore McKeldin, and replace it with a landscaped plaza that members argue would be a more welcoming gateway to the city. The fountain and adjacent plaza were designed by Philadelphia architect Thomas Todd, a founding partner of WRT, as part of the redevelopment of the Inner Harbor renewal area in the early 1980s. An example of Brutalist architecture made with a series of concrete prisms and walkways, the fountain is owned by the city and listed in the city’s official inventory of public art. It is dedicated to the former mayor who first proposed in 1963 the idea of rejuvenating Baltimore’s Inner Harbor waterfront. Members of Baltimore’s public art commission have questioned the demolition, saying they never agreed to de-accession the city-owned work, much less let it be torn down. But the city’s law department overrode them, saying the art commission serves only in an advisory capacity to the mayor, who supports the partnership and its demolition plans. Baltimore’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation has not gotten involved in the controversy, saying the 1982 structure is not old enough to be considered for landmark designation or protection. Two pedestrian skybridges that were connected to the fountain were taken down more than a month ago. Last Saturday, crews with a spike-wielding excavator chipped away at the concrete piers on the fountain’s perimeter, reducing them to rubble. By the end of the day, the fountain appeared to be past the point of saving. Demolition activity is expected to continue on the triangular parcel through the month of November. After that, the Downtown Partnership plans to create a temporary park, which is expected to remain in place until funds can be raised for a permanent replacement. There has been talk about the city’s planning commission holding a design competition for the site, but no details have been disclosed. For now, Philadelphia landscape architect David Rubin has designed a temporary plaza after Ziger/Snead Architects and Mahan Rykiel Associates bowed out of the project. The Downtown Partnership is a private group supported by local businesses and its board meetings are not open to the public. Its president, Kirby Fowler, has said that some of the immediate corporate neighbors of the fountain believe it is an eyesore and should be replaced with a more attractive gateway to downtown. Fowler several years ago led the effort to tear down another work of Brutalist architecture in downtown Baltimore, John Johansen’s 1967 Morris A. Mechanic Theatre. Board members of the Baltimore chapter of the American Institute of Architects have said they believe the McKeldin Fountain shouldn’t be razed until the city has approved a design for its permanent replacement and funds are in hand to complete construction. Fowler has said he wants the fountain gone as soon as possible, even if the partnership doesn’t have funds for a permanent replacement. The timing is also affected by the pending departure of the current mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who is leaving office in December after deciding not to run for reelection. Voters will determine her replacement next week. The way the project has been handled has drawn criticism from members of the arts and design community, who contend the general public never had any real say in the demolition or what will  replace the fountain. “This is a victory for false nostalgia, fear of the future of the public realm, and the expanding mandate of government and design by nonprofit corporations instead of people,” lamented Fred Scharmen, a Baltimore architect and educator who has questioned the demolition and the lack of transparency in the decision-making process.
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Baltimore City Council approves $660 million for Port Covington project

This past Monday, the Baltimore City Council approved a $660 million bond deal for the Port Covington project, a waterfront development that includes the new headquarters for Under Armour, as well as shops, housing offices, and manufacturing spaces that promise to encourage economic growth. As a whole, the project is projected to create 26,500 permanent jobs and have a $4.3 billion annual economic impact. The council approved the deal 12­–1 and funds for the infrastructure will come from bonds to be paid back by the developer, Plank's Sagamore Development, through future taxes—it is the largest tax-increment financing deal in Baltimore’s history. Proponents believe it's a good solution to finance infrastructure in Baltimore. The developer agreed to share profits with the city: If Port Covington earns greater than 15 percent profit, then the city will receive 25 percent of any additional profit. In addition, $100 million (already approved by the Board of Estimates) will be allocated to citywide benefits and will support local workers (30 perfect of all construction works must be from Baltimore) and 20 percent of housing units will be affordable. Critics believe crucial elements are missing from the agreement and that the funds would be better diverted to the city’s educational fund. According to a city-funded analysis, the development could cause the city to lose up to $315 million in state aid over the next 40 years because, although Baltimore will appear to be wealthier, it will not actually receive that wealth until the bonds are repaid. Additionally, they point out the affordable housing agreement has a potential loophole in that Sagamore can pay into an inclusionary housing fund instead of building the units. The debates will continue as the deal is sorted out. The General Assembly promised city officials that it will prevent the educational funding from being affected and, Donald C. Fry, president and of the Greater Baltimore Committee, told the Baltimore Sun that this could set a positive precedent: "If any company is looking to come to Baltimore and get some form of government assistance or support in the nature of TIF or [payment in lieu of taxes], I think they're going to know there are some things that are going to be expected," Fry said. The project will start with the $19.6 million East Waterfront Park.
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Amtrak to pick developer for Baltimore’s Penn Station overhaul

Amtrak will pick a developer for Baltimore's Penn Station overhaul by summer 2017. The railroad is soliciting a request for qualifications from designers and engineers to add amenities, make the station A.D.A. compatible, open 40,000 square feet of unused office space, revamp the plaza that fronts the station's main entrance, and revitalize the surrounding neighborhood by developing adjacent properties. Although Amtrak is exploring financing options, including private equity financing and a public-private option, there is no cost estimate for the project available at this time, the Baltimore Sun reported. After the news conference to announce the renovation, Amtrak officials and Congressman Elijah E. Cumming gave a presentation to the bidders. Representatives from Arup and FXFowle were in attendance. Officials cited Philadelphia's 30th Street Station and Washington, D.C.'s Union Station as inspirations for the Baltimore's station overhaul. "The redevelopment of Penn Station is incredibly important, as it is the first impression of Baltimore to anyone traveling by rail to the city," Susan Yum, spokeswoman for the city's economic development agency, told the Sun. "The station has much more potential as both a transit hub and a key gateway, and we hope that Amtrak will be able to see this project through to completion." The announcement follows a spate of planned train station overhauls along the Northeast corridor. D.C.'s Union Station is slated for a new concourse as part of a $50 million renovation, with Amtrak is picking up most of the tab. To jumpstart redevelopment around the train station, a mixed-use development over the rail yard will add 1.5 million square feet of commercial office space, 10,000 square feet of retail, a 500-key hotel, and 1,300 apartments. New York's Penn Station is getting a $3 billion overhaul as part of Governor Cuomo's $100 billion infrastructure improvement plan. The adjacent neoclassical James A. Farley Post Office will be converted into Penn Station's concourse, increasing the size of the station by 50 percent.  
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City of Baltimore to open design competition for McKeldin Plaza

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. 

 
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An exhibition that explores Maryland’s early women in architecture

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.

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National Aquarium in Baltimore to build North America’s first sanctuary for “retired” dolphins

Designers have created sanctuaries for elephants, chimpanzees and big cats. The National Aquarium in Baltimore announced today that it will design and build North America’s first “sanctuary” for dolphins. The project will enable the institution to move its eight Atlantic bottlenose dolphins out of public display and into the protected seaside habitat by the end of 2020, paving the way for major changes to its Inner Harbor campus. A location for the dolphin sanctuary—likely farther south, in warmer climates closer to the equator—has not been selected, but aquarium officials say it will provide a new option for how dolphins can live in human care. No designer has been selected, but the aquarium has been working closely for the past two years with architect Jeanne Gang, of Studio Gang Architects. Gang’s office has prepared a rendering showing what the dolphin sanctuary might look like. Several years ago, she led an architecture class at Rice University and her assignment for the class was to design a dolphin sanctuary off the coast of Texas. Aquarium Chief Executive Officer John Racanelli announced the decision about the dolphins in a press release and an email message to members of the National Aquarium’s extended community. "Through more than 25 years of dedicated care for dolphins, we have realized that the relocation of our dolphins to a natural sanctuary setting is the best way to offer them an environment in which they can thrive," Racanelli said in his email message. "We now know more about dolphins and their care, and we believe that the National Aquarium is uniquely positioned to use that knowledge to implement positive change," Racanelli said. "This is the right time to move forward with the dolphin sanctuary." "There’s no model anywhere, that we’re aware of, for this," Racanelli told the  Associated Press. "We’re pioneering here, and we know it’s never the easiest nor the cheapest option." The aquarium disclosed two years ago that it was considering retiring its dolphins, as part of a movement in which institutions are rethinking the idea of holding cetaceans and other living creatures in captivity. Because the dolphins may not be able to survive if released into the wild, the aquarium has explored the idea of creating a sanctuary for them, in the same way Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus maintains a sanctuary for its retired elephants. As part of its evaluation, the aquarium hired Studio Gang to propose ways to repurpose a $35 million marine mammal pavilion that opened in 1991 and was designed specifically for the display of dolphins. Gang has proposed converting the building, on Inner Harbor Pier 4, to an attraction that would focus on the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Drawings were made public last month. In its announcement today, the aquarium released some details about the proposed animal sanctuary. According to the aquarium, it will be in a tropical or sub-tropical climate, possibly in the Florida Keys or the Caribbean. The National Aquarium has formed a site selection team whose top priority is to ensure the health and welfare of the dolphins. The location will be chosen based on a list of criteria, including: ability to provide lifetime customized care for each dolphin; an outdoor location with natural sea water, with more space and depth than current facility; a warm weather climate, and natural stimulus for the dolphins, such as fish and aquatic plants “As we look at the future of the dolphins in our care, we are working very hard to provide them the best possible place to live out their years,” said Tom Robinson, the National Aquarium’s board chair. According to the aquarium, the institution and its directors began exploring new ways to care for the dolphins five years ago. Numerous options were weighed, ranging from rebuilding the existing Marine Mammal Pavilion in a more naturalistic style to moving the dolphins to other accredited facilities. After careful consideration, officials said, the decision was made to create a protected, year-round, seaside refuge with aquarium staff continuing to care for and interact with the dolphins. “We've evaluated this for five years and have decided that this is the right decision for the dolphins, and, thus, for our organization,” said aquarium board member Colleen Dilenschneider, who also served on a separate board committee that assessed this project. “We are excited to introduce this new option along a spectrum of human care for dolphins.” “This is a special time in history concerning evolving attitudes about treating all forms of life with dignity and respect—other humans very much included,” said Sylvia Earle, marine biologist, explorer and author. “The idea of providing sanctuaries for elephants, chimpanzees, big cats—and now dolphins—is a sign of a maturing ethic of caring unthinkable in past millennia, centuries and even decades.”
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Jeanne Gang recommends extensive changes to National Aquarium in Baltimore

The sculptural centerpiece of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the National Aquarium, would take on an entirely new look and identity under a design proposal from Chicago-based architect and MacArthur Foundation genius grant recipient Jeanne Gang.
The redesign is driven by proposed changes in the uses and “a new unifying concept for the exhibits” of the aquarium’s multi building campus, also recommended by Gang’s firm, Studio Gang, and others.
First, the aquarium’s Marine Mammal Pavilion on Inner Harbor Pier 4 would become an attraction focusing on the “Chesapeake Bay Watershed,” if-and-when the aquarium’s dolphins are no longer in residence. Aquarium chief executive John Racanelli disclosed in 2014 that the aquarium is studying the possibility of no longer exhibiting its eight Atlantic bottlenose dolphins at the Inner Harbor, adding to a national discussion about the ethics of keeping cetaceans in captivity. Second, the aquarium’s original building on Inner Harbor Pier 3 would be redesigned to offer “an expansive tour of global ‘Hope Spots,’ treasured places on the planet that are worth protecting,” and given a new circulation system visible on the building’s exterior. This would be a new and more conservation-oriented visitor experience inside the 1981 building, whose exhibits were designed to take visitors on a simulated journey around the world, from beneath the ocean to the top of the Amazon Rain Forest. Third, between the two main buildings, a narrow slip of water would support an “urban wetland” capable of attracting wildlife, increasing biodiversity, connecting the main buildings, and serving as a “new physical center for the National Aquarium campus.”
By providing outdoor educational and social spaces for visitors and the public, designers say, the wetlands project “simultaneously improves the local ecology, creates a campus identity, strengthens connectivity, and extends the aquarium's growing conservation work in the region.” Both of the existing buildings, including one of the first major aquarium structures by Peter Chermayeff and his colleagues at Cambridge Seven Associates, would be retained under Gang’s proposal.
But both would be substantially altered with internal changes and additions, including new crystalline or prismatic forms that both link and lighten the buildings visually and conceal much of the striated concrete that is visible today. On Pier 3, Chermayeff’s distinctive forms and graphics would be altered radically under Gang’s proposal, including the “signal flag” wall on the west side and the glass pyramid that encloses the rooftop rain forest. A new circulation system would be created along the western wall, where the signal flag is now.
On Pier 4, the Marine Mammal Pavilion, designed by GWWO of Baltimore and opened in 1990, would receive a similarly thorough makeover, with changes designed to reuse much of the existing building yet give it a new architectural identity to coincide with its new use and unite “existing and new building volumes” on both piers. The transformation is the culmination of a two year long design process that Gang led in her first project in Baltimore and one of her first on the East Coast. Studio Gang was hired by the aquarium along with a predictive intelligence company, IMPACTS Research & Development. Drawings, renderings and an explanatory text have been posted on the Studio Gang website, which calls the project the “National Aquarium Strategic Master Plan” and says design work was completed in 2015. The plans call for the aquarium eventually to contain 360,000 square feet of indoor space and a 37,000 square foot urban wetland.
Inside the aquarium, the posting says, Gang’s plan calls for “a redesigned circulation sequence to enhance visitor flow through the exhibits and visitor amenities.”  Gang’s plan also “creates and enriches spaces for education through a new unifying concept  for the exhibits on both piers: While Pier 3 would offer an expansive tour of global "Hope Spots," treasured places on the planet that are worth protecting, Pier 4 would become the domain of the region's spectacular natural asset, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.” Coordinating the architectural experience with the exhibits and education spaces, the proposed design for Pier 4 takes visitors on a journey through the various ecological zones of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the largest estuary in the United States and one of the most fragile. Educational labs and classrooms are integrated within both interior and exterior exhibits and enable visitors to see back-of-house functions such as a “fish kitchen.” Under Gang’s plan, the new program areas are closely tied to the aquarium's conservation work.
“By strengthening connections between urban and aquatic life, Studio Gang’s strategic master plan supports the aquarium’s future success and goals to ‘fundamentally change the way people view and care for the ocean,’” the architects say on their website. “Ultimately, the plan positions the National Aquarium as a recognized leader in national and global debates concerning water quality, conservation, healthy harbors, and the future sustainability and practices of aquariums at large.” Aquarium officials have not said for sure when or whether they are discontinuing their popular dolphin exhibit. They have said they plan to carry out the strategic plan recommendations in phases, as funding allows. The first major project they are launching is the urban wetlands and changes to outdoor spaces on Piers 3 and 4. That project is currently going through the local design review process, with Ayers Saint Gross of Baltimore as the lead designer.
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A Divine Monument is in the works for Baltimore

Philadelphia has its Rocky statue. New York City has Ralph Kramden. Minneapolis has Mary Richards. Now an artist group in Baltimore is planning to erect a monument honoring one of that city’s best known performers, the actor known as Divine. And they have just the location for it—the corner where the Baltimore born actor filmed the daringly disgusting final scene in John Waters’ 1972 movie, Pink Flamingos. Yes, that scene where Divine, a 300-pound transvestite playing “The Filthiest Person Alive,” eats fresh dog droppings off a Baltimore sidewalk. After months of planning, the artists went a long way toward realizing their goal earlier this year when they launched a website showing a proposed design for their project and began a crowdfunding campaign to raise the estimated $70,000 needed to make it a reality. “We think Divine would like it,” said Michal Makarovich, one of eight people who have been planning the memorial. “Baltimore will have a monument like no other in the world. “We could have had a statue, but it wouldn’t have been as noteworthy, to make people want to come and see it and feel like they’ve done something adventuresome. ‘Have you seen the Divine monument?’ As John Waters once said, Come to Baltimore and be shocked!” The Divine devotees went public with their project last year during a presentation to Baltimore’s Public Art Commission. At the time, they said they wanted to create a monument to pay tribute to filmmaker John Waters and the late Harris Glenn Milstead, also known as Divine, who gained fame starring in Waters’ films. And they wanted to put the monument at the site of one of Divine’s best known scenes, the intersection of Read and Tyson streets in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon historic district. That’s where Divine filmed the sequence that brought him and Waters international recognition—the closing scene in Pink Flamingos, where a triumphant Divine, having vanquished his rivals for the title of “Filthiest Person Alive,” gets down on the sidewalk, and eats dog poop. The monument planners said many John Waters fans come to Baltimore and want to know where the scene was filmed. Part of the monument’s purpose, they said, is to show the location so people can see for themselves. They also wanted a monument that will pay tribute to the actor, who died in 1988. The commissioners listened intently before rendering a verdict. “I am appalled,” said arts panel member Elissa Blount-Moorhead, “that it hasn’t happened before.” But how to convey all that? Especially at a time when Baltimore was reeling from riots following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody and debating what to do with its Confederate monuments? Besides Makarovich, the planning group includes Alexander Fox, Michael Pugh, Parisa Saranj, James Stevenson, filmmaker Steve Yeager (a friend of Waters whose work includes the film Divine Trash), and artists David Hess and Sebastian Martorana. Hess and Martorana, the artists for the monument, are two of Maryland’s most gifted sculptors. Hess has created a number of large scale sculptures for the American Visionary Art Museum, the Inner Harbor, and other prominent sites. Martorana is known for recreating everyday and even mundane objects such as bath towels out of marble and was featured last year in Walters Art Museum exhibit. In discussing their concept with the arts panel last year, the group didn’t show a design. Members just said they wanted to create a sort of “shrine” that would fit in with the historic buildings of Mount Vernon yet reflect some of the counter culture spirit of Read Street, once Baltimore’s answer to San Francisco’s Haight Asbury district. Waters, who turns 70 this month, knows about the project but is not part of the group planning it. He said last fall, before the design was unveiled, that he is busy with other projects and wouldn’t be able to lobby for it, but he doesn’t object to the concept. The design unveiled this year starts with a marble archway, three feet wide and eight feet high, reminiscent of those found on entrances to any number of Baltimore’s grand Victorian town houses but in this case attached to the side of a building at Read and Tyson. (The building is owned by Pugh, one of the planners, who bought it without knowing of its Divine connection.) At the top of the arch is a single word, “DIVINE.” Inside the arch is a black and white image of Divine’s face on black granite, looking fierce. It’s blown up from a photograph taken when Divine was in his early 30s, the age when he filmed Pink Flamingos. If the arch is a doorway into Divine’s world, the artists have also provided a place to stop and contemplate that world. It comes in the form of two white marble steps, similar to those found in row house neighborhoods all over Baltimore. The steps are just below the arch and lead up to it. Martorana has used recycled marble steps in his work before. These steps double as a platform to display a small bronze sculpture by Hess representing what Divine ate on his way to international cult status. Visitors may have to look twice before they realize what it is—and that it isn’t real. Below Divine’s visage is a quote from John Waters about the day they shot the dog-doo scene: “It was a magic day in our happy young lives.” Engraved below Waters’ quote, in smaller letters, is a sentence that explains the reason for the monument’s location: “Divine was directed here by John Waters for the last scene of Pink Flamingos in 1971.”  The result is a work of art that is both specific and vague to the point of being mystical. The overall piece is general and accessible, aimed for the crowd that just wants to take a selfie with it and doesn’t care so much about the fine print. The engraving and other details will provide more specifics for hardcore fans who make a trek to the site and want to be rewarded with some information that makes them an authority on the subject, so they can prove they were there. The steps also double as a place where people could sit or kneel or otherwise linger and pay tribute, Makarovich said. “When people get there, there should be something for them to see and take pictures of,” he said. “That was the impulse.” The planners debated whether to include the dog excrement sculpture at all, but they eventually decided it needed to be part of the composition. “If we did it without the doggy-doo, it wouldn’t have any controversy. That, and the fact that it’s located where the scene was filmed, adds even more interest to make you want to go see it,” Makarovich said. In February, the design received unanimous approval from the city’s Public Art Commission. The group also has the blessing of Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who said through a spokesman that she thinks ”the idea sounds divine.”
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Flux Factory revives a “threat to the motoring public” with the first Fung Wah Biennial

Remember the Fung Wah Bus? Posing an "imminently hazardous and potentially deadly risk for its own drivers, passengers and for the motoring public," the Chinatown bus provided fast, dirt cheap service between New York and Boston before the company shuttered in 2015. Now, thanks to New York–based arts nonprofit Flux Factory, eager riders can re-live the experience: For three Saturdays in March, the arts group is commissioning 24 artists for the first Fung Wah Biennial. The daylong, site-specific exhibitions will take place on trips from New York to Baltimore, Boston, and Philadelphia, three of the most popular Chinatown bus routes. (Although Fung Wah ran buses on one route only, Flux uses "Fung Wah" as metonymy for the network of buses that ferries passengers from Chinatown to Chinatown in the northeastern U.S.) On the ride, artists will share sound installations, video projections, performances, and other pieces that "tease out the nuanced politics of transit." Commissioned pieces explore the loneliness, isolation, and fun of travel; travel and migration; and the history and infrastructure of Chinatown buses. Tickets, priced from $36.87 to $47.12, are a far reach from Fung Wah's $10 fares, but there's art! Most passengers will be ticketed Biennial-goers, although those just trying to get from point A to B are in for a real surprise. The idea for the biennial, curated By Sally Szwed, Matthias Borello, and Will Owen, arose from conversations around the high cost of living and studio space is forcing artists out to other cities; travel for leisure, work, or necessity; and a comment on the network of privately operated, affordable transportation between Chinatowns. Below are participating artists and their designated routes:

BOSTON: Marco Castro, Eric Doeringer, Fan Letters (Alex Nathanson + Dylan Neely), Sunita Prasad, Joshua Caleb Wiebley, Ariel Abrahams + Rony Efrat, Magali Duzant, Keith Hartwig + Daniel Newman, Seth Timothy Larson + Abigail Entsminger, Manuel Molina Martagon, Kristoffer Ørum, Ruth Patir, Pines / Palms (Emily Ensminger + Sophie Trauberman), Jonah Levy, Roopa Vasudevan, Tereza Szwanda

PHILADELPHIA: Michael Barraco, Chloë Bass, Adam Milner, Marjan Verstappen + Jessica Valentin, Meg Wiessner, Joshua Caleb Wiebley, Ariel Abrahams + Rony Efrat, Magali Duzant, Keith Hartwig + Daniel Newman, Seth Timothy Larson + Abigail Entsminger, Manuel Molina Martagon, Kristoffer Ørum Ruth Patir, Pines / Palms (Emily Ensminger + Sophie Trauberman), Jonah Levy, Roopa Vasudevan, Tereza Szwanda

BALTIMORE: Dillon De Give, Ursula Nistrup, Kristoffer Ørum, Ariel Abrahams + Rony Efrat, Fan Letters ( Alex Nathanson + Dylan Neely), Magali Duzant, Keith Hartwig + Daniel Newman, Seth Timothy Larson + Abigail Entsminger, Manuel Molina Martagon, Ruth Patir, Pines / Palms (Emily Ensminger + Sophie Trauberman), Kristoffer Ørum, Jonah Levy, Roopa Vasudevan, Tereza Szwanda

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Japanese government to fund a maglev train line between DC and Baltimore

You can do a lot in fifteen minutes: cook some surf-and-turf, blast through paperwork, star in a mediocre crime drama, or travel 40 miles between major East Coast cities. Well, not yet. Given the excruciatingly slow pace of infrastructure modernization in the U.S., there will be a wait on that last one, probably for decades. Yet, the U.S. is taking small steps towards twenty-first century transportation. Last week, the U.S. Transportation Department granted $27.8 million in Federal Railroad Administration funds to the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Maryland Economic Development Corporation to conduct feasibility studies for a maglev train line that will run between DC and Baltimore https://www.flickr.com/photos/geoffwhalan/16578045553/in/photolist-6ZNtXq-bkjuSb-byeyp6-qdzcUH-u8F6rc-9DN21-byeq9i-bkjwuj-7sUSTT-4TEqye-qZoBxP-78WXSR-7ya8wK-rfWPnB-7sYQD7-7sYQLS-ziKfWR-6pTxyU-4SpKK-21THR5-4jpRM-Ab3VT-aans1n-aansdz As the above video illustrates, Maglev trains move very, very fast, reaching speeds up to 375 miles per hour. If built, the DC-Baltimore maglev train would be a 40 mile demonstration project to determine how to best bring maglev trains to the United States. Overall, the track will cost an estimated $10 billion to build. Japanese transportation companies and the Japanese government are keen on spreading their products and expertise to the United States, a potentially lucrative market. This spring, Governor Larry Hogan and Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn rode on the Yamanashi Maglev Test Track. The Japanese government has committed $5 billion to the project, and the train operator, the Central Japan Railway Company, will not levy licensing fees for the technology. Stateside, The Northeast Maglev, a private investment group, will also contribute to the project. For those who can't delay gratification, ferroequinologists the world over love to share their love for ultrafast trains.  
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The 2015 winners of the Rudy Bruner Awards serve up a healthy dose of urban excellence

The Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence has announced its 2015 gold and silver medalists. For the past 27 years, the biennial competition has honored “transformative places distinguished by physical design and contributions to the economic, environmental and social vitality of America’s cities.” This year’s gold medal—and $50,000—goes to Baltimore’s “Miller Court,” an abandoned industrial facility that was transformed into a mixed-use building with housing, and a focus on fostering teachers and education-focused non-profits. The transformation was spearheaded by the Seawall Development Company, Enterprise Community Investment, and Marks, Thomas Architects. The project was completed in 2009. “Aware of the challenges facing the Baltimore school system and professionals entering the field through programs like Teach for America, Seawall sought to build a safe, welcoming community for teachers and a home for allied nonprofits that would strengthen the neighborhood and city,” the Bruner Foundation said in a press release. “Attracting national attention as a model, the project has generated additional investment in Remington and has been replicated in Philadelphia.” Below are the four silver medalists, each of which received $10,000. Falls Park on the Reedy Greenville, South Carolina
From the Bruner Foundation: "The renaissance of a 26-acre river corridor running through the heart of Greenville, restoring public access to the falls and greenspace and catalyzing adjacent downtown development. (Submitted by the City of Greenville)"
Grand Rapids Downtown Market Grand Rapids, Michigan
From the Bruner Foundation: "A new downtown public space promoting local food producers and community events, entrepreneurship, and education about nutrition and healthy lifestyles. (Submitted by Grand Rapids Downtown Market)"
Quixote Village Olympia, Washington
From the Bruner Foundation: "A two-acre community of 30 tiny houses and a common building that provides permanent, supportive housing for chronically homeless adults. (Submitted by Panza)"
Uptown District Cleveland, Ohio
From the Bruner Foundation: "The redevelopment of a corridor linking art, educational and health care institutions with surrounding neighborhoods, creating outdoor gathering spaces, retail shops and restaurants, student and market-rate housing, and public transit connections. (Submitted by Case Western Reserve University)"