Posts tagged with "Fountains":

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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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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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100 Fountains will revive New York City’s esteemed public drinking culture

Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink. —Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Though New York has the some of the cleanest municipal tap water, New Yorkers now consume 1.25 billion bottles of water annually. A contributing factor to the rise in bottled water consumption is the decline in the number of public drinking fountains. New York–based Pilot Projects would like to revive the grand tradition of public bubblers through a novel design/build competition. Pilot Project's 100 Fountains competition, launched September of this year, will tap artists and designers to build 100 fountains citywide in 2016. Each participant receives $5,000 to develop his or her team's design. According to the project proposal, the competition area will be divided into 30–40 zones, with two or three fountains per zone. The public judging period starts June 2016 and runs through September 2016. The original fountains will be auctioned off for charity, and ten designs from the pool will be chosen and duplicated for permanent installation at to-be-determined locations citywide. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFq8z96zbQQ In 2012, Pilot Projects hosted a campaign to raise awareness around the lack of drinking fountains. In the video above, passerbys in Union Square traipse over a red carpet to a (pre-existing, functioning) fountain operated by white-gloved servers. Per a 2007 zoning text amendment, the Department of City Planning (DCP) requires a fountain in every newly-built Privately Owned Public Space (POPS). The report suggests that, in lieu of vending machines offering sweetened beverages and bottled water, designers should incorporate public drinking fountains into the POPS. To justify their economic reason-for-being, 100 Fountains points to large-scale public art installations that overtook city streets in the late 1990s and 2000s: Christo and Jeanne-Claude's The Gates, Olafur Eliasson's New York City Waterfalls, and CowParade. The economic impacts of these project were estimated in the tens to hundreds of millions of dollars. 100 Fountains also takes direct inspiration from the Minneapolis Arts Commission. The commission highlighted Minneapolis' connection to surrounding rivers and lakes by installing ten custom fountains to celebrate the city's 150th anniversary. Pilot Projects will partner with the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, the Department of Education, Office of the Arts and Special Projects, as well as Yale University’s Environmental Protection Clinic and Parsons The New School For Design to carry out the project. Expect to see fountains on the streets beginning June of next year.  
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Anish Kapoor opens up the floor to a bottomless whirlpool at the Kochi Muziris Biennale

Black hole meets bottomless whirlpool in a site-specific exhibition by Bombay-born, British-bred artist Anish Kapoor. Titled Descension, the gated vortex of churning, frothing water spirals endlessly in a circular pit on the floor of Aspinwall House, Fort Kochi, holding viewers enraptured like moths to flame. The main doors of the foyer open to views of a peaceful coastline in striking contrast to the angry, roaring churn from within that brings cataclysmic scenarios to mind. It took a week of digging by 50 laborers to whittle a hole large enough to sink the whirlpool, all the while being careful not to dig too deep and inundate the space with seawater. The sunken hole measures approximately 8.5 x 10.5 x 10.5 feet. Kapoor won a Turner Prize in 1991 and the Praemium Imperiale in 2011, but Descension is one of the artist's few site-specific installations. The all-consuming exhibition was displayed at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, the first biennale for contemporary art to be held in Kochi. “I would say the skin of an object is what defines it. Its weight and mass are contingent on its skin. But scale, of course, is much more mysterious,” Kapoor said in a video released on his official website. Kapoor is known for monumental installations that exploit the laws of physics to optical effect, such as the nearly three story-tall Sky Mirror mounted over Fifth Avenue in 2006 that visibly inverted the skyline. ‘Leviathan’ was another striking spectacle, a giant, involuted, four-armed balloon that occupied the Belle Epoque exhibition hall of the Grand Palais in Paris for five weeks, where viewers could enter the balloon for a belly of the beast-like experience.
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Comment> The Met Plaza redesign undermines the institution’s civic grandeur

In February of the year 2012, when the Metropolitan Museum of Art first announced the redesign of the City-owned Fifth Avenue-fronted plaza along its grand McKim, Mead & White Beaux-Arts facade, there was little opposition from preservationists. A $65 million underwriting pledge from museum trustee, David H. Koch, catalyzed the selected competitive plan from Philadelphia-based OLIN. It proceeded through the approval process with relative dispatch. Curiously when first unveiling the OLIN proposal, the Museum stated explicitly that despite Mr. Koch’s enlivening donation, the resulting plaza renovation would in fact not bear his name. Anonymity on top of benevolence spells charitable grace at its peak. Pretty much the sole impediment to this civic embellishment—so welcome against existing conditions of cracked sidewalks, failing hydraulics, deformed and dying trees, a long-neglected fountain, and meager old-fashioned exterior lighting—were the cries of what seemed at the time just another hopeless band of Luddites reflexively resistant to change of any sort. They included tree huggers acting as they did as if the jejune water-choked grove then there consisted of old growth sequoias instead of pooped out sycamores. More recent opposition came from those protesting the donor himself as they heatedly dissed his many such civic good works in the realms of culture, medicine and education as little more than candy-coated camouflage of his role as Citizen’s United election-stealing kingpin. In this way, focus shifted away from plaza’s design and impact on form and function to the symbolism of support, especially when in the end the David H. Koch name was indeed carved with gilded precision on the new fountain basins heralding all those approaching whether from north or south. More considered objection first came, however, from the testimony of the New York/Tri-State Chapter of DOCOMOMO given before the aesthetic overseers at the Landmarks Preservation Commission. They argued for the integrity of the plaza solution that was part of the original overall 1970 Kevin Roche Met master plan, which even forty years later is still generally in guiding force:
Roche’s declared design intention was to create an open urban plaza that defers to and displays the monumental Beaux-Arts façade of the museum. He wanted to distinguish the urban face …on Fifth Avenue from the park portions of the other three sides... (The Chapter) is hopeful that any modifications to the present plaza, to the extent that they are necessary, conform to the underlying principles of the Kevin Roche design-preserving an open urban plaza with unimpeded access to (his ingeniously three –sided) entrance stairway and unobstructed visibility of the stairs, adjacent facades and ground level entrances.
And with the results now plain, how right they were. With the exception of a masterwork of exterior nighttime illumination by Hervé Descottes and his L’Observatoire International that subtly responds to the architecture’s classical hierarchies and the replenishment of the subsoil, it is only now that the relative dignity of this earlier renovation is fully evident. Restoration of the restoration was a worthy option after all. Apologies are due them. Despite some working drawings from McKim, Mead, & White in which the option of flower and shrub beds appeared alongside the façade elevation, their final intent was clear with the dignified built encounter of limestone and pavers accentuated further by the pedestrian-scaled Roman grills that inform urban places of majesty and safe-keeping. OLIN’s decision to place such beds there seems a pallid suburbanization vying to extend the park setting instead of contrasting it. Imagine flowers alongside the Pantheon or its Renaissance-descended Palazzo Farnese? Meanwhile, the new fountains, while retaining a classical symmetry, end up compromising the pomp and circumstance of the Roche-thrusting and much expanded grand stairs with a tight perplexing proximity. The visitor today cannot help but wonder if it is some disguised stab at crowd control. And while their new placement was meant in part to make more legible the secondary street-grade entrance at 81st Street, the trade-off is untested and dubious; who can resist mounting those stairs? This is a classical threshold at its iconic best. The waterworks vary in height and rhythm in a mannered echo of WET Design’s signature creations yet at low height the sprouts seem more than a tinkle. The previous fountains recalled the classical rigor that informed so much of high Modernism. This was never meant as a playful place. Instead it was always meant for unencumbered dignity; all who enter should arrive as big shots knowing that they each held a key to this great repository of beauty and truth. Likewise the addition of dozens of trees even as now young and leafless obscures the architecture. What about in 20 years? It is hard to object to more trees in this warned up day and age but here is one place where the sum is less than the design parts. Finally and through no fault of either client or landscape architect there is a the all too frequent New York curse of visual pollution as arises in public places, where governing statures collide and, in turn, destroy the clarity of the guiding design blueprint. Here at the Met plaza, it is the curbside licensed food vendors. Ironically the spot-on instinct on the Museum’s part to include in its initial plan outdoor kiosks for such inevitable trade was denied by the oversight Landmarks and Public Design Commissions in convenient disregard for the ultimate reality of the streets. With the present redesign, Mr. Koch might well wish that for now at least his name not be its site label after all. He seems shortchanged as much as those he generously aims to benefit.
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Millennium Park Turns Ten! Here Are Ten Amazing Photos of Chicago’s Jewel Through the Years

Happy birthday, Millennium Park! Yes, the Chicago park named for the chronological milestone now 14 years in the rearview mirror is turning 10—it went famously over-schedule and over-budget but we love it nonetheless. Last year 4.75 million people visited Chicago’s front yard, taking in free concerts and events, and probably taking at least as many selfies with Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate and the flowing titanium locks of Frank Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion in the background. In honor of the anniversary, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events is kicking off a series of shows and exhibitions that includes new work from Crown Fountain designer Jaume Plensa. Hey, Jaume! Email us if you need another face for your 40-foot LED projection! Here at AN, we're celebrating with ten of our favorite photographs of the park taken over the past decade and more. Take a look below.
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New Design Trends and Policies Help City Dwellers Touch Water

An interesting trend to hit landscape architecture in recent years is borderless fountains, where water flows flush with the pavement. If so inclined, visitors can kick off their shoes and stroll though damp pavers. Such fountains can be found by Field Operations with Diller, Scofidio + Renfro on the High Line, Digsau’s Sister Cities Park in Philly, and Field Operations’ recently completed plaza fronting New York by Gehry. The trend seems to speak to city dwellers need to touch water. But borderless access is hardly limited to pocket parks and plazas. Several of New York’s riverfront parks are beginning to incorporate high tide into their design. SHoP’s design with Ken Smith for the East River Waterfront Esplanade use “getdowns” to the water, where the East River gently spills onto the bottom of a series of steps. But the most “radical” design comes from Michael Van Valkenburgh for Brooklyn Bridge Park where rip rap pavers gently follow snakelike access to the actual river. Yes, you can walk down into the river! The designs speak to water access issues that will be among many topics explored this fall at the Van Alen Institute to compliment River City: Waterfront Design for Civic Life, a series of exhibitions and public programs. The first exhibition, Immensity and Intimacy: Brooklyn Bridge Park, explores the convergence of new development with recreation. An October 4th debate between Fred Kent (Project for Public Spaces) and Michael Van Valkenburgh will be moderated by the soon-to-be-former Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. The debate promises to be an all-out brawl on the public versus private control over the riverfront. The fact that folks want to touch the water shouldn’t surprise anyone in mid-August, and somehow all the aforementioned designs manage to astonish. But what’s really astonishing is that access to the water is such an oddity at all. “The whole thing is a miraculous joke, considering we’re on an island,” said Roger Meyer, chair of ConservancyNorth, a nonprofit public advocacy group in Northern Manhattan. Meyer navigated the treacherous waters of Northern Manhattan’s waterfront access during debates spurred by development at Columbia University’s Baker Field. As part of the deal to build their new Steven Holl-designed athletic building, the university promised a marshland park designed by (surprise!) Field Operations with waterfront access at Manhattan's northernmost tip. Nearby, a city-owned boathouse and dock in Inwood completed in 2006 sit unused, in part because the dock was placed in a marsh that becomes a mud flat twice a day during low tide. Whether the public will be able to use the boathouse for the new park is anyone's guess. Meanwhile, Council Member Robert Jackson's office confirmed that his office has allocated $350,000 toward $700,000 Eco Dock. The balance will come from Borough President Scott Stringer’s office and the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance will receive the money to build the pier. Both of the planned access points in Inwood do not yet have community programming plan in place.In the rush to fulfill recreation goals of Vision 2020, the city’s comprehensive waterfront plan, few have thought about the upland programming needed to support the new docks and waterfront access.  “The whole idea is to have an authentic use of the waterfront, genuine activity touching the water,” said Meyer. “It’s useless if you don’t have upland infrastructure, access is just a fraction of the picture.” It wouldn't be the first time that Parks has built before programming was in place. Nevertheless, access is coming and upland programming sounds like good fodder for further debate. For more on Van Alen's "River City" programing click here.

Flooding the Unisphere Once Again

For the first time in 15 years, the Unisphere, one of the '64 World's Fair's numerous icons, is back on, its fountain at full force thanks to a $2 million renovation funded by the Queens Borough President and the city. Designed by landscape architect Gilmore D. Clarke, the fountain is, as Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe puts it, part of the city's Versailles that is Flushing Meadows. While not quite the Lincoln Center fountain, we'd still sit here any day and enjoy some Belgian waffles, which a press release informs us were served at Thursday's rechristening, having been a favorite at the Fair.