Monday, April 13, 2015

Ed Gunts - Still a Great Writer about Architecture

Ed Gunts, the former architectural critic of the Baltimore Sun still gives us great architectural writing. See this article in
The Architect's Newspaper

(link) where he investigates what Hopkins may do with the three arts pavilions that the university had commissioned with  Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects in 2001. Gunts writes:

"Fourteen years after the project opened, a different university president, Ron Daniels, has expressed a desire to do even more to enhance student life outside classes. Hopkins does not have a traditional student union the way many campuses do. One of the administration’s goals is to build a student union or campus center by 2020 to help improve student life outside classes.
In 2014 Hopkins launched a feasibility study to help determine exactly where to build such a facility, which officials say could be one building or more than one building grouped in a student life “precinct,” near the heart of campus. The university also selected two firms to lead the study: Ann Beha Architects of Boston, to serve as architect, and Gustafson Guthrie Nichol of Seattle and Washington, D.C., to serve as landscape architect.
Campus leaders have not disclosed any decisions about the exact location for the student life project. But in announcing design team members for the study, Hopkins identified the area they are considering. That is when the Mattin Center was first publicly identified as a candidate for possible demolition or alteration. “The area encompassing the Mattin Center, Whitehead Hall, the Merrick Barn, and the new Brody Learning [Commons] is proposed as the site for a new Student Union/Campus Center precinct,” Hopkins’ announcement stated. “Identified as the ‘campus heart,’ this location serves as a crossroads between the traditional core of campus and the neighboring Charles Village community.”
But Ed Gunts doesn't go off on a "this architecture must be saved" campaign. Instead, he gives community leader Sandra Sparks a voice who is critical about the 2001 architecture:
The Mattin Center (Photo: The Architects Newspaper)
Sandra Sparks, president of the Charles Village Civic Association, which represents the community that adjoins the Homewood campus closest to Mattin Center, said Hopkins officials have informed community leaders that the university has a new project in the works but that she has not been invited to attend any meetings about it.
Sparks, who was involved in the planning for the Mattin Center, said she believes the Williams and Tsien buildings have not been successful from the community’s standpoint. She said the buildings were designed at a time when Hopkins planners wanted campus buildings to face inward and away from the neighboring community. Today, she said, the current administration has been making efforts to strengthen connections between the campus and surrounding neighborhoods, and its latest projects reflect that. Because it turns its back on the community and presents a wall to Charles Street, she said, Mattin Center reflects the planning philosophy of a previous administration and campus planners who are no longer making decisions at Hopkins.
“It represents the end of an era when the university faced inward and was moving very gingerly to interact with the community,” said Sparks of Mattin Center. “I think they found that it just didn’t work. It never addressed Charles Street. It never was designed to welcome the community. It’s a prominent site. I think they just found the space is not serving them well. It doesn’t serve the university or the community the way the location could. I just think Mattin Center doesn’t address what they need on many levels.”

Oh, we miss you Ed! But thanks for not resting your pen and continuing to see what happens with Baltimore's architecture.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

I write occasional architectural reviews in the Baltimore Business Journal, a weekly business paper with twice daily online updates, after the paper invited me to write about architecture in their effort to strengthen their local media presence beyond business articles.  Absent Ed's regular Sun architectural reviews, I gladly accepted the opportunity of giving architecture another forum. 
Lee Driscill, AIA provided the link to Ed Gunt's article of 4/8/15.

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