Tuesday, December 15, 2015

McKeldin Plaza back to UDARP: First step still fountain demolition

This Thursday the McKeldin Plaza re-design will once again come before the Urban Design and Architectural Review Panel (UDARP) that gave the proposed new design a scathing review in the last round (see here).
The fountain in late September of this year
But whoever thought UDARP could stop the demolition of the fountain should think again. Those who are set to get rid of the concrete brutalist walk through sculptural fountain have used the time to ensure that UDARP will not be an obstacle on the way to demolition. Besides, UDARP has only a "discussion" about this, a step below a review which would also be only advisory anyway.

UDARP had correctly observed that the currently proposed process with the fountain demolition as the first step of action had it backwards. UDARP observed that the proposed phasing required expensive temporary installtions for phase 2 which in phase 3 would be removed again for the proposed widening of Light Street.
"...we spend a lot of money on something that in phase one is really not better than the current situation".... "I am concerned about the phasing, you are not providing a meaningful civic space in phase 1. You have too many cliches".  (Richard Burns, UDARP)
In fact it makes no sense to demolish the existing fountain:

  • as long as there is no certainty that full funding for all phases is available
  • as long as there is no certainty that the proposed closure of the dogleg from Light Street to Calvert Street will ever happen
  • as long as the proposed replacement design does not resolve the design issues UDARP observed during its last review and is clearly doing better what the current design does
McKeldin Plaza in October 2015
UDARP will review the McKeldin Plaza Design on Thursday at 1:30pm on the 8th floor in the Phoebe Stanton Room which is located inside the Planning Department. UDARP deliberations are public. 

1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Discussion – McKeldin Plaza – Inner Harbor Pratt + Light Street Developer: Downtown Partnership of Baltimore Design Team: Mahan Rykiel, Ayers Saint Gross Architect + Planners, Ziger Snead
In the spring of 2016 Baltimore will celebrate its first festival of lights "Light City Baltimore" with artistic light presentations all along the Inner Harbor. McKeldin Plaza should be a proud element of the displays when these events kick off on March 28 instead of being a sad site of rubble with a fence around it.

Baltimore must stop demolishing the representations of other times that are part of its legacy and history even if they don't meet the latest trends, especially if they work just fine. Focus investments and energy instead on the many things that truly don't work.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

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