Monday, May 30, 2016

The Architect in the Community (5): Adam Gross

Adam Gross is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and has been a Principal at ASG, Baltimore's #1 architectural firm based on billings (BBJ 2015) sib=nce 1984. ASG's history dates back to 1912 and the architecture firm of Sill, Buckler & Fenhagen. ASG is now a 170-person Baltimore based architectural firm with offices in Washington and Phoenix, Arizona.  

Mr. Gross joined Ayers Saint 's firm as principal after studying at Syracuse University,  a stint with Richard Meier's firm and work at the Boston firm of Perry Dean Rogers & Partners.

Adam Gross, FAIA
Here the interview:

At what age did you decide to become an architect?
When I was 4 – 5 years old as I discovered the art and science of erector sets, Lincoln logs, pillow forts, and medieval castles. I then graduated to tree houses when I was 12.
What was the main reason you picked architecture as your profession?
My parent’s friends were all artists, graphic designers and writers. And while I knew that I wanted
to be an architect by age 10, I had a fantastic mechanical drawing teacher in 9 th grade, and an equally amazing architectural drawing teacher in high school. And I was fortunate to study under the great architect and educator Werner Seligman in architectural school.
What do you consider as your (or your firm’s) best project? Give one reason why?
Monticello Visitor Center, Va
The Monticello Visitor Center. Why, because it is based on Jefferson’s principles without mimicking his masterwork, because it is beautiful, because it works and because everyone I know who has ever visited it seems to love it.
What is your favorite work of architecture worldwide? Give one reason why.
Brunelleschi’s Pazzi Chapel. Because it is beautiful, timeless and poetic.
Bruneleschi Chapel and Cloistre, Florence, Italy
How would you describe the state of built architecture in Baltimore based on what has been built in the last 30 years.
Like most places, when good architects are chosen, Baltimore gets good and sometimes great buildings.
Which is your favorite neighborhood in Baltimore?
Our office. It takes a village.
What single piece of advice would you give the new Mayor regarding Baltimore’s built environment?
Rethink the structure of what guides our city’s urbanism, architecture and economic development. We have a variety of great and well intentioned “divisions” – BDC / Planning, Waterfront Partnership /Downtown Partnership, and they don’t all see eye to eye or always coordinate well. Another model is
the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) where economic development and physical development are melded into one agency. Janet Marie Smith could head up such an agency here!
.....And finish implementing the Pratt Street master plan from MLK to President Street.
....And implement Inner Harbor 2.0 including the bridge over the Harbor. ...And build the combined Arena and Convention Center.
What do you see as Baltimore’s biggest problem. Name one idea how to overcome it.
It has been its inferiority complex. In terms of our profession, this leads to our city and state not supporting its own architects, looking to bring in outside architects and planners from other states. How can we support our community and expect our citizens to give back, if we don’t support our own professionals?How to overcome it – HIRE LOCAL FIRMS.In terms of the city as a whole, I think Baltimore is now better than it has ever been thanks to a new younger generation who have made us a progressively hipper, cooler, and smarter place. Thanks to everyone in Slingshot (you know who you are) who have now gone on to do amazing things.
The predecessor firm of ASG in 1951
What would you like to be remembered for?
For being a good father and husband.
...For working in a collaborative way to build a great internationally recognized design firm which has worked to engage people and places to create designs which have enriched the world.
...For being kind.
....For working with Amber Wendland and Pastor Donte Hickman to develop an implementable plan to transform Southeast Baltimore back to the vibrant, safe and beautiful village that it once was.

One final comment of your own choice.
Not a comment from me, but a good one nonetheless: “We cannot change the past, but we can change our attitude toward it. Uproot guilt and plant forgiveness. Tear out arrogance and seed humility. Exchange love for hate; thereby making the present comfortable and the future promising.”               Maya Angelou
This series will be continued with additional interviews of Baltimore architects and their relationship to their city and community.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

see also Citibizlist
Video "Born in Baltimore" (Charm TV)

Friday, May 27, 2016

"Do not push the river - it flows by itself"

The joyous and complete takeover of open spaces by people who can't wait for summer, warmth and sun to flock to their city parks, rivers and embankments to sunbathe, swim, run, and bike can be observed on a warm spring holiday in Munich.
Restored Isar River, Munich: swarming with people
(photo: Klaus Philipsen)

Imagine the shores of a restored Jones Falls River, a clean Middle Branch, a Harbor clean enough to swim and a big network of trails allowing access by bike and on foot, all accessorized by beer gardens under big trees.

With the long Memorial Weekend ahead, such a vision is worth consideration. Gems like Druid Park and Patterson Park give a good inkling of what it could mean if people take back their open spaces, parks and waterways.

The frolicking along the banks of Munich's signature river Isar didn't come from nothing. It required the careful elimination of many men-made impositions the river had to tolerate over the decades when neither the city nor its river was cherished for quality of life  but seen only as a center of commerce. Just like the Jones Falls.
“The urban river concept combines the nature oriented design of an urban river with an urban lifestyle, it goes beyond simple cost benefit analysis and is of immeasurable value to the population”
Isar River restoration measures, Munich
It is time that we take our own Jones Falls equally seriously. With the trail complete, with beautiful the Cylburn Arboretum and the Druid Park adjoining plus a rapidly growing population in the Jones Falls Valley thanks to redevelopment, the river itself could use all the attention it can get, from Lake Roland Park (what was Robert E. Lee Park) to the Inner Harbor.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Isar restoration (Video)

the Isar "beaches" (photo: Klaus Philipsen)

Riding the bike to the beer garden on the Isar shores (photo: Klaus Philipsen)

An important staple of Munich's lifestyle: the beer garden. Isar beer garden Flaucher (photo: Klaus Philipsen)

accessible river shores

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The architect in the community: Part 4 - Kathleen Lechleiter

Kathleen M. Lechleiter founded and runs k.lechleiter ARCHITECT LLC, a woman owned small architecture firm after being a Vice President at HCM in Baltimore. She has over 28 years of practice. She, along with architect Pavlina Ilieva, set designer Kuo Pao Lian, builder David Lopez, and artist Elsa Haarstad, founded the RE/PUBLIC, a collaborative agency of individuals with complementary skill sets that got together to implement a cohesive and thoughtful process of development, design, and build. The group opened a gallery in Fells Point this year.
Kathleen Lechleiter

Community development and collaboration are hallmarks of k.lA’s practice demonstrated by work throughout the City providing public and affordable housing for area non-profits and includes teaching in the Housing and Urban Design Studios at Morgan State University. Lechleiter's practice continues to explore the power of the built environment on the well-being of the resident, the neighborhood and the City.

Here the written interview:

At what age did you decide to become an architect?
What was the main reason you picked architecture as your profession?
I enjoyed both math and art and felt it would be a good marriage between the two, then fell in love with design in college.
What do you consider as your (or your firm’s) best project? Give one reason why
The Linden House in Reservoir Hill.  We restored a historic Victorian house which had fallen into serious disrepair into a home for five families in a program that supports breaking the cycle of homelessness for women and children. 
The Linden House (Gertrude Stein House) in Res Hill
What is your favorite work of architecture worldwide? Give one reason why. 
I’ve always been inspired by the work of Rural Studio.  Their commitment to providing design for those who need it most while educating the next generation of architects is a model which could be applied to in Baltimore
How would you describe the state of built architecture in Baltimore based on what has been built in the last 30 years.
Our development of the harbor has come at the expense of our rich urban fabric in much of the City’s residential neighborhoods which are deteriorating at an alarming rate.
Which is your favorite neighborhood in Baltimore?
Mount Vernon – includes one of the most beautiful urban parks in the country and an excellent example of strong urban design with a mix of institutional, retail and residential in a dense fabric at a human scale.
What single piece of advice would you give the new Mayor regarding Baltimore’s built environment?
Invest in our neighborhoods!
Rural Studio, Auburn, Lions Park Scout Hut
What do you see as Baltimore’s biggest problem? Name one idea how to overcome it.
 “There is an entire industry—community development—with annual resources in the tens of billions of dollars that is in the ‘ZIP-code-improving’ business. And in the health field, there is increasing recognition of the need to act on the social determinants of health. The time to merge these two approaches—improving health by addressing its social determinants and revitalizing low-income neighborhoods—is now.” David Erickson, director Center for Community Development Investments, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco 
Housing blight must be dealt with before we can address greater issues of poverty, safety, etc.  Providing housing first will address many of our communities’ challenges and allow residents the opportunity to focus on education and health as a result.
What would you like to be remembered for?
My work bettering the community through design and imparting that importance on those that work with me and my students.
One final comment of your own choice.
Sketch!  Communicating visually by hand is still a critical skill for architects and designers whether a quick diagram, a detail, or a simple illustration. 
“Architecture cannot divorce itself from drawing, no matter how impressive the technology gets. Drawings are not just end products: they are part of the thought process of architectural design. Drawings express the interaction of our minds, eyes and hands. This last statement is absolutely crucial to the difference between those who draw to conceptualize architecture and those who use the computer.” Michael Graves, Architecture and the Lost Art of Drawing, New York Times, 09/01/12

The series of mini interviews with local architects being engaged with the community will continue on this site.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Sparrows Point: Buying the future in Las Vegas?

Anybody who ever has been at Sparrows Point or has seen it from Fort Howard can attest to the extraordinary position of this piece of land jotting out into the mouth of the Patapsco River where it enters the Bay.
Sparrows Point before it was all flattened
This 3,100 acre site is one of the premier port sites in the world with one of the big Eastern seaports of the Atlantic coast as a neighbor, especially if one sees it in conjunction with the nearby former GM facility (Now in part an Amazon warehouse) and Fort Howard. Thinking about Sparrows Point, the former site of Bethlehem Steel, has to be big, possibly global, certainly regional.

But what we have here so far is a 300,000 sf FedEx Ground distribution warehouse, an announced Harley-Davidson Riding Academy training center, and now the announcement of a 150 acre shopping center. A shopping center! As if America and Baltimore County weren't one of the most "over retailed" spaces on the planet in terms of square feet of available retail per resident (The US has over 46sf for each resident, the UK 23 and Canada 13). Newsflash: The area of brute consumption is over. On the other hand, old rust-belts can become the new brain-belts according to a new book by the US economist Agtmael. (article). Instead, we here a speaker for Tradepoint Atlantic gush about new fast food places and a gas station as the front door of his 3,100 acre site:
"It's going to be at our front door.... We will have 10,000 to 15,000 jobs here at the end of the build-out in about 10 years and this will be a place for amenities for our tenants' employees". Aaron Tomarchio, Spokesperson for Tradepoint Atlantic 
Targeted for the site, but not signed yet, are potential tenants like Royal Farms, fast-food restaurants, a gym, drug store and a 50,000-square foot grocery store, Tomarchio said. The plans also include two hotels. (BBJ)
Grocery Store and Gas Station
A rendering published in the BBJ shows two hotels, a grocery store, a gas station, restaurants and retail. Another shopping center isn't what the 10,000 anticipated employees will look for.
One has to start somewhere, is what people might say about these beginnings, but the looming question for this big site is: What is the big idea? What is the long range plan? What, in the end should Sparrows Point become for the region?

Sparrows Point should become as important and famous as the Research Triangle Park in North Caroline, Hafen City in Hamburg, The Docklands in London or Kop van Zoid in Rotterdam.
It should not be a piecemeal approach in which piece by piece Sparrows Point starts to look like everything else in Baltimore County.

Port Covington is only a tiny spec compared to Sparrows Point; unlike Port Covington it cannot easily be master-planned all at once in any amount of detail. Yet, Port Covington is nevertheless illustrative: The initial piecemeal approach with a Walmart on the waterfront was an unmitigated failure, not because it was just a first small step, but because it was the wrong use in that location and because there was never a bigger idea for the whole area. With Sagamore, that has changed and the residents of the region can watch a careful public process of planning for the highest and best uses planned along with extraordinary public amenities.
Port sites at the Baltimore harbor.  (Sparrows Pt at bottom

Where is this type of discussion for Sparrows Point? The old steel site has fantastic deep water access. The most obvious thing would be to see how it can work in tandem with the Port of Baltimore. Specifically, which port functions could be removed from places further up the Patapsco which could have better uses in the future.

The Baltimore region needs jobs, everybody has heard that. So what jobs have a future here? What kind of production, shipping and trade will be around in the next 20-50 years? What industries can this region attract with a premier, port oriented waterfront site? And what amenities would these new industries and employees need to be attracted?

The Research Triangle, the central economic engine for Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill,  is currently in a desperate battle of urbanizing itself because the original model of a single use suburban office park has become obsolete. Talent today doesn't want to work in an office mono-culture anymore.  But the economic model of a reserach park that works in tandem with the great universities and corporations of the region was a far reaching futuristic model when it was developed in the seventies and it is still valid today. It is that long range view that is needed for Sparrows Point.

Plans for Sparrows Point need to develop as a comprehensive big picture plan with a future in mind where this site could become the economic backbone for the entire region from Wilmington to DC.
The size of Sparrows Point overlaid with downtown Baltimore:
From Pratt Street to North Avenue and from MLK to President Street

“There are some people who believe that the industrial boat has sailed, that manufacturing has left, we’re losing out to other countries, so should we really be smoke-stack chasing?” I think there is a lot of hope for industrial use in this country. The question is, are we taking the best advantage of the assets that we have?” (Scott Page, Interface Studio, Philadelphia)
Hogan's Commerce Secretary Mike Gill is energetic and he can think big. It isn't enough for him, Tradepoint Atlantic (the company that now controls Sparrows Point) his Governor, Baltimore County's office of economic development and the entire political leadership of Baltimore City to hang out at the retail trade show in Las Vegas to lure another gas station and shopping center into the region. The future of Sparrows Point cannot be bought in Vegas! But while these folks are all out there together, they should come up with a real regional vision for the site. The Sparrows Point site needs to be thought of jointly by the County, the City and the State.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

related article on this blog: Steel and the future of Sparrows Point

BBJ Article 5/23/16

Redeveloping Former Industrial Sites Doesn't Mean Giving Up on Industry
Brownfield projects in Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Toledo aim to reimagine what manufacturing means in America

The Architect in The Community: Part 3 Stanford Britt, FAIA

Stanford Britt, FAIA, who studied in Philadelphia and also worked in DC is now calling Baltimore his chose home, has been an activist for a long time.
In 2004 the Board of Directors of the same AIA named Stanford R. Britt, FAIA, the recipient of the 2005 Whitney M. Young Jr. Award.

Established in 1972, the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award has honored architects and organizations that embody the profession’s proactive social mandate through a range of commitments, including affordable housing, inclusiveness, and universal access. The award is named after the civil rights–era head of the Urban League who confronted—head-on—the AIA’s absence of socially progressive advocacy at the 1968 AIA National Convention.
“You are not a profession that has distinguished itself by your social and civic contributions to the cause of civil rights. You are most distinguished by your thunderous silence and your complete irrelevance.”
Britt’s professional commitment to serving those less fortunate began as a co-operative student at Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia. There Britt worked for the Young Great Society, a community-based organization committed to renovating vacant houses and developing vacant lots in low-income communities. Continuing his education at Columbia University, Britt worked with the Architects Renewal Committee of Harlem (ARCH) introducing area high school students to the profession of architecture and providing counsel to young people working toward their General Education Diploma.
In 1972, he organized and conducted a Baltimore, Md., urban planning charrette that ultimately fused two community groups—one predominantly Jewish, the other predominantly African American—into one. The Park Heights community of 50,000 residents was the largest urban renewal project in Maryland at the time. The Park Heights Street Academy, an alternative high school, emerged from that charrette. Britt subsequently led the school’s Board of Directors for six years. (Source)

Stan Britt is principal of Sulton, Campbell Britt, founded in 1964.

Here the interview with Stan Britt:
Stan Britt, FAIA

At what age did you decide to become an architect?
What was the main reason you picked architecture as your profession?
Working with my Uncle who was a carpenter I tried to copy the drawings.
What do you consider as your (or your firm’s) best project? Give one reason why? (Please attach one photo of the project)
It’s always the one I’m currently working on because I’m looking to improve on my last project.
What is your favorite work of architecture worldwide? Give one reason why. (Pick one image from the internet that explains your choice)
Sydney Opera House
How would you describe the state of built architecture in Baltimore based on what has been built in the last 30 years.
Basically mediocre with a few Gems. I think the best of Baltimore’s built environment is its urban design efforts.
Which is your favorite neighborhood in Baltimore?
Roland Park
What single piece of advice would you give the new Mayor regarding Baltimore’s built environment?
Don’t compromise recommendations from your Urban Design, Architectural Review Board
What do you see as Baltimore’s biggest problem. Name one idea how to overcome it.
Broader Public Education options and the facilities to accommodate the same.
What would you like to be remembered for?
Positive contribution to the urban fabric of low-income and working class neighborhoods.  
One final comment of your own choice.
More Public Transit without gas based vehicles is equally as high as education for me.

This is the third in a series of written mini interviews with Baltimore architects. The intent is to have a diversity of view points, from established architects and up and coming architects, male and female and of various ethnic backgrounds. However, I am depending on who responds and cannot assure that the desired diversity is actually delivered.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA


Monday, May 23, 2016

What Baltimore's voting debacle tells us

So there we have a primary election with a record turnout, we have a system that has a paper trail and we employ scanners that supposedly spit out the vote count as soon as the last ballot has been scanned. 

But it all fails if the election "judges" don't show (reportedly a third of the designated judges chose the no show "option"). 

If voting records that get established when a volunteer checks the person walking in against the records of registered voters available do not match up with the recorded ballot count, there is a problem. One reason for that could be that provisional ballots of people not found in the records were scanned anyway. Another way to get a discrepancy is that one person received more than one ballot and somehow was able to scan more than one. More likely judges somehow lost recorded voters by misplacing the slip they had to sign or people received ballots without having been properly recorded. 

Pratt Library polling place (Photo: WP)

All those things can happen in some kind of stress condition, humans make mistakes and as everybody stresses, there is no "perfect" election anywhere. 

The problem is that these mistakes were apparently made hundreds of times. Unfortunately one can only draw two conclusions from this.  One is that Baltimore has extraordinary numbers of very incompetent election judges or that a large number of them didn't follow protocol on purpose. Neither case is encouraging. In fact, the sheer reality of the State decertifying the election results and dozens of volunteers from Harford County and other surrounding jurisdictions descending on Baltimore to reconcile the results precinct by precinct,  because our residents can't count right, is very disturbing and insulting. Yes, it should not have been necessary to get a court injunction to open the doors to see the corrective procedure taking place. But the suspicion that these suburbanites, who most likely know very little about Baltimore's politics, would work any shenanigans behind closed doors seems silly. Even though Hogan has  shown his disdain for the biggest city in his state before, and his interest may be to show that we are, indeed, incompetent,  that doesn't mean he would instruct his helpers to cheat. 

Counting for certification (WBAL)

If no problems would have been found beyond the 800 provisional ballots that had been found by the City election board themself, all would be "fine", even though the precincts opening late, the voters falsely being told they were in the wrong precinct, and the letters going to released felons falsely stating they couldn't vote would still give cause for concern. 

But now it is a week later and we still have no certified result because the discrepancies that have been found are of an inexcusable magnitude. 

Recounting for recertification

It is unlikely that any of this will revert who was elected and who was runner up, but the miscounted number of votes is large enough to allow speculations and theories to go wild, while stopping any focus on what should happen under a new mayor and a vastly renewed council. 

In a few months all this will likely be forgotten and the city's attention will shift from elections to actual governance.  But the problem remains that the election debacle is merely a symptom of widespread incompetence that is manifest in many places, from abusive housing maintenance workers, corrupt prison guards, police that routinely don't  follow rules, to the more benign case of the city's inability of running a red light/speed control camera system that doesn't cite parked cars for violating the speed limit. 

These conditions are not only embarrassing, they waste scarce resources, add to injustices, contribute to  the fact that even good and successful programs never add up to the convincing progress that many other cities with less incompetence demonstrate to us a a real possibility. With CitiStat Baltimore had once innovated a tool that helped to raise expectations and performance by holding  all agencies to measurable metrics of accountability. The system was instilling fear in those who had to report. Instead, it should enable everybody to get motivated towards the joint task of real progress. 

Our sister city of Washington DC was long the laughingstock  of the nation because it couldn't get basic things like snow plowing done and the mayor got busted for cocain use. ("She set me up that bitch"). The District eventually got its act together and has become a leader in renewal, sustainability, progressive transportation solutions and population growth. 

It didn't take perfection to get there, just enough leadership and qualified department heads that the honest toil of the thousands of city employees started to add up to something good, when before it seemed like that the left hand didn't know what the right one did and any type of synergy appeared illusive. 

Once enough basic things work as intended (schools, trash, public housing, water meters, transportation) the positive effects will grow exponentially and the same amount of effort will yield actual sustainable progress. 

We can only hope that these botched vote counts won't stand in the way of getting to that better place that should be well within our reach. 

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA 

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Architect in the Community: Part 2, Gabriel Kroiz

The second installation of the series "The Architect in the Community" comes from Gabriel Kroiz, AIA, a Baltimore born and raised architect who has his own practice and teaches at Morgan University where he is Associate Professor and chair of the Undergraduate Department. Gabriel Kroiz worked from 1996-1999 at ArchPlan, my own firm.
Gabriel Kroiz, AIA

 At what age did you decide to become an architect? 
What was the main reason you picked architecture as your profession?
 I was several years out of college but still had no clear answer the ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ question. I think Architecture let me move forward without actually narrowing down my interests.
What do you consider as your (or your firm’s) best project? Give one reason why? 
Ssamziegil – It’s great to see a project this filled with life.
Ssamziegil Project, Seoul
What is your favorite work of architecture worldwide? Give one reason why. (Pick one image from the internet that explains your choice)
The ECC Student Center by Dominique Perrault: Besides the magic act of adding 700,000sf and a ‘campus green’ to a space strapped campus, I have taught in classrooms  5 stories underground that are infused with daylight and change with each cloud or burst of sunlight.  Simple details and great problem solving. 
How would you describe the state of built architecture in Baltimore based on what has been built in the last 30 years. 
It got better after the millennium. Brown Center was a real watershed moment. 
Perrault Student Center in Seoul, South Korea
Which is your favorite neighborhood in Baltimore?
Bolton Hill, I grew up here, now my kids are growing up here. Not particularly an objective point of view. 
Which was your favorite neighborhood in Baltimore? 
Sowebo in the early 90’s 

What single piece of advice would you give the new Mayor regarding Baltimore’s built environment?
Don’t sell out. This city has great bones, we need to take care of them and leverage our built environment in becoming a top tier US city in all respects
What do you see as Baltimore’s biggest problem? Name one idea how to overcome it.
The problem is that we have all of our region’s burdens and few of its resources. We need to reprioritize, quit the war on the poor (poverty drugs) and focus on working schools and public transportation.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I would like people to know about the work being done by myself and others to grow Morgan’s  School of Architecture and Planning into the design resource that Baltimore deserves.
One final comment of your own choice.
I recently read about swimming in the harbor. I can’t wait

Thanks to all who have submitted their responses to date. More responses from local architects will appear in no particular order 

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Architects in their community - Part 1: Ed Hord of HCM

What would be a better time to inquire about Baltimore architectural talent than the week of the National Convention of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) where the profession asserts its place in society. Nearly 20,000 of them flocked to Philadelphia for this year's annual convention.

So today I will kick of a series of written interviews with Baltimore architects on this blog. Architects can play a vital role in the community and these interviews are showing how they have done it, intend to do it and what they suggest for a better Baltimore.

The first contribution comes from Ed Hord, Principal of Hord Coplan Macht Architects, Baltimore.
In 1977, architects Ed Hord and Lee Coplan along with landscape architect Carol Macht formed Hord Coplan Macht to provide a multi-disciplinary approach to architectural planning design. This was a novel concept at the time, and this core value still guides the firm’s operations. Ed, Lee and Carol remain active in the firm and its leadership.
In 2014, the firm merged with SLATERPAULL Architects in Denver, a respected and well-known architecture practice throughout Colorado.  The combined firm now employs 200 people and is serving clients across the US. (HCM website)

Ed Hord, FAIA
The Community Architect Daily exclusive interview:
At what age did you decide to become an architect?

 I was seventeen living in Abilene, Texas, a town of 100,000 in the arid plains of west Texas. 
What was the main reason you picked architecture as your profession
In arid, flat west Texas things that stood above the horizon (like buildings) were fascinating.  When I was a teenager my father built an addition to our house.  Before he started, he visited an architect who helped him with the design of the addition.  At the time, I didn’t fully understand what architects did, but I was fascinated that design could improve the quality of life and buildings.  I loved the idea of designing places for people and buildings that could change peoples’ lives.
Abilene, TX

What do you consider as your (or your firm’s) best project? Give one reason why? (Please attach one photo of the project).

There are two that stand out for me:
Private Residence The first is a small house on the edge of Lake Roland Park designed for an 80+-year-old neighbor who loved nature and gardening.  She wanted a simple, single-story, accessible house that connected to the exterior, with few amenities - no air conditioning or dishwasher.  Originally, she wanted to reuse an old donkey barn that was on the property.  This was too small for her needs, but it was rebuilt and connected with an entry link into a new simple house.  Influenced by barn design vocabulary, cedar tree trunks support the roof and divide the space within the house.  The roof extends over a large sheltered porch.  The open floor plan and large windows connect the house to the surrounding park.  A wall of built-ins follows the column line down the center of the structure and provides privacy for the two bedrooms.
Photo by Pearson

Union Wharf The second project is Union wharf, a 281-unit apartment community on the water in Fells Point.  Our client, Toby Bozzuto, challenged us to design the premier apartment community in the country with a pool that rivals the pool at the Delano in South Beach.  The result is a stunning place to live that fits comfortably into the historic Fells Point neighborhood.  I knew we had achieved our contextual goal when I was giving a tour - a person asked me which was the old part and which was new.  This complex building has demonstrated how design can bring real economic value to a building.  Union Wharf, which was devleloped for less than $80 million (all in), sold one year after occupancy for $121.5 million.

Photo by Patrick Ross

What is your favorite work of architecture worldwide? Give one reason why. (Pick one image from the internet that explains your choice)
Moshe Safdie’s (an AIA Gold Medal winner) Habitat is a building that still amazes me.  It is a housing community that sits on an island in the St. Lawrence River in Montreal.  Habitat’s energy and optimism are very powerful today, 50 years after it was built.  It is not only energetic and beautiful; it is a great place to live.  Each residence has an outside terrace with views of the river, city and mountain.  I was in architecture school at Washington University in St. Louis when Habitat was built and had a keen interest in multifamily housing.  I moved to Montreal to work for Safdie from 1973 to 1976.
Safdie Habitat Montreal
How would you describe the state of built architecture in Baltimore based on what has been built in the last 30 years. (One sentence)
I am excited by the interest that creative young people and empty nesters have in moving back to the city. This influx is fueling some exciting neighborhood developments in diverse areas from Inner Harbor East and Mt. Vernon to Station North, Hampden and Remington.
Which is your favorite neighborhood in Baltimore?
Mt. Vernon is a beautiful, connected, walkable, historic neighborhood with a mix of housing, cultural facilities, parks and commercial.  If traffic could be reduced on the major north south streets, it could rival Beacon Hill in Boston.

What single piece of advice would you give the new Mayor regarding Baltimore’s built environment?
The new mayor should be a relentless, optimistic advocate for the city and dream big.  Keep the city walkable, diverse and pedestrian and bike friendly.  Let’s make the neighborhoods of Baltimore exciting and convenient places to live.  Strive for excellence.  And above all, be an optimistic advocate for Baltimore.
Two examples from past mayors of Baltimore:
Inner Harbor around 1960

Theodore Roosevelt McKeldin.  A quote from Mayor McKeldin at his second mayoral inaugural in 1963 is an example of optimism and a big dream:
“Envision with me ... a new Inner Harbor area, where the imagination of man can take advantage of a rare gift of nature to produce an enthralling panorama of office buildings, parks, high-rise apartments and marinas. In this, we have a very special opportunity, for few other cities in the world have been blessed, as has ours, with such a potentially beautiful harbor area within the very heart of downtown. ... Too visionary this? ... Too dreamlike? ... Certainly not."Baltimore Harbor in ~1960
William Donald Schaefer.  When I moved to Baltimore in 1976, Baltimore was in rough shape.  Families were moving out of the city. There was no Harborplace.  We had riots and disinvestment. The mayor at the time was William Donald Schaefer.  He was a relentless, optimistic advocate for the city.  His motto was “Baltimore is Best”.  It was on bumper stickers, public benches and even ties.  Through his persistence and determination he overcame opposition and difficulties and brought us city fairs, Harborplace and helped make the Inner Harbor the symbol of Baltimore.
Schaefer tie
What do you see as Baltimore’s biggest problem? Name one idea how to overcome it.
Baltimore’s biggest shortcoming is the lack of great visions for what Baltimore can become and leaders who can articulate those visions and make them reality.  Certainly, we need to fix the pot holes and repair the water mains.  However, if all we do is struggle to barely maintain our infrastructure, we cannot make Baltimore all it can be.  Let’s welcome, support and involve the creative startups and disrupters. Let’s get them to participate in the effort to make Baltimore a magnet for more Under Armours, Station North artists and Charm City’s versions of Elon Musk.  Kevin Plank’s vision for Port Covington is a good example of a big dream that can come from our creative entrepreneurs.
What would you like to be remembered for?
A quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson says it well:
To laugh often and love much;
To win the respect of intelligent persons and
the affection of children...To appreciate beauty; to leave the world a bit better;To have played and laughed with enthusiasm and
sung with exultation;To know even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived...

One final comment of your own choice.
A quote from Calvin Coolidge:
Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence.Talent will not;
Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.Genius will not;Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.Education will not;The world is full of educated failures.Persistence and determination are alone omnipotent.

Thanks for those who responded to date and to those who are still working on their responses.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A downtown of sorts for Columbia

Jim Rouse, a developer who was also a romantic, envisioned a vibrant downtown (shops, restaurants, offices, a promenade and band stand, events) for his model town Columbia, a downtown that would be also scenic (a lake with sailboats) and bucolic (a development that respected the land by preserving streams, wetlands and mature trees).
Aerial massing model of downtown Columbia (Design Collective)

Rouse's Columbia heirs, General Growth and the Howard Hughes Company (among others) who are in charge after the Rouse Company sold all its holdings in 2004 are still struggling to reconcile those competing goals. And the two mega-owners are not necessarily singing from the same sheets, even though there is an adopted Columbia masterplan to go by.

The Hughes Company, with a keen interest to develop, owns the lands known as the Crescent, surrounding the wooded Merriweather performance venue. General Growth owns the mall area and the lands along Lake Kittamaqundi where the new Whole Foods opened last year.

A real city downtown is usually seen as a center where everything is connected and densely developed with maybe an adjacent park or a green square. Columbia's downtown will be different: It will be a series of nodes that are divided by streams and woodlands and sweeping parkways. Nevertheless, the developments will add up to a whopping 13 million square feet of gross development, about half of downtown Baltimore's current 28 million, according to the new Howard County Planning Director Valdis Lazdins. With over 400 acres the downtown Columbia development is larger than Port Covington but has a similar total gross building area. Columbia assumes a 30 year build out period, Port Covington about 25 years. Another development of this size (GBA) is the Navy Yard redevelopment in Philadelphia after full build out.
the envisioned feel in the Crescent "neighborhood"
(Design Collective)

Howard County, the second richest County in Maryland, with a current mean household income of $196,852 (Urban Analytics) is expected to continue its strong growth trajectory. It is projected to grow by 153% by 2050. Just as in Rouse's original dream, Columbia is supposed to attract a lot of that growth so that the western part of the county can remain more rural. It is clear that affordability and transportation are key problems with that kind of growth and high mean income.

Recently the discussion about affordable housing has heated up and new legislation has been passed to ensure 3-5% section 8 level affordability and another 3-5% market affordable units (utilizing the competitive low income tax credits). The council bill speaks of a 10% minimum.
 A minimum of 10% of all residential dwelling units should be designated as affordable as defined by Howard County's Moderate Income Housing Unit ("MIHU") program. To ensure affordable housing is created concurrent with market rate housing in each phase of development, this plan also recommends a minimum number of residential dwelling units in each development phase must be affordable before moving on to a subsequent phase; (source)
By comparison, Port Covington also committed to 10% "affordable" units, but at 80% AMI or below, a weaker threshold in terms of really low income families. Jim Rouse who founded Enterprise after retiring from the Rouse Company had a keen interest in affordable housing. Enterprise is still one of the leading companies developing and enabling cutting edge affordable housing models including as transit oriented development.
The "neighborhoods" of downtown
Columbia (masterplan)

To implement the Downtown Columbia Plan s original vision of a full spectrum housing program for Downtown Columbia/ the County Council adopted Council Bili No. 24-2012 establishing a Downtown Columbia Community Housing Foundation (DCCHF) which would administer a housing fund to be created from contributions from Howard Research and Development (HRD)/ the master developer, other developers and property owners and other sources. The bill recognized the Columbia Downtown Housing Corporation (CDHC) as the Downtown Columbia Housing Foundation under the Downtown Columbia Plan.
There are no firm plans for better transit. The Planning Director is still wondering "what is the Uber of transit?" The plans include lots of parking and there seems to be little discussion what should happen with all the parking if self driving automated share vehicles would become the future.(source)

The first Crescent development node was approved by the county Planning Board in October last year. Progress on the General Growth held mall neighborhood is slow. The company seems to offload a lot of its holdings (It sold the HarborPlace Pavilions to Ashkanazi and announced yesterday it would also sell the Gallery in downtown Baltimore)

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Related on this site:
What the New Town of Columbia Tells us 50 Years Later

Adopted Masterplan PlanColumbia 2030 (adopted in 2010)