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

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