Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A sudden reversal on the McKeldin Fountain design

Around noon today Melody Simmons of the Baltimore Business Journal reported a significant change in how the Downtown Partnership approaches the design of the McKeldin Fountain.

According to the BBJ  DPoB spokesman Evitts said that the design for the redevelopment of the fountain of the plaza and fountain "was scuttled" after UDARP had little good to say about it. Instead of pushing the design by Mahan Rykiel and Ziger Snead "there is a conversation going on about" a design competition. Tom Stosur seemed to acknowledge that new direction and stated that his department would help such a competition.
McKeldin Fountain during Light City Baltimore

Meanwhile, DPoB has filed for a demolition permit for the existing fountain and the skywalk traversing it and Light Street. According to Evitts $4 million are "budgeted" for the demolition and a "temporary landscaping".
Once the skywalk is gone, demolition can begin on McKeldin Fountain, said Mike Evitts, a spokesman for the Downtown Partnership. The organization has a goal of removing the fountain by the end of 2016, Evitts said. (BBJ)
As I have stated many times in this space, demolition before an approved and funded plan for a new design makes no sense whatsoever and just continues a bad policy of creating holes in downtown that will sit around for decades until finally a new design comes off the ground. Exhibit one for that failed policy is the old News American site on Pratt Street (a surface parking lot), the McCormick site (for decades a parking lot and now finally under construction) and the destruction of the north side of Lexington Street (a lawn with a few scrubby trees).

This is good news in that the design competition promises to be a more public and inclusive process. But it moves a new McKeldin Plaza with a supposedly better design even further into the future. This makes demolition in the fall of 2016 not only scarier than before but also extremely misguided. The few private parties that seem to be bent on taking the fountain down as quickly as possible come hell or high water should not have the last word in this matter.
This photo shows why the 3-dimensional sculptural quality of the current
fountain is so important th hold its own as a fortress in a sea of traffic.
(Photo: Val Seaberg)

The City should not provide the demolition permit before the competition results in a selected design, a thorough review of it at UDARP and complete funding for its construction. Additionally the City Council should withhold the public funding  component for demolition that is included in the current City budget until a new design is firm.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

BBJ article

Related articles on Community Architect Daily: 

The McKeldin Fountain Folly Continues
McKeldin Fountain back to UDARP
McKeldin Fountain catches Council President's Attention
New McKeldin Plaza Design Unveiled
McKeldin Fountain Its Fate is Sealed