Thursday, July 21, 2016

McKeldin: Flawed reasoning

I understand where the McKeldins are coming from. It is easy to see the fountain the way they describe in the the open letter to the SUN, even though being the descendant of someone who was honored by the fountain does not automatically bestow expertise in the matter. 
Pratt Street: Nothing but cars. No view is blocked by the fountain (out of view on this photo)

The problem is that good places are more than flat open spaces one can see across well. The current fountain does really not block any relevant views in any major direction. That is a factually incorrect statement. So is that gateway argument. One can hardly describe the entry via Conway Street as a gateway into the City, even though a lot of drivers use that route. Seen through the windshield the back of the fountain hidden behind landscaping is hardly offensive at all and certainly blocks no view of any significance. 

What the designers of the fountain understood is that the space needs something to anchor it in this sea of wide roadways and shield pedestrians from the onslaught of cars. The fountain was designed from a pedestrian perspective, not that of a driver who is busy navigating a series of complicated turns and lane splits. 
For both, the anchoring and the shielding some heft is needed that the current fountain provides in very appropriate scale and mass. 
McKeldin Fountain during Light City Baltimore

Surely one can argue for a new or even better design. However, we haven't seen it yet. 

And that isn't my judgement, but that of UDARP, the only public body that did an actual review of the new plans.  As I have reported in this space, UDARP members had pretty unkind things to say about the suggested linear "water wall". That is why DPoB now scrapped the suggested designs in favor of a design competition. 

All well and good, but we shouldn't start with the demo of a public space only because a few private folks want that to happen and pay for some of the  cost. Especially not before a new design has been vetted, approved and funded. Better a bird in the hand than two in the bush. Who knows, Mayor McKeldin would have probably agreed with that simple common sense notion. 

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA