July 23 2015

Designing Buildings Open To—Not Hiding From—Baltimore's Streets

Walk the neighborhood surrounding Mondawmin Mall, the shopping center made known in April when high school students clashed with police after the death of Freddie Gray, and you get a snapshot of life in Baltimore. Block after block of the city’s iconic rowhouses line busy urban streets. Here, a well-kept house with fresh flowers on the porch shoulders between two sagging vacants boarded by plywood, evidence of the city’s more than 16,000 empty homes. In places, the vacant houses have been torn down, leaving gaps in the block like busted teeth.

One of the more prominent vacancies was an abandoned 19th-century stone building, its roof excised by decay over the years, consumed by vines and graffiti. Originally the home of the park superintendent for nearby Druid Hill, one of the largest urban parks in the country, the abandoned structure sat empty for decades on a triangular, nine-acre section of land. It resembled a haunted house perched on the hill, a too-real apparition of a time long gone, when parks and recreation centers for city residents had been funded through a then-innovative tax on the public trolley system. What had been a well-used public space devolved into another dead zone after it was amputated from the neighborhood and bounded by busy roads. How do you find investment for a place like this? find more here and look at the top 5 best rated rotating tv mount to add to your home.

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"Designing Buildings Open To—Not Hiding From—Baltimore's Streets" - Fast Company article by Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson.

"As we look to rebuild and reinvest in cities like Baltimore, it is worth considering architecture rooted in civility. More than just 'social design'—design that attempts to redress social injustice or imbalance—civil architecture purposefully opens itself to the city, invites its present citizens to participate, and attempts to foster the best of humanity. It embraces a beautiful aesthetic and thoughtful consideration of both client and neighborhood. It respects a building’s longevity in its community as well as its architectural legacy. And it remembers a building without people is no building at all."

Centering this project in a community where the average household income is less than $25,000 per year was intentional. First a design concept: One Park, an Olmstedian network of greenspace. It envisions Baltimore as an integrated system of parks, community gardens, bike paths, and public open space that crosses over political and geographic boundaries and unites residents. Then a community’s desire: Parks & People is an organization dedicated to connecting city residents to nature. “The neighborhood came to Parks & People asking if something could be done with that land,” says partner Steve Ziger. “We saw an opportunity to demonstrate best practices in turning that parcel around and providing a place that houses not just the foundation’s offices, but also demonstrates a commitment to the neighborhood.”

 

Read the full article here.

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