Why does the Guilford Avenue Bridge glow like an iridescent bumper sticker?
Every sunny afternoon, from about 4 p.m. to sunset, the west side of the newly refurbished bridge assumes a rainbow's hues.
Structural members are bathed in a greenish shade of dancing, refracted light -- reds, yellows, oranges. The prismatic light show is most clearly visible from the neighboring Calvert Street Bridge, where evening rush-hour commuters and bus passengers wonder what's kicking up before their eyes.
The same show lights up in the morning, on the Guilford bridge's east side, as the sun pops over the horizon. The Guilford Avenue Bridge, constructed in 1936, spans the Jones Falls Valley at Mount Royal Avenue.
The rainbow effect is the work of Baltimore artist Stan Edmister, who has worked with several city agencies on National $l Endowment for the Arts and Municipal Arts Society grants to bring color and fun to the bridges that cross the Jones Falls Expressway.
Edmister's first color work is the Guilford Bridge, which underwent a major reconstruction in 1989-90. His design colored the bridge's structural members in interstate highway yellows, greens, grays and reddish browns. As painted, this is not a dull piece of highway infrastructure.
The sides of the span are built up with high protective fence panels to guard against plunges into the roadway below or 11,000 volts on Amtrak's high-tension electric wires. The artist has painted the outside fence panels green and covered the fence posts with a thin metallic film, backed with etched aluminum. This foil is made in Hunt Valley and is known for its prismatic effects.
Edmister describes the decorative film as a "sun-striking" material that imparts a spectrum of changing colors. "It's visibly playful, a delight to the eyes," he said.
The angle of the sun is also important. And it has to be a clear, sunny day for the effect to work at its best. In March, this means about rush hour, when the sun is low in the sky, nearly perpendicular (90 degrees) from the fence posts. The iridescent foil supplies an unexpected rainbow effect that plays a momentary trick with your eyes.
Edmister has other plans. The undersides of the Maryland Avenue and Charles Street bridges will be painted a dark green. The Preston and Biddle Street spans will go from their current gray-green to a reddish brown. But these bridges will not get any decorative foil on them.
The Cold Spring Lane crossing of the JFX will be Edmister's "most aggressive" opus. Painted in industrial orange and Oriental yellow, the bridge will become a "flag to get attention." And on the earth sides of the roadway, the artist wants banks of orange and yellow day lilies. His aim is for people to become aware of their bridges, their design and the effort and expense of their creation and maintenance.
Speaking of color, there's a new tone of handsome jade green paint going on the window sashes of the building that housed the pharmaceutical firm Hynson Wescott & Dunning (now Trahan Burden & Charles). The building, at Charles and Chase streets, is being renovated. Architect Jim Miller explained its official color chart name as Bowling Green -- Duron 2935-A. But the selection of the color brought forth a memory. It's virtually the same tone the pharmaceutical firm used on its Chase Street side door for many years. Color history has come to repeat itself. The new front windows and brass-trim door on this stately 1921 building are an asset to Charles Street.
Another downtown plus is the green ceramic tile roof just being **
completed on the north German-style tower and parish hall roof of historic Zion Lutheran Church, near City Hall Plaza. Pollution and age had discolored the old tiles.
Howard Street got its first streetcar rail set in concrete Thursday a spot near the intersection of Madison Street. The rails, anything but light, are marked "Bethlehem Steelton (Pa.) 1990."