Constellation wins battle of the bulbSo you thought you...


December 24, 1992|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Staff Writer

Constellation wins battle of the bulb

So you thought you had problems putting up the lights on your Christmas tree?

Imagine the burden of decorating the USF Constellation, the sculptural centerpiece of Baltimore's Inner Harbor and the subject of scrutiny by thousands of visitors every year.

Trimmed with hundreds of white lights, it's a festive symbol everyone can enjoy.

But this year it has been harder than usual to keep shipshape, as the result of a budget crunch, rainy weather and high winds that have buffeted the harbor. Problems arose earlier this year when members of the nonprofit foundation that operates the frigate warned they might not have enough money this year to buy new bulbs.

But the Harborplace Merchants Association and Baltimore's Office of Promotion found a company to donate all new lights.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of its founding in 1892, Shepherd Electric Supply of Rosedale gave 1,500 lights -- a contribution with a retail value of $2,200.

Twelve hundred were used right away; the rest were kept in reserve.

No sooner were the new lights put up, though, than many of them were knocked out by a 75 mph windstorm on Dec. 10.

Others burned out when they were hit by rain and snow the same week. At one point, the ship's outline was barely discernible.

But by mid-December the lights were back on, thanks to the Constellation crew's diligent replacement of burned-out bulbs and additional support from Shepherd. "I've offered to donate whatever is needed to keep the Constellation lit throughout the season," said Scott Vogel, Shepherd's secretary. "We want it to look as good as possible."

Here's a modest proposal for saving that Formstone-clad former synagogue in Little Italy that's slated for demolition because no one has a use for it: Convert it to a National Formstone Hall of Fame, where visitors could admire countless samples of the faux stone that is practically synonymous with inner-city Baltimore.

Just blocks from the Inner Harbor, it would be a natural attraction nTC and a sure-fire showcase for Formstone suppliers. There could be photo exhibits and lectures about Formstone preservation. Barry Levinson, director of "Tin Men," could use it to film "Formstone Men." John Waters could seek out the tackiest Formstone dwelling.

As Baltimore's newest small museum, it would really be off the wall -- or is that on the wall?

Columbus competition

Five landscape architects have been named finalists in a national competition to design $4 million worth of landscaping and site improvements for the Christopher Columbus Center of Marine Research and Exploration.

Selected by an eight-member panel from among 27 candidates were: Hanna/Olin of Philadelphia; Hargreaves Associates of San Francisco; LDR International of Columbia, Md.; Sasaki Associates of Watertown, Mass.; and the SWA Group of Sausalito, Calif.

Each will receive $7,500 to create a design for a 9.5-acre parcel at the north end of Piers 5 and 6. Their work will be judged in February, and the winner will get the commission.

Many talented designers failed to make the cut, but one of the most disappointing eliminations is that of SITE, a New York-based firm with an international reputation for combining plants and buildings to create "green architecture" that makes powerful statements about the environment.

SITE just completed a waterfront park in Chattanooga, Tenn.,that is one of the most well-used, whimsical and delightfully memory laden public spaces to open in the United States in years.

It also designed several pavilions and public spaces for the World Expo in Seville, Spain -- a natural Columbus tie-in.

Yet its work was judged to be too "avant garde," too "rich," and too "on the edge" for the Baltimore site, according to a party to the selection process.

Too rich?

Admittedly, SITE's projects contain rich imagery and multiple layers of meaning.

People travel out of their way to see them. They're provocative and evocative.

Isn't that exactly what a design competition is all about?

The finalists are all impressive; any one could do a good job.

But by eliminating SITE, local planners have lost a rare chance to tap its talent.

For a mere $7,500.

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