Symbolic flight: 150 steel geese will hover at BWI

URBAN LANDSCAPE

December 16, 1993|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Staff Writer

If you happen to see a large flock of geese in the air around Baltimore-Washington International Airport this time next year, don't be surprised.

Migratory geese from Canada and the upper Midwest normally wouldn't come anywhere near an airport; the ones that winter in Maryland typically can be found on the Eastern Shore.

The geese at BWI will be abstract sculptures made of Corten steel -- fabricated by a blacksmith, folded like origami for a three-dimensional effect, and mounted on rods to give the illusion of birds on the wing.

They are key elements in "Seasons of Flight," a $500,000 garden that the Maryland Aviation Administration plans to create next spring as part of a $16.3 million overhaul of the main terminal.

The 500-foot-long garden will take shape on the curved swatch of land between the main terminal and a 2,800-space garage that opened in 1991. The garden was designed by Graham Landscape Architecture, an Annapolis-based firm that recently served as master planner for the grounds around the governor's mansion. Hired after participating in a limited competition with Oehme, van Sweden & Associates of Washington, Graham is working with David Ashton Associates Ltd., the graphic designer that worked wonders at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Principal Jay Graham said the state charged his team to create a "spectacular garden" that would be a gateway to Maryland and the District of Columbia. He said airport administrators wanted a "four-seasons" garden that would be as interesting to view in winter as in summer.

The main plantings will be ornamental grasses selected to evoke the tidewater region of Maryland. They will be supplemented with perennials such as black-eyed Susans, lythrum, shrub roses, crape myrtles and other plants with long blooming periods.

Three gazebos made of black steel will echo the steel space frames of the terminal.

"This is a fragment of the Maryland landscape," Mr. Graham said. "It's meant to set a tone for visitors from out of state and let them know what this region is about. It's supposed to have a strong regional character -- mid-Atlantic, Chesapeake Bay, tidewater -- so people will know they're in Maryland and not in the West somewhere."

Designed as a unifying element for the garden, the steel geese will make a metaphorical link between the airport and the region it serves. There will be 150 in all, each weighing 28 pounds, with a wingspan of 5 to 6 feet. They will be positioned to form an "undulating ribbon" 3 to 10 feet above the garden.

"We were looking for some emblem that would be representative of both Maryland and the District of Columbia," Mr. Graham explained.

"We decided the bay represented the whole region, and the geese represented the bay. So many flights [to and from BWI] fly over the bay. This is an image people might be able to see on one of those flights -- the seasonal arrival of geese."

The idea is simple but powerful. Besides alluding to the region's assets, the designers are giving viewers a chance to make a connection between the artificial geese and the real travelers who are embarking on their own flights out of BWI.

The design recently won a merit award from the Potomac and Maryland chapters of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Mr. Graham said he often seeks to incorporate design elements that trigger mental images and add meaning to the landscape.

"There has to be more than plants and water," he said. "There has to be a mental hook. There has to be a narrative."

Mount Royal update

Thirty architectural teams have expressed interest in preparing conceptual designs for a $60 million performing arts center for the Mount Royal Cultural District.

Bidders include internationally prominent designers such as Arata Isozaki, James Ingo Freed, Cesar Pelli, Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves and Antoine Predock, as well as highly respected local practitioners such as Charles Brickbauer and James Grieves. Up to four finalists will receive $10,000 each to prepare conceptual designs by early February. Meanwhile, the city's plans to redesign Rash Field and launch other Inner Harbor projects will be discussed during a town meeting today at 7:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore Hotel, 300 Light St. It is the second of six free public forums on urban design issues in Baltimore.

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