Visions of crab, cable cars

February 24, 1994|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Sun Staff Writer

What Baltimore needs is:

* Cable cars that could carry people high in the air over the Inner Harbor, from Federal Hill to Pier 6 and back again.

* An aviary for Baltimore orioles and a petting zoo for Maryland terrapins.

* A giant crab sculpture made from a series of grassy knolls on Rash Field, mounded so that people would be able to make out the crab shape only if they stood at the top of Federal Hill.

Those are just a few of the widely divergent ideas proposed yesterday by some of the nation's most talented architects, landscape architects and artists. All were invited by the Schmoke administration to suggest ways to invigorate Baltimore's Inner Harbor shoreline.

Five teams were paid $7,500 each and given six weeks to suggest ideas for improving Rash Field and the western shore of the Inner Harbor -- about 20 acres in all. The winners, to be announced next week, will get an opportunity to negotiate a contract to carry out their ideas.

The city has tentatively budgeted about $7.5 million to complete the first phase of work over the next several years. Private funding for some ideas might also be sought as part of the celebration of Baltimore's bicentennial in 1997.

One ground rule for the competition was that the shoreline had to remain parkland and could not be used for commercial development. Designers were also asked to suggest a site for a visitors center. Other than that, the sky was the limit.

As presented yesterday to a five-member jury, the ideas included:

* A place for crab lovers. Boston designer Martha Schwartz and Design Collective of Baltimore proposed the giant crab bas relief for Rash Field. Ms. Schwartz, who came to her interview wearing two crab shells like brooches on her black suit, also suggested that Conway Street be extended east of Light Street as a promenade called "Crab Walk." It would be lined by dozens of thin metal poles, each topped by a translucent sculpture of a blue crab.

Other proposed areas included a "Wet'n'Wild skating rink and water park," a "natural history spiral," a 1,200-foot-long "neighborhood walk" with facades of Baltimore-style rowhouses and marble steps and a "cultural history" picnic grove with a different Baltimore theme for each picnic table, including a "John Waters Scratch'n'Sniff spice table."

* "Harbor arbor." New York designer James Wines of SITE Inc. and Anshen + Allen of Baltimore proposed that the entire shoreline be framed with an undulating, ivy-covered arbor designed to unify disparate areas from Harborplace to the Rusty Scupper restaurant.

The SITE team also suggested construction of a cable car system that could take passengers in the air from the south shore to Pier 6 so that pedestrians would be able to make a loop around the Inner Harbor basin. The gondola-style cable cars would have a clearance of 150 feet so that ships could pass underneath.

Other proposals included reconstruction of the old Federal Hill lookout tower, exhibits about alternative energy, "lifted landscapes" and a variety of water features, from trickling pools to "dancing water" sculptures.

* An "eco-park" about Baltimore. A team headed by EDAW Inc. of Northern Virginia proposed that the shoreline be redesigned to give visitors a flavor of Baltimore beyond the Inner Harbor and to serve as an example of "sustainable design."

Working with Grieves Worrall Wright and O'Hatnick of Baltimore and local artists Linda DePalma and Paul Daniel, EDAW's Dennis Carmichael suggested that the west shore be turned into a "narrative landscape" about Baltimore's heritage and attractions. The western shore would become an elaborate visitors center, architect James Grieves said.

Rash Field would be redesigned to contain a giant lake or ice rink, a reflecting pool, a weather station and other features. The designers also suggested that the harbor's south and north shores be linked visually by a giant "water arc" formed by pumps shooting jets of water the way the city fireboats do.

* "The Baltimore Gardens at the Inner Harbor." Schnadelbach Associates of New York and Crozier Associates of Baltimore proposed eight gardens surrounding the harbor, four with an art theme and four with a science theme, and a curving "Park Arc Boardwalk" to tie them together.

Among the suggested exhibits were an aviary for Baltimore orioles, a petting zoo featuring "Baltimore crabs, Maryland terrapins and Chesapeake frogs," and a lily pond that would turn into an ice rink in the winter. They also suggested extending the state's light rail system from Oriole Park to Fort McHenry.

* A stage set for exhibits. Hargreaves Associates of San Francisco proposed that the shoreline become a staging area for permanent and temporary exhibits about science and art, with emphasis on "the interface of man and water" and the Chesapeake Bay. Landscape architect George Hargreaves also suggested that Rash Field be turned into a garden of ornamental grasses planted to suggest waves.

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