Panel rejects design for school bridge

URBAN LANDSCAPE

March 03, 1994|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Sun Staff Writer

For nearly two decades, the students of Boys' Latin School have had to fight traffic on West Lake Avenue whenever they wanted to go from one part of campus to another.

Concerned about their safety, the school's administrators have decided to build a pedestrian bridge to link the upper school campus, on the north side of the 800 and 900 blocks of W. Lake Ave., with the lower and middle school campuses, on the south side.

There's just one problem. The panel that reviews designs for new buildings in Baltimore neighborhoods took one look at the proposed bridge, with its precast concrete panels, thick columns and multiple flights of steps, and sent its designers back to the drawing board.

After reviewing the preliminary design last month, the six members of Baltimore's Design Advisory Panel said the proposed bridge is "too heavy" and that "its materials, scale and design do not reflect or fit into those of the Lake Avenue neighborhood."

They also warned that students won't use the bridge unless it has a more gradual slope, with ramps instead of stairs, and lines up with other walkways.

Panel member Phoebe Stanton said she doesn't question the need for a bridge but is troubled by what the designers left out.

"It has no joy," she said. "It has no element of playfulness. Here is a bridge for children and young people, and it should have a story book quality. It needs to lift their spirits. It should touch their emotions."

Headmaster Alexander H. Bishop III said the design has been shown to area residents, and the response has been "very positive."

Mr. Bishop said that he had hoped to see construction begin this summer but that the timetable is less certain in light of the panel's comments.

Founded in 1844 and celebrating its 150th anniversary, Boys' Latin is the oldest nonsectarian, private, independent school in the Baltimore area. Located for decades on Brevard Street in midtown Baltimore, it moved to the north side of Lake Avenue in 1960.

In 1975 the school acquired the Early Modern residence designed and formerly occupied by Baltimore architect Alexander S. Cochran, on the opposite site of Lake Avenue from its main campus, and turned that into its lower school. The middle school then moved to the south side of Lake Avenue.

Boys' Latin has 457 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, and the students cross Lake Avenue hundreds of times every week.

Mr. Bishop said a bridge has been discussed at the school for many years, but earlier efforts to build it always "died on the vine." He said the need is greater today because traffic on Lake Avenue has "increased enormously."

No one has been hurt, and, he added, the school wants to keep it that way. "It's a preventive measure," he said.

Expected to cost about $175,000, the bridge was designed by Whitney, Bailey, Cox & Magnani, a Towson engineering firm. Howard Garrett, an engineer with the firm, declined to comment on the project.

The review board members suggested that Boys' Latin redesign the entrance to the south campus so one road serves the lower and middle schools. They recommended that the land be graded so that the bridge grows out of the landscape, with gradual approaches that students will be more likely to use. They also suggested that the engineers consider collaborating with artists "who have designed bridges of artistic merit and civic usefulness."

Barton Mitchell, chairman of the school's Buildings and Grounds Committee, said the suggestions were valuable, and the school is trying to determine how to proceed.

Design competitions

More than a week after representatives of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's administration reviewed entries for two key design competitions -- a $60 million performing arts center for the Mount Royal cultural area and the Inner Harbor shoreline -- they still have not announced winners.

Shubroto Bose, director of architecture and urban design for the Baltimore Development Corp., said the juries' decisions will be announced soon. He gave no specific reason for the delay.

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