Plan B Stadium: The suspense builds as groundbreaking nears. Will designs for the $200 million home of the Ravens be changed to better fit Baltimore? Seeking new ideas, The Sun huddles with local architects, who grab the ball and run with it.

July 10, 1996|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN ARCHITECTURE CRITIC

The out-of-town design experts have drawn sharp criticism for failing to capture "the spirit of Camden Yards" in their preliminary designs for a $200 million football stadium for the Baltimore Ravens.

Could local architects do any better?

The Sun asked a half-dozen local architects what they would do if given the chance to design a football stadium on the state-owned parcel set aside for it just south of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

They responded with a wide range of suggestions, some quite elaborate and others more whimsical. All represented an effort to take advantage of the Camden Yards setting and create a stadium that would be unique to Baltimore.

Although the proposed stadiums differ in many ways, several designers struck the same themes. They wanted to take advantage of the proposed stadium's nearness to the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River and turn it into an anchor for what could be another Inner Harbor-type waterfront, offering public access all along the water's edge.

They wanted to create a facility that would be usable more than the 10 to 12 times a year when football games are played there.

They wanted to make it "blimp-friendly" -- easily identifiable as Baltimore's football stadium when photographed from a blimp flying overhead.

Another point of consensus: None of the local designers suggested making the football stadium a clone of Oriole Park, or even a cousin. Most insisted that it ought to be quite different.

"We deserve a stadium symbolic of the majesty of birds in flight, or sailing ships, or swirling highways; one that symbolizes the speed and power of the sport for which it is built," said James Arnold, of Point three architects.

It should be "a stadium that can stand not only as a gateway to our city, but as a symbol of our readiness to emerge from our past successes to lead others into the new century," Arnold added.

Will any of these ideas make a difference with less than two months to go before the groundbreaking? Perhaps. The Ravens have asked for suggestions from the fans. And tomorrow, the real architects of the stadium, HOK Sports Facilities Group of Kansas City, are scheduled to meet with local architects and planners to present their latest designs and receive suggestions.

The meeting, which is open to the public, will be held at 1: 30 p.m. at the Baltimore City Planning Department conference room on the eighth floor of 417 E. Fayette St. If these designs are any indication, the team from HOK is likely to learn that local architects have no shortage of suggestions for creating a football stadium that is right for Baltimore -- and no interest in anything less.

Several of the local architects who designed an alternative Camden Yards football stadium provided written explanations to accompany their drawings, while others let their sketches speak for themselves.

Following are excerpts from the architects' statements, matched with the drawings they provided:

Peter Fillat,

Peter Fillat Architects (co-chairman of the Baltimore AIA's Urban Design Committee)

Fillat proposed a domed stadium that could link Camden Yards with the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River.

"My sketch illustrates a stadium that would be oriented along a north-south axis," Fillat said. "This allows more park space to flow up to Camden Yards and also creates less of a walling off of the city from Interstate 95. The dome could be used year-round and could potentially spawn other mixed-use development around the site.

"Pictured here is a 1,000-room convention hotel to the west and a pair of gateway office towers to the north. The dome on the stadium is a bit more expensive, but would pay for itself much more quickly than the open stadium. If it made sense in Atlanta, it should make sense in Baltimore."

Patrick Sutton,

Patrick Sutton & Associates

Sutton proposed that the football stadium be sharply different in appearance than the baseball park. He said the stadium should take advantage of "nine opportunities" he sees in the site and the building program:

1. Strength of conceptual contrasts: Capitalize on the unique opportunity for conceptual contrasts given two different stadia and let their differences strengthen each other (rather than weakening the qualities of the baseball park by creating a similar-looking football stadium).

2. Parklike setting vs. facades and building edges: As the ballpark succeeds because of its integration into its urban context of brick facades and city streets, so too should the football stadium be designed to relate to its site's potential parklike qualities. Therefore, in contrast to the brick edifice for baseball, the football stadium could become a glass-and-steel pavilion in the park.

3. A crystal pavilion of glass and steel: Draw on the ideas and designs of 19th-century glass houses (palm houses) and the industrial esthetic of Baltimore's shipbuilding heritage for imagery associations. Use a lacy steel structure as opposed to brick to emphasize openness and further contrast the two stadia.

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