Building up to the Bicentennial Architecture: Baltimore has only a few birthday projects, but wide-ranging construction and expansion work shows the way into its third century.

September 08, 1996|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN ARCHITECTURE CRITIC

With less than four months to go before the start of its Bicentennial, Baltimore has few construction or restoration projects under way that are related specifically to that event.

At one point, quite a few projects were scheduled to open in time for Baltimore's 200th anniversary -- a downtown children's museum, a baseball museum inside Camden Station and an entertainment center inside the Pier 4 Power Plant -- but the construction timetables slipped.

Now the only projects planned for the Bicentennial are a "Welcome Center" and plaza overlooking the Inner Harbor, restoration of the Battle Monument on Calvert Street and the final phase of the Baltimore City Life Museums' exhibition center on Museum Row.

But in a sense, just about every local building completed between now and year's end is part of the buildup for the 12 months of festivities that will mark the anniversary of Baltimore's incorporation as a city Jan. 1, 1797.

As it turns out, the fall of 1996 will bring the completion of a wide array of construction projects in and around Baltimore, from blockbusters such as the Convention Center expansion to restored gems such as the Maryland Club.

Showcase for designers

While they may not all have been planned to coincide with the Bicentennial, these diverse projects reveal the many ways the region is positioning itself for growth in Baltimore's third century. They also serve as a showcase for the talented designers who are reshaping the local landscape.

The first building to open this fall is also the biggest: the $151 million expansion of the Baltimore Convention Center at Pratt and Howard streets. Architects Loschky Marquardt & Nesholm of Seattle and Cochran Stephenson & Donkervoet of Baltimore have tripled the size of the 1979 building with an addition that contains some of the largest meeting spaces in Maryland.

Those who don't get to today's public open house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. will have a chance to see it during one of the many exhibitions and events held there starting later this month.

Sept. 28 is the date for a grand opening gala at the Maryland Club, the 1891 landmark at Charles and Eager streets that took a year to repair after a six-alarm fire in August 1995. Architect Walter Schamu of SMDA Associates and interior designers Henry Johnson and Robert Berman, among others, did a remarkable job of removing signs of the fire and restoring the building to its original splendor.

Another overhaul is under way at the Inn at Pier 5, a waterfront hotel and restaurant complex that has been closed for remodeling since January. Columbia-based designer Gary King heads a team that is working to revamp the former Harrison's Inn by late fall.

Nearby, the Columbus Center on Pier 5 will be the "host site" for two Internet art works and a related exhibit that will explore the effects of the information highway on contemporary culture. Running from Oct. 12 to Jan. 10, the exhibit has been organized by the Contemporary, Baltimore's seven-year-old "museum without walls."

The Admiral Fell Inn of Fells Point has been expanded to 80 rooms, with Lee Rayburn as architect of record, and its new rooftop meeting space has been completed just in time for fall bookings.

Colonial Landing

Sept. 10 is the grand opening for Colonial Landing, a 100-apartment community for the elderly in Elkridge by Anshen & Allen. Sept. 19 is the formal opening for Gilchrist Center, an unconventional hospice designed by Marks, Thomas & Associates.

Sept. 26 is the grand opening for the Miller Building, a 1904 office building at 31 Light St. that has been restored for continued office use by Gould Architects.

On Oct. 13, the Baltimore Museum of Industry will open a new waterfront pavilion designed by Timothy Duke Associates in conjunction with its fifth annual "Bounty on the Bay" festival. The museum is also building a new entrance designed by Cho Wilks & Benn.

Oct. 13 is also the official reopening date for the historic Gallagher Mansion in Govans, now part of a 41-unit apartment complex designed by Smeallie Orrick & Janka of Baltimore and preservation architect James Wollon of Havre de Grace.

In mid-October, federal employees will be settling into the U. S. Customs House on Gay Street, after a two-year renovation guided by D'Aleo Inc.

Nov. 1 is the target date for Sylvan Learning Systems to move its headquarters to 1000 Lancaster St. Peter Fillat of Beatty Harvey Fillat designed it to be the first of eight mid-rise buildings to occupy the Inner Harbor East renewal area, between the Inner Harbor and Fells Point. A 12-story apartment tower will open next spring as part of the same development.

Also on Nov. 1, Bryn Mawr School will unveil a science center that Cho Wilks & Benn of Baltimore has designed as an adjunct to the 25-year-old lower school by Marcel Breuer.

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