Hopkins project to create new `gateway'

Student arts center aims to improve campus life

April 15, 1999|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Several mounds of dirt and recently cleared land visible from North Charles and 33rd streets are evidence that the first phase of a $17 million construction project is under way at the Johns Hopkins University.

The work will prepare a new gateway to the historic campus as it moves into the next century.

Despite some grumbling, a grove of tulip poplar and American beech trees was cut down for the student arts center project, which is scheduled to be done in the fall of next year, university officials said. However, the nearby Baltimore Museum of Art sculpture garden will remain intact.

"I'm sure there are people who wish the trees were still there," said Steve Libowitz, a university spokesman. He did not know how many trees were cut down for the project, but said the ultimate goal is to "recraft a pleasing landscape."

The complex will consist of a large array of meeting, performance and practice spaces, including a futuristic film and digital media center, a dance studio, a 200-seat theater, music rooms and a cafe with indoor and patio service.

Hopkins, long known as a pressure cooker for students, is seeking to enhance the quality and liveliness of undergraduate life, school officials said.

"Now we can unify campus life around one major building, one place that has a space for all the different student groups," said Zachary Pack, student council president.

All or most events will be open to the public, said Libowitz: "That's the plan."

Libowitz said the site was chosen to create an inviting "front door" connecting the campus and the Charles Village community, in the form of a plaza facing North Charles Street. The university founder and namesake's statue will be the centerpiece of that walkway.

New York architects Tod Williams, Billie Tsien and associates created the design: a triangular complex of three brick and glass buildings. They are graded in a way that fits into the land's natural slope.

The three wings and an outdoor patio together are about 53,000 square feet.

Tsien has described the finished effect as "a lantern filled with light and life at night."

But so far, that's been lost on some students.

Several of those surveyed did not seem to have a clear idea of what was happening in their midst. One graduate environmental engineering student expressed a bit of regret: "That was a nice place to break up the campus space. It was the only wooded spot."

A sophomore studying in the spring sun said the project's scope seems so extensive, she wasn't sure it would be done by the time she graduated: "I'm hoping."

Pub Date: 4/15/99

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