Architect chosen to design BSO hall

Selected: William Rawn of Boston will come up with plans for the symphony's proposed home in Montgomery County.

May 19, 1999|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN ARCHITECTURE CRITIC

Boston architect William Rawn, designer of the highly acclaimed Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood in New England, heads the team selected to design the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's proposed home in Montgomery County, the $68 million Concert Hall and Education Facility at the Strathmore Hall Arts Center in North Bethesda.

Montgomery County officials disclosed yesterdaythat they chose William Rawn Associates over nine other contenders, including such noted designers as Rafael Vinoly, Robert A. M. Stern, David Schwartz, the Polshek Partnership and Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer and Associates.

For several years, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has been seeking a venue in the Washington area to supplement its facilities in Baltimore and Baltimore County. Maryland's General Assembly and Montgomery County are providing more than $12 million to design the project, which will be owned by the county.

If sufficient construction funds can be raised in time, the 2,000-seat concert hall is scheduled to be built starting in late 2000 and to open on the grounds of Strathmore Hall, 10701 Rockville Pike, in September 2003.

Strathmore Hall will be the first commission in Maryland for the 55-year-old Rawn, the architect whose residential work was featured in the 1985 Tracy Kidder book, "House."

Since then his practice has grown to include the design of numerous music and theater buildings for major cultural institutions and other prestigious projects, including a $20 million school in Florida for the Walt Disney Company's town of Celebration. His firm has received four national design awards from the American Institute of Architects in four consecutive years, a rare feat.

Rawn said in a phone interview yesterday that he is excited about the project and looking forward to working in Maryland. "We're coming off Cloud 9," he said. "It's a very visible project. It's very prominent. It's going to have our serious attention."

Several years ago, Rawn's office was hired to complete preliminary studies to show whether a concert hall would be feasible on the 11-acre Strathmore Hall property. This week's action shows that the county is ready to move ahead with the actual design work. In addition to a concert hall, the Strathmore project includes a performing arts education facility for children and adults.

Rawn said the county originally wanted a flexible indoor-outdoor concert facility. He said the clients have since abandoned those plans and decided to concentrate on an enclosed hall.

He said the county chose not to pursue an open-air facility because officials had questions about sound control near the Rockville Pike as well as climate control during the muggy summer months.

Two challenges for the design team, he said, will be determining "how to fit the building into the beautiful parklike setting without overwhelming it" and determining how formal the building should be. The concert hall will share the sloping site with a Georgian mansion that has been transformed to an arts center.

The project will be a homecoming of sorts for Rawn, who lived briefly in Bethesda during the mid-1960s. Educated as both a lawyer and an architect, Rawn practiced law and worked on Capitol Hill and in the Executive Offices of the president before enrolling in architecture school in 1974.

Other members of the design team are: Grimm & Parker Architects of Calverton, serving as local architects; R. Lawrence Kirkegaard of Kirkegaard & Associates in Downers Grove, Ill., the acoustical designer, and Theater Projects Consultants of Ridgefield, Conn., the theater design consultant. The county will now enter into contract negotiations with these companies.

Conductor "Yuri Temirkanov and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra are excited to learn of the selection of this team," said orchestra president John Gidwitz. "We note that their previous collaboration resulted in the Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood, which has received wide acclaim for both its striking design and excellent acoustical properties."

Besides the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, performers at Strathmore Hall will include the National Chamber Orchestra, the Masterworks Chorus and Orchestra, the Montgomery County Youth Orchestra and others. Programs will include classical music, jazz, chamber opera, comedy, country, folk and other genres.

Pub Date: 5/19/99

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