Peabody's new arcade to be grand, romantic

Construction to start on $24 million project

September 20, 2001|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Peabody Institute held a groundbreaking ceremony yesterday on Mount Vernon Place for a $24 million "grand arcade," which will weave some of its main buildings -- containing the Peabody Library, the Friedberg Concert Hall and Griswold Hall -- together with a skylighted ceiling and other architectural flourishes.

Johns Hopkins University President William R. Brody, standing on white marble steps at the campus' main building and addressing the outdoor gathering, said he was grateful to preside over "building something up, not smashing it down," referring to last week's terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon.

Speakers noted that the official dedication of Peabody Institute came during another somber period, in 1866, shortly after the Civil War. Philanthropist George Peabody, upon launching the nation's first music conservatory, called for a united effort to "bind up the fresh and broken wounds of this nation."

Robert Sirota, Peabody's director, said the music conservatory, with its internationally diverse 650-member student body, will continue to be a beacon: "We musicians truly see the world as one."

Sirota also said the new arcade would round off some rough seams of the campus. "The project integrates existing buildings on campus ... and restores Peabody's historic main entrance on Mount Vernon Place," he said.

As part of the project, the Peabody's original front doors will be open to the public for the first time in many years.

The principal architect, Michael L. Quinn of Washington, described the planned arcade -- which will fill a narrow empty space between brick buildings on Monument Street -- and its ceremonial, cascading staircase as "formal but fun." The design will echo the original Peabody style and look, he said.

Designed for dressy occasions and concerts as well as everyday student crossings, the 22-by-100-foot arcade will have a Romantic staircase -- resembling the Spanish stairs in Rome, he said.

Near the top of the stairs, a new lobby, named for the Rouse family, will be created, as well as a new pavilion at the bottom of the stairs. New elevators will allow direct access to the complex's parking garage. More music rehearsal halls and practice rooms also are planned.

The capital project is being financed mostly through private gifts, including a $10 million anonymous donation. The state contributed $3 million. Peabody officials said the institute has raised about $15 million of the $24 million cost.

Construction will begin this winter, and could be completed by early 2004, Peabody officials said.

Nimrod Weisbrod, 21, an Israeli freshman voice student, said he hoped not to graduate before the atrium opens. His friend, Brad Ross, 23, also a voice student, said, "It's impressive to see [a vision] of this scale in such a small space."

"It's clear that this is absolutely a fabulous concept for a much, much improved facility," said Benjamin H. Griswold IV, Peabody advisory council chairman.

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