MICA set to break ground

Ceremony: Brown Center event to offer what is believed to be area's first `virtual groundbreaking.'


September 25, 2001|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN ARCHITECTURE CRITIC

Groundbreaking ceremonies always test the creativity of developers and academic institutions, among others, as they seek fitting ways to mark the construction of important buildings without resorting to the predictable lineup of dignitaries sticking shovels in the earth.

A local developer once let a flock of homing pigeons fly from the upper windows of an old building he was renovating to show it would no longer be a pigeon coop.

The Peabody Institute recently held a musical groundbreaking, with musicians in hard hats, to signal that it had started its $24 million expansion in Mount Vernon.

Now the Maryland Institute College of Art has planned an event that appears to be a first for the region - and promises a tantalizing hint of the building yet to come.

On Saturday, it will hold a "virtual groundbreaking" to mark the start of construction of the Brown Center, a five-level, $15 million academic building at 1301 Mount Royal Ave. that will house the college's digital arts and design departments.

The event will feature a multimedia show in which the Brown Center's crystalline form is created with laser lights, two-thirds its actual size, near the spot where it will rise.

The event has been designed by Larry Adams of Adams Audio Laboratories, a Virginia-based company that produced a laser light show several years ago to mark the end of restorations of the Sphinx in Egypt, and Bruce Dunlop, of Crampton/Dunlop Architectural Lighting Services LLC of Baltimore. Bruce Dunlop is the artistic director and Larry Adams is the production director. According to the planners, no light show on this scale has ever been attempted in Baltimore

"We're constructing a building that will house all of our media arts programs, which are digital in nature," said college president Fred Lazarus. "It seemed exciting to have a groundbreaking that will reflect the programs that will go on in the space."

In addition, the Maryland Institute has a tradition of creating temporary light installations when it adds a building to campus, new or rehabbed.

When it converted the former Cannon Shoe Factory to artists' studios, it illuminated the windows with kinetic light sculptures by Eric Staller. When it bought the building that now serves as the College Center, graduate Dorothy Gillespie turned the front into a temporary "painting in light" as a gift to the college.

Designed by Charles Brickbauer of Ziger/Snead and Charles Brickbauer, the Brown Center is the first newly constructed academic building to rise on the Maryland Institute's campus in nearly 100 years. All others have been created from recycled structures, including a train station and a shoe factory.

Named for benefactors Eddie and Sylvia Brown, who provided $6 million for construction, the Brown Center will be clad in glass and stand across Mount Royal Avenue from the main administration building. Actual construction will begin in February and be completed by fall 2003.

The seven-minute light show will be held at 9 p.m. Saturday. It is part of a four-hour "Fete of Lights 2001" that the college is holding to begin a yearlong celebration of its 175th anniversary. College representatives say the best views of the light show will be from a tent erected for the gala, but it also will be visible to others who come to the area to see it.

"Fete of Lights 2001" is expected to draw between 500 and 1,000 alumni, faculty, students, staffers and friends, all of whom are invited to dress in a costume from their favorite period in the college's history. It's a revival of the annual Beaux Arts ball, held at the college from the 1920s to the mid-1950s, which featured costumed guests and thematic rooms created by the fine arts and design departments.

Tickets for the general public cost $25. Call 410-225-2339.

Panel to discuss proposals

Baltimore's Design Advisory Panel, a seven-member board that reviews plans for buildings proposed for key locations, will be the subject of a noontime forum on architecture on Wednesday at the Johns Hopkins University's Downtown Center, Charles and Fayette streets. The meeting, the first of eight planned for this fall, is free and open to the public.

Building to be named

Baltimore's school headquarters at 200 E. North Ave., once dubbed "Alice's Palace" after the superintendent who presided over its construction, will be officially renamed the Dr. Alice G. Pinderhughes Administration Building in a ceremony at 10 a.m. Friday.

Pinderhughes, who died in 1995, was the city school superintendent from 1983 to 1989 and the first African-American woman to hold that post. During her tenure, the school administration moved from East 25th Street to its current location, after a $14 million renovation designed by Richter Cornbrooks Gribble Inc.

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