A weeklong tribute to `our built environment'


Critic's Corner -- Architure


Of the hundreds of people who conduct business at the Bank of America's Light Street financial center every weekday, many may not fully appreciate the wealth all around them.

It's not just the money in the vaults. There's a wealth of architectural metalwork and other ornamentation on every surface of the main banking floor. Much of it was created by Samuel Yellin, considered the finest wrought-iron maker in the United States in the late 1920s.

He created elaborate iron gates, stair railings, dragon's head figures, even ornate bases for the desks where customers sign their checks.

"You will probably never write a check larger than the value of those tables," said Allen Dyer, a board member of the Blacksmith Guild of Central Maryland and champion of Yellin's work. "There was no one better than Samuel Yellin. What's there will never be re-created."

Yellin's work will be featured during a celebration of blacksmithing Saturday in the Bank of America Building, 10 Light St., and the B&O Railroad Museum, 901 W. Pratt St.

It's the kickoff event for Baltimore Architecture Week, a series of lectures, tours, workshops and demonstrations organized by the Baltimore chapter of the American Institute of Architects to underscore the value of good design.

"This weeklong series of events will emphasize the importance of our built environment -- from our rich architectural and historic heritage to current policies, issues and projects to our dreams and aspirations for our city," said Karen Lewand, executive director of the Baltimore AIA chapter.

Architecture Week begins with Magic From Fire: The Artistry of Samuel Yellin, a presentation of the artist's work and the craft of blacksmithing, sponsored by the Blacksmith Guild.

Demonstrations, sales and workshops on forging will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the B & O Museum. Then a banquet, presentations and silent auction will be held from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Bank of America Building.

The 4 p.m. program includes a tour of the grand banking hall and mezzanine led by Clare Yellin, the artist's granddaughter; a talk about "The Contributions of Afro-American Smiths to America," by George Washington University professor John Vlach; a slide presentation of Yellin's work by biographer Jack Andrews; and a sale of hand-forged metalwork by well-known blacksmiths. Advance registration is required for the bank tour and reception. More information is available from Dyer at 410-531-3965 or online at bgcmonline.com.

Other Architecture Week highlights include:

"Rethinking Modernism," a talk by Baltimore architect Adam Gross of Ayers Saint Gross, at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 17 in Room 272 of the Bloomberg Building on the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus, 3701 San Martin Drive. Free.

"Reframing Community," a talk by architect William Morrish about revitalizing existing neighborhoods, at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 18 at the offices of RTKL Associates, 901 S. Bond St. in Fells Point. $10.

On the same day, the Governor's Housing Conference will be held from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Baltimore Convention Center, 1 W. Pratt St.

"The Art of Living in Baltimore: Eastside/Westside," a forum with Stan Britt of the East Baltimore Development Initiative; David Dixon of Goody Clancy, lead designer of redevelopment plans for The Uplands and Park Heights; and Laurie Feinberg, comprehensive planner with Baltimore's planning department. It begins at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Johns Hopkins University's Downtown Center, Charles and Fayette streets. $15. The forum will be preceded by a 4 p.m. tour of the East Baltimore redevelopment area.

"The Mount Vernon Place Parks: Crown Jewel of Baltimore's City Beautiful Architecture," a talk by historian Lance Humphries, at 7 p.m. Oct. 20 at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, 10 E. Mount Vernon Place. $15.

Oct. 21 is the date for the AIA Baltimore's Design Awards ceremony and "Bizarro Baltimore" Beaux Arts Ball, starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Jim Rouse Visionary Center at the American Visionary Art Museum, 800 Key Highway. $45.

The week of events also includes tours of four artisans' workshops (Worcester Eisenbrandt, 2100 Gable Ave., Oct. 17; John Gutierrez Studios, 2010 Clipper Mill Road, Oct. 18; Thomas Moore Studios, 3500 Parkdale Ave., Oct. 19; and Hayles & Howe, 3500 Parkdale Ave., Oct. 20.) Architecture Week ends Saturday with walking tours of East Baltimore, Brewer's Hill and Woodberry.

Participants should register for events in advance, because space is limited in some cases. More information is available from the AIA at 410-625-2585 or online at aiabalt.com.


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