Shoes are gone, polish remains at Taste


The nostalgia slides by at former Hess site, and the upscale food is a comfortable fit, too



A generation ago, when kids in Baltimore resisted getting a haircut or shopping for shoes, parents knew just where to take them.

The Hess Shoes store at 510 E. Belvedere Ave. was the low-tech forerunner of the shopping mall amusement arcade, with a shiny sliding board in the middle of the store.

The design was positively diabolical: Kids had so much fun going down the slide, they didn't realize where it deposited them.

Before they knew it, they had landed in the children's shoes department and, beyond that, the in-store barbershop. At the bottom of the slide, there was no escape until they tried on shoes or got a haircut - or maybe both. It worked every time.

Today, a sliding board can still be found in the building on Belvedere Avenue, but now it's part of a more sophisticated architectural experience.

The 1940s shoe store has been turned into an upscale restaurant called Taste. The kids shoes department is one of the dining areas. The barbershop area is the display kitchen. The sliding board, no longer slide-friendly, is part of a handrail for stairs that lead from one level of the restaurant to another. It's the perfect artifact for kids who have vivid memories of those dreaded haircuts and have now grown up to become patrons of the restaurant.

The transformed shoe store, designed by Riley & Rohrer of Baltimore, is one of 12 works that are being honored this week in the 2005 Design Awards program sponsored by the Baltimore chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

The awards will be presented starting at 6:30 p.m. Friday before the AIA's Beaux Arts Ball at the American Visionary Art Museum, 800 Key Highway.

For Taste, designers Paul Van Riley and Dianne Rohrer used slat screens, pendant lights, sisal rope and other materials to create a variety of spatial experiences while preserving the "mid-century modern" feel of the 1940s Hess store.

"Well-conceived and executed on every level," the judges said. "The use of different materials and lighting highlight diverse textures and finishes. ... Great surface materiality, interesting retail lighting and excellent color craftsmanship."

The winners were selected from 81 projects submitted. A grand award winner will be announced during the event.

Other design awards went to: a house in Bethany Beach, Del., designed by Alexander Design Studio; a Federal Hill residence by Swanston & Associates; and an unbuilt residence in South Korea by Gabriel Kroiz of Kroiz Architecture.

The Michael F. Trostel Award for Excellence in a Historic Preservation Project goes to the Hippodrome Theatre, 12 N. Eutaw St., with Murphy & Dittenhafer named as the honored architect. Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates and Schamu Machowski Greco Architects also worked on the project.

Honorable mention awards go to: The Commons, a student service center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; the latest addition and renovations at the Maryland Science Center; and the conversion to office space of the former Stewart's department store, all by Design Collective.

Also, a student union at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, by Cho Benn Holback + Associates; St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Damascus, by Alexander Design Studio; a residence in Bethesda by Brennan + Co.; and a development in South Korea, by Kroiz Architecture and Ga.A Architects.

The design awards program and Beaux Arts Ball are highlights of Baltimore Architecture Week, which runs through Saturday. Tickets to the ball are $45 per person. More information about the week's events is available from the AIA at 410-625-2585 or online at

Horse Park design

The Baltimore design firm of Richter Cornbrooks Gribble is a key member of the team selected to study the feasibility of creating the Maryland Horse Park, a tourist destination and setting for equestrian events at the former U.S. Naval Academy Dairy Farm property in Anne Arundel County.

Other members of the team are gh2 Gralla Architects, a nationally recognized "equestrian architect" from Lexington, Okla.; EDAW, a land planning firm from Northern Virginia; and KPMG, which is preparing an economic-impact analysis.

Maryland Horse Park would be modeled after the Kentucky Horse Park but would be tailored to the more than 800-acre dairy farm site in Gambrills. The Maryland Stadium Authority is overseeing planning, with Gary McGuigan as project executive. If the study indicates the project could be a success, the stadium authority would introduce legislation to help finance it during the 2006 session of the Maryland General Assembly.

New leadership

James Wheeler has been named president of Ayers Saint Gross, a Baltimore-based architecture and planning firm that specializes in higher education and cultural projects. He succeeds Richard Ayers, who has become chairman.

Edward Kohls, who previously headed the higher education practice of Baltimore-based Design Collective, has joined Ayers Saint Gross as a principal. Adam Gross serves as principal in charge of design.

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