Competition draws designers


July 14, 2008|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Sun architecture critic

Israeli-born architect Moshe Safdie hasn't designed a project for Baltimore since he designed Coldspring Newtown in the 1970s, but he's apparently interested in working on the $107 million law school planned by the University of Baltimore.

So is the Canadian firm of Diamond + Schmitt, author of the new Shakespeare Theatre in Washington. And the Scottish-owned firm known as RMJM Hillier. And Dutch-owned (but Baltimore-based) RTKL.

They're among a Who's Who of architectural and engineering firms - including more than a few with international reputations - that sent representatives to the University of Baltimore campus last week to learn how to be considered to design the law center.

University President Robert L. Bogomolny announced last month that the law school is working with the nonprofit Abell Foundation to hold a $150,000 design competition to select an architect for the building, which is planned for the northeast corner of Charles Street and Mount Royal Avenue.

Abell is sponsoring the design competition to entice "world class" firms that might not otherwise pursue a project in Baltimore.

Last month's announcement seems to have had the desired effect of drawing out a wide range of firms that don't normally chase work in Baltimore.

In all, more than 80 people attended an hour long briefing and site tour to learn what the university wants in the way of design services. Among them were representatives from such notable out-of-town firms as the Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership of Portland, Ore.; Cooper, Robertson and Partners; Gensler, and Fox and Fowle of New York; and Kallman, McKinnell and Wood of Boston.

Maryland firms that expressed interest included Marks Thomas, Ayers Saint Gross, Ziger/Snead, Cho Benn Holback + Associates, CS&D and GWWO.

University officials have said they want a "signature" building to house the law center, for which Orioles majority owner and UB School of Law alumnus Peter G. Angelos has pledged $5 million, the largest private gift in the university's history.

It will replace the John and Frances Angelos Law Center at Mount Royal and Maryland avenues, named after Peter Angelos' parents, and will bear the same name.

The architects were told that the university will follow state procurement procedures to select three or four teams to take part in the design competition, which will last approximately three weeks. Architects weren't required to attend last week's briefing in order to bid for the commission.

Each team must have at least 17 percent participation by minority business enterprises. Each finalist will receive "up to" $50,000 compensation for taking part in the competition, and the winner will get the chance to negotiate a contract to design the law center. Unlike some competitions, which don't limit the number of entrants, a team cannot take part in the UB competition if it's not named a finalist. If state officials can't reach an agreement with the winner of the design competition, they will begin negotiating with the second-place finisher.

The university is expected to hire a professional adviser to coordinate the competition but has not disclosed who it will be. The building is expected to rise seven or eight stories and contain 189,000 square feet of space. Completion is expected by 2012.

Another competition

A 10-week design competition will be held to select the architect for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, part of the Smithsonian Institutions in Washington.

Directors of the proposed museum have set Sept. 19 as the deadline for architects to express interest in working on the project, which will occupy a 5-acre site on the National Mall, on Constitution Avenue between the Washington Monument and the National Museum of American History.

Three to seven firms will be selected from the original field of applicants to take part in the competition early next year. The museum is expected to open by 2015.

Plan for Columbia

The draft master plan for the redevelopment of Columbia Town Center will be the focus of an exhibit from Wednesday to July 24 at the local headquarters of General Growth Properties, 10275 Little Patuxent Parkway.

General Growth has been working with architects, land planners and others to create a new plan to guide redevelopment of Columbia's town center during the next 20 years. A draft of the master plan is being circulated for community review and will be presented to Howard County officials later this summer.

The exhibit, "Vision in View: Columbia Town Center," will include plans, renderings and other information about the redevelopment strategy. It is designed to give members of the general public an opportunity to study and comment on the master plan while it's still in the draft stage.


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