Developer wants to install Baltimore's own Eiffel Tower

Pat Turner plans 236-foot sculpture on Middle Branch waterfront

  • A proposed 236-foot-tall illuminated metal sculpture that developer Pat Turner has proposed as a focal point of his $1.5 billion Westport development. It is an untitled sculpture by Tennessee artist John Henry.
A proposed 236-foot-tall illuminated metal sculpture that… (Handout )
November 17, 2010|By Edward Gunts, The Baltimore Sun

Paris has the Eiffel Tower.

St. Louis has the Gateway Arch.

And Baltimore could soon have a monumental work of art if developer Pat Turner is successful in his quest to place a 236-foot-tall illuminated metal sculpture on the Middle Branch waterfront as a focal point of his $1.5 billion Westport development.

During a meeting of Baltimore's Public Art Commission on Wednesday, Turner unveiled plans showing how the untitled sculpture, by Tennessee artist John Henry, would be placed within a traffic circle on one of the major roads planned for the Westport development.

Turner, president of the Turner Development Group, said the sculpture would be as tall as his high-rise Silo Point condominium tower in Locust Point and visible from miles around. He said the sculpture would be one of the tallest works of art in the United States and serve as part of a larger economic development strategy to call attention to Westport and the Middle Branch waterfront. The sculpture would serve as a signature feature for the development, which has been designed to include residences, offices, shops, a hotel and recreational space, Turner said.

"We want the sculpture to be the center of attention of the project," he told the panel. "We're redesigning the project around the sculpture. It does for Baltimore what the Arch does in St. Louis. It would become a symbol of the region."

As presented to the arts panel, the sculpture looked like a series of spikes or stiff blades of grass, radiating in different directions. Henry, who is based in Chattanooga, Tenn., said that the sculpture would most likely be made of perforated steel impregnated with light-emitting diodes and that he would want to set up a large local studio to fabricate it.

Henry and art consultant Stephanie Waters, executive director of the John Henry Baltimore Sculpture Project, said the sculpture was originally conceived for the 2010 World Equestrian Events in Lexington, Ky., but was not completed in time for that occasion. Henry said he "fell in love" with Baltimore while he was a patient at Johns Hopkins Hospital last winter and would be delighted if his sculpture could be erected here.

The arts panel was not required to take any formal action because the sculpture would be built on privately owned land with private funds. Turner and Henry said that it would not be in the way of jets taking off from or landing at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, but they added that the sculpture plan would need "site approval" from Baltimore's planning commission. Turner said he has begun to raise money for the sculpture and hopes to have it erected within two years. He said he did not yet have a firm cost estimate.

ed.gunts@baltsun.com

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