Thursday, July 28, 2011

Baltimore 9/11 Memorial - I think we can do better

Rendering of the new Baltimore 9/11 Memorial
Under construction right now at the foot of the Baltimore World Trade Center is the spot where Baltimore's memorial to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks will stand. As can be veiwed above it will consist of mangled steel from the Twin Towers atop marble blocks on which will be inscribed the 63 names of the Marylanders who died that die. Designed by Zigler/Snead it will be unveiled on the 10th anniversary this September.

As much as it will be a powerful reminder, I cannot help but think that the contemporary designs for memorials and landmarks have strayed too far to the abstract and honestly, the bland. I think our memoral could look much better than what will be built.

We used to make and dedicate great memorials in this country to epic events in our history. Take a look at the Battle Monument which was built between 1815 and 1829, and dedicated to the defenders of Baltimore during the War of 1812. Or the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, The International Peace Memorial, or any of the monuments dedicated to our presidents. These are grand structures

Battle Monument

However, one of my favorite, isn't a massive memorial, but rather it's small, but powerful and meaningful nonetheless. It sits in Philadelphia's 30th Street Station and itd dedicated to the 1,300 plus employees of the Pennsylvania Railroad who died in the Second World War. It depicts an archangel pulling the body of a soldier out of the flames of war. It is powerful in its simplicity, but the symbolic representation is easily understood. Moreover it is strinking to look at. This is one aspect of conteporary memorials that is lost, and it's the same drab abstraction that the new 9/11 Memorial will have. Those 63 Marylanders deserve so much more. Memorials like the new Baltimore 9/11 Memorial show broken and twisted metal, remnants of what happened. These are powerful reminders, but great memorials show us not the broken remains of something that used to be there, but stand as a new reminder of how we have grown.
Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial, Philadelphia

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Seriously SRB?

Mayor Rawlings-Blake's proposal to lower property taxes is the subject of a recent Baltimore Sun article. Her "realistic and feasible" plan is to drop the rate 9% over the next 9 years, dropping the rate from $2.268 per $100 of assessed value to $2.068.

Is this a serious solution to the problem? 9% over 9 years is not going to stop of flood of people leaving the city of Baltimore, nor is it going to help to build the residential and business tax break in this city. Even if slashing the tax rate by 50% sounds unreasonable, when two leading university economists in Baltimore said it could actually work if done correctly, 9% is a drop in the bucket. Maybe if she said 20% we could take this as a serious proposal.

The City of Baltimore needs to get serious on these proposals if they are to help turn around this city into a place it could truly be. Look at the development that is going on here, and imagine what it could be like if more residents and business were entering the city instead of fleeing for the counties or development friendlier cities.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Taller and Taller
The new law school at UB has reached up to about the 7th floor of 12. No doubt this will be a striking building when traveling down 83. It already blocks the view of Penn Station from down Charles Street. Slowly, block by block, UB and MICA are changing the way the neighborhoods around Penn Station are looking and feeling like. With a proposal for high density development on the Amtrak owned parking lot north of Penn Station, who knows what this part of Baltimore will be like 5 years from now.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Follow Up on 1 Light Street Proposal

The Baltimore Business Journal has some proposed renderings of the apartment tower for 1 Light Street. Designed by Hord Coplan Macht the building would reach up to 15 stories. The proposal would keep the old Thomas Building on the corner, but would tear down the three buildings that front Baltimore Street. With all the hoopla on the west side about tearing down historically significant downtown structures, will the same thing happen here?

I've never agreed with knocking down what is left of our downtown 19th and early 20th century structures in favor of what is new and in my opinion bland. Instead the architects and planners should make a concerted effort to incorporate these older structures into the new design. The plan calls for retail to front Baltimore St, so why not gut out and rehab the current buildings as apart of this new idea.

It's ok for old and new to coexist in our city, especially downtown. Take a look around, and you'll see it all over.