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october 2009 issue no. 64

the building issue 42

contents

keynote: the pioneer

sustainable-design trailblazer pliny fisk on building for the future interview by marianne k. amoss

46

building for the better

say goodbye to the starchitects. in the post-boom era, the community-centered “citizen designer” movement isn’t just reviving the age-old form vs. function debate—it’s changing the definition of what a designer is. by elizabeth evitts dickinson

let’s get small 52 here’s a radical solution to the dilemma of urban population loss: shrink. in hard-hit

rust belt cities like detroit, razing mostly vacant neighborhoods is a promising development policy. but after decades of promoting growth, is baltimore really ready to beat a strategic retreat?

23

by michael anft

the road war 58 the intercounty connector is the most expensive roadbuilding project in maryland

history. for years, critics called it an environmental disaster in the making. now that construction is underway, has anyone changed their minds about the state’s controversial green highway? by mat edelson

departments note 7 editor’s blueprints

79

you’re saying 9 what hard time you’re writing 11 what shelter: a crime close to home, a family secret, and the cats get revenge

15 this month online at www.urbanitebaltimore.com: photos: more of roger lemoyne’s images of maryland’s abandoned mental health institutions

corkboard

this month: mona lisa smile, a historic baltimore bike tour, and a sweet day of the dead

goods: bespoke style. plus: sobo guesthouses, a painted screen tour, 17 the and a home improvement workshop baltimore observed 23 ghost hospitals: a look inside maryland’s abandoned mental hospitals by sarah richards and roger lemoyne

helpers: volunteer doulas plus low-income moms equals 27 mothers’ healthier babies. by elizabeth heubeck

learning: big crane on campus 29 higher by brennen jensen eat/drink: there’s the beef 69 the definitive sour beef church supper by mary k. zajac

on the air: urbanite on the marc steiner show, weaa 88.9 fm october 14: more on the icc debate october 15: should baltimore shrink? october 29: edgar allan poe and washington irving duke it out

73

reviewed: taverna corvino and alizée

75 wine & spirits: talking about taste 77 the feed: this month in eating art/culture 79 tell-tale smackdown: edgar allan poe and washington irving face off over who wrote the best scary story. by andrew reiner

plus: dan fesperman’s spy game, ethel ennis onstage, and this month’s cultural calendar on the cover:

photo by andrew nagl

eye to eye 90 urbanite’s creative director, alex castro, on gary kachadourian w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m o c t o b e r 0 9

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Commercial

Issue 64: October 2009 Publisher Tracy Ward Tracy@urbanitebaltimore.com Creative Director Alex Castro General Manager Jean Meconi Jean@urbanitebaltimore.com Editor-in-Chief David Dudley David@urbanitebaltimore.com Managing Editor Marianne K. Amoss Marianne@urbanitebaltimore.com

Show me one flooring contractor who’s capable with all surfaces, who can handle any size project, who’s responsive with estimates, who takes pride in installations, who knows value engineering, who builds lasting relationships, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Senior Editor Greg Hanscom Greg@urbanitebaltimore.com Literary Editor Susan McCallum-Smith literaryeditor@urbanitebaltimore.com Proofreader Robin T. Reid Contributing Writers Michael Anft, Scott Carlson, Charles Cohen, Mat Edelson, Lionel Foster, Clinton Macsherry, Tracey Middlekauff, Richard O’Mara, Andrew Reiner, Martha Thomas, Sharon Tregaskis, Michael Yockel, Mary K. Zajac Editorial Interns Amanda DiGiondomenico, Brent Englar Design/Production Manager Lisa Van Horn Lisa@urbanitebaltimore.com Traffic Production Coordinator Belle Gossett Belle@urbanitebaltimore.com Designer Kristian Bjornard Kristian@urbanitebaltimore.com Videographer/Website Coordinator Chris Rebbert website@urbanitebaltimore.com Production Interns Christine Abbott, Valerie Paulsgrove, Kelly Wise Senior Account Executives Gwendolyn Bethea Gwen@urbanitebaltimore.com Catherine Bowen Catherine@urbanitebaltimore.com Susan R . Levy Susan@urbanitebaltimore.com Account Executives Rachel Bloom Rachel@urbanitebaltimore.com Courtney Luxon Courtney@urbanitebaltimore.com Advertising Sales/Events Coordinator Erin Albright Erin@urbanitebaltimore.com Bookkeeping/Marketing Assistant Iris Goldstein Iris@urbanitebaltimore.com Founder Laurel Harris Durenberger Advertising/Editorial/Business Offices 2002 Clipper Park Road, 4th Floor Baltimore, MD 21211 Phone: 410-243-2050; Fax: 410-243-2115 www.urbanitebaltimore.com

410-329-9680 10709 Gilroy Road, Suite 150 Hunt Valley, MD 21031 www.Floors-Etc.com

Editorial inquiries: Send queries to editor@urbanitebaltimore.com (no phone calls, please). The magazine is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts or artwork. Urbanite does not necessarily support the opinions of its authors. To subscribe or obtain assistance with a current subscription, call 410-243-2050. Subscription price: $18 per year. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission by Urbanite is prohibited. Copyright 2009, Urbanite LLC. All rights reserved. Urbanite (ISSN 1556-8105) is a free publication distributed widely in the Baltimore metropolitan area. To suggest a drop location for the magazine, please contact us at 410-243-2050. Postmaster: Send address changes to Urbanite Subscriptions, P.O. Box 50158, Baltimore, MD 21211. Urbanite is a certified Minority Business Enterprise.

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urbanite october 09


editor’s note

contributors

photo by Christine Abbott

photo by Valerie Paulsgrove

Photography and design intern Christine Abbott recently graduated from University of Maryland, Baltimore County, with a bachelor’s degree in photography and graphic design and a minor in art history. During her internship at Urbanite, Abbott shot photos of everything from an electric scooter to Maryland vineyards. In this issue, her photos accompany the dining reviews (p. 73) and several of the new businesses profiled in “The Goods” (p. 17). She lives in Hampden and works as a freelance photographer, shooting concerts for the blog www.bmoremusic.net. Before working at Urbanite, photography and design intern Valerie Paulsgrove interned with Dan Whipps, a commercial product and food photographer based in Arbutus. Now a freelance photographer and assistant, the UMBC grad’s photos can be viewed at www.vjpphotography.com. For this issue, she photographed Aisha Raheem, who received doula services during the birth of her daughter via a Hopkins-affiliated program (“Mothers’ Helpers,” p. 27). Both mother and baby, Paulsgrove reports, were great models.

courtesy of Sarah Richards

Sarah Richards is an award-winning writer and radio producer. After a stint as a senior staff writer for Seventeen magazine, she took a four-month motorcycle trek through the United States and Mexico and then went on to write for the New York Times , The Economist, and other publications. For her story “Ghost Hospitals” (p. 23), Richards worked with photographer Roger Lemoyne, whose award-winning work has spanned Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and Croatia. “I’ve always been interested in eerie places,” Richards says about the story. “When you visit these buildings, it’s as if they whisper to you about your own mortality.”

As a child I was floored by my first glimpse of Manhattan, its tumble of towers as im-

probable a spectacle to an 8-year-old in a Country Squire as it must have been to immigrants peering over the railings of ocean liners. In the 1970s America was still the world’s undisputed skyscraper champ, and I was obsessed with the then-new World Trade Center, which seemed like a science fiction movie come to life. Once I was taken for lunch at Windows on the World, the restaurant atop the north tower, and recall not only the fancy food (Dover sole!) but the quality of the light in the smoggy sky and the unearthly floaty feeling of gazing down upon the island city, as from an airliner frozen in space. In 1920, photographers Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler made a short film called Manhatta, which has recently been digitally restored. It’s a series of precisely framed shots of the urban landscape—smoke-belching towers, trains coursing through railyards, a steam shovel at work—intercut with some stirring lines from Walt Whitman: High growths of iron, Slender, strong, Splendidly uprising Toward clear skies

Strand and Sheeler (and Whitman, in his time) were as wowed by the growing metropolis as I was in 1976, but there’s something scary about the city in Manhatta—it’s a land of giants. Most of the scenes are shot not from street level but from somewhere in the clouds: Human beings are tiny objects milling around below, dwarfed by structures and machines. If this is a love letter to the urban aesthetic, it’s adoration laced with dread. That seems to be the traditional relationship between modern cities and their residents. Even Baltimore, sixth largest city in the nation a century ago, was built as a place to be awed—in its scale, in its plentitude of monuments, in the Whitmanesque self-congratulation of its buildings. Today, cities are scary for a host of other reasons, and we seem to have lost our taste for swaggering skyscrapers (see the hole in the sky where Windows on the World used to be, still unfilled eight years later). “We’re at the end of one era and the beginning of another,” says Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson, who wrote this issue’s feature about the end of architecture’s heroic age and the rise of a more human-scaled one (“Building for the Better,” p. 46). She’s the former editor of this magazine and one of the organizers of D:Center Baltimore, which, among other activities, holds monthly conversations about design issues at the Windup Space on North Avenue (the next is October 7). The latest generation of architects, she says, isn’t haunted by the historic city; they are less intent on reclaiming bygone glories than building a new and improved future. “We’re trying to figure out how to get beyond this past vision of cities,” Dickinson says. Can the city grow stronger by admitting it will never be what it was? One idea being floated by basket-case burgs such as Detroit involves abandoning depopulated neighborhoods entirely. Whether this would work in Baltimore, home to thousands of vacancies (and some 300,000 fewer people than in 1950), is the question Michael Anft asks in “Let’s Get Small” (p. 52). And Mat Edelson confronts the paradox of the fabled “green highway,” otherwise known as the Intercounty Connector (“The Road War,” p. 58). Environmental advocates have battled the ICC for decades, so its possible future as a model of eco-friendliness is either exquisite irony or neck-breaking absurdity. How should we build? Answer for yourself during Baltimore Architecture Week, a sixteenday series of events organized by the American Institute of Architects (go to www.aiabalt. com for a full schedule). Among them is an October 15 forum on the role of design centers, moderated by Dickinson and premised on the idea that better building is a kind of civic duty. So re-read your Whitman (“The beautiful city, the city of hurried and sparkling waters!”) and sharpen your pencils. “Everything is a design problem,” Dickinson says, “waiting to be solved.” —David Dudley

Will you please grow up? Coming Next Month: Youth and how to survive it. www.urbanitebaltimore.com w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m o c t o b e r 0 9

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urbanite october 09

R E A LTOR


photo by Chris Rebbert

what you’re saying

Letter from Prison Bravo to Michael Corbin for his work teaching inmates at the Metropolitan Transition Center and the public schools before that (“Learning the Hard Way,” September). I would never be dismissive of the unity that Islam or Swahili can give MTC or prison inmates. As for the Black Guerrilla Family and founder George Jackson’s desire for revolution? Plainly violent revolution is not going to work right now in this right-of-center country with all its military might—but “revolution” is needed. There is a small tradition within Christianity that works for nonviolent revolutionary change; I’ll stick with that. It’s as exotic as Arabic or Swahili or BGF or Crips and Bloods, and it’s very easy on the conscience. Corbin writes beautifully and is doing beautiful work.   — David Eberhardt has taught at the MTC for more than thirty years. Humane Society Thank you for posting Rafe Posey’s story about Jim the rat (“What You’re Writing,” September). It was the saddest thing I have read in a long time. More importantly, it asks people to think about what they are doing when they indiscriminately use poison in any space, indoors or outdoors. There are three points to be made here: First, that killing pests by poisoning them is unconscionably cruel. With the technology we have today, it is possible to drive them away through the use of sound devices. It may be possible to use a means of birth control as well. Second, the poison that kills those little animals that some humans hate also kills people’s pets and other benign creatures.

Third, and more importantly, we are part of an ecosystem. The world is not just made up of humans, although many humans seem to think so. Some of the animals that humans hate because they spread disease have lost natural predators because of human activity. Some are scavengers or kill smaller pests as well. And if there are animals that can be dangerous to humans, then a quick and humane way should be found to get rid of them. Can rats spread disease? Apparently. Do they need to suffer for days? No animal does. — Jules White, Medfield Where Credit Is Due I was delighted to read the September article about the urban agriculture project at Clifton Park (“Farm Aid”). I would like to emphasize that the development of the plan and all related supporting activities were primarily driven by the Chesapeake Sustainable Business Alliance (CSBA) and its directors. CSBA provided both the staff and the funding that resulted in the city’s approval of the project plan. Two individuals at CSBA who deserve special credit are Dekermu Nushann, a CSBA director and treasurer who is currently director of finance at Parks & People Foundation, and Andrew Kreinik, former CSBA director and secretary.

I don’t think building more schools with smaller classrooms will help anyone until you get to the bottom of the problem that starts at home. Why is it that some people want to take away the parents’ involvement and responsibility and put it on the cities’, towns’, and states’ tax base? It sounds like these two intellectuals haven’t got a clue. — Connie Waterman, Pennsylvania From the eds.: Like all our published interviews, the September “Keynote” with Dr. Robert Balfanz was condensed and edited down from a longer conversation. To hear the full interview, go to http://steinershow.org/topics/urbanite. Corrections In the September issue’s “Goods” department, we mis-told the creation story of the new, green Fairfield Inn & Suites. The hotel did not repurpose the old Baltimore Brewing Co. building; rather, a new structure was built on the former site. In the September issue’s “Eat/Drink” feature, we incorrectly credited the lead photograph. It was taken by design/production intern Christine Abbott. Urbanite regrets the errors.

— Terrence Hardcastle is the former executive director of CSBA. Out of Touch I find it fascinating that the September “Keynote” interview never once mentioned parents and their responsibilities to help keep their kids in school.

We want to hear what you’re saying. E-mail us at mail@urbanitebaltimore.com or send your letter to Mail, Urbanite, P.O. Box 50158, Baltimore, MD 21211. Please include your name, address, and daytime phone number. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

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urbanite october 09


what you’re writing

my hands were clutch-

photo by Keith Barraclough

ing important objects—my briefcase stuffed with memos and reports in my right, my 4-year-old daughter’s fist and bunny blanket in my left. My shoulder bag dangled loosely as I scanned the empty street, impatient to cross the road and get home for the night. That’s when they struck. My house was just steps away, the covered porch warmed by the street light, our address brightly lit. But I was marooned between the neighbor’s overgrown hedge and the potholes by the storm drain as two figures moved up quickly. Their dark woolen caps were pulled down low. I had a momentary thought— “Why caps in the middle of summer?”—that instantly fell away like steam rising from city asphalt after a sudden August downpour. They converged on us silently. One seized my shoulder bag. The other came up from the opposite side, lunging toward my daughter in slow motion, as she slid from my grasp into the gutter, her white tights ripping at the knee with a gash of red. I distinctly saw his bright Nike high tops, the dark Fila running jacket, but I couldn’t absorb his face. At that moment of free fall toward the pavement, all I could think was, “Take my money, take whatever you want, just leave my child alone!” But no sound, not even a whimper, came out. It was my daughter’s high-pitched wail of “Mommy! Mommy!” that brought neighbors to their porches, lights fl ickering on around us. The figures sped off down Ready Street with my bag, triumphant as linebackers executing a play. I scooped up my trembling child from the road and held her in my now-empty arms. My sagging front porch with its broad wooden steps, where we would sit with friends and share a six-pack of National Boh on hot summer nights, was too many steps away. I sat crumpled in the street. My old house was no longer shelter from the storm.

of baking soda, jugs of white vinegar, and bottles of carpet freshener. Other customers gave me knowing looks. My husband and I spent two weeks in the same cleaning routine. Spritz the vinegar and scrub. Apply baking soda and vacuum. Hit the heavy spots with carpet freshener and vacuum again. Libby and Tessy loomed over us from their perch on the stairs like prison guards. In our house, they’d grown to expect more than the basic necessities for survival. They wanted to make sure we never forgot to provide for their emotional needs again.

shelter

— Shari Zaret lives in Columbia, where she serves on the Columbia Council, teaches yoga part-time, and writes in the wee hours of the morning.

my husband and i

left our cats, Libby and Tessy, at home during our threeweek honeymoon. It was their fi rst time home alone in the year we’d had them. Even though a neighbor came over to replenish food, water, and litter, she couldn’t provide what our cats lived on—love. Their introduction to this world had been harsh. I’d found them at 3 weeks old, abandoned, trembling with fear and itching with fleas. My husband and I showered them with affection from the beginning. We knew Libby and Tessy were unhappy with our absence from the minute we opened the door. They weren’t in their usual greeting spot in the entryway, and they didn’t come when we called. Finally, Libby tentatively poked her head out from the kitchen. Her expression seemed to say, “We weren’t expecting you, ever.” Libby and Tessy had expressed their discontent while we were away. In fact, they saturated our finished basement with it. We needed galoshes to wade through the puddles of urine in our carpet. Instead of cowering like guilty pets, they strutted to each soiled spot, as if our roles had reversed and they were rubbing our noses in our mistake. In better economic times, we’d have gutted the basement and started over. Instead, I loaded my grocery cart with boxes

— Holly Morse-Ellington is pursuing a master’s degree in writing at Johns Hopkins University. She teaches high school English and lives in Baltimore.

we sat in the corner

of my bedroom, which sometimes doubled as the TV room in the threebedroom rancher in Baltimore County’s Campfield neighborhood. Grandma sat in the brown leather recliner that was wedged between the wall and the sliding glass doors that led to the driveway. I sat at her feet in my favorite pink cotton robe that came just above my knee, the elbows threadbare. The sun was bright coming through the glass doors. It made my cheek hot. I fi xed my gaze on the freshly lit Newport 100 dangling from the corner of her mouth. It was bouncing up and down. That meant she was thinking. “I don’t have any money,” she said, her knee shaking in unison with the cigarette. No inhales. “He has all the damn money. All of it. You OK, Mickey?” “Yes, ma’am.” “Does it still hurt down there?” “No, ma’am.” The only time I’d lied to her. She took one long drag off of her Newport 100. I think she would’ve stopped breathing if she hadn’t. “He has all the money,” she said, almost a chant now. “He” was her husband. He used to be my Pop-Pop. He was the one who made “down there” hurt. I was 11 years old. “What do you think I should do?” she asked.

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“I don’t know. I don’t care.” “We could leave, but I don’t know where we’d go. You understand, Mickey?” “Yes, ma’am. I’m OK. We can just stay here,” I said in my bravest voice. “Just make sure you wear your robe when you come out of the bathroom. I have to buy you a longer one tomorrow. Pink again?” “No, I think I’ll try sky blue this time.” “Good.” Grandma took one long, soothing drag off of the cigarette, then smashed the halfsmoked stick in the ashtray they’d gotten from one of their many trips to Atlantic City. She took a few steps into the kitchen. It was time to make his breakfast. I lived in the house for three more years—and I hated my new robe. ■ — Myeisha Thompson is an independent marketing and communications consultant. She currently resides in northeast Baltimore City and is working on her first novel.

“What You’re Writing” is the place for creative nonfiction from our readers. Each month we pick a topic. Use the topic as a springboard into your own life and send us a true story inspired by that month’s theme. Only previously unpublished, nonfiction submissions that include contact information can be considered. We reserve the right to edit heavily for space and clarity, but we will give you the opportunity to review the edits. You may submit under “name withheld” to keep your essay anonymous, but you do need to let us know how to contact you. If you’ve already changed the names of the people involved, please let us know. Only one submission per topic, please. Send your essay to Urbanite, P.O. Box 50158, Baltimore, MD 21211, or email it to WhatYoureWriting@urbanite baltimore.com. Submissions should be shorter than four hundred words. Because of the number of essays we receive, we cannot respond individually to each writer. Please do not send originals; submissions cannot be returned. topic

deadline

publication

Broke Fresh Start Creation Myth

Oct 13, 2009 Nov 9, 2009 Dec 7, 2009

Dec 2009 Jan 2010 Feb 2010

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Da Vinci: The Genius

Oct 1–Jan 31

Hailed as the most comprehensive traveling exhibit on the original Renaissance man, Da Vinci: The Genius fills the Maryland Science Center with reproductions of Leonardo’s anatomical drawings, works of art, and inventions. Don’t miss Secrets of Mona Lisa, which reveals, among other things, that the original painting did include eyebrows and eyelashes.

Maryland Science Center 601 Light St. 410-685-5225 www.mdsci.org

Sugarloaf Crafts Festival

Oct 2–4

The thirty-third annual Sugarloaf Crafts Festival brings to Timonium a variety of fine art and crafts, from jewelry and fashion to home accessories and furniture. Attendees can also snack on gourmet edibles and take in demonstrations of iron forging, pottery making, and more.

Maryland State Fairgrounds 2200 York Rd. 800-210-9900 Go to www.sugarloafcrafts.com for ticket information

Tour du Port

Oct 4

Wheel through historic Baltimore neighborhoods on Tour du Port, the annual bike ride to benefit the nonprofit smart commuting and bicycle advocacy group One Less Car. Routes range from 12 to 52 miles and are suitable for novice and experienced riders; helmets are required. Urbanite is a sponsor of this event.

Go to www.onelesscar.org for more information and to register

Baltimore Comic-Con

Oct 10–11

Fans of graphic storytelling will flock to Baltimore’s tenth annual Comic-Con, a two-day extravaganza featuring comic book publishers and artists from all over the world. This year’s guest of honor is George Pérez, “possibly the most famous comic artist in the last forty years,” according to event organizer Marc Nathan.

Great Halloween Lantern Parade

Baltimore Convention Center 1 W. Pratt St. Go to www.comicon.com/baltimore for information on one- and two-day passes

Oct 24

Every year, Patterson Park transforms into a ghostly wonderland for the Great Halloween Lantern Parade, with handmade lanterns, floats, stilt walkers, and more. New this year is a pre-parade Haunted Hamlet Festival of spooky storytelling, last-minute lantern making, and food and hot cider.

Patterson Park, Eastern and Linwood avenues Free; fees for some Haunted Hamlet activities 410-276-1651 www.creativealliance.org

Sugar Skulls Workshop

Oct 31, 10 a.m.

Mark the Mexican Day of the Dead—devoted to remembering late loved ones—with a sugar skulls workshop led by Creative Alliance resident artist René Treviño. He’ll give a brief lecture about the history of the holiday, then help attendees cast and paint three sugar skulls to take home.

410-276-1651 Go to www.creativealliance.org to register

Photo credits from top to bottom: no credit; courtesy of Charlotte Lodico, Sugarloafcrafts.com; courtesy of Tour du Port; © Susan Leggett | Dreamstime.com; photo by Michael DiBari; © Pixelbox | Dreamstime.com

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urbanite october 09

Stony Run Home studio & store

318 Wyndhurst Rd., Roland Park 410.435.4663


Home Away from Home

photo by Valerie Paulsgrove

Crystal Ryan had long wanted to open a B&B; she’d even earned a master’s degree in tourism administration and marketing. So when three adjoining rowhouses became available on a quiet stretch of Hanover Street in Federal Hill, Ryan and her husband, Denis, decided to rent one for themselves and try their hand at innkeeping with the other two, transforming them (with the owner’s blessing) into guesthouses. Christened A Home in the Hill (1109 and 1111 S. Hanover St.; 410-215-1664; www.ahomeinthehill.com), the two recently renovated houses are ideal for visiting families, with laundry facilities, dishes, a coffeemaker, cable TV, central AC, and a back patio. The one-bedroom house goes for $130 per night, $795 per week, or $2,300 per month, with the two-bedroom slightly more expensive. — Marianne K. Amoss

Feet First

photo

by Ch

ristine

Abb ott

Poppy and Stella (728 S. Broadway; 410-522-1970; www.poppyand stella.com) seeks to satisfy every woman’s need for great shoes and accessories. Owner Kelley Krohn Heuisler opened the shop last March, its name a tribute to her home state of California (the state flower is the poppy) and a shoe store in Vermont called Stella that her half-sister runs. The store carries, as its tagline says, “everything but the clothes”: purses, jewelry, and, of course, shoes. Flats, heels, and boots range from tasteful workwear to sassy high fashion. “The great thing about Baltimore is it’s a really eclectic city, and I try to have the merchandise in the store reflect that,” Heuisler says. Check out the new-for-fall footwear, including handmade Italian boots by Gidigio for $420 and peep-toe Corso Como heels (pictured) for $165.

photo by Christine Abbott

— M.K.A.

Hammer Time In the 1970s, Beth Dellow was looking for a change of pace: A recent Goucher College grad with an art history/philosophy degree, she volunteered to be a carpenter’s helper even though she lacked experience. “I already knew I didn’t have an aversion to getting dirty or working hard,” she says. Since then, Dellow has worked as a welder, a Home Depot employee, and a private contractor with her own home improvement company, Beth’s Home Repairs Etc. Last year she opened Beth’s D.I.Y. Workshop in Lauraville (4321 Harford Rd.; 443-708-0786; www. bethsdiyworkshop.com) to serve as a place for carpentry and home improvement classes, a resource library, a small hardware store, and a payby-the-hour woodworking shop. Dellow can guide newbies through all manner of home improvement skills, from hanging drywall and laying a hardwood floor to fixing a lamp and building a birdhouse. “I think it’s my responsibility to pass it on,” she says. — M.K.A. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m o c t o b e r 0 9

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urbanite october 09

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Uptown Downtown Custom clothier Stephen Wise has a diverse assortment of heroes. Among them: dapper British spy James Bond and the defunct local fried chicken chain Chicken George, which offered customers a peek at the biscuit-making process through kitchen-side windows. Likewise, businessmen who order bespoke suits and shirts from Wise’s new downtown haberdashery, Stephen Wise Baltimore (12 S. Calvert St.; 410-685-SWB1; www.swbrand.com), get a front-row seat for the making of their garments, which are all designed by Wise and stitched in-house. The shop also features a shoeshine service, complimentary wine at the bar (the store is in a vaultceilinged salon that formerly housed Fader’s cigar shop), a barber, and a manicurist. Downstairs, Wise envisions a gentlemen’s clubhouse befitting the Rat Pack. In addition to his suits, which feature offbeat details such as slanted pockets and brightly striped linings ($695–$895), Wise offers a line of shirts in tasteful floral and paisley prints for club-goers ($85 and up). “It’s a little pop,” he says of the store. “I think men are missing pop in downtown Baltimore.” — Greg Hanscom photo by Christine Abbott

Bitchin’ Witchin’

photo by Valerie Paulsgrove

Shelley Klimm is a witch—but not a wicked one. “It’s not about throwing curses down, giving someone the evil eye,” says the owner of the Hampden New Age shop Crystals, Candles & Cauldrons (927B W. 36th St.; 410-467-4111; www. wiccancrystal.com), who inherited her folk magic from her Lithuanian greatgrandmother. “I’m all about helping people. We are a healing store.” The shop stocks all manner of magic supplies, including chalices, Wiccan daggers (or “athames”), holy water (and war water, if your intentions are darker), and crystal balls, plus ingredients for spells, from snake-shed to sulfur—or “good old brimstone,” Klimm says. She and her daughter, Caitlin, also offer channeling and energy work, as well as custom “mojo bags”—hoodoo charms that enhance fertility, spark love, or “uncross” bad relationships. The store hosts a tarot card reader on Saturdays and a paranormal group every other Friday. For those with more traditional spiritual tastes, Klimm also offers Bibles, Buddhist statuary, and even tribal drums. “Everyone,” she says, “can feel welcome.”

Windows on the Past Painted screens could once be found across the city, providing precious privacy to rowhouse dwellers: The landscapes painted on the screens let those inside see out but prevented passersby from peering inside the home. In response to the public’s many queries about where to see this once-popular art form, the Painted Screen Society of Baltimore recently released Painted Screens Pil grimage . It’s a guide to walking and driving tours of screen painting sites of interest in East Baltimore, both existing and long gone, from a door screen emblazoned in sci-fi imagery by contemporary painter John Oktavec to the house where screen painter and sideshow legend Johnny Eck lived for most of the 20th century. (For those looking for a more guided experience, folklorist and painted screens expert Elaine Eff joins Baltimore Heritage for a behind-the-scenes tour of some notable screen painting sites on Oct 1.) The guide is available from the Painted Screen Society for $5; e-mail paintedscreens@verizon.net to order a copy. —M.K.A.

Screen painted by Dee Herget

— G.H.


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9/2/09

11:30 AM

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urbanite october 09

Alex Weinberg, Director


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baltimore observed

p r e s e r vaT i o n

Ghost Hospitals In Maryland’s abandoned institutions for the mentally ill and disabled, lessons from the past.

O A bathing room at the now-defunct Rosewood Center in Owings Mills sits empty. Rosewood opened in 1888 as the “Asylum and Training School for the Feeble Minded” and closed last June. As with most abandoned psychiatric hospitals, vandals have left their mark at Rosewood, despite the warnings that the sites are contaminated by hazardous materials. Still, wheelchairs, furniture, specially adapted baths for the handicapped, and Christmas decorations are scattered around the facilities, along with soggy piles of shredded records, reports, and daily logbooks.

ver the course of the past fifty years, America has abandoned many of its historic psychiatric hospitals, slipping out of them quietly as if trying to erase from public memory a troubling chapter of its history. Scattered throughout the country, most of these grand edifices now sit empty and unused, visited only by vandals and urban explorers.

story by sarah rICharDs photographs by roger lemoyne w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m o c t o b e r 0 9

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One of numerous beds in a partitioned room at the Crownsville Hospital Center looks like it could have been slept in yesterday; in fact, the hospital closed in 2004. Today, Crownsville’s massive historic buildings and roughly 600 sprawling acres are cared for by a handful of groundskeepers who spend summer days endlessly cutting grass. Inside the buildings, the walls are decorated with artwork done by patients, including a large mural replicating a Van Gogh painting.

Around Baltimore, several of these forgotten institutions have been reduced to hulking confluences of raw materials. Like a mind slowly losing its faculties, these buildings are giving way to age. Some have partially collapsed roofs; others, peeling paint and broken windows. The moistness of summer mixes with stale attic smell. Outside, overgrown trees and vines wrap their fingers through windowpanes and around guardrails. There is absolute silence, aside from the birds. Others appear much as they did the day they closed. The Crownsville Hospital Center near Annapolis, which was created in 1910 as a home to the “Negro insane,” was shuttered in 2004. Today, a visitor finds a laundry cart stacked full of colorful quilted blankets standing in the facility’s laundry room and

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urbanite october 09

Deep in the woods of Patapsco Valley State Park stand the remains of Henryton State Hospital. Built in the 1920s as a tuberculosis hospital for African Americans, it eventually became a facility for the developmentally disabled. By 1985, when Henryton closed, the buildings required substantial renovations and no longer suited a community-treatment approach. Henryton’s beautiful, almost Cuban-colonial buildings have been heavily damaged by vandals. The state is in the process of turning the site over to the Department of Natural Resources, which will likely tear the buildings down. Officials estimate that will cost $5 million.

photographs of smiling children—hospital employees’ kids, perhaps—tacked up on a bulletin board. A calendar reads “June 2004.” For those suffering from mental illness, these psychiatric hospitals were once the last stop, a final hope for family members no longer capable of caring for a schizophrenic uncle or bipolar sister. When caregivers ran out of money—or the raw, endless patience required to care for someone with a serious mental illness—there was no other place to turn. From the outside, many of these institutions appeared to be peaceful sanctuaries. Built in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the buildings’ architecture reflected the belief that patients’ surroundings played a role in their well-being. These hospitals were built

to emphasize light and ventilation and were often placed in pastoral settings so that patients could benefit from the closeness of nature. Hospitals like the historic Brattleboro Retreat in Vermont espoused “moral treatment,” a Quaker-inspired approach that included having capable patients work at the hospital’s dairy farm. Inside the walls, however, the picture was not so pretty. Over the years, treatments included hydrotherapy, electroshock therapy, and even lobotomies. By World War II, many psych hospitals had become victims of deplorable under-budgeting and overcrowding. In 1949, the Baltimore Sun ran a series called “Maryland’s Shame” that exposed the shocking conditions at state hospitals; at night, the paper noted, some patients were covered in


baltimore observed

Old gaming tables, a grand piano, and two large film projectors dot the auditorium at the Warfield Complex, part of the 113-year-old Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville. Springfield once treated more than three thousand psych patients and even had its own railroad line. Some of the hospital’s modernized facilities continue to operate today, while two of the old buildings have been made into office space and a dance school. Sykesville hopes other businesses or organizations will take over larger spaces like this one and a cafeteria on the first floor.

their own feces and lay on bare mattresses without blankets. Stories like these, combined with “miracle” drugs like Thorazine that made mental patients more manageable outside the hospital setting, ushered in a long process of deinstitutionalization. Today, Maryland still has eight inpatient psychiatric facilities, institutions that treated 2,886 people in the past year. Still, the facilities are smaller, patient stays are shorter, and most are treated as outpatients. Deinstitutionalization has come with its own set of problems, however. Outside the hospital, the mentally ill are left to navigate a labyrinth of medical and housing services. Many end up on the streets or in prison. “Some are in nursing homes. An awful lot are

being treated in outpatient clinics, community clinics,” says Jonathan Engel, a professor specializing in the history of U.S. health and social welfare policy at Baruch College in New York City. “Probably the bulk—the ones from the poorest, most dysfunctional families— are rotating through psychiatric wards of public hospitals.” Some mental health experts argue that deinstitutionalization has gone too far. “You really don’t cure people with a severe mental illness,” says Gerald Grob, a Rutgers University professor emeritus of medical history. “For people with a severe mental illness, what you have to do is manage it. Life will never be what we call ‘great’ for them. But you want to put them in a situation where life is at least tolerable.”

For some, he says, life would be more tolerable in a hospital. But after decades of housing the mentally disabled, most of our abandoned institutions would themselves require acute rehabilitation before they could ever be put into service again. There are exceptions: The 120-year-old Agnews Insane Asylum in California, which closed in 1995, landed a spot on the National Register of Historic Places and was transformed into the corporate headquarters of Sun Microsystems. But many of our other institutions stand empty—too historic, or simply too expensive, to demolish. ■ Web extra: View more photos at www. urbanitebaltimore.com.

w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m o c t o b e r 0 9

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School 33 Art Center’s Open Studio Tour is an annual city-wide event that for over 20 years has brought together professional artists and the general public, giving collectors and art lovers the opportunity to visit the studios of visual artists. 26

urbanite october 09


Child care: Through the Birth Companions program, Aisha Raheem received the support of a doula at no charge during the birth of her daughter.

Transformer

Mothers’ Helpers

Baltimore’s infant mortality rate—the number of infants who die before turning a year old—is 11.3 per 1,000 live births, well over the national rate of 6.3 per 1,000 and higher than in some developing countries. But a local program called Birth Companions has been able to reduce that number for some Baltimore families. The program started out modestly, with about fifteen Hopkins nursing students, many of whom had served in the Peace Corps in Africa as doulas: certified professionals who provide non-medical emotional and physical assistance to women during labor and delivery. They began providing doula services to women at the Hopkins-affiliated Bayview Medical Center as part of the nursing school’s Community Outreach Program. Hopkins’ School of Nursing added an elective course to train nursing students as certified doulas in 1998; since then, participating students have been practicing their skills at local hospitals, free of charge, under the name Birth Companions. The program also formed partnerships with area agencies that serve the most vulnerable: immigrants from war-torn countries, mothers-to-be with substance abuse

— Elizabeth Heubeck Each month, Urbanite profiles people and programs that are transforming the city, one block at a time. To nominate a transformer, e-mail editor@urbanitebaltimore.com.

photo by Bill Michels

problems, teens in the detention system. Doulas from Birth Companions now attend about a hundred births annually. “Wherever the mom goes to deliver, we go,” says nurse Betty Jordan, Birth Companions’ cofounder. The doula’s role is to be a “continuous presence,” says Jordan, advocating for and supporting the mother-to-be and family. Historically, their interactions with doctors in the delivery room can be tense, but Robert Atlas, chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Mercy Medical Center, acknowledges the good doulas can do. “It can be incredibly positive to have someone there who’s supportive of the patient’s needs. The right doula, with the right approach, is incredibly beneficial.” Birth Companions’ success rate bears this out. Infants whose mothers are enrolled in the program are far less likely to be born preterm or with a low birth weight—two contributing factors to infant mortality—than others born in Baltimore City. Between 1999 and 2008, on average, just 3.9 percent of the program’s babies were born preterm and only 3 percent had low birth weight, compared with 13.7 percent and 12.8 percent, respectively, in Baltimore City in 2007. The program also saves money. Among women enrolled, the rate of Caesarean sections—more invasive and costly than vaginal deliveries—runs about 5 percent lower than the general community’s rate, which hovers around 33 percent. In Maryland hospitals, the average cost of care associated with a C-section ranges from $5,353 to $10,956, compared to $3,893 to $7,676 for a vaginal delivery. That’s a significant savings from a program that costs approximately $30,000 to operate annually. Then there are the aspects of the program that can’t be quantified. Doula Missy Mason calls attending births addictive. “The part I love is laboring with the moms. It isn’t just going in and checking their blood pressure. It’s easing their fears and staying beside them continuously.” One of Mason’s recent clients, 25-yearold Aisha Raheem, had hoped to avoid pain medication during the birth of her first child. The difficult sixteen-hour labor prompted her to eventually accept an epidural, but she says the experience was positive overall. “I can take what I learned from the doula and use it next time.” ■

u p d at e

photo by Valerie Paulsgrove

baltimore observed

Miller’s Court in Charles Village, derelict factory turned education-themed housing and offices

Teacher Features: Onlookers crowded West 26th Street in Charles Village on September 14 as a parade of bigwigs, including Governor Martin O’Malley and Mayor Sheila Dixon, lauded the transformation of a vacant fac tory into a sort of educational incubator (see Urbanite, January ’08). The four-story brick edifice, now dubbed Miller’s Court, holds forty rent-discounted apartments for city school teachers, while nonprofits such as Teach for America and the Baltimore Urban Debate League rent ground-floor offices. The company behind the rehabilitation, Seawall Development Corp., plans a similar makeover for another historic building, Union Mill in Woodberry. Seawall partner Evan Morville says the hulking stone facility’s facelift will follow the same blueprint as Miller’s Court, with affordable teacher housing and office space for nonprofits. Private Property: After twenty-two years atop the former Legg Mason Tower, the Center Club—long the city’s most prestigious private business club and site of many a corporate power lunch (see Urbanite, September ’08)—reopened in September after a $2.7 million renovation . The club, which occupies the fifteenth and sixteenth floors of 100 Light Street, was founded in 1962 as a more inclusive alternative to the city’s eating clubs, many of which had restrictive covenants. With the summer departure of Legg Mason Inc. for new digs in Harbor East, the fate of the downtown club—which suffered a decline in membership since 2000—had appeared murky. But Center Club President Howard Miller is optimistic that the sleek makeover will change the narrative. “We’re securing our future,” he says. Among the new amenities: a private wine room, a new fifteenth-floor bar, and a dramatically re-oriented dining room that takes better advantage of the high-rise’s harbor views. Miller says the club is already seeing an uptick in membership, with forty-three new members enrolled in September. (Initiation fees start at $500.) “We’re a civic institution. We were thriving before and we’ll be thriving again.”

w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m o c t o b e r 0 9

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Big Crane on Campus What’s behind the academic building boom?

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urbanite october 09

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In recent years, colleges and universities nationwide have engaged in a dramatic physical transformation, constructing new buildings at the fastest rate since the 1960s. What’s behind the boom, and when will it end? s t o ry

T

a n d

p hotogr ap hs

his is not your father’s college library. Even the word “library” is inadequate. Yes, there are books here in the Athenaeum, the $48-million hybrid library/student center that just opened on the Goucher College campus in Towson. But despite the throwback Greco-Roman name, little else is old school within this angular edifice. Clad in just enough local Butler stone to connect it with Goucher’s more traditional aesthetic, the building presents a flashy façade of glass, copper, and redwood. It’s fully equipped with the latest in LEED-certified, eco-friendly bells and whistles, from the green roofs to the window shades that roll up and down automatically to maximize energy efficiency. Here, you check out Kant’s Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, then read it on one of the elliptical trainers overlooking the building’s atrium-cum-performance space, the Forum. Did your stomach just rumble? An on-site eatery offers alternatives to cafeteria mystery meat until 3 a.m. Just want to

B y

B re nne n

Je nse n

hang out? Collections of plush furniture create impromptu living rooms where flat-panel televisions send back video postcards from Goucher students abroad. “I don’t think the library can any longer be a distant destination, a place apart from all other aspects of students’ lives,” says Sanford Ungar, the Goucher president who envisioned such a facility after arriving in 2001. “We felt that the library should be part of a central facility, a gathering place on campus that would serve the college community’s academic, intellectual, cultural, and social purposes all at once.” Goucher might boast one of the most striking new buildings, but bulldozers and cranes have been carving up plenty of Baltimore-area colleges and universities. Johns Hopkins University, for example, spent more than $130 million completing a new academic quad on its Homewood campus and building a 600-bed high-rise residence hall. Morgan State University cut ribbons on a brace of new

campus buildings, including a 220,000-square-foot, $44-million library. And heavy equipment is at work on scores of ongoing projects at other schools. (See sidebar on page 39.) “What you are seeing in the Baltimore area is very much part of a national trend,” says Philip Parsons of Sasaki Associates Inc., a Boston architectural firm whose local clients include Hopkins, Loyola University Maryland, and Morgan. “There was a huge building boom on campuses over the last ten years. The only comparable time this happened was after Sputnik in the ’60s, when there was also a massive expansion.” Several forces are driving the trend. College enrollment has been on a steady upswing, driven by the Baby Boomers’ babies—the 80 million “echo boomers”—who began checking into freshman dorms in the 1990s and are still coming of age. More universities are engaging in high-tech research, which demands dedicated, space-eating facilities. And academia has added a plethora of new non-faculty staff and administrators. The number of these employees has doubled since 1989, Parsons says, “and, of course, they all need offices.” Students are also expecting more space, particularly beyond the classroom. The word “dorm” once called to mind spartan cinderblock rooms and communal bathrooms. Today’s all-en-suite residence halls—with their fitness centers and coffee bars—trend more fancy than functional. “I did a rough analysis of what’s happened on college campuses over the last thirty years, and by my calculations, the space-per-student has tripled,” Parsons says. “A lot of this is

higher learning

“I did a rough analysis of what’s happened on college campuses over the last thirty years,” says Philip Parsons of Sasaki Associates. “By my calculations, the space-perstudent has tripled.”

When in Rome: Goucher College’s new Athenaeum is both library and student center. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m o c t o b e r 0 9

31


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housing, and a lot of it is new student centers and new athletic and recreational facilities.” Indeed, in those heady years preceding the current recession—before the news from higher ed was dominated by withering endowments and budget cuts—many colleges engaged in a kind of arms race over student amenities: bringing climbing walls, wellness centers, and even golf courses to campus to attract applicants. “There was a very real danger of getting into a kind of spending war for students,” says Ethan Seidel, vice president for administration and finance at McDaniel College in Westminster, which recently wound up more than $25 million in campus construction projects. “I don’t know how long our current economic problems will persist or affect this, but until very recently, students were looking for more and more amenities. There were expectations in the marketplace of what you needed to do to stay competitive.” The building boom hasn’t gone bust yet, but it might lose steam now that students and parents are more interested in financial aid than climbing walls. Harvard University, which has seen its endowment tumble from $37 billion to $25 billion, blames the economy for its decision to postpone a new science complex—the would-be linchpin of a new campus across the Charles River in Boston. Closer to home, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, still hopes to break ground in 2012 on a medical research building, but those plans have scaled back by $100 million. And for many colleges and universities, there are now deep pools of potentially problematic debt lurking below those the shiny new buildings. McDaniel, a private liberal arts college known as Western Maryland College until 2002, has seen its endowment shed $18 million during the downturn. But McDaniel’s enrollment has grown more than 15 percent since 2000, a surge accompanied by a spate of construction. A new academic building opened in 2005, joined in 2007 by North Village, a residence complex that the school likens to “a series of country manor homes,” and the Leroy Merritt Fitness Center, brimming with cutting-edge workout equipment. McDaniel’s tuition, room, and board— now around $38,000—has increased about 4 percent annually over the past few years. But, as at most institutions, heavy borrowing helped fuel the building binge, Seidel says. To keep costs down, the fitness center was designed as an addition to an existing athletic facility. Philanthropic gifts helped too: The project was kick-started by $2 million from alumnus and fitness-club magnate Leroy Merritt. Seidel says the school’s finances are sound, noting that it just had its positive bond ratings reaffirmed. Even so, current plans to rebuild the football stadium are taking a different tack:

The development office is charged with raising funds to cover the entire $8 million price tag before a single bleacher is built.

I

n a more frugal era, opening a glitzy new student center might send mixed messages to wage-frozen faculty or tuition-squeezed parents. But Goucher’s Ungar is quick to defend his school’s growth spurt. “This is not about an amenities war at all,” he says. “This is about spaces for students to be students.” Plans to spend $32 million to modernize the school’s tired ’50s-vintage library were already in the works when Ungar was hired. “I came to the conclusion that that would not make a lot of sense,” he says. “When we finished, we’d just have a renovated problem.” Instead, he helped develop the Athenaeum concept, designed to be a place for students to both study and socialize. “There’s obviously an element of experiment to it,” Ungar says. “But it’s a beautiful building, magnificently executed and brilliantly designed.” Even so, a minor flap unfolded in the pages of the Goucher student paper, The Quindecim, in 2007 after an article fueled perceptions among some students that Ungar was reneging on a promise not to use tuition money to pay for the Athenaeum’s construction. As Ungar explains it, the building was largely paid for with $25 million in philanthropic dollars and some $30 million in borrowed funds. A portion of annual tuition income—about 1 percent— now goes toward servicing this debt. “Tuition goes toward everything, from cutting the grass to faculty salaries,” Ungar says. “But we have not increased the tuition for debt service on the Athenaeum one iota.” Campus growth plays out differently at public institutions. At the University of Maryland, Baltimore—the state’s health, human services, and law campus comprising seven graduate and professional schools—workers are currently constructing a new pharmacy building overlooking Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Classroom and research buildings at state schools such as this are largely financed through general obligation bonds

issued out of Annapolis. (In other words, through taxes). For nonacademic structures—parking garages, student centers, recreational facilities, and the like—the University System of Maryland issues revenue bonds based on the buildings’ ability to generate income via food operations, leasing, or parking charges, plus college-wide student fees. In the latter category, this summer the University of Maryland, Baltimore, officially opened the five-story Southern Management Corporation Campus Center, featuring a fitness center (with swimming pool and sauna) along with multiple dining facilities and other meeting-and-mingling spaces. Angela Fowler-Young, director of the university’s office of capital budget and planning, says the center should not be dismissed as simply the latest luxury-laden student amenity. Such a structure has been sought for nearly twenty years, especially since there is currently little interaction among students of the various silo-like schools that comprise the university. “We long wanted to create a center to campus—a hub of activity where the students, faculty, and staff of our different schools could come together and informally interact,” she says. The university’s previous fitness facility was tucked away atop a parking garage, and students had increasingly come to expect better, because, well, their undergraduate schools all had gleaming gyms. These same students, however, will see their student fees increase next spring, though Fowler-Young isn’t yet sure by how much. “It’s a very sensitive issue,” she says.

higher learning

A

t Coppin State University, a spate of construction is part of a larger revival effort currently underway at this historically black institution in West Baltimore. The school is constructing a nearly 250,000-square-foot physical education complex with a basketball arena, swimming pool, dance studios, and classrooms. Slated to open next spring,

You call this a dorm? McDaniel College’s new student housing complex looks more like a suburban subdivision. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m o c t o b e r 0 9

33


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urbanite october 09

157

Years of Academic Excellence in the Catholic Tradition


it replaces a dowdy ’70s-era athletic facility. (Student fee increases will be part of the funding equation here as well.) A 168,000square-foot Health and Human Services Building, housing the school’s nursing, social work, and criminal justice programs, among others, was completed last year as the first Coppin building on the south side of North Avenue, the university’s new frontier. According to Maqbool Patel, associate vice president of administration and finance, this construction—along with some $27 million in less glamorous but sorely needed infrastructure fixes—stems from a 2001 report by the Maryland Office of Civil Rights showing that Coppin’s capital spending per fulltime student was the lowest among the state’s four-year colleges by a huge margin: Between 1990 and 2001, Coppin spent $699 per student, compared with an average of more than $16,000 at other state schools. “It was clear

institution that may have more systemic problems. “The buildings are just part of several pieces of intervention we are doing to attract as well as retain students,” he says. “They get a lot of attention. But they don’t show the growth we are also trying to do internally to increase the number of faculty and what we are doing with new policies and procedures to make sure we are addressing the total needs of students.” A different reinvention is taking place at Stevenson University, which boasts a new name (until 2008 it was Villa Julie College) and a new campus in neighboring ZIP code. Stevenson was founded fifty-five years ago as a Catholic women’s commuter school that specialized in turning out medical secretaries. The school went coed in 1972 and added four-year degrees in 1984, but tough zoning laws kept growth at the Greenspring Valley campus bottled up. Five years ago, the school

looking to add what might be the ultimate student amenity: a football team, due to take the field in fall 2010. If any new campus building can give the Athenaeum run for its money in terms of design, it would be the University of Baltimore’s new John and Frances Angelos Law Center. Just don’t look for it on the skyline yet. The twelve-story glass tower, designed by the German architectural firm Behnisch Architekten (partnering with local firm Ayers/ Saint/Gross) following a high-profile international design competition underwritten by a $150,000 grant from the Abell Foundation, has yet to rise on the corner of Charles Street and Mount Royal Avenue. Though Orioles owner and UB law alumnus Peter Angelos already ponied up $5 mil-

higher learning

“This is not about an amenities war at all,” says Goucher president Sanford Ungar. “This is about spaces for students to be students.” A bigger sandbox: Residence halls at Stevenson University’s new Owings Mills campus boast a beach volleyball court.

the institution was underfunded,” Patel says. “It was a turning point.” Growth is harder at Coppin than at sprawling suburban schools. University president Reginald S. Avery calls his city campus landlocked. Presently standing in the way of a planned new science and technology building are multiple blocks of rowhouses that the school is now painstakingly purchasing. (Eminent domain is a last resort, officials say.) As much as $15 million might need to be spent before ground can be broken. Another challenge at Coppin surfaced earlier this year, when a report by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., ranked Coppin among the colleges and universities with the lowest graduation and retention rates in the nation. Based on data gathered from 2001 through 2007, fewer than one in five Coppin freshmen ended up graduating within six years. Avery says he has had to contend with critics who question whether brick-andmortar expansion is the right move for an

opened a second campus amid the suburban hubbub of Owings Mills, where it now has a dozen residence halls and a handful of academic buildings. Undergraduate enrollment, now at 2,600, has nearly doubled since 2000. The Owings Mills campus, up a hill from a shopping center, looks more than a little like an office park. In a way, that’s apt for a university focused on finding its graduates jobs. “We want to be the national leader in career education,” says university president Kevin J. Manning. “We really try to help students understand how the world of work operates. That’s the real driver behind this growth.” But the expansion hasn’t come without sizable debt loads. Following last fall’s financial disruptions, the soaring interest rates on Stevenson’s $122 million in variable rate bonds threatened to swamp the annual budget. Manning called the matter “scary” in a November 2008 BusinessWeek article. Now that a degree of calm has returned to the credit markets, the university is

lion for naming rights, funding for the bulk of $107 million project has been winding its way through Annapolis, taking a few bruises in the process. Earlier this year, the state’s Department of Legislative Services recommended postponing a $5 million payout for continuing design work, citing the less-than-urgent need for a nearly 190,000-square-foot building given UB’s static law school enrollment. University officials successfully pleaded their case, and the latest round of funding was approved. But there are still millions to squeeze out of the statehouse. “So far, right now, we are making great progress to stay on schedule,” says Steve Cassard, UB’s vice president for administration and finance. “We hope to have foundation work begin the summer of 2010.” So watch that space: The tower that rises there could be also be a shiny capstone for the cranes-on-campus era. ■ —Brennen Jensen wrote about landscape architect Fritz Haeg in the August 2008 Urbanite.

w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m o c t o b e r 0 9

35


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higher learning

Coppin State’s new physical education complex

Coming soon? UB’s John and Frances Angelos Law Center

Stevenson’s Brown School of Business & Leadership

Growing by Degrees A sample of college and university building projects school

building name

Baltimore City Community College

Student Services Wing

Carroll Community College

Classroom Building 4

construction type

principal use size (sq. ft. )

cost

date open

Addition/renovation

Student social space/offices

54,000

$15.5 million

Jan. 2008

New construction

Academic

80,000

$36 million

2009

Towson University Building Susquehanna Center

New construction Renovation/expansion

Academic Athletics/fitness

55,000 97,000

$16 million $26 million

Winter 2011 Jan. 2013

Community College of Baltimore County Catonsville Campus Library

New construction

Library

75,482

$28 million

Aug. 2010

Howard Community College Horowitz Visual   and Performing Arts Center Rouse Co. Foundation   Student Services Hall

New construction

Arts/academic

78,090 $26.5 million

2006

New construction

Student services/bookstore

105,000

$24 million

2007

Coppin State University

New construction New construction

Academic Athletics/academic

168,000 246,359

$71 million $134 million

2008 2010

New construction New construction

Offices/auditorium Academic

29,000 79,000

$20 million $33 million

2007 2007

New construction Renovation

Student housing Academic

312,000 146,000

$83 million $73 million

2008 June 2010

New construction Renovation/expansion New construction

Student housing Library Athletics

100,000 25,000 60,000

$22 million $19.6 million $60 million

2007 2008 2010

New construction

Student housing/studio space

87,000

$32 million

Aug. 2008

New construction Renovation/addition

Academic Fitness/social space

47,000 24,843

$9 million $9.5 million

2005 2007

New construction

Student housing

60,000

$13.5 million

2007

New construction New construction New construction

Academic/radio station Social space/offices Library

78,000 $17.9 million 130,480 $27 million 221,517 $44.5 million

2006 2006 2006

Stevenson University Susquehanna, Patapsco, New construction (Owings Mills Campus)   and Western Run halls Rockland Center New construction Brown School of Business and Leadership New construction Gymnasium New construction

Student housing

175,560

$24 million

2005

Dining hall/offices/ meeting rooms Academic Athletics

48,812

$9.8 million

2006

61,685 60,000

Renovation/expansion New construction

Arts Academic

150,000 100,000

$45 million $27 million

2006 2009

Harford Community College

Health and Human Services Building Physical Education Complex

Johns Hopkins University Mason Hall Computational Science   and Engineering Building Charles Commons Gilman Hall Loyola University Maryland

Flannery O’Connor Residence Hall Loyola/College of Notre Dame Library Ridley Intercollegiate Athletic Complex

Maryland Institute College of Art

The Gateway

McDaniel College Academic Hall Merritt Fitness Center   and Klitzberg Pavilion North Village Morgan State University

Communication Center Student Center Morris A. Soper Library

$11 million 2008 $6 million Summer 2010

Towson University

Center for the Arts Liberal Arts Building (phase 1)

University of Baltimore

Student Center John and Frances Angelos Law Center

New construction New construction

Student services/social Academic

38,000 190,000

$20 million $107 million

2006 Aug. 2012

University of Maryland, Baltimore

Dental Building Southern Management Corp. Campus Center

New construction New construction

Academic/clinical Fitness/social space

367,000 114,000

$142 million $30 million

2006 Aug. 2009


2009 AIABALTIMORE

Architecture Week

AIABALTIMORE

The Baltimore Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIABaltimore) presents the 6th Annual Baltimore Architecture Week with its partners: Ampersand Institute of Words and Images, University of Baltimore; Baltimore Conservatory Association; Baltimore Heritage; Brennan + Company Architects; Gensler; GWWO, Inc./Architects; Morgan State University, School of Architecture and Planning; Neighborhood Design Center; and the UMBC Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture. AIABaltimore is pleased to underwrite and coordinate this important series of events. We are grateful to our media sponsor Urbanite. We hope you will enjoy our many offerings. See www.aiabalt.com for all the details.

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Community Building by Design: Work from the Neighborhood Design Center Oct 14, Wednesday A Forum: The Role of Design Centers in Urban Regeneration – A Comprehensive Center for Design in Baltimore

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Modern Architecture and the Mediterranean Oct 22, Thursday Baltimore, a Theatrical Center: A Look at Baltimore’s Historic Theaters Oct 22, Thursday Design Awards Celebration and Beaux Arts Ball Oct 23, Friday Baltimore Walkabout Oct 25, Sunday 11 ½ W. Chase Street, Baltimore Maryland 21201 410.625.2585 410.727.4620 FAX www.aiabalt.com

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keynote

The Pioneer

Sustainable-design trailblazer Pliny Fisk on the future of building Interview by marianne k. amoss

H

ang on tight when talking to Pliny Fisk: In a few minutes, the conversation jumps from pattern-finding software to trawling Texas riverbeds for mesquite wood to 20th-century futurist Buckminster Fuller—or, as Fisk calls him, Bucky. “I don’t know if you’re going to get into all this craziness in your magazine,” he says apologetically. But once you get your feet under you, it all makes sense in his approach to sustainable building, a combination of high-minded theory and grassroots community organizing. Fisk’s methodology stems back to the 1960s, when he studied under landscape architect Ian McHarg at the University of Pennsylvania. McHarg believed that the built environment should dovetail with rather than damage the natural world; his 1970 book, Design With Nature, proclaimed “Let us abandon the self mutilation which has been our way and give expression to the potential harmony of man-nature.” Since 1975, Fisk has energetically applied that concept to his work at the Austin-based Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, a nonprofit he founded to create sustainable building prototypes and advise institutions on incorporating eco-friendly practices and materials. Among CMPBS’ many accomplishments are inventing flexible building systems that enable houses to expand and contract to meet the inhabitant’s needs and formulating a green building rating program for Austin that became the basis of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system. Fisk is a Fellow in Sustainable Urbanism and holds fellowships at the Center for Health Systems Design and the Center for Housing and Urban Development at Texas A&M University, where he also teaches architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning. One of his current projects at CMPBS is among his most ambitious—the ProtoScope, a global database of human knowledge that shows patterns of best and worst practices for interacting with the natural environment. The ProtoScope should enable citizens across the globe to share information and find environmentally friendly solutions to local problems. “You begin to get a sort of peer-to-peer confidence way of operating, access to the incredible history of successes and failures that we’ve gone through,” Fisk says. “If you look at just a human knowledge base, it’s unbelievable what people have done.”

Q A

The ProtoScope sounds fascinating. How does it work?

I’m standing in one of the largest temperate grasslands in the world. It comes from Canada into Mexico. There are grasslands like this in all kinds of other places; there are fourteen biomes [ecologically

42

urbanite october 09

ph oto g r a ph by m at t r a i n wat e r s

similar areas] in the world. So if I go to, say, Argentina, in certain parts of the year all the flora and fauna look and, to some extent, function the same as where I am. I would love to know what are they doing in Argentina with mesquite, a tree that can become very invasive, and whether they’ve found innovative ways of using, controlling, and managing it that we could borrow or use. So, using ProtoScope, we can begin to share information that is ecologically based. Instead of saying, “Let’s just put some weird thing on mesquite to get rid of it,” like the horrible Agent Orange that was used when I first came to Texas, we discover that it’s a very fastgrowing, renewable resource, and it happens to have better BTU value per pound than our coal in Texas. So why is there such coal commotion going on in Texas, when we could just manage our mesquite and use that as fuel? You know, there’s a wonderful mesquite liquor in Argentina. I’ve been wondering about it for years, because the mesquite bean is sweet. You go down to south Texas, and kids have them dangling from their mouths. And you say, “Well, that’s sort of interesting. It’s basically candy off a tree.” This largely untapped resource has immense economic-development potential. It could become a series of sugar- or alcohol-based products.

Q A

So how do you find out what people are doing in Argentina? It seems like an enormous project.

We have this beautiful graphic display where we can identify similar places worldwide, and around them are circles of “planets,” or peer groups. We’ve even found a way of identifying possible ProtoCities instead of just sister cities—similar cities in other parts of the world that one can learn from. It’s not too much unlike what Bucky Fuller was trying a long, long time ago. He called it GeoScope. We have a strategy that we call “area point network resource strategy” that moves people to a best-practice-based way of using resources. We tap in to the metabolism of place and understand it as well as we can and find leverage points, and then we begin to intervene using the most efficient ways to get to the next point. Have you ever heard Paul Hawken’s talk about Blessed Unrest [his 2007 book that catalogs the diverse social and environmental justice groups working in the world]? He starts out by saying, “Poor little nonprofits think you’re the only ones battling the world and doing good things? I just want to show you—” and he starts this list on a slide, and he keeps going for ten minutes. “These are all the groups like you who are thinking the same thing. Why don’t you get together?”


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keynote

Q A

A lot of your work seems aimed at helping people deal with natural disasters, be that invasive species or global warming.

We have dealt with whole towns getting their gas shut off, such as Crystal City, Texas [in the 1970s, due to rate protests]. How fast can you get a Mexican-American population that has their own culture and values operating quickly? In their case, there was a political support system called La Raza Unida Party. We knew what they were after and appreciated them, and so we were not afraid to couple with them. Because we were networking well within the population, we actually turned the whole town around in about six weeks, from being on gas to being shut off to being turned over to mesquite and solar. In order to really make the transition, you live there, you become part of the community, you go through the mistakes. You go to the people that are known, connect to them, and work with them. It’s a sort of a Saul Alinsky thing. [Alinsky is considered to be the father of modern community organizing.] If rising fuel and gas costs become a national problem, this is a superb testing ground to see how you can use resources in your area. We had a crazy process of taking fluorescent light tubes from stores that would throw them out, cleaning them, and using them as a glazing for solar hot water heaters. We recycled aluminum printing plates from printing places and newspapers, and they became our reflectors. We had these crazy things that looked almost like rocket ships going on the top of homes. People began to realize, we have all these resources right here to do this; we can get ourselves out of trouble!

Q A

The idea that getting what you need locally makes the most sense.

And being really creative about it. Not just saying, “That hasn’t ever been done before. I don’t know how to do that.” But thinking creatively about the use of those resources in a totally different way.

Q A

I wonder how we might deal with that in terms of water, considering we’re running out of it.

It’s quite amazing, this whole water thing. The simplest solutions to a lot of these things are, in some cases, staring us right in the face. I did an investigation on the simple issue of why we are using fresh water to flush toilets in urban areas on coasts across the world. Ships flush with salt water, so why don’t we? And there’s this big complaint about all our wetlands disappearing. Why not rehabilitate them to treat some of our waste, which they’re extremely good at, and create many more wetlands, which we need to protect ourselves from floods? I began to research with some of the most well-known experts in the wastewater treatment field. There was not a single example worldwide of water being used in combination with a saltwater wetland to treat wastewater. I mean, this is almost totally pathetic. And establishing the initial concept is not something that takes a Ph.D. It’s totally doable. And it would change a tremendous amount of the coastal water issue worldwide.

We’re also working on a cement that is not predicated on the use of potable water. You say, well, God, that’s really obvious. But then you realize every specification for the use of concrete using Portland cement worldwide is predicated on fresh, potable water. You go through some arithmetic, and you realize, my goodness, the use of Portland cement worldwide is equivalent to the potable water use of a whole country. And you ask, “How much work is going on with non-potable water, like seawater or brine or brackish water?” Whole countries are now—well, wealthy countries—using reverse osmosis applied to saltwater to make water for their concrete. I have samples of cement right here, which we created by networking with other groups worldwide, that has not a smidgen of fresh water in it. It’s all saltwater from the sea. You begin to realize, number one, it’s possible; number two, it’s one of these issues that people simply do not know that there’s any alternative out there.

Q A

Are you trying to change people’s behavior or to go along with people’s natural impulses?

It’s never one or the other. Most everything that we know as an organization has been learned from people doing extraordinary things. At the same time, it’s extraordinary to me to be in many situations where people don’t know the blessed unrest around them. And we find ourselves knowing what others are doing and needing to share that, because it has such close connection to what’s going on. Our most important job is to connect people to their peers. And if you call that pushing people beyond where they are, absolutely that’s pushing people beyond where they are.

Q A

Are you optimistic about the future?

Years ago, when we were sitting out here on our little hilltop in Austin, Texas, coming up with these ideas—granted, in a forwardthinking town, which does help—we did not think there was a possibility that a city would begin to embrace this. And our work resulted in not only the first green building program, but then the only Earth Summit Award in the U.S. That got lots of things going in our minds. We went to the state level and redid the architecture and engineering guidelines. That prompted several states to do the same. Then the American Institute of Architects—I’m not an architect, not a planner, not a landscape architect from a license standpoint—embraced getting me involved and changing their guidelines, which became the basis for the U.S. Green Building Council. That’s a fairly encouraging series of steps. For me to say that I’m pessimistic would be fighting my own background, because it’s fairly miraculous that this has happened to the extent that it has. Now, to measure where we have to be, compared to where we are, is scarier than hell. How do you intervene in the system? How do you trigger things that eventually have global significance? But with good thinking from small organizations and small groups of people, placed in the right context, I find it totally possible. ■

— Marianne K. Amoss is Urbanite’s managing editor.

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rising trend: morgan state architecture student adedotun olugbenle volunteers with habitat for humanity, part of a growing emphasis on social impact in design education.

BUILDING FOR THE

BET TER Farewell, starchitecture. the communitycentered design movement is taking architects, planners, and designers out of the studio and into the real world. By eliZaBeth evitts diCKinson

It’s november in greensboro, Alabama, and a rare

cold snap has brought frigid temperatures to this southern town. In a modest two-story house on the edge of Greensboro’s main street, five graphic design students and two professors from Maryland Institute College of Art are waking up. There’s no furnace, just space heaters, so the MICA team is encased in sleeping bags in a room full of bunk beds. The scene resembles something from a sci-fi movie: frozen bodies cocooned in nylon, plumes of breath rising in the ash-gray light. Someone ventures to the kitchen to make breakfast. A carton of eggs left out overnight has frozen solid. It’s an unexpected setting for a design gathering. These students carved time out of busy semesters to be here when they could have been interning in Manhattan; instead of networking around the espresso machines of Saatchi & Saatchi, over the next few days they will trudge the back roads of Hale County, one of the nation’s poorest. Hale is home to the Rural Studio, an experiment in social design started by Samuel Mockbee in 1993 and run through the Auburn University School of Architecture. The MICA designers are here to witness firsthand the challenges of a town struggling with race, class, and the legacy of the civil rights movement. They’ll see the living conditions of the residents, interview community leaders, and tour homes designed by Rural Studio architects. The goal of this trip is to use graphic design skills to help a local housing nonprofit called HERO, which is trying to more effectively communicate its services to the community. After learning about Hale and HERO, the designers will return to Baltimore and

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spend the rest of the academic year fine-tuning a print marketing campaign. The entire project is funded by grant money, at no cost to the cash-strapped nonprofit. The man who helped land the grant is Mike Weikert, a partner in the design firm Piece Studio and founder of MICA’s Center for Design Practice. The CDP, which started in 2007, is premised on a simple idea: Get students out of the classroom and into the community. It partners with nonprofits and governmental organizations in Baltimore and beyond, delving into such real-world issues as lead poisoning and energy conservation. “The CDP is about solving a problem, not just creating a predetermined deliverable, like a poster or a website,” Weikert says. “We find projects where ideas can make a positive and tangible impact. The result for the students is that their definition of design becomes broader. They realize design isn’t just based on a predetermined outcome. It’s based on the process.” Designing for impact versus mere aesthetics is gaining ground in the broader community. The Alabama trip last fall was inspired, in part, by internationally renowned graphic designer John Bielenberg, who set up a studio space in Greensboro for visiting designers. Bielenberg is among a growing contingent of design professionals trading in lucrative livelihoods for more community-focused practices. “I reached a certain point in my career,” he says. “It wasn’t that I had reached the top, but I could see the top, and it wasn’t a peak worth climbing.” In 2003, Bielenberg founded a kind of designer’s boot camp called Project M, and he has since rallied students and professionals from Alabama and Costa Rica to Iceland and East Baltimore.


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urbanite october 09


photos by Luke Williams

Southern comfort: A team from MICA’s Center for Design Practice joined other designers on a trip to rural Hale County, Alabama, in 2008 to lend their design skills to a local housing nonprofit.

MICA student Hayley Griffin distributes posters during the 2008 Alabama trip.

Part of his formula is to involve professionals entering the city’s design firms via a genera“The world doesn’t need who might not normally consider themtion driven more by social impact than by selves “designers”—from neurosurgeons to status. A new direction is forming in the field another bamboo coffee writers—in a collaborative creative process. of design, one that centers on community, He calls it “design for the greater good.” collaboration, and concrete outcomes. table,” says Emily Pilloton. The last fifteen years have seen a number of architects, product designers, landscape “As designers we should be There is an oft-repeated anecdote architects, and urban planners expand the about Frank Lloyd Wright. Industrialist Hibdesign profession to include a broader range bard Johnson was throwing a dinner party in asking, ‘What’s our role in of social missions and disciplines. North the new home the famed architect had decurating what we put Carolina architect Bryan Bell founded an signed for him in 1937 when it began to rain. organization called Design Corps in 1991 to The roof leaked onto Johnson’s head, and the out into the world?’” bring architecture and planning services to client demanded a fix. “Well, Hib,” Wright communities that wouldn’t normally have acis said to have replied, “why don’t you move cess to such resources; now a nonprofit, the your chair?” group has funneled more than $6.1 million to projects such as buildWright exemplified the stereotype of the modern architect—an ing housing for migrant farm workers. British architect Cameron imperious genius, preoccupied with personal vision. Firms in the Sinclair’s nonprofit, Architecture for Humanity, now oversees eighty last century were typically built on the name of this maestro, the chapters in twenty-five countries with thousands of volunteer design one who told clients what was good for them and used emerging professionals working for communities in need. Then there’s Emily technologies to create provocative new forms. Think of Frank GehPilloton, a talented young product designer from San Francisco who ry’s titanium-skinned Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao or Santiago eschewed a traditional career path in favor of starting Project H DeCalatrava’s gravity-defying bridges. Buildings got wilder, more exsign, which delivers life-improving product design around the globe. pensive to build and maintain. The men and women behind them— When Pilloton came through Baltimore for a lecture last spring, she Koolhaas, Libeskind, Hadid—were celebrities, and design was the explained what she calls the responsibility of the “citizen designer.” domain of patrons who could afford such starchitecture. During the “The world doesn’t need another bamboo coffee table,” she said. Ground Zero design competition in New York, some complained “As designers we should be asking, ‘What’s our role in curating what that so many famous names were involved it looked more like an we put out into the world?’ We should be designing for social impact.” architectural petting zoo than a thoughtful urban plan. This concept was on display at last year’s Venice Biennale, a Then came the market collapse, which hit the architecture showcase for international art and architecture. The U.S. exhibition, community hard. One unintended result of the meltdown may be Into The Open: Positioning Practice, challenged the very idea of who to accelerate the move toward community-centered projects: Frank constitutes a designer: One participant was Alice Waters, the chef Gehry was value-engineered out of a splashy development in Brookof Berkeley’s Chez Panisse and the creator of the Edible Schoolyard lyn this year, so he spent the summer designing affordable housing project. How, one might ask, is a celebrity restaurateur’s plan to prototypes for New Orleans. grow vegetables at public schools considered “architecture”? “The star system is broken now, and it might be for good,” “Things have to be approached as systems now,” Bielenberg says. Bielenberg says. “Instead of saying, ‘Look what I did!’ you say, ‘Look “It’s not just about designing a healthy snack food; it’s about reshapwhat I was involved in!’ It shifts from the self to a greater cause, ing the way food is grown and prepared and how young people enand it gives you great satisfaction by being aligned with something gage in that. To me, that is design. Design is expanding.” rather than merely producing something.” In Baltimore, you can see this expansion reflected in the evolvMary Anne Akers, who arrived as dean of Morgan’s School of ing curricula and interests of students at schools like Morgan State Architecture and Planning in January 2008, brought with her University, MICA, and the University of Maryland. And you see it a background in community-based design and planning. The cli-


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photos by Hayley Griffin, Project H Design, and Luke Williams

Form and function: Student architects at the Rural Studio used a complex structural system called a lamella to create the roof of this animal shelter.

Project H designed this grid-based “learning landscape,” The Pattern Book House, one of the sevconstructed with used tires, to help teach math concepts eral new houses designed and built by the to AIDS orphans in Uganda. Rural Studio in Alabama for just $20,000

ent, Akers believes, should be the city. “At Morgan we design with social responsibility and environmental stewardship in mind,” she says. “We try to make an impact in communities that have been neglected, especially in the inner city. We want to design for all, not just for those who can afford it.” To that end, last academic year Akers organized students to work with the city on a homeless survey. Jeanne Schleicher, who graduated from the undergraduate program in May, was part of a team that photographed sites where the homeless seek shelter in the winter, and she found the experience eye-opening. “You can sit here and think about it, but to go and actually see the type of spaces people put themselves just to be warm is incredible,” she says. “As architects we need to understand the bigger picture.” Local architect Gabriel Kroiz joined the Morgan faculty last year as program director for the bachelor of science in architecture and environmental design and quickly set about designing new courses for the undergraduates. This year will see the addition of an Urban Design Studio and a Community Design Studio that will give students design challenges in struggling neighborhoods. “I really want to train people to come out with skills to make and effect change in Baltimore,” Kroiz says. “Our opportunity is the city.” Morgan State is in the process of formalizing a partnership with West Baltimore community groups to create a satellite design studio in the neighborhood. “We don’t just go to the community and tell them what we think they should be doing. We get the community involved in the process,” Akers says. “We’ve earned their trust.” Other schools are also creating satellite studios in city neighborhoods. MICA is in the process of purchasing and renovating a building in East Baltimore—where the school has long partnered with community groups and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health—to create a mix of classrooms, public space, and student housing. Garth Rockcastle, dean of the University of Maryland School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation in College Park, has been talking to Morgan and MICA about a partnership among the three schools on a joint space for collaborative design. MICA President Fred Lazarus says the school is developing multi-year programs that extend project-based learning beyond just one class or one semester. “You have to figure out how to influence change,” he says. “That’s what a design program does. It’s not just putting another poster on the back of a bus.”

When Fred Scharmen was a student at the Yale School of Architecture, that debate seemed to be reaching one of its cyclic turning points. “The students felt the practice was stale—the idea of form for form’s sake,” says Scharmen, who graduated in 2006 and is now an architectural designer for Ziger/Snead in Baltimore (and a contributor to Urbanite’s “Drawing Board” in August 2008). “We were talking about the politics of form and the underlying economic engines of architecture. It was clear that it was the end of an era, but nobody knew what was next.” Now that he is out in the professional world, Scharmen sees a field in transition. “It’s about more than just the green movement,” he says. “It’s social, economic, and environmental justice all lumped together. It’s about connection to a cultural conversation and changing the way we think about design and cities.” An age of architectural excess may be ending, but we remain, at our core, a visual species. As New York Times columnist Virginia Postrel once wrote, “Decoration and adornment are neither higher nor lower than ‘real’ life. They are a part of it.” So what role does aesthetics have in this new community-focused design? “The problem with design is that all too often we use aesthetics as our starting point, rather than allowing beauty to be drawn directly from our material choices, or the ease of use, for example,” Pilloton says. “For humanitarian solutions, aesthetics can be a great tool to engage the user in a visceral, emotional way, and to ultimately enhance the function and durability of a great design.” Back in the design studio in Greensboro, Alabama, someone has placed an empty jar on a table with a sticker saying “ego,” a reminder to check yours at the door. The walls are covered with notes about HERO and Hale County, the table a clutter of sketchpads, laptops, and cameras. Bielenberg, who flew in to be a part of the process, has posted a note on the wall saying, “Remind me to keep an open mind.” The discussion is lively, despite long hours and lack of sleep. What does HERO really need? Slowly, a concept takes shape. It will take eight months to transform this initial idea into a package of printed materials. The result—a series of informational cards emblazoned with photos of Hale residents paried with personal accounts of how HERO helped them—seems to channel the spirit of Walker Evans, a famous American photographer who captured the face of the rural South in the Great Depression. And it manages to be both beautiful and useful. ■

If design were a religion, the great theological argument

— Former Urbanite editor-in-chief Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson is currently a contributing editor at Architect magazine and a blogger for Metropolis magazine.

would always return to form versus function. Should something look pretty? Should it function well? Could it do both?

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LET’S GET B y

M i C h a e l

i l l U s t r at i o n

B y

a n F t

o l i v e r

M U n d ay


After decades of chronic population loss, some Rust Belt cities have begun to embrace a radical new development strategy: shrinking. Should we give up on mostly vacant neighborhoods to save money and make way for a better, tinier Baltimore?

O

nce a proud redoubt of rowhouses and cannery workers, Wagner’s Point has a new look these days: nothing. Nearly a decade ago, residents negotiated a city buyout, arguing that they lived in unrelenting fear of explosions from the chemical and oil tanks that loomed around them. Now, the waterfront neighborhood at the city’s southernmost point is a post-industrial ghost town. Telephone and electric wires fecklessly crisscross the air. The only traffic is the occasional tanker truck. Otherwise, the soundtrack is the hum of the nearby city sewage treatment plant. The families that once invigorated 4th Avenue and Leo Street are long gone. But there is life here. Milkweed, Queen Anne’s lace, and various grasses have busted through asphalt and the ruins of old foundations, growing up to 3 feet high under a rusty old playground sign that reads “Park Closed From Dawn to Dusk.” Among Wagner Point’s four rundown blocks, laid low by bulldozers sent by the city after it bought the old residents out, plants have taken root and begun a neighborhood of their own. Although the victim of its own particular set of circumstances, Wagner’s Point looks like a lot of former urban outposts across the Northeast and Midwest these days. And while this once would have been seen as a sad sign of urban decay, an emerging cadre of academics and urban planners now argue that abandoning a city’s most troubled neighborhoods may be the best way to save the rest. To its most ardent believers, the concept of tearing down a ramshackle enclave and replacing it with Eden makes a lot of sense—even though it flies in the face of decades of urban economic strategies. “We get blowback from people who are in love with the old idea of city growth,” says Dan Kildee, treasurer of Genesee County, Michigan, which includes Flint, a former General Motors company town that has been on the decline for decades. Kildee, recognized as a national leader of the shrink-the-city movement, is the chief executive of the Genesee County Land Bank, an entity he created seven years ago to gather properties together and either sell them or rip them down. “It’s a natural response from people who’ve been led to believe that expansion is always success and that growth is the answer to declining population numbers. Well, in cases like ours, it’s not.” Kildee’s vision has gotten lots of high-level attention, including a hearing with then-candidate Barack Obama and speaking engagements at Harvard. He’s been sought out for advice on how federal housing officials should deal with the recent spate of foreclosures and by the Environmental Protection Agency on ideas for greening cities. Entropy has never enjoyed such cachet. Kildee’s Rust Belt tour included a whistle stop in Baltimore. In 2007, he met with city housing commissioner Paul Graziano and a group looking to find new ways to use the city’s vacant buildings and spaces, and he’s consulted with Graziano several more times since. His visits here raise a gritty question: Could Baltimore be the next city to reduce itself? Could the hardscrabble lots of Wagner’s Point, freshly dotted with foliage and emptied of people, foretell the future for much larger tracts in East and West Baltimore or lower Park Heights?

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photos by Jim Burger

Now you see it: The small South Baltimore neighborhood of Wagner’s Point in the mid-1980s, before a city buyout emptied the community.

T

he shrinking-city model is one born of desperation. “Shrinkage is usually the result of economic disasters,” says Karina Pallagst, director of the Shrinking Cities in a Global Perspective Program at the University of California-Berkeley. Globalization has forced cities in several nations—among them Germany, South Korea, and the United Kingdom—to adapt to smaller populations, she says. Health catastrophes, such as the AIDS epidemic that has ravaged central and southern Africa, can also lead governments to revise growth strategies. Political events factor in too. After the East German government fell in 1989, the city of Leipzig watched 100,000 residents pack up and head west, leaving 40,000 empty apartments. Mining colonies in Australia and Latin America often face the same fate when there’s nothing left to dig out of the earth. And then there are natural disasters like the one that hit Louisiana in 2005, reducing a city of almost half a million to just over 200,000. (New Orleans’ population has recently topped 300,000 for the first time since Katrina.) Stateside, artists and photographers have begun to record the void left by fleeing urbanites, filling movies and websites with something we could call “urban entropia”—images depicting the “beauty” of decaying train stations in Detroit or homes with trees growing out of their windows in Cleveland. Alan Weisman’s 2007 bestseller, The World Without Us, offered a mesmerizing glimpse of the urban landscape gone to seed: The future of the city, it would appear, is ruins. Flint, for its part, has lost nearly half of its peak population of 200,000 in the past fifty years. Along the way, it followed a plan favored by expansion-minded economic and political leaders in many cities, including Baltimore. In his 1989 documentary, Roger and Me, filmmaker Michael Moore made Flint infamous for sinking millions of dollars into a disastrously ill-conceived indoor theme park called AutoWorld. But Michiganders hardly cornered the market on economic development folly. That same year, Baltimoreans watched the rise and fall of the Fishmarket, a $25 million nightlife complex that ever so briefly occupied the current site of the Port Discovery Children’s Museum. Cities that have seen people leave in droves for the suburbs and beyond have hatched huge redevelopment schemes to reinvigorate downtowns, used government money to keep teetering neighborhoods upright, and poured hundreds of millions into new transit lines. But the bleeding continued. Rust Belt cities with industries that relocated to countries where companies could pay workers much less continued to hemorrhage tax-paying humans, turning bustling communities into havens of blight. Many of those that remained in them lived in poverty. Desperate, a handful of cities have chosen to deal with the unpaid taxes and headaches that come with forgotten properties by getting rid of them. They’ve bulldozed thousands of homes, shrinking their “footprint” and saving the money it costs to provide roads, schools, sewers, water, and other services to neighborhoods with only a sprinkling of

Now you don’t: Wagner’s Point today, home only to industry and vacant land. The last residents of the neighborhood left in 2000, and their homes were razed.

people left. By selling off valuable land in Flint, Genesee County has raised $6 million, using the money to raze a thousand homes and convert entire blocks into pocket parks and gardens. Flint can count among its recent victories dozens of urban open spaces and some neighborhoods where home values are actually rising—a departure from a slow, torturous decline since the 1980s. Largescale developments remain elusive, but Kildee says there’s more than a glint of hope. In north Flint, the Genesee County Land Bank bought abandoned properties, cleared them, and sold them to a developer. The result: twenty-four units of new, affordable housing. “These aren’t big numbers,” he says. “But seeing new construction in Flint and seeing the market respond—that’s quite an accomplishment.”

C

ould the same approach work in Baltimore? If any group would take to the idea, you’d think it would be the Parks & People Foundation, a local nonprofit that loves creating open space amid urban landscapes. Over the last decade or so, the group has transformed hundreds of vacant lots into gardens and green spaces to improve the often-poor neighborhoods around them. But even for them, Kildee’s concept goes a smidge too far. “You look at cities like Detroit, Flint, Pittsburgh, and Youngstown, and you see they’ve lost about half of their population,” says Guy Hager, director of the Great Parks, Clean Streams & Green Communities program at Parks & People. “Anybody who visits them can see the void in the midst of those cities.” Not so Baltimore. “We’ve only lost about 30 to 35 percent of our population.” After fifty years of leaching live bodies to the suburbs at a rate of about 60,000 a decade, the city’s current population of 637,000 has flattened out in the last three years. (In 1950, the city reached a high-water mark, harboring nearly 1 million people.) Rather than being “undercrowded,” to use an urban planning term, Hager and others contend that today’s city can be more sustainable. “We were overcrowded at around 1 million,” Hager says. “We may be close to achieving some kind of equilibrium, given all that’s happened.” Yes, Baltimore is pockmarked by thousands of vacant properties— estimates go as high as 30,000. But not all of those properties are homes, so there’s no need to clear-cut rowhouse neighborhoods in Sandtown or Upton to get a greening strategy growing, city officials say. According to city planner Jamie Gerhart, there are 17,297 vacant lots awaiting reuse in Baltimore. “We have enough vacant lots to do housing or green space now,” says Beth Strommen, director of the Office of Sustainability at Baltimore’s planning department. “We can’t afford to think that we can just go in and tear down parts of the city and turn them into parks in the long term.” Perhaps they are just being politically correct—slum clearing is a touchy subject in these parts—but the shrinking city has, ironically, w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m o c t o b e r 0 9

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Grades 5-8 1:00 p.m. Sunday, October 18 Grades 9-12 3:30 p.m. Sunday, October 18

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THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING CITY 1950: 2008:

population

households

fire trucks and engines

students in city public schools

enoch pratt free library locations

daily circulation of the baltimore sun

950,000 637,000

268,096 (avg. 3.41 people) 257,996 (avg. 2.42 people)

102 66

115,800 (the peak was 190,000 in 1965) 82,266

28 22

373,641 (morning/evening) 210,098 (morning only)

RESE ARCH ASSISTANCE BY BRENT ENGL AR . SPECIAL THANKS TO JEFF KORMAN OF THE PR AT T LIBR ARY ' S MARYL AND DEPARTMENT.

run up against another green ideal: the notion that when the world runs low on oil and arable land in the coming decades, as some doomsayers predict, the far-flung exurbs will empty and cities will necessarily make a comeback. “We never assume that empty space won’t become something, because for smart growth and the health of the Chesapeake Bay, we need to have people here, whether other people like it or not,” Strommen says. “This is about making Baltimore a more sustainable city. Smaller? No.” Ultimately, burgs that have focused on sustainability and public transportation will gain an edge in drawing people back to them, some experts say. “The problem with shrinking is that it would lead to deurbanization, which means you just throw in the towel,” says Daniel D’Oca, an assistant professor of urban history and theory at the Maryland Institute College of Art and co-founder of the New York architecture and urban planning firm Interboro Partners. “Those areas still have to be ready to take in people.” Like others who have witnessed the eerie landscape of Detroit— where downtown high-rises no more than 15 years old sit completely empty, and deer run through city streets—D’Oca says that Baltimore is hardly the urban apocalypse that the Motor City has become. Detroit was built for 2 million people; there are fewer than 1 million left. “My company did a project there and agreed with some city leaders that the city should shrink. We don’t see it coming back,” he says. While he decries the pro-growth boosterism many aging cities use while sprinkling the fairy dust of tax breaks and other inducements on well-heeled developers, D’Oca is just as troubled by the notion that cities should view shrinkage as a large-scale strategy for sustainability. “There’s a danger in that, just as there is in romanticizing the ruins,” he says. “There’s this spectacular narrative about letting cities go that I find frightening.”

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any aging cities just aren’t ready for the drastic makeover that Flint is experiencing, Kildee concedes. That city was built out with cheap single-family homes, paid for by high-wage, low-skilled earners. Those people are gone, and their ticky-tacky houses should be, too, he says. He also argues that greening up neighborhoods should serve a longer-term developmental purpose. And in that sense, shrinking cities begins to look like just the latest growth strategy—a lot like slum clearing, in fact. “The cities that really understand urban land issues, they’ll be the ones to benefit when the macro trends take root,” Kildee says. “There will be a new need for this space then, but the market will want it clean and green. It’s hard for developers to look at empty rows of houses and see possibilities. If they see green space and know there’s infrastructure underneath it, it may be more workable for them.” Fallow land might then be planted with a new crop. At least now people are thinking of alternatives to the magic wand of heavily subsidized development and glitzy new downtowns that serve as playgrounds for the upper middle class and tourists. “In cities like Flint and Baltimore, many politicians have served the population poorly by insisting they can change things before the next election,” Kildee says. And on that front, Baltimore hopes to rip at least one page from the Flint playbook. At the behest of Mayor Sheila Dixon, Baltimore legislators have written a bill that would create a city land bank with

purchasing powers similar to the ones that Kildee enjoys. Coursing through City Council committees at press time, the bill would create an authority made up of private and public officials who would work to streamline the process of buying long-empty homes and vacant lots, ditch much of the city’s antiquated and red-tape-entangled tax liens system, and market groups of properties to a wider array of developers than the city usually does business with. Among those developers would be community groups and small nonprofit companies that have been dissuaded from buying dilapidated properties in shaky neighborhoods because of endless bureaucratic hassles and high costs. Although he jokes about “growing stands of redwoods in the city,” Graziano, the housing commissioner, says that a land bank here wouldn’t be identical to what’s happening in Genesee County. For one thing, a Baltimore land bank would operate within the context of plans the city already has for neighborhoods. Tearing down all of Carrollton Ridge isn’t in the offing. Even though Baltimore phased out or bought out the hundred or so residents of Fairfield and Wagner’s Point when industry got too close, and the city, state, and Johns Hopkins gathered public and private money to buy and raze several blocks north of Johns Hopkins Hospital, large-scale urban renewal isn’t the city’s goal. Nor would it be in the purview of a land bank. “If we’ve got properties that are obsolete and aren’t architecturally or historically viable, we’d love to eliminate them and the blight that affects the areas around them,” Graziano says. (If 70 percent of a block is vacant, the city can already take its empty buildings under current eminent domain law.) “But we do that block by block, not neighborhood by neighborhood.”

A

mile or so up the street from Wagner’s Point and Fairfield, an eightpoint buck runs through a tangle of underbrush, not far from where great blue herons and snowy egrets perch on the reinforced concrete of a demolished bridge. One by one, they fly off to feed in Patapsco River shallows. A rowhouse neighborhood called Masonville, built around the relocated debris of the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904, once stood here. Bought off by encroaching industries in the ’40s and ’50s, the neighborhood has given way to trees-of-heaven and river birch that grow along a cove with unbelievably clear water. There’s a new educational center here, too, run by the nonprofit Living Classrooms Foundation. But creating a slice of heaven amid industrial and residential ghettoes—and then keeping it green—isn’t as easy as it sounds: This bit of restored nature came at a price. Its protection is payment of sorts for allowing the dumping nearby of thousands of tons of dredge spoils from the bottom of Baltimore’s shipping channels. If plans hold, those spoils will provide the fill for a plain of asphalt that will be covered with endless rows of newly shipped foreign automobiles. They’ll serve as a reminder, perhaps, that even when cities allow parts of themselves to return to nature, they’re all too willing to pave another piece of paradise and put up a parking lot. ■ — Frequent contributor Michael Anft wrote about Baltimore’s streetcar past and future in the June Urbanite. On the air: More about the shrink-the-city movement on the Marc Steiner Show, WEAA 88.9 FM, on October 15. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m o c t o b e r 0 9

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The Intercounty Connector is the B y most M a t expensive E d e l s o n transportation project in Maryland history. Proponents tout it as a model for a green highway. Opponents insist there’s no such thing. Are they both right? 58

urbanite october 09


The Road War By

M at

Edel son

Phot o gra p h y

b y

K evin

W eb er

The big dig: A section of roadway in Rockville is being constructed in a 35foot-deep trench and then decked over to create a tunnel. When complete, a park will cover the current site, hiding the highway from nearby homes. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m o c t o b e r 0 9

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Olde Mill Run resides at the literal intersection of progress

and a pipe dream. This is the point at which the 18.5-mile-long Intercounty Connector—acronymically known to friend and foe alike as the ICC—bisects the upper middle-class Rockville neighborhood of Winters Run. The wooded right-of-way that was on either side of this blip of road is gone. In its place is a raw 613-foot-long trench of bare earth, 35 feet deep. When the road opens in fall 2010, some sixty-thousand-plus vehicles a day will pass through this swath of land, construction schedules, court orders, and acts of higher powers or politicians notwithstanding. Nobody debates that the massive construction effort has impacted this cul-de-sac-laden neighborhood. On a muggy afternoon, some thirty workers labor in the trench below Olde Mill Run, with only orange mesh construction fences separating the work site from adjoining backyards. The crew’s hard hats display stickers certifying that they’ve received environmental education specific to the project, and their every action has been carefully choreographed. The retaining walls they’re crawling on, the stormwater drains they’re creating, and the roadbed they’re steamrolling will eventually disappear seamlessly into the neighborhood: This section of roadway will be decked over and finished with greenery spanning all 613 feet. In a few years, neighbors will see a park, not a highway. As families frolic overhead, commuters and trucks will roar through the tunnel below, and the seemingly impossible symbiosis between man, machine, and the environment—in short, a green highway— will have been achieved. Or not.

When the ICC was first conceived in 1953, at the

dawn of the Eisenhower-era roadbuilding boom, highways were anything but green. The postwar dream was to get from point A (city job) to point B (suburban home) as fast as possible, and few engineers or citizens cared much about what happened in between. The ICC was originally supposed to be part of a second “outer” beltway, an idea that was eventually abandoned. Relaunched as an east-west connector running through Montgomery and Prince George’s counties between I-270 and I-95, the ICC part of the plan lived on to enjoy a long second career as the object of a decadeslong development donnybrook. While business leaders and politicians touted the road as vital to economic growth and relieving congestion along smaller roads in the area, a who’s who of environmental groups lined up in opposition. The battle heated up in the 1970s and 1980s, after the birth of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the passage of the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws governing highway building. Most notably, the federal government, via the National Environmental Policy Act, began to require states to issue environmental impact statements (EIS), a scorecard of every fish, fowl, person, and waterway likely to be impacted by a highway’s construction and operation. While the Federal Highway Administration is the lead reviewer of these reports, before Washington opens up its transportation purse strings, at least one of its various environmental bodies—such as the EPA or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—must also bless a project’s EIS. In 1983 and 1997 the ICC went through draft versions of an EIS. “Unmitigable” was how the U.S. Department of the Interior described the potential damage to area streams along the proposed ICC route in 1983. The 1997 draft, looking at a slightly more northern alignment, proved equally unpalatable; EPA officials gave it their equivalent of the death penalty, calling the route “environmentally unsatisfactory.” The report so impressed then-Governor Parris Glendening that he killed the project in 1999; the ICC, he told the Washington Post, “would be an environmental disaster, and I will not do it.”

But in 2002, President George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13274, aka “Environmental Stewardship and Transportation Infrastructure Project Reviews.” It promised to fast-track federal agency cooperation for highway projects promoting environmental stewardship. The state added a Bush-friendly new reason for building the road: The ICC’s additional mobility would, according to the State Highway Administration (SHA), “advance homeland security.” ICC opponents read “fast-track” to mean “bypass established environmental protocols,” but Robert Ehrlich, then in his fourth term as a Maryland congressman, saw green—as in billions in federal highway transportation funds and job revenue. He lobbied Bush hard on the ICC—even chatting it up during a Camp David visit—and this time, the idea was rebranded as an environmental prototype. It worked: The U.S. Department of Transportation designated the ICC a “priority project” in 2003, shortly after Ehrlich won the governorship—a victory owed in part to his campaign promise to sink the first shovel on the ICC before the close of his first term. Ehrlich, Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Robert Flanagan, and acting (and eventually permanent) SHA Administrator Neil Pedersen touted the ICC’s greener side in their new draft EIS: Some $370 million committed to environmentally sensitive design modifications and more than sixty stewardship and mitigation programs. These ranged from clearly feel-good off-site endeavors—a new dog park in Olney Manor—to critical infrastructure projects aimed at negating construction impacts on major watersheds being sliced up by the ICC. Full-time teams of dedicated environmental consultants were hired to review and monitor the ICC’s construction. Many had experience on other highway megaprojects, such as Boston’s $22-billion Big Dig. The ICC consultant’s review included the project’s “Unmitigable” unusual design-build conwas how the struction plan. Unlike other highways, which are typically U.S. Department completely designed prior of the Interior to construction (a process known as design-bid-build), described work on the ICC began with the potential only about 30 percent of design plans fixed by SHA— damage to area essentially, only the route streams along itself. Under design-build, contractors employ both conthe proposed ICC struction and design teams simultaneously. In theory, route in 1983. this allows field contractors to work with back office designers to adjust the roadway to accommodate unforeseen environmental concerns. The SHA, which is responsible for building the ICC, declared its environmental efforts “unprecedented in scope and cutting edge in approach.” The ICC officially broke ground on October 12, 2006, despite court challenges, dire warnings from watershed experts, and a slew of community concerns; barring a stunning legislative reversal (several bills to kill the road on economic grounds have died in committee in Annapolis), the first sections will open next fall. Accordingly, talking to ICC opponents now is like doing a locker room interview with the losing Super Bowl team. They repeat their well-honed arguments: The ICC is a boutique toll road that flouts the principles of smart growth, damages the Chesapeake Bay that Gov. Martin O’Malley swore to protect, and caters mainly to the suburban elite of the state’s wealthiest county. They remind you that even the state concedes the ICC won’t reduce congestion on the nearby Capital Beltway. But there’s a mix of exasperation and exhaustion in their w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m o c t o b e r 0 9

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voices; some fought this road for nearly twenty years. “I reached a point a couple of years ago where I realized my further involvement wasn’t heeded or listened to by the state, so I turned to other things,” says Diane Cameron of the Audubon Naturalist Society, which, along with other groups, lost a federal lawsuit to stop the ICC. “We did what we could on every front.” With 80 percent of construction now underway, many devoted activists have become sullen sideline observers. They are fairly certain that this roadway, by sheer dint of its existence, will wreak environmental havoc. But there’s also that other, more hopeful scenario: The elaborate environmental mitigation efforts on the ICC will somehow make a difference, and the impossible green highway will serve as a national model of enlightened roadbuilding. In other words: What if the thing actually works? And what if that turns out to be even worse?

Behind the wheel of his Ford Explorer, biologist Rob

Shreeve drives west along the ICC’s path through Montgomery County, talking about the law of unintended consequences. Back in the 1970s, he says, rocks left over from local mines were used to build up an embankment along Interstate 68 in Garrett County. Seemed like a good idea at the time. But the rock was acidic, and when it rained, the acid leached out and killed fish in a nearby lake. Being an environmentalist who helps build highways is a bit like being a veterinarian who treats lab animals: It’s about making the best of a difficult situation. Shreeve is the ICC’s environmental manager, the ultimate arbiter of which mitigation projects make the final cut. And, since $370 million will buy a lot of mitigation, it’s a long list, representing about 15 percent of the overall budget— nearly double what’s typically spent mitigating highways nationally. As Shreeve drives, he stops at construction sites to point out how the greenbacks are being spent. Workers are re-routing a dam to reduce the likelihood of neighborhood flooding, installing water quality monitors, and reinforcing silt fences to keep sediment from running off construction sites. Other sites are fenced to keep box turtles from wandering in. (Trapped turtles were tagged with GPS monitors and shipped off to new habitats.) At overpass caissons, wire mesh and thick paper are placed over vegetation. When construction ends, the overlaying mesh will be stripped away to restore the original growth. Shreeve is fond of mentioning that the ICC’s stormwater pipes and runoff ponds are designed to handle 50 percent more volume than the standard for highway mitigation. On Bonifant Road near the Northwest Branch that feeds the Anacostia River, Shreeve stops and points to a marshy area. Before the ICC, it was the home of the Wheaton Boys & Girls Club’s soccer field. The kids are getting new fields, and the old one will lay underneath a 40-foot-high, 1,100-foot-long bridge—far taller and longer than normal—to carry the ICC over a newly created wetland that contains a vernal pool. “They’re important for amphibians to breed in because there’s no fish to eat the eggs and larvae,” Shreeve notes. But perhaps the best example of the ICC giving green to get green—or at least green compliance—are the financial incentives contractors get for following the myriad environmental rules. According to Shreeve, the ICC’s job sites—as many as sixteen at any given time—are monitored daily and given a weekly grade for violations of erosion and sediment controls. General contractors earn an extra $250,000 for every quarter they average above an 85. (So far, Shreeve says, the average score is 92.) More telling are the punitive measures that allow Shreeve’s team to shut down a site for automatic Fs, which are meted out for having no permits, working on the wrong side of property lines, or working out of sequence without permission. Shreeve says they’ve pulled the plug three times. “Shutting the project down, that’s half a million dollars a day, fast.” Shreeve’s colleague, environmental construction manager Mike Baker, says contractors need both the carrot and the stick to

see whether their employer—the state—is serious. Baker, who has degrees in biology and environmental science and ran the environmental team on Virginia’s $2.5 billion Woodrow Wilson Bridge expansion, recalled one furious contractor throwing a cup of hot coffee at him when he shut down a site for improper permitting. “If you let them slip with a warning, they’re going to eat your lunch every time,” he says. “Every contractor tests the water a little bit. Their true money is [made] on building roads and bridges. The environmental stuff is not a moneymaker. It cuts into their profits.” Baker says the incentives, including cash for every acre of right-of-way not cut, amount to an insurance policy. “Folks are like, ‘Why are we paying these contractors even more money extra to do what they should be doing in the first place?’ You’ve got to get past that. Money talks.” As a result, instead of contractors subcontracting out site cleanups, “they now have their own [dedicated] crew, their own equipment, so if we find something out in the field, in an hour this crew roars up with trucks and backhoes and fixes Environmental it. We used to have construction manager to yell and scream and threaten to Mike Baker recalls shut them down.” one furious contractor Shreeve and his team have made bethrowing a cup of hot lievers of a few ICC coffee at him when he opponents, including Baltimore Sun shut down a site for outdoors columnist improper permitting. “If Candus Thomson, a Silver Spring you let them slip with a resident (and wife warning, they’re going of Washington Post transportato eat your lunch every tion reporter Robtime,” he says. “The ert “Dr. Gridlock” Thomson). “I was environmental stuff is impressed,” she says not a moneymaker. It of her ICC tour. “I had never seen that cuts into their profits.” much thought and effort put into ‘How do we keep streams running clear, how do we keep the turtles from getting squooshed?’ I came away going, ‘Hmmm. Not too shabby.’” Shreeve admits that he doesn’t expect all of the experimental environmental tweaks to pan out. But as he descends into a 47foot-wide culvert cut into an overpass, he spots signs that he’s on the right track, literally. Small V-shaped hoofprints dot the dirt and rocks in the culvert’s massive belly, which was designed to mimic the landscape on either side of the overpass and encourage wildlife passage under the roadway. “That’s a fawn walking behind a doe,” says Shreeve of the prints, which amble toward a field of newly planted wild grasses. He wonders aloud just how well the trucked-in vegetation will blend into the existing grass. Call it the mitigator’s prayer. “Nothing would make us happier,” he says, “than if in ten years you came back here and you can’t tell where the dividing line is.”

A few days later, Greg Smith stands on the other side of

that same culvert, disgust mottling his pale features. To Smith, the culvert is but one manifestion of the core delusion of the ICC—the absurd notion that a superhighway could be green. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m o c t o b e r 0 9

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“There’s no such thing as a green benzene molecule,” he spits, referring to the cancer-linked hydrocarbon that gas engines spew. “There’s no such thing as a green carcinogen. There’s no such thing as a green asthma attack. Or a green emergency room visit.” Smith, who lives in Mount Rainier, has long been one of the ICC’s most determined opponents, with an encyclopedic grasp of the politics, economics, and science behind each of its 18 miles. He’s received grant money to work with advocacy groups such as the Anacostia Watershed Society to review studies of the highway, and his conclusion is unambiguous: Even if it were possible to mitigate the ICC’s direct impact, building a road and exposing the surrounding forest fragments to sunlight and heat will alter the ecological balance. Clomping through woods just off the ICC, Smith points out a green invasion—Polygonum perfoliatum, a fast-growing invasive vine appropriately called “Mile-a-minute.” It thrives in recently cut forest edges and can overrun everything in its path. Later, he stands on a grassy strip at the edge of his mother’s neighborhood. “There were all kinds of frogs in here,” Smith says. “Not anymore.” In several places, the ICC cuts across four major watersheds— Northwest Branch, Rock Creek, Paint Branch, and Little Paint Branch—that feed the Anacostia River, the Potomac River, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. Jim Connolly, executive director of the Anacostia Watershed Society, has worked since 1992 to clean up the Anacostia River, which is considered an “impaired” river under the Clean Water Act. At one point it was absorbing 2 billion gallons of sewage and stormwater a year. After a lawsuit and a lot of negotiating, by last year that number had dropped by 40 percent, but runoff-driven erosion from the ICC threatens to wipe out these gains, Connolly says. Another issue is so-called thermal pollution: All that black asphalt is hot. “We tested water coming off the Wheaton Plaza parking lot,” Connolly says by way of example. “It was 95 degrees. Streams should be in the 40s—that’s trout tolerance. Hot water holds less oxygen.” Of particular concern is the Paint Branch, which contains a naturally reproducing brown trout population. “It’s the best quality stream we have in the Anacostia,” he says. “The upper part of it is a special protection area that Montgomery County set aside. This road will go right through the heart of that.” A Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) study estimates that the ICC will “directly destroy or damage about forty-five acres of wetlands,” which it says is a greater wetlands loss than all of Maryland suffers in any given year. SHA is attempting to mitigate this by creating new wetlands at a ratio slightly higher than the EPA’s take one/make one replacement rate. “It’s not hard to create wetlands somewhere; all you have to do is plug a stream so it’s wet most of the time. Pretty soon wetland plants show up,” says Lee Epstein, CBF Lands Program director. “But it is not the same wetland that was lost. It takes dozens, hundreds of years to create the functional equivalent. It’s the ultimate in hubris to think we can recreate it quickly or at all in a different place.” But perhaps the greatest danger the ICC poses isn’t to wildlife and wetlands, but to the people who live and work near the roadway. While the SHA has partnered with Towson University and the University of Maryland, respectively, to study box turtle resettlement and deer ambulation, there are no studies with academic medical centers to collect data on the ICC’s potential health impacts on human beings. Some 700 million vehicle miles are expected annually on the ICC by 2030. According to the SHA’s final environmental impact statement, only carbon monoxide levels—the minimum standard at the time—were measured along the ICC route itself to determine potential pollution impacts. But the EPA in 2001 published a list of twenty-one other Mobile Source Air Toxics (MSAT), including six from diesel and gas engines that “present a risk to public health and welfare.” SHA’s testing of these fine particulates, done after the final EIS approval and only as a result of a new EPA requirement,

took place at a site with previously built monitors beyond the ICC’s eastern edge. It took a lawsuit by the Environmental Defense Fund to prompt SHA to set up new monitors. (According to a 2008 SHA press release, the $2 million it could spend settling the suit “removes the final legal challenge facing the Intercounty Connector.”) Curiously, those new monitors are not directly on the ICC route, and critics claim they are a case of too little, too late: Many studies suggest a link between traffic and illness. A 1999 California study of nearly 6,000 asthmatic children found those living within 550 feet of busy roadways required more visits for medical care. A 2006 study of 4,762 Southern California children came to a blunt conclusion: “Asthma and wheeze were strongly associated with residential proximity to a major road.” More efficient new cars might help, but only to a point, says CBF’s Epstein: “Even though [emissions] standards have increased, the volume of vehicle miles traveled has historically gone up at such a rate as to overcome the increasing standards very quickly.” In other words, it’s a no-win situation, and communities near the ICC’s path could be the biggest losers. “These new mitigation methods are experimental, and those of us who will be living with the results are looking around in fear,” says Connie McKenna of the Shady Grove Woods Homeowners Association, which had land taken for the ICC. “If they fail to mitigate the damages of driving a superhighway through close communities, we will be the victims.”

So, when SHA’s Neil Pedersen says “the ICC will be

one of the greenest highways in history,” could he still be right? Relative to the history of Maryland highway building and operation, yes. More money will be spent and more expertise invested into lessening this roadway’s environmental impact than ever before, and the lessons learned may well create a national model. “I don’t doubt the sincerity of everyone from Neil Pedersen on down,” Epstein says. “They believe in what they do, and many of them are good environmental engineers. But it’s a tough thing to do. It’s one thing to say we’re going to build the best damn highway we can. To put every known stormwater control on it, jump over creeks, bridge wetlands. That’s fine. [But] the indirect impacts, we don’t know how to fix them.” The calculus of highway construction is familiar to sprawl opponents: A new road breeds development, and more roads appear to feed the cycle. “The biggest problem with the ICC,” says Andrew Fellows, Clean Water Action’s Chesapeake regional director, “is the associated pressure for growth and development near the ICC corridor. It’s not the actual highway itself.” The ICC’s 2006 EIS estimated that the highway would cause 5,000 acres of open land to be eventually turned over to developers. CBF and others claim that 20,000 acres is a more realistic number. It’s only a matter of time—and money—before politicians change zoning laws to accommodate both the inevitable pressure from developers and the additional tax dollars their projects would realize. And when the next great road war erupts, it might by affected by the ICC’s pioneering role as a green prototype. For those who fought the ICC, this, perhaps, is the greatest fear of all: not that the highway’s carefully wrought environmental technology will fail, but that it will work just well enough to make the next highway an easier sell. The stage for that rematch may already be set. Underneath Olde Mill Run, buried deep in the blueprints and Montgomery County’s Master Plan, a lane accommodation is being made for linking the ICC with another highway, yet to be built. It’s called M-83, a planned extension of Montgomery’s Mid-County Connector. If you’ve never heard of it, maybe you will soon. ■

—Mat Edelson is a frequent Urbanite contributor. On the air: More on the debate over the ICC on the Marc Steiner Show, WEAA 88.9 FM, on October 14. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m o c t o b e r 0 9

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There’s the Beef Once a Baltimore mainstay, the sour beef church supper lives on at Zion Lutheran Church By Mary K. Zajac

O

p h o t o g r a p h y b y l i n d s a y m a cd o n a l d

eat/dr ink 73 Reviewed

Taverna Corvino and Alizée

75 Wine & Spirits

Words in your mouth

77

The Feed This month in eating

n a late October night at Zion Lutheran Church on East Lexington Street downtown, you would be forgiven for thinking you were in Bavaria. Banners for Spaten beer hang beneath the vaulted ceiling of the church’s historic Adlersaal, or Eagle’s Hall. Men pull draft beer and hawk pretzels to the sprightly jump of oompah music mixed with the broad rumble of German being spoken. Along the beer hall’s east side, under leaded glass windows, folks line up for their evening meal: two slices of sour beef smothered in tart, ruddy gravy; three round potato dumplings; small servings of rotkohl (red cabbage) and string beans; and a roll—with coffee and dessert, it’s $12.50 for adults, $6 for children. They take their plates, balanced on orange plastic trays, to tables topped with red plastic tablecloths, small pots of pansies, and votive candles flickering in steins. Zion’s pastor, the Reverend Dr. Holger Roggelin, greets parishioners and guests. And around the hall, volunteers—like Conrad Bladey, a bearded giant of a man in a beer T-shirt and black blazer—bustle about, clearing tables. “Reception, that’s serious business here,” Bladey observes dryly. “Germans don’t do anything halfway.” Sour beef, an Americanized version of the sauerbraten brought over by German immigrants, is an acquired taste to be sure, and some say unless you’ve grown up eating this meat—essentially pot roast, tempered and tenderized by vinegar and spices—you’ll never warm to its earthy tang or the underlying sweetness that comes from the gingersnaps in the gravy. But you’d never know that from the crowd gathered here. At one long table, two gray-haired African American men sip coffee with their meal. At another, a young professional couple speaks German while cutting meat on their sons’ plates. Someone mentions that former

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Working women: Betty Kemfert and Adele Wilke prepare dumplings for Zion’s annual sour beef supper.

parishioner William Donald Schaefer used to be a fixture at the dinner. A Highlandtown couple explains that they’re not members of the parish. “We just come for the food,” the man says sheepishly. In Baltimore, sour beef has that pull. Once the bailiwick of church suppers, legion halls, and the city’s many German-owned eateries (the late, lamented Haussner’s served a version), it’s still available at a handful of dining rooms around town, from venerable establishments like Eichenkranz to newish chains like the Silver Spring Mining Co. What’s missing from these versions, however, is Zion’s sense of gemütlichkeit and history. For much of the parish’s 250-year history, the ladies’ aid society, the Frauen Verein, has prepared an annual sour beef dinner. In years past, most of the food was donated. Kitchen volunteers brought bags of potatoes or pounds of butter, and the congregation’s many German butchers provided meat. Today, the church looks to donations to buy the 500 pounds of top round, the giant tins of red cabbage, and enough potatoes for 4,200 dumplings. There are no recipes here, only senses: the smell of onions melding with vinegar, the sight of a creamy dumpling rising to the surface of boiling water, a deft hand in measuring peppercorns, mustard seeds, and cloves. “We just follow by feel,” explains Ellen Solomon, who has worked thirty-odd sour beef dinners and directed for the last fifteen, following in the footsteps of her great aunt and her mother, Marta Bert. Other Zion celebrations may serve food—glühwein (mulled wine) and brats at the Christkindlmarkt (the traditional Christmas fair), kaffe and kuchen at Mayfest— but none command the womanpower needed for the weeklong preparation of a meal so associated with Baltimore’s German community. It doesn’t feel like a chore, Solomon tells me as we descend from the festive Adlersaal into the kitchen below. “My mother used to say it was a privilege to work in the kitchen,” she says, and that sense lingers in the hec-

— Mary K. Zajac wrote about Maryland’s burgeoning wine industry in the September issue. This year’s sour beef dinner is scheduled for October 28 and 29. For more information, go to www.zionbaltimore.org.

eaT/drink Sauerbraten 1½ cups apple cider vinegar ½ cup red wine 1 cup water 12 peppercorns 2 tbs granulated sugar 4 bay leaves 3 onions, sliced 12 whole cloves 1 tsp mustard seed 2 tsp salt 4 lbs rump roast — 2 tbs flour 1½ tsp salt Dash of pepper ¼ cup cooking oil 1 onion, sliced ½ tsp mustard seed 6 whole cloves ½ tsp peppercorns 6 tbs flour 6 small gingersnaps, finely crumbled

reCipe

tic, cheerful scene. Women in aprons ladle beef and gravy onto trays to be taken up to the Adlersaal or into the church dining room, where the food is served more formally on the church’s historic blue-rimmed china and beer is verboten. (“It’s still church,” Solomon explains.) Each woman (and it is mostly women here; many, like Solomon, are older than 70) has her specific task. Freddy Herbert oversees the dumpling room, where flour-dusted wooden boards hold dumplings the size of tangerines, each with a crouton at its center like an egg yolk. No one is certain why the old-timers used croutons, she says. “That’s just the way they did it. It’s a surprise in the middle.” Nearby, Adele Wilke and Betty Kemfert, both in their 90s, drop dumplings into pots of boiling water. They reminisce about Solomon’s mother and the late Mrs. Plitko, who had the touch for dumplings. “She wore a flowered pinafore,” Solomon remembers. Over the last three decades, Solomon says, she has learned the intricacies of sour beef the Zion way: to start early that week in trimming the meat and chopping the carrots, onion, and celery that, with lemons, spices, and apple cider vinegar, create the broth in which the meat is cooked. (The church doesn’t have the refrigeration needed to marinate the meat for several days, as Solomon does at home.) She learned to drain the broth and use it as the base for gravy, which she’ll thicken with gingersnaps instead of flour. And she learned that the meat looks more attractive on the plate when sliced (as opposed to chunked, as at many restaurants) and that it usually tastes better the second day. The hardest part, says Solomon, is achieving the proper balance of sweet and sour in the gravy, a knack she hopes to pass on to the next generation, including Freddy Herbert’s daughter, Lauren Barnette, who’s helped with the dinner for four years, and Leslie Trageser, who washed dishes with the church youth group as a teenager. “You’ve got to pass on the information and hope it will continue,” Solomon says. Like most church suppers, Zion’s is at heart a fundraiser for a community that has shrunk radically (the diners far outnumber the congregation, which totals 180). And in order to draw the crowds, Solomon says, it’s important that the food epitomize German cuisine, something Baltimoreans don’t get every day—at least, not anymore. “When you think of German [food], you think of sour beef and dumplings,” Solomon says. “Who’s going to come to a spaghetti dinner at our church?” ■

Two to four days before serving, combine first ten ingredients in a large bowl. Set beef in this mixture and let stand two to four days, covered, in the refrigerator, turning each day. Remove meat and dry on paper towels. Combine 2 tablespoons flour with 1½ teaspoons salt and dash of pepper. Coat meat with seasoned flour, then brown on all sides in hot oil in a Dutch oven. Strain the marinade. Add to meat with the sliced onion, mustard seed, cloves, and peppercorns. Cover and simmer 3½ to 4 hours or until meat is tender. Remove meat from liquid. Slice. Strain and de-fat liquid. Place 6 tablespoons flour and crumbled gingersnaps in Dutch oven. Slowly add liquid. Simmer, stirring until thickened. Pour some of this gravy over the meat. Serves 8 to 10.

Potato Dumplings 8 medium Idaho potatoes, boiled and riced 2 eggs, beaten Salt to taste 1 large loaf day-old white bread Cut off the crust of the bread. Cut crust into cubes and brown in a few tablespoons of butter. Process the rest of the bread in a blender or food processor to make bread crumbs. Mix beaten eggs with the riced potatoes. Add salt, then the bread crumbs, and mix until the dough is dry enough to be shaped into small balls. Take a golf-ball-size amount of dough, press a browned bread cube into the center, and roll into a ball on a floured surface. Repeat until all dough is used. Boil a large pot of water. Add a pinch of salt. Gently drop each dumpling into boiling water. When dumplings rise to the surface, boil approximately 5 minutes longer. Yields approximately 16 to 18 small dumplings. —Recipes adapted from From Zion’s Kitchens, available for $15 from the parish office.

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Pasta factory: Italian eatery Taverna Corvina serves satisfying small plates

The now ubiquitous restaurant small plate— too often expressed as a fussy gravity-defying appetizer—may, like Wall Street bonuses and SUVs, finally be downsizing. Taverna Corvino’s poached egg on asparagus is a perfect tapas for the times: a few crisp spears topped by a jiggling orb that, once punctured, sends a gush of yolk to pool with tangy sherry vinaigrette. The dish is easily supper, especially when paired with a bibb lettuce salad draped in salty strips of salami and crunchy radish slices, or even a (small) plate of tagliatelli sticky with Gorgonzola cream and dotted with chewy chestnuts. There’s no appetizer list at Corvino. Instead, each dish on the menu—very loosely adapted from traditional Italian-style menu categories—is offered in two sizes: a small plate that’s more generous than a standard starter, and a seriously large plate (quadruple the portion and around triple the price) that’s a good deal for family-style dining. The madeto-order veal lasagna is worth the wait: Baked in an iron skillet, the chewy pasta is layered with hunks of ground meat and sweet ricotta. And grilled octopus is pleasantly charred, spiky legs curled atop garlicky escarole with a sweet syrup of aged balsamic.

Chris Paternotte, formerly of Vin in Towson, has landed gracefully here, in a space (most recently Junior’s Wine Bar) that seems suited as much to his talents as the times. The décor is simple: stone floors, a dark wood bar, and a back room to accommodate spillover and special events such as “Winesday,” denoting wine tasting specials each Wednesday. Wine is clearly a priority, although the list is not extensive; about two-thirds of the offerings are Italian. There’s also an offbeat beer selection that includes Via Emilia, Peroni, and Moretti, along with Belgian and German brews. The place easily handles the Federal Hill crowd: It’s a convivial after-work watering hole that can morph into more as the night wears on. You can grab an overstuffed panini at the bar or share platters of pasta and lamb chops with friends. Either way, be sure to finish out the evening with a rich tiramisu or a plate of zeppole—sugary fried dough dipped in chocolate sauce. (Lunch and dinner daily. 1117 S. Charles St.; 410-727-1212; www.taverna corvino.com.)

reviewed

eat/drink

Taverna Corvino

—Martha Thomas

So what’s an “alizée”? Mr. Wikipedia says it’s either the feminine of “alizé”—a northeasterly trade wind that blows across the Caribbean— or an adorable French pop starlet. Which inspired the new restaurant at the Inn at the Colonnade? Hard to say, but the hotel eatery has certainly been buffeted by some erratic breezes lately: After the Polo Grill ended its fourteen-year run in 2002, several succeeding tenants have struggled to update the Grill’s clubby power-prep vibe. This year the space was rebranded as Alizée, a “boutique bistro and wine bar” with a French-Asian fusion theme (complete with “fushi” rolls) and an emphasis on wine (which is priced at retail). That incarnation lasted only months; in August, current owner Richard Naing brought in chef Christian DeLutis, late of Dogwood and the Wine Market. The fushi is history, and the French accent now gets a meatier note, with prominent roles for pork and game and charcuterie. The dining room itself remains largely unchanged, a cool maroon space that, as on a recent midweek evening, can look lonely when underpopulated. DeLutis’ menu feels a bit like a deconstructed riff on vintage Manhattan hotel dining: You’ll find such classics as sweetbreads and steak tartare and onion soup, but the soup is a consommé, not a cheese-draped crock,

and the tartare, in a nod to molecular gastronomy fans, is crowned with a spherified orb of Worcestershire sauce. A crab fritter floats atop a well-balanced peach gazpacho; white truffle lends a whisper of earthiness to an elegant radicchio-based Caesar. But other dishes fail to fully live up to the allure of their premises. A hefty shank of Kurobuto pork, cooked in the sous vide technique, arrived nicely crisped and fork-tender, but interest in the largely unadorned meat eventually faded, and its side of crisp house-made sauerkraut was almost medicinal with caraway overload. Excess seasoning likewise marred a beautiful piece of cod in a way-salty horseradish crust, paired with a smoked-eel “coddie” with flying-fish-roe foam—a lively but unrelentingly briny combo. This is ambitious, risk-taking fare priced on the high side, and thus doubly disappointing when it doesn’t quite come together. But given that most local hotels now settle for feeding their guests in anonymously casual tavern-like contrivances, kudos to Alizée for gambling on something more challenging— and sometimes pulling it off. (Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily; brunch Sun. 4 W. University Pkwy.; 443-449-6200; www.alizee baltimore.com.)

photo by Christine Abbott

Alizée

Seeing red: Alizée plays a new tune with a new chef.

—David Dudley w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m o c t o b e r 0 9

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What are we talking about when we talk about wine? By Clinton Macsherry

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inespeak suffers no shortage of obscure (some would say obtuse) terminology. Witness the myriad glossaries available to induct the uninitiated into the arcana of lingua vino. Google pulls down about 50 million hits for “wine terms.” Some link to oenophile Web-haunts like the venerable Wine Lovers’ Page or the e-cademy of Monkton guru Robert Parker. Epicurious.com and other foodie sites post their own lexicons, and even Olive Garden has gotten into the act. (Don’t smirk—their version is quite serviceable.) Some terms for wine aromas or flavors border on parody. In tasting notes, you’ll sometimes find Rhone reds redolent of “barnyard,” which isn’t necessarily meant to disparage. From a molecular standpoint, compounds in wine often mimic or overlap scents and tastes found elsewhere. That barnyard element in your Châteauneuf-du-Pape is probably 4-Ethylphenol, an aromatic component of the wild yeast Brettanomyces, which can wiggle its way into wine via grape skins or cellar equipment. Some aficionados find its earthiness pleasurable—in small doses. Ann Noble, an oenology professor at the University of California, Davis, introduced a taxonomy of wine scents in the form of an “aroma wheel” in 1990. Essentially a pie chart with three concentric rings of slices, it expands outward to more specific smells. Fruity, for example, branches out to citrus, berry, tree fruit, tropical fruit, and dried fruit, each of which subdivides further. Minor quibbles aside, the aroma wheel remains a benchmark effort to pin down an elusive set of sensations. If the terminology of aroma and flavor can stake some limited claim to objec-

tivity, wine’s texture and mouthfeel pose trickier verbal challenges. Ponder the oxymoron of a liquid often labeled “dry” and you’ll see how things can get slippery. I never found the term “body” too complicated: Comparing skim milk to whole shows how variations of the same beverage can covey a different sense of weight on the palate. (In wine, higher levels of alcohol and glycerin lend a fuller body.) But calling a fluid “structured,” as wine geeks are wont to do, tosses another paradox on the pile. Tactile reporting from the inner mouth requires some imagination. At the risk of offering an explanation more confounding than the term, I think of structure as the frame surrounding flavor. It’s what the mouth feels, not what it tastes. Body is part of it, but structure is built primarily by acidity and (in red wine) tannins. Acidity, perceived primarily in the front of the mouth and on the tip and sides of the tongue, imparts a mouthwatering zing like lemon juice. Tannins, meanwhile, act farther back on the cheeks, gums, and front of the throat, with a dry, puckering quality like heavily steeped tea. Too much of either or both, relative to flavor components, and the wine may feel coarse, lean, or astringent; too little and it might seem flabby, flat, and dull. In proper balance, acidity and tannins give wine what’s often called its backbone—if you’ll pardon yet another metaphor—as well as a sequence of sensory impressions extending from the immediate reception on the tongue (or the “attack”) through the midpalate to the finish that lingers after the wine’s swallowed. Two Sangiovese-based wines from Tuscany offer counter-examples. The first, Villa Puccini 2004 ($13, 12 percent alcohol), proves how disappointing structural deficiency can be. Promising aromas of black cherry, plum, and oaktinged vanilla lead to a light palate, with thin berry fruit and a hint of red licorice, dominated by acid. Handicapped by weak flavor and faint tannins, it pulls up lame before the finish line. In contrast, Molino di Sant’Antimo’s Asso 2007 ($11.50, 13 percent alcohol) introduces itself with lipsmacking acidity but establishes balancing back notes. Blackberry and tomato-patch flavors grab traction all around before they release. If I’m grading on either taste or texture, I know which bottle I’ll buy again, but such evaluations inevitably become subjective. One thing I’ll say about both wines: They sure are wet. ■

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wine & spiriTs

Let’s go grab a bite...

comfy atmosphere.

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Words in Your Mouth

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THe feed Compiled by Martha Thomas

PUMPKIN FESTIVAL

MONTHLONG

For the twenty-ninth year, Butler’s Orchard in Germantown oils up the wagon wheels and sets up the straw maze for its autumn festival, Saturdays and Sundays through Nov 1 (and Columbus Day, Monday, Oct 12). Kids can jump in the hayloft, ride a pony, take a hayride, and choose their own pumpkin— plus snack on hand-dipped caramel apples and fresh fruit pies by the slice. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. $10, children younger than 2 free.

Butler’s Orchard 22200 Davis Mill Rd., Germantown 301-428-0444 www.butlersorchard.com

WINE FEST AT THE BEACH

OCT 2–3

Those who have a hard time letting go of summer will appreciate Ocean City’s thirteenth annual Wine Fest at the Beach, held rain or shine beachside. The season send-off features tastings of wines from such mid-Atlantic wineries as Linganore, Boordy, and St. Michaels, plus microbrews. Also promised are Delmarva-style food (crab soup, crab cakes, and more), crafts, and live music. 11 a.m.–7 p.m. $23, younger than 21 (with adult) $5. Go to www.winefest.com for a coupon for $3 off admission.

Inlet parking lot, Ocean City 410-280-3306 www.winefest.com

BALTIMORE BEER WEEK

OCT 8–18

The Baltimore Beer Club is hosting its first-ever Beer Week— which is actually ten days long—to celebrate “all things beer in the Land of Pleasant Living.” Opening ceremonies will be held aboard the USS Constellation on Oct 8; the party continues at the Maryland Oktoberfest (at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, Oct 10) as well as participating pubs and restaurants across the city, culminating with the Chesapeake Real Ale Festival at the Pratt Street Ale House on Oct 17.

www.baltimorebeerweek.com

EASTERN’S BAYSIDE BLUES & WINE FESTIVAL

OCT 10

This member-owned yacht club on Middle River, known for its July 4 fireworks that draw thousands, is going for something more genteel with its first-ever Blues & Wine Festival. “We’re a yacht club in name only,” assures Gary Blankenship, former club commodore. “Most of the guys are plumbers and contractors, and we all have motorboats.” Tastings from local wineries, crafts, and food will be available from noon to 6 p.m., and the music—by BlueStreak, the Ursula Ricks Project, and others— continues until 11 p.m. $20 in advance, $25 at the door.

Eastern Yacht Club 2330 Seneca Rd., Middle River 410-686-3555 www.easternsbaysidefestival.com

a al F

rmers’ Ma r

t ke

Feature

mt. washington 1330 smith ave. 410.532.6700

This Month in Eating

Loc

Imagine...

© Colin Stitt | Dreamstime.com

e u l a V of

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READ BETWEEN THE WINES

OCT 17

In keeping with its educational charter, organizers of the annual Village Learning Place fundraiser researched what to feed guests at their speakeasy-themed party and found evidence of Waldorf salad, cheese balls, and finger sandwiches. But the flappers (and dappers) probably won’t notice the eats once the Prohibition Punch begins to flow (alas, from a punchbowl, not a bathtub). With music by the jazz band Lovecraft, last seen feverishly learning Lindy Hop and Charleston tunes. 7 p.m.–11 p.m. $50, $60 at the door. (Urbanite is a sponsor of this event.)

Village Learning Place 2521 St. Paul St. 410-235-2210 www.villagelearningplace.org

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CELEBRATE “FRIDAY EVE”

with the BSO and Baltimore’s best restaurants.

On Thursday evenings the

RESTAURANT PARTNERS

Baltimore Symphony teams up with restaurants to compose an evening of music and fine dining.

Simply purchase a BSO Thursday concert ticket at a 10% discount, then call your favorite restaurant and mention “Symphony Special” when making reservations. For more details, visit BSOmusic.org/symphonyspecial. Advance reservations required, other restrictions apply.

Sammy’s Trattoria

Coming Up

Thursdays in October

THURSDAY WINE NIGHTS at the Meyerhoff!

SIMPLY CLASSICAL Thursday Oct 22

American pianist Simone Dinnerstein makes her BSO debut with one of Mozart’s most joy-filled concertos. Conductor Louis Langrée explores an animated symphony by Haydn and Beethoven’s powerful Fourth Symphony. SIMONE DINNERSTEIN

SYMPHONIC FAIRYTALES Thursday Oct 29

LEILA JOSEFOWICZ

New this season!

Violinist Leila Josefowicz collaborates in John Adams’ hypnotic Violin Concerto. The program includes beguiling tales from Arabian Nights and Stravinsky’s haunting story of The Firebird.

BSOmusic.org | 410.783.8000

B A LT I M O R E S Y M P H O N Y O R C H E S T R A

The BSO has partnered with Bin 604, one of Baltimore’s premier wine sellers to introduce Thursday “Wine Nights” at the Meyerhoff. Flights of fine wines and samplings of cheeses will be served in the lobby before Thursday concerts. Join us at 6:30 for great deals and great company. No reservations required, minimal charges apply. Media sponsor: BA LT I M O R E


83 THEATER

Martha Thomas on Julius Caesar and The Puppetmaster of Lodz

83 MUSIC

David Dudley on jazz vocalist Ethel Ennis

art/culture

85 ART

Tell-Tale Smackdown!

85 BOOK

Who wrote the best Halloween story— Edgar Allan Poe or Washington Irving?

85 THE SCENE

S

Molly O’Donnell on the Polaroid art of Matthew Kern David Dudley on Dan Fesperman’s latest spy caper This month’s cultural highlights

ince last February, Richmond, Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore have been all atwitter with events honoring the 200th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s birth—readings, lectures, art exhibitions, tours, and so forth. Baltimore has convincingly out-Poe’d all the other burgs that stake a claim on the writer, including fierce rival Philly, revving its Nevermore 2009 celebration to fever pitch this month with a mock funeral (see sidebar on p. 81). The Mystery Writers of America (MWA) threw its own party this year, publishing On a Raven’s Wing: New Tales in Honor of Edgar Allan Poe, a collection of Poe homages, and In the Shadow of the Master: Classic Tales by Edgar Allan Poe, which reprints stories with commentaries by such modern admirers as Laura Lippman and Stephen King. A new biography by Peter Ackroyd, Poe: A Life Cut Short, hit bookstores as well. But, frankly, all this feting barely beats the typical Poe observances this month, when Halloween revelers nationwide flock to hear

BY ANDREW REINER ILLUSTRATION BY ALEX FINE


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costumed actors recite “The Raven” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the iconic short works from the godfather of gothic horror. The latter might be the “Freebird” of scary stories, but despite Poe’s abundant scare cred, the story itself doesn’t deserve its enshrinement as America’s official Halloween yarn. The jittery first-person account of how the narrator murders and dismembers his landlord because of the old man’s “vulture eye,” “The Tell-Tale Heart” has all the thematic range of a drive-in splatter movie; it’s about the adolescent compulsion to go postal because someone looks at you the wrong way. If a story is going to join the holiday canon, it should do a bit more: It needs to explore and define cultural identity in a given era. Think Truman Capote’s “A Thanksgiving Story” or O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi.” These tales help us better understand ourselves—our norms, our mores—now and in the past. Which is why the prize for the American Fall Classic should go to Washington Irving for his short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Considered the First Quill in American letters during the first half of the 19th century, Irving is today best known for two tales, “Rip Van Winkle” and “Sleepy Hollow,” the latter of which quickly became early America’s most beloved ghost story. Set in the eponymous mountain hamlet in the 18th century, it hews to the classic nerd-versus-rogue plotline: Bookish schoolmaster Ichabod Crane descends on Sleepy Hollow and finds himself the butt of endless abuse from roistering wag Brom Bones. Ichabod’s crime? He woos bachelorette heiress Katrina Van Tassel, whom Brom covets from afar like a sulking high schooler. While the days belong to this ante-upping showdown, the nights belong to a Hessian ghost who patrols the midnight lanes in search of his head, shot off during the Revolutionary War. Like much of Irving’s writing, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is as slow and meandering as the stretch of the Hudson River that runs past the town. But if the drowsy pace chafes against our impatient 21st-century sensibilities, it also evokes a vanished way of living: the romanticized agrarian past. Irving grew to appreciate the mythic power of landscape after spending time in Germany, and he affectionately channels the Old World into his Catskills setting, a place where “stars shoot and meteors glare oftener across the valley than in any other part of the country.” It’s a bewitched, sylvan land, haunted by its superstitious past. Meanwhile, just beyond, an increasingly industrialized nation razes the trees where spirits once lurked. Unlike Poe, Irving also invokes Halloween’s pagan and early Christian roots. Just as the ancient Celts and early Catholics believed that the autumn rites of Samhain and All Souls’ Day were sacred portals in the calendar year when the dead returned for a visit, Sleepy

Hollow’s spirits—especially the headless Hessian soldier—reach their ectoplasmic glory during this time of year. For Irving, seasons, like landscape, are one of many spokes in the ghost tale’s, as well as nature’s, wheel. Irving’s 19th-century critics often referred to him as “amiable,” an adjective that might have made Poe cringe. As Jill Lepore recently observed in the New Yorker, Poe said of his readers that they could be “quietly led” about by their noses, and he found the burgeoning trend toward uniquely American literature “grossly offensive.” In an 1838 letter, he also pronounced Irving “much over-rated,” but he, like Melville and Hawthorne, nevertheless walked in the older writer’s footsteps. Poe’s darkly comic tales of the supernatural are “often cited as the first American works that distinctly show Irving’s influence,” writes Peter Norberg in a collection of Irving’s writings. Why would Poe, a caustic critic of American literature and sensibilities, model himself after such an avuncular soul? Poe probably saw a fellow social satirist. But the tie ends there. Whereas Poe’s satire showed contempt for his readers, Irving mocks the Dutch forebears of his native New York with the affection of a memoirist baring all about his dysfunctional family. We still recognize the boorish farmers of “Sleepy Hollow,” much more so than Poe’s florid madman. Given his philosophical disposition, the murderous narrator of “Tell-Tale Heart” seems more, well, French than American. Irving’s characters, on the other hand, are as American as Freedom Fries. When Irving ascribes to the insatiable Ichabod Crane the “dilating powers of an anaconda,” he isn’t just talking about all the broiled shad he eats at the quilting frolic. The schoolmaster possesses “an odd mixture of small shrewdness and simple credulity”— he binges uncritically on Dutch wives’ tales and Cotton Mather’s History of New England Witchcraft. “No tale was too gross or monstrous for his capacious swallow.” Ichabod, in other words, is that American archetype—the uninformed pedant, the idiot blowhard who can’t distinguish truth from nonsense. Appropriately, Ichabod’s hungers—for the plump livestock on Balthus Van Tassel’s estate, for the hand of Katrina, and for cashing in and lighting out for Kentucky to live the life of a wilderness squire—ultimately do him in. Like the Hessian specter, he loses his head in pursuit of his prolific appetites. Boundless greed? A bottomless lust for expansion? Now that is a scary story that bleeds red, white, and blue. ■ —Andrew Reiner teaches writing and literature at Towson University. On the air: More on Irving vs. Poe on the Marc Steiner Show, WEAA 88.9 FM, on October 29.

art/culture

Last Goodbye Edgar Allan Poe’s funeral, Oct 7–11 The yearlong celebration of Edgar Allan Poe’s 200th birthday climaxes in an appropriately macabre manner with a mock funeral commemorating his death on October 7, 1849, of unknown causes. “Obviously this funeral that we’re giving to Poe is tongue-in-cheek,” says Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum. “But we’re planning this as if it is a real funeral. We even have a local funeral home [McCully-Polyniak] that is advising us on proper procedures.” The grisly fun begins on October 7, when the “body” of Poe will be laid in repose at 203 N. Amity St. (now the Poe House and Museum), where the writer lived and may have written some early works in the 1830s. The public can pay its respects from noon until 11 p.m. (This is the only chance for the public to view Poe’s body.) Then, on October 8, an all-night vigil will be held at the Poe Monument in Westminster Burying Ground at 519 W. Fayette Street. Members of the public who wish to memorialize the writer through songs, words, and other means can sign up at www.poebicentennial.com. On October 11, the Loch Raven Pipes & Drums will lead the funeral procession, complete with a horse-drawn hearse, from Amity Street to Westminster Hall. Due to the large number of people expected, there will be two (closed casket) ceremonies, at 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Both will feature appearances by actors portraying folks who knew and were inspired by Poe, including French poet and critic Charles Baudelaire and Poe’s former fiancée, Sarah Helen Whitman. Music will be provided by Westminster’s 1889 Johnson pipe organ, played by Monte Maxwell, organist for the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel. Online chatterers have dubbed this the biggest Poe event of 2009 in the country. Jerome says he received an e-mail from a professor in Vietnam—“a professor in Vietnam!”—who’ll be traveling to Baltimore for the ceremonies. Even those coming from shorter distances can embrace this chance to do it up right for the master of the macabre: His actual burial was sparsely attended, and the ceremony lasted only a few minutes. This time around, as the Poe Bicentennial website proclaims, “Baltimore gives Edgar Allan Poe the funeral he should have had.” — Marianne K. Amoss For tickets to the viewing or funeral, go to www.poebicentennial.com. Funeral seating is limited to three hundred people per service. The vigil and procession are free to attend.

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Nov. 13-15 2009

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Traditional Irish Food Maryland State Irish Beer Fairgrounds Cow Palace, Irish Vendors Timonium MD Children’s Area A presentation of Living History Irish Charities of Exhibits Maryland, Inc. A 501 (c)(3) Charity Dance Troups Admission:

Hours: Friday ......... 6-11pm Saturday ....12-11pm Sunday ........12-6pm

Adults (Ages 18-62) ...............$10 Seniors (62 + above)................$8 Young Adult (12-17) ................$5 Children (under 12) .......... FREE! Sunday ............. Mass 10:30 a.m. Festival opens 12 pm and closes at 6:00 p.m.

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urbanite october 09

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Down-to-earth diva: Jazz singer Ethel Ennis makes two live appearances this month.

musiC

Lady Sings the Blues

The O’Donel Levy Benefit Concert, Oct 4 at Sojourner-Douglass College Ethel Ennis Enjoys!, Oct 16 at Creative Alliance

In her hometown, Ethel Ennis is famous for not being famous. The jazz vocalist flirted with fame in the 1950s and ’60s, earning comparisons to Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald (and accolades from Billie Holiday) as she recorded sultry pop-jazz with Capitol and RCA. But Ennis ducked the mantle of diva-dom: Weary of New York music-biz shenanigans, she chose to carve out a more modest career in local clubs (including her own, Ethel’s Place, which she ran with her husband, former Sun journalist Earl Arnett, in the 1980s). Since the late 1960s, she’s recorded only sporadically, and live appearances are now rare, too. This month, audiences will have two shots to see her do her thing. On October 4, Ennis is slated to be among the knockout lineup of local and national artists scheduled to perform at Sojourner-Douglass College for a benefit to aid guitarist O’Donel Levy—himself a local legend of sorts. An irrepressible blues/jazz performer, Levy is recovering from a 2006 stroke, so his friend and fellow guitarist Earl Wilson corralled some big names—including New York keyboardist Larry Willis and New Orleans saxophonist Donald Harrison—to join locally bred artists such as Ennis and Gary Bartz for an all-day jazz blowout to raise funds for his medical expenses. Then, on October 16, Ennis gets the night to herself with her debut at the Patterson; she’ll sing with her trio and take questions from the crowd at a post-show Q&A. —David Dudley

For tickets to the O’Donel Levy Benefit, go to www.odonellevybenefit.com. For tickets to Ethel Ennis Enjoys! go to www.creativealliance.org.

courtesy of the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company

art/culture

Great Caesar’s ghost! Chesapeake Shakespeareans transplant the Bard to the 19th century.

T H e aT e r

Ghost Stories

Julius Caesar, performed by the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company at the Patapsco Female Institute Heritage Park, Oct 8–Nov 1 The Puppetmaster of Lodz, performed by Performance Workshop Theatre at Theatre Project, Oct 9–25

Last year’s outdoor production of Macbeth by the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company was an inspired take on the familiar notion of Shakespeare in the Park. The company held the production outdoors in October, taking advantage of dark autumn nights and the chill of impending Halloween. The play was staged in and around the ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute, its sweeping staircases, stark walls in mid-crumble, and dungeon-like interior spaces a perfect setting for the thriller. In the style of a “progressive production,” the audience members, instead of sitting passively, were invited to follow the action and the actors around the grounds. This season, CSC shifts its focus from power-hungry Scottish royals to powerhungry Roman politicians with its similarly staged production of Julius Caesar. The tale of conspiring senators who take down their leader will appropriate the ambience of Martin Scorsese’s film Gangs of New York, says director and CSC company member Frank Moorman. The underworld of the mid-19th century coincides with the years when the Patapsco Female Institute was a finishing school for girls. Like Macbeth, Julius Caesar features a ghost: The incorporeal Caesar appears after his death to warn Brutus of impending defeat. The CSC folks are hoping that the institute’s own resident ghost—Annie Van Derlot, a student who died there—also makes a spectral appearance.

The spirits that inhabit the imagination of The Puppetmaster of Lodz, performed by Baltimore’s Performance Workshop Theatre at Theatre Project, are far from child’s play. A survivor of the Birkenau death camp, Samuel Finkelbaum lives in hiding, refusing to believe that the war has ended. He makes puppets to re-create his experiences: love, marriage, and his duties as a sonderkommando, or prisoner in charge of disposing of dead bodies. The play was written by French playwright Gilles Ségal, also a Holocaust survivor, and was translated by Isabelle Sanche especially for the Performance Workshop Theatre’s 1995 production. There’s an absurdist feel to the whole thing; like Eugene Ionesco, Ségal employs simple dialogue in eerie scenarios, as when the puppeteer talks to an effigy of his pregnant, and dead, wife. The company’s revival of its 1995 (and 2002) production again features Marc Horwitz, who was awarded Best Actor by City Paper for both performances. —Martha Thomas

For tickets to Julius Caesar, call 866-811-4111 or go to www.chesapeakeshakespeare.com. For tickets to The Puppetmaster of Lodz, call 410-752-8558 or go to www.missiontix.com.

w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m o c t o b e r 0 9

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2/26/09 1:18:47 PM


visuaL arT

Instant Classic

Matthew Kern’s Polaroid works at die Botschaft 1628, through Nov 21

When Polaroid discontinued its instant film last year, fans scrambled to stockpile remaining supplies of the once-popular medium. Few scored as much as local photographer Matthew Kern, who has been shooting with Polaroid film for the last fifteen years and had a bulk-discount contract with the company. “I bought up as much as I could,” says Kern, who recently moved to Baltimore after stints in New York City, Seattle, and Ketchum, Idaho, where he grew up in a log cabin. Kern cut his teeth on music photography amid the Pacific Northwest grunge scene of the 1990s, shooting live concerts and album art and photo-assisting for music photographers Lance Mercers and Charles Peterson. But in between commercial assignments, he has also been creating a particular kind of art using grids of instant Polaroid photos onto which larger images are drawn, painted, or etched by hand. The result is reminiscent of collage: a unified vision from afar, a mélange of motion up close.

To make the assemblage pieces, Kern first arranges the photographs—often snapped on his travels to such exotic locales as Cuba and India—on a piece of canvas. Once he’s satisfied with the composition, he removes the encasement, or white frame, around each photo and then manipulates the emulsion on the reverse of the photo by painting, etching, or scratching it. In the pictured image, Internal Tattooing, Kern did an ink transfer: He first drew the running boy and the balloons on the canvas and then laid the photos on top of the wet ink; the image then seeped into the Polaroids. Kern draws on several types of instant film—SX-70 Time-Zero (which has “a nostalgic quality to it,” he says), 600 black and white, and SX-70 Blend—to achieve the right feel for each piece. “The SX-70 TimeZero that I have now has been expired since 2004. The general aging of the emulsion adds to the dated look of the pieces,” he says. “The newer stuff I’ve been working on almost looks like Super 8 film because it has all these straight-line scratches and weird film marks. It’s really fun to work with.” But what will Kern do when he exhausts his supply of Polaroid film? “I’m not sure,” he says. “That’s why I’m kind of glad

art/culture

Pictures from the past: Matthew Kern manipulates Polaroids to make art.

that at some point I’ll run out. I’m curious to see what I’ll do.” Kern’s photo assemblage works can be seen through November 21 in From Follow at new gallery die Botschaft 1628, at 1628 Bolton Street, courtesy of Gallery Imperato. An opening reception is scheduled for October 3; to register, e-mail botschaft1628@gmail.com. Die Botschaft is open by appointment only; contact the artist at mpeddler@yahoo.com or Gallery Imperato at 443-257-4166 to make an appointment. —Molly O’Donnell

Book

Good Germans

The Arms Maker of Berlin by Dan Fesperman (Knopf, 2009)

The stomping grounds of Cold War heavyweights John LeCarré and Graham Greene, postwar Germany is catnip for spy novelists, and Dan Fesperman is as well equipped as any to jump in. He served as the Sun’s Berlin bureau chief for three years in the 1990s, and he’s managed to leverage his background as a foreign correspondent into a successful second act as a writer of smart, intricately plotted espionage thrillers. Most, like 2006’s The Prisoner of Guantánamo and last year’s The Amateur Spy (excerpted in the January 2008 Urbanite), use contemporary geopolitical shenanigans to spur the chase. The Arms Maker of Berlin, however, indulges in some narrative trickery to toggle between two timelines: Nat Turnbull, a middle-aged history professor, is dragooned by the FBI to hunt down some missing intelligence files relating to the wartime past of an elderly German industrialist named Kurt Bauer, who has made a comfortable postwar life as a purveyor of both consumer gizmos and nuclear military technology. A rousing, if conventional, chase ensues, with Turnbull forging an uneasy alliance with a sexy German researcher and dueling with some Iranian rivals

in pursuit of the dusty OSS dossier that could unleash a Pandora’s Box of nuclear secrets. Fesperman has richer territory to explore in the chapters set during the latter half of World War II, as young Kurt Bauer, the teenage heir to his father’s armament works, falls under the spell of a liberal-minded girl and falls in with a (mythical) Berlin cell of the (actual) White Rose resistance movement. Mixing fictional characters with such real historical players as OSS spymaster Allen Dulles and the anti-fascist resistance cleric Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the book offers a convincing glimpse into the psychological accommodations made by the German masses as Hitler led his nation to its final immolation. Fesperman is taken with the “tragic grandeur” of that state’s 20th-century behavior, and his portrayal of the German character is nicely nuanced. He manages to avoid dialing up central casting for his Nazis: Instead of coolly efficient technocrats and bellicose Aryan fiends, the mid-level Gestapo men here are plausibly human characters—less like monsters and more like dutiful, mildly disgruntled employees working for the Boss from Hell. The good Germans are not so different, trapped between their innate decency and a kind of rage for order, at any cost. —David Dudley

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t h e s c e n e : O c tob e r CLASSICAL MUSIC

Old Love

The award-winning early music duo Asteria returns to Community Concerts at Second, held at the Second Presbyterian Church, to play their interpretations of 14th- and 15thcentury love songs. Oct 4. (4200 St. Paul St.; 443-759-3309; www.communityconcerts atsecond.org)

Hail Mary

As part of its fiftieth anniversary celebration, on Oct 30 the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen hosts a concert featuring the Cathedral Choir and the Peabody Concert Orchestra performing “Magnificat,” by former Cathedral music director Robert Twynham, and Camille Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3. For more on the other planned events, go to www.cathedralofmary.org. (5200 N. Charles St.; 410-464-4000) ROCK OPERA

Hammer of the Gods

The newly formed Baltimore Rock Opera Society stages its first original piece, a medieval fantasy dubbed Gründlehämmer. A seven-piece “metal orchestra” brings the rock. Oct 2–4 at 2640. (2640 St. Paul St.; 410-900-3954; www.baltimorerockopera.org) INDIE MUSIC

Back to the Country

Countrified local indie rockers Wye Oak take the Ottobar’s stage with Portlandbased experimental folk rock group Blitzen Trapper, Oct 10. (2549 N. Howard St.; 410662-0069; www.theottobar.com)

Global Sounds

Local experimental musician and composer John Berndt—whose work exhibits such disparate influences as Indian and African music, modernist instrumental techniques, and sound art—performs with his improvisational orchestra, Second Nature, at the

University of Maryland, Baltimore County, on Oct 22. (410-455-MUSC; www.umbc. edu/newsevents/arts/calendar)

Crossover

What happens when you cross the banjo with beatboxing? Find out when Grammy Award-winning folk duo Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer and D.C. musician Christylez Bacon—the first hip-hop artist-in-residence at the Music Center of Strathmore—perform together on Oct 25 at Howard Community College, courtesy of the Candlelight Concert series. (410-9972324; www.candlelightconcerts.org) THEATER

Octet

Fells Point Corner Theatre presents Love! Valour! Compassion!, the 1995 Tony Award-winning play by Terrence McNally that follows eight gay friends on a lakeside summer vacation as they come to terms with AIDS, death, infidelity, and friendship. Through Oct 18. (251 S. Ann St.; 410-276-7837; www.fpct.org)

Last Dance

Tradition! The much-loved Fiddler on the Roof plays at the Hippodrome, featuring the farewell tour of Chaim Topol, reprising his role as father Tevye from the 1971 movie. Oct 20–Nov 1. (12 N. Eutaw St.; 410-547SEAT; www.france-merrickpac.com) DANCE

Happy Feet

The Maryland-based Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble celebrates thirty years of Southern Appalachian-style clogging, live music, and comedy with a performance at the Chesapeake Arts Center on Oct 18. (194 Hammonds Ln.; 410-636-6597; www.chesapeakearts.org)

art/culture

Visual art

Sad Gals

To complement its Baltimore Inspired by Poe exhibit, the Baltimore Museum of Art is also showing Mournful Maidens: Love and Loss in American Embroidery. The fifteen 18th- and 19th-century embroideries prove that Poe’s dark themes were in the zeitgeist decades before he was writing. Through Feb 21. (10 Art Museum Dr.; 443-573-1700; www.artbma.org) PHOTOGRAPHY

Wide Angle View

Beloved photography teacher Jack Wilgus retired from Maryland Institute College of Art at the end of the 2008 academic year. The school hosts a fortyyear retrospective of his work Oct 14–Nov 11. (1401 Mt. Royal Ave.; 410-225-2300; www.mica.edu)

Self-portrait

At the College of Notre Dame is Experiencing America, a three-photographer show that explores American notions about home, road trips, and school. Oct 19–Nov 24. (4701 N. Charles St.; 410-5325582; www.ndm.edu/gormleygallery) FILM

Global Perspective

The Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore’s annual CineFest, aka the Baltimore Jewish Film Festival, brings five international films of Jewish interest to town, each followed by a discussion. Oct 19, 21, 26, and 29 at the JCC’s Gordon Center for the Performing Arts and Nov 1 at the Creative Alliance. (410-542-4900 ext. 239; www.baltimorejff.com) LECTURE

Pop Talkers

On Oct 6, Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell speaks at Johns Hopkins

University as part of the 2009 Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium. Following Gladwell in the series is Elizabeth Edwards, health care advocate and attorney (and wife of former senator John Edwards), on Oct 21. For the full lineup, go to www.jhu.edu/mse. (3400 N. Charles St.)

Looking Forward

As part of the Walters Art Museum’s “Discovering Art and Science” lecture series, Jonah Lehrer—author, Rhodes Scholar, and contributor to the Washington Post, Seed, and NPR’s Radio Lab—discusses choicemaking in “From Marshmallows to Metacognition: The Science of Decisions.” Oct 21. (600 N. Charles St.; 410-547-9000; www. thewalters.org) CULTURAL SERIES

Looking Back

The Enoch Pratt library hosts the Soul of a People series, a month-long look at the Federal Writers’ Project, which helped support writers during the Great Depression. Events at various branches include a community celebration (Oct 3) and a discussion of Zora Neale Hurston’s 1937 book, Their Eyes Were Watching God (Oct 28). (www. prattlibrary.org)

The Price is Right

More than three hundred free arts events take place across the city this month during Free Fall Baltimore. For more information, go to www.freefallbaltimore.com. MEETING

Art Mavens Unite!

At the annual Mayor’s Cultural Town Meeting, artists and residents can voice their concerns about the arts in Baltimore. Oct 21 at the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park and Museum. (410-752-8632; www.promotionandarts.com)

Maryland Institute College of Art’s international alumni, faculty, and students (including KyoungHoon Lee, a 2003 graduate originally from Korea, who created the pictured untitled work) exhibit art about identity, culture, and spirituality in Stories of Home—appropriately installed in the upper level exhibition space of Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport’s international terminal. Through Nov 4. Compiled by Marianne K. Amoss w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m o c t o b e r 0 9

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urbanite october 09

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October 2009 half page:Urbanite Jan 2008

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eye to ey e

Few people have done as much for the arts in Baltimore over the past couple of decades as Gary Kachadourian. No longer working for the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts—where he was an energetic force behind Artscape, the Sondheim Prize, and the Station North Arts and Entertainment District—Kachadourian is now concentrating on his own work. Meticulously drafted and hauntingly memorable, his images employ the simplest means to make their effect, and by using his beloved facsimile machine he flings them beyond the gallery wall. Of Window, shown here, the artist says, “It’s perfect for that windowless cubicle or office. It could be nice in a basement, too. If you’d like, you can print out these panels and install them yourself.” Although they might be temporary postings on our walls, they linger as much more deeply etched images in our memory. And maybe that is what they are all about: the impermanence of the object and the lasting memory of the idea. The image shown here was made for the present installation at the Contemporary Gallery, FAX. It is worth taking a look at the show, but if you can’t, you can create your own installation wherever you like; Kachadourian’s work can be downloaded from his flickr site (www.flickr.com/photos/27002697@N02/?saved=1). —Alex Castro

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urbanite october 09

gary kachadourian Window 2009 Fax transmission on paper 22" x 17", consisting of four 8.5 x 11" sheets


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Profile for Urbanite LLC

October 2009 Issue  

How Should We Build, Inside Ghost Hospitals, Sour Beef Explained, Ultimate Poe Smackdown

October 2009 Issue  

How Should We Build, Inside Ghost Hospitals, Sour Beef Explained, Ultimate Poe Smackdown

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