Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Morgan State University should move their architecture and planning school to Downtown/Station North Arts District

The Station North Arts and Entertainment District in Baltimore has been very successful at revitalizing the commercial district there around arts uses.  They are fortunate to be anchored by Penn Station, and the University of Baltimore and the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), although technically those organizations are outside of the district.

That being said, and with those great anchors, it has taken many years to see the impact of year-by-improvements to the district, which is now very evident, with various culture-related uses inhabiting buildings on Charles Street and North Avenue, expanding university housing, new housing developments, artist housing, and the creation of the Baltimore Design School high school.

MICA has been expanding outside of its traditional campus area onto North Avenue, which is helping to bring back large buildings that have been vacant for long periods, even multiple decades.

One of the interesting projects is the restoration of the Parkway Theater, which will also become the new home for the Maryland Film Festival, MICA's film and video studies program, and in a very interesting development, Johns Hopkins University is going to move its film and video academic program to the facility as well--which is about three miles from its main campus ("Parkway partners," JHU Magazine).

For quite some time, I've been thinking that MICA needs to offer a combined arts and urban planning degree (they do have a program in West Baltimore, focused on urban design) because many of their students in community arts extension programs do projects that are very much like planning projects and engagements.  And they have done very interesting work.

While the University of Maryland's planning department in College Park was originally part of the Baltimore campus, it merged within and moved to the College Park architecture school many years ago.

And a consent agreement concerning the support of historically black colleges in the State of Maryland means that other universities in Baltimore cannot create planning degree programs, because that would compete with Morgan State University, a historically black university located in northeast Baltimore in a more suburban like environment.

At those Bridge Park meetings I was talking with Roger Lewis (he writes a column on urbanism for the Washington Post and is an emeritus professor who taught architecture at UMD for many years) and it occurred to me that Morgan State could make their planning and architecture programs much more relevant by putting them in the core of the city, instead of being located at the outskirts.

How about bringing the Morgan State School of Architecture and Planning to Downtown Baltimore?

I think they should relocate their School of Architecture and Planning to the Station North District.  Downtown the school could collaborate with MICA and University of Baltimore and the various development and revitalization initiatives in the core of the city.

However, it's not likely possible since they just constructed a new building a couple years ago.  What bad timing.
Land use context for Morgan State's Center for the Built Environment.

It's too bad that the planning process for "a new building" didn't consider more broadly the role of the school in the community and beyond and the possibility of relocation to increase the relevance and prominence of the program.

Before and after photos of "The Warehouse" Downtown academic departments building, Syracuse University, from Wikipedia.

A few years ago, Syracuse University moved its Communication, Advertising, Interiors, Industrial, and Fashion Design departments to Downtown Syracuse into a renovated building called "The Warehouse." (MICA moved its senior studios program to a renovated building on North Avenue a couple years ago).

The architecture school at the University of Texas San Antonio moved to downtown in 2004.  And, many universities locate their "urban design and architecture" studios and technical assistance programs in inner city locations, for example the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative of Kent State University, which is actively engaged throughout the city.

Conclusion.  I guess this is an example of a good idea running smack into missed opportunities.

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At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Christopher said...

There are examples of architecture and planning schools having remote labs and classrooms outside of their main campus. In the early 1990s, The University of Tennessee Knoxville's school of architecture had a center in Chattanooga. They continue to do project work in Chattanooga although I think the permanent center is no longer there. Also UTK has opened a lab in downtown Knoxville (within walking distance of campus). Pratt has architecture facilities at its main campus in Brooklyn but also three of their programs have a home in a building in Manhattan on 14th Street. It would be smart of Morgan State to look to examples like that on how to engage with Baltimore.

(Also a small correction, MICA stands for Maryland Institute College of Art.)

At 11:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 11:28 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I meant to include the UT example in Knoxville. I had it in an earlier draft and I guess I deleted it. (My memory was faulty, I thought they'd moved the entire school downtown.)

and thanks for the correction, I'll fix.

At 1:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

architects need to be brought down to earth and reminded that their business emerged from the Fine Arts and that they should not look down on painters, sculptors and printmakers. Too often architects in our culture are arrogant and high minded snobs who disdain associating with Artists- and this is really their downfall and one of the reasons why their production has been so damned abysmal for the last 75-odd years. Art historians, curators and art writers should heed this advice as well. Separating out these businesses makes each component less viable and less relevant. After all- with much of "modernism" you really do not need "architects" you can just hire an engineer to put up your building. They would probably make it fit in better with the surroundings and people might like it more !!!


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