(rendering of proposed state center, photo from mcgop.net)
I’m fortunate to be a participant in AIA Baltimore’s inaugural CivicLAB, a seminar series designed to acquaint emerging professionals with the economic, legislative, and civic contexts for the practice of architecture. With Baltimore as our lense through which to examine these issues, we’ve been introduced to a gauntlet of inspiring local leaders in design, planning, and government. Last week’s CivicLAB featured (among others) guest speaker Caroline Moore, the dynamic CEO of Ekistics. Ekistics is the development half of the public-private partnership State Center project proposed for downtown Baltimore. Leaving the contentious lawsuit in which the project is currently embroiled untouched for the time being, what impresses me about the undertaking is the enormous scale at which Ekistics and its collaborators took on a totally participatory design process.
The lesson I took from this is that there are indeed people in this world who passionately believe that this is the right way to design public projects. That architecture that is sustainable and accessible breaks down the barrier between those who know and those who don’t, right from the outset. That with commitment and planning, it is possible to scale up the lessons I learned on a tiny student project in North Carolina, and apply them to real-world, real-time, real-money situations, bureaucratic red tape notwithstanding. Well, I guess the notwithstanding part remains to be seen.