What inspired us was a passage from Edward S. Casey’s essay on edge, prepared exclusively for and included in entirety in this publication:
What kind of built structure can be created that would figure into the complexion of the Baltimore harbor in an unprecedented way, at once constructive and imaginative? It would at once reflect the unique texture of the harbor and its history and contribute to its evolution in times to come. Such a structure would stand, or float, somewhere between land and sea, perhaps at their very edge or maybe in the midst of the harbor waters. Wherever it is located, and however it is constructed, it will enter into an engagement with Land, Sea, and Edge: it will exist as a fourth member of this fateful triad, one that is designed for the very place in which it is set. It will itself be an edge, not of a solid and stolid thing, but of a uniquely configured edge-world...
- Edward S. Casey
The edge of Baltimore’s harbor has transformed physically (it has been hardened), socially, and economically over the past 50 years. The think pieces in this issue are informed by the contributors’ awareness of the choices made by the City’s political and commercial powers that led to the current, unsatisfactory condition of the edge. Explicitly or not, the essays and projects presented herein situate this edge condition in the larger context of a City mostly formed—or deformed—by well-intentioned but in hindsight misguided decisions as to environmental impacts and the needs of its diverse population. An unmistakable “call to action” can be heard in each of our contributors’ expositions.
Structured in two parts, around ideas and design proposals, we seek to spark a conversation on the future environmental and equitable development of the edge of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
What exactly is an edge? We experience edge-worlds, edge as a place to experience as well as a place in-between in Edward S. Casey’s Coming to the Edge of Edge. Casey shows us the richness of understanding of what an edge is and how we experience edges. Edges may cause anxieties or provide comfort. Edge is a bond between land and sea. Casey reminds us to look over the edge and into the water for wisdom.
A few steps from edge are cosmos and ornament. It is reasonable to ask, “Why ornament?” in a discussion of edge. With this issue’s theme of edge, we are considering the shift in attitude and use of the Baltimore’s edge required to transform Baltimore’s harbor into a swimmable, fishable place. Theoretician Jörg H. Gleiter has noted that ornament is a catalyst for the re-conceptualization of society. It is a signal of cultural change. In the case of the Inner Harbor, the shift is toward new respect for life (flora and fauna) that begins at the water’s edge. Ornament is the language to celebrate and communicate this new relationship.
Kent Bloomer has spent more than 40 years studying and creating ornament. Ornament is Splendid (our interview with Bloomer in T3xture No.2) explores the arguments regarding ornament in architecture. In this issue, Bloomer lays out ornament’s origins and argues for the need for the expressive power of ornament in architecture. Adolf Loos attributed ornament to an aspect of primitive culture in his treatise Ornament is Crime. To counter this Bloomer illustrates that ornament’s roots in dominant cultures distill to a series of tropes or symbols connecting to nature. Bloomer goes on to expand our understanding of ornament to include ornament as a metaphor; ornament on an urban scale (Frank Lloyd Wright’s Golden Triangle Bridge); in machinery (Crossness Pumping Station and Paddington); and in representing experiments (Frankenstein’s generator).
Rather than demolish the abandoned Chase Pier, Christopher Streb rephrases Casey’s query and asks what ways the pier might become relevant to the past and future of the harbor. His proposal for an innovative, site-specific, environmentally regenerative re-use of the pier both mitigates manmade problems in the harbor and animates and educates as well. A unique feature of Streb and Biohabitat’s proposal is a bank of weirs to aerate the water when the oxygen level is low. As desirable as light-catching effects and visibility of falls from a distance may be, as engineers they understand the requisite energy to create such sensory pleasing effects appreciable from a distance would not be economically feasible. They designed the weirs to improve aeration efficiency, minimize flowrate, and maximize the visual and aural effect. Their solution is an actual and pedagogical expression of Bloomer’s definition of ornament as an expression of an experiment.
In his visual treatise Travis Price, architect, environmental pioneer, author, educator, and philosopher, challenged Baltimore architects to think about the sacredness of Baltimore and our place in the world. In addition to his thriving practice, Mr. Price is the creator of Spirit of Place a unique program that over the last two decades has created the opportunity for students to research, design, and construct a project in a remote landscape researching and exploring the fields of anthropology, archaeology, philosophy, environment, and the arts in the process of developing an understanding of place.
Carmera Thomas-Wilhite, program manager for the Healthy Harbor Initiative, argues for an equitable and sustainable future development of the City’s amenities—an approach that has been intentionally or unintentionally lacking in Baltimore for generations.
In an Interview with Daniel Campo, author of The Accidental Playground: Brooklyn Waterfront Narratives of the Undesigned and Unplanned (Fordham University Press, 2013), we discuss how people inhabit places organically, and the lessons from the New York City waterfront; and how those lessons might inform future development in Baltimore.
Barbara Wilks’s Hiding in the Edges: Designing Places of Discovery is an elegant discussion examining the hidden elements on the edges of the City, and uncovering histories, relationships, and voices of the community. She cites her firm’s work in “creating authentic place-specific waterfront landscapes that are inclusive and vital centers of engagement with each other and the natural systems of the place.”
Kathleen O’Meara’s vision for the redevelopment of West Baltimore in Higher Ground: Leveraging Baltimore’s Topography to Increase Social and Climate Resiliency, is a fundamental change in approach to redevelopment, turning the idea of edge on its head. In her detailed, interdisciplinary study, she shows how to mitigate riverine flooding of the City with a resilient, ecological, and inclusive repair of neglected areas of the City.
In Permeable Thresholds: New Paradigms of Creative Praxis, Roger Tyrrell addresses the idea of permeability in his research on the work of Jorn Utzon, Alvar Aalto, and Sverre Fehn and through his unique architecture practice based on the idea of chora. He proposes “meanwhile spaces” as a tool to reinvigorate marginal urban areas—an idea with potential for Baltimore neighborhoods in transition.