home Featured, Revitalization Does MICA’s Gateway building contribute to the revitalization of the Baltimore City?

Does MICA’s Gateway building contribute to the revitalization of the Baltimore City?

The Gateway is a modern mixed-use student residence facility designed specifically to meet the needs of artists. The Gateway’s unique design includes a drum-shaped, multi-colored glass, concrete and steel residence wing and a translucent glass studio and residential tower. It is the first major architectural landmark visible when entering Baltimore from the north on Interstate 83. The Gateway creates a phenomenal northern entrance to Baltimore’s Mount Royal Cultural District, and is the northernmost anchor for MICA’s campus.

It is an exuberant building with unique and inspired design elements. It has a seven-story translucent-glass studio tower with natural-light in artists’ studios; the BBOX performance space for cross-disciplinary performance art and exploration; and the College’s largest exhibition gallery. The building’s dynamic public spaces offer numerous opportunities to showcase student work and the creative process of artists and designers. The building’s café and vibrant landscaped plaza encourage community interaction and engagement in the arts. The building also offers a new home for MICA’s Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Career Development.

Gateway is MICA’s fourth building on North Avenue, joining The Commons (1992); Studio Center (2000), a former Jos. A. Banks sewing factory at West North Ave., which MICA converted to artist studios that serves as its graduate center; and the historic firehouse (2003), MICA’s operations and facilities management department. MICA acquired The Gateway site which was occupied by a vacant warehouse, in January 2004.

Gateway, MICA

Source: MICA – The Gateway webpage, Press materials for Gateway: Image sheets, “General Image Sheet”

The 9-story glass tower includes 38 studio spaces and 2 open-plan studios, which can accommodate 20 students each. Studios are available for use by Gateway residents; individual studios may be reserved for a semester’s use, and space in the open-plan studios can be reserved for short-term use or large-scale projects by individuals or groups of Gateway residents. The Gateway is only the fourth new-construction building on MICA’s campus, launched in 1907 with the construction of the Main Building at 1300 Mount Royal Avenue. In 1992, MICA constructed The Commons, its first student residence facility, on an under-utilized lot fronting North Avenue. In 2003, it opened its first newly constructed academic building in nearly a century when it opened Brown Center, with its modern interpretation of the classical geometries of the Main Building, which it faces across Mount Royal Avenue.

Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) was founded in 1826. The Main Building in marble was constructed in 1907 and the Mount Royal Station, a former train station was erected in 1896 and renovated to academic use in 1966. Other buildings include a former shoe factory, converted in 1980, and a former office building, the renovation of which earned AIA Baltimore’s Grand Design Award in 1998. In 2002, MICA renovated the former Hospital for the Women of Maryland into a new student life and residence center. MICA purchased and renovated an historic, Baltimore City Firehouse in 2003, which houses MICA’s operations department. Brown Center was the College’s first newly constructed academic building in nearly 100 years when it opened in October 2003. MICA’s new building for student residence facility is “The Gateway”.

The Gateway Project and the Revitalization of the Baltimore

The Gateway is a key component of the long-term realization of MICA’s Campus Master Plan. It is the revitalization of the North Avenue corridor, Baltimore’s cultural district and the Station North Arts and Entertainment District.

 MICA’s buildings and its collaboration with the neighborhood

Gateway is Baltimore’s newest Architectural Landmark, which exemplifies the College’s leadership in the revitalization of the city. Above all, the building is a part of the historical neighborhood Bolton Hill which also plays a vital role in the revitalization process and it became Baltimore city’s historic district in 1967, mandating the preservation of building exterior. The Operations building behind the Gateway was the Fire station. MICA purchased an historic Firehouse along North Avenue in 2001 and renovated the building in 2003 to house the College’s operations and facilities management department. The building has 7,224 square feet of space. As part of the redevelopment agreement, MICA maintained the station’s front facade in accordance with Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation standards. The Firehouse won an award from the Baltimore Heritage Foundation for preservation in 2004. This firehouse is attached behind the Gateway building to preserve its neighborhood.

Many MICA students and faculty live in Bolton Hill. MICA’s buildings sprawl into major portions of the city. MICA has two major museums (Walter Art Gallery and the Baltimore Museum of Art), a symphony, a theater group, John Hopkins, Goucher, the Peabody conservatory of music, Antioch. The Mount Royal Station was bought by MICA for its art gallery. The interior was heavily rebuilt to serve the space for art exhibitions. However, the clock and the tower remain to preserve the neighborhood. The College and the community collaboration resulted in two buildings, the Lafayate Hall, which was a women’s hospital earlier, and the Meyerhoff house. The Bolton Hill community served as a natural resource for MICA. The Cannon shoe factory building was converted into the attractive and functional fox building today. The Institute bought the shoe factory for $226,000 in 1976. This building reserves the industrial feel of the old factory and preserves the charm of the neighborhood.

Campus Map of MICA

Source: http://www.cultivatingchange.org/pages/pdf/mica_campus_map.pdf

Features of the Gateway Building not consistent with the process of Revitalization of the Baltimore

In spite of the wide expansion of the MICA in the neighborhood community and in Baltimore, there are few criticisms on its progress and in the process of the revitalization of Baltimore. Charles Belfoure in his article “Art Institute in Baltimore to gain two buildings in Real Estate”, describes that the “MICA, whose buildings include a onetime Baltimore and Ohio railroad station, has long been given credit by residents of its Bolton Hill neighborhood for providing stability in the elegant late 19th century row house community. Relations between the school and Bolton Hill have not always been so cordial. In the 1980s, the neighborhood objected when the MICA began to buy up row houses for student housing”. There are also issues in parking, deliveries and pick-ups between the community and the college.

Though MICA had collaborated with the neighborhood in its expansion, I would not totally consent that MICA’s plan is the one for the revitalization of Baltimore. The new Gateway Building and the Brown center are truly modern with full of glass. The Gateway building of -course with its unique design features and arresting facade, does not entirely cement with the other buildings in the neighborhood. When other buildings of MICA truly preserve the community’s feature and aid in the revitalization of Baltimore, Gateway building stands aloof. I do agree it serves the artist’s needs in a modern way and holds MICA’s values. However, it could have preserved the 19th century charm to unite with the community. Above all the Firehouse attached to the back of the Gateway building does not harmonize with the modern Gateway project. The mixture of the high-tech modern building with the small historic firehouse at the backyard is an irksome design. I would not say Gateway and the MICA’s campus project is the best plan to reinvigorate Baltimore at the same time I would not deny that Gateway and other MICA buildings take a vital role in the revitalization of Baltimore. The plan has its Pros and Cons in the “Revitalization” topic.

Firehouse behind the Gateway Building

Source: Photograph by Josephine Visuvasa Selvakumar

The views of the modern buildings are dramatically different. The new Gateway full of 15 different Glass materials of course is an innovative design of the architects and serves the mixed student-resident purpose at its best. I do accept that the unique design concept of using Glass aids outsiders to learn the artist’s life and students get the natural light of the exterior inside the building. One thing, which puzzles me, is that how the students are not distracted through the glass from the highway and the people outside. I doubt if the students could totally concentrate on the work.


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