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Thumbs down on MICA dorm

ArchitectureRentalsMorris A. Mechanic Theatre

Those of us who own houses in Bolton Hill can't even paint our front doors without permission on color choice, and yet the Maryland Institute College of Art can build whatever it pleases ("With modern dorm on North Ave., MICA creates residential hub for students," July 23).

Mike Molla, vice president of operations at MICA, is quoted as saying that "contemporary students don't want to live in Victoriana." Of course, many of them rent apartments in "Victoriana" houses built in the 1870s-to-1890s, and they seem to thrive in them. Meanwhile, we who just like interesting architecture, which includes "Victoriana" row houses (not the way I'd characterize my house which was built in 1871), are forced to look at the Gateway building, which looks like a slightly off-plumb hotel from the 1970s with very dated colored-glass panel windows and visible bunks that stand in front of the clear glass. Forty years ago, if I were traveling late at night on a highway, tired and looking for a hotel/motel, I would mistake the Gateway for just such place and get off at the next exit and hope they had a vacancy.

Now some of the great morning light which swept across the opening to the train tunnel (into the back of houses fronting on Park Avenue near North Avenue) is blocked by a building which to me looks a lot more "brutalist" than the maligned Morris Mechanic Theater building downtown.

I love the Brown Center. It is innovative, interesting, thought-provoking, challenging and unique whether you like it or not. But the Gateway may be fun to live in but is horrible from the outside, and this new dorm is hard, sharp, and boring from the outside too. "Brown brick" isn't the brick that can ever "echo the nearby brownstones" as reporter Steve Kilar states.

When I look out my window, I see red bricks and some brown stones, but not brown bricks. And does anyone really think that art students aren't inspired by art and architecture from all periods, including the 19th century? There is nothing inspiring about this new dorm. Joe Polumbo claims that "the community is satisfied with the outcome" and speaks for everyone by saying that "We think it fits in with the neighborhood." Count me out.

Linda Franklin, Baltimore

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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