Baltimore City Paper

MICA Unveils Gateway

| Image by courtesy maryland institute college of art


unveiled its latest campus project and addition to the Baltimore City skyline at a press conference this morning: the


, a mixed-used residential and studio space located at the supremely visible corner of North and Mount Royal avenues. The building, designed by a team from the London office of the locally based

and built by


, continues MICA's efforts to build its visibility in and around the North Avenue community between Station North and Bolton Hill, an effort begun roughly 10 years by the Ayers/Saint/Gross-developed MICA's Campus Master Plan, according to an introductory address by MICA President Fred Lazarus.

The building itself is quite impressive, externally and internally. Nine floors of the steel, concrete, and glass residences fill up the drum-shaped curve best viewed from Mount Royal, while the artist studios occupy the vertical structure facing North Avenue that stares at southbound I-83 traffic. In addition to housing 215 students and 38 individual studio spaces and two open studios for collaborative work, the Gateway also contains a first-floor gallery space, a multipurpose audiovisual performance venue called the BBox, a third-floor courtyard area that is also wired for outdoor performance, a career center, and a first-floor café.

Throughout the tour this morning, MICA representatives reiterated the fact that the Gateway was designed with the contemporary art student in mind, and while the building hopes to be able to foster an internal MICA community, that it's also striving to nurture a better community in the immediate neighborhood as well. That's an ambitious goal for a any single building, and transparency is the operative word for the Gateway's community consciousness. It's meant in the literal sense--being able to see art students at work in its studios once they arrive starting next week--and figuratively in that the exhibition and performance programming the university already has lined up for the fall semester hopes to draw in audiences from the surrounding area. Whether or not this obviously shining mini-city on Bolton Hill can have an immediate positive impact on a sometimes dodgy stretch of North Avenue--as any pedestrian barcrawler making his or her way from the Joe Squared to the Mount Royal Tavern at night can attest--remains to be seen, but a first brush with the Gateway reveals a building as pragmatically functional as it is visually arresting.

MICA holds a community reception for the building this Sunday, Aug. 24, from 2-4 p.m.