Rebirth of Lafayette Courts Design: Architects have drawn up award-winning plans for the 374-unit community featuring rowhouses that look just like others in Baltimoreans.


From the outset, residents of Lafayette Courts public housing development in East Baltimore were clear about what kind of residences they wanted to live in after their high-rises were demolished last year.

They said they prefer "the same kind of housing everybody else has" -- as opposed to the old monolithic towers that stood out from the rest of the city -- and that's exactly what architects for the replacement housing have designed.

The bulk of the 374-unit community -- whose master plan recently won a national award -- will consist of two- and three-story rowhouses that aren't much different in appearance or amenities from the rowhouses in many city neighborhoods.

And the largest building of the development will be a midrise apartment house for the elderly that looks as if it were planned for one of the many private retirement communities around the region.

"That's what we were trying to do," said Richard Donkervoet, principal of Cochran Stephenson & Donkervoet, the Baltimore architect for the midrise. "Rather than make it look institutional, we wanted to make it look residential."

The midrise, on which construction will begin by February, will be "the flagship" for the community, said Van Johnson. He's physical development coordinator for the urban revitalization programs of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, the owner. "This will be the signature building" for Lafayette Courts, he said.

As designed by CS&D;, the four-story building will contain 110 apartments on the upper floors and a variety of public spaces at ground level, including a multipurpose room, game room, card room and enclosed courtyard.

It will face Central Avenue, on the east side of the 21.5-acre property bounded roughly by Orleans, Fayette and Colvin streets and Central. Because it will be taller than the rowhouses, it will be visible for blocks in every direction.

U-shaped in the plan, the building will have a distinct base, middle and top, and a pitched shingle roof with a pronounced overhang. Exterior materials include split-faced block on the base, brick in the middle and synthetic stucco on the upper floor. Each apartment will have about 600 square feet of space. Amenities will include central air conditioning, an elevator for each wing and a laundry room and two sitting areas on the upper floors.

In a presentation to Baltimore's Design Advisory Panel, Donkervoet explained that the architects searched for appropriate local design precedents for an apartment house, in the same way architects for the new rowhouses at Lafayette Courts studied older rowhouses in Jonestown, Canton and other parts of East Baltimore.

East Baltimore had no tradition of midrise apartments, Donkervoet said, so the design team looked at apartment buildings constructed in Charles Village and along University Parkway before the Depression.

"We tried to find an architectural vernacular that was symbolic of Baltimore," the architect said. "Since there were no apartment houses in this part of the city, we concluded it may be appropriate to say there was a Baltimore vernacular for apartment buildings" but not in East Baltimore.

The team also studied Charles Carroll of Carrollton Elementary School, which stands across Central Avenue from the midrise construction site. More than 50 years old, it is also a brick structure with a distinct base, middle and top, and a roof with a deep overhang.

CS&D; has won numerous awards for designing affordable housing for the elderly, including one this year from the National Association of Home Builders and the American Institute of Architects for the Bellevieu- Manchester apartments in West Baltimore. A large part of its practice involves planning retirement communities around the nation.

Mahan Rykiel Associates is the landscape architect. Rita St. Clair Associates and Joy Owens Interiors will provide interior design services. Lawrence A. Menefee Architects is the coordinating architect for the entire community.

Site work has been under way since the towers were demolished in August 1995. Construction of the midrise is expected to be completed by mid-1998.

Roadway projects win design awards

Two roadway projects in Maryland recently were honored in the annual design awards program sponsored by the Maryland and Potomac chapters of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Plans for the Canal Parkway, a proposed gateway to Cumberland that would showcase the natural beauty of the region and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, and reconstruction of Main Street in Annapolis, received merit awards. Both were designed by Mahan Rykiel Associates of Baltimore.

CHK Architects and Planners of Silver Spring won a merit award for its design of a 730-unit community in Istanbul, Turkey.

Pub Date: 12/26/96

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