The Maryland Institute College of Art's new $20 million Brown Center has been marred by gunfire that shattered seven of the large panes of its glass facade.
A spray of bullets was fired at the building late Friday in an incident that college President Fred Lazarus IV called "an act of extreme vandalism."
The building at 1301 Mount Royal Ave., adjoining Baltimore's Bolton Hill neighborhood, was unoccupied at the time, and no one was hurt. Although the shots were heard by police and campus security officers, there was no witness, police and college officials said.
The glass building, which opened in October, stands across Mount Royal from the college's main administration building, and its bullet holes may seem an ominous symbol to students arriving for fall classes.
"It doesn't send a very good message about Baltimore," Lazarus said. "It doesn't send a very good message about what people do in society today.
"I think we're all outraged," Lazarus added. "Because it's covered by insurance, it's not the financial cost that's outrageous. It's the fact that you have something wonderful and people find amusement in doing something like this."
"I'm more than outraged. I'm depressed by it," said Nancy Haragan, executive director of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance. "If this is someone's idea of a target somehow, it's not the future I envision for this city."
"It's horrible," said Merry Roszel Rogers, a Bolton Hill resident who lives one block from the Brown Center. "And yet you couldn't help but wonder when something like this would happen. All of that glass is too tempting in a way."
Rogers said she would have expected people to throw bricks or rocks, not shoot bullets.
Bullets are "gangland stuff," she said. "To have that in your neighborhood is horrifying."
Symbol of growth
Named for Baltimore investment adviser Eddie Brown and his family, who contributed $6 million toward the project, the Brown Center is the first building constructed from scratch on the Maryland Institute's campus in nearly 100 years and a symbol of its growth.
The building was designed by Ziger/Snead and Charles Brickbauer of Baltimore as the home for the college's digital arts program and has received widespread acclaim, including a glowing article in Architectural Record magazine that described it as "quite simply the finest modern building erected in Baltimore or Washington since I.M. Pei's East Building of the National Gallery of Art" opened in 1978. Baltimore magazine just named it Baltimore's best new building for 2004.
The Brown Center has also been controversial because its boldly angular geometry and all-glass skin set it apart from every other building nearby.
Lazarus said the shots were fired about 11 p.m. College security guards and city police officers heard the shots and immediately went to the building. Investigators do not know whether the shots were fired by someone on foot or in a car, or whether there was more than one shooter.
City police Maj. John Skinner, commander of the Central District, said that there have been no arrests and that the incident remains under investigation.
The glass consists of three layers of laminated panes. Each of the bullets shattered the outer layer of one pane but did not penetrate the building. Because they are made of safety glass, the 5-foot-by-7 1/2 -foot panes can remain in place until new ones are installed in about 12 weeks.
Bullet holes were visible yesterday in a row along the second level of the building's Mount Royal Avenue facade. They were to be covered with vinyl patches today, but the shattered glass will remain visible until the panes are removed.
The estimated cost of repairs is $24,610.
'Hurt us all'
The incident was disheartening to Bolton Hill resident Neil Kahn and his wife, Jennifer Berk.
"We just love that building and think it's an incredible addition to the neighborhood," Kahn said.
"Random events like that hurt us all," he added. "Quality-of-life crimes don't individually seem that major, but they can add up to affect the psyche of an entire community."
But MICA spokeswoman Kim Carlin said she wouldn't be surprised if students find a way to make something positive out of it. "Around here, everything ... is subject matter for art," she said.