Letter from Baltimore: Summer Studio

In her monthly “Letter from Baltimore,” Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson writes about architecture, culture, and urbanism in a city more often associated with violent crime than with good design. Click here to read her previous posts. For more by Dickinson, visit her blog, Urban Palimpsest.

Yolande Daniels’s Tea Cozy. All photos: Will Kirk

New York has P.S. 1’s courtyard installation; Baltimore has Sculpture at Evergreen. Every two years, the 26 acres surrounding the historic Evergreen Museum & Library transforms into a lab for artists. This year, equal presence was given to installations by architects, including New York’s Matter Practice and Yolande Daniels, the founding design principal of studio SUMO.

Sculpture at Evergreen’s curators—the University of Maryland architecture professor Ronit Eisenbach and the artist and curator Jennie Fleming—directed the ten individuals and teams to develop work responding to the site, a Gilded Age house with Italianate gardens owned by Johns Hopkins University. For architects, this kind of impermanent installation can become an extension of the studio, offering an opportunity to play with materials and processes in a fast and temporary setting. “It allows them to experiment,” Eisenbach says, “and take what they learned back to their practice.”

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That experimentation is particularly evident in Joel Lamere and Cynthia Gunadi 25-Arch Folium. The Boston-based architects, who met while studying at Harvard GSD, created a polypropylene tube that is pleated and folded into 25 horizontal tensile arches bound together with zip ties (making a nice reference to the many arches on the grounds and in the home). The sculpture is located through an arch in the exterior garden wall where a tiny grotto opens to the sky above. Normally, this space is dark, musty, and easily overlooked. But 25-Arch Folium serves as a kind of solar tube, funneling light into an otherwise murky space and arresting the attention of passersby, who can duck under the piece and sit on a bench looking up through the center of the tube. Lamere teaches architectural geometry at MIT and you can tell from the elaborate composition: The sculpture rises to the sun in a series of folds, not unlike one of those collapsible travel cups pulling up and out of its base.

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Yolande Daniels’s Tea Cozy sits on the front lawn of the grounds and has the great mansion as its background. The piece was inspired by an image of a teahouse owned by the home’s original owner, Alice Garrett. White laser-cut metal panels mimic the delicate, flowery design of the teahouse interior and create a kind of formalized space within nature to enjoy a contemplative moment.

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Nearby is Matter Practice’s Fallen Fruit, a series of pieces designed and fabricated by the architects and meant to memorialize, in part, the past agriculture of plants, orchards, and vegetables that existed when the house was a private residence. The oversized “fruit” also provides a rare opportunity for visitors to sit amidst the formal property. The fruit captures the sun’s rays through solar panels so that at night the pieces glow a vibrant and inviting green.

2_BSculpture at Evergreen also includes work from several Baltimore artists and architects, including three who have made appearances on this blog in the past: Shannon Young, Ryan Patterson, and Eric Leshinsky. The exhibition runs through September 26.

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