Studio Baltimore

A RIVER & A ROAD

Jones Falls Expressway rising to elevation looking downtown.

Rethinking public infrastructure along the Jones Falls corridor in Baltimore

SITE/SYSTEM  The Jones Fall represents a sequence from a steep valley of urban wilderness lined with early industrial mills to a bundled traffic infrastructure corridor running into the Inner city/harbor area.

The linear infrastructure of railway and motorway weave across the river until the river is buried into a conduit at Penn Station.

HISTORY  The Jones Falls river shaped the valley and created a delta in the inner harbor. The river provided fresh water and energy and served as the natural infrastructure to found the emerging city. With Jonestown -the first settlement on the east bank the regulation of the river begun. Sever flooding occurred and washed out the early settlers businesses and church. In the further process of modernization the river was first walled and finally was submerged and degraded as a sewer to give room for transport infrastructure on the surface. For a brief time span in history the rail was introduced along the corridor and pulled out again for the most part. In the age of mass motorization (1960s) the roads were scaled to an expressway that reaches as an elevated structure into the Inner city and harbor area. Protest at the time prevented to build a cloverleaf over the inner harbor and left the interstate traffic disperse into the downtown fabric. The incomplete expressway funnels traffic into the downtown area that wants to go elsewhere.

the river surfaces on bedrock sole, water flow is modulated by the culvert
Team: Aja Bulla-Richards/Sarah Shelton

WHOSE RIGHT OF WAY?   The mono-functional layout of the right of way centered around the motorist needs to be reconsidered. Especially the long ramps of the expressway cut through the urban fabric and disconnect East Baltimore from the downtown area. The engineered and buried river occasionally emerges from its underground condition. Storm water floods parts of the highway a well as the adjacent districts.

How can the boundary/barrier condition be transferred in an adaptive multi-functional system that serves multiple social and ecological aspects of a contemporary daily urban lifestyle? How can the hybrid faceted condition of the river and the road that where declared outdated in the process modernization be reintroduced.

POTENTIAL   Several initiatives suggested to raze the expressway and turn the corridor into an “urban boulevard” that would then spur urban development at its margins raise taxes and spur the urban life of the adjacent neighborhoods. The proposed manicured lawn of the Boulevard median still represents a late modernist concept of green largely as a visual quality. The studio seeks for a more performance focused scheme of  a public realm. The studio explores the potential of reconsidering the relationship of the given infrastructure elements technical and natural within the Jones Falls corridor. How can the corridors of flows be re-established in its multifunctional character of gathering and distribution? How can the dendritic character of the delta be explored as a richer circulation? How can the corridor as a former multi-purposed front-yard that turned into a backyard be re-evaluated to prevent it from becoming the junkyard of the city?

POST NEO-LIBERAL CITY    What are the performance criteria for urban public infrastructure today to spur urban live place making and re-development. What investment and regulations need to be developed to turn the down cycle around. Is there a proactive strategy that would anticipate future adaptations?

One thought on “Studio Baltimore”

  1. I just read about your idea to uncover the Jones Falls in the Baltimore Sun, unfortunately a bit too late to attend your presentation at the Windup Space. If its available, I’d like to view any powerpoint presentation you may have given about it. Please let me know if you’re willing to share it.

    Kudos to thinking outside the box, and I hope one day the City of Baltimore will decide to uncover some of its streams for a cleaner, greener city.

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