Jones Falls studio exhibit in Baltimore H2OMG


Exhibition Dates: September 5, 2011 – October 6, 2011
Exhibition Reception: September 23, 2011, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Dcenter @ MAP announces H2OMG, its second exhibition in its storefront gallery at 218 Saratoga Street. H2OMG responds to and expands on the geographic and conceptual boundaries challenged by University of Virginia School of Architecture Professors Robin Dripps, Lucia Phinney, and Jorg Sieweke at Design Conversation #28: Re-envisioning Public Infrastructure. Sieweke’s work explores the future of the Jones Falls River that once shaped the city and has been neglected and buried in an underground culvert to make room for an inner city expressway, while Dripps and Phinney’s studies reveal the potential for a new form of local infrastructure including intersecting networks of rainwater harvesting, collection, and distribution; local agricultural production, processing and sales; and local material salvaging, repurposing, and commercial distribution. A portion of the work in the exhibition was created by students in Sieweke’s graduate design studio at UVA

H2OMG highlights their research and discourse surrounding the Jones Falls River, past, present, and future, and introduces local voices to the conversation by inviting Baltimore projects that investigate water, urban resources, watersheds, and conceptual and participatory gestures. Biohabitats, whose company mission is to “restore the earth and inspire ecological stewardship” through innovative conservation and regenerative design, will install a living wetland, removed from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, in the gallery to accompany their research and action on behalf of the city’s water systems.
H2OMG is currently open by appointment or during open hours as posted at A reception is scheduled for Friday, September 23, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
If you are interested in participating in D:Center @ MAP or have any questions about the exhibition, please contact Marian Glebes at or Marianne Amoss at

A River & A Road  Rethinking civic infrastructure along Baltimore’s Jones Falls Corridor

How did we arrive at a hostile divide in the middle of the city?

What would the river do to bring the city to life again?

How can the Jones Falls  serve  Baltimore and the Chesapeake Bay best in the future? The central and synthetic character of this bundled infrastructure corridor represents a culmination of critical urban conditions in Baltimore. An exploration of the corridor allows us to simultaneously addresses four disparate disciplinary silos:

Health of the Bay, storm-water management, flood control. (EPA)

Inner-city housing, work-life realignment, row house neighborhoods (HUD)

Highway to nowhere, inner-city public transport, high-speed rail (DOT)

Urban Health, Community Health initiatives, Healthcare (NIH)

site/system From North to South, the Jones Falls River undergoes a stark change, transforming from a steep valley of urban wilderness to a cramped corridor of bundled traffic infrastructure. Linear rail– and motor-ways weave over the river and along the Fall line until the Jones Falls is buried in an underground concrete conduit just north of Penn Station. This subway-sized culvert opening is where the river “ends” and this project begins.

history  The Jones Falls River once shaped the valley, creating a delta in the Inner Harbor. The river provided the young city with fresh water, energy, and a naturally-occurring harbor infrastructure. With the founding of Jonestown, the first settlement on the river’s eastern bank, the regulation of the river began. Severe flooding occurred, washing out the early settlers’ businesses, homes, and places of worship. As the processes of modernization continued, the river was first walled and then submerged into a sewer to make room for the construction of transportation infrastructure on the borrowed surface of the Valley’s floor. For a brief moment in history,  railroads ran up and down the corridor; today only a few lines remain. During the 1960’s, in the age of mass motorization, Valley roads were converted into an elevated expressway in order to connect the suburbs to the downtown business district. Community objections and political action prevented the construction of a massive cloverleaf interchange over the Inner Harbor, leaving the connective project of the interstate highway incomplete, and depositing South-bound traffic into Baltimore’s urban fabric.

whose right of way?  It is time to reconsider the mono-functional and auto-centric configuration of the Jones Falls Valley. Today, the long ramps of the Jones Falls Expressway cut through the city, disconnecting East Baltimore from the Central Business District; garages and surface parking lots built to serve commuters occupy valuable real estate in the middle of downtown Baltimore. The engineered and buried river emerges from its underground condition only when excess storm water  floods parts of the highway and adjacent districts. Hurricanes occasionally push water from the Bay up into the former delta area.

How can this barrier condition be transformed into an adaptive system that serves multiple social and ecological aspects of a contemporary urban lifestyle?

How can the hybrid more faceted condition of the river, declared outdated during modernization, be reintroduced?

potential  Over the past twenty years, several initiatives have suggested the razing of the expressway and the transformation of the corridor into an “urban boulevard” that would increase local property values, spur lively mixed-use urban development at its margins, and generate additional taxes for the city. However, the manicured lawn of the boulevard proposals still represents a late-modernist understanding of “Green” as a largely visual quality. These projects seek a more performance-focused conception of the public realm. Working in interdisciplinary teams, University of Virginia graduate architecture and landscape architecture students, have explored the potential of reconsidering the relationship between the given technical and natural infrastructure elements within the Jones Falls corridor

How can the series of linear flows be re-imagined as a multifunctional gathering and distribution network?

How can the original character of Baltimore’s delta drive a city center that acts as a place of exchange, activity, and movement?

How can the corridor, once a multi-purpose front-yard, and now a backyard, be prevented from becoming the junkyard of the city?

Post-NeoliberalCity?  What are the criteria for contemporary urban civic infrastructure that spurs urban living, place making and re-development?

What investments and regulatory approaches need to be developed to stop the down-cycling of adjacent neighborhoods?

Is there a pro-active urban strategy that might anticipate future infrastructural adaptations with the expressway and the culvert meeting the end of their designed lifespan. Will we invest in the same 50 to 100 year old concepts for the city of tomorrow?

How can the Jones Falls Corridor serve the city at its best again?

Can strategic asset management of civic infrastructure and the public sphere help to reduce public spending in mid and long-term

First we shape the river – then it shapes us!

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