Regenerate Fort Carroll

Competition Finalist: [UN]RESTRICTED ACCESS: 2011 Architecture for Humanity Open Architecture Challenge

Exhibition: “Traces of Centuries and Future Steps” at the Palazzo Bembo, Venice, Italy (A collateral event of the 2012 Venice Biennale of Architecture)

Press: ArchDaily, Archinect, Architecture For HumanityBustlerWeburbanistUniversity of Virginia School of Architecture

Brief: Select an abandoned, decommissioned, or closed military site and devise a transformative adaptive reuse strategy to turn military space into civic space for public good.

Competition team: Colin Curley, Sara Allen Harper

Program: Gateway Ecological Park, incorporating habitat preservation and creation, aquaculture, recreation, and on-site environmental education.

Project description from the competition entry:

“This project proposes the creation of a gateway ecological park on the site of the abandoned Fort Carroll at the mouth of the Patapsco River near Baltimore, Maryland. Situated between the Chesapeake Bay and Baltimore, within an oyster preserve as well as in the midst of active shipping lanes, Fort Carroll occupies a unique position of prominence. Originally designed to be the first line of defense for Baltimore Harbor and Fort McHenry, construction began on Fort Carroll in 1847. The Fort never saw major combat and was abandoned in 1920.

Over the years, there have been a number of reuse proposals for the site, ranging from a super-scale statue of Lord Calvert to a neon “Welcome to Baltimore” sign to a casino. Though technically off-limits and nearly inaccessible, the alluring ruins draw bloggers, kayakers, and adventure-seekers who make their way onto the island to explore. 11.6 million vehicles pass by it on the Key Bridge annually, wondering what the story is behind the abandoned island. Over the years since its abandonment, birds have nearly taken over the island: it is now the most diverse colony of bird species within 100 miles. Currently, the Fort’s bird population is viewed as an insurmountable obstacle to any reuse strategy for the island. It has in essence become an ultimatum: preserve the birds, or preserve Fort Carroll.

We disagree.

We see an opportunity to transform Fort Carroll into a significant public space, not only restoring the abandoned island but recasting Fort Carroll a positive force in broader restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay. An oyster preserve, an alluring military ruin, an important avian habitat, and a bay with faced with environmental challenges form the building blocks for a dynamic gateway ecological park. Once inwardly focused and fortified, the renewed Fort Carroll sets its sights outward with a new network of pathways that form an open and dendritic circulation system through the site. The renewed Fort also establishes connections to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake Bay National Historic Trail, which currently passes by the island.

REGENERATE FORT CARROLL realizes the new and exciting synergies afforded by the union of recreation, environmental education, aquaculture, and habitat restoration. The obsolete military fort will now serve as a catalyst for positive change within the Chesapeake Bay’s multitude of interdependent communities, becoming a literal and figurative gateway to a sustainable future for Baltimore and the Chesapeake Bay.”

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