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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

June 2006 Issue

Designing for the People
As public awareness of the power of landscape architecture increases, so do the demands placed on Marylandís nonprofit Neighborhood Design Center.

By Susan Hines

Designing for the People Skip Brown

Many landscape architects trace their interest in the profession to the environmental movement of the 1960s. However, the social justice movements born of that era proved equally inspiring to some, including those who work at the 38-year-old Neighborhood Design Center (NDC). With offices in Baltimore and Prince Georgeís County, Maryland, and with just six employees spread across the two locations, NDC supports grassroots initiatives that improve quality of life in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

Baltimoreís NDC was established in 1968 by a group of architects from the firm RTKL. Today, the center produces an average of 70 design projects each year by recruiting volunteer design professionals and directing thousands of dollars in pro bono services and grants on behalf of neighborhoods throughout Baltimore and Prince Georgeís County. Community groups, small municipalities, nonprofits, and community development organizations receive technical expertise and conceptual design services.

In Baltimore, NDCís four employees currently work out of an old library building renovated and restored in the 1990s by NDC volunteers in conjunction with a local neighborhood association and the Enoch Pratt Free Library system. Now called the Pratt Center for Maryland Neighborhoods, the restored brick building is a lovely structure in a so-so downtown neighborhood.

In a suburb between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., an older commercial building refreshed with soft green paint is now home base for NDCís two full-time Prince Georgeís County employees. NDC has had a presence in the Maryland suburbs since 1993. The office space, in Brentwood, Maryland, is shared with another nonprofit community development group. The building sits smack-dab in the middle of a designated ďarts districtĒ that is creeping toward realizing its potential as a magnet for the creative class.

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