Pearl Seidman

The presentation for an integrated Merriweather Park was well done. The designs were visionary and imaginative. Equally impressive was the respect for nature and its elemental incorporation into the design features. Energy, material, information, and resources flow across boundaries in nature. This was beautifully embodied in the design of the Caterpillar that opens and restricts the flow between Merriweather and Symphony Woods to two locations. The Caterpillar includes energy through its center; natural resources to attract birds, butterflies, insects, and people to its skin; with portals to information and imagination. The Butterfly is simple and elegant in its design and being powered by geothermal energy emphasizes Howard County values of innovation and conservation.

One thing was missing for me though. According to Howard County Public Schools website, students come from 87 countries representing 77 languages. Our diversity—a quintessential lightning rod of our origin—attracted many of us. How do we honor and celebrate that in design? One simple opportunity is the proposed Letter Garden. Consider letters from many languages instead of all in English. Having only English letters provides an implicit and unintentional boundary. Xu Bing’s brilliant sculpture using letters in twelve languages at the Sackler Gallery could be used for inspiration linking people through language. A cultural letter garden would echo the People Tree. Seize the opportunity for this to be an explicit meeting place across boundaries and cultures.