It was Susan Flanigan’s love of literature that Pierce Flanigan III embraced and so grew his love of poetry. Pierce was multi-faceted – a successful businessman who read constantly – went to theater and movies, loved politics, travelled to cities. “People considered him to be very wise” says Susan, “He was athletic and rode his bike regularly. He played football in high school. Sailing, biking and skiing were his passions. He adored poetry”.
Pierce loved Baltimore and was very civic minded and involved. When he and Susan moved to Harbor East, he joined the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore (WPB) as a board member. Daughter Emily Hiller was already a founding member of the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance as she lived in Little Italy and wanted to see young families stay downtown. Pierce and Emily approached Laurie Schwartz, Executive Director, WPB, about the idea of creating a park in the downtown area. Emily had already identified several places including the area currently under construction. Laurie and Emily talked to Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks and began exploring various playground catalogues with standard equipment and realized that they wanted something different.
Suddenly, Pierce died. That changed everything. The park would now become a living memorial to this remarkable man. It was crucial to focus on something other than grieving. Susan decided that she wanted to create something that was aesthetic and embodied Pierce’s passions and values. A large amount had already been contributed to a fund at Baltimore Community Foundation in Pierce’s honor and that became the Pierce’s Park Fund.
Susan identified friends of Pierce and asked them to serve on an advisory committee. “Pierce was my good friend and we are on the advisory board” says James Snead, Ziger / Snead Architects. “We were heavily involved in guiding the concepts with the design team.” (click here for complete list) The design process took two years. Susan, Emily, Jamie Snead, Steve Ziger and Richard Taylor, an interior designer discussed the various options for what might be included in the park . They knew that they wanted it to be interactive and an intergenerational park that could be enjoyed by adults as much as children. It was to be a beautiful place, an aesthetically pleasing environment, not just a playground. And, Susan decided that it should be called Pierce’s Park versus Pierce Flanigan III Park because “he would have liked it that way . “He was not a formal person.”
Very soon Mahan Rykiel’s Scott Rykiel, Joe Berkhardt and Qiaojue Yu, landscape architects specializing in urban design joined the team. “Could it be sculptures that kids climb on instead of playground equipment?” In no time, sculptor David Hess’ name came up and after Susan met him David joined the team.
Meetings were originally held every two or three weeks at Ziger / Snead for conceptual design, then moved to M&R as landscaping was planned and then finally to Whitman Requardt in the fall of 2010 to begin implementation. Engineering drawings were developed, permits acquired and everything moved very quickly to get to the May groundbreaking. Susan and her team raised $2 million and as yet undetermined amount of in-kind services to build the park.
The photographs were taken at the most recent planning meetings at the office of Whitman Requardt.
“As a design team we tried in all aspects to manifest Pierce’s passion and love of nature, children and adventure. The undulating paved promenade is incorporated throughout the site which represents his love of nature in a sinuous and graceful way” explains Quiajue Yu. “Two open lawn spaces provide a venue for the children and families to relax and play. Unique, modern and fun play sculpture pieces offer an imaginative and interactive opportunity for children to explore.”
Blog by Helen Szablya
Photography by Steffi Graham