She helped create the best ballpark in baseball (if we do say so ourselves), and now architect Janet Marie Smith is back with the Orioles, renovating the club’s new Sarasota spring training facility and sprucing up her old baby Camden Yards (now one of the oldest parks in the bigs!). We catch up with the O’s VP of planning and development.
What is the best advice you ever got?
The best advice that I rejected was from one of my respected mentors who counseled that the most impact one could have on the urban landscape of America was to stay in NYC, not travel down the road “with some jocks” in Baltimore.
What is your guilty pleasure?
I love to sit in the sun and watch a baseball game with a bag of peanuts and no agenda. Just being a fan.
Did you know that Camden Yards was going to be such a landmark?
Of course, you can’t just set out to be a “trendsetter.” We just wanted Baltimore to have the best we could produce. We wanted to build on the commendable transformation of the Inner Harbor and make baseball an integral part of downtown.
Why do you think the nostalgic approach resonated so much with people?
I would not call it “nostalgic.” Our goal was to study the classic parks of the early 1900s and emulate the most memorable features in a modern way. I always bristle a bit when I hear the term “retro” applied to Camden Yards. I think of it as “contextual.”
Did you get sick of all the copycats?
The cities that “got it” and placed their parks in the heart of downtown are welcome “copycats.” To mimic the architectural style without a surrounding environment to support the urban form is meaningless.
Tell us about the renovations in Sarasota.
The additions will transform a solid but nondescript stadium into a classic, Floridian arcaded ballpark with covered concourses with views of the playing field and abundant concessions among shade trees.
What should the next big trend in major league ballparks be?
If I knew that, I would patent the formula! One of the reasons I love baseball is that the parks are such a reflection of the city they are in and such a mixing ground for all ages and cultures and educational levels. I love that the park itself, by virtue of the different outfield configurations, can play a role in the game. I love that the foods are indigenous to the hometown. I hope baseball stays affordable enough for us to all enjoy the game. Other sports are overpriced for the average family.