Milton S. Eisenhower library. Photo by Ed Gunts.

After starting sitework for its $250 million student center and its $100 million home for the SNF Agora Institute, the Johns Hopkins University is turning its attention to a major renovation of its Milton S. Eisenhower Library.

Hopkins has selected Pfeiffer, a Perkins Eastman Studio, to serve as the architect for the first large-scale renovation of the library since it opened on its Homewood campus in 1964. Clark Construction Group will be the construction manager.

The university has also formed a cross-divisional committee of faculty, staffers and students to work with the design team and is planning a series of virtual and in-person meetings this fall to get ideas for improvements and feedback on its plans.

“The university plans to reimagine the existing building on the Homewood campus to make it more accessible, flexible and welcoming through building systems upgrades, infrastructure improvements and interior architectural upgrades,” according to The Hub, Hopkins’ news website.

The renovation will create “new work spaces for individuals and groups, as well as seminars and teaching, with continued opportunities for research consultation, educational and instructional support” and data services, planners say.

Visible from Charles and 33rd streets and named after Hopkins’ eighth president, the Milton S. Eisenhower Library is the largest building in the Sheridan Libraries network at Hopkins and its principal study and research library.

Wrenn, Lewis and Jencks designed the building to rise on the opposite end of Keyser Quadrangle from Gilman Hall and be on axis with it. Four of its six levels are underground, and those four levels open into a light well at the south end of the building. The architects put much of the library underground so it wouldn’t dwarf historic Homewood House, the 1805 landmark now known as the Homewood Museum.

With more than 3.7 million volumes and an extensive array of electronic resources, the library supports more than 26,000 students and 7,500 faculty members across nine divisions. It is one of the most heavily used spaces on the Homewood campus, but it has had only minor renovations since it opened 56 years ago.

In 2016, Hopkins hired the Boston-based design firm of Schwartz Silver Architects to complete a feasibility study for the reprogramming and renovation of the library, including renewal of mechanical and electrical systems and creation of new spaces for collaboration. Part of that study involved investigating ways to bring more natural light into the building.

Pfeiffer, with offices in New York and Los Angeles, is a successor to the firm of Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, one of the firms that helped restore the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore. Pfeiffer specializes in cultural and educational projects such as libraries; historic preservation; renovations; adaptive reuse and interior design. It merged with Perkins Eastman this year.

Hopkins has not disclosed a budget for the library improvements. The design phase is expected to continue until December 2022, with construction starting in the spring of 2023. Work will be carried out in phases so the library can remain open throughout the renovation, planners say.

The library project is part of a flurry of construction activity underway and planned for the Homewood campus. The most visible activity is the demolition of Mattin Center near Charles and 33rd streets and nearby Whitehead Hall to make way for the $250 million Hopkins Student Center. The student center design team includes the Bjarke Ingels Group and Shepley Bulfinch, with David Rockwell Group as the interior architect.

The city of Baltimore has closed a southbound segment of Charles Street near the construction site and detoured traffic to St. Paul Street to help facilitate construction. The southbound lane is expected to remain closed until construction of the student center is complete in late 2024. Artwork that had been on the grounds of the Mattin Center has been put in temporary storage, according to Sandra Sparks, former president of the Charles Village Civic Association.

Hopkins also has begun sitework on Wyman Park Drive for the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute, a $100 million home for a relatively new academic division, designed by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Ayers Saint Gross, with OLIN as the landscape architect. Construction of the main building will begin next spring and is expected to be complete in the fall of 2023.

The university has begun transforming the former U. S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame building on University Parkway into a hub for “integrative learning and life design” and home of the Homewood Career Center, Undergraduate Research, Student Employment Services and Study Abroad programs.

Hopkins has nearly finished a $27 million renovation and expansion of the Ralph S. O’Connor Center for Recreation and Well-Being to include new and enlarged spaces for weight training, cardio and group fitness classes and a new outdoor plaza.

The university began renovating the former Baltimore Marine Hospital, a 1930s-era medical center now called the Wyman Park Building, to a home for faculty offices and meeting spaces.

In Washington, D. C., Hopkins is turning the former Newseum at 555 Pennsylvania Ave. N. W. into a new home for its D. C.-based programs, with Ennead Architects as the designer. The U. S. Commission of Fine Arts approved proposed exterior alterations for the building several months ago.

“This is an exciting and uniquely transformative time for our campus and our community,” Bob McLean, Hopkins’ vice president for facilities and real estate, told the Hub. “These projects not only represent the future of Johns Hopkins but also its commitment to creating spaces that foster collaboration, inclusion and exploration.”

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Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.