Plan chosen for new Center for Architecture and Design downtown, future home of local AIA chapter

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Rendering of a proposed light and projection beacon for the Light City festival on the planned Center for Architecture and Design. Image from presentation by Quinn Evans Architects/courtesy of AIA Baltimore

Baltimore’s very own Center for Architecture and Design at One Charles Center is moving forward, with the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects announcing today that it’s picked a proposal.

Quinn Evans Architects submitted the winning design in a competition initiated earlier this summer to repurpose the 3,600-square-foot space at the base of the downtown building, which was designed by legendary architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Quinn Evans is headquartered in D.C. and acquired Baltimore-based Cho Benn Holbeck Architects in 2017, retaining its offices next to Center Plaza at 100 N. Charles St.

The new center will be located in the retail space looking out onto W. Fayette Street next to that same plaza. It will house AIA Baltimore’s new headquarters and those of the Baltimore Architecture Foundation when the organizations relocate early next year, along with two gallery spaces, meeting and board rooms, a reception area and a small store for books about Baltimore architecture.

“As we approach AIA Baltimore’s 150th Anniversary in 2021, we look forward to new and exciting ways to celebrate the design world and Baltimore in our new Center for Architecture and Design,” AIA Baltimore president Suzanne Frasier said in a statement. “This would not be possible without the ongoing engagement and commitment of our members and our community.”

Quinn Evans Architects’ design, viewable here, includes a front reception and retail area, a larger open gallery and a smaller gallery, meeting and board rooms and modular “project bars” that can be modified to serve as storage, educational space and more.

Image from presentation by Quinn Evans Architects/courtesy of AIA Baltimore

An announcement said the jury “recognized the adaptability of the Quinn Evans design and praised its emphasis on community identity and outreach in built form, the use of locally sourced fabrication, procurement and installation, and its spirit of citizenry and community sustainability.”

“We think the only thing better than working in a Mies building is adapting and transforming a Mies building into an inclusive, flexible, and interactive place,” Quinn Evans principal Mark Nook said in a statement.

Outfitting the interior will cost an estimated $300,000, AIA Baltimore executive director Kathleen Lane said in an email. Construction is expected to begin in October and last a little over three months, and is being funded with AIA Baltimore membership fees, corporate sponsorship, grants and reserves.

In addition to housing the AIA Baltimore and Baltimore Architecture Foundation headquarters, the center will have “collaborative administrative and program space for allied” organizations, today’s announcement said.

Among those: historic preservation nonprofit Baltimore Heritage and the Charles Street Development Corporation, citywide chapters for the National Organization of Minority Architects and the Urban Land Institute, and statewide chapters for the American Society of Landscape Architects and American Planning Association.

Three other firms, Inner Harbor-based Hord Coplan Macht, RM Sovich Architecture in Cross Keys and Mount Vernon’s Ziger Snead Architects, submitted entries.

The five-member jury included Frasier, as well as leading architects from Philadelphia, Kansas City, New York and Dallas.

AIA Baltimore, based at 11 1/2 W. Chase Street in Midtown for a little over three decades, plans to sell the building upon moving. Spokesman Nathan Dennies said AIA Baltimore will launch a capital campaign for the organization coinciding with its 150th anniversary in 2021.

A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Suzanne Frasier’s last name on the first mention. We regret the error.

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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in CityLab, Slate, Baltimore City Paper, DCist and elsewhere.
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