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Hybrid Cube In Baltimore

Behnisch Architekten

Hybrid Cube In Baltimore
By Michael Webb -

Baltimore is still an important port, but it has suffered greatly from a loss of industry, urban riots, and high rates of crime. Like so many other declining American cities it has embarked on ambitious programs of rejuvenation and the University of Baltimore’s John and Frances Angelos Law School is a potent symbol of learning and public service.
Behnisch Architekten won the competition to unite the department’s scattered activities under one roof. The site, across from the landmark railway station, is confined by a freeway and the architects proposed a 13-story cube, with stacked classrooms, faculty offices, and library. The project was launched just before the financial crash, and the 19,000 sq m program was slightly reduced, resulting in the elimination of the upper floor.
The design was program-driven, and the three major components are boldly expressed on the exterior, in the fenestration and jutting forms. In the lower stories, you can read the alternation of high-ceilinged classrooms and low-ceilinged offices in the height of the windows that punctuate white-enameled aluminum panels. These modular openings impart a lively rhythm to the facades and indicate the cellular nature of the rooms. A rain screen of glass plates supported on 30 cm pegs protects exterior blinds from wind and allows windows to be manually opened on fine spring and fall days. In bad weather, they close automatically. The library at the top has a flush glass skin that is ceramic fritted in a checkerboard pattern, to provide abundant natural light while limiting solar gain. Louvers shade the clear glass insets that light the circulation areas.
In most academic buildings, classrooms, offices, and library are laid out horizontally, and the challenge here was to turn verticality to advantage, interlocking the different functions around a narrow atrium. Stefan Behnisch likens the void to a canyon; James Stewart Polshek, a competition juror, saw it as a plant,...

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