Hopkins building bucks tradition Architecture: The boldly modern -- yet appropriate -- addition to the School of Hygiene and Public Health is a departure from its Victorian surroundings.

Urban Landscape

November 07, 1996|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

STEWARDS of the Johns Hopkins University's East Baltimore medical campus have made great strides recently in preserving the best of the area's architectural heritage, but they aren't always looking to the past.

Hopkins' newest building, which officially opens tonight, is a boldly modern structure that bears no resemblance to the Victorian landmarks dating to the hospital's founding.

Even though it seems to buck recent planning trends at the campus -- such as creating new buildings that look old -- it is entirely appropriate for its setting.

The new building is an eight-story, $8.85 million addition to the School of Hygiene and Public Health, a fast-growing division with 1,500 students and more than 800 full- and part-time faculty members.

The addition is attached to a nondescript complex at Wolfe and Monument streets that has been home to the school since the 1920s.

What makes it stand out is its transparency and the absence of historical detailing.

The building's most prominent feature is a glass wall along Monument Street that is slightly cocked so it draws the viewer's eye to an entrance at midblock. An eight-story stair tower, also clad in glass, serves as a visual dividing line between new and old.

The building was designed to look different from the one to which it was attached, planners say, because the dean, Alfred Sommer, wanted to provide a new image for the 80-year-old school, considered "the first modern, integrated school of public health in the world."

The goal was to get away from the old image of a bland brick box with small windows and give the school a more friendly, inviting appearance. Administrators also wanted an entrance that orients the building to Monument Street, the corridor students use most.

The architects, Ziger Snead Inc., chose glass for the entrance facade because it helped give the building the desired sense of openness and transparency. "A building is more inviting and easier to approach and enter when you can see what's going on inside," said Ziger Snead project manager Jim Miller.

Cream-colored bricks on the east side of the new building are the same hue as bricks on the older school facades, providing a sense of continuity, and cast stone at street level matches the limestone on the Welch Library one block north.

Inside the Monument Street entrance is a skylighted concourse that leads to lounges and other gathering spaces for students and faculty. Upper levels contain offices and conference areas.

The design approach is far different from that taken with some Hopkins buildings rising in East Baltimore. Hopkins' new nursing school on Wolfe Street will have a more traditional appearance, as will the Comprehensive Cancer Center going up at Orleans Street and Broadway.

Michael Linehan, director of facilities management for the School of Hygiene and Public Health, said Ziger Snead's approach was just what administrators wanted.

The school "never had any old architecture that was of enough quality that it needed to be celebrated, unlike the Victorian hospital buildings" along Broadway, he said.

"We thought the new building needed to provide an image that was consistent with the science taking place inside," he said. "We wanted it to be modern, not 19th-century.

"What the architects did which is so superb, is they took the old building and used it as kind of a foil, against which this new, more open, glass building is placed. They did a brilliant job of giving us exactly what we asked for."

After striking the right tone on the outside, the architects strove to make the building as pleasant as possible on the inside, because the school doesn't have much of a campus, Linehan said.

"We wanted the students to feel that they could be comfortable here. We've tried to add spaces that are more in scale with the student population, and corridors which are extended student lounges," he said. "We've tried to give them an internal campus."

The addition was the only new building in Baltimore to receive a design award in the "built" category in the 1996 competition sponsored by the Baltimore chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

The judges praised the architects for reducing "a very large zTC mass into a more acceptable scale" and for using contemporary materials to give the building a strong presence.

"It is bold, new and different and, at the same time, a good neighbor and contributor to the city's urban fabric," they said.

"It's a nice gesture to the neighborhood," Linehan said. "It says we're not trying to build a fortress."

Pub Date: 11/07/96

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