Local museum honored for design, use of land Visionary Art founder to receive award in Dallas

October 09, 1998|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

The American Visionary Art Museum in downtown Baltimore is one of nine buildings around the nation that have been selected to receive the Urban Land Institute's 1998 Award of Excellence, one of the most prestigious prizes in the development field.

The awards were to be presented today during the ULI's fall conference in Dallas.

The Urban Land Institute is a nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to improving the quality of land use, planning and development standards.

Museum founder Rebecca Alban Hoffberger, who flew to Dallas yesterday to accept the award, called it "outrageously great news."

The ULI award is considered the "Rolls-Royce of prizes for developers," she said, because it examines not only a project's architectural design and impact on the site but also "the creative originality and functionality of every aspect of the operation."

Hoffberger said the award was especially significant to her because the jurors compared the Baltimore project with developments all over the world and unanimously voted to give the museum an award.

"That's very meaningful to us," she said. "It shows that we stand up very well to great stuff all over the world."

A. Eugene Kohn, a New York architect who visited the museum as a member of the jury, said he liked everything about it.

"The whole place speaks of creativity and excitement, but it also speaks of her passion," he said of Hoffberger. "It's one of those rare times when you're not only impressed with the place but the person behind it."

Designed by Castro/Swanston Associates, the museum at 800 Key Highway has been open since November 1995 and draws 70,000 visitors a year. Designated by Congress as America's "national museum, repository, and education center for the best in original, self-taught artistry," it studies, collects, preserves and exhibits visionary art -- defined as art by individuals working outside the mainstream and often driven by a compulsive desire to create.

The Key Highway complex cost $7 million and combines a four-level industrial brick building constructed in 1913 with an addition that contains six galleries, a library, offices, store, workshop and restaurant.

Pub Date: 10/09/98

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