Familiarity the key with annex

URBAN LANDSCAPE

Landmark: The design of a three-story addition to the Enoch Pratt central library was inspired by the physical characteristics of the 1933 original building.

May 27, 1999|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

THE CLASSICAL lines and traditional materials of the Enoch Pratt Free Library's central building on Cathedral Street in Baltimore provide inspiration for the design of a three-level addition that will be constructed starting next year.

Architects unveiled drawings this month that indicate the 45,000-square-foot annex will be similar in character to the 1933 landmark to which it will be attached.

The addition is to rise on the south side of Franklin Street, between the main library and the smaller Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped that opened in 1991 at Park Avenue and Franklin Street.

It is part of a $49.5 million expansion and restoration of the main library that is scheduled for completion by mid-2004.

"We made a decision early on that the building we wanted to tie to, in terms of its physical character, is the main branch," said Adam Gross of Ayers Saint Gross Inc., the lead architect for the project. Beyer Blinder Belle of New York is the preservation architect.

The scope of work involves upgrading mechanical systems in the original library, restoring interior finishes, repairing elements such as windows and designing a mid-block structure to link the main library with the library for the blind.

The annex will provide space for the library's most "environmentally sensitive" collections, including the Maryland, African-American and H. L. Mencken collections, as well as the computer systems and technology support staff.

The largest spaces in the annex will be two reading rooms, one for the African-American collection and a new Maryland Room. New features in the restored central library will include a coffee bar and a new home for "Pratt Place," the library's gift shop.

Ayers Saint Gross served as the architect for the main building when it was renovated in the mid-1980s. It also designed the library for the blind.

In a presentation this month to Maryland's Architectural Review Board, the designers said they want passers-by to be able to tell that the addition is part of the main library.

Gross and architect Sandra Parsons Vicchio said they studied the rhythm of the window openings along Cathedral Street and the detailing of the facades to arrive at the design for the addition. They said the Franklin Street side of the addition will be clad in limestone that matches the stone on the original building, above a granite base. The new windows will be a "crisper, more modern reinterpretation of the window system" on the original building, they added.

"We've had a long love affair with this building, particularly the rhythm and quality that mark the building itself," said Gross, who noted that he has been working on projects for the Pratt's main library on and off since he came to Baltimore in 1983. "We've tried to be careful of the [addition's] alignment so it's perceived as an extension of the original."

The addition will be under construction from August 2000 to January 2002. The restoration work will be carried out from September 2002 to June 2004. Because the library is the State Library Resource Center, the project will be funded by about $39.5 million from the state, $6 million from the city and $4 million from the library board. The library plans to remain in operation while work is under way.

In conjunction with the larger project, the library is enclosing the children's garden area west of the children's department to create a children's theater and other activity areas. That work is expected to begin in September and be completed in a year.

Michael Graves to lecture at Visionary Art Museum

Princeton-based architect Michael Graves, designer of the Ritz Carlton hotel proposed for the Inner Harbor, will discuss his work during a lecture, "Telling Stories," at 5 p.m. today at the American Visionary Art Museum, 800 Key Highway.

A reception will be held at 4 p.m. The cost is $15 for members of the American Institute of Architects, $20 for nonmembers, and $10 for AIA interns and associates. To reserve a seat, call the AIA at 410-625-2585.

Pub Date: 5/27/99

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