Annapolis museum expansion planned

Addition: The Banneker-Douglass Museum will more than double in size if the design is approved.


September 03, 2001|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN ARCHITECTURE CRITIC

With its stained-glass windows and gabled roof, the Mount Moriah African Methodist Episcopal Church has long been a distinctive presence in historic Annapolis. Since it was transformed in 1984 to an African-American museum, however, it hasn't always had sufficient room for programs and exhibits.

Within the next two years, the Banneker-Douglass Museum at 84 Franklin St. will more than double in size and finally gain space for permanent exhibits under a $3.8 million expansion plan funded by the state of Maryland.

A design prepared by Cho Benn Holback + Associates of Baltimore calls for construction of a three-story 10,000-square foot addition that will contain offices for staffers and meeting space for the public, as well as much-needed display space and a new main entrance for the museum. The project also includes renovation of the Neo-Gothic brick church, which dates from 1874.

At a recent meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission in Annapolis, architect George Holback said the designers have sought to create an addition that is compatible with the church but does not mimic it. Materials include brick and precast trim, with a glass-enclosed connector next to the historic church. Although the addition has three levels, the front elevation makes it look like a two-story building.

"We're trying to strike a balance between making it fit in with Annapolis and having modern elements that make it read as new," said Holback, the principal-in-charge, who is working with project architect Jim Smith. "The church is still the primary building. ... We want to add a gallery experience that is vibrant, visible from the street and makes you want to come in."

Named for two well known African-Americans with ties to Maryland -- scientist Benjamin Banneker and writer-abolitionist Frederick Douglass -- the museum was founded as a repository for artifacts from them and other notable figures. It was set up inside the church to help preserve it after the congregation moved on, and in many ways, the church is the museum's most valuable artifact.

The first level of the addition will have a multi-story lobby and space for temporary exhibits. The second level will have a large gallery for permanent exhibits, and the third level will provide space for offices and collections storage.

The front of the addition will be set back approximately 10 feet from the front of the church so as not to upstage it, Holback said. The church's north wall will become an interior wall when the expansion is built, but will not otherwise be altered substantially, he said.

The design doesn't please everyone, however.

At the preservation commission meeting, Annapolis architect Jeff Halpern expressed concern that the expansion did not leave room for a public "footway" on the north side of the church. Attorney Marvin Anderson, who owns the adjoining structure at 92 Franklin St., contends the expansion is too close to the south wall of his building and will leave no room to maintain it.

Representatives for the museum said they set the foundation wall 5 feet from Anderson's property, and that there will be about 2 feet of space between the museum addition and his building. They said that if they are forced to reduce the building's footprint much more, it won't be worth building but that they are trying to address Anderson's concerns.

Construction is expected to begin later this year or early next year, with completion by spring of 2003, according to deputy director Wendi Perry. The staff will try to keep the museum open as much as possible while construction is underway, she said.

Krieger Institute expands

The Kennedy Krieger Institute will hold a groundbreaking ceremony at 11 a.m. Sept. 10 to mark the start of construction of its latest addition, a four-story clinical building at North Broadway and Madison streets.

Kennedy Krieger is a pediatric hospital in East Baltimore that serves children with disorders of the brain, either congenital or acquired through injury or illness. RCG Inc. is the architect for the 78,000-square foot addition, called the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building at Kennedy Krieger Institute. Work is scheduled for completion by the end of 2003.

Pelli exhibit in D.C.

On Sept. 12, the National Building Museum in Washington will open the most comprehensive exhibit ever mounted on the work of architect Cesar Pelli, designer of the World Financial Center in New York, and Malaysia's Petronas Towers, the world's tallest buildings.

Titled Cesar Pelli: Connections, the exhibit runs through April 28, 2002, at the museum, 401 F St. N.W., in Washington.

Top project from Baltimore

The Visitor Center at Sailwinds Park in Cambridge, designed by Marks, Thomas and Associates of Baltimore, recently won a Project of the Year award from the National Association of Home Builders National Commercial Builders Council.

Designed to help promote Cambridge and its surrounding area, the 6,000-square foot facility is visible off U.S. 50 near the banks of the Choptank River, and was built by Maryland's State Highway Administration.

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