A bright new face for UB law school

German firm, Ayers/Saint/Gross of Baltimore design $107 million Angelos center for Charles St.

November 18, 2008|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,ed.gunts@baltsun.com

A German architecture firm with a reputation for creating visually striking buildings that are also environmentally friendly has won an international competition to design a $107 million law school for the University of Baltimore.

Behnisch Architekten of Stuttgart, in partnership with Ayers/Saint/Gross of Baltimore, heads a team that was selected over architects from France, Britain and the United States to design the new John and Frances Angelos Law Center, planned for the northeast corner of Charles Street and Mount Royal Avenue.

A team headed by Dominique Perrault Architecture of Paris, with Ziger/Snead LLP Architects of Baltimore, came in second.

The announcement last night by university President Robert Bogomolny came three days after five contenders had presented concepts that they had been given two months to prepare.

Baltimore Orioles owner and law school alumnus Peter G. Angelos has pledged $5 million toward construction of the law school, which will be named after his parents when it opens in 2012. The Abell Foundation funded the competition as a way to attract world-class designers who might not otherwise have pursued a commission in Baltimore.

The university will enter into contract negotiations with the winning team.

At a reception last night, Bogomolny praised both the winning proposal and the quality of the competition.

"Each of the finalists presented concepts that reflect their world-class reputation, and the University of Baltimore and the city can be proud that this project attracted such high-caliber participants," he said.

Of the winning design, Bogomolny said, "Stefan Behnisch has articulated an initial concept for our new law center that is truly forward-thinking. Stefan's ideas about sustainable design and his creativity in responding to the evolving needs of higher education place him in the forefront of 21st-century architecture."

Behnisch also has offices in Munich, Germany; Venice, Calif.; and Boston. A number of the firm's projects have become recognized as cultural and architectural landmarks, including facilities for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich and the Plenary Complex of the German Bundestag in Bonn.

Behnisch is known as an international leader in environmentally aware design. One of its projects, the Genzyme Center in Cambridge, Mass., was described by The Architectural Review as "the USA's first large environmentally aware office block."

Phillip J. Closius, dean of the University of Baltimore School of Law, noted the firm's focus on developing projects in close consultation with clients.

"This is a transformative time for the UB School of Law," Closius said, "and we were looking for a partner who understands the dynamic nature of our school and of legal education. The Behnisch team showed a real commitment to working with us to create a building that will meet our needs and be a unique addition to the city's architectural landscape."

Design competition adviser Roger K. Lewis, professor emeritus in the School of Architecture at the University of Maryland, College Park and an award-winning designer and architecture critic, said the choice was difficult. The decision followed an all-day review of the five firms selected this fall as finalists.

"The competition was successful in producing five diverse and imaginative concepts," Lewis said. "The quality of each presentation intensified the challenge of reaching consensus. Our deliberations were daunting."

Representatives for the teams said they responded to the university's offering because the law center represents the sort of design challenge they like to tackle. They noted that it is a sizable building with an intriguing mix of spaces, that it will occupy a highly visible site marking a gateway to the city and that it has a fairly substantial budget (more than $400 per square foot).

The existing law building, the John and Frances Angelos Law Center, was named after Angelos' parents as part of an earlier gift in 1991. The new building will retain that name upon its opening in 2012, and the current facility will be renovated to accommodate growth at the university.

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