BMA picks local architectural firm for $24M renovation

Ziger/Snead to lead work on museum

April 27, 2011|By Gus G. Sentementes, The Baltimore Sun

The Baltimore Museum of Art announced Wednesday that it has chosen the local architectural firm of Ziger/Snead to lead a $24 million renovation of the neoclassical museum building, which houses 90,000 pieces of art, including the world's largest collection of works by Henri Matisse.

The Mount Vernon-based firm has designed several distinctive Baltimore buildings, including the angular, white-glass-paneled Brown Center at the Maryland Institute College of Art and the Living Classroom Foundation's headquarters overlooking the harbor in Fells Point.

Ziger/Snead was among five finalists for the project, which is being financed by a mix of taxpayer and private funds. The museum narrowed its choice of architects to Maryland firms because it was receiving taxpayer financing, according to Stiles Tuttle Colwill, chair of the BMA's board of trustees.

"We felt there was extraordinary talent in the local architectural pool, and we wanted to draw on that to keep jobs in Maryland," Colwill said in an interview.

Museum officials estimated that the renovations will generate about 185 jobs.

The museum, which is adjacent to the Johns Hopkins University campus between the Charles Village and Remington neighborhoods, will remain open and free of charge during the work, though some parts may be closed in phases, museum officials said.

The improvements will include enhancements to the contemporary, American and African galleries, including new lighting and new floor and wall finishes; new displays for collections; and a new, 5,000-square-foot space on an upper level of the building whose purpose has not been determined.

Visitors can also expect to see renovations to the east lobby and upgrades to visitor amenities, including the gift shop. Less visible to museum-goers will be new roofs and a new climate-control system to better care for the artwork.

"There'll be a more dynamic and consistent presentation of our collections," said Doreen Bolger, the museum's director.

The museum is planning to complete the renovations by 2014, the year it marks its 100th anniversary.

Ziger/Snead will begin work immediately, according to a company spokeswoman.

The work is part of a master plan of improvements and expansion that was announced six years ago. For the latest renovation, the museum raised $10 million from the state, plus $2.45 million in a bond from Baltimore. The rest of the money will come from private fundraising, museum officials said.

The museum, founded in Baltimore in 1914, moved into the neoclassical building designed by John Russell Pope in 1929. Pope went on to design some of Washington's most architecturally distinctive structures, including the National Gallery of Art, Constitution Hall, the Jefferson Memorial and the National Archives building.

"We have long admired the BMA's original building designed by John Russell Pope, and we see this as an opportunity to bring fresh, relevant, welcoming and dynamic changes to greatly enrich each visitor's experience," said Steve Ziger, a partner at the architecture firm.

As part of a 20-year master plan released in 2005, the museum has long-term plans to add more than 100,000 square feet of space, to increase gallery and storage areas, and possibly to reopen the historic main entrance facing Art Museum Drive.

The last major renovations at the BMA occurred in 2001, when the Cone Wing was redone, and in 2003, when the European art galleries were renovated.

Another Baltimore-based firm, Marshall Craft Associates, has replaced eight of the museum's 10 roofs as part of a continuing renovation. Also, a new lighting system is being designed by the Renfro Design Group, a New York-based firm.

In announcing the $24 million capital project last year, the museum's board formed a selection committee that launched the search for a Maryland-based architecture firm to lead the planned renovations.

Members of the selection committee visited several projects completed by the finalists, according to Anne Mannix, a museum spokeswoman.

Among the sites visited was the Living Classroom Foundation's headquarters, designed by Ziger/Snead.

"They took the oldest industrial building on the Baltimore waterfront and designed a beautiful campus that's serving inner-city kids daily," said James Piper Bond, president and chief executive of Living Classrooms, which offers educational programs for students linked to the city's urban and maritime heritage.

"They utilized a very creative approach to marrying the waterfront with this historic building," Bond said.

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