REGINALD F. LEWIS MUSEUM OF MARYLAND AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY AND CULTURE
A bold new museum in Baltimore's inner harbor celebrates the significant accomplishments and struggles of African Americans throughout Maryland's history.
Spirituality, joy and vibrancy, resilience, the power of knowledge, the importance of family, cultural continuity - these are the principles that are communicated through the architecture and exhibits of this new museum. The 72,000 sf facility, an addition to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and museum district, houses extensive exhibit areas, interactive learning centers, offices, a 200-seat auditorium, an information resources center, a shop and café.
The bold exterior of the five-story structure is composed of black granite, aluminum, glass, and brick. A red wall slices through the façade at the entryway and creates a path into the central atrium and monumental stairway that connects levels one through three. The contrast of the red wall and the black exterior symbolizes the dichotomies of celebration and disappointment, flight and perseverance, joy and pain, and creativity and suppression that are revealed in the museum’s exhibits. An oversized black and white mural depicting famous African-Americans from Maryland engages vehicular and pedestrian traffic and helps distinguish the facility in the larger urban context.
The small, narrow site was formerly a parking lot which covered a series of utility devices extending east to nearby housing developments. Given these characteristics, a typical, horizontally oriented museum structure was not feasible. Instead, the scheme embraces its urban setting by emphasizing vertical space and celebrating the ascension from floor to floor. Passage along and through the red wall becomes a powerful part of the visitor experience and a precursor to the main exhibits housed on the upper floors. While the café and the museum store are located on the first floor, the main lobby is on the second floor with exhibits and related space on the upper floors.
The five story atrium brings natural light into the center of the building and provides a visual link to all of the floors. The level of daylight increases as visitors ascend the staircase and delve deeper into the museum’s content. Throughout the interior, the use of natural materials and complimentary colors support the content and message of the exhibits. The openness of the design, combined with the incorporation of natural light, colors and textures, creates an aesthetically pleasing environment conducive to thoughtful reflection.
(Through previous association with The Freelon Group. Victor Vines PIC, Bob Thomas, Project Designer)