Page D1.1 . 11 January 2006                     
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    Baltimore Beryl

    by William Lebovich

    The 179-year-old Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is one of the cultural gems of Baltimore, a city that seldom receives the recognition it deserves for its rhythmic 19th-century classical architecture, occasionally edgy 20th-century modernism, and outstanding cultural and educational institutions.

    To bring architectural focus and identity to a spread-out, stylistically diverse campus, MICA commissioned architect Charles Brickbauer, FAAR, AIA to design the Brown Center, a building to house the school's innovative graphic arts and other departments. MICA president Fred Lazarus also hoped the new structure would enhance the school's visibility.

    And visible it is. The Brown Center stands in striking contrast to the nearby 19th-century Italianate renaissance-revival Main Building and the Gothic Corpus Christi Church and to more pedestrian 20th-century buildings. Indeed, the immediate surroundings of the Brown Center site had been characterized by undistinguished architecture and industrial eyesores.

    Angling for Position

    The new building rises figuratively and literally above these surroundings in a highly reflective, multifaceted, multiangled building that thrusts out over Baltimore's Mount Royal Avenue. The facade is treated with frit patterns between the inner and outer panels of glass, giving it a distinctive translucency.

    In less skilled hands, such a design would simply be in conflict with itself and its neighbors. But in his design approach with emphasis on process rather than preconceived finished design, Brickbauer has created a complex building whose facades respond effectively and imaginatively to the angles of the streets.   >>>

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    ArchWeek Image

    The Brown Center, Maryland Institute College of Art, by Charles Brickbauer and Ziger/Snead Architects. Sculpture in the foreground is on an island in Baltimore's Mt. Royal Avenue.
    Photo: William Lebovich

    ArchWeek Image

    From inside the glazed Brown Center lobby one sees the nearby Gothic church.
    Photo: William Lebovich

     

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