The road to the University of Baltimore’s Library 2.0 began in late 2013, when UB announced an open design competition to create the new facility. With a grant from the Abell Foundation as incentive, the University offered this vision statement for the building, keeping in mind its then-new John and Frances Angelos Law Center and the UB Student Center as inspiration:
“[T]he University of Baltimore seeks to create another facility that reflects the excellent quality of its teaching, research and learning and the magnitude of the institution’s aspirations. We envision a building that will send a bold message to students, faculty and staff—and to the public—about UB’s understanding of and commitment to education in the 21st century. We envision a building that will take full advantage of the highly prominent site at the southwest corner of Maryland Avenue and Oliver Street—visible to thousands of people who travel through midtown Baltimore daily—to make a statement not only about UB’s commitment to student success and innovation in scholarship, research and creativity but about the University’s ongoing partnership with its community, the city and the region.”
Eleven design and architecture firms enrolled in the competition; six were selected as finalists. With their submissions in hand, including detailed descriptions, renderings, and collateral materials, the firms gathered during a public session on Jan. 15, 2014, each taking a turn to present their ideas to a team of UB representatives, plus two architects from the University of Maryland School of Architecture and the University of Maryland, Baltimore, respectively.
After many hours of deliberation, a winning design by Behnisch Architekten of Boston—the same firm that designed the Angelos Law Center—was selected. Highlights of Behnisch’s initial plans included a commitment to a renovation rather than a complete rebuild, plus the use of recycled materials and the installation of large glass panels to bring in more natural light.
While those early plans have evolved, much of the firm’s original concept, e.g., an extension of the main structure off the west side of the building, remain intact. The building, now under construction, also reflects the University’s commitment to energy efficiency and sustainability.
“From our vantage point, the design competition inspired a lot of helpful conversations and great ideas about what we could do to improve the space,” says Neb Sertsu, vice president for facilities management and capital planning for UB. “We are making a statement in midtown about modern design and building techniques, and we are going about it in a collaborative manner. Looking back on it, the competition forced the designers to submit much more creative designs for us to consider.”
The dream of a facility that will serve as “an intellectual hub and a community resource,” as it was envisioned two years ago, has become a project that is funded and well under way. UB is creating an urban campus that is bold, bright, and energized, and remaking a campus that is nearing its 100th anniversary in 2025.
What starts as a competition evolves into a win … for all.