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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine Visitor and Education Center in Baltimore, Maryland by GWWO Architects designed using SketchUp and AutoCAD

 
September 21st, 2011 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: GWWO Architects

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine is the birthplace of America’s national anthem and one of the nation’s most significant historic landmarks. The Fort, the National Anthem and the flag, together and individually, help us to understand how the United States was created, defended, and preserved. It was with this context and these rich national symbols in mind that the design team, led by GWWO Architects, conceived the expression for the new visitor center.

Image Courtesy GWWO Architects

  • Architects: GWWO Architects
  • Project: Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine Visitor and Education Center
  • Location: Baltimore, Maryland
  • Software used: AutoCAD 2009 for the Construction Documents and Google SketchUp for conceptual modeling

Image Courtesy Robert Creamer

The new 17,655-SF visitor center creates a moving experience for visitors, which is achieved through the exhibits and interpretation, as well as through the design of the building itself.

Image Courtesy GWWO Architects

Building Location & Visitor Approach.
The new visitor center is positioned at the east end of the site\’s pre-existing parking lot, which has been redesigned and enhanced. Removal of the former visitor center ”which was located within the Park’s cultural landscape” and siting of the new building outside of the original 1814 reservation boundary has helped restore the Park’s primary historic area. Visitor flow is enhanced, with visitors arriving from the Fort’s main entrance on East Fort Avenue and from the water taxi entrance on the site’s north side both enjoying an improved entry sequence with uninterrupted views to the historic star fort.

Image Courtesy Robert Creamer

Architecture & Landscape.
The primary inspiration for the new visitor center’s design came from our nation’s most significant symbol the Star-Spangled Banner. The two curved walls of the building reflect the dynamic nature of the flag and all it represents. The juxtaposition of the two walls clad in distinct materials invokes the meanings behind the flag’s stripes. Brick, strong and solid, expresses the hardiness and valor represented by the red stripes, while the thin and more delicate zinc facade expresses the purity and innocence represented by the white.

Image Courtesy Robert Creamer

The curved walls also acknowledge the Fort and its flag. From the west, the upward slope of the brick wall, as revealed by the receding zinc wall, directs the visitor’s eye toward the flag, creating a visual dialogue between the Fort and the visitor center. The contrasting volumes of the walls and the gentle change of their heights in opposite directions suggest a sense of motion. This movement is further enhanced by the landscape design, by Mahan Rykiel Associates of Baltimore. Site design incorporates berms, plantings, and vegetation that mimic the gentle curves in plan and vary in height seasonally, while the paving patterns and curved pathways extend the east and west walls into the site.  Inside the building, a light-filled lobby with central information desk greets visitors and serves as the organizing element from which public spaces, including the exhibits, multi-purpose education room and retail shop, are accessed. The second level houses park offices and support spaces, including a break room with exterior terrace that offers picturesque views to the Fort.

Image Courtesy GWWO Architects

Exhibits.
Exhibit and theater design for the new center, by Haley Sharpe Design of Toronto, takes an innovative immersive approach that integrates exhibit content and film experiences throughout. At once both contemplative and inspirational, the space combines large-scale graphics with more intimate exhibit elements focusing on specific details that visitors may enjoy at their own pace.

Image Courtesy Robert Creamer

The visitor experience culminates with a final act when the main exhibit space is enveloped in a choreographed audio-visual show, taking the visitor back in time alongside Francis Scott Key. Through careful coordination of theatrical lighting, sound scape and image and film projections, visitors are immersed in the Battle of Baltimore and the birth of The Star-Spangled Banner. In a dramatic ending, accompanied by the National Anthem, the view towards the Fort with the flag floating above, is revealed.

Image Courtesy Robert Creamer

Green Design.
The new building is registered with the Green Building Certification Institute and is expected to achieve LEED Silver Certification. LEED Certification is an internationally-recognized distinction that a building is environmentally-responsible and a healthy place to live and work. The building utilizes an energy efficient geothermal heating and cooling system, as well as numerous other measures that contribute to energy and water conservation. Materials with high recycled content were also specified, and all of the building\’s brick facade was constructed of surplus brick that had been manufactured in the 1990s to replicate and repair the historic Fort masonry.

Image Courtesy Robert Creamer

Image Courtesy Robert Creamer

Image Courtesy Robert Creamer

Image Courtesy Robert Creamer

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Categories: Autocad, Educational Center, Historic Site, National Monument, SketchUp

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