Baltimore, Md. (April 12, 2021) – With over 1,000 votes cast in the championship round, the winner of Baltimore Architecture Madness is the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM). The tournament included 64 buildings built between the 1870s and today, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Baltimore Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, founded in 1871. After six rounds of public voting, AVAM defeated the Enoch Pratt Central Library with 57% of the vote, making it Baltimore’s most beloved building of the past 150 years.
Completed in 1995, AVAM is a brilliant example of sculptural expression. Architect Rebecca Swanston, FAIA and designer Alex Castro incorporated the curving Trolley Works building and enlarged it with an addition that echoes its curves and creates a strong sense of motion. Its playful, eye-catching facade, created by youth in the Maryland Juvenile Justice system as a way to provide them with tangible skills and personal development, was an echoing sentiment from Rebecca Alban Hoffberger, Founder/Director and Primary Curator of AVAM that “social justice is life’s highest performance art”. The shimmering and whimsy exterior mirrors the artworks found inside by self-taught individuals that make AVAM one of the city’s most beloved institutions. Architect Diane Cho, AIA of Cho Benn Holback + Associates (today Quinn Evans) led the 2004 expansion of the museum transforming an old whiskey barrel warehouse into AVAM’s Jim Rouse Visionary Center. Both projects are stellar examples of adaptive use – the creative repurposing of historic buildings.
Asked how she felt about winning the competition, Rebecca Alban Hoffberger, Founder/Director and Primary Curator of AVAM, said, “From the very start, I wanted a welcoming ‘wonderland’ of a campus—not an urban forbidding fortress for art. When we then won the prestigious, National Award for Excellence from The Urban Land Institute, I was thrilled. But to now win from the hometown hearts of voters in this Baltimore Architecture Foundation competition—out from 64, no less—of my own most admired architectural local treasures, is an unbelievable high and mega-honor. It is also one shared with our outdoor sculptural artists: Andrew Logan, Adam Kurtzman, Dick Brown, The Hagans, and whirligig artist/farmer Vollis Simpson, whose creations punctuate the fun and beauty of our campus! Proudest thank you to the Baltimore Architecture Foundation for including our American Visionary Art Museum in this remarkable competition in the first place, and to all our fabulous architects, engineers, beloved builders J. Vinton Schafer & Sons, and especially to everyone who took time to express and vote their enthused delight in AVAM! All our staff, board and volunteers are doing a wild and grateful happy dance because of you.”
Architect Diane Cho said, “What a joy it was to work with Rebecca Hoffberger and local artists like David Hess and at the same time to dismantle a historic whiskey barrel warehouse and re-assemble it into a vibrant showcase for the visionary spirit of Jim Rouse.”
“The American Visionary Art Museum embodies the impact of placemaking at the intersection of our art, culture, and history that connects us uniquely to our beloved Baltimore,” said Joe Cellucci, AIA, President of Baltimore Architecture Foundation and Principal at Quinn Evans.
When asked to describe why they voted the way they did, voters emphasized how AVAM’s architecture embodies the museum’s spirit. As one voter put it, “It feels alive. It feels like a building that embraces all people and inspires creativity and a sense of wonder.” Another voter expressed in the survey, “AVAM’s building is iconic. It’s wild and imaginative and shows the best of Baltimore. The building serves as a unique and distinctive landmark in the city. My heart leaps a little when it comes into view.”
Baltimore Architecture Foundation (BAF) plans to incorporate Architecture Madness buildings in upcoming Virtual Histories and as part of Doors Open Baltimore 2021. Visit the BAF website to see the full bracket and voting results.
BAF sought to include a diverse selection of buildings built over the course of AIA Baltimore’s history. AIA Baltimore and BAF committee leaders led the effort to nominate buildings using sources such as the AIA Baltimore Design Awards, The Architecture of Baltimore: An Illustrated History, A Guide to Baltimore Architecture, and National Register listings. Buildings had to have been built within AIA Baltimore’s 150-year history, and buildings had to be extant and located within the Baltimore metropolitan area. Private single family homes were not included. Public voting then determined which buildings were entered into the tournament.
About the Baltimore Architecture Foundation
The Baltimore Architecture Foundation (BAF) celebrates design and the built environment. Launched in 1987, BAF encourages people to explore Baltimore architecture: to be mindful of the area’s history, and recognize Baltimore’s architectural heritage, and appreciate its design innovations.
Through its tours, lectures, educational programs for adults and kids, exhibitions, research, and publications, the BAF demonstrates how ideas are manifested in the built environment and urban design of the city.
Photography Courtesy of Dan Meyers