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Historic Baltimore library
Historic Baltimore library

Urban Renewal

A historic Baltimore library gets a new lease on life

Spanning a block of Cathedral Street, the Enoch Pratt Free Library system’s Central Library has been a Baltimore landmark since its 1933 debut. A recent revitalization by the New York office of architecture firm Beyer Blinder Belle and Baltimore-based Ayers Saint Gross recaptured the worn building’s Art Deco splendor while “elevating it to state-of-the-art, 21st-century standards,” says project manager Jean Campbell of Beyer Blinder Belle. “Today, rows of bookshelves still exist but users also benefit from an active, collaborative and technologically charged program.”

The project overhauled the 300,000-square-foot structure over three years. The limestone-and-granite façade and steel windows were rejuvenated and interior spaces now gleam—from decorative plaster ceilings and terrazzo floors in the Central Hall (left) to restored or replicated lights. Overpainted motifs in ceiling exposure windows were recreated.

The project gave new purpose to many of the existing spaces. Steel-and-glass enclosures allow separation within rooms while maintaining the building’s fabric. The former Conversation & Writing Room is now the Laptop Lounge. Cramped offices and a narrow corridor have become a collaborative workspace. The renovation introduced the Teen Wing, Arts Center and Job and Career Center. A winner of multiple AIA awards of excellence and preservation, the Central Library is LEED Silver-certified.

Lead Architect: Beyer, Blinder, Belle, New York, New York. Managing Architect: Ayers Saint Gross, Baltimore, Maryland. Contractor: Gilbane Building Company, Baltimore, Maryland. Photo: Joseph Romeo.

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