John and Frances Angelos Law Center | Behnisch Architekten + ASG

John and Frances Angelos Law Center

The new home of the John and Frances Angelos Law Center unites classrooms, faculty offices, administrative space, and the law library under a single roof for the first time in the history of the school. The building, located at the prominent intersection of Mount Royal Avenue and Charles Street, functionally & symbolically defines the Law School as an academic & social nexus, offering state-of-the-art teaching and learning facilities while fostering an interactive, communicative environment for collaboration between students, faculty, and administrators. With the proximity of the site to Baltimore’s principal train station, Penn Station; at the terminus of one of Baltimore’s great urban thoroughfares; and immediately adjacent to the Jones Falls Expressway, this building also creates an important and highly visible threshold to the campus and the City, and demonstrates the commitment of the University of Baltimore to the on-going renewal and development of the city.

The building form consists of three interlocking L-shaped volumes which articulate the functions of the building program – classrooms and offices, the legal clinic, and the law library – and define a narrow atrium, a “green stalk” rising up through the heart of the building and connecting the three volumes. In addition to its function as the connective tissue between program spaces, the atrium also captures the lobby, two coffee bars (forum level and Level 6) and informal work and meeting spaces. An Appellate Moot Court for practice court hearings, lectures and events is located one floor down from the main lobby and a garden level “forum” space for informal public events gives onto an exterior sunken garden on the north side of the building.

This garden, shielded from the noise of the expressway to the north by a concrete retaining wall and water feature, creates a new urban link between Oliver Street to the west and the new moot court green roof to the east. Setbacks in the building massing created by the volumetric composition create occupiable planted roof terraces at varying levels on all four sides of the building that take advantage of the building’s height relative to the surrounding neighborhood to provide views out over the city of Baltimore.

The atrium is critical to both the technical performance of the building as well as to furthering the social and pedagogical goals of the Law School. It works with generous exterior and interior wall glazing in conjunction with shallow floor plates to maximize daylight autonomy and visual access to daylight for interior work spaces, while simultaneously providing a transparent and communicative interior, visually linking public space, teaching space, and administrative space in an open and inspiring environment. Glazed office partitions transmit daylight entering the exterior wall through the office and into interior corridors and shared space, reducing the artificial lighting demand. Glazed classroom partitions create visual continuity between teaching spaces and public areas and animate the atrium with the scholastic life of the school. Due to varied requirements for floor-to-floor heights of the various program elements, and in order to provide appropriate ceiling heights in each of the space types, the floor slabs in each of the volumes are staggered vertically over the height of the building.

Floors with offices have appropriate heights for offices, and floors with classrooms have appropriate heights for classrooms, creating a dynamic building section in which views from one side of the atrium to the other interconnect over multiple floors. The two sides of the atrium are connected with a series of stairs and ramps that allow people to walk leisurely between floors of the building, interact informally with their colleagues and fellow students, and view the various activities of the law school that line the space.

The building exterior is clad with three distinct façade types – the office/classroom façade, the library façade, and the atrium façade. The office/classroom façade is a glazed aluminum unitized wall, with alternating punched window openings and solid aluminum plate units. Punched windows include sections of operable window, ensuring that all office and classroom spaces have access to natural ventilation, and all glazed openings are fully shaded on the exterior using automated venetian blinds that can be positioned to fully block solar penetration to the building interior, but remain open in the top one-third of the window height in order to admit natural light simultaneously. Protecting these exterior blinds is a frameless glass screen wall, supported by outrigger brackets from the façade. This glass rain screen protects the shading from high winds in the upper stories and serves to unify the reading of the primary volumes that constitute the building parti.

The second façade type is the library façade, also a glazed aluminum unitized curtainwall, however in this case all of the units are glass that is treated with varying types of ceramic frit that altogether cover approximately seventy percent of the wall, protecting the interior from solar gain. One-half of the panels are fully fritted, and the other half are coated with a custom gradient frit that alternates a half-floor height every other panel, creating a three dimensional ‘woven’ effect. Alternating panels have operable awning-style vents to introduce natural ventilation into the library spaces. The third façade type, the atrium façade, is an all-glass multi-story curtainwall supported on a steel frame that spans between the building volumes. Operable flaps at each floor level introduce automated natural ventilation into the atrium and serve as make-up air inlets for the smoke exhaust system.

Project Info
Architects: Behnisch Architekten, Ayers Saint Gross
Location: Maryland, United States
Client: University of Baltimore
Area: 17873.0 sqm
Manufacturers: Zumtobel, KONE
Year: 2013
Type: Office building
Photographs: Brad Feinknopf
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