Baltimore city students will get schools with a more open feel Photo courtesy of Baltimore Business Journal.

Baltimore city students will get schools with a more open feel.

Baltimore undertakes $1 billion school construction overhaul

The city of Baltimore is embarking on a $1 billion school construction campaign that city architects hope will transform the school system’s current prison-like feel. The city’s Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel members strongly criticized the city’s previous approaches to school construction and are seeking a new direction, the Baltimore Business Journal reported.

The criticism of the old design style comes just as the city is beginning to review the first two sets of plans the Maryland Stadium Authority submitted for Planning Department approval. The Stadium Authority is managing the construction plans in a partnership with the city school system.

At issue, were two schools, Fort Worthington Elementary and Middle School near Broadway East and Frederick Elementary School, on the west side of the city—an area made popular by the HBO series “The Wire.”

"One of the things about the school buildings of the 1970s was that they were very fortress-like," panelist Richard Burns said during the review. When "you begin to break that down and talk about your vision for the school being modern, open, a bright stimulating environment, I'd like to see that translated to the exterior."

Fort Worthington is slated to be demolished and rebuilt. The project will be led by Baltimore-based Grimm + Parker Architects. USA Architects of Somerville, N.J. will lead the renovation and addition project of the Frederick Elementary school.

In the past Baltimore schools were "always introverted as opposed to being extroverted and transparent ... and they almost always ignored their context," Burns told the Journal. "You have a tremendous opportunity to design a building that engages the community, that makes not only physical connectivity but that is extroverted and transparent because it's a new building."

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