Fort McHenry Visitor & Education Center

Baltimore, MD

Details
Immersive exhibit and theater experience
Gift shop, multipurpose room, offices
Utilized surplus handmade clay bricks manufactured for restoration of the historic Fort
LEED Gold Certified
Owner
Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine
Services
Programming, Site Analysis, Community Involvement, Cost Estimating, Sustainable Design, Interior Design, Full Design Services, Construction Administration

Inspiration for this design comes 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, while the juxtaposition of the 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 façade expresses the purity and innocence represented by the white. 

The upward slope of the brick wall, as revealed by the receding zinc wall, directs the visitor’s eye toward the fort, creating a visual dialogue between the fort and visitor center. Inside, a light-filled lobby serves as the central organizing element, directing visitors to the immersive exhibit/theater area, where the experience culminates with a breathtaking framed view of the fort with flag flying overhead.

The immersive exhibit area with integrated theater is oriented towards the fort, allowing a dramatic film conclusion as the screen retracts and a panoramic view to the fort, with flag flying above, is revealed.

What Critics Say

The “new Fort McHenry visitor center is something to sing about.  …this is one addition to Baltimore’s tourist line up that promises to be worth the wait.” 

—Ed Gunts, Architecture Critic

In the 1990s, thirteen different sizes of clay bricks were handmade to replicate various portions of the fort’s masonry during a significant restoration effort. A surplus was also manufactured to ensure stock for future repairs, but it had become apparent that the large quantity available would likely never be used. In another gesture of respect for the historic fort, these bricks were used and their varying sizes melded together by expert masons to create a compelling pattern.