trade for re-entrants
The intent of the project was to re-imagine the Middle East neighborhood in Baltimore, MD by erecting an inmate rehabilitation center that would serve minor offense ex-convicts and act as a public library, trade shop, and a community space for public groups to hold meetings and gather. The issue plaguing the Middle East region in Baltimore operates at the institutional level where the nearby research giant, Johns Hopkins University, purchases land for future development, evicts residents from their homes and fails to re-settle them in other housing, and then neglects the recently purchased land, leaving empty homes and seemingly unwanted spaces for blocks on end.
The first floor is intentionally connected and has high visibility from the sidewalk in order to invite individuals into the retail, trade shops, and public spaces within. The second floor serves as private housing units for the re-entrants that learn both hard and soft skills through the rehabilitation center. Furthermore, there are many opportunities for re-entrants to co-operate and work side-by-side on honing trade skills that will increase their employment opportunities.
Using a steady rhythm and an easy to understand set of materials, the rehabilitation center relates back to the row house urban fabric that is highly prominent along the street. By limiting the facade material palette to brick and wood, the center draws from the local deconstruction processes and supports re-usable and sustainable practices. Sunset brick that was common in Baltimore in 20th century architecture is employed as a major element to the facade and highlights the local culture that once thrived in the city.
Careful attention was given to the strip of skylights that run along the eastern roofline, such that the double-height spaces are all visually connected to create relationships between all of the shop spaces as well as the learning computer laboratory that sits in the double-height space in the library. This relates all the visitors and all the tenants to one another, helping spark and creating opportunities for individuals to ask questions and learn about what else goes on in the building.