Baltimore Design School

Educational, Historic, Award Winning, Historic, Sustainable

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Baltimore Design School is a Baltimore City Public combined middle and high school with a focus on Fashion Design, Architectural Design, and Graphic Design. The new $18,975,000, 115,000-square foot school is created from an abandoned historic factory building. Built in 1914, the building was first designed to serve as a machine shop for a bottle cap company and was then a coat factory for decades. The building was shuttered in 1985, and remained abandoned and a major blighting influence on the city’s burgeoning Arts District.

The building’s transformation from blight to a state-of-the-art facility within the confines of a minimal budget demonstrates the power of design through exposed systems and best practices for historic renovation, adaptive reuse, educational design, and sustainable design.

The design exposes and contrasts the building’s historic fabric with modern interventions that stimulates student’s curiosity of the building’s history and their role in creating the school and its future. The new exterior additions are modern and restrained in expression, clearly demarcating the difference between new and old. The interior aesthetic is that of an open industrial loft where existing walls and structure that remain are cleaned and sealed and left exposed to view.

The open-ended and creatively-adapted environment supports and frames the unique, design-thinking focused curriculum of the school. The design encourages students to interact with, question, and change their environment, skills they will carry with them as future designers and thoughtful and engaged citizens. Throughout the building are areas that encourage interaction and the exchange of ideas. The building is intended to act as a canvas that promotes a dialogue inside and outside of the classroom.

The school is the first purpose-built public school in Baltimore City in decades and aims to be a national model for design education.


Design Team: Steve Ziger; Hugh McCormick; Katherine LePage; Matthew Rouse; Sukanya Walsh; Jonas Risén; Miharu Morimoto

Team: Henry Adams, LLC - Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing & Fire Protection; Gower Thompson, Inc. - Civil; Columbia Engineering, Inc. - Structural; Lazarus Design Associates, LLC - Landscape; Acoustical Design Collaborative Ltd. - Acoustical; Hughes Associates, Inc. - Life Safety; Nyikos Associates - Food Service; Ashton Design - Graphics

Owner: Baltimore Design School

Location: Baltimore, MD

Construction Cost: $18,975,000

Area: 115,000 sf

Completion: 2013

Program: galleries, offices, gymnasium, media center, cafeteria/multipurpose room, outdoor stage, fashion lab, fabrication lab, architecture lab, classrooms, breakout/study areas, lounges, metal/wood shop, studios, critique spaces

Photography: Karl Connolly


  • 2015 Driehaus Preservation Award — National Trust for Historic Preservation »
  • 2015 Preservation Award — Maryland Historical Trust
  • 2014 Wintergreen Project Award for Historic Major Renovation — US Green Building Council, Maryland
  • 2014 Good Design = Good Business Award — AIA Baltimore
  • 2014 Michael F. Trostel FAIA Award for Excellence in a Historic Preservation — AIA Baltimore
  • 2014 Grand Design Award — AIA Baltimore
  • 2014 Excellence in Design Award in K-12 Schools — AIA Baltimore
  • 2014 Honor Award — AIA Maryland
  • 2014 MEDA Economic Redevelopment Project — Maryland Economic Development Association
  • 2014 Education Design Excellence — National AIA/Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE)
  • 2014 Inform Award, Interiors — Inform
  • 2014 Regional School Planning & Architecture Award — Council of Educational Facility Planners International
  • 2014 Architizer A+ Awards Finalist — Architizer »
  • 2014 Historic Preservation Award — Baltimore Heritage
  • 2014 Project of the Year — Associated Builders & Contractors, Baltimore
  • 2014 Award of Excellence — Associated Builders & Contractors, Baltimore
  • 2013 Wavemaker Award — Urban Land Institute »
  • 2013 President's Award — Preservation Maryland