Revised design plans for the future home of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University will enhance the building's navigability and connectivity—both to the Homewood campus of which it is a part, and to the nearby community in Baltimore's Remington neighborhood—while embodying the institute's commitment to inclusivity and openness to the broader world outside.
Modified plans for the building—designed by the world-renowned architecture firm Renzo Piano Building Workshop with architect of record Ayers Saint Gross, and scheduled to be presented to the Baltimore City Urban Design and Architecture Advisory Panel on Thursday—preserve the two floating glass cubes that were part of the initial design unveiled in September 2019, but with a twist. The area of the building that will be open to the community—which includes a café and spaces for public gatherings, art exhibitions, and more—has been rotated so that it now faces both the campus and the community.
The building's other cube will support the SNF Agora Institute's scholarly work, housing faculty offices, labs, classrooms, meeting and seminar rooms, and open work spaces. Both cubes have been reduced in height in the revised plan, from five floors above ground to four, to make the space easier to navigate and to increase proximity among the building's occupants.
"We're so excited to see this beautiful building taking shape!" said Hahrie Han, inaugural director of the SNF Agora Institute. "We've been working closely with the Renzo Piano Building Workshop team to ensure that the building will meet the various needs of all of the different groups who will be using it—students, faculty and staff, the local Baltimore community, and visiting scholars and speakers from around the globe.
"Recent events have underscored how very important our mission is, and the building provides a structure that embodies the principles of what we're trying to accomplish," she added. "We are looking forward to providing an open and welcoming space that fosters the kinds of conversations and convenings that are at the very heart of SNF Agora's mission—and that are fundamental to democracy itself."
Established in 2017 with a $150 million gift from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the SNF Agora Institute is an interdisciplinary academic and public forum committed to strengthening global democracy through powerful civic engagement and informed, inclusive dialogue. It takes its name from the ancient Athenian Agora, a central space that was a hub of conversation and debate and an early manifestation of the public engagement so critical to modern democracies.
The institute's home will be located on Wyman Park Drive, a site that provides visibility, proximity to students and faculty, and accessibility for the community for events and other public forums. Construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2021 and be completed by the summer of 2023. The building will be immersed in a forest-like landscape featuring native trees and other plant species, creating a natural wooded environment that connects to existing forested areas of Homewood campus along San Martin Drive. OLIN, an international landscape architecture firm, will oversee the landscape design.