Mattin Center Replacement Unveiled

John Hill
6. November 2020
Visualization: BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group

BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group has won a competition for the Student Center at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, which will replace the nearly 20-year-old Mattin Center designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects.

Nicknamed "The Village," the roughly 150,000-sf student center designed by BIG is being positioned on the site of the Mattin Center, which housed spaces primarily for performance and visual arts, because of the flow of students on and off campus from the adjacent Charles Street corridor. The new building is meant to better connect the campus and the neighboring community. 

Aerial of the Mattin Center via Google Maps

The demolition of yet another building designed by Williams and Tsien (many people remember the Folk Art Museum) was announced by Johns Hopkins president Ronald J. Daniels in March 2019.

A year and a half later, Daniels is clearly pleased with BIG's competition-winning design, saying in a statement: "This will be a new kind of space for us — one that is not academically focused, but entirely social by design, Open to all, reserved for none, and boasting the kind of flexible spaces that invite connection and collaboration, this will be a place where athletes and actors, step teams and SGA members can gather side by side."

Visualization: BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group

BIG describes their proposal as "a central living room" that "negotiates the sloping grade of the site" to have entrances on all four sides of the building. (The Mattin Center bermed into the site and had accessible roofs.) A "sun-splashed" plaza will front the new building and greet students and visitors arriving via Charles Street.

The topographical negotiation translates into a "cascading interior landscape" inside the new student center, with "spaces for relaxation and socialization, creative and performing arts spaces, student resources and support services, lounges, a digital media center, a performance space with seating for 200 people, and a dynamic dining hall."

Visualization: BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group

With the sizable project being unveiled in the midst of a pandemic that is pushing classroom and other functions outside, the design seems less suited to the situation than the old Mattin Center, which split apart into three buildings to create a central courtyard, what Williams and Tsien called "a place of passage, gathering, study, and meeting." Of course come 2024, when The Village is built and the coronavirus is (hopefully) a distant memory, the cascading social spaces inside BIG's design may just be what students at Johns Hopkins University need.

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