On Saturday, October 25, as part of Baltimore Architecture Month, the city will host Doors Open Baltimore for the first time ever. During this one-day free event, more than 40 Baltimore buildings — including historic landmarks and hidden architectural gems — will open doors to the public and give residents and visitors a chance to tour buildings they pass by regularly but rarely, if ever, enter.
Doors Open events originated in France more than a decade ago and now take place worldwide, from Glasgow, Melbourne, and Toronto to Denver and Milwaukee. “Industrial Baltimore” is the theme for our city’s inaugural Doors Open celebration, made possible by the non-profit Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts, and by contributions from corporate and charitable donors. Participating sites include mills, breweries, factories, and markets all over the city, such as the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower, the Broom Factory, Clipper Mill, and Montgomery Park.
As a sponsor of the event, Marks, Thomas Architects is thrilled to see Doors Open in Baltimore. And we want to give credit to one of our architects, Chelsea Thomas, who attended several Doors Open events in Denver — and along with AIA Baltimore and Baltimore Architecture Foundation, played a key role in bringing it to Baltimore.
Chelsea now serves as lead organizer of Doors Open Baltimore, and we sat down recently to talk about her experience. Here, I share highlights.
Q: What was your experience with Doors Open before coming to Baltimore?
A: I lived and worked in the Denver metro area for six years, and during that time I attended several Doors Open Denver events. The event took me to really interesting places in Denver that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise visited. When I moved back to Baltimore, I realized that I didn’t know the city nearly as well as I thought I did. And I knew a Doors Open event could give not only me but many other people a better sense of what is here.
Q: What themes or organizing elements did you consider?
A: Our planning committee considered several ideas, including limiting the sites to one neighborhood, having a religious buildings theme, and keeping the sites within a specific distance of the free downtown shuttle bus, the Charm City Circulator. In the end, we chose Industrial Baltimore because of the city’s rich industrial history. We didn’t limit the sites based on location because we wanted any interested building owner to be able to participate.
Q: What do you hope people learn about Baltimore and our industrial legacy from Doors Open?
A: I think it’s fascinating to realize how many everyday products, such as King Syrup, used to be made right here in the city. It’s interesting to note how much attention to detail was put into the design of industrial buildings — the American Brewery building is a great example. I hope people develop a refreshed perspective of their surroundings.
Q: What do you think next year’s theme should be?
A: Something quirky, like famous movie or literary places. It would be harder but a lot of fun.
Doors Open Baltimore will take place rain or shine on October 25, 2014, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Check the website and map for participating sites and to plan your itinerary. Some sites may offer special events such as walking tours and talks. All events are free but may require advance registration.
As a prelude to the event, please join me on October 23 from 6 to 8 p.m. for a talk about our city’s industrial past at the Baltimore Design School (1500 Barclay St.), followed by a tour of the building. For more information and to register, go to doorsopenbaltimore.org.