Edward Gunts in the Baltimore Sun:
With 82,000 square feet of space on five levels, the Lewis museum is the second-largest African-American heritage museum in the United States, after Detroit’s. At its heart are permanent and temporary exhibits that tell stories about African-Americans in Maryland – the obstacles they’ve overcome and the contributions they’ve made. There are also gathering spaces for conferences and receptions, an auditorium, cafe, interactive learning center, oral history recording center, staff offices, classrooms and a store.
The land finally chosen for the museum is a corner parcel within easy walking distance of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the state’s most-visited tourist district. The architects’ challenge was to create a building that fits into the urban context but stands out enough to convey how unusual it is.
They responded with a boldly modern building that makes the most of its tight but prominent site. Then they imbued the building with layers of meaning that help tell what’s inside. The design doesn’t make literal references to African architecture. Its strength lies in the use of architectural symbolism – through colors, forms and materials – to create a building that avoids cliches but is undeniably African-American in spirit.