The National
Great Blacks in Wax Museum
Baltimore, MD

135,000 SF • 12,550 SQ M

In the 23 years since its founding, The National Great Blacks in Wax (NGBIW) Museum has experienced significant growth, becoming one of the State’s great tourist attractions with over two million visitors annually. The museum’s vision utilizes “education, history, and example to help culturally disadvantaged youth overcome feelings of alienation, defeatism, and despair.” The museum has had a profound positive impact on its neighborhood and among its individual patrons.

Connection to the community has always been an important focus of the NGBIW Museum. The decision to relocate the museum from its current home to a “fragile” East Baltimore neighborhood was a conscious one stemming from a desire to nurture a strong relationship between the institution and its community.

Floating above the existing row homes of East North Avenue, the new NGBIW Museum’s transparent first floor follows the contours of the site. The structure overhangs the sidewalk of East North Avenue to enhance the sense of entry and public spaces are oriented towards this thoroughfare to reinforce and add vitality to an important urban edge. The cultural program is organized around a central garden stepping with the topography of the site. Gallery spaces are situated within the context of a landscape park.

The NGBIW Museum will connect with the larger community by encouraging pedestrian access through all four sides of the site. The rear yard befriends the neighboring residential row homes by holding the parking close to the museum. This is further buffered by a landscape park creating a backyard for the community. An elevated roof terrace reinforces the notion of public space and connects with the views and vistas of greater Baltimore while bus drop off is sited towards the north to allow for ample green space to the south.