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Bluestone in Baltimore

Updated:2008-08-05 10:40:27

When designing the 8,000-square-foot Baltimore Visitor Center, Design Collective Inc. of Baltimore was looking for a material that was indigenous to the area and would have a strong connection to Baltimore. Instead of going with the obvious choice of red brick, the decision was made to utilize a historically significant material that they could use in an inventive way: bluestone.

Unlike other typical building stones, however, there wasn't a great deal of precedence for using bluestone as building cladding. Often, bluestone is used as an exterior paver for surrounding pools or placed on terraces. In most cases, the installation uses the common random sizes of natural shapes with a wide range of color. In this case, the architects needed large, rectangular panels with a subtle color range.

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Another challenge arose during the joint work. The original intent was to use a colored mortar in the joints to match the understated tone of the stone. Using several mock-up panels, the architects observed that the bluestone had such a porous quality that it wicked the colored mortar into the perimeter of the panel.

Chris Harvey, a partner at Design Collective, worked for several months with contractors and vendors to get mounting, sealing and grouting processes worked out. "We set panels out for weather checks and monitored the 詀ging' process," Harvey explains. "Our solution was to use a colored sealant that would additionally allow for movement with the stone. The final installation also contained a water sealant."

In the end, despite the challenges, bluestone proved to be an excellent choice for the Baltimore Visitor Center. With the site located on the West Shore of Baltimore's famous Inner Harbor, the stone's very subtle reflective quality enhances the building's appearance by creating a dramatic effect where the stone plays off its waterfront setting. The color range also works well with the main structure's palette of peppered granite, black slate, brushed aluminum, steel and glass.

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Source:http://www.buildingstonemagazine.com

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