Ceramic Tile Sets off BWI Garage
By Lynda Portelli
The work of nine well-known artists is featured in ceramic tile murals that clearly and stylishly mark each floor of the daily parking garage at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. This project received an award of excellence from the International Parking Institute for best design of a parking structure with more than 800 spaces.
Given the size and scale of the garage, the art tiles provide compelling way-finding elements to assist travelers in navigating and noting their locations, while adding enhanced caliber and color to the garage interior. Showcasing the talents of painters, photographers, illustrators, sculptors, ceramicists and graphic designers, each artist’s tile design imparts a unique character and palette to the floor it enhances.
The project was part of BWI’s Architectural Enhancement Program. Selected for this site-specific enhancement, it was decided that the parking garage would provide maximum exposure to travelers and provide a positive impact. The goal of the AEP was to have the architects incorporate artwork or enhancements into the building itself. Thousands of local artists registered with the project, but only nine were selected, one for each level of the parking structure.
Each artist was challenged to create a mural design for ceramic tile using only four different 12” x 12” tiles. The murals combine vivid color and bold graphics inspired by the regional resources of Maryland. The decorative ceramic tiles add eye-catching design and unique character to each floor at BWI.
“Imagine Tile is proud to be part of the BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport Daily Parking Garage project,” said company President Christian McAuley. “With more than 25,000 square feet of custom tile murals, this is the largest single project in Imagine Tile’s history. Our patent process enabled us to offer the perfect surfacing solution.”
The project was developed as part of BWI’s Architectural Enhancement Program, within the airport expansion construction. The AEP Committee comprises architects, engineers and design professionals who reviewed several locations to determine areas for site-specific enhancement that would provide the maximum, positive impact for travelers.
The AEP’s goal was “for any artwork or enhancement to be integral to the architecture of the respective buildings in the BWI expansion project,” said Susan Perrin of Susan Perrin Art Consulting, Coordinator of the AEP Committee. “Nothing was to be applied to ‘decorate’ the spaces after the fact – nothing that was simply an aspect of the way-finding program, nothing that served, only, to advertise the new facilities.
“That special notion – that the artwork was to be part of the building itself – implied that whatever architectural enhancements were imagined should be part and parcel of the structure from the architect’s inception,” Perrin said.
In the case of the garage, there were relatively few ways that this could happen without creating parts of the building that would have been, themselves, some sort of enhancement. To create something new and additional to the functional parts of the garage was not appropriate to the goals of the project.
However, there was a series of walls on each of the nine floors of the garage. They separated the vertical circulation spaces (lobbies and stairs, elevators) in each of the eight towers from the parking spaces themselves.
“The architects had already designated the surface material on these walls to be an impervious, glazed, weather-proof ceramic tile,” Perrin said. “The committee decided that these walls were appropriate surfaces on which to achieve their concept of integrating architectural enhancements in this building.”
The plan was to substitute a ceramic tile on these surfaces that could meet the functional requirements of the original material and also serve as a “canvas” for nine artists to create individual murals for each of the floors.
“Imagine Tile was the perfect vendor of an appropriate material,” Perrin said. “At the time, it was the only source we knew that could offer the refined printing process that could reproduce an artist’s painting, for example.”
The company submitted examples of its best work for the AEP committee’s review. “An infinite range of colors and the fine detail in printing was essential,” Perrin said. “The fact that Imagine Tile could achieve that and then maintain it through multiple firings in their kilns was remarkable – and the only way it could have been realized.”
Lynda Portelli, Marketing and Public Relations Manager at Imagine Tile, can be reached at email@example.com.
Article Abstract from July, 2008