Housing Takes Root in Former Grain Elevator
Silo Point has been the tallest structure on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor industrial waterfront since 1923—and, thanks to zoning ordinances, will likely remain that way for many years to come—but it is gaining a new use. Parameter, a local architect, is transforming this 290-foot-tall grain elevator into more than 200 condominiums.
The 430,000-square-foot complex consists of the reinforced-concrete elevator tower and an adjacent 130-foot-tall building that is ringed by metal grain silos. Turner Development Group, a Baltimore-based firm that purchased the site from Archer Daniels Midland in 2003, initially envisioned converting it into residences and a hotel. But the elevator’s 16-foot-by-16-foot structural grid posed a challenge in accommodating both program elements, says Parameter’s principal Chris Pfaeffle, so Turner decided to focus on housing. Pfaeffle, for his part, used the grid as his design inspiration. Rather than erase Silo Point’s history, or recreate it with faux finishes and fixtures, he emulated the process behind its original construction.
“We learned how things are simply and honestly put together in an industrial environment and that carried through into the units, which are spacious and simple,” Pfaeffle explains. “That was more inspiring to me than saying: ‘Well, the existing building had exposed ductwork so we’ll have it, too.’ We tried to go a little deeper to understand how things fit together in an industrial way and then an architectural way.”
At the heart of the revamped complex, in the low-rise building, is a 600-space parking garage. Above it are a series of what Pfaeffle dubs “townhouses in the sky”: two-level units with roof gardens around them. More condos ring the garage, which is concealed from the street, and they comprise the bulk of the grain elevator building. Although most of the surrounding silos have been demolished, Pfaeffle retained 11 of them to serve as reminders of the site’s history.