Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport Daily Garage, Baltimore, MD
Owner: Maryland Aviation Administration
Architect/Engineer: Parsons Brinkerhoff
Tile Manufacturer: Imagine Tile, Inc., Clifton, NJ
Program Manager: Johnson Mirmiran & Thompson/Wilbur Smith & Associates (A Joint Venture)
Program Manager: The Sheward Partnership
Design Consultant: Susan Perrin Art Consulting


“Nine artists were selected who seemed to have a natural inclination in their work to respond to the idea of creating patterns from simple elements,” stated Susan Perrin of Susan Perrin Art Consulting, Coordinator of the AEP Committee. On level four, Laura Yang designed “Flyway,” which was inspired by the flight patterns of migratory birds.

Travelers parking in the daily garage at Baltimore/Washington International (BWI) Thurgood Airport in Baltimore, MD, will be pleasantly surprised by the colorful imagery that adorns the walls on each of the structure’s nine levels. Local artists were chosen to create original work that was then reproduced on ceramic tile by the state-of-the-art printing process developed by Imagine Tile, Inc. of Clifton, NJ. The project was a part of BWI’s Architectural Enhancement Program (AEP).

The AEP Committee - comprised of architects, engineers and design professionals - was formed to determine the best location within the airport for site-specific enhancement that would provide the maximum positive impact for travelers. “The goal of the AEP was for any artwork or enhancement to be integral to the architecture of the respective buildings in the BWI Expansion Projects,” stated 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.”

As a result, a series of walls on each level of the parking garage, which separated the vertical circulation spaces, such as lobbies, stairs and elevators, in each of the eight towers from the parking spaces themselves, was chosen as the appropriate location for the enhancement project. “The architects had already designated the surface material on these walls to be an impervious, glazed, weather-proof ceramic tile,” stated Perrin. “The committee decided that these walls were appropriate surfaces on which to achieve their concept of integrating architectural enhancements in this building.”

Perrin continued to explain that the plan was to substitute a ceramic tile on these surfaces that could meet the functional requirements of the original material, but that could also serve as a “canvas” for nine artists to create individual murals for each of the floors.

The project was a part of BWI’s Architectural Enhancement Program (AEP). The AEP Committee - comprised of architects, engineers and design professionals - was formed to determine the best location within the airport for site-specific enhancement that would provide the maximum positive impact for travelers. On level three, Shirley Hunt - a professional photographer living on Maryland’s Eastern Shore - was inspired by the bold, sculptural shapes of the rides at Ocean City’s boardwalk. Her mural, entitled “Carnival,” was created from photographs that she had taken at night.

Selecting the Artists

Once a location for the project was determined and the decision to use tiles was made, the next step was to choose the artists. After careful consideration, nine artists - ranging from photographers, illustrators, painters, ceramicists and collage artists - were selected from among thousands who are registered with Maryland Art Place, a subsidiary of Maryland Arts Council.

“Nine artists were selected who seemed to have a natural inclination in their work to respond to the idea of creating patterns from simple elements,” stated Perrin. “Part of the selection process was the way the artists each represented a differing view of the premise of travel, flight, space, movement and perspective, and yet each could contribute to the building’s enhancement as a whole.”

According to Perrin, it was important to the AEP Committee that the artists be diverse, representing various media, localities, styles and personal qualifications. Proposals were solicited from each artist - all professionals, but none who had ever been commissioned for public work. Additionally, none of the participants had ever had their work reproduced in another material.

The Process

“Because of cost constraints, each artist was challenged to create a mural design for ceramic tile using only four different 12-by-12-inch tiles,” explained Perrin. “Each was assigned a floor that already had a color assigned to it by the building engineers. The resulting repeating patterns - no two alike - confirmed the committee’s belief that, with the right stimuli, these artists would exceed its expectations with diverse and dynamic results.”

In total, 25,000 square feet of custom tiles, manufactured by Imagine Tile, was utilized for the project. “Imagine Tile was the perfect vendor of an appropriate material,” stated Perrin. “At that time, they were the only source we knew who could offer the refined printing process that could reproduce an artist’s painting, for example.”

Perrin went on to say that Imagine Tile submitted examples of their work for the AEP committee to review. “An infinite range of colors and the fine detail in printing was essential,” she explained. “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. Further, they offered the needed service of producing the material in a sequence that would coordinate with difficult construction schedules. Artwork is not usually subjected to this level of logistical requirement.”

Imagine Tile’s patented printing process was essential to the success of the project. The company’s dedication to detail played a critical role in realizing each artist’s work, such as the mural named “Sunlit Swamp,” which was created by Ronnie Haber on level nine.

The Designs

Each artist brought their own unique style of design to their level of the parking garage. On level three, Shirley Hunt - a professional photographer living on Maryland’s Eastern Shore - was inspired by the bold, sculptural shapes of the rides at Ocean City’s boardwalk. Her mural, entitled “Carnival,” was created from photographs that she had taken at night.

One level up, Laura Yang, designed “Flyway,” which was inspired by the flight patterns of migratory birds. The artist related bird’s migration to the activities of travelers at the airport. “People fly off on planes, go far distances, but return home in the end,” she said.

The additional artists who worked on the project include: Dedree A. Drees, who created “Waves of Flowers” on level one; Terry Thompson, the creator of “Earth’s Heritage” on level two; John Kachik, who designed “Common Senses” on level five; Lisa Sheirer, who created “Light Flight” on level 6; Judy Kogod Colwell, the designer of “Aerial Landscape” on level 7; Vicente Pascual, who created “Stellarium” on level eight; and Ronnie Haber, whose mural “Sunlit Swamp” is on level nine.

“Imagine Tile is proud to be part of the BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport Daily Parking Garage project,” said Christian McAuley, president of Imagine Tile. “With over 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.”