Midcentury Modernist Landmark by Mies van der Rohe
The Highfield House is an outstanding example of International Style architecture totaling 265,800 square feet in fifteen stories. The Highfield House apartment building was designed by Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and was constructed by the Chicago-based development company, Metropolitan Structures, Inc. between 1962 and 1964. Highfield House is one of only two buildings in Baltimore designed by Mies.
The building is a free-standing high rise slab set on a platform and the main facade faces east. Although the structure has a commanding presence, the siting and design also create a suburban-feeling environment for the residents and the surrounding residential neighborhoods of Guilford and Tuscany-Canterbury. Architect Mies van der Rohe applied a unique structural solution by allowing the brick skin of the building to become an infill between the visible columns and floor beams. The building adopts a very simple outline design: a rectangular eleven bay by three bay block. The east (front) façade and west elevation are the long (eleven bays) side of this rectangle, while the north and south elevations are its short sides (three bays).
Mies was known for the principles of high-rise "skin and bone" design that were applied to the Highfield House, but he also made minor departures from previous designs to integrate the structure better with its surroundings. Mies utilized the existing site conditions, including the topography, to create sheltered courtyard-style recreation spaces for the residents and for the parking garage to be concealed from Charles Street.
In 1979, the building was converted to condominiums—shifting ownership responsibilities from developers to private owners. Building management offered tenants the first opportunity to purchase their unit before putting them on the market. They sold over 70 percent of the 165 units to tenants in the first ten weeks—making it the one of the most successful condo conversions in Baltimore at the time.
In 2007, the National Park Service listed the Highfield House to the National Register of Historic Places. Only 43 years old at the time, Highfield House defied the convention of only listing buildings older than 50 years recognizing the significance of the building to the history of modernism in Baltimore.