Charles Edwin Lamb, an architect of forward-looking, modernist structures and a founder of the RTKL firm, died of complications of Parkinson's disease Dec. 12 at the Heron Point Retirement Community in Chestertown. He was 87 and had lived in Baltimore and Annapolis.
A winner of national design awards, Mr. Lamb designed the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, a John Deere distribution center in Timonium and the Edward A. Garmatz Federal Court House on Lombard Street. He was involved with early plans for downtown Baltimore's Charles Center, Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium and the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer.
"He was clearly the design skill in the original partners," said Bernard Wulff, an Annapolis resident who worked with Mr. Lamb for several decades.
Born in Annapolis, he was the son of Reginald C. Lamb, the civilian chair of the Naval Academy's math department, and Ruby Moore Lamb, commissioner of the Anne Arundel County Girl Scouts. Mr. Lamb was a 1943 graduate of Annapolis High School and attended Georgia Tech. In 1944, he joined the merchant marine at Kings Point, N.Y., and crossed the Atlantic three times.
"While in Europe, my father saw examples of architecture he never forgot," said his son, Peter Lamb of Earleville in Cecil County. "He landed at Calais, and while Europe was beaten up by the war, he was inspired."
While earning his degree at the University of Michigan School of Architecture and trying unsuccessfully to get work with master architect Eero Saarinen, he asked two Annapolis architects, Archibald Rogers and Frank Taliaferro, for a summer job. They agreed.
The expanding partnership eventually outgrew Annapolis and later Baltimore until the business had 1,100 employees and 10 offices from London to Tokyo.
"In 1950, his mother as Girl Scout commissioner prevailed upon him to take on what became one of the most important projects of his early career," his son said.
Mr. Lamb conceived a round lodge building with a soaring roof at Camp Woodlands off Riva Road. It had a retractable chimney and pie-shaped tables housed within a complicated wood structure.
"It started with a circle," Mr. Lamb recalled in a 2012 article in The Baltimore Sun. "I knew that a circle offered the greatest potential for [carrying out] the Girl Scout customs of campfires and saying grace and singing songs. ... It was nonhierarchical, too."
He designed the roof "like a shell, a big eggshell." He also compared the circular shape to a Native-American tepee.
His father persuaded fellow Naval Academy teachers to spend weekends building the lodge, which opened in 1954 on a budget of $16,000. Before the lodge was complete, Mr. Lamb met his future wife, Marilyn Elizabeth Asplin, who taught swimming at the camp.
The lodge took national honors from the American Institute of Architects and caught the eye of Italian architect Pietro Belluschi, who was chosen to design an addition to the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in North Baltimore and Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium. Mr. Lamb and his colleagues worked closely on the design of these structures as Mr. Belluschi's local agents. He also worked with developer James Rouse on his early enclosed shopping center, Harundale Mall on Ritchie Highway.
"He was an excellent designer and a pleasant person to work with," said George Kostritsky, the surviving member of the firm's founders. "In those days we collaborated on projects. Charlie was our architectural designer."
The soaring roof form that Mr. Lamb employed at the Girl Scout lodge similarly served him on a 1967 John Deere warehouse in Timonium. It won a first-place award from the American Institute of Architects.
"It was a warehouse and had a tent-like concrete roof secured on one side by large cables anchored in the ground," his son said. "And after a very heavy rain, there was fear the roof might collapse. My father and engineers got up on the roof and drilled a hole to let the water out. They modified the design after that."
Mr. Lamb wanted his structures to be practical. His Greater Baltimore Medical Center included a small railway track for delivery of medical supplies to different wings.
Not all of his buildings were happily received.
Federal judges complained about his Garmatz Court House, whose entryway included a sculpture by George Sugarman.
"He was not afraid of taking on challenges," said Harold Adams, former RTKL chairman. "Charlie stood up and fought for the Sugarman art piece. It's still there."
Mr. Lamb lived on Merrymount Road in Roland Park until he moved to Eastport on Spa Creek in 1985.
"My father was a solid citizen. ... What he enjoyed most was getting a bone in his teeth and getting to work. Our dining table was more often used as a drawing table, many times until the wee hours of the morning. I loved to watch him draw," his son said. "He had a personality that emanated acceptance and trust. He was not judgmental, yet one understood that he had a very shrewd sense of what was going on."
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Jan. 25 at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5306 N. Charles St.
In addition to his son, survivors include three daughters, Lisa Anderson of Ridgely, Karin Lamb of Eureka, Mont., and Regina Lamb-Hurd of Inglewood, Calif.; a brother, Harold Lamb of Camden, Maine; seven grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren. His wife of 61 years died in 2010.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun