Johns Hopkins selects Vines Architecture to lead planning stages of Henrietta Lacks building

Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Facilities & Real Estate architect Stacey Ko (far left) with representatives from Vines Architecture and, (far right) Dan Ford, vice dean for clinical investigation at the school of medicine.

Photo by Johns Hopkins Institute for Clinical and Translational Research

Published in Dome - Dome September/October 2019 and Community Health - Community Health Stories

After a rigorous vetting process, Johns Hopkins University officials on Oct. 5 announced their selection of Vines Architecture to lead the planning stages for a multidisciplinary building that will honor the legacy of Henrietta Lacks.

The firm was introduced by Daniel Ford, the director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (ICTR),  during the 10th annual Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture. The annual symposium, hosted by ICTR, honors the legacy of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells have contributed too many medical advances, from the development of the polio vaccine to the study of HPV, HIV/AIDS and leukemia. 

“Vines Architecture has been an excellent collaborator in helping us identify effective ways to incorporate the community perspective into a building that will be designed to create new research collaborations,” Ford said.

The building will occupy the site adjacent to the Berman Institute of Bioethics’ Deering Hall, located at the corner of Ashland Avenue and Rutland Avenue, north of The Johns Hopkins Hospital and in the heart of the Eager Park community. The building will support programs that enhance participation and partnership with members of the community in research that can benefit the community, as well as extend the opportunities to further study and promote research ethics and community engagement in research through an expansion of the Berman Institute of Bioethics and its work.

Vines Architecture is an award-winning architecture firm based in Raleigh, North Carolina with expertise in cultural institutions, such as libraries and museums, as well as higher education facilities.

Stacey Ko, an architect at The Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Facilities and Real Estate, said Vines was a perfect match for the project.

“It was really important to select an architecture firm that had expertise in higher education buildings as well as cultural institutions to address and honor the many goals and values for JHU, one of which is to meaningfully incorporate the legacy and the story of Henrietta Lacks,” Ko said.

Architect Victor Vines, founder of Vines Architecture, and his team were on hand to meet with those who attended the lecture. Attendees had the opportunity to view examples of buildings and conceptual studies completed by Vines Architecture with similar objectives to the Henrietta Lacks building. They also talked with team members about what Henrietta Lacks means to them.

“We like interweaving the narrative into the overall project,” Vines said. “When you come into a building we design, you’re not seeking the story — you’re being immersed in it.”

Granddaughter Jeri Lacks said working with Johns Hopkins and Vines Architecture has been an awesome experience.

“It means a lot to us that they have included our family in this process. Our input will help ensure that my grandmother’s personality is present in the building,” Lacks said.

Groundbreaking is anticipated for 2020, with planned completion in 2022.

Keynote Address

Griffin Rodgers, director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, delivered the keynote at the 10th annual Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture.

As a research investigator, Rodgers is widely recognized for his contributions to the development of the first effective — and now FDA-approved — therapy for sickle cell anemia. He was a principal investigator in clinical trials to develop therapy for patients with sickle cell disease and also performed basic research that focused on understanding the molecular basis of how certain drugs induce gamma-globulin gene expression. More recently, he and his collaborators have reported on a modified blood stem cell transplant regimen that is highly effective in reversing sickle cell disease in adults and is associated with relatively low toxicity.

The lecture also featured a presentation about ethics and gene editing from Jeffrey Kahn, director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute for Bioethics, as well as a diabetes and depression presentation from endocrinologist Sherita Golden, vice president and chief diversity officer for Johns Hopkins Medicine. The speakers and members of the Lacks family also participated in a Q&A session about the presentations and the importance of participating in research studies.

Community Awards

Terri Powell, associate director of the Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute, presented the $15,000 Henrietta Lacks Memorial Award to the MERIT Health Leadership Academy. The academy is a comprehensive academic and career mentorship program that supports Baltimore high school students who aspire to careers in medicine.

​Serigne Ndiaye, a Dunbar High School junior, was selected as the 2019 recipient of the Henrietta Lacks Dunbar Health Sciences Scholarship. Ndiaye will receive a $40,000 scholarship ($10,000/year for up to four years) to pursue a career in health or science.

To learn more about Henrietta Lacks and the wide-ranging impact of HeLa cells on medical research, please visit