Archive for July 2012

Design for the Blind   2 comments

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Design for the Blind

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Designing for special needs clients is often misunderstood.  For one, there is no space today that is exclusively for the sighted or exclusively for the blind.  Buildings are for people with a variety of needs who have a variety of characteristics.  Therefore, the design must incorporate a mix of approaches.

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DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS has been designing for the blind, physically handicapped, autistic, developmentally disabled, and learning disabled for 30 years and their completed work creates a friendly environment without shouting “special needs”.      “I learned a long time ago that blindness for most is just a characteristic like short or tall and it comes with its own challenges and limitations; but it is not necessarily a disability” says Dennis Kowal about his experiences with the many blind professionals who conduct rather normal lives.   The majority of the visually impaired get around without a white cane (less than 35% use a cane) or a guide dog (less than 3% use a guide dog).   As a person ages, there is a one in ten chance of major vision loss but then their needs may be different as they may no longer drive, go to school or work.

At the National Headquarters of Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D), Dennis’ design was based on orthogonal geometry, the easiest navigation system.     Curves can disorient whereas ninety degree turns are easier to follow for someone with no vision.   That same person  composes a picture of the space from sensing the perimeter as opposed to walking into the middle and looking around as a sighted person might.  Therefore, the placement of furniture and removing obstacles at the perimeter became important to the design process.  Finally, acoustics also help compose the picture.  Large volumes sound different than small spaces or lower ceilings.  And just as too many colors is garish for the sighted, too many sounds can be annoying to the visually impaired.

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Cleanly designed edges with the minimum of obstacles are friendly to both the sighted and unsighted.

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The visually impaired enjoy the same things as everyone else;  fresh air, the warmth of the sun on their face,  and a glare-free environment.   Mechanical shades reduce glare and control the natural light in this lobby.

Since many will enjoy the cafeteria, a connection to the beautiful site through full height windows can still be enjoyed by many. Overhangs and the nearby woods itself  provide natural shading and sound panels in the ceiling control noise. 

Operable windows bring in fresh air to the office area and exterior shading devices allow  Daylight to brighten the interior without glare.

The wetlands were protected by separating the building from the parking lot with this boardwalk through the woods.   Both the sighted and unsighted enjoy a walk in the woods and the wide berth allows guide dogs to pass.

The building wall embraces an outdoor eating area providing a sense of enclosure with the freedom of a wall-less room.

The bottom line is always the happiness of the occupants even in the processing areas where books on tape are distributed across the nation to the visually impaired.

This 83,000-volume Master Tape Library is the largest educational resource of its kind in the world and Dennis designed three continuous movable shelving systems to handle the product. These 12’ tall carousels are 80’ long and rotate by computer signal to bring the selected audio master tape to an opperator for duplicating.

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DKA created custom designed conveyor systems that recognize specific tapes and automatically distribute them.

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DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS designs for the blind, dyslexic and physically handicapped.

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Unrelated advertisement below;  Please leave a comment about this blog in the comment box below the advertisement or click on more stories from the category list at the upper left top of this blog.

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Windstorms and Preservation   1 comment

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Windstorms and Preservation

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The scroll that was blown off in the storm that left many on the east coast without power for days sat atop the dome (the scrolls are the bumps directly surrounding the cupola).  This view of the Handley Library is from the property of George Washington who surveyed this site and then owned the land until his death.

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70 mile an hour winds ripped through historic Winchester, Virginia on Friday, 29 June 2012 and lifted weighted wedding tents off the ground, destroyed trees and left its mark on the restored Handley Regional Library.  Dennis Kowal Architects (DKA) completed the full renovation of this important building with a copper dome and limestone façade in 2001 and was on site to examine the damage the following Friday.   “Fortunately, the damage was limited to one copper scroll which was blown loose from the dome and some missing bird deterrents”.     Prior to the DKA renovation,  several  other scrolls blew free and were found in back yards of neighboring buildings.  These were recovered, repaired and re-installed under the direction DKA.  The recent loss was also recovered;  a little mangled but not damaged beyond repair.  The scrolls are decorative and so the copper dome remained weather tight during the storm.

“We had to design and fabricate a new scroll in 2001 to replace the permanently lost scroll” said Dennis Kowal.  The scroll is about three feet long and 18” high and is fabricated from 20 oz. copper.   Unfortunately, this makes them a light-weight, hollow box that can be carried by the wind if the solder points break.  The original scrolls are attached by nine points of spot solder,  while the new scroll is more generously attached.

The wind-blown scroll will be repaired and replaced  to again takes its place in the center of town.  Only a few human hands in history have touched this scroll since it sits 75 feet above the street at the very peak of the 36’ diameter dome.

A distraught Library Director, Trish Ridgeway, feigns regret over the damaged copper scroll that was blown off the restored Handley Library.  The scroll will be repaired and re-installed.

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One of the spot welds from the damaged scroll can be seen as a quarter-sized silver  button at the center of the photo.  The weld split off clean at the attachment point to the copper dome sheeting indicating that the surface was not properly cleaned of oils or that the substrate copper was not made  hot enough during the fusing process.

Before the renovation, the copper was more rust -red than verdigris green; the result of chemical interaction with years of pigeon guano. 

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Dennis Kowal Architects designed a copper replica of a missing 36” scroll which once crowned the Handley Copper Dome.  It is a match to the one recently blown off.   The new copper has been pre-aged by using a commercial patina formula (ammonium sulfate, copper sulfate, and concentrated ammonia)  which will quickly turn the copper  to verdigris green (like the cap flashing beneath).  Of course, putting shiny copper in a jar with a layer of kitty litter soaked in pure ammonia is a trick used by jewelry makers and artists to do the same thing.

A “derecho” (a violent and long-lived windstorm) swept  the mid-Atlantic coast causing destruction, death and  power loss to millions for days during the heat wave.  Many trees and major limbs fell in the historic  Mt. Hebron Cemetery just a few blocks from the Handley Library.

                                                       

Stewart Barney was the original architect of the Mt. Hebron Cemetery Gatehouse (1901) and the Handley Regional Library (1913), both in Winchester, Virginia.  This Cemetery also suffered wind damage but the Gatehouse appears intact.

For a variety of old formulas to patinate copper check out www.sciencecompany.com/-W160.aspx

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DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS preserves historic buildings.

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Unrelated advertisement below;  Please leave a comment about this blog in the comment box below the advertisement or click on more stories from the category list at the upper left top of this blog.

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