Archive for the ‘Children Spaces’ Category

Look mom, no lights!   1 comment

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Look mom, no lights!

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Despite the heavy rain outside, this interior is brightened by natural light transmitted through the translucent roof.

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Can you believe a reading room designed for a hundred people that doesn’t need a single light bulb!   Well, almost.

Natural daylight is used to flood the entire 12,000 square foot reading room of the Franklin Public Library.  Although lights are provided for the evening, overhead lighting isn’t  really required in the daytime; even when it is cloudy or raining.  The curved translucent roof amplifies the ambient light on a dark cloudy day and replaces the gloominess with happiness.

LEED AP, Dennis J. Kowal AIA, designed the first library ever that uses 100% natural light for both the circulation area and main reading room.   “We wanted patrons to feel uplifted and relaxed by the natural light washing over them” while providing an exposed structural system that is starkly revealed by the backlit roof.

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Dennis Kowal Architects also designed a place for donors to display hand made tiles of historical events that occurred in the Township.  Helping their clients raise funds for a project is a common benefit of working with the firm.  Dennis read his design book “Doorknobs” to children at the library to raise awareness of the renovation and sponsored a design competition for a custom tile.  DKA also donated a butterfly bench sculpture for the indoor butterfly garden to the delight of library supporters.

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Donor Wall designed by DKA includes a tile designed by a child who won the DKA library design competition!
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Would you like to see more neat stuff?    Click on the categories box at the left of this article and you can explore the visual world around you.  Learn how you can date a building by the nails used in construction or why there is a rain forest in New Jersey.

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Posted April 11, 2014 by Dennis Kowal Architects in Children Spaces, Library

National Association recognizes Kowal Design   2 comments

National Association recognizes Kowal Design

The magazine of the American Library Association selected a Dennis Kowal Architects’ design for creating a lot of impact for the dollar.    One of a handful of projects showcased in their Library Design Showcase 2012 for “Small Projects/Big Impact”, the new Plainfield Public Library children’s room is a first of its kind.  The entire existing children’s library was re-invented by the Kowal Team from lighting to furniture to architecture (see our earlier blog on September 26, 2011).

Working closely with the Library Director, Assistant, and a Board Member with rainforest expertise, the Kowal Team shaped all of the existing liabilities into assets.  A old reading pit that the Library assumed would be in-filled became a reading pond complete with a rope bridge and foliage.   The mess of pipes concrete, and ductwork above the suspended ceilings that were assumed to remain neatly out of sight were instead exposed to create a lofty interior and painted to look like vines and the tree canopy.    And the existing wide open and “boring” floor plan was enhanced with a series of intimate spaces.  Thatched roof reading huts, a canvas teen tent, a reptile inspired computer counter wrapping around a bamboo forest, and a story room under a strangler fig tree define fun places to read without sacrificing sight lines and ease of supervision.    Even the circulation desk is a compilation of custom made cargo boxes which feature sustainable wood construction.

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Table tops and walls featured scenes from the rainforest.

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A rope bridge spans this 15’ reading pond that is a favorite of all who enter.

BEFORE photo with low ceilings and and overcrowded circulation desk.

AFTER photo with exposed concrete waffle slab construction and sinuous piping transformed into the forest canopy.

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Once again, Dennis Kowal Architects prove you can stretch your dollars when you are willing to stretch your imagination. Critics apparently agree. One impressed patron was overheard saying “I used to drag my children to the library, now my kids drag me!” The Dennis Kowal Architects design was also featured in the October 2011 issue of Library Journal and noted as “New Jersey children are wild about the rain forest-themed children’s library!”

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Right down to the details   1 comment

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Right down to the details

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Not only did Dennis Kowal Architects design this new children’s room, they designed the furniture too!

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What do you do when you need a child-sized chair that is fun and durable but nobody sells it?  Dennis Kowal Architects decided to design the chair and have it manufactured.    Because of the unique design, the chair can be flipped down for sitting close to the floor or used upright as a conventional seat.  Bright colors were added in an assortment of pastels to compliment the new children’s room.  A wood prototype was built by Dennis Kowal Architects to study the right height for a child and to understand ergonomics of the shape.  Once a comfortable profile was developed,  the design was modified for image and ease of manufacture.  Construction drawings were sent to Scotti Powers of Workplace Technology Furniture who manufactured the chairs in Vietnam for Dennis Kowal Architects.

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The children’s Story Room contains another type of Dennis Kowal Architects designed furniture.  Wall murals of bedposts, refrigerators, and comfortable chairs adorn the Craft and Story Room.   Children’s favorite characters hide behind every corner ready to pop out and play.  Exposed wood trusses and a small-scaled covered porch entrance provide a cottage-like location for adventure and make-believe.

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And when you can’t build the furniture, you can specify some very interesting stuff.  While the desk and bookcases were milled to Dennis Kowal Architects specifications including a special  grapevine inlay, this Young Adult area got some basket chairs and finger chairs to add the fun.

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These chairs were manufactured for Dennis Kowal Architects to complete the children’s room and are enjoyed by a variety of young people including Bob the Builder.
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Dennis Kowal Architects designs interiors right down to the fine details!

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DKA to design a safer Daycare in Connecticut   Leave a comment

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DKA to design a safer Daycare in Connecticut

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Discussion about school safety used to center around round edges and the ability to wash and clean surfaces such as this previous DKA design for a nursery school.   After the string of school tragedies that recently culminated in the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, schools now have emergency crisis plans including lockdown drills.  

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As life would have it, Dennis Kowal Architects is designing a Day Care and Nursery School in Connecticut just blocks from the St. John’s Cemetery where one of the Sandy Hook students is now interred.   Safety was already a priority for this project, but the madness that occurred at the nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School  has naturally prompted more discussion and design.   Some of the design features being incorporated into the plan include moving the parked cars away from the building and locating the playgrounds directly outside the school doors as much as possible creating a land buffer.   Also, fire walls are being used inside to compartmentalize the facility and unrelated uses are being moved out of the classroom zones to reduce the amount of casual intrusions.

Disasters don’t always strike the same way twice, so an effective design approach considers natural disasters, a variety of attacks, and various vulnerabilities.   Since the 1999 Columbine massacre, many agencies such as FEMA and the Department of Education have provided schools with design guidelines;  such as not selecting sites in a depressed land area which would tend to collect and hold toxic gases in the event of a spill.    Common sense has resulted in limited entry points with controlled access and administration or other supervision close to the entry.   Some schools mark the exterior windows with the interior room numbers for quick navigation by first responders.

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DKA designed this classroom with two interior exit doors and one door that opens directly to the playground for ease of supervision and safe movement.  Safety provisions in this religious education wing, such as the DKA Dutch door solution prevent parents from entering classrooms when they sign out for their children.  Color coding from floor tiles to the matching color chairs and carpets help small children navigate; whether an emergency or normal day.
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Earlier designs for the Noroton Presbyterian Church classrooms included two level playgrounds attached to the building and a glass stair tower that provided instant views around the entire five acre site as well as over the playground areas. Translucent window shades were used in this Maryland classroom by DKA to allow natural light while eliminating direct views in from outside.    Emergency crisis plans typically involve covering classroom windows, locking the doors and having students pause in silence under their desks. 
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DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS designs safe environments for learning!

 

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Posted January 9, 2013 by Dennis Kowal Architects in Children Spaces

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Design for the Multi-impaired; not your father’s hospital!   1 comment

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Design for the Multi-impaired; not your father’s hospital!

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Many subtleties were used to make this maintenance-free dormitory and school for the multiply impaired look like a residence and not a hospital; notice that the window side-lites look like shutters, notice the gabled roofs and copper gutters, and see how the use of porches, railings, and chimneys changes the scale and approachability of the building.

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When asked to design a prototype for a facility for multiply impaired children, Dennis Kowal Architects created a two-level house-like facility and even added a two car garage that acts as a covered ambulance transport during emergencies and as a weather-enclosed recreation room the remainder of the time.  The St. Joseph’s Sisters of Peace operate Concordia House as a school and dormitory for children with both blindness and other disabilities.  Their desire was a non-institutional building that provided warmth and comfort to the children and their visiting families.

A number of ground-breaking ideas were incorporated into the design including a two-tone wood trim way-finding which was stained to signal which floor you are on, touch and color panels to identify rooms when a child is unable to learn braille, and specially designed bathrooms that facilitate self-care.  A commercial kitchen serves the dining hall but the kitchen was conceived as a training kitchen as well, with low-height baking stations and a dine-in area for the students to enjoy.

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Ease of access and safety were high priorities in the design which has four grade exits, an elevator, and extra wide corridors. 

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The lattice theme and playful green tiles add a little fun to this facility for blind and disabled children.

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A welcoming interior is used by both family and students.  Some of the senses are stimulated by various themes such as the fireplace, exterior rain chains, an herb garden and a “greenhouse lobby”.

  05 new.These hospital-width corridors appear friendly due to the carpet patterns, wall sconces, and comforting wood trim.
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.For those with partial vision, dark stained doors identify the lower level and light doors with dark trim identify the upper level.  

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Inserts next to each bedroom door have uniquely different colors and textures so that the most severely impaired students can still identify their room.

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Natural light, plants, and a variety of locations to train for cooking, cleaning, and independent living are combined in this 17 bed facility.

 

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Dennis Kowal Architects is an advocate for the developmentally disabled and designs for their needs.

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Rainforest found in New Jersey   Leave a comment

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Rainforest found in New Jersey

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Interior Designer, Susan Kowal, was not afraid to pick vivid colors while creating a rainforest in the middle of the Plainfield Public Library.   The new Children’s Library renovation is a living example of sustainable design, where DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS reused and re-invented much of the existing furniture, shelving and building elements to create a rainforest-themed children’s library.

A teen tent, rope bridge, and cargo-crate display cases invite “touch” as well as set the scene for this child-friendly design.   The displays are intentionally at the eye-level of the smaller children adding intimacy and interest to this open plan.  The old story pit becomes a pond crossed by a rope bridge,  the existing stools are recovered in “animal skins” and the existing tables get a new photo-art rainforest makeover.  Hidden among the hand-painted murals of the rainforest are the latest technology in computers, video projection and flat screens.

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Posted September 26, 2011 by Dennis Kowal Architects in Children Spaces, Sustainability