Archive for the ‘Library’ 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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Awarding Winning Book features Dennis Kowal Architects   1 comment

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Awarding Winning Book features Dennis Kowal Architects

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A book about the Handley Regional Library of Winchester Virginia, including the recent historic renovation by Dennis Kowal Architects,  won in the Best-Non Fiction category of the Independent Publishers Award (also known as the “IPPYS”).  The book details the history of the Library and how the most significant Beaux Arts Style building in the State of Virginia ended up in beautiful, but rural, Winchester.

At the time when Dennis Kowal Architects (DKA) was hired, a previous study had concluded that the nearly 100 year old structure was beyond repair and should be demolished.  DKA saved the building by determining a feasible approach and cost to the historic renovation and proved the facility could be sensitively altered to be barrier free, technologically proficient, and large enough to meet the needs of the community as a public library.  The building is now celebrating it’s centennial and functions beautifully as a state-of-the-art library within the historic structure.  Library Director, Trish Ridgeway, reports that book circulation and attendance have both doubled as a result of the renovation and because “Dennis Kowal Architects listened to what we wanted”.

The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and required a strict adherence to preservation guidelines.  Technically a “rehabilitation” because while most building elements were restored to their original construction, some parts of the library were creatively altered to adapt to the current needs of an operating library. For example, the five tiered, glass floored, iron stack assembly was repaired, cleaned and restored but now as three tiers to better align with the other floors of the building.

Restoration involved almost every trade and material from the stained glass dome to the “bottle glass” cast-iron floor gratings.  When discarded components were found in the attic, they were re-purposed in the renovation such as using the old wood-shuttered toilet stall doors for the restored telephone booth.

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The book highlights the involvement of Dennis Kowal Architects in the massive renovation.

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The completed facility features frosted glass floors that were once painted, restored tiger oak millwork, furniture duplicated to match the original library desks and chairs, replacement limestone tooled to match the original, restored terrazzo, refurbished lighting fixtures,  restored and duplicated ornamental copperwork, and the original circulation desk now converted into a bench and sculpture.   The 100 year old glass floors were creatively back-lit to give the new Young Adult Room a modern flare.

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Many of the original materials of the structure were badly decomposed or missing.  DKA painstakingly reproduced copper scrolls, original light fixtures, and restored as much of the original fabric as possible including the massive tiger oak entry doors and the entire limestone exterior.

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The Library suffered from maintenance neglect, settling foundation walls, bird and air pollution staining, and some structural failures.   Thanks to the caring renovation and the completion of details on the original drawings but never executed, the  Library now looks better than the day it was first built.

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Dennis Kowal Architects saves energy, resources, and history by recycling the past.

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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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OZ comes to New Jersey   Leave a comment

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OZ comes to New Jersey

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This dreamy new Library creates a world of its own on a mountaintop in Mt. Olive,  home to John Neill the illustrator of the famous Wizard of Oz books.

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Mt. Olive, rich in iron deposits, attracted a number of famous artists who enjoyed the peaceful, wooded landscape and natural materials they could use in their art.  The foreman of the Louis Comfort Tiffany studios, the sculptor of the Atlas Statue at Rockefeller Center, and the illustrator of the Frank Baum Oz books all lived here.  Given  an eight acre site with sweeping views, DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS was sure to include generous windows, natural  stone materials, and a tribute to John Neill, the illustrator of the famous Oz series.

The Library is “V” shaped  with an adult and children’s wing.   The local history section displays some of the original Oz books while the children’s wing is entered through a stone gateway that depicts the lion, the tin man and the scarecrow.  The Library interior reflects the agricultural history of the town with barn-like exposed heavy timber trusses and a carpet embroidered with Olive branches!

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The Children’s room features cloud-like light fixtures, a story room that looks like a cottage, and stone pillars that divide the sections.  The custom designed shelving units have end display cases that feature books and themes.   Residents feel that the Library is a perfect complement to their community.

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.Yellow brick appropriately covers the floor at the entrance to the Children’s wing.  John Neill first illustrated Dorothy as blonde and about ten years of age.
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First New Jersey Library to receive historic makeover in Hoboken   2 comments

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First New Jersey Library to receive historic makeover in Hoboken

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New built-in bookshelves, display cases and a terrazzo floor reminiscent of the upstairs detailing shall be created at the base of this existing staircase

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The 115 year old Hoboken Library, the first New Jersey Library constructed under the 1894 General Library Act, will receive a $1.5 million makeover.  In the first phase of a series of planned improvements, DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS will stabilize the exterior and give life to the virtually abandoned lower level.   Plagued by flooding and decay, the lowest level will undergo a rigorous set of upgrades to once again become a public space including a program room and art gallery.  In addition, some of the area ways will be reinvented to provide an outdoor café and garden space.  Inside, the Friends of the Library will be given a fresh and safe place to sell donated books in a new bookstore and staff will gain a much needed staff room and storage space.

DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS also prepared the grant application documents to obtain the $1.5 million New Jersey Historic Trust matched grant.  The design received both the approval of the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office and the New Jersey Historic Trust.

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New acoustical panel bulletin boards which are a reminder of the slate blackboards that once hung on the walls of this basement lecture hall contribute to the atmosphere and sound of this newly created Program Room. An areaway, once used for trash receptacles, will be enlarged and redesigned as an outdoor café for reading used books.
The significant history of the Hoboken Library included a design competition. Dennis J. Kowal AIA unveils the new plans at a public presentation in the Main Reading Room of the Library last Thursday.The significant history of the Hoboken Library included a design competition.
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Posted November 1, 2011 by Dennis Kowal Architects in Historic Preservation, Library