Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Bio-Hacking the Office Environment: “Safe Haven”   Leave a comment

Bio-Hacking the office environment:   Safe Haven

When the mind connects with some visceral feeling from the outdoor experience, it excites the brain.  Sending positive  messages from inside a building that stimulate the brain is bio-hacking and believed to be a powerful counterpoint to both the old vanilla office interior and the new trendy, but sometimes equally ineffective, splashes of color,  unnecessary creature comforts and uncoordinated sensory blitz.  Dennis Kowal Architects designs WELL buildings that intentionally interact with the human spirit. 

An example of a good  bio-hack is the bio-entrained  concept of a “safe haven”.  Wolves love a den and us humans experience some of that same feeling of safety  when we are contained on three sides, preventing someone from sneaking up behind us.  Much like a childhood memory of lying in a tent and watching the rain through open flaps, a similar enclosed refuge inside a building taps into that native and pleasant instinct of a haven.

A three-sided alcove appeals to our memories of caves, dens and protected porches.

The “Safe Haven” creates security and safety, much like comfort-food brings familiarity at mealtime.  When properly designed, it is almost impossible to not be drawn into this lair and sit for a meet or just relax for some solo thinking.

The Dennis Kowal Architect’s interiors department created this wood-trimmed alcove to accept almost any furniture arrangement.  The same alcove was treated differently in various locations around the building and has proven to be a successful spontaneous collaboration avenue.   Some contain work tables, white boards and tete-a-tete seating while other alcoves offer lounging furniture and a place to charge a tablet or cell phone.

We dare you to walk by and not want to “try it out”.  Once seated, the next person arrives and ‘voila’, you have the beginnings of collaboration, discussion or new connections.

Excitement mounts as New Jersey Libraries prepare to dig themselves into a hole!   1 comment

Excitement mounts as New Jersey Libraries prepare to dig themselves into a hole!

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                                                                               Kowal atop a crane observing the hole for a library expansion

A quarter of a billion dollars will be spent on updating New Jersey Public Libraries during the next few years and firms like DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS will be there to help repair, renovate and expand them.   During the last grant round, DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS wrote the grant applications for seven libraries and was awarded all of them which resulted in the most combined-library  dollars of any grant writer.

DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS are public library design specialists and prepares the need assessment, building program, library design, cost estimates and grant proposals.  Seen above is the hole that would become the new Livingston Public Library, one of the busiest libraries in the State.

Library design requires extensive investigation of Community Needs because each locale has its own unique population, library borrowing patterns and special requirements.  Focus groups over a period of weeks combined with surveys and interviews are ways to draw out the special requirements and desires of the Community.  Children (below) were asked to draw their favorite part of the library.  Children wanted a dedicated cinema, large murals on the wall and indoor playground furniture in addition to the books and media.

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                                       DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS interviews young library patrons to get design ideas

Saving an Old Lady   Leave a comment

Saving an Old Lady

This 30 foot stained glass and lead dome was restored by Dennis Kowal Architects in concert with the entire building restoration.

The lead and glass dome was in such poor condition, the Owner had installed a plywood ceiling to catch the falling glass and to protect the public.  Dennis Kowal Architects (DKA) saved the dome from an uncertain fate with a full historic restoration plan.  The dome constructed in 1910 is located at the center of Winchester, Virginia; a city that changed hands 70 times during the Civil War.

Years of neglect resulted in bird, dust and pollution deposits on the back of the dome rendering the dome a dark, streaked mess.

Scaffolding was erected above to clean, replace, repair and reinforce the high vaulting dome.  Over 5,000 individual panes were inspected, identified and restored per instructions specific to each condition.  Many of the panes were missing or cracked.

Painstaking restoration under the direction of DKA repaired the cracked glass pieces, re-set the fallen pieces, replaced the missing pieces and fortified the entire structure with new supports and clips.

Apart from physical impact, the glass in a leaded glass installation is relatively long-lasting.  It is the deterioration of the skeleton structure that is the most common threat. Here the structure was reinforced before final cleaning of the repaired dome commenced. Federal preservation standards note that in many cases “minor cracks, sagging and oxidation are part of the character of historic leaded glass and require no treatment.” However, in this case, the dome was failing; needing reinforcement, new glass panes and repair to broken panes.

The entire dome was surveyed and treated on a pane by pane basis.  Note the replacement glass (in the prior photo) evidenced by the slightly different color which is not noticeable from below.

The Handley Regional Library is considered the finest example of Beaux Arts Architecture in the state of Virginia because it carries the proportions, materials and unique elements like the leaded glass dome and iron and glass floors.  Dennis Kowal Architects researched the insignias placed at the four compass points of the dome.  Each represents a printers mark.  A “printer’s mark” is a symbol used as a trademark by early printers starting in the 15th century.  Here the dolphin and anchor are the 16th century trademark of Aldus Pius Manutius, a Venetian publisher who is know as the inventor of the italic typeface.

The final result is a spectacular leaded glass dome with brilliant colors which were highlighted by placing an electric light above the dome.  Originally, the dome was only lit by natural light from eight circular windows above; which never quite reached the peak and left an overly dark, colorless center.  Kowal reported “Seeing the dome restored and backlit for the first time since it was installed in 1910 was breathtaking.  Details which were not apparent because of the dim previous lighting were now fully revealed.

Dennis Kowal Architects preserves the past.

 

 

All the Comforts of Home a new Skilled Nursing Facility   2 comments

All the Comforts of Home – a new Skilled Nursing Facility

 

New premium rooms at the Eastern Star Skilled Nursing Facility are designed with a home-like interior.  Deep sills for plants and gifts, valances for drapes and blinds, and super-insulated walls for comfort provide a cozy environment for residents. 

“We want beautiful new rooms for our patients.” The priorities of this non-profit were clear.   Dennis Kowal Architects created a masterplan for expansion, designs for new living areas, and three new wings for occupancy.  Many studies were developed until the perfect dimensions, finishes and proportions were found for the bedrooms.   Sunlight for health, window seats for views and easy to clean fabrics to soften the walls, all combine to create the beauty and privacy desired.

The next challenge of the project was to meet zoning and building regulations for this site bounded by single family residences.  Traffic, utilities, land acquisition and zoning restrictions were all adeptly addressed and the project was built with no variances.  DKA also helped with the fund raising presentations, neighborhood relations, and cost estimating to provide a construction ready package for the design-build construction firm.

Renovated rooms, new rooms, and common areas blend into an integrated facilty.

The wings were designed for maximum exposure to views and conformance to the hilltop site.  Outdoor plazas, gardens and walking areas flow seamlessly into the one story facility.

DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS is changing the face of Healthcare!

Dennis Kowal Architects offices win Preservation Award   1 comment

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Dennis Kowal Architects offices win Preservation Award

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Converting a 1890 county post office into an office for the 21st century was no small task.  Fortunately, the three story Main Street masonry building had much of the original fabric from double-rolled German glass to the pressed metal ceilings.  The hundred years of neglect were a blessing in disguise because no one had renovated  (spelled “destroyed”) the building through the years with modernization.  Missing doors, trim, and wainscot in the main user areas were borrowed from hidden areas to restore the major interiors.   Yet, new data, power, HVAC and fiber optic lines needed to be inserted in a building that had brick interior walls and no space above the tin ceilings to run ductwork and power.

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One clever solution involved adding a high and low voltage baseboard wiremold that distributed the CAT6 and new power circuits.  Capped with the original baseboard wood trim, the wiremold blended into the interior and provided connectivity throughout the building.   All previous ceiling-hung lighting was removed and the holes repaired; new concealed up-lighting uses the entire decorative ceiling as a reflected light source.

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The renovated facility was filled with antique furniture and new cherry furniture that concealed power and data and the computer screens using a below-the-desk monitors.  Lateral files were concealed behind cherry chest of drawers giving the completed facility more a New York townhouse look than a modern office building.  The completed building won the County Cultural & Heritage Commission award for Historic Preservation and Adaptive Use.

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Dennis Kowal Architects believe recycling buildings saves energy and the environment

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