Humble on the outside and colorful on the inside   Leave a comment

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Humble on the outside and colorful on the inside

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Phase One of the Praise Presbyterian Korean Church features a multi-purpose worship space, fellowship hall and administrative offices.

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Like the Korean Culture, this new church is humble on the outside and colorful on the inside.  The Praise Presbyterian Church has services in Korean and English and is a mix of generations.  Since family structure is an important dynamic, the architecture of the new building exposes the elements of its structure.  The tops of columns branch out like a “family tree” and energy-saving translucent panels simulate rice paper screens.  The facility has a modern appearance and becomes an embracing backdrop for the colorful presentations of folk culture, classical music and worship.

Natural light floods the interior of the church and spacious hallways become galleries that are used for constantly changing exhibits and art.   The translucent wall panels are 4” thick and contain a clear spun glass insulation that allows light to pass without the heat.

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The structure of the unique stair case is fully exposed.  The stair is actually hung by suspension cables and floats three stories within the translucent stair tower.  At night, the stair towers glow and become a beacon of hope to the community.  Begun by a handful of college students meeting at Rutgers University, the church is now a large congregation of young professionals with their parents and grandparents.  The facility supports their church services, fellowship, and many musical performances by the talented congregation.

                             
   
   
   
   
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The acoustically tuned multipurpose room has movable seating and can transform into a gymnasium.  The carpeting is a “true bounce” carpet that performs naturally for basketball and other sports.  Sophisticated lighting, sound, and video systems give the facility great flexibility and use.

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Dennis Kowal Architects design buildings that resonate with the culture of the organization.

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Why would the largest Presbyterian Church in New England hire Dennis Kowal Architects?   1 comment

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Why would the largest Presbyterian Church in New England hire Dennis Kowal Architects?

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The DKA expansion and “prayer tower” above bridges the two existing church buildings to the left and right and creates an organic link with the beautiful New England site and distant shores beyond.

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Church Architects from five states were invited to show their best projects but it was the work and approach of Dennis Kowal Architects that caught the attention of the Noroton Presbyterian Church.  Nestled in one of the wealthiest communities in the United States, this modern church with very historic roots needed to update and expand to support their bursting ministries.   Pastor Sam Schreiner is often heard saying “we are an over performing church in an under-performing building”.    The Kowal Design team transformed and expanded the existing facility to include a new Mission Center, Fellowship Hall, , Worship Space, Performing Arts Room, Daycare, Offices and Prayer Tower.

The fifteen million dollar project has completed Phases I and Phase II, and congregational reaction has been very promising so far.  Why was this New Jersey firm brought into the project?    “The DKA team has demonstrated that they listen to their clients, use creativity to solve complicated problems, definitely understand how ministry works, and create beautiful spaces with a watchful eye on the budget.”

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Posted December 19, 2014 by Dennis Kowal Architects in Master Plan, Places of Worship

Guatemala starts construction   2 comments

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Guatemala starts Construction

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Sanctuary Column 3-922

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Workers at the Genesaret Church in Guatemala City begin reinforcement of the two story walls to accommodate a second floor.  A combination of rebar, poured concrete and block walls  provides earthquake protection and added security against intrusion.

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DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS (DKA) raises the roof!   Through the wonderful humanitarian efforts of Caring Partners International (CPI), a faith-based organization that brings medical supplies and treatment to those in need around the world, DKA has joined forces with the Genesaret Church in downtown Guatemala City.   The renovation and expansion will allow both worship and expanded medical services to flourish in this depressed neighborhood where crime, poverty and gangs are common.  The Church has been effective in reaching this community where several former gang members are now regular attenders.

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Meetings

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Dennis J. Kowal AIA has traveled to this church many times over the past ten years and has always been impressed by the complete sacrificial effort of Pastor Hernandez and his wife Marianna and their love for their neighborhood residents.  This respect has evolved into a relationship and building partnership.  Planning sessions included presentations to the congregation and discussions with the leadership.

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Now that construction has begun, CPI Executive Director, Rhonda Reed, writes: “I remember our time together in Guatemala City in the Spring of 2012, reviewing the initial construction plans with Pastor Hernandez. His dreams of creating a multi-story facility are now becoming reality thanks to your input and involvement.  As you know, the living conditions present in their local neighborhood are less than ideal, and they need creative planning for proper ventilation, natural lighting, and practical finishes. Your experience and counsel will ensure a successful project .”

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Construction

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Once the second floor and balcony are complete, the Church  will serve even more people.  The Church offers free clinics to the community several times a year.  Over  1400 patients were seen here this year.  The construction has been a joint effort of local architects, partners, volunteers and donors.

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DSC09472 2012 adj-922

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Fillings and extractions with the minimum of anesthesia sometime requires serious hand-holding and verbal support.  Being an architect isn’t always about structure, design and drawings…the many good works at the Geneserat Church are a constant reminder that it is also about the people who use the spaces.

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Posted December 18, 2014 by Dennis Kowal Architects in Places of Worship

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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Hospital or Hotel?   Leave a comment

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Hospital or Hotel?

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Checking into the New Transitional Care Unit at Bayonne Medical Center is not unlike registering at a nice hotel complete with pendant lighting and a generous counters.

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“Can you make it feel like we are in a spa and less a hospital?” was the request of staff in the renovations of the Transitional Care Unit.  Pivotal to the elevator arrival and central to the floor plan, the nurses’ station would set the tone for the entire floor.   A “peaceful” solution included a transition from a lot of little elements to larger and less elements.   For example,  walls which had been covered in numerous decorations and notices, were quieted with large pieces of art which harmonized with the new color scheme.   The heavy crash rails at the front of the nurses’ desk were replaced with scratch resistant panels imbedded with real leaves and calming colors.  The existing soffit was highlighted with tangerine coloring and new art glass lights to create a focal point away from the harsher “hospital lighting” and the old telephone booths were converted to a media center and brochure rack to remove the barriers of displays and hand-outs that once lined the desk.

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renovation nurses station

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The small BEFORE photos show the wear and tear this nurses station received.  The completed project provides durable materials that are easy to clean and maintain.

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The color scheme and new brown linoleum flooring resulted from matching the wood tones in the patient room floors which were required to remain.  To encourage patients to walk as part of their therapy,  a brochure was devised that describes the new wall art.  Patients are asked to match a list of artwork titles to the piece it best describes.  The entire floor needed to be renovated in 90 days, and the key to the renovation was not changing a lot of the structure including the pre-wired nurses’ desk walls.  New quartz counter tops, furniture and finishes made a quick transition easy, reduced waste, minimized dust and eliminated noise and shuffling additional parts through the hospital.

To further calm the space, every other 2’ x 2’ corridor light was replaced with a pendant fixture wrapped in an art metal design of branches to relate to the trees in the wall art.  These fixtures were put on a second circuit to allow staff to reduce the ambient lighting when possible.    When the newly renovated floor was opened three months later, the staff could not believe the transition and how “serene and relaxed” it now felt.

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DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS is changing the face of Health Care.

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Posted November 27, 2013 by Dennis Kowal Architects in Health Care

Lessons from Nicaragua   Leave a comment

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Lessons from Nicaragua

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DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS designed this new health care facility in the village of Masaya, Nicaragua outside of the capital city of Managua using strategies for resilient design.  This approach allows the facility to function without electricity while relying on natural building systems.

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Designing a new healthcare facility in Nicaragua is much different than in the United States.  But the US can learn lessons from a third world country where electric is spotty, contamination is likely, and water is untreated.   When a disaster like Superstorm Sandy strands eleven States without power, many US healthcare facilities like the NYU Medical Center were crippled and couldn’t function.    However, Dennis Kowal Architects (DKA) applied the principals of “resilient” architecture to their healthcare facility design in Managua, Nicaragua.  Since power failures are common, DKA designed the facility to use natural ventilation and natural lighting.  To reduce the risk of cross-contamination, another very common occurrence, DKA created outdoor waiting rooms open to the air but covered from the sun thus reducing the chance of contact and airborne contamination.  The interior walls have an application of plaster that naturally contains calcium hydroxide, a mineral that resists the growth of bacteria while providing a durable and easy to clean surface.   Kowal explained: “in essence, the facility takes care of itself, especially during a natural disaster”.

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High  window openings in the exam rooms ensure privacy yet allow light and air to naturally circulate.  A large covered, but open,  atrium at the center of the complex creates a natural ventilation stack for all of the surrounding rooms.  The atrium brings light and air into the rooms that ring the courtyard and simultaneously creates an outdoor waiting room.  A landscaped courtyard surrounds the facility to allow the families a place to play while a family member is receiving treatment; at night the same wall provides security.

 

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Some of the children that have been treated by the doctors of Caring Partners International using temporary facilities,  pose for the camera.  Others may walk all night (as did this woman assisted by her grand-daughter) to get to a care center.  Existing conditions can be dirty, dusty and contaminated by animal waste and garbage dumps.  Ubiquitous volcanic ash often covers the village in dust (see photo of girl in dress).  The new medical facility provides a clean, healthy, and resilient environment as well as a model of sanitation for the villagers to follow.

 

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Planning the healthcare facility on-site in Nicaragua is only the first step in a master plan for a new village.  Dennis Kowal Architects met with local doctors to select the site, visited with the mayor to solidify support and caucused with nurses and staff to design the facility.  Local Architectural student, Maria, helped with translation of the complex medical and architectural terms.   Since the site is near an active volcano, resistance to earthquake forces factors into all of the reinforced concrete construction in the area.

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DKA worked with local architects to assess the building materials, climate, and standards of construction.  A low impact design was desired that could operate during a disaster.    Above, Maria (a student of architecture) was also a translator for Dennis Kowal Architects as they interviewed the doctors and patients to design a facility that would meet their needs but also provide a resilient design. 

 

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While many developed countries are still reeling from the many natural disasters that have occurred, lessons can be learned from our third world neighbors who daily face a world without power, public transportation, or central air conditioning.  Beyond sustainable design which minimizes the impact on the environment, DKA understands the simple principals of natural systems that can adapt and survive during periods of stress, loss and disaster.

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“Dennis Kowal Architects designs buildings that are resilient and can take care of themselves in a disaster.”

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Posted November 26, 2013 by Dennis Kowal Architects in Health Care, Sustainability