Contract - Reading Room

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Reading Room

11 September, 2009

-By Jennifer Busch, Photography by Peter Vanderwarker



By the year 2000, the 29,000-sq.-ft. Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls, N.Y.—designed by renowned architect Charles A. Platt in 1931 as his last civic building—was literally busting at the seams. Books were permanently being stored on carts, the children's room was too crowded to allow tables and chairs and books there were being stored on shelves over 90 in. tall, and there was not enough room to accommodate the library's robust program of cultural and community events. Over the years, a series of design interventions and a bad addition had also left the three-story building with 15 full or partial floors and a host of ADA issues. Yet that year a bond referendum to renovate and expand the library failed at the polls. "There was such a public outcry," recalls Crandall Library's director, Christine McDonald. "People were asking, 'What's wrong with the building?'"

When a second bond referendum for renovation and expansion came up for a vote in 2005, this time the library was better prepared, staging more than 60 public meetings to educate residents on the need for renovation and expansion. Topics of discussion focused on the overcrowding, the inadequate lighting throughout the building, and the dilapidated HVAC system that had been non-functional from May to November. "We made it clear that we were not going to pour any more money into this building," says McDonald. The referendum passed, and Boston-based Ann Beha Architects (ABA), with extensive experience in both historic restoration and new construction for civic buildings, won the commission from a field of four firms interviewed.

The basic program was straightforward: more space via expansion for books, quiet reading, teen and children's programs, and community and cultural programs; a complete overhaul of existing mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems to better accommodate both people and technology; adequate lighting; improved access for patrons with disabilities; adequate and upgraded administration space; and an historic restoration of the existing Platt building. In addition, the design needed to provide excellent site lines for improved security; views and access to the outdoors (especially since Crandall sits adjacent to a public park); more natural light; a more commanding presence on the street; a warm, welcoming environment; and a LEED-certifiable building. "We were really bringing the library up to a 21st century use," says Steven Gerrard, an associate with Ann Beha Architects. "The original 1931 design was for a very different demographic. Crandall needed a new building that was super dynamic, with all kinds of functions that were not included in libraries back then." Two of Crandall's key treasures—a local culture program that is essentially a museum of Adirondack history and folklore, and an exceptional independent and art film program curated by McDonald—were top of mind.

First things first, the architecture of the expansion added 52,500 sq. ft. to the library, and brought the façade and a commanding entrance right up to Glen Street, the city's main thoroughfare. The original building's entrance on the park was also preserved for nostalgic purposes, so in effect there are now two main entrances to the library. "The architecture now completes the street façade, which is that of a classic, all-American town," says Gerrard. "The new wing comes right out and meets the street." At this entrance, a metal, cascade-like sunscreen makes reference to the town's natural namesake, the Glens Falls waterfall on the Hudson River.

The historic building was completely restored, though ABA did not conduct a truly faithful historic preservation. And contrary to what one might expect, the historic building now houses the technological heart of the library. This is where both the computer lab and computerized information commons are located. By contrast, a quiet reading room extending off the side of the historic building like a light-filled porch and linking the building with its park surroundings, and a "living room" complete with a working fireplace offer a variety of seating and reading options. An atrium that had been covered in an earlier renovation was revealed and allows natural light to stream into the space. "The old building is so beautiful now," says McDonald. "When the building first opened, some people were weeping."

The new addition matches the height and rhythms of the historic building, but contrasts its solid, brick facade with a "bridge" transition clad primarily in glass. "We definitely wanted the new building to stand out as a building of its own time," explains Gerrard. "But where the building meets the street, its massing, materials, and windows all respond to the rhythm of the streetscape. The connection building of glass serves as a bridge between the old and the new."

The addition houses the bulk of the book stacks and includes a family focus center; a multipurpose room that serves as everything from a community meeting room to a concert venue to an auditorium for film projections; the Adirondack history gallery, reading room, and archives; a new teen center that enjoys high visibility from the street; a greatly expanded children's area; and a high-tech, self-check-out system that makes Crandall one of the most technologically advanced libraries in New York State. Aesthetically, the addition also is quite distinct from its historic companion. "We really wanted the new interiors to contrast with those of the old," notes Gerrard. So while the original building's interiors are defined and cozy, the addition's interiors reflect its need to be open, flexible, and constantly changing. The openness and materials used—translucent panels and lots of accent color—allow for a bright space full of natural light, vibrancy, and views to the street and park.

In the end, the renovation and expansion of the Crandall Public Library was accomplished on a very tight budget of $193 per sq. ft., dictating certain other design choices, such as exposed mechanical systems and structural elements. Furthermore, the library is on target to receive LEED certification some time this fall. And the results speak for themselves. According to McDonald, library use is up 40 percent and Internet use is up 150 percent since it opened in December 2008. "It exceeded our expectations for beauty and in terms of functionality," says McDonald. "The building is extraordinarily beautiful. It's a civic building the likes of which has never been seen here."


who:
Project:  Crandall Public Library. Client: Crandall Public Library. Architect: Ann Beha Architects; Pamela W. Hawkes FAIA, principal-in-charge; Steven Gerrard, AIA, project manager; Robert Genova, AIA, Brandon Prinzing, Robert Miklos, FAIA, Anne-Sophie Divenyi, AIA, and Grorgy John, project team. Associate architect: JMZ Architects and Planners. Interior designer: Design Network. Structural engineer: Schoder Rivers Associates. Mechanical/electrical engineer: Quantum Engineering Co. General contractor: Le Chase Co. Construction manager: The Pike Company. Landscape architect, civil engineer: The LA Group, Landscape Architecture and Engineering. Library consultant: Nolan Lushington. Lighting designer: Sladen Feinstein Integrated Lighting. Acoustician: Acentech Inc. Graphic designer: Wojciechowski Design. Specifications: Wil-Spec Architectural Specifications. Furniture dealer: Creative Library Systems. Photographer: Peter Vanderwarker.

what
Wallcoverings: Tectum Fabric, Sound Concepts. Paint: PPG. Laminate: Flomica, Nevamar. Flooring: Permashine Polished Concrete System, Dal Tile, Nora Rubber Floors. Carpet/carpet tile: Shaw, Mannington, Interface. Ceiling: Armstrong. Doors: Kaneer, Cherry Hardwood Flush Doors. Skylights: Kalwall. Glass: Polygal, Lumasite. Window frames: Kawneer Encore Storefront Glazing, Raco Aluminum.  Window treatments: MecoShade. Library and conference seating: Agati. Library and conference tables: Versteel, KI, Krug, Palmieri. Administrative desk, files: Knoll. Administrative seating: Stylex, Source International, Gunlocke. Lounge seating: David Edwards, Cartwright, Carolina, August Incorporated. Other seating: KI, Thonet, Krug, OFS. Other tables: David Edwards. Shelving: MJ Industries, Gressco, Peter Pepper. Elevators: Schindler.

where:
Location: Glens Falls, N.Y. Total floor area: 52,837 gross sq. ft. No. of floors: 3 + basement. Average floor size: 17,000 sq. ft. Book capacity: 164,352 (total cataloged books, adult/children), 9,454 (other print materials), 191 (electronic materials), 32,502 (audio and video recordings), 114,862 (all other materials), 321,361(total). Seating capacity: 500 (staff and library patrons). Cost/sq. ft.: $193.



Reading Room

11 September, 2009


Peter Vanderwarker

By the year 2000, the 29,000-sq.-ft. Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls, N.Y.—designed by renowned architect Charles A. Platt in 1931 as his last civic building—was literally busting at the seams. Books were permanently being stored on carts, the children's room was too crowded to allow tables and chairs and books there were being stored on shelves over 90 in. tall, and there was not enough room to accommodate the library's robust program of cultural and community events. Over the years, a series of design interventions and a bad addition had also left the three-story building with 15 full or partial floors and a host of ADA issues. Yet that year a bond referendum to renovate and expand the library failed at the polls. "There was such a public outcry," recalls Crandall Library's director, Christine McDonald. "People were asking, 'What's wrong with the building?'"

When a second bond referendum for renovation and expansion came up for a vote in 2005, this time the library was better prepared, staging more than 60 public meetings to educate residents on the need for renovation and expansion. Topics of discussion focused on the overcrowding, the inadequate lighting throughout the building, and the dilapidated HVAC system that had been non-functional from May to November. "We made it clear that we were not going to pour any more money into this building," says McDonald. The referendum passed, and Boston-based Ann Beha Architects (ABA), with extensive experience in both historic restoration and new construction for civic buildings, won the commission from a field of four firms interviewed.

The basic program was straightforward: more space via expansion for books, quiet reading, teen and children's programs, and community and cultural programs; a complete overhaul of existing mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems to better accommodate both people and technology; adequate lighting; improved access for patrons with disabilities; adequate and upgraded administration space; and an historic restoration of the existing Platt building. In addition, the design needed to provide excellent site lines for improved security; views and access to the outdoors (especially since Crandall sits adjacent to a public park); more natural light; a more commanding presence on the street; a warm, welcoming environment; and a LEED-certifiable building. "We were really bringing the library up to a 21st century use," says Steven Gerrard, an associate with Ann Beha Architects. "The original 1931 design was for a very different demographic. Crandall needed a new building that was super dynamic, with all kinds of functions that were not included in libraries back then." Two of Crandall's key treasures—a local culture program that is essentially a museum of Adirondack history and folklore, and an exceptional independent and art film program curated by McDonald—were top of mind.

First things first, the architecture of the expansion added 52,500 sq. ft. to the library, and brought the façade and a commanding entrance right up to Glen Street, the city's main thoroughfare. The original building's entrance on the park was also preserved for nostalgic purposes, so in effect there are now two main entrances to the library. "The architecture now completes the street façade, which is that of a classic, all-American town," says Gerrard. "The new wing comes right out and meets the street." At this entrance, a metal, cascade-like sunscreen makes reference to the town's natural namesake, the Glens Falls waterfall on the Hudson River.

The historic building was completely restored, though ABA did not conduct a truly faithful historic preservation. And contrary to what one might expect, the historic building now houses the technological heart of the library. This is where both the computer lab and computerized information commons are located. By contrast, a quiet reading room extending off the side of the historic building like a light-filled porch and linking the building with its park surroundings, and a "living room" complete with a working fireplace offer a variety of seating and reading options. An atrium that had been covered in an earlier renovation was revealed and allows natural light to stream into the space. "The old building is so beautiful now," says McDonald. "When the building first opened, some people were weeping."

The new addition matches the height and rhythms of the historic building, but contrasts its solid, brick facade with a "bridge" transition clad primarily in glass. "We definitely wanted the new building to stand out as a building of its own time," explains Gerrard. "But where the building meets the street, its massing, materials, and windows all respond to the rhythm of the streetscape. The connection building of glass serves as a bridge between the old and the new."

The addition houses the bulk of the book stacks and includes a family focus center; a multipurpose room that serves as everything from a community meeting room to a concert venue to an auditorium for film projections; the Adirondack history gallery, reading room, and archives; a new teen center that enjoys high visibility from the street; a greatly expanded children's area; and a high-tech, self-check-out system that makes Crandall one of the most technologically advanced libraries in New York State. Aesthetically, the addition also is quite distinct from its historic companion. "We really wanted the new interiors to contrast with those of the old," notes Gerrard. So while the original building's interiors are defined and cozy, the addition's interiors reflect its need to be open, flexible, and constantly changing. The openness and materials used—translucent panels and lots of accent color—allow for a bright space full of natural light, vibrancy, and views to the street and park.

In the end, the renovation and expansion of the Crandall Public Library was accomplished on a very tight budget of $193 per sq. ft., dictating certain other design choices, such as exposed mechanical systems and structural elements. Furthermore, the library is on target to receive LEED certification some time this fall. And the results speak for themselves. According to McDonald, library use is up 40 percent and Internet use is up 150 percent since it opened in December 2008. "It exceeded our expectations for beauty and in terms of functionality," says McDonald. "The building is extraordinarily beautiful. It's a civic building the likes of which has never been seen here."


who:
Project:  Crandall Public Library. Client: Crandall Public Library. Architect: Ann Beha Architects; Pamela W. Hawkes FAIA, principal-in-charge; Steven Gerrard, AIA, project manager; Robert Genova, AIA, Brandon Prinzing, Robert Miklos, FAIA, Anne-Sophie Divenyi, AIA, and Grorgy John, project team. Associate architect: JMZ Architects and Planners. Interior designer: Design Network. Structural engineer: Schoder Rivers Associates. Mechanical/electrical engineer: Quantum Engineering Co. General contractor: Le Chase Co. Construction manager: The Pike Company. Landscape architect, civil engineer: The LA Group, Landscape Architecture and Engineering. Library consultant: Nolan Lushington. Lighting designer: Sladen Feinstein Integrated Lighting. Acoustician: Acentech Inc. Graphic designer: Wojciechowski Design. Specifications: Wil-Spec Architectural Specifications. Furniture dealer: Creative Library Systems. Photographer: Peter Vanderwarker.

what
Wallcoverings: Tectum Fabric, Sound Concepts. Paint: PPG. Laminate: Flomica, Nevamar. Flooring: Permashine Polished Concrete System, Dal Tile, Nora Rubber Floors. Carpet/carpet tile: Shaw, Mannington, Interface. Ceiling: Armstrong. Doors: Kaneer, Cherry Hardwood Flush Doors. Skylights: Kalwall. Glass: Polygal, Lumasite. Window frames: Kawneer Encore Storefront Glazing, Raco Aluminum.  Window treatments: MecoShade. Library and conference seating: Agati. Library and conference tables: Versteel, KI, Krug, Palmieri. Administrative desk, files: Knoll. Administrative seating: Stylex, Source International, Gunlocke. Lounge seating: David Edwards, Cartwright, Carolina, August Incorporated. Other seating: KI, Thonet, Krug, OFS. Other tables: David Edwards. Shelving: MJ Industries, Gressco, Peter Pepper. Elevators: Schindler.

where:
Location: Glens Falls, N.Y. Total floor area: 52,837 gross sq. ft. No. of floors: 3 + basement. Average floor size: 17,000 sq. ft. Book capacity: 164,352 (total cataloged books, adult/children), 9,454 (other print materials), 191 (electronic materials), 32,502 (audio and video recordings), 114,862 (all other materials), 321,361(total). Seating capacity: 500 (staff and library patrons). Cost/sq. ft.: $193.
 


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