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.Read More
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“Dennis Kowal Architects designs buildings that are resilient
and can take care of themselves in a disaster.”
“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 embedded 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.
The BEFORE photos show the wear and tear this nurses station received. The completed project provides durable materials that are easy to clean and maintain.
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.
DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS is changing the face of Health Care.
Originally owned by Benjamin Franklin, the former tenant house at 318 Market Street is a unique museum that reveals more than Benjamin Franklin’s history. Unlike most house museums, 318 Market does not represent a specific moment in history or one family’s experience within the house and the City. Walls of the Franklin house have been “stripped bare” to reveal the changes made from the time it was built in 1787 to the present. The history of the house is documented by scars on the walls that show where the partitions once stood and where architectural elements, like fireplaces, were once located. Physical details that are still visible represent the entire history of the house and all of its owners from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries. Dennis Kowal, AIA worked with the National Park Service to explain this history and develop a Museum about Ben Franklin’s involvement in the construction of the his houses. Franklin loved to watch construction and called it “an old man’s amusement” (the name of the Museum as well).
The tools used to build houses like these and the methods employed are the features of the museum. This original display window still contains the “bulls eye” glass that was hand blown for this purpose. A “bulls eye” is a round thickened bulge in the glass where the glass blower removed his pontil (blow pipe). During the 18th and early 19th century, molten glass was blown into a “crown” (globe shape) and then spun and flattened into a large glass disk using centrifugal force. The best window glass was the thin and clear glass away from the center, while the thicker inner circle glass was cut for less important windows. Machine rolled glass wasn’t developed in America until 1888 and “wire glass” (security glazing) came along in 1898.
Dennis Kowal originally designed and field tested a projection system of how the interiors could be recreated from the wall fragments. The photos below show how the black soot reveals where the chimney flue rose against the wall (red line) and locates the fireplace between two built-in china closets with small shelves and a central cupboard (beige line). All that remains of the closets are plaster backs which denote where the wood shelves and construction once stood.
Ben Franklin’s wall have been “stripped bare” of furring and layers of finishes to reveal the original bearing wall which provides a fascinating look into the original finishes, millwork and structural modifications. From these fragments and knowledge about the period, the entire interior can be mentally recreated as it once was.
DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS designs historic
Museum in Independence Park
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.
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 copper work, 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.
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.
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.
Dennis Kowal Architects saves energy, resources,
and history by recycling the past.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dennis Kowal Architects designs interiors
right down to the fine details!
It is likely the construction materials for the center section (and oldest part of the Hendrickson/ Atchely Farmhouse) were hand made on site. A Flemish bond brick was used for the center core and the uneven sizes and shapes indicate a hand-made brick. Excavations at the site during construction revealed some oyster shells; often used in the making of lime for mortar in the 18th and 19th century. Also, discovered were a variety of medicine, shoe polish, spice and other bottles as well as an old shoe from the early 1900’s.
Helping DKA with the archaeological dig was veteran bone collector, Victor Garcia, of Cuautitian Izcalli Edo De Mexico (literally a town so small it is named “the house between the trees”). Although there are two actual graves on the site of this farm, the bone fragments discovered were identified by Victor as animal bones which were probably dressed on site for soup and then discarded. Victor discovered many human bones while digging in Mexico. Sometimes the bones were the remains of bodies (buried in the fetal position) in clay vessels.
Over 70 artifacts were recovered from the ground during the historic restoration of this house which was once part of a 134 acre working farmstead. Some of these items can be seen on the table in front of the fireplace. The preservation of this exterior of the house followed the Secretary of the Interior Preservation Guidelines for Restoration to a period. Therefore, all twentieth century additions to the house were removed to restore the house to its appearance in the late 1800’s.
The condition of the property was poor when Dennis Kowal Architects began. Many structural members were replaced, the toppling brick chimneys were replaced with the original brick, missing windows were fabricated to the exact profiles of the original, and a new metal roof, copper gutters and wood eaves were crafted.
The restoration was provided by Lewis-Graham Inc. under the supervision of and Dennis Kowal Architects for the Opus Development Corporation. All of the artifacts and a detailed field report will be presented by pre-arrangement to the Archaeological Department of the New Jersey State Museum.
DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS preserves the past with dignity and passion.
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.
DKA designed the Planetarium and Space Museum at Raritan Valley Community College to evoke space travel.When it was time to celebrate the 400th year anniversary of Galileo
looking into space with a telescope, the TV show the “Cake Boss” brought a solar system cake through the dramatic space tunnel entrance to the Planetarium.Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro said “when I brought the cake to the planetarium, going down that hallway, it felt like I was bringing the cake into outer space, it was so cool!”.
The design elicits reactions from almost everyone who enters the lobby doors and the space travel “experience” begins long before showtime through the use of lighting, materials and creative design. It is not unusual for children to drop the hand of their parents and head straight for the tunnel entrance before buying a ticket! “In fact”, says principal architect, Dennis Kowal, “I’ve seen a few adults do this as well!” Architecture that conjures emotional response is a real treat.
Dennis Kowal Architects is known for integrating architecture and technology.
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.
Dennis Kowal Architects is an advocate for the developmentally
disabled and designs for their needs.
DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS has been designing for the blind, physically handicapped, handicapped, autistic, developmentally disabled, and learning disabled for 30 years and their completed work creates a friendly environment without shouting “special needs”. "I learned a long time ago that blindness for most is just a characteristic like short or tall and it comes with its own challenges and limitations; but it is not necessarily a disability” says Dennis Kowal about his experiences with the many blind professionals who conduct rather normal lives. The majority of the visually impaired get around without a white cane (less than 35% use a cane) or a guide dog (less than 3% use a guide dog). As a person ages, there is a one in ten chance of major vision loss but then their needs may be different as they may no longer drive, go to school or work.
At the National Headquarters of Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D), Dennis's design was based on orthogonal geometry, the easiest navigation system. Curves can disorient whereas ninety degree turns are easier to follow for someone with no vision. That same person composes a picture of the space from sensing the perimeter as opposed to walking into the middle and looking around as a sighted person might. Therefore, the placement of furniture and removing obstacles at the perimeter became important to the design process. Finally, acoustics also help compose the picture. Large volumes sound different than small spaces or lower ceilings. And just as too many colors is garish for the sighted, too many sounds can be annoying to the visually impaired.
DKA created custom designed conveyor systems that recognize specific tapes and automatically distribute them.
DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS designs for the blind, dyslexic and physically handicapped.
The master plan for housing adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder includes 24 individual units, a recreation building, administrative offices and clinic.
Special needs providers sometimes differ on the approach to designing for those who are visually impaired, autistic, deaf, disabled, or otherwise atypical. On the one hand, if you create an environment that is so special and customized, you risk making the individual dependent on the building and send the wrong message to society that this person can’t function without “crutches”. On the other hand, if you say the best policy is to ask the individual to adapt to any building situation without changing the current building norms, you do no service to those with limited adaptation skills and you don’t advance the design practice as a whole. Unfortunately, I have been in the middle of this argument many times by the various representative constituent groups I bring together for design retreats at the outset of a new special needs building design. It has been our firm’s skill at walking this fine line that has led to our acceptance in the special needs community as an advocate and friend.If a building is a training center or rehabilitation center, then a variety of building experiences with various levels of customization are in order. In this way, the training center can prepare an individual for any level of outside world experience.
If the building is a permanent residence, then more customization can contribute to an improved daily experience. For example, in our design for a residence of Adults with Autism, the users told us that the two most important considerations for them were light and sound. While Autism is complex and can’t be narrowed down to two senses, it is sometimes helpful to at least address the most significant requests of the users. The Autistic often can’t separate stimuli such as the background noise of an exhaust fan from music on the radio. The overload would be comparable to trying to hear your cell phone while standing on the yellow line in the middle of a six lane highway. Your only thought might be “Just get me out of here!” So a place to retreat from too much light, too many sounds, or any overload, is not a crutch as much as a necessity.
Many of the features of the design for ASD and DD are concealed in the construction. For example, multiple lighting levels, operable drapes, sound partitions, remote exhaust fan motors, and safely designed built-in furniture are developed as the design progresses.
DENNIS KOWAL ARCHITECTS designs for those with special needs.