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Linderman architects recognized for design excellence

MGA Partners was honored for its recent work on the beautiful renovation of Linderman Library.

The Philadelphia-based architectural firm that designed the newly renovated Linderman Library was recently named a recipient of the prestigious Honor Award from the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Pennsylvania). The organization promotes the profession of architecture and high quality in built environments throughout the state.

The award, given to MGA Partners, recognized exceptionally good professional skills within the entire scope of the design continuum. It was one of only eight awards conferred.

“This is great recognition for what was a very complex project,” says Bruce Taggart, vice provost for Library and Technology Services (LTS). “The challenge was to take the original 1870s Victorian structure, with its 1920s neo-Gothic addition, and make it a current, contemporary learning, teaching and study space. That required quite a bit of conceptual planning, followed by the program planning, the architectural planning and then the construction itself. In the end, we had a great result—largely as a result of a great deal of foresight and cooperation.”

Tony Corallo, an associate vice president of facilities services and campus planning at Lehigh who was instrumental to the entire renovation project, says the AIA Pennsylvania Honor award might be the highest design recognition that Lehigh has ever received.

“It is a well-earned testament to all of the project team members—MGA, Alvin H. Butz, Inc., and Lehigh's LTS and Facilities staff—who worked so hard in a collaborative and synergistic way over several years to make this project the success that it is,” Corallo says. “This was the most difficult and complex project that I have been a part of in the 30 years that I've been at the university. The design, construction, schedule, and budget challenges were enormous and so were the expectations. It is truly gratifying that the end product has been so well received by the entire Lehigh community.”

Honoring Linderman’s historic footprint

The renovation of a dated library is an undertaking many colleges and universities are currently struggling with, Taggart says.

“It’s easy to just build a new library, but like many other institutions, we think it’s important to honor that historic footprint,” he says. “In Linderman, there are 130 years of memories, and hopefully, they’ll be 130 years more.”

MGA Partners Principal Alan Greenberger accepted the award in Harrisburg in November during the organization’s annual Architects Day. At that time, he congratulated Lehigh University as well and lauded those involved in the two-year project for their collaborative efforts.

According to its Web site, the design firm is “guided by strong design principles refined over the last 40 years” and motivated by “a balanced attention to design, technology, management and building craft.” Their portfolio includes large-scale projects for several prominent universities and public institutions, including Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr College and the University of North Carolina.

The university’s venerable Linderman Library recently underwent the extensive renovation process that updated the 130-year old structure and restored many of its unique architectural features. It was funded, in part, by an ongoing campaign that has raised nearly $8.8 million towards its $10 million goal. Contributions came from a combination of alumni, parents, faculty, staff and friends of the library.

The conceptual phase of the project began in 1999, with the actual construction commencing in May of 2005. The library opened its doors in mid-March of 2007 and was officially rededicated in May.

Throughout the renovation process, designers were charged with carving out more teaching spaces and installing modern conveniences such as central air conditioning, wireless technology, a public elevator, state-of-the-art lighting and increased fire suppression capacity.

All needed to be done while preserving the architectural integrity of the collegiate Gothic addition, as well as the iconic Victorian structure, with its swirling, iron-railed staircase, wood-lined alcoves, and the massive, stained glass skylight that bathes the Woodcock Rotunda in golden light.

"One of the most amazing contributions that the architects made was to add a new corridor connecting the two fourth floor towers for the first time,” says Susan Cady, director of administration and planning in Library and Technology Services. “Before, you would have had to crawl out onto the roof! The skylights they added flood both the third and fourth floor with natural light and afford an amazing peek at the towers outside."

One of Lehigh’s most-utilized and admired structures, Linderman Library was funded by university founder and 19th century industrialist Asa Packer, in honor of his recently deceased daughter, Lucy. It officially opened in April, 1878. The investment of $110,000 was the largest single gift of Packer’s lifetime, after the original $500,000 grant to create Lehigh University.

Believed to be patterned after a Sicilian castle, the original space housed more than 100,000 volumes and was characterized by ornate architectural flourishes and cozy alcoves. A large addition on either side of the original structure that included the oak-paneled Reading Room was erected in 1929. The grand-scale, 150-foot long Reading Room is distinguished by its coffered ceiling highlighted in gold.

For more information about the project, go online.

--Linda Harbrecht

Photo by Douglas Benedict

Posted on Wednesday, December 05, 2007

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