challenge How do you tackle a renovation project when it is one of only a handful of buildings east of the Mississippi by noted International Style architect, Richard Neutra? That was the task facing Baltimore-based Ziger/Snead Architects in its quest to provide 'restoration and modernization' services to Mellon Hall on the Annapolis, Maryland, campus of liberal arts college St. John's.
architectural and lighting solution Neutra discovered St. John's in 1954 when asked to lecture in conjunction with a book tour. The commission for Mellon Hall was a happy marriage between an architect looking for East Coast projects and a college president who saw the benefit of a famous architect designing a new campus building.
Neutra's original design for Mellon Hall included classrooms, offices, laboratories, and an auditorium. The front of the building featured a garden room with structural-steel beams extended from the interior to the exterior to form an overhang in the interior courtyard. Ziger/Snead utilized the exposed beams as the defining architectural element in its renovation, whose program called for a new café and addition to house classrooms, offices, and a seminar space called the Hodson Room. The café extends along the length of the building and full-height laminated glass panels form the front wall. Overhead, a tongue-in-groove wood deck stops short of the building's former external wall to form a clerestory. At the edge of the terrace, 75W halogen PAR30 inground uplights create a visual rhythm and accent the building's mid-twentieth-century modern aesthetic, something Ziger/Snead paid attention to in selecting a respectful material and luminaire palette.
The café is illuminated with track- and downlights that use 50W MR16 lamps. Low-maintenance 32W T8 fluorescent fixtures provide cove- lighting for the corridor wall. 'The daytime visibility and nighttime appeal of the space has made it the social center on campus,' says Glenn Shrum, Ziger/Snead's in-house lighting designer, who is also trained as an architect.
The Hodson Room is separated from a pre-function area by a dividing-wall that combines sandblasted laminated glass with custom-designed wood bookcases. Uplights at the top of the wall emphasize the geometry of the architectural glass detailing, and adjustable recessed accentlights highlight the patina of the mahogany.
'It's one of the primary meeting spaces on campus,' Shrum explains. 'The lighting was designed to meet the varied functions scheduled throughout the day.' Seminars and discussions related to St. John's curriculum, based on 130 'Great Books,' are held around the large square conference table. General lighting is supplied by recessed 150W PAR38 downlights with high cutoff reflectors, and lighting levels are controlled by a programmable system with presets.
Mimicking the form of the seminar table, overhead horizontal mahogany planes, dropped 2 feet below the 12-foot-high ceiling, hides projectors needed for presentations and videoconferencing. Concealed 10W Xenon striplighting outlines the steel-framed wood panels. Dimmable tracklighting fitted with louvered 75W AR111 low-glare flood lamps provides additional focal illumination for presenters and videoconferencing participants. The scale, materials, and lighting of the new and renovated spaces gracefully complement the school's personalized approach to education and Neutra's elegant modernist legacy. vilma barr