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Published: Sunday, 8/12/2001

By design, brothers meld old with new

BY REBEKAH SCOTT
BLADE STAFF WRITER

It's not often a hometown, family-owned architecture firm gets to design a building from rafters to rugs; so the Mungers let fly with their best ideas when the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library's downtown project landed on their desks.

Hal and David Munger, the second generation of Toledo's Munger+Munger architecture firm, worked closely with a library design committee to create a new library addition that harmonizes with the fine old Art Deco original.

Respect for the old structure guided the pair as they designed the addition, and redesigned and recycled interiors inside the old library building.

“There's no doubt the original building is one of the nicest Art Deco pieces around,” Hal said. “We wanted to be respectful of it.... The historic pieces influenced the new design, and the new shows off the old. It's wonderful to see them come back to life after 60 years.”

Old-timers will recognize items that vanished into storage during a remodeling job in the 1960s. Other details were there all the time, but were perched high above eye-level.

“Above the doors to the gallery and children's area, you'll see aluminum framing we took from some old first-floor windows,” David said. “It's full of neatly articulated chevrons, diagonals, triangles, and a flowery little leaf thing. You can see it now better than ever. In its original position, it was way up high, but now you're walking right under it, where you can enjoy it.”

Other creative reuses of original materials pop up in the children's library. Card catalog drawers were destined for the dustbin, but the architects saw a new use for the old drawer faces. “We flipped them over and mounted them on the wall in a grid arrangement. The kids can hang their coats on the hooks,” David said.

Woodwork, lighting, floors, and shelving from the old days were restored or re-lit for more dramatic effect, Hal said. Wooden elevator cabs were restored to service. Woodwork and lighting in the Rare Book Room and local history departments “are truly fantastic,” he said.

Other original items were turned on their heads. Six auditorium light fixtures that languished in a storeroom for more than 30 years now glow from beneath glass-topped tables.

“They're streamlined ovals, and we designed some aluminum, stainless, and glass tables that float above and around the lights,” David said. “We kept all the modern, streamlined look. It's very cool!”

A more updated look is apparent in the audio-visual area, with its 72-inch video screen, piano-shaped, fiber-optic reference desk, and star-shaped “walk of fame” carpet insets. “We were looking for a more retail feel for this area,” David said. “In the music area, we have a musical measure worked into the carpet ... we're looking at some oval stools, too, to fit on the measure like notes.”

Another flashy note apparent throughout the library is the color wheel: a light projector thatcasts changing, colored light onto reflective surfaces. There's one at that razzmatazz reference desk; another accents the glass-block floor in front of the elevator doors.

“It was a lot of fun,” the brothers agree. “It's neat to be able to get down to this kind of detail,” David continued. “Our office is really lucky we could follow through this far. And I know the [library building] committee had lots of fun picking from all the possibilities.”



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