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Glendale center is getting a Brand-new look

March 31, 2012|By Terri Martin
  • A new entrance plaza is planned as part of renovation of the Brand Library in Glendale, seen in this artists rendering.
A new entrance plaza is planned as part of renovation of… (Illustration courtesy…)

Entrepreneur Leslie C. Brand's dedication to literacy and the arts — and Glendale's support of his vision — is evident in the ongoing evolution of the Brand Library and Arts Center, created at the unique mansion he willed to the city he helped build. That legacy now includes a renovation project set to begin in April, with a revitalized facility projected to open in July 2013.

There are but a few registered historical houses that serve as public libraries, mostly because of scale and fragility. Old houses are not particularly conducive to a volume of public traffic or for use to manage the organization of tons of information. In spite of 21st century technology, much of this information is still in bound book form, which requires voluminous space.

In 1956, the mansion was converted into a public library, and the grounds opened to the public. In 1969, a 21,000-square-foot wood, glass and concrete structure was added to serve as a community art center. The design by architect Raymond Jones is an early postmodern style. The architect organized the addition around an enclosed patio, currently the sculpture garden, after the same fashion as the mansion's solarium.

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Jones took a risk with a design out of step with the formal modernism of his time and complemented and supported the design of the pre-existing structure, careful not to overwhelm it. The white house still dominates the hill, though the addition is four times its size.

The 2012 renovation plan and $7.8-million budget — approved by the Glendale City Council in December — will be allocated first to make the structure current with California building standards and update technology. The balance of the budget goes to improving function and the quality of visitors' experience by restoring much of the original mansion to the 1904 condition, offering an aesthetic journey back to the turn of the 20th century.

According to Gruen Associates partner Debra Gerod, executive architect on the renovation, three big ideas should stand out. First, a new entry will more effectively integrate where the 1969 construction and original mansion meet. It will also improve access according to the Americans with Disabilities Act and relieve the historic front door from traffic pressure.

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