Design floated for children’s museum
Posted: November 16, 2012
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — A city architect floated a trial building redesign for the new Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum past the Winchester Board of Architectural Review Thursday and got a positive response from members.
Though no votes were requested or required, Chuck Swartz of Reader & Swartz in Winchester mostly had his preliminary plans for the former Schewels Furniture building at 19 W. Cork St. affirmed by the board. The children’s science museum purchased the building in April.
“The dialogue here was very useful in all ways,” he told board members following the hour-long meeting, which featured no other business items.
Instead of bringing his final designs for the three-story brick building to the board seeking approval, Swartz opted to unveil the conceptual plans to see if any major problems were noted. Though suggestions were made and concerns aired, nothing close to a deal-breaker arose.
“We’re tasked to take an old furniture building ... and turn it into a museum that will be a local and regional draw,” he explained at the outset of the discussion. “We want to maintain the brick box. But we want to make it not seem like you’re going to this kid warehouse and try to make it fun.”
Later, he added, “We’d like to make this a Winchester brick building, but with seams and stuff popping out.”
Under the tentative plans, the Cork Street entrance would be moved to the western edge of the building and a 12-foot-tall garage-style glass door would be installed so exhibits can be brought into the first floor. A sign hanging over the sidewalk would bear the museum’s lightbulb logo.
The second-story windows initially would be removed so a real ambulance can be placed on that level and new windows would be installed. The goal is for people to be able to see activity inside the building as they pass by.
Four new windows would be installed on the third floor.
The biggest changes would be on the building’s east side, which faces Indian Alley. Its facade is a brick wall with windows placed on it incongruously.
The window at the northern end of the third floor would be enlarged, Swartz said, but room would be left underneath for a temporary banner to hang. The banner would promote temporary exhibits; one could be hung on the west outer wall as well.
In selected spots along the east outer wall, Swartz envisions cement squares that could be painted as public art. The blocks would be painted a base color that goes with the brick, and children could paint various things on them.
“My idea,” he said, “was to take a tattoo and apply it to a building.”
He said the blocks also could be sponsored to help raise money for the project and could be changed when they start showing signs of wear.
The concept was seen as novel by board members, but one was worried.
“I’m concerned about other people coming before the board and wanting to put something on the side of their building,” Bob Pinner said.
But other board members said such requests would have to come before the panel for approval and could be turned down if deemed inappropriate.
Swartz said his plan calls for the removal of the fire escape on the east side of the building so museum officials wouldn’t have to worry about it falling. But board member Tim Bandyke asked if the metal folding ladder could be retained and painted.
“It sort of makes it kind of urban,” he said.
Swartz said he needed to see if the fire escape is safely attached to the building and doesn’t want the museum to pay a lot of money to secure it so it can be kept.
The west wall, which is partially shared with the neighboring building, would feature more public art squares.
If all goes as hoped, Swartz said the roof also would become an exhibit with a garden and good views of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Allegheny Mountains to the west. Mesh barriers would be installed to prevent children from going over the side of the building yet still allow them to have views from it.
“We’ve got exhibit space that we’re not paying for,” he said.
A small building also is envisioned for the rooftop to provide a shady space. Swartz said the existing roof might be removed so a stronger one can be installed.
Inside the building, a second stairway would be built and sprinklers added to meet fire regulations. Swartz said seven staff members — two each on the three floors and one on the roof — could be positioned to have views of the entire floor, the elevator and the stairwells.
Attending the meeting at Rouss City Hall were Chairman Tom Rockwood, Vice-Chairman Tim Bandyke, and board members Don Crigler, Pat Jackson, Bob Pinner and Kevin Walker. Board member Peter Serafin was absent.
— Contact Vic Bradshaw at email@example.com