Gensler unveils restoration and expansion of Houston's Julia Ideson building

The "new" building will serve as a repository of Houston memorabilia and rare archival material as well as the city's official reception space and a venue for exhibits, meetings and other special events.

Gensler served as architect, Balfour Beatty US was the project's contractor, and
Gensler served as architect, Balfour Beatty US was the project's contractor, and TBG Partners served as landscape architects.
January 06, 2012

Gensler recently completed a major renovation of the 1926 Julia Ideson Building - one of Houston's grandest public buildings and the former main public library.

The $32 million renovation resulted from a dynamic public/private partnership between the City of Houston and the non-profit Julia Ideson Library Preservation Partners (JILPP). The "new" building will serve as a repository of Houston memorabilia and rare archival material as well as the city's official reception space and a venue for exhibits, meetings and other special events.

Gensler served as architect, Balfour Beatty US was the project's contractor, and TBG Partners served as landscape architects.

Originally designed by noted Boston architect Ralph Adams Cram, the building is an outstanding example of the Spanish Renaissance-style replete with polychrome painted ceilings, intricate woodwork, marble columns and lofty public spaces. Cram's design included a south wing and a reading garden which were never realized due to budget cuts. The "new" Ideson has a south wing that is true to Cram's original design as well as a reading garden.

The restoration was executed with painstaking detail on both the interior and exterior. The project included: a new roof, replacements for missing cast stone pieces, a reconfigured and re- landscaped plaza that was careful to preserve the champion bur oaks and a new fence similar to the one shown in Cram & Ferguson's 1923 presentation drawings.

On the inside, the intricately painted and coffered ceilings in the public rooms were restored. Historic light fixtures were re-lamped and reproduction fixtures were added in spaces that had no original lighting. Ornamental iron and metal work was refurbished. Tile, wood and stone floors were repaired and refinished.

Most of the furniture in the public spaces is original to the library or to the 1904 Carnegie Library that preceded it. The built-in bookcases in the second floor Reading Room and the hand-carved children's furniture featuring fairy-tale scenes in the Norma Meldrum Room on the first floor are original.

Paintings and sculptures throughout are from the Houston Public Library's collection. Many of the works were previously displayed in the Ideson and/or Carnegie libraries. The Ideson contains the city's largest installation of public murals completed under the Works Progress Administration program after the Depression. 

The Ideson building is among the first Texas Historic Landmark projects on track for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. An efficient air-handling system and recycled and low-emitting construction materials are key components of the sustainable design that was created by Gensler in partnership with MEP engineers Redding Linden Burr. BD+C

         
 

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