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Library Exhibits

From Old to New: A Program Narrative Describes A Building for the Future

Leahy HallThe design process began with the law school drafting a "Program Narrative" of its requirements.  At the beginning of the Program Narrative the law school set forth five “cross cutting” themes:

  • The building should be distinguished;

  • The building should encourage faculty and student discourse;

  • The building should meet comfort and study needs;

  • The building should encourage experimenting with new educational methods;

  • The building should not become quickly obsolete because of lack of space or design flexibility.

The forty-nine-page document then went on to cover every aspect of the law school’s operation, from future enrollment assumptions to the overall appearance of the building, to special pedagogical requirements. 

Law School BuildingThe document next focused on the overall “sense of the building,” and then sketched out particular requirements for classrooms, the library, courtrooms, the clinic, administrative services, the Dean’s suite, legal career services, financial aid, student records, admissions, special programs, religious and contemplative activity, student life, student organizations, development and alumni affairs, and technology. 

Deciding on Architects

Participating in a Charrette, November  1988

By November 1988, the original 19 architecture firms that had shown interest in the law school project had been whittled down to four. The final selection would take place after presentations by each company during a Charrette, a 36-hour around-the-clock architectural competition. The four finalists were Mariani & Associates, James Stuart Polshek and Partners, Keyes Condon Florance Architects, and Shalom Baranes Associates Architects.

Law School Sketch  Law School Sketch 2 Law School Sketch 3

The real purpose of the Charrette was twofold: 1) It was an opportunity for the law school and the architects to get to know one another, and 2) It revealed each architecture firm’s understanding of the law school’s requirements. The product of the Charrette would be a sample of each firm’s interpretation.

The renderings each firm prepared for display at the end of the process were not intended to be a formal design, but rather a representation of how each firm would fulfill the Building Committee’s requirements.

Design Development

To help visualize organizational patterns and relationships among working groups, the law school staff must reflect carefully on how the operation of one department is dependent upon another for efficient management. These organizational relationships then can be explained and demonstrated to the architect. 

undefinedThe typical way in which architects choose to work with this information is to prepare a bubble diagram. A bubble diagram is a series of circles, rectangles, or squares, each of which represents an area or operation of the law school. They are drawn in varying dimensions, each being proportionately larger or smaller depending upon the square footage requested for the space in the program. The architect uses bubble diagrams to visualize how the departments will be organized to function most efficiently.

 The schematic phase places segments of the building on floors, determined by the program, which meet the budget, mechanical and structural requirements. 

It is at this phase that the space requirements for each department will be massed together into logical units and assigned to various floor locations according to the relationship of spaces on the bubble diagram. It is largely through this massing of square footage that the building begins to take shape. This concept of designing a building by massing logical operating units together is referred to in building design jargon as “form follows function,” which means that the overall design of a building will be dictated by the size and location of the spaces allocated for individual operations.

Meetings with Interior Designers

Architects frequently engage interior designers to help decorate and furnish the law school’s interior spaces. To begin the process, the Building Committee may discuss acceptable building interior finishes, color palettes, and furniture possibilities with the designer. 


The results of such discussions should not conclude with the building committee’s making positive, irreversible decorating decisions. On the contrary, the conversation should open up many different paths for the interior designer to please the committee and the institution. It wastes valuable time for the designer to focus on imported marble when the building committee has envisioned domestic American stone all along.

While undergoing this give and take design process, it can be helpful to visit institutions which have incorporated decor similar to what the interior designer and building committee have under consideration. Walking about in such a space can help the committee visualize how its own new installation might look upon completion. 


An interior designer’s technical knowledge of light and color can guide a planning team through the selection of colors and finishes. Interior designers generally agree that the “color” can effect how people use a space.

The design and color of furniture and equipment also plays a large role in decor. Furniture and other building trappings can detract easily from the building committee’s goal if they do not harmonize with the overall appearance of the building and cannot be maintained easily.

Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers

The library staff jumped at the opportunity to cast off its Naugahyde upholstered reading room chairs and cramped study carrels and was extremely pleased when the interior designers recommended more upscale lines of library furniture,  finally settling on Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers of Auburn, Maine.

undefinedIt is with great pride that we offer this prototype carrel to The Catholic University of America.  It is designed to function as an archetypal design statement for the Columbus School of Law library interior.  The scale, form, materials and finish are to serve as models for what might constitute much of the library’s furniture. -Thos. Moser

All Columbus Carrels came equipped with an electrical wire harness which included several power outlets, a network data plug connection and a surge protector. Each carrel also was equipped with a task light. Another unique component of the carrel was the laser-engraved seal of the University.


Selecting Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers to supply the library tables, carrels and chairs and ordering other building furniture and equipment from an array of quality manufacturers allowed the law school to achieve one of the main objectives of the building’s program statement: upgrading the appearance of the school and creating a more professional atmosphere, almost a corporate feel throughout the law building – something that could never have been achieved in Leahy Hall.

Major Dates in Planning for New Building 1987 – 1996

September 1987 Dean Ralph Rohner appoints Building Committee: Leah Wortham (Faculty-Chair), Mike Cozzillio (Faculty), David Lipton (Faculty), Harvey Zuckman (Faculty), Joseph Stuart (Assistant Dean). Steve Margeton joins Committee in November 1988.

November 3, 1987 Building Committee first meeting.

November 10, 1987 Wortham solicits faculty committee chairs for suggestions for the new building as drafting of the Program Narrative begins. 

law school drawing

March 1 - 16, 1988 Five meetings held with students to receive input on new building requirements; Wortham circulates first draft of Program Narrative to Building Committee.

April 7 - 8, 1988 Draft of Program Narrative circulated to faculty, staff and students.

April 26, 1988 Faculty Retreat held to discuss new building program and solicit comments.

June 8, 1988 Howard Levo of the University Facilities Design and Construction Office circulates draft letter inviting architecture firms to submit credentials.

June 27, 1988 Revised Program Narrative, which includes recommendations suggested at the Faculty Retreat, circulated to Building Committee.

July 6, 1988 Architect Selection Committee meeting held. Nineteen of twenty-one firms submitted information. Eight finalists selected.

November 8 - 9, 1988 Charrette (contest to select an architecture firm) held.

November 11, 1988 Capital Campaign launched.

November 16, 1988  Dean Rohner recommends Keyes Condon Florance to University President William J. Byron, S.J. as law school’s first choice for designing the new building.

December 14, 1988 Mark Maves of Keyes Condon Florance announces he will oversee programming; Russell Perry will be project manager; Steve Kleinrock, lead building architect; Toni Ayers, lead interior designer; and E. Michael Vergason, landscape architect.

January 1 – May 18, 1989 Programming begins with Building Committee and architects preparing worksheets for each building space. Site selection, furniture planning, and AV consultation take place.  Faculty review building square foot allocations for various spaces.

February 2, 1989 Library Director Steve Margeton submits Library Program.

February 8, 1989 Architects compare Leahy Hall space with building’s program analysis.

March 3, 1989 Draft construction budget presented. Building Committee reports building’s initial size estimate: Gross sq. ft. is 240,697;  Net sq. ft. (usable space) is 131,810 sq. ft.

March 5 – 8, 1989 Building Committee and architects attend ABA Notre Dame Conference on Law Building Design and tour Northwestern and Case Western law schools.

March 13, 1989 Interior designer begins meeting with various groups about requirements.

March 20, 1989 Building Committee prioritizes square footage cuts to building program.

April 15, 1989 Acentech (AV) presents preliminary proposal.

May 10, 1989 Architect delivers building program draft.

May 22, 1989 – April 2, 1990 Schematics, floor layouts, faculty offices, food service, parking plan and building security determined.

October 1, 1990 - March 31, 1991 Board of Trustees passes resolution to borrow $22,000,000 and begin construction by September 1992; library design completed; faculty office choices tabulated; interior designs approved; furniture specifications proceed; AV package formulated.

January 22, 1990 Meeting held with landscape architect E. Michael Vergason.

May 23, 1992 Ground Breaking!

October 1992 – June 1994 Construction!  Construction!!  Construction!!!

December 1, 1992 – February 28, 1993 Chapel planning begins (Brother Frank Kacmarcik, liturgical consultant, engaged). Preparation for cornerstone ceremony completed; building permit secured; Thos. Moser and other office furniture contracts completed.

April 17, 1993 Cornerstone laid!

law school drawing

June 23 - 27, 1994 MOVE!

September 30 - October 2, 1994 Law School dedicates building.

February 13, 1996 Chapel construction completed; formal dedication takes place.


A Building for the Future Exhibit

Judge Kathryn J. DuFour Law Library / 3600 John McCormack Road N.E., Washington, DC 20064 / 202-319-5155