Before Jen Library was an award-winning interior space and educational resource center, it was a brick and mortar department store. Originally built as Levy’s in 1925, it was later acquired and remodeled into a Maas Brothers Department Store nearly three decades later.
The new design for Maas, indicative of 1950s modernism, included a dramatic transformation of the existing building. A concrete expansion was also added, with the two structural systems visible through ceiling grills. Its cantilevered canopy and windowless upper stories took advantage of artificial lighting and air-conditioning.
After acquiring the building in 1996, SCAD made extensive interior renovations and minor exterior changes. Where shoppers once enjoyed a “motorstair” built in 1954, a monumental glass staircase now ascends from a colorful, open lobby to two vibrant and meditative spaces where SCAD students research, study and work in pods equipped with the latest design software. Eclectic and cozy furniture, offset by graphic wallpaper and SCAD alumni art at every turn, are anchored by sunny, floor-to-ceiling windows at each end of the building.
The resource center opened as the university’s main library in 1999. It was renamed in honor of its primary benefactors, Lancy and Jim Jen. For its excellence in design, creativity and function, Jen Library received a 2016 Library Interior Design Award, cosponsored by the American Library Association and the International Interior Design Association.