The Kagan Law Group Transforms a Corner on West Street
By Robert Haywood | Photography by Lenny Kagan
Commercial architecture plays a major role in defining the aesthetic of a city. Such structures can be thrown together and crass, giving a city a lifeless quality. Or, well-designed and constructed, making a city appear as a place where thoughtful people live and work.
The new offices of Kagan Law Group on West Street adds significantly to the design of
Annapolis and the revitalization of the West Street corridor. That credit goes to the firm’s founder, attorney Jonathan Kagan, who put together a high-level team of professionals to repurpose a 1940s structure that has had many occupants over the years; the most recent tenant was Annapolis Furniture Company.
For one to even care about fine design requires sensitivity to the visual environment and form. Kagan benefited from having a father, Leonard Kagan, who studied at the Yale School of Architecture and who developed into a renowned architect in his work at RTK&L Associates Inc. in Baltimore. Influenced by his father (as well as his mother, Ann Kagan, who is an artist), Jonathan Kagan also minored in art and architectural history as an undergraduate at Boston University, gaining an historical understanding of architecture.
As leaders and patrons of the arts in Annapolis, Kagan and his wife Marnie clearly cared about and were willing to invest their resources into renovating a building that would complement and strengthen the design of the city. The old Annapolis Furniture Company was essentially a rundown warehouse. To turn it into a law firm with conference rooms, Kagan enlisted architect Marta Hansen, who had worked with Kagan on remodeling previous office spaces.
Although the building is not located in the official historic district, Hansen worked with the existing structure and preserved many of its features. This attention to preservation infuses the building with a historical aura and reminds us that this is a building that has had many lives. The first floor preserves a succession of plaster vaults in the conference rooms and the building’s interior boasts the original brick piers. The existing wooden floors, which had been cut and patched over the decades, were beautifully refinished rather than replaced . . . Even small details like round brass fittings—inserted into the floor when the building was once a message center—give the building historical interest.
The tall ceilings give the interior a spacious feeling. This is no accident. Hansen explains that she and the builder “worked very hard to retrofit modern HVAC and sprinkler systems within the structural floor and ceiling systems” so they would not have to lower the ceilings any more than necessary.
On the exterior, Hansen added a cornice, which gives the building a top, middle and base zone. She then added a ribbon of LED lights to the cornice, which, she said, “harken back to the era of neon in the 40s.” The grey awning that existed on the facade when it was Annapolis Furniture Company was removed, brick piers on the exterior were cleaned, and frame panels of stucco were refurbished and now define the structural bays.
The building’s most striking new features are the large plate and gridded glass windows, which allow natural light to infuse the interior, while the black ribs of the windows give the space a distinctly modern look.
The new Kagan Law Group building is a model in how to transform an older generic commercial building into an architectural structure; it sits at the nexus of past and future, at once capturing the history of Annapolis, while envisioning a future in which fine design is a continuing trademark of the city.
About the Kagan Law Group: Jonathan Kagan has been in private practice in Annapolis for over 23 years representing companies and individuals throughout Maryland. Kagan Law Group handles business, employment, and real estate matters, as well as civil litigation in all levels of the State and Federal courts. The firm’s partners are Jonathan Kagan, Michael Marinello and Ryan Beard. The associates are Meagan Cooper and Patrick Daley, and Travis Martz is counsel to the firm.
Kagan Law Group, kaganlawgroup.com | ARCHITECT: Hansen Architects (Marta Hansen), hansenarchitects.net, Annapolis, Maryland | BUILDER: BuilderGuru Contracting, Inc., builderguru.com, Millersville, Maryland
Annapolis Home Magazine
Vol. 8, No. 4 2017