Peter Bolek & Stephanie Shook on Preserving History, Honoring Community, & Pursuing Flexibility | Episode 11

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Welcome back to the Agati Video Podcast, a space where Joe Agati, COO & Director of Design here at Agati Furniture, hosts conversations with designers, architects, and difference-makers to bring inspiration and education to your work.

“We’re always looking to refresh and maintain the incredible details while bringing in modern details in a cohesive way, creating harmony between the new and old.” – Stephanie Shook

For today’s episode of the podcast, we’re welcoming two more top-tier guests! Joe is talking with Peter Bolek, President and Director of Design at HBM Architects, as well as Stephanie Shook, Associate and Interior Designer at HBM Architects.

The passion for the whole team at HBM lies in the belief that, in addition to solving the complex needs for clients, design has the transformative power to enhance our everyday life experiences.

In today’s conversation, we are exploring how to restore and preserve existing library spaces, why understanding the unique dynamics of a community impacts design decisions (plus examples from HBM’s work!), how libraries can prioritize long-term flexibility, and much more.

This one was a lot of fun. Check it out!




  • “I really grew up with this understanding that the library was this central point in a community.”
  • “A lot of times we’re educating a community about what could be and what’s possible.”
  • “There are powerful connections that can be made when you understand what a community is about.”
  • “We’re always looking to refresh and maintain the incredible details while bringing in modern details in a cohesive way, creating harmony between the new and old.”
  • “Consideration should be given to the materials you’re using and the way they work together.”
  • “I’m encouraged that people are still pressing on.”
  • “Libraries are ever-evolving and you have to stay ahead of where you might need to be. One way to do that is to design very flexible buildings.”
  • “A lot of flexibility can simply come from less built-ins. That’s part of sustainability and longevity.”

Our Key Takeaways:

1) Community values are unique and important. It’s encouraging how often we’ve heard designers and architects talk about this on the show, and it’s so true. It’s crucial to consider the unique dynamics, perspectives, and history of a community to create a space that can truly serve them in the most effective way.

2) How are we acknowledging and featuring the history of our spaces? Peter and Stephanie provided some great examples in Carnegie libraries they’ve worked in, as well as other projects they’ve had the opportunity to support on. It’s encouraging when a solution is pursued that can create harmony between the new and old.

3) It’s less important that our spaces are trendy, and more important that our spaces are future-proof. We really appreciated the takeaways from this conversation about flexibility. Providing a space that can adjust as time goes on is a huge asset to spaces today, especially in a time where technology and culture are changing so rapidly.

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