The prominent site on the East River, facing a magnificent view of Manhattan, inspired the design, which cuts the lines of the main interior circulation route into the west façade. A “Manhattan view” stair rises up from the open arrival space, allowing the users a great view toward the city, flanked perpendicularly by reading tables in ascending sections backed with bookcases. While users may be on computers, the view from the entry is of books, and the view on the way up is of the East River and Manhattan.
The program’s separation into children’s area, teen area and adult area, can be read in the carved cuts of the east face of the building, one façade opening for each area. Yet the programmatic divisions are fluid: not “this is that,” as childhood can return. The building section of the new library is open and flowing, while the plan is compact, allowing for the most energy-efficient design and the greatest amount of public space on the site.
Along the west is an elongated reflecting pond of recycled water, which is edged in the natural grasses that once grew at the bank of the East River. Frogs, turtles, and fish inhabit this year-round natural water strip. On the east entrance side , the library together with a low park office pavilion forms a public reading garden with a bosque of ginko trees. Ascending the stair inside one can reach the rooftop reading garden with amazing panoramic views.
At night the glowing presence of the new library along the waterfront joins the Pepsi sign and the “Long Island” sign at the old Gantry to become a beacon and inviting icon for this new community place. The fabric-formed concrete structure is exposed and painted white inside, while exterior insulation and a foamed aluminum rainskin give the exterior a subtle sparkle and glow, without being overly shiny. As the material is 100 percent recycled aluminum, this outer layer relates to all the green aspects in the new facility.Location: Queens, New York, USA
Architect: Steven Holl Architects
Design architects: Steven Holl, Chris McVoy
Associate in charge: Olaf Schmidt
Project architect: Filipe Taboada
Project team: Rychiee Espinosa, Jeanne Wellinger
Client: Queens Library, New York City Department of Design and Construction
Engineer: Robert Silman Associates, ICOR Associates
Program: Library with adult reading collection, children’s area, teen area
cybercenter, conference room and outdoor amphitheater
Project type: competition (first prize)
Building area (square): 21000 sf/