Branch libraries are serving more New Yorkers in more ways than ever before, yet they remain undervalued by policymakers. This year, The Architectural League is collaborating with the Center for an Urban Future on a design study that will articulate new architectural, financial, and programmatic possibilities for these essential, neighborhood-based resource centers.
The study will identify the challenges that branch libraries face and propose design solutions to stimulate conversation about means to support New York’s three library systems and the vital services they provide. These challenges include promoting access to expanding resources of the digital world while continuing to circulate books and other print resources; accommodating the full range of library programs, from adult literacy and ESL to after-school programs for children and teens and technology training for senior citizens; and enhancing libraries’ capacity to serve as physical and civic hubs of their communities.
The design study is in conjunction with and a complement to the Center for an Urban Future’s ongoing research on branch libraries in New York City, including their January 2013 report, Branches of Opportunity, on the libraries’ increasingly critical role in the city’s human capital system, and their September 2014 report, Re-Envisioning New York’s Branch Libraries, on libraries’ capital needs and recommendations for how to bring these vital community institutions into the 21st century. (For more information visit the CUF website).
The Architectural League invited architects and designers interested in participating in this design study to organize interdisciplinary teams and to submit qualifications and a statement of interest in response to a Request for Qualifications. A selection committee, which included Seema Agnani, Chhaya Community Development Corporation; Sarah Goldhagen, The New Republic; Shannon Mattern, The New School; Henry Myerberg, HMA2; Lyn Rice, Rice+Lipka Architects; and members of The Architectural League and Center for an Urban Future project teams, selected five teams from forty-five submissions.
In the coming months, The Architectural League will periodically release content here on archleague.org and our online publication Urban Omnibus, collected below, that explores different aspects of branch libraries, touching on the diverse architectural forms of this public building type as well as chronicling the array of resources and services branch libraries make available.
The design study will culminate with a public event this fall, featuring a presentation of the participants’ work and discussion with advocates and policymakers around issues drawn from the study.
Published: July 14, 2014. Updates ongoing.
The team developed data-driven mapping and zoning tools for informed decision-making that align library needs with other policy priorities, including affordable housing and disaster resiliency.
A kit-of-parts strategy deploys modular furniture and infrastructure for innovative programming in existing libraries and new, non-traditional sites, aligning library design with contemporary needs.
A portfolio of strategies uses branding and communication, innovative programs, and bold architecture to build a constituency of library advocates who leverage private and public investment.
Identifying spatial opportunities in underutilized branch library spaces, the team proposes six design interventions that can enhance each library’s operations and efficacy.
A strategy of specialization fosters social cohesion by tailoring library programming to the unique cultural qualities of the neighborhood, solidifying the library’s role as community anchor.
December 4, 2014 | Re-envisioning Branch Libraries | Five design teams present their ideas for New York City’s branch libraries, with responses by policymakers and community advocates.
A brief overview and images of the design solutions proposed by each of the five Re-envisioning Branch Libraries teams, coinciding with a design and policy symposium on December 4th.
Elizabeth Felicella showcases a selection of her photography of every branch library in New York and makes the case for maintaining this rare and living architectural collection.
Yael Friedman explores the social, philosophical, and architectural context of Andrew Carnegie’s 1901 philanthropic gift to create neighborhood libraries across New York City.
The Center for an Urban Future’s latest policy report provides a comprehensive blueprint for bringing these vital community institutions into the 21st century.
Media scholar Shannon Mattern and library innovator Nate Hill discuss the diversity and evolution of the tools and resources libraries offer.
Introducing the five teams selected to participate in the Re-envisioning Branch Libraries design study.
An excerpt of an essay by Shannon Mattern that critiques the range of models that contemporary libraries are adopting and ultimately argues that libraries are a form of infrastructure.
O’Donnell + Tuomey discuss their vision for Irish architecture, creating mobility in static forms, and bringing the rigors of traditional craft to contemporary work.
Documentation of a symposium addressing issues of water supply in the context of climate change, considered through case studies of Los Angeles, New York City, and the Great Lakes.
Blackwell and Joy reflect on first meeting 15 years ago, approaches to teaching, and a shared sensitivity to place while “transgressing the vernacular” in their work.
In 2013, Marlon Blackwell Architects expanded the school’s home with a renovation and addition honoring the historic building in a contemporary language. Blackwell toured the school with Tom Phifer.