Branch libraries are serving more New Yorkers in more ways than ever before, yet they remain undervalued by policymakers. This summer, 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.
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.
Documentation of a symposium on rethinking land and its value in light of climate change, organized by the League in conjunction with The Cooper Union Institute for Sustainable Design.
A multi-year initiative on new ways of thinking and acting on climate change, architecture, and our economic future.
Explore filmed interviews and full lecture videos for the six winners of the 2014 Architectural League Prize.
View a series of interviews and lecture videos for the eight firms selected as 2014 Emerging Voices.