Re-Envisioning Branch Libraries

A design study and symposium organized with the Center for an Urban Future.

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 articulated new architectural, financial, and programmatic possibilities for these essential, neighborhood-based resource centers.

The study identified 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 Architectural League invited architects and designers interested in participating in a 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. The study culminated 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.

Proposal Profiles

Five interdisciplinary design teams selected to participate in a design study organized by the League and the Center for an Urban Future in 2014.

Proposal | L+

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.

January 13, 2015

Proposal | UNION

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.

January 13, 2015

Proposal | Andrew Berman Architect

Identifying spatial opportunities in underutilized branch library spaces, the team proposes six design interventions that can enhance each library's operations and efficacy.

January 13, 2015

Proposal | MASS Design Group

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.

January 13, 2015

Design Showcase and Policy Symposium

Re-envisioning Branch Libraries video recap

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.

December 24, 2014

On Urban Omnibus

Middlewhere: Landscapes of Library Logistics

Shannon Mattern takes us inside two examples of the extensive, yet relatively invisible, infrastructures that drive New York's libraries and explains how their logistical systems shape our physical, political, and intellectual landscapes.