This 10,500-square-foot library, which occupies the bottom two floors of a residential highrise development in Battery Park City, was commissioned to meet the needs of this new and rapidly growing community. As a new branch without an ingrained pattern of community use, it was critical for the design to establish a presence that would attract visitors.
The architects provided for this with a design that announces the library to the surrounding community: a fully glazed two-story façade at the library’s most prominent corner enhances the connection between the passerby on the street and the interior spaces. The bright, colorful children’s section occupies the space adjacent to the street frontage, making it evident to onlookers that the design transforms the standard library stack and reading areas into a vision for the 21st century.
The library operates primarily as a self-service system requiring the layout to be easy to navigate and exceptionally user-friendly. Open, bright spaces create a welcoming environment for the public, while the design of the book and periodical displays, furniture, shelving, and information desks facilitates the most efficient circulation. Wayfinding throughout the library is intuitive due to visual cues in the layout and the use of color.
The space allotted by the building’s developer was awkward in its spatial arrangement, divided into three distinct areas – an entry area, first floor space, and mezzanine. A dynamic ceiling acts as a physical and visual unifier for the three zones and its folding planes guide the eye through the library. The central staircase is celebrated rather than hidden, encouraging users to explore both levels of the branch. Part functional and part sculptural, the terrazzo-finished steel and concrete stair conveys a durable and monolithic image, which is offset by the negative space underneath it where an inviting, colorful bench resides.
The most eco-friendly of the New York Public Library branches, the project utilizes numerous sustainable design strategies and is on track to receive LEED Gold certification. The lighting system combines the need for a bright and functional library space and an energy efficient solution. The installation of a daylight-dimming device senses the amount of daylight coming in and dims the adjacent linear fixtures to compensate. The energy efficiency of the lighting is further enhanced through the use of low energy fixtures and occupancy sensors in small, less frequently used spaces. Reclaimed wood from a wood manufacturer’s cutoffs, carpet tiles fabricated out of repurposed truck tires, and recycled steel in the bookshelves, doors, doorframes, and structural members are part of the effort to take into careful consideration the life cycle of all materials used. The branch’s power consumption is measured and offset by energy generated in remote locations using sustainable sources like wind, solar, and hydroelectricity.
With abundant natural light, spatially dramatic sightlines, and inviting, efficient circulation paths, the branch was immediately successful at attracting visitors and encouraging community use.
The National Terrazzo and Mosaic Association, Port Morris Tile and Marble Corporation Craftsmanship Award, The New York Public Library, Battery Park City Branch, 2011. Interior Design, Best of Year Merit Award, The New York Public Library, Battery Park City Branch, 2010.