- Project Team: Scott Marble, Karen Fairbanks, Robert Booth, Mallory Shure, Jake Nishimura, Eric Ng, Adam Marcus, Stacey Murphy, Katie Shima, Christopher Kroner, Andrew Colopy, Rob Booth, Jane Lea, Darren Zhou, Jennifer Downey, Alexis Coir
- City: Queens
- Country: United States
Glen Oaks Branch Library is a new 18,000sf LEED Gold certified building located at the juncture of a low scale commercial and institutional area and a residential neighborhood. The building doubles the area of the previous building, providing reading rooms and collections on three floors, community rooms, and computers and digital technologies integrated throughout. A landscaped plaza and exterior reading garden provide seating for the community outside the building.
Public libraries are some of the last bastions of public space in cities and play a critical role in equalizing access to information. The programs at the Glen Oaks library provide children, teens, and adults with many opportunities to enrich their education. Within weeks of opening, this branch library moved up from 26th to 6th place in overall circulation of materials in the Queens system. The building is engaging unprecedented numbers of residents – young children come for story time, teens flood the library after school to study and collaborate, and the adults attend computer workshops and find a quiet place to read.
To relate the building to the scale of the residential community and meet zoning requirements, half of the interior spaces are placed below grade. Abundant natural light illuminates that lower level through a two-story atrium with connecting stair and strip skylights in the plaza above. The contoured ceiling of the lower level defines reading areas lit by the skylights, providing visual connections to the plaza. The profile of the ceiling is visible at the double-height space, making a visual connection between the plaza above and ceiling surfaces below, accentuating the artificiality of the ground.
Above grade massing and materials respond to differing site conditions on each elevation. The channel glass façade provides a luminous glow in the interiors and transforms the building into a beacon for the neighborhood. A large picture window allows for views into and out of the second floor children’s area while providing a civic identity to the community. On bright days, the word “search” appears on the north façade, moving across the surface as the sun moves across the sky. “Search” is projected by sunlight passing through the film in the parapet onto the glass curtain wall.
The letters vary in scale and legibility as a result of the time of day, amount of sunlight, and the season, creating a moving, ephemeral register of local site conditions. The graphic pattern on the glass curtain wall at the street level includes the word “search” translated into the 30 languages spoken in Glen Oaks, reflecting the diversity of this neighborhood, encouraging the community to engage with the building at the street, and serving as an archive of this information for future generations.