Winner of a citation in the 2017 P/A Awards
“Amidst the nothingness of the Long Island City riverfront, this project is really special. It’s a refreshing new way of looking at a library.”
—juror Enrique Norten, Hon. FAIA
Located on the banks of the East River in Queens, Steven Holl Architects’ Hunters Point Community Library is a testament to the area’s rapid transformation: Once an underutilized industrial zone, Hunters Point has bloomed over the last decade with residential and commercial high-rises, converting brownfield sites into live, work, and play spaces for young families looking for outer-borough affordability and Manhattan convenience. The library’s site was once the location for a factory that processed asphalt and other bituminous products, requiring significant remediation. The 22,000-square-foot, $37 million project complements the area’s rapid change by trying to breathe new life into the traditional library model, from places of quiet study to active centers of community.
The exterior is formed of cast-in-place concrete coated with aluminum paint, giving the building an alluring sparkle. To the east of the slender structure sits a “reading garden” surrounded by Ginkgo trees, which mediates movement between the literary sanctuary of the library and the hubbub of Queens. Inside, the stacks flow continuously upward via a series of stairs that switch back from mezzanine to mezzanine. The stairs are interspersed with small reading areas lined in acoustic bamboo—and lead to a rooftop café and reading space. The flow is articulated on the façade by a series of glazed cuts in the concrete—one each for the children’s, teens’, and adult’s book sections. The cuts allow passersby to watch people moving within the library, but they also offer stunning views back to the city, across the East River. —Clay Risen
Project: Hunters Point Community Library, New York
Client: New York City Department of Design and Construction; Queens Library
Architect: Steven Holl Architects, New York . Steven Holl, FAIA (design architec, principal); Chris McVoy (senior partner-in-charge); Olaf Schmidt (senior associate-in-charge); Filipe Taboada (project architect, associate); Suk Lee, Bell Ying Yi Cai, Rychiee Espinosa, JongSeo Lee, Maki Matsubayashi, Michael Rusch, Dominik Sigg, Yasmin Vobis, Jeanne Wellinger (project team)
Landscape Architect: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates
Structural Engineer: Robert Silman Associates
M/E/P Engineer: ICOR Associates
Lighting Design: L’Observatoire International
LEED Consultant: ADS Engineers
Code Consultant: Irene Joyce Barzak-Schoen
Civil Engineer: Langan Engineering & Environmental Services
Fire Technical Consultant: Rolf Jensen & Associates
Cost Estimator: Davis Langdon
Specifications: Construction Specifications
Climate Engineers: Transsolar
Size: 22,000 square feet
Project DescriptionFROM THE ARCHITECTS:
Located on a prominent site along the East River against the backdrop of recently built skyscraper condominiums, the design for the 22,000 square foot Queens Library at Hunters Point will stand as a public building and public park and will bring community devoted space to the increasingly privatized Long Island City waterfront.
The concrete structure of the building is exposed and aluminum painted, giving the exterior a subtle sparkle. A golden-section upturned rectangle is carved out according to the browsing circuit of movement within the interior of library. Glazed cuts in the façade grant users views toward the city as they move up a series of bookshelf flanked stairs. The main Manhattan view, perpendicular to the internal movement of the library, gives visitors to this small space a dramatic experience.
The program's separation into children's area, teen area and adult area can be read in the sculpted cuts of the east face of the building, one façade opening for each area; yet the programmatic divisions are fluid. While the plan is compact, the building section of the new library is open and flowing allowing for the most energy-efficient design and the greatest amount of public green space on the site.
On the east entrance side, the library faces a reading garden ordered by a low park office pavilion with a bosque of ginko trees. Ascending the stair inside visitors can reach the rooftop reading garden with panoramic views of the city.
At night the glowing presence of the new library along the waterfront joins the Pepsi sign and the "Long Island" sign at the old Gantry to become a beacon for this new community place.