Mariners Harbor has been calling for a branch of the New York Public Library since the 1930s.
The first library in its neighborhood, a former oystering community, it is conceived by both client and architect to be a public gathering place for reading, job search/training, computer/multimedia access, after-school support, as well as supporting the traditional function of book repository.
The design concept for the single-story building is an oyster shell cracked open, rough on the outside and mother-of-pearl on the inside, to honor the area’s rich maritime and oystering history.
The new building, sited between residential and industrial blocks amid dense foliage, is accessible from South Avenue, and its plan maximizes site scale through integration into the neighborhood context, making it accessible and welcoming.
The slight shift and bending of the library’s volumes create a hospitable entry, and a clear transition to its interior.
There, a larger volume containing reading spaces, and a smaller volume containing support functions are organized along an open, glazed, central circulation spine linking all services. The service desk is placed along the spine, and has open sightlines to all public library areas. In addition, the librarian’s office has direct views to the spine, and the reading areas.
The reading spaces comprise areas for young adults, children, and adults. They are equipped with many computer terminals, reading tables, and comfortable lounge seating. The computer capacity may be doubled, if desired, and all areas have wireless access. Display shelving, lining the entire back wall, and open three-foot high shelving house the library collection.
A community room with audiovisual equipment is open to the public, and accessible at the main entrance, while a terrace in the back garden, with native vegetation and mature trees, is available for patrons’ enjoyment.
Daylight is maximized through glass walls and skylights. Ceilings are gypsum board with integrated lighting and glass along the circulation spine. Flooring is polished concrete and linoleum. Colorful custom and contract furnishings shape the interior spaces and entice young visitors.
Environmental and resilient aspects of the library include siting the building on the highest elevation; abundant controlled daylight, minimizing the need for supplemental lighting; energy efficiency, the use of recycled materials, water conservation, and preservation of its garden’s mature trees.
The facade glazing is low-e insulated; with eastern and western exposure fritting that mitigates heat and glare. The main glass roof over the spine has special technical glazing with integrated louvers that deflect the southern sun, and allow harvesting of northern light. The building’s “rough” exterior shell is standing seam zinc, assembled on site, a natural material that weathers beautifully, and is maintenance free.