Hunters Point Library

Hunters Point Library

Architect
Steven Holl Architects
Location
25-01 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, NY, USA | View Map
Project Year
2019
Category
Libraries
Stories By
Steven Holl Architects

KEIM
© Paul Warchol

Hunters Point Library

Steven Holl Architects as Architects

Located on a prominent site along the East River, against the backdrop of rapidly built skyscraper condominiums, the 22,000 square foot Queens Public Library at Hunters Point stands as a public building and public park, bringing community-devoted space to the Long Island City waterfront.

Resisting recent trends of incorporating public libraries and much-needed social space within high-end residential towers, the Hunters Point Library stands independently, rising with a minimal footprint on its 32,000 square foot site to offer maximum surrounding green space to the local community and becoming an integrated part of the vibrant public park that lines the river’s edge.

The vertical structure reimagines the traditional library model, providing diversity of spaces from intimate reading areas to active gathering spaces. The building’s aluminum-painted concrete shell is not just a facade but a load-bearing structure, which omits curtain walls and columns. Sculpted cuts are carved out of the facade, showing the movement of people within and framing expansive views of the Manhattan skyline.

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 facade opening for each area; yet the programmatic divisions are fluid. Inside, warm bamboo creates an inviting social space, open to the community and offering engaging spaces for all ages. Natural light enters through the large windows from all sides, animating the space.

The digital and the book are merged through the bookshelves and adjacent digital workstations that flow upward along a series of open stairs. A ground-level auditorium under the main section provides

public meeting and events space. The stairs switch back from mezzanine to mezzanine, connecting reading areas and concluding in a rooftop reading terrace with views of the city and the river.

While the plan is compact, the building section of the new library is open and flowing to allow 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 bordered by a low park office pavilion with a bosque of ginkgo trees.

At night the glowing presence of the Hunters Point 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.

Silvery Shimmer

KEIM as Manufacturers

The team around Steven Holl can also build smaller formats: On the banks of the East River in New York, the architect’s office realised a slender, cuboid building that can hold 50,000 books and captivates with its silvery facade.

Compared to the neighbouring residential towers of Queens, the new public library at Hunters Point seems almost tiny. Nevertheless: The only seven-storey high and extremely narrow building has become a landmark. The strict basic shape of a high cuboid is opened up by cut outs and organically shaped, freely arranged glass areas. In this way, the public library clearly distinguishes itself from the grid facades of its surroundings and signals its special status. This perception is even more enhanced by the silvery shimmering on the facades.

It took about 30 years to turn the first idea into reality: A new library for Queens, not
only as a source of knowledge, but also as a meeting place. In 2010, the concrete
planning of the New York office of Steven Holl Architects began, the construction
phase started in 2015 and finally in September 2019 the architectural highlight was
officially opened. Located directly on the East River, the slim floor plan was also
chosen to preserve the important urban open space of the surrounding park as much
as possible.

The library differs from its neighbours in terms of construction: It is not a skeleton
building with a curtain wall. Instead, the facade takes on the load-bearing function. This may sound unusual, but in this way the entire interior remains free of columns, a
prerequisite for the fluid spatial program on which the concept is based. Different floor
heights, half floors, bridge-like stairs, a stepped reading room, an auditorium for 140
people, digital zones and a reading roof garden provide a highly exciting and inspiring
interior. Bamboo panelling makes a warm tone in the rooms, with light and functional
grey nuances. Thanks to the large, shell-like openings in the façade, a lot of natural
light enters the interior - and at the same time, there are breathtaking views of the
Manhattan skyline on the other side of the river.

The concrete shell of the building initially challenges European architectural habits: It
does not follow the ideal of a fair-faced concrete appearance that is as flawless as
possible, but is definitely kept „irregular“. Thus the surface of the facade shows a
roughness that reflects the formats and textures of the formwork panels in their raw
state. This is contrasted by the full-surface coating of the facade with Concretal-W and
Design Lasur Metallic from KEIMFARBEN. The one-component, covering concrete
coating provides long-term protection against chlorides, water and weathering and is
based on KEIM‘s proven sol-silicate system. The fine silver effect provides a visual
contrast to the raw substrate, but thanks to the matte surface it retains the material
character of the concrete. Completely treated with KEIM Concretal-W and Design
Lasur Metallic, the building changes with the light of the day, the season; reflections
overlap with the shadows of the joints and tilted partial surfaces to form a lively,
changing overall picture. As if made for a building that is open to everyone.

Read story in Deutsch

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