The Queens Central Library is currently undergoing a large expansion and modernization process which will transform the library from a closed-stacks system to a more modern open-stack browsing system strengthening it as a cultural and social destination. The addition of the Children’s Library and Discovery Center (CLDC) was the first step in the process providing an adjustable and versatile solution. The lighting, power and ventilation of the large, open spaces are laid out evenly to enhance the versatility of the spaces along with an assortment of non-fixed furniture and movable shelving. The open spaces create loosely bound areas (i.e. ‘soft’ walls) which are used routinely by schools as informal classrooms (e.g. exhibition plazas, reading areas). This is supplemented with a defined multipurpose room which offers a controlled environment for a variety of teaching and lab activities. The perimeter walls have been thickened to promote the use of the large window sills as reading nooks and intimate social spaces. The interior of the building uses colorful graphics to provide additional information including ‘green’ graphics to educate the users about the sustainability features of the project including the use of sustainable (natural, local and recycled) materials and energy and water efficient measures (e.g. lighting and heating). The prominent and centered staircase adheres to the “Active Design Guidelines’ of the City of New York to promote physical activity.
The yet embarked upon renovation of the existing library building is challenged by the need to remain open during the process and the low ceiling heights which demand an innovative HVAC solution. A variety of solutions will be explored to maximize the useable ceiling height (e.g. low air delivery at floor level with return air ceiling plenum). As part of the master plan proposal to make the existing library more open and accessible to the public, a new double height atrium space will be cut into the second floor slab and a large portion of the upper of two basement floors will be removed, both centered around an open staircase connecting each level with a skylight above. The removed floor capacity is balanced by moving the small, closed spaces to an administrative tower which currently is intended to be constructed on top of the CLDC addition.
Images courtesy of OTTO and Michael Moran