FROM THE AIA:
The center, located on the previously empty third-floor space of Harlem’s Hamilton Grange branch library, designed by McKim, Mead and White, is NYPL’s first full-floor space dedicated to teens. In an effort to attract and engage neighborhood youth, the 4,400-square-foot space challenges the norms of library design. The light-filled floor is divided into specific zones that foster small-group interaction and socialization. Visibility is maintained across the entire floor.
Two programmatic elements—a 20-foot-diameter Media Vitrine and a bamboo bleacher—occupy the center of the space and work to define the seven zones between and around them. The vitrine’s open-top glass enclosure upends the notion that multimedia spaces must be dark, hyperisolated rooms. The bleacher allows views out to the street from the existing high south-facing windows and provides a sunny hang-out for a range of group sizes. Custom L-shaped lounge benches bracket this space and can be rolled away to allow for other uses and activities.
Natural light conditions, color, spatial conditions, and artificial lighting patters are used architecturally to create the small-scale zones. The zones include the X-Bar computer zone, Snack+Chat Niche (a first-time NYPL break from the near-sacred prohibition of eating and drinking), a Study Zone adjacent to the exam prep stacks, and a Highback Lounge, which groups teens together but maintains a sense of individual privacy.
"This is a very effective transformation of an existing space into an engaging exploratory environment/resource center for teenagers. Really compelling, successful place—well designed and well thought out."
"Performative quality of the entire space supports seeing and being seen. Media vitrine is a clever solution to mixing loud and active with quiet and reflective in the same space."