Long Island City, New York, United States of America 2019
PROGRAM: Library with adult reading collection, children's area, teen area, cybercenter, conference room and outdoor amphitheater
CLIENT: Queens Public Library and the New York City Department of Design and Construction
SIZE: 22,000 sq ft
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 in open circulation. A ground-level auditorium under the main section provides public meeting and events space. Connected reading areas switch back from mezzanine to mezzanine and conclude 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.
- Steven Holl Architects
Steven Holl (design architect, principal)
Chris McVoy (senior partner in charge)
Olaf Schmidt (senior associate in charge)
Filipe Taboada (project architect, associate)
Suk Lee (project architect, construction administration)
Bell Ying Yi Cai, Rychiee Espinosa, JongSeo Lee, Maki Matsubayashi, Michael Rusch, Dominik Sigg, Yasmin Vobis, Jeanne Wellinger (project team)
- Michael Van Valkenburgh and Associates
- ICOR Associates
- L'Observatoire International
- ADS Engineers
- Langan Engineering & Environmental Services
fire technical consultant
- Rolf Jensen & Assoc.
- Davis Langdon
- Construction Specifications Inc.
Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times, September 18, 2019 “The library is among the finest and most uplifting public buildings New York has produced so far this century.”
Justin Davidson, New York Magazine, September 23, 2019 “The Hunters Point library is contemplative, peaceful, cheery, and exuberant about the metropolis just outside.”
James Russel, Architectural Record, September 24, 2019 “Holl’s design shows how a public place can be created with transcendent allure, which is as important today as it was in the early 20th century, when Carnegie-funded libraries rose as beacons of opportunity in cities across the country. If it draws more users—especially those who are intimidated because they lack reading or language skills—the value of the library’s design will be incalculable.”