Public School Libraries
The Robin Hood Foundation asked us to design a prototypical library for New York City’s public grammar schools. Our prototype eventually was installed in five schools. Collaborating with teachers, education specialists, and the young students, we sought to improve the function and potential of libraries as places for interaction and discovery while enhancing teachers’ abilities to implement curricula. All aspects of the program and conventional notions of how to design for that program were analyzed, evaluated, and rethought.
We faced the challenge of having to meet two contrary demands: the need for group instruction and activities, versus the need for individual, solitary discovery. The final design – a kit of parts that adapts to multiple locations – preserves the wonder and retreat of reading in private while also enabling communal activities. Bookcases, in all their iconic majesty, accommodate both small reading groups and individual refuge. Larger reading areas are defined by a stage where students might have their first experiences leading discussions or performing. Additionally, we developed multi-functional furniture, such as the unique ‘flip flop’ desk and stools that serve children ranging in size from 40 inches to 70 inches tall. Customized “cloud” lights might of fabric stretched over steel armatures create dynamic fixtures that hang from standard florescent tubes above.Economics, means of construction, and sustainability were all considerations that influenced the choice of materials and the detailing. We intentionally made certain aspects of the design look unfinished in order to encourage young finds to fit modular pieces and components together as if they were playing with building blocks.
The Robin Hood Foundation / NYC Board of Education
Withheld by request
Designing for Learning
Our project was about taking learning beyond information and into the realm of discovery and re-enactment. Learning can be a very private activity and learning can be a very public activity. We made areas where children can take a book and curl up and read it in private, and areas for group learning, sharing and acting, [including a] stage for participatory performances.
- Calvin Tsao and Zack McKown
Drawings and Renderings
Public School Libraries: Furniture and Lighting
Public School Libraries: Modular components visibly combine, engaging students’ minds and forming libraries that otherwise would not exist.
Tsao & McKown faced the challenge of having to meet two contrary programmatic demands: the need for group instruction and activities, versus the need for there to be individual, solitary paths for intellectual discovery.
ArticleNY Times: Libraries Invite Young Readers to Check In
ArticleArchitectural Record: The L!Brary Goes Back to School
“The architects involved in the library initiative knew they needed to understand the students before they could design for them. Calvin Tsao, AIA, a partner at Tsao and McKown Architects, who has completed five libraries to date, says: ‘We examined what the word ‘library’ means today, technologically and sociologically, and then sought to define the word for this particular group of people. We deconstructed and reevaluated the purpose of the library specifically for the students, to reinsert learning into there in a way that would be relevant to them.’”
Full article here.
ArticleArchitecture: Reading Rooms
PublicationThe L!brary Book: Design Collaborations in the Public Schools
The L!brary Book takes readers behind the scenes of fifty groundbreaking library projects to show how widely varied fields and communities—corporate underwriters, children’s book publishers, architects, graphic designers, product manufacturers, library associations, teachers, and students—can join forces to make a difference in the lives of children. Based on the premise that good library design can actually inspire learning, the L!brary Initiative brings together some of the world’s leading architects to reimagine the elementary school libraries in New York City—the nation’s largest public school system.
ArticleNY Times: A Is for Artwork That Lures Bronx Schoolchildren to New Libraries
ArticleBloomberg News: Robin Hood Foundation Raises Record $88 Million to Help New York City’s Poor
The Robin Hood Foundation gala, Wall Street’s largest single-evening fundraising event, raised a record of more than $88 million at its New York dinner last night to feed and clothe the city’s destitute. The sum, donated by more than 3,600 attendees including executives at Wall Street banks, hedge funds and private-equity companies, exceeded last year’s record of $72.7 million.
ArticleCNN Money: The Story of Robin Hood
How the leaders of the hedge fund world have banded together to fight poverty – taking gobs of money from the rich, applying strict financial metrics in giving it away, and making philanthropy cool among the business elite.
Robin Hood Foundation
We find, fund and partner with programs that have proven they are an effective remedy to poverty and are a consistent force for good in the lives of New Yorkers in need. We employ a rigorous system of metrics and third-party evaluation to ensure grantee accountability. The board pays all administrative and fundraising costs, so 100% of donations goes directly to helping New Yorkers in need build better lives. We work closely with our grantees to make them more effective, enabling them to assist even more people.
NYC Board of Education
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