Public School Libraries

Public School Libraries

Public School Libraries, New York, NY

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.

Client: The Robin Hood Foundation / NYC Board of Education
Cost: Withheld by request