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Valuing Knowledge: Kew Gardens Hills Library by WORKac

Valuing Knowledge: Kew Gardens Hills Library by WORKac

Kew Gardens Hills Library by WORKac Ph. Bruce Damonte

Understanding the value of the library, the renovation work from WORKac aimed to provide more space for the institution while giving it a physical presence that is in line with the importance of the establishment. Keeping the pre-existent library, the project grows in perimeter, creating a glass façade with a green roof that changes its height, offering different levels of exposure for each use.

Initially commissioned by Queens Library through NYC’s Department of Design and Construction in 2008, the library was among the first bevy of projects announced under DDC’s Design + Construction Excellence Program, which since 2005 has directed selected civic projects to leading design firms. The much-awaited library opened to the public in September 2017.

Ph. Bruce Damonte

The library was already a key institution in the diverse community of Kew Gardens Hills, and it boasts some of the best attendance and circulation figures of any library nationwide. Community members’ dedicated advocacy was pivotal in supporting a design that has provided the library with needed facilities and has given it a physical presence. The project began as the renovation and 3,000-square-foot expansion of an existing Lindsey library from 1966. Its volume is still visible in the completed library, however, structural upgrades and new interior detailing have all but replaced the preexisting building with a new 10,000-square-foot space.

The focal point of the new design is the public space along the library’s perimeter, occupying the setback between the preexisting building’s footprint and the sidewalk. Capped by a green roof, this perimeter zone joins existing gardens around the library’s backsides to form a continuous loop of green. Inside, the perimeter zone is conceived as a band of open rooms to be used by each of the library’s different user groups: adults, teens, children, and staff.

The new façade is a physical and metaphoric lifting up of the library’s exterior walls in order to broadcast the activities of the library to the outside. At the site’s most public corner, the roof reaches monumental scale. A second, smaller peak at the children’s corner provides child-sized views to the South. Between these two peaks, the façade dips down to provide privacy at the staff and book drop areas behind. The section of the façade at the entrance folds out over the street to make an awning—reminiscent of a folded page in a book. On the Northside, the façade descends again, providing privacy for a teen study area while also bridging the difference in scale between the library and its residential surroundings.

Ph. Bruce Damonte

DATE: 2017 / LOCATION: New York, United State / AREA: m2 (built) / PROGRAM: Library  / STATUS: built / DESIGN: WORK Architecture Company (Dan Wood and Amale Andraos) / TEAM: Sam Dufaux, Anne Menke, Jason Anderson, Erica Goetz, Jesung Park, Karl Landsteiner, Evgeniya Plotnikova / CONSTRUCTION: S&N Builders, Inc. / CONSULTANTS: Leslie E. Robertson Associates (Structure), LILKER Associates (MEP), ADS Engineers (LEED), CCBS Consulting (CODE), Tillotson Design Associates (Lightning), Epigraph Studios Inc. (Signage) / PHOTOS: Bruce Damonte

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