• 4-09 47th Road, Long Island City, New York 11101. USA

The Library

Among the many compelling community projects now underway in the Gantry Park area, one of the most ambitious is the construction of a new and unique public library currently being built at the waterfront between 47th Road and 48th Avenue.

The 21,000-square-foot complex is being designed by American star architect Steven Holl, in collaboration with his senior partner Chris McVoy and is slated for completion in November 2013. Currently called the Queens Library at Hunters Point this new space will provide an adult reading collection, a children’s area and teen area, a cybercenter, computers for public use as well as a conference room and an outdoor amphitheater.

The facility being built by the NYC Department of Design and Construction will boast giant free-form windows carved out of an 80-foot-tall rectangular façade. According to the designers “the fabric-formed concrete structure is exposed and painted white inside, while exterior insulation and a foamed aluminum rainskin give the exterior a subtle sparkle and glow, without being overly shiny.” At dusk the library’s odd-shaped windows will emit an eerie glow, while at night, when the building is dark, spotlights will illuminate its pockmarked facade and the windows will resemble caves dug into the wall of a cliff.

The design has been carefully fitted to allow for the most spectacular views of the Big Apple skyline. A “Manhattan view” stair rises up from the open arrival space, allowing the users a great view toward the city, bordered perpendicularly by reading tables in ascending sections backed with bookcases. Odd-shaped windows will allow diagonal glimpses up through the building and out to the sky. Glazed cuts in the foamed-aluminum rainscreen allow users to track views as they move up a series of perimeter stairs.

The design allows for great amounts of open public space, sporting a garden with a low park office pavilion shaded by Ginko trees as well as a roof terrace where during nice weather people will be able to attend lectures and performances, or simply lounge around and enjoy the spectacular view. Along the west visitors will find an elongated reflecting pond of recycled water, which is edged in the natural grasses that once grew at the bank of the East River.

Throughout the process of design and construction, environmental sustainability has been an important feature, making the new library one of the greenest of its kind. The design will incorporate features such as geo-thermal wells, radiant heating and cooling, solar panels and rooftop photovoltaic cells that provide 10 percent of the building’s power, and an outer layer made from 100 percent recycled aluminum, inspiring the hopes of library executives that the new facility will earn the highest possible LEED certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system. Once completed, it will also bring the community together by offering programs on environmental education and issues. Indeed, the emphasis on creating a lively community hub and feel is ubiquitous in design and execution. As such, a room seating as many as 150 people will be used for community programs.

Flanked by the red neon Pepsi-Cola sign to the north and the remnants of a ferry terminal to the south, this unique space will stand out as a major landmark on the waterfront and contribute to a further blossoming of the Gantry Park neighborhood, which for many years had been lacking access to public libraries.