L+: Re-Envisioning Branch Libraries

The Architectural League of New York and the Center for An Urban Future

SITU was selected to lead one of five interdisciplinary teams participating in Re-Envisioning Branch Libraries, a design study imagining the future of the branch library. Each proposal addresses focused themes within the ongoing research by The Center for An Urban Future. The work was presented at a symposium co-organized by The Architectural League and The Center for An Urban Future.

As we think about the future of branch libraries we must address one fundamental question above all others – how do we re-align the design of the institution with contemporary needs? The role of the library has changed and the space of the library desperately needs to catch up. Spaces originally designed to bestow knowledge, need to be re-conceptualized as spaces where knowledge is exchanged. Addressing this paradigm shift, the first stage of the project is an intensive research investigation of the formal and informal programs currently being offered in today’s libraries, resulting in L+.

L+ is a proposal for a flexible, replicable, and easily deployable system designed to support the diversity of contemporary library programming. Responding to widespread demand for library services, the system seeks to extend the footprint of the library, close service gaps, and supplement existing library offerings with specialized programming. The proposal focuses on both spaces in existing libraries as well as satellite “outposts” that can be inserted in “non-traditional sites across the city including storefronts, transportation centers, shopping malls, etc. Conceptualized as a Kit-of-Parts, L+ delivers an affordable and efficient model that enables the library to quickly implement new spaces to experiment, incubate, fail, build, and codify new library programming.

The L+ Kit-of-Parts includes all necessary infrastructures, including electricity, power, and Wi-Fi as well as components that includes furniture, infrastructure, signage, finishes. The components are modular and designed to be combined and recombined freely to meet specific needs as it is used across a range of locations across the City.

Although L+ is essentially a catalogue of parts to be deployed across different geographies and sites, three case studies were focused on for the sake of this project. A small, medium, and large intervention are proposed respectively for the community room inside the Astoria branch library, a vacant storefront in a Bed-Stuy neighborhood near the Macon branch library in Bed-Stuy, and the high-traffic transportation hub in St. George’s Staten Island Ferry Terminal. The range of scales and breadth of programs explored through three case studies demonstrate that L+ is at once universal and highly specific. 

L+ is collaboration between SITU Studio, MTWTF, Jessica Blaustein, Lauren Comito, Jesse Keenan, Rachel Meltzer, and Christian Zabriskie.