Shiny new pearl for Staten Island

04 Jun 2014

Community library on Staten Island takes its cue from rich local maritime history

Mariners Harbor Library, the newest branch of the New York Public Library, is located on Staten Island. Design firm A*PT Architecture (formerly known as Atelier Pagnamenta Torriani) was commissioned for this 10,000 sq ft project by the Department of Design and Construction of the City of New York (DDC). LEED Silver pending, the building received a 2009 Award for Excellence in Design from the New York City Design Commission.

The single-storey building is the first library in its neighbourhood, a former oystering community. Its design concept - a cracked open oyster shell, rough on the outside and mother-of-pearl smooth on the inside - honours the area’s rich maritime past and oystering heritage. An immediate attraction, the library has quickly become a local gathering place for reading, learning, and contemplation, and its colourful furnishings entice young visitors.

Accessible from South Avenue, the library’s plan maximises site scale through integration into the neighbourhood context, making it accessible and welcoming. The slight shifting and bending of its volumes create a hospitable entry and transition to its interior. There, a larger volume containing reading spaces and a smaller volume containing support functions are organised along an open, glazed, central circulation spine linking all services and providing exterior connectivity.

Daylight is maximised through glass walls and skylights, minimising the need for supplemental lighting. Ceilings are gypsum board with integrated lighting and glass along the circulation spine whilst flooring is polished concrete and linoleum. Custom and contract furniture shape the interior spaces. A multipurpose room with audiovisual equipment is open to the public.

Environmental aspects of the library include abundant controlled daylight and views, energy efficiency, the use of recycled materials, water conservation, and preservation of its garden’s mature trees. The facade glazing is low-e insulated, with eastern and western exposure fritting that mitigates heat and glare.

Technical glazing with integral louvers is used for the circulation spine’s glass roof, allowing northern light in while deflecting direct sunlight. The building’s ‘rough’ exterior shell is standing seam zinc, providing resiliency and maintenance ease. 

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