Archtober Building of the Day #4
132 Canal Street, Staten Island
Andrew Berman Architects
Libraries, according to architect Andrew Berman, principal of Andrew Berman Architect, do not age gracefully. As technological innovations and transforming communities change the role of these public institutions, fixed programmatic layouts become obsolete. During a tour of Stapleton Library in Staten Island, Berman explained that flexibility and openness became two key components that guided its renovation and expansion.
Originally designed by Carrère and Hastings, fathers of the main New York Public Library on 5th Avenue, the Stapleton Library was suited to its small community. High ceilings and lofty proportions imbued the small structure with dignity, while varnished oak molding gave it a decidedly more rustic feel than its Manhattan relative. However, as Stapleton’s population increased and diversified, the Staten Island neighborhood outgrew its library, which became cluttered and poorly lit.
Berman’s firm has carefully renovated the original 1907 building that now serves as a playful children’s area. The size of this space, he believes, is ideal for kids: large enough to create discrete areas for different programmatic needs. The new expansion has also doubled the space available to adult and young adult users.
Afraid of compromising the building’s integrity through mimicry, Berman opted to handle the expansion as a separate structure, but one that remained in dialogue with the old. From the outside, the original masonry construction contrasts with the sleek transparency of the new space. However, Berman’s careful use of proportion allows the two structures to harmonize.
Meanwhile, the library’s interior is unified through the use of wooden structural beams, which reference the moldings and shelving in the original space. Books line the walls, freeing up corridors for study tables and computers. In addition, the central mechanical core is clad in translucent polycarbonate, adding to the sense of openness. A community room is used for group study sessions, and also houses programs from arts and crafts to aerobics classes.
Today, Stapleton Library is, quite literally, a beacon for its community. Berman’s expansion glows like a lantern at night, welcoming neighbors who often hang around outside even after closing hours to use the library’s Wi-Fi network. The architect hopes that the warmth, openness, and accessibility of the building will make it an inviting community space.
Camila Schaulsohn is Communications Director and Editor-in-Chief of e-Oculus. She was born and raised in Santiago, Chile.