Archtober Building of the Day #24
Mariners Harbor Branch Library
206 South Avenue, Staten Island
In Mariner’s Harbor in Staten Island, Ana Torriani, AIA, and Lorenzo Pagnamenta, AIA, of A*PT Architecture (formerly Atelier Pagnamenta Torriani) have harvested an oyster intended to produce many pearls of wisdom. Mariner’s Harbor Branch Library, with its luminous, asymmetric zinc roof “cracked open” by a glass spine, resembles an open bivalve, referring back to the neighborhood’s history as an oyster farming community while inviting its current residents inside.
Except for support spaces and a conference room, the entire library is a single, open volume. With its glass facades to the east and west and a series of skylights above, the interior glows with natural light, even on a grey fall day – an atmospheric mother of pearl. It looks effortless, but A*PT’s detail-oriented partners carried out countless studies to get everything just right.
Part library, part community center, Mariner’s Harbor is certainly not your traditional stuffy library with dusty books and shushing librarians. Local organizations use the conference room to hold board meetings; a white board by the entrance announces the day’s varied activities. Today’s events included a morning yoga class and belly dancing. A sundeck leads to a yard where children learn to garden during the summer.
A project of Department of Design + Construction’s Design Excellence program, the library provides much-needed resources (including shiny, new Apple computers) to an underserved community, serving as a sincere example of how good design can be used to fight inequality. And, while working for a public agency can be challenging, for Torriani and Pagnamenta, seeing the space brought to life by its patrons (who have doubled in number just one year) makes it all worthwhile.
Tomorrow, we’ll visit the Van Alen Institute.