Right as the New York City Housing Authority goes public with its controversial plan to allow developers to build high rises in the middle of public housing developments, the Brooklyn Public Library is taking a similar approach with the hope of mitigating its ongoing financial struggles. The New York Times reports that the library plans on selling off the land beneath two of its branches—The Brooklyn Heights Library at Cadman Plaza and the Pacific Library on Fourth Avenue—to developers who will then tear down the buildings and carve out space for them on the ground floor of their new residential towers. But a number of local residents aren’t pleased with the Library's plans and are concerned that these modern, high-rise iterations will lack that unique community feel and cultural character found in the existing libraries. Once the Pacific Branch, built in 1904 as the first Carnegie library in Brooklyn and designed by architect Raymond Almirall, is torn down, the closest library for patrons in the Boerum Hill and Park Slope neighborhoods will be located in Two Trees' 32-story apartment tower designed by Enrique Norten of Ten Arquitectos, which will also house arts space for BAM and 651 ARTS.
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It looks like South Brooklyn will have plenty of new condos, but perhaps a dearth of services. This morning, the board of trustees of the State University of New York (SUNY) voted unanimously to close Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in Cobble Hill. According to DNAinfo, Downstate Medical Center president Dr. John Williams told the board that the hospital “was losing money and draining the entire Downstate system.” Protests ensued at the public hearing from doctors, nurses, and hospital staff. The 200,000-square-foot campus could have a price tag of up to $500 million. This news comes on the heels of an announcement from Brooklyn Public Library officials that they plan to sell the Brooklyn Heights branch to a developer. The over-extended library is in need of $9 million to renovate the building. According to the Brooklyn Paper, the BPL is hoping a private developer will purchase the 25,000-square-foot property and build a residential building that also houses the library on the ground floor. A number of community members expressed their disapproval at the meeting. Luckily for interested developers, both LICH and the Brooklyn Heights branch are already zoned for residential. These pending sales, however, are part of a larger trend that is sweeping the city, and making headlines this week—cash-strapped city agencies and institutions are increasingly stressed and looking to relieve their financial woes by selling off properties to private developers.
New Yorkers, not to mention architecture critics, have been waiting with bated breath to see the plans for the controversial $300 million overhaul of the New York Public Library's historic flagship branch on Fifth Avenue. And today, the designs by Foster + Partners, were finally unveiled. The renovation of the Beaux Arts-style library, completed in 1911 by Carrère and Hastings, will remove seven floors of stacks under the grand Rose Main Reading Room to make way for a 300-person workspace with an expansive atrium, balconies, floor-to-ceiling windows, bookshelves, and new areas devoted to classrooms and computer labs. As of now, interior finishes will include a combination of bronze, wood, and stone. The plan is to transfer approximately 3 million books to new storage spaces beneath Bryant Park, and then send the remaining 1.2 million books to an off-site location in New Jersey. The newly renovated NYPL building on 42nd would then house the collections from the Mid-Manhattan Library and the Innovative Science, Industry, and Business Library. “We are reasserting the library’s main axis and its very special sequence of spaces, from the main Fifth Avenue entrance and the Astor Hall, through the Gottesman Hall, into the dramatic volume of the new circulating library, with views through to the park,” Foster said in a statement on the firm’s website. “Our design does not seek to alter the character of the building, which will remain unmistakably a library in its feel, in its details, materials, and lighting. It will remain a wonderful place to study. The parts that are currently inaccessible will be opened up, inviting the whole of the community—it is a strategy that reflects the principles of a free institution upon which the library was first founded.”
The Freelon Group showed off renderings for their renovation of Mies van der Rohe’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in downtown Washington, D.C. Presented to the library’s Board of Directors as part of a long-running discussion over what to do with the central library, the scheme includes a four-story atrium, two additional floors for new tenants, a landscaped public roof garden, and a new ground-level café. According to developer Jair Lynch, the project would cost $175 to $200 million.
An average Walmart tops 100,000 square feet. With more than 600 stores nationwide, the company has a mighty footprint. And when a store goes under, it can be somewhat of a crater in the local real estate market. One Walmart in McAllen, Texas—about 15 miles from the Mexican border—got a major facelift from Minneapolis-based Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, who also have an office in Marysville, Md. They won an ALA/IIDA Library Interior Design Award for their work converting the defunct big box store into a library. Now instead of groceries and inexpensive consumer goods, a 124,500-square-foot Walmart skeleton houses the McAllen Library. It’s the largest single-story library in the U.S., which could have left readers lost in the cavernous space instead of lost in a book. To remedy that problem, the firm adopted some of the building’s original programming: They separated meeting rooms, staff areas, and other programs into quadrants, providing wayfinding with colorful signage and two spines that bisect the building. A number of graphic-patterned ceiling elements delineate genre categories, while a patterned wood ceiling runs the length of the building. One month after the new library opened, library registration increased 23 percent. Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle has also rehabbed five abandoned buildings in Philadelphia’s Navy Yards for Urban Outfitters headquarters.
With its perforated dome, the twelve-year-old San Carlos (CA) Library, designed by Swatt Miers Architects, turned out to be one of the best places to view the solar eclipse a few weeks ago. The design—which projected thousands of little crescent moons over the main lobby entrance—was inspired by architect George Miers’ wife. “We wanted to bring in light, but a traditional skylight over that type of space would overpower it. Luckily, my wife had this old colander. I built the model with the colander in it,” said Miers. The architect developed a random pattern for the ceiling and fabricated it with Los Angeles-based Ceilings Plus. On regular days, the dome filters light and adds dynamism to the main lobby area. That configuration also incidentally makes for a perfect eclipse viewer. During the eclipse thousands of little crescents tilted at different angles relative to the sun appeared on the walls. Thanks to local astronomer Bob Black, the whole city turned up to enjoy heaven’s ephemeral display complete with astronomer and architect in hand to explain the gorgeous celestial phenomenon. For the next annular solar eclipse—in 2121—we’ll have to make plans to drive up there.
Prairie Hotel. After a 2-year, $18 million renovation, Frank Lloyd Wright's last standing hotel has reopened in Mason City, Iowa. The Historic Park Inn Hotel is a premier example of the Wright's Prairie style, and features deep hanging eaves and a terra-cotta façade. A massive art-glass skylight drenches the lobby in multi-colored light. More at ArtInfo. Library of Glass. Although Philip Johnson's Glass House library is transparent, Birch Books Conservation will soon offer the public a view the architect’s library without a trip to New Canaan. The non-profit publisher hopes “to preserve the professional libraries of artists, architects, authors, and important public figures through publishing photographic and written research,” with an inside look at Johnson’s personal collection, reported Unbeige. Mapping Poverty and Rebellion. The Guardian opened up the recent London riots for debate. Journalist Matt Stiles mapped the newspaper’s accumulated data of riot hot spots on a plan of London’s neighborhoods. Deep red stands for the British capital’s poorest regions, while blue represents the wealthiest communities. Metro In-The-Middle. The long-awaited Culver City Expo Line station was delayed by a disagreement between Culver City and construction authorities. Now, the two parties have agreed to the $7 million budget increase, which will fund a pedestrian plaza, bike lanes, parking facilities and pavement improvements. More at Curbed LA.
Bridge Backtracks. Brownstoner uncovered the above historic view of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1903 back when transit and pedestrians dominated its traffic flow. StreetsBlog also noticed that the bridge has lost quite a bit of capacity as trains were removed in favor of cars (down significantly from its 1907 peak of 426,000 crossings a day). Also be sure to check out the super-high-res photo over at shorpy.com. Library Life. Robert Dawson lamented, "These are brutal times for public libraries," in a piece for Design Observer. With funding in short supply, he argued that the library is more than a room full of books, but a true "American Commons." Crowd-Sourced. The Institute for Urban Design is prepping for the first annual Urban Design Week this September with a crowd-sourced assignment to improve New York City. Running through April 30 and called By the City / For the City, you're invited to share your ideas via this handy online form. (via Polis.) Architecture Queen. The Philippine Star reports that newly registered architect Shamcey Supsup was crowned Miss Universe-Philippines. The magna cum laude graduate of the University of the Philippines won over 39 other (non-architect) contestants. Supsup's next stop is Sao Paulo, Brazil where she will take on the world, T-square in hand. (via Archinect.)