The architects were asked to create a new branch for The New York Public Library at Harlem River Houses, a landmarked public housing complex located in an under-served neighborhood in Upper Manhattan. Constructed in 1936, Harlem River Houses was the first federally funded housing project in NYC. Situated on the street level, along Adam Clayton Powell Junior Boulevard, the new 3,500 square foot library was created from seven separate and demised storefronts. Because the facility is adjacent to a public park and can be seen from a distance, a new entrance and canopy were created at the south to give the branch greater visibility in the community. In addition, the exterior of the branch was cleaned and restored, including storefront windows, which were replaced with bronze mullions and details to make them compatible with their original design while adding new insulated glass for energy efficiency. With no basement below, the existing ceilings of the spaces were low and obstructed with piping inherited from the four stories of apartments above. The architects took advantage of a setback on the floor above to lift the roof, raise the ceiling, and add clerestory windows to admit sunlight to the centrally located Children’s Room. The spaces were completely gut renovated and the brick bearing walls supporting the perpendicular facades above were opened up with new large-scaled, wood-framed interior windows allowing views through and across the light-filled interior. In addition, an Adult Reading Room was included along with a new Community Room and various support spaces.


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