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The New York Public Library asked us to evaluate the suitability of a 6,500-square-foot vacant building for conversion into a branch library. The building had been constructed in 2007 to serve as a group residence. It was neither completed nor occupied and was in need of significant repair. Its size and location, however, made it an ideal structure for a branch library. We designed a comprehensive conversion of this undistinguished building into an inviting civic structure. New spaces include a reading room, community room, teen room, children’s room and conference room. Part of the original roof was raised in order to create a light-filled reading room. A new façade was designed to present a welcoming and public presence to the neighborhood. A new entry plaza and a rear reading space were designed to better situate the building in its site. The Van Cortlandt Library is an intensively used facility that reflects NYPL’s mission and the local neighborhood’s character and needs. In addition to providing a place to gather, study, read, and access lending and reference media, the library is also increasingly the sole common civic space for a neighborhood. It is a place for people to spend time in a safe and comfortable environment, and to access WiFi, computers, and continuing education. The librarians are community builders and guides to the offerings of NYPL’s vast resources. The new library is well integrated with its environment in scale, texture, and massing, and is recognized as being a civic and welcoming building.


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