Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Hunter's Point Community Library by Stephen Holt Architects

The newest public library in New York has been hailed by critics:
Compact, at 22,000 square feet and 82 feet high, the library is among the finest and most uplifting public buildings New York has produced so far this century. 
Who have at the same time asked, why did it cost so much and take so long, and why are striking public buildings so rare?
It also cost something north of $40 million and took forever to complete. So it raises the question: Why can’t New York build more things like this, faster and cheaper?
The answer to that question is provided by an article in today's Times about the uproar that has arisen over the new building among certain patrons. There is, first of all the problem of all those stairs. There is only one public elevator, which gets jammed when the building is crowded, and anyway doesn't reach all of those terraces you see in the image above. So parts of the stacks are inaccessible to anyone in a wheelchair, or anyone pushing a stroller.

I honestly find it shocking that any building could make it through New York's famously complex procurement process without someone raising that question. Surely NYC has a full-time advocate for the disabled, or some such post? I mean, people in wheelchairs read a lot of books. I suppose everyone was just excited at the chance to build a really striking building, and the vertically arrayed stacks facing big windows with a view of Manhattan's skyline must make it a great place to be. Nobody wanted to be the spoilsport who said, you have to change this design to incorporate another elevator and get rid of those inaccessible stacks.

But governments have those cumbersome review boards and what all because they have to answer to voters, who get pissed off when their interests aren't considered. This is not a principality where all that matters is whether the buildings reflect the glory of the prince, but a democracy. Sadly for lovers of cool architecture, responding to the needs of library patrons has to come before style.


Shadow said...

So the building is a testament to form. It's just not functional.

Hurray for architecture.

JustPeachy said...

I used to work as a library page, and you know what else can't get up the stairs to those terraces? The book carts for reshelving. Bet the employees hate it.

Anonymous said...

So it is neither “public” nor “library”.... Good job.