New York Public Library

Manhattan, NY, US

In a neighborhood dense with high-end retail, luxury residences, and blue-chip institutions and offices, this 28,000-square-foot branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL) fulfills a much-needed role as an accessible space and a touchstone for the local community and visiting tourists.

To activate the mostly below-grade space and transform it into an inviting, open, and light-filled civic landscape, the design called for a glass facade that virtually disappears to reveal a dynamic internal topography. Inside, the innovative use of modest materials creates a rich palette of texture and expression for the three floors, which are openly connected to bring light and views to the deepest corners of the plan, and to provide endless opportunities for social interaction and enlightenment.

From the street entrance, passersby see the myriad programs taking place within the library at different levels. The building thus interacts with the surrounding community. As the newest NYPL branch, the Fifty-Third Street space seeks to act as a platform for change and exchange by seamlessly bringing the city into the building.

Recognizing the only way to build a community is by empowering the individual, the adaptable open plan—and integration of books, art, and technology—provides an accessible, intuitive landscape with a wide spectrum of public and private spaces. The book collection is structured to encourage greater interaction among individuals and between the user and the library itself, establishing new connections to people and resources, as well as a sense of place.

Credit: TEN Arquitectos/Enrique Norten