Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center / Marble Fairbanks Architects
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Manufacturers: Decoustic, Morin Corp., Assa Abloy, Kawneer, Oldcastle APG, Pac Clad, Advanced Architectural Products, amstrong, East Concrete Works, Evan Eisman Company, Forbo, Moussa
Text description provided by the architects. Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center is one of fifty-eight neighborhood libraries that make up the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) system. Distributed throughout the borough of Brooklyn, this network of libraries provides essential educational, cultural and social services to the diverse communities they serve. Funded in part by a legacy grant from the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund, this project is the result of active engagement between BPL and the community.
The new building serves residents of all ages by partnering with local environmental groups to provide opportunities to learn more about Greenpoint’s rich history and specific ecological context. Many of these environmental groups are represented on the Community Advisory Board, which has been an integral part of the design team’s inclusive design process. The new Greenpoint Library provides a centralized location where local organizations can meet and work collaboratively on initiatives that seek to benefit residents and the natural environment.
The new Greenpoint Library is a 15,000 square foot community center for environmental awareness, activism and education. The design doubles the size of the previous building, providing expanded indoor and outdoor spaces to accommodate expanded activities related to environmental exploration as well as daily library use. The main elements of the program are reading rooms and collection spaces for adults, young adults and children, as well as community spaces. Lab spaces for interactive projects, a large community event space (which can be divided into lab spaces), a lounge, small meeting rooms, and staff spaces are spread across both levels.
With the ambition to “create environmental stewards and nature lovers among future generations of New Yorkers,” moments highlighting environmental awareness are embedded throughout. The landscape supports a local natural ecosystem. Building systems, solar windows aligned with the equinoxes and solstices, and local materials are noted within. Exterior materials include custom sanded wood and cast concrete panels, developed with a local Brooklyn craftsman.
The expansive exterior landscape contributes to stormwater retention and ongoing problems with combined sewer overflows through swales at street level. Water is also collected from an upper roof, stored in a cistern visible and accessible to community members to water the raised community gardens.
The landscape provides habitats for native birds and pollinators. Open during the pandemic, the outdoor spaces are popular and creatively programmed. Civic space at street level is a porch for the community, a place for informal uses and public gatherings. The reading garden hosts storytelling hours, conferences on books and sewing lessons. The demonstration garden provides food for the community and programs ranging from pickling to stargazing.
The Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center provides outdoor green space at street level, clear visual connections to indoor activities, and two accessible green roofs on upper floors. The plaza’s design provides the public with an engaging civic space that demonstrates sustainability and reinterprets the area’s environmental history allowing this library to pursue extensive public programming focused on environmental activism and to act as a community hub for education and awareness, within the broader context of public accountability. The building will exceed the required LEED targets, becoming a demonstration project of innovative approaches to sustainable design and a learning tool for the community.