Michael Moran

Battery Park City Library
175 North End Avenue
Tel: 212-790-3499
Designer: 1100: Architect

Not since the launch of the tree-sparing Amazon Kindle has the world of books been quite so eco-friendly: The new Battery Park City Library, which opened in March, is the first of New York’s public libraries to receive LEED Gold certification and only the second green branch, after the LEED Silver–certified Bronx Library Center.

The nearly 11,000-square-foot, two-story facility, located at the base of the Polshek Partnership–designed Riverhouse, benefits from its location: The architects had to incorporate the sustainable design of the building into their plans from the project’s inception, explained Juergen Riehm, principal of 1100: Architect, which closely followed Battery Park City Authority environmental guidelines.

An inviting, glazed facade telegraphs the public function of the library on its corner site. 

The library’s sustainable design features include an energy-efficient lighting system with daylight sensors and linear task lights; a graywater recycling system; thermal performance glazing; and bookshelves with recycled steel panels.

Multiple floors of apartments above the library initially posed engineering challenges for the project, but ultimately became a unique opportunity for the architects. The routing of mechanical systems required a dynamic ceiling surface, and the end result is a system of triangular folding planes that follow the ceiling’s undulations, while also guiding visitors’ eyes through the space.

Ample room is provided for workstations beneath the cleverly angled ceiling.

The public nature of the project informed the design of the granite, glass, and aluminum facade. “Architecturally, we wanted to influence how the library was seen from the outside,” Riehm said during a recent tour. The team extended the heights of windows at the library’s most prominent corner, making it appear “as though it comes toward you,” Riehm said.

Vibrant colors accent the otherwise neutrally toned interiors.

Splashes of orange add a touch of warmth to the library’s predominantly white interior. Other chromatic features include the bookshelves’ color-coded Durat end-panels, which, although unlikely to replace the Dewey Decimal system any time soon, do serve an organizational function: turquoise marks children’s books, while a deeper green indicates an adult read.