At the corner of a busy intersection, the re-imagined Greenpoint branch of the Brooklyn Public Library transforms a Carnegie-era building into a dramatically expanded community-based hub for environmental education and programs for all ages. In collaboration with architect Marble Fairbanks, SCAPE designed a tiered system of three richly-detailed civic spaces that individually function as immersive landscapes while connecting the building to its urban and ecological context: a first-floor Streetscape Plaza, second-floor Reading Garden, and third-floor Demonstration Garden.
As a contiguous part of the Brooklyn streetscape, the first-floor plaza re-interprets the geological history of the region through bands and outcroppings of granite that trace the NW to SE movement of the Laurentide Ice Sheet across Brooklyn during its expansion 18,000 years ago – the striations further emphasized by native plantings of hardy grasses, groundcover, and a planted bioswale along the street edge, creating an educational and multi-purpose entrance to the Library. Enclosed by a large, sculpted planter that creates a nest-like environment, the second-floor Reading Garden is a flexible commons for reading, small gatherings, and diverse Library programs. Plantings of native and fruit-bearing shrubs provide valuable food and habitat for birds and insects. On the third floor of the Library, an educational Demonstration Garden offers a space for elementary school students and community groups to get their hands in the dirt, helping Library staff select and maintain plantings for a series of raised beds throughout the year. Surrounding the garden, a pollinator green roof is planted with sedum beds laid out in rows that evoke the surrounding neighborhood’s Polish agricultural history.
On all three stories, the Library carves out space for hands-on encounters with the geological, ecological, and cultural history of Greenpoint. The Plaza and Gardens are designed to be accessible for all Library patrons in years to come – from child-sized spaces for planting and play to richly-detailed civic spaces for shared use, programs, and continued education.
- Brooklyn Public Library
Tillotson Design Associates