Glen Oaks Branch Library

Queens, NY
  • Plaza
  • Greenway / Streetscape
  • Cultural / Institutional
  • ASLA-NY Merit Award, 2015
  • Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Award, 2014
  • American-Architects: Building of the Year, 2013
  • DDC Excellence in Design Project, 2007
  • NYC Art Commission Design Award, 2007
  • AIA NY Merit Award, 2006
  • LEED Gold Certified

On the corner of a busy intersection in Queens is an unexpected neighborhood icon: Glen Oaks Branch Library. Completed in 2011, the library building and adjacent 7,000 square foot expanded street-scape activate the neighborhood with a series of interconnected spaces that invite conversation, rest, reading, and play. The design aims to expand and diversify the public realm and sidewalk space while infiltrating water. The result is a porous public space: rainwater filters into the soil below and is recycled for landscape irrigation. What would typically be an impervious hardscape is rethought as a neighborhood scale gathering space, spotted with benches, paving texture, and emergent vegetation. Loose jointing at street-level allows a field of bluestone to function as a pervious ground layer. The planting, designed and pruned to grow into thick groves over time, is a mix of exotic and native species adapted to the urban environment. The outdoor space of the public library becomes not only a reading room but also a “drain,” a paradigm shift away from shedding water into the sewer system and toward on-site reuse.


  • City of New York, New York


Marble Fairbanks
Buro Happold
Plus Group
Richard Shaver Architectural Lighting

Photographed by Ty Cole Studio