Several years ago, Mayor Bloomberg announced the Department of Design and Construction’s Design and Construction Excellence program to put the city's best young architects and designers to work on public buildings. Recently, one of the first projects delivered under this program has been finished and opened to the public: the glowing Children's Discovery Center at the Queens Central Library. Designed by 1100 Architect, the LEED-seeking building is a beautiful 22,000 square foot addition to the existing library. The brightly-colored Discovery Center combines a traditional library with hands-on science exhibits, giving children a vibrant new community resource.
The new center took the place of a night club that once occupied the same street corner. The design is based on the idea that the library is a “locus of knowledge, cross-cultural exchange, and community building.” The building boasts a slew of green features, including a highly efficient glass facade that optimizes solar heat gain and lets natural light fill the space. The center also has a radiant floor heating system and a 100 percent outside air ventilation system with energy recovery for superior indoor air quality.
Since the new center is connected to the older library building, some renovations to that structure were made as well, including the replacement of the library’s 45 year old chiller and boiler system. The new HVAC system operates using just one fifth of the energy required by the original.
For the interior, 1100 Architect worked with Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership. Brightly colored signs identify sections and fun floor patterns enliven the space. Interactive science-themed “plazas” are dispersed throughout the library and integrated into the stacks, highlighting the space’s hybrid functions as a science museum and library. The tabletop exhibits were designed and built by Exploratorium and the National Science Foundation provided funding.
The Discovery Center epitomizes everything that New York City hopes to accomplish with the Design and Construction Excellence program. While the space is geared toward children ages three to 12, we highly recommend checking it out, just to see what’s in store for the future of our public buildings.
images © Michael Moran via 1100 Architect