Williamsburg Branch Library
Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn, NY
The Williamsburg Branch, Brooklyn’s first Carnegie Branch, opened in 1905; at 26,000 square feet on three levels, it was the largest of the NYC Carnegie branches. Its unusual plan, of two splayed wings and a curved apse of stacks, resembles an open book. The library was “modernized” in 1966 when fluorescent lighting and air conditioning were installed, the interior was altered, and much of the original millwork and finishes were removed. By the late 1990’s, plagued by roof leaks, outdated HVAC systems, and poor lighting, the library was greatly in need of upgrading. Working with VBA Architects, Elisabeth Martin guided the comprehensive restoration and renewal. The exterior was restored and ADA access was integrated. The 3-stop elevator provides easy access to all levels for patrons and staff and permits independent access to the large restored public meeting room on the lower level. New lighting restores grace to the spaces. Materials used throughout refer to the building’s past yet were selected with economy and durability in mind. The new custom oak and metal shelving, furnishings and circulation desk house today’s collections and functions efficiently. While the building’s history is visible, technology and other new uses are integrated providing 21st century services and functions in a grand and inviting civic space.
Elisabeth Martin, at BPL, with VBA Architects (VBA)