2021 Merit Award
Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center
Landscape Architect / Firm Submitting: SCAPE
Client: Brooklyn Public Library
Photographers: Ty Cole, Michael Moran
Architect: Marble Fairbanks
LEED: Ads Engineers, PC
Structural Engineer: Robert Silman Associates
Civil/Geotechnical Engineers: Yu and Associates
Lighting: Tillotson Design Associates
Boulders and Pavers: Prestige Stone and Pavers, Tectura Designs
Plantings: Blondie’s Tree
About the Project:
In Greenpoint, a revitalized branch of the Brooklyn Public Library serves as a model for how branch libraries can function as community-based hubs for accessible learning while setting a high bar for design excellence. The library features a tiered system of three immersive civic outdoor spaces dedicated to environmental education. A streetscape plaza is patterned after the glacial striations of the Laurentide Ice Sheet across Brooklyn; a reading garden is nested within fruit-bearing shrubs; an ADA-accessible educational garden is framed by a sedum bed that evokes the neighborhood’s Polish agricultural history. At all levels, the Library engages its community on their own terms with an enduring institution focused on climate action and environmental history iterated in the landscape itself.
Special Factors & Additional Information:
- 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.
- 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 outdoor Library programs. Plantings of native and fruit-bearing shrubs such as chokeberry provide valuable food and habitat for birds and insects. The space is large enough to support classes and programs of 25 to 30 in post-pandemic times, and during COVID, has allowed the library to expand its programs outdoors. The benches in both the plaza and Reading Garden are made of thermory ash, a heat-treated wood that will weather to a silvery-gray color matching the building’s boardform concrete cladding.
- 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 and native perennials laid out in rows that evoke the surrounding neighborhood’s Polish agricultural history and provide nectar and food sources to pollinating insects.
- The connection between indoor and outdoor programming is made even more fluid by wayfinding and signage – wall prints, cutouts and other features – which feature many of the plants found outside.
- The plaza is open year-round and serves the community 24 hours a day, providing much needed flexible outdoor space and seating for the low-rise, high density Greenpoint community. 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 civic spaces for shared use, programs, and continued