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New York City Children’s Library at Concourse House created by by Michael K. Chen Architecture

By • Feb 22, 2019

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the busy New York City streets in The Bronx, Concourse House boasts a stunning escape directed at children and their imaginations. Created by Michael K. Chen Architecture, The Children’s Library is designed to feel like its own little world, built like a colourful pod where kids can slip into fact and fantasy and learn about the world around them without feeling the pressures of it for at least a little while.

Concourse House was already a fantastic building and initiative even before this lovely little library was built. The House is a home for women and children that aims to provide women with young children under the age of nine a safe place in which to transition from homelessness. The shelter was established in 1991 and, since then, has been working tirelessly to try and eliminate homelessness in the surrounding neighbourhoods.

The shelter’s emphasis lies in safety, stability, and access to social services and programming that will help women who seek space there successfully transition into more permanent living circumstances, rather than just receiving temporary reprieve from life on the streets. Besides addressing the practical and functional aspects of escaping homelessness, however, Concourse House tries to provide the families under its roof with access to information and learning resources. That’s where the concept to build a Children’s Library came from; kids deserve access to knowledge just as much as adults do.

The new Children’s Library is part of a shift towards increasing educational programs. Besides just providing books that kids in these difficult circumstances might find helpful or enjoyable, teams working on the project aimed to create an actual immersive space geared specifically towards not just reading but experiencing the joys and benefits of books and reading. That’s why the space includes quiet reading alcoves and areas fit for various kinds of events surrounding books and learning.

The comfortable, safe, and calm feeling of the space was inspired by the relationship between reading and the cognitive development and emotional wellbeing of children. Designers wanted to provide a room that inspired a hunger for knowledge and a passion for exploration, rather than created an intimidating space that might feel like yet another institution. They chose unique colour combinations and shapes that feel playful and engaging in order to appeal to kids specifically.

Particular attention was paid to how designers might keep the space well lit and safe but also prevent it from feeling isolated and small. This is why the shelves are brightly illuminated and the external wall is made from a screen of wooden dowels. The rest of the House’s regular library and resource centre can be seen but the space is still a comfortable little world of its own. Kids can even write on the walls when they’re feeling creative thanks to the inclusion of erasable surfacing!

Perhaps the most beautiful part of The Children’s Library, besides the visual appeal of the space itself, is that it was completely almost entirely thanks to pro-bono work and kind financial and material donations. Something about this makes the library feel collaborative, inspiring, and very welcoming indeed.

Photos by Alan Tansey

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