Adams Street Library

Architect: Work Architecture Company (WORKac)

Owner: Brooklyn Public Library

Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.

Adams Street Library, the Brooklyn Public Library system’s first new branch in more than two decades, was designed through extensive architect-led community outreach in several diverse Brooklyn neighborhoods and housing authority developments. With children at the center of the design intention, the library is rife with spaces for learning and features technology and a wealth of programming opportunities for teens and young adults.

The branch is the first to serve the Brooklyn communities of Vinegar Hill, DUMBO, and Farragut and is an example of the library system’s goals to expand its network through modern and inspiring spaces. DUMBO has shifted from a formerly industrial area to a much more affluent residential area, and it was critical that the marginalized communities surrounding the neighborhood were engaged in the planning process. In addition, the team’s preservation and reuse of the historic building have allowed the library system to explore new ways to advance its mission.

The library is situated beneath the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn’s DUMBO Historic District, housed in an industrial building dating to 1901. Through the years, the building has served a wide variety of purposes, from a torpedo factory to a recycling facility. Today, the building is a mix of residential apartments and commercial spaces with the library occupying the ground floor. The team found inspiration in the building’s layered history and embraced the dialogue between old and new, which can be found along the patinaed brick perimeter walls that contrast with a series of pixelated murals that depict natural scenes from around the neighborhood.

Fifteen-foot windows surround the library, supporting a series of open spaces that connect to a porous pavilion and elevated children’s area. Clad in maple-veneered MDF that was CNC-milled with a custom pattern, the pavilion offers niches for stroller parking and book storage in its large and curvy openings. The raised section allows the library’s young patrons to gaze across the main reading room at views of Manhattan’s skyline, the East River, and Main Street Park. Throughout, the interior’s cheerful orange tones and spaces for story time and play reinforce who the library was designed for.

The library also includes two generous multipurpose spaces with stackable chairs, foldable tables, whiteboards, and a kitchenette, offering much-needed space for community use. Readily accessible technology includes Wi-Fi throughout and hard-wired charging and power capabilities built into the reading tables.  

On the street, the library calls to its patrons through a super-graphic sign that reads “LIBRARY” in bold white lettering. The sign was approved by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, which applauded the team for its creative reference to the historic hand-painted signs found in the neighborhood. It is visible from across the East River, inviting patrons citywide to access this vital amenity.

Additional information

Consultant - AV/IT: Cerami

Consultant: Code and Expediting: CCBS Consultants

Consultant - Cost Estimating: COSTRAK Consulting

Engineer - MEP: DOSE Engineering

Engineer - Structural: LERA

General Contractor: Shawmut Design & Construction

Graphic Designer: Linked By Air

Lighting Designer: Tillotson Design Associates


Julie Eizenberg, FAIA, Chair, Koning Eizenberg, Santa Monica, Calif.

Paul Danna, FAIA, SOM, Los Angeles

Danielle Hermann, AIA, OPN Architects, Des Moines, Iowa

Teri Canada, AIA, Evoke Studio Architecture, Durham, N.C.

Anders Dahlgren, Library Planning Associates, Normal, Ill.

Lisa Lintner, Johnson County Public Library, Franklin, Ind.

Thomas Hickerson, Library Consultant, Quality Metrics, LLC, Vancouver, Canada

Image credits

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Bruce Damonte

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