Libraries: They're not just for kids and the homeless anymore! At least not in Long Island City, where a long-delayed house o' hardcovers on a plum waterfront site has just been given a shot of starchitecture from Steven Holl. The Times has the unveiling of Holl's new Queens West library, which will become an instant landmark on the LIC waterfront despite being tucked between?in architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff's words?the "soulless mix of generic apartment towers" that Queens West currently offers. Ouch.
Holl (one of our favorites) and his partner Chris McVoy have come up with an 80-foot-tall aluminum rectangle with huge windows carved out, no doubt creating some stunning East River and Manhattan skyline views. It doesn't look like a typical library, and that's the point. In fact, the building will serve three purposes: community center, peaceful retreat and haunted house. Talk about mixed-use!
In the slightly-still-barren 'hood, the library will be one of a series of new "lively communal hubs, and should go far in bolstering the civic image of Queens," Ouroussoff writes. And it will help the residents forget about their ugly apartment buildings, at least for a moment. When approached from the street, visitors will enter a reading garden "walled off from the gloomy scene that surrounds it ... Ginkgo trees will shade the garden, partly blocking the view of the towers." Jeez, we'll go out on a limb and say the O-Dog isn't buying a place at Citylights anytime soon.
And then there's the spooky stuff. Seen from across the East River in Manhattan, the library's windows will emit a haunting glow at dusk, "looking a bit like ghosts trapped inside a machine." Holl's got something to freak out the claustrophobes, too. At night, spotlights illuminating the facade will make the windows "resemble caves dug into the wall of a cliff." Here's an after-hours rendering. Are you spooked?