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Fall Preview: Open-Air Reading Capsule in a Neighborhood Near You

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Coming soon to a neighborhood near you: a portable open-air reading room engineered for cities. Library masterminds Sam Davol (the cellist for the band Magnetic Fields and former attorney for New York's Legal Aid Society) and his wife Leslie (who has worked for New York Historical Society and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation) plan to drive the reading room, called Uni, down from Boston this fall after its completion at MIT.

Davol enlisted Boston architects Höweler + Yoon to create a "highly adaptable" system that can be closed off as a 8-foot cube, or unwound into a shelving system, sort of like a sea urchin. He says of the design:
"We thought about various container solutions and even bookmobile approaches, but decided lightweight and scalable was the key to gaining a foothold for this kind of program in urban space, especially New York. Bookmobiles have been dying because of operational costs (eg. gas), and we have a sense that people don't like the capsule-like atmosphere when you step inside a vehicle or even some temporary structures."


Though the Uni is intended to fit anywhere from a Bronx playgound to a High Line overpass, Davol admits a personal preference for one neighborhood in particular.
"I love the idea of setting up near public schools that need help, and we're looking at that now as a team. But we've never been able to let go of Lower Manhattan, even after we moved away. Somewhere near the river, sharing books with local kids, screening a film this September 11, then so much would come full circle for us. That's our dream." To bring that full circle, Leslie Davol first met architect Meejin Yoon when she worked with the LMDC on the World Trade Center memorial competition. When the Davols decamped from their Greenwich Village loft to move to Boston in 2006, Höweler + Yoon designed their new digs. Now it comes full circle, as the family plans to move back to New York this fall, HY-designed portable library in tow.

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· The Uni Project [theuniproject.org]
· The Uni: a portable, open-air reading room for public space [Kickstarter]