The Robin Hood Foundation Library Initiative
These are four rooms that were designed as magical places for children.
As part of a larger non-profit initiative, our studio was asked to transform four elementary school libraries—all based in difficult neighborhoods throughout New York—into vital resources for students and their parents. The libraries are located at P.S. 1 in the Bronx, P.S. 28 in Washington Heights, P.S. 32 in the Bronx, and P.S. 101 in East Harlem.
For each project, which ranged from 1,800 SF to 25,000 SF, we reinvented former classrooms and libraries to create inviting, intimate spaces for children to read and learn. Custom wood bookshelves, built into or extending from the room’s perimeter, double as meandering walls, surrounding students with books while they read. The shelving also forms programmatic areas for storytelling and instruction, and houses private alcoves for individual reading. Visible from the hallway, large glass windows announce the space to students and create a place to look out from within.
Each library is dynamic, site-specific, and enhanced with vibrant details. Bold, colorful planes float above the shelves, which are illuminated by a continuous light cove. Dropped ceilings, scaled for children, help create a more personal, unifying space. Sculptural lampshades hang from the ceiling like large paper hats, while natural cork tiles serve as durable flooring. Images of animals and objects from The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d’Alembert enliven the white walls and shades. Custom wool rugs, donated by New York rug maker V’Soske, and solid wood benches bestowed by a cabinet-maker friend, invite children to sit, read, and dream.