A Pox on Architects

It’s Also Ugly as Sin

The New York City Public Library spend $41,500,000.00 on its Hunters Point Library in Queens, which, in addition to being hideous, cannot function as a library, with severely restricted disabled access, insufficient elevator service, and significant portions of the building being too dangerous to be used in it’s intended manner.

This is what happens when you allow architects to design buildings according to their own masturbatory inclinations, as opposed to the actual needs of the people who will have to function in this space:

It has been heralded as an architectural triumph: A new $41.5 million public library in Long Island City that ascends over multiple landings and terraces, providing stunning Manhattan views to patrons as they browse books and explore.

But several of the terraces at the Hunters Point Library are inaccessible to people who cannot climb to them. A staircase and bleacher seating in the children’s section, judged too risky for small children, has been closed off. And the five-story, vertically designed building only has one elevator, creating bottlenecks at times.


It has also raised the question of how the pricey public building, nearly two decades in the works, made it through the lengthy planning process without more consideration for accessibility.


Some of the accessibility problems, though, are rooted in the design itself.

The placement of the adult fiction section on three terracelike levels between the library’s first and second floors was the first issue patrons noticed. A few complained that they couldn’t access the fiction books, because those levels were only accessible by stairs, Gothamist reported.


The disputed shelves are now bare; the library, responding to the criticism, has moved the 2,900 adult fiction books to an accessible area on the second floor, and is now figuring out how to use the vacated space.

Chris McVoy, a senior partner at Steven Holl Architects, the firm that designed the building, said that too much emphasis was being placed on the inaccessibility of the terraces, which he called a “small wrinkle in an incredibly successful project.” Concepts of accessibility, he added, have changed in the years since the building was designed in 2010.

So the response of the architect is that the peasants don’t appreciate their genius, and so don’t deserve to browse books.


But the decision to build only a single elevator is also causing grumbles. The congestion is compounded by the placement of the main stroller parking area on a second floor landing, which is insufficient for the dozens of strollers sometimes seeking a spot.

The closure of the children’s wing stairs is adding congestion to the elevator. Patrons who want to travel between the children’s levels must now either use the elevator, or take a circuitous route around the library, up and down flights of stairs.

In his 2010 renderings for the children’s wing, Steven Holl, the project’s lead architect, had sketched images of children reading on bleacher-like seats that spanned from the lower level of the wing to the upper one, adjoined by an interior staircase.

But library officials, in a walk-through before the building opened, instead saw a potential liability for small children who could jump and fall on them. They have closed off the stairs and the top five bleachers until fixes can be made, said Elisabeth de Bourbon, a spokeswoman for the Queens Library.

Wood panels now block the staircase entrances and protective glass barriers have been added to the tallest bleachers. The bottom three bleachers remain open, however, and a security guard who usually stands there keeps an eye on them.

Seriously, architects need adult supervision.

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