The Visual and Performing Arts Library For the Brooklyn Public Library
Brooklyn, New York
The Visual and Performing Arts Library (VPA) for the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) represents a fundamental shift in the conception of a library as a repository and retrieval center for archival materials traditionally held in book form. Serving as an electronic and physical gateway to arts resources shared by the BPL and the Brooklyn Academy of Music Local Development Corporation (BAM LDC) the building's programs are situated between event and technology [cultural offerings / exhibits / productions and electronic retrieval of information in recorded form]. Virtual access to digital information (locally and globally) via the computer dislocates the traditional library typology signified by the figure of historic "great" reading rooms. The inability to locate the library typologically results in a "dis-figural" space that fluctuates in relationship to the actual and virtual states of information represented by the traditional archive stack and by the proposed digital stack that houses the library's data center and Information technology functions. These actual and virtual states of information situate the dialogue of presence versus absence and past versus future in the new library.
Digital technology and electronic media possess the potential for collapsing, expanding, bending, or stretching the perception of space-time relationships. The information age is constructing a global village where architecture and urbanism merge in a mediated condition of events where time is separated from space and place becomes phantasmagoric. We are all familiar with events, actions, and the visible appearance of physical settings occurring in real-time thousand of miles away from where we live. The arrival of digital technologies has accentuated aspects of displacement in society that override presence instantaneously and at a variety of distances.
Hence, the new paradigm for the library is situated upon the relationships of events in time rather than historic spatial typologies. The proposed program for the VPA is recast in terms of a "time matrix" that situates events and duration rather than mere area requirements. The time matrix reflects the temporal qualities of the program and yields simultaneity, overlap, and fluctuation of events against the absence and presence of the library's digital and archive stacks.
The situation of the building within the new cultural district mediates time and event through: The bending of perception from north to south along Flatbush Avenue, and the convergence of movement and perspectival views at the intersections of Flatbush Avenue with Ashland Place, Hanson Place, State Street, Atlantic Avenue and Fourth Avenue.
Along Flatbush Avenue, the public zone of events and programs within the building called the "Vertical Stage" presents choreography of internal movement and the projection of virtual information as urban events along the street wall. Along the glass street wall of the "Vertical Stage", the library's web site address serves as the building's signage. A web counter records and displays the number of local and global "hits" to the virtual library stored in the data center within the digital stack.
An open courtyard between the new library and the proposed theatre is designed as a public "browsing garden" defined by a line of vegetation and a two-story public web browser.
Overlapping and Interlocking spaces are situated relative to actual and virtual states of information signified by the digital stack and the archive stack, library functions and public access to cultural offerings. The "Vertical Stage" is a performance space of movement, event, and structure inhabiting the "dis-figured" condition of the new library.
The dialogue of actual / virtual and absence / presence triggers the re-programming of the building's functions in terms of the relativity of space-time events and duration. Hence, the temporal qualities of the program yield simultaneity, overlap, and fluctuation of space-time that expands and contracts in "disfigural" space.
The building's cast-in-place concrete superstructure (columns, beams, and floor slabs) participates in the choreography of space within the vertical stage and throughout the building. "Dancing columns" in the vertical stage are a "performance structure" supporting cantilevered concrete beams that suspend ramps, walkways, and reading zones along the structural glass curtain wall system yielding transparency between event space and urban space along Flatbush Avenue.
Along Ashland Place, the translucent green onyx wall translates the building's capacity for silence while simultaneously revealing the shadows of movement and event within the semi-public and private spaces of the library at night. During the day, the translucent stone gives way to the subtleties of daylighting to illuminate the interior.
Structural glass mullions in combination with horizontal fins, diagonal mullions, and saw tooth panes modulate southern and western light throughout the day. The combination of glass configurations yields a "wall of pixilated light" that registers and transmits movement and events in the "vertical stage" to the urban condition along Flatbush Avenue. The depth of the glazing system varies to allow for occupiable conditions at the 24/7 Media Lounge and the suspended reading zones. Planar glazing at the "vertical stage" serves as a screen for visual performances and events.
Along the horizontal fins of the "wall of pixilated light", photovoltaic thin film amorphous cells convert solar radiation into electrical energy. At the media lounge and reading zones a shading scrim at the interior surface of the glazing provides protection from the late afternoon solar glare.
Large monitors at the roof of the archive stack converts daylight into reflected colored light. The reflected daylight is transmitted through the glass floors of the stacks into the depth of the library. Colored light embeds the memory of the stack associated with the traditional library typology. In contrast, the pulsating electronic light emitted from the digital stack records the "disfigural" status of typology and the transformation of the library.