This former Brooklyn torpedo factory is helping to revitalize a historic district as a new public library, apartments and retail

In New York City, the Adams Street Library is the Brooklyn Public Library’s first new branch to open in more than 20 years.

The library is housed in a repurposed 1901 industrial building that has been many different things: a torpedo factory, a recycling facility, and now apartments and commercial spaces.

The branch is located under the Manhattan Bridge in the DUMBO Historic District.

Here’s what the architects at WORKac say about their work creating the library:

Extensive, architect-led community outreach within Dumbo, Vinegar Hill and the Farragut Houses indicated that children’s spaces and programming was lacking – and important to residents across the diverse neighborhoods.

The design, therefore, puts children at its center, containing spaces for learning activities, story time, books, reading and views out to Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The library also has new collections, technology and extensive programming for teens and young adults in a dedicated teens area.

Two large, flexible multipurpose spaces with stackable chairs and foldable tables, whiteboards and a kitchenette provide much-needed space for community gatherings and meetings.

Technology is readily accessible to patrons with free Wi-Fi throughout, hard-wired charging and power built into the reading tables and projection capability in the large community room.

The library also has generous spaces for staff and public, gender-inclusive restrooms.

The design takes inspiration from this layered history. We were able to prove the required fire separation would be provided by the heavy timber ceiling which is therefore exposed through curved openings in a contemporary ceiling.

The dialogue between old and new continues throughout the space. The patinaed brick perimeter walls are also exposed and contrasted with a series of pixelated murals depicting images of nature inspired by the neighborhood.

Surrounded by 15-foot windows, the library is designed as a series of open spaces around a porous pavilion that houses an elevated children’s area, allowing kids to see out over the main reading room toward the Manhattan skyline, the East River, and the park.

Clad in a maple-veneered MDF that is CNC-milled with a custom pattern, the pavilion combines programmed niches for stroller parking and book storage with large curvaceous openings.

The interior is clad in cheerful orange hues and contains a space for story time and steps to sit and play on.

Outside, the entrance is demarcated by a super-graphic sign reading “LIBRARY.”

This sign was approved by the Landmarks Commission which noted its creative use of the precedent set by historic painted signs in the neighborhood.

Visible from across the East River, it gives a clear identity and invitation to this vital public amenity.

All photographs are by Bruce Damonte.

See WORKac website.

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