The Highline was once created to alleviate foot and vehicular traffic of 10th avenue, historically known as “Death Avenue.” Part of the West Side Improvement Project, the elevated railway allowed trains to drop off goods directly by tunneling into warehouses. The elevation and alignment of the Highline to the center of blocks, rather than above the street created a line of delineation, whereby the west side of the Highline was dominated by industrial uses and maritime-related trade, and the east side by residential uses.
The project seeks to use the program of the library and the Highline as a connector. Rather than stressing the North-South linearity of the site, a porous building typology and zoning proposal allows the site become more permeable, through corridors that can take you through the block from the street to Highline level. Following the flood zones, there are two building typologies that address zone AE, which disallows habitable space underneath the 10’ flood line, and zone X, which is a slightly lesser danger, but still requires a response to the environment. With these two zoning typologies and connections to the Highline and west side, the neighborhood, with the new public library at its center, can become a more vibrant community.
The new building responds to the multi-scalar character of West Chelsea by combining residential and industrial architectural expressions. Reading and studying rooms take on a residential quality with smaller windows and enclosed balconies to give users an intimate reading space within a public institution. The structure relates to the site’s industrial past through the use of fin walls that match the Highline’s fantastic structure. Translucent glass is used to provide a glimpse of library stacks inside. Larger industrial spaces are used for pop-up art gallery, café, book circulation, and larger gathering spaces. An auditorium connects the two “neighborhoods” and creates a portal into the rest of the neighborhood.