Elmhurst Community Library

Queens, NY

Celebrating and engaging the neighborhood’s diversity with a new 30,000 square foot community library whose two glazed reading rooms contribute to an urban presence
With 80,000+ users, speaking more than 57 languages, Elmhurst is the second busiest circulating library in Queens Library’s (QL) network of 64 branches. This NYC-DDC Design Excellence Project replaces a 1904 Carnegie library with a new 30,500 sf building, providing a neighborhood anchor and community hub.


The library’s Z-shaped massing maximizes the impact of the existing Community Park, now fully preserved, and new Learning Garden which opens visually to a stand of mature oaks at the urban block interior. To reinforce the library’s significance as a public institution, its program spaces cater to diverse age groups with two floors accessible after hours, acting as a community center.


The building’s exterior envelope is a terracotta rain-screen with aluminum inserts marking floor slabs and integrating the rhythm of windows. Stainless steel panels articulate volumes of curtain wall as a backdrop for the Cubes –suspended structural glass reading rooms that position patrons in the larger environment, glowing as luminous beacons after dark: one above an urban thoroughfare, and one within the Community Park.


The Broadway Cube is visible from afar, floating above the Main Entry, made with bricks salvaged from the original Carnegie building. The Park Cube makes legible the operations of the library’s two main floors, with a monumental stair, grounded below and cantilevered from above.
Completion Date


Owner: Queens Borough Public Library
Client: NYC Department of Design and Construction
Structural: Severud Associates
MEP Engineer: Ambrosino, Depinto & Schmieder
Lighting: See/Arch
Signage: T Squared
Artist: Allan McCollum
General Contractor: Stalco Construction, Inc.


Richard Barnes
Selected Awards
Best of Design For Civic Educational, The Architects Newspaper Best of Design Awards
Best of the Year, Brooklyn Queens AIA Design Awards
Merit Award, American Architecture Prize