Guerrilla libraries.

May 12, 2010 at 10:41 pm Leave a comment

Tonight’s discussion panel about the L!BRARY Initiative project (coordinated with Anoo Siddiqi’s related book launch) was full of strong personalities, a passion for education, and a distaste for bureaucracy. The project itself included a number of big shots in both the education and design industries, and resulted in 56 gorgeous new libraries in New York City public schools. Five of the major players spoke at the Architectural League‘s event, resulting in an impressively collaborative dialogue. But considering how much collaboration went into the creation of these libraries, that’s really no surprise.

Of the event’s many highlights, I especially enjoyed the rogue-ish spirit of Harold Levy, Henry Myerberg, and Lonni Tanner. Levy, the former Chancellor of NYC’s public schools, admitted with a smile that he agreed to the project without knowing if he even had the authority to do so. Myerberg, who directed the design process for all of the Initiative’s libraries and served as architect for 11 of them, described the initial project team as a small group of enthusiastic, committed individuals who took a somewhat “guerrilla approach” to renovating the libraries. As the project grew and more institutions became involved, the designs’ “delivery mechanism had to change” and more and more red tape began to appear. Tanner agreed, with the panel ultimately concluding that the project’s development went “good, better, bad”. It seemed as if the earlier design teams got to run a little wild, have a little more fun, and get a lot more done.

While the earlier libraries (such as PS 50) are certainly well-constructed and safe for children, the “guerrilla approach” became too risky later in the project. In retrospect, that risk factor may have played an important part in the Initiative’s early successes.

May 12’s daily design idea is a little (thoughtful) risk can go a long way.

photo credits
school: PS 50
design: Henry Myerberg with Rockwell Group
photograph: Peter Mauss/Esto


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Announcing the 3×3 interview. Out of place and happening now (in Manhattan).

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