L+: Re-Envisioning Branch Libraries

A kit-of-parts system designed to meet the diverse needs of the contemporary library.

Serving over eight million people annually, the New York public library system is more heavily used today than at any other point in its history. But despite being one of the city’s most important public resources, many of its buildings are in a state of disrepair and out of sync with contemporary uses. This project, titled L+, was developed with the goal of re-aligning the spaces of this institution with the multitude of contemporary programming that define it today. L+ posits new architectural, financial and programmatic possibilities for branches throughout the five boroughs and beyond.

Commissioned as part of a bold initiative by the Center for an Urban Future and The Architectural League of New York, L+ focuses on a kit-of-parts strategy that offers a flexible, tactical approach to enhancing these spaces citywide. Anchored by a modular suite of furniture, infrastructure, signage, and finishes that can transform library spaces across locations and scales, the components of the kit can be deployed—with minimal alteration—to a diverse array of spaces and scenarios.

The flexibility of the kit-of-parts system is paramount to serving the many programs it supports. Designed to be continuously reconfigured as activities change day-to-day and, even hour-to-hour, L+ has been developed to support the wide range of existing and emerging functions libraries perform across New York City. Potential venues include spaces within existing branches, as well as less traditional sites, such as storefronts and transportation hub outposts that extend the footprint of the library to new locations.

This design concept lays out a constituent-driven, cost effective and system-wide strategy to sustain libraries as vital institutions in the 21st century. In response to our design study, the Brooklyn Public Library is piloting L+ in two libraries with the intention to extend it throughout the entire borough.


The Architectural League of New York
Center for an Urban Future




Jessica Blaustein, Lauren Comito, Rachel Meltzer, MTWTF, Christian Zabriskie