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Welcome to the neighborhood: slits and slashes of light have turned the Battery Park City Library into a hip destination spot.

There's no separate police or fire department, of course. And all public services, such as education and sanitation, obviously fall under the auspices of New York City. But in many respects--geographic, cultural and financial--Battery Park City is aptly named. With its tightly packed maze of housing, supermarkets, movie theaters, restaurants and high-rise office buildings, the planned community at the southwestern tip of lower Manhattan has all the hallmarks--if not the legal status--of a major municipality.


As with any vibrant city, there's a competition for the attention and leisure time of its citizenry. And who would have guessed that a library on the bottom two floors of a residential building would stand toe-to-toe (or door-to-door) with other venues as a destination spot for Battery Park City residents? "New York Public Library (NYPL) wanted to take a fresh look at design and felt that the Battery Park City Library would not be competing with other branches, but with Barnes and Noble or Starbucks as a place for browsing or meeting up with friends--like a bookstore or coffee shop as they exist in New York," says Chad Groshart, leader of Atelier Ten's Lighting Design Group based in the New Haven, CT office. "They needed a new approach for a young and upcoming neighborhood."

NYPL hired 1100 Architect, known for its retail and high-end residential designs, to lend the space a decidedly non-librarytype vibe, all while meeting LEED Gold and Battery Park City green building standards. "The space had to be green but also sexy and funky, like a retail project, and that could be a challenge," says Groshart.

Much of the funk comes from an unusual folded origami-style ceiling. Carved into the geometric planes of the ceiling are thin notches that hold 8-ft or 12-ft runs of T5 fluorescent 4-ft long stick luminaires (Delray). But designing light slashes was not the textbook way to light the space. "An origami ceiling with slits of light in it is inherently not an efficient way to do high-performance lighting. A pendant or fixture with a large aperture is a better way to save watts," says Groshart, but pendants would not have fit the architectural aesthetic at this library.

Another idea from 1100 Architect for upping the funk factor in the 11,000-sq ft space was to use bare bulbs in these ceiling pockets. In this case, however, Atelier Ten successfully advocated for adding louvers to mitigate potential glare. From a distance, the louvers are barely noticeable, conveying the impression of a bare bulb. Supplementing the ambient light from the ceiling slashes are MR 16 halogen pinpoint lights that line the perimeter and add some lumens to the floor in areas where library planners expected visitors to sit and read.

The T5s were carried over to the stacks, where thin-profile fixtures on brackets light the bookshelves and create a clean, minimalist look (again a departure from the overhead pendants usually used for library stacks). The soffit was designed to receive a raceway painted white to match the walls and shelves. This enabled the remote bal-lasts and wiring to be concealed in this canopy-like enclosure over the bookshelves.


While the luminaires in the slits provide the ambient light, cove lighting around the perimeter of both floors washes the upper walls and emphasizes the "floating" origami ceiling, which is not flush to the walls. The design team would have preferred a fluorescent cove "but we couldn't spare the watts," Groshart says. "This project was designed in 2006 [it opened in 2010 and earned the Atelier Ten team an IES Illumination Award of Merit in 2011] and we didn't have the wattage budget for the cove the architect wanted, so we convinced him to spend the dollars on LEDs at 4 watts per linear ft instead of fluorescent at 8 watts per linear ft." Supplying the LED cove luminaires was io Lighting. More energy savings, meanwhile, are derived from daylight responsive controls for all lighting near the window wall.


On the upper level, multi-head ceramic metal halide luminaires highlight the vertical surfaces, the most striking being the orange-colored elevator core. When seen through the window at night--against a backdrop of offices shutting off their lights--the orange shaft gives the library some valuable curbside appeal for Battery Park City residents. Good thing, since there are so many other attractions to choose from in this city within a city.




Battery Park City Library

Watts per sq ft: 1.2

(complies w/ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1-2004)

Illuminance Level: 40 fc

Lamp Types: 4 plus LED cove

Fixture Types: 11 LEED Gold registered


Chad Groshart, IALD, LC, LEED AP, Member IES (2005), is Atelier Ten's lighting practice design leader. He is a voting member of the ASHRAE/IES 90.1 lighting subcommittee and holds a Masters in Architectural Lighting Design from Parsons The New School for Design in New York where he is also an adjunct instructor.

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Author:Tarricone, Paul
Publication:LD+A Magazine
Date:Apr 1, 2012
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