In June, as the Buffalo Architecture Foundation was kicking off its 2017 Little Free Library® Design Competition, Buffalo Rising featured two articles: the first was about the City’s need to jumpstart its Public Spaces which advocated for the reconnection of “…city blocks by incorporating safe, walkable, fun and interesting destinations that will…captivate the imagination of our citizens” and the second article announced the beginning of the Buffalo and Erie County’s Public Library Reading Park on an underdeveloped triangle of land in front of the Main Branch downtown.
As of the September 1st deadline, BAF has received myriad Little Free Library® designs all with the intent of engaging the community, inspiring a sense of surprise and delight, and creating an interesting destination in underserved neighborhoods around Buffalo. One submission hopes to tie these two projects together and jumpstart the City’s public space.
Kara Stock (a Librarian with the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library who currently oversees the Central Library’s Launch Pad MakerSpace, a department that fosters hands-on learning, creativity and innovation and assists people of all ages with STEAM learning) working in conjunction with Robert Rumpl, AIA, CSI (a principal, project manager and primary client contact with Trautman Associates) have proposed the Library Tree, a reused single-wide metal locker converted into a whimsical design inspired by the development of the Central Library’s Reading Park. Inspiring curiosity and imagination while facilitating educational activities and embracing the goals of a Literacy Friendly Neighborhood, this Little Free Library® is meant to complement the various program offerings from the non-profit Literary Corridor members and be a focal point in B&ECPL’s new Reading Park.
Attempting to “break the mold” of traditional Little Free Libraries®, the Library Tree would be constructed with reclaimed materials, accommodate well over 50 books of all shapes and sizes for children, teens and adults, allocate space for bookmarks and incorporate a green element – a roof of living plants. In addition, “trunk-like” seating near and around the Library would complete the installation.
The entries are as varied as their places of origin; with submissions from Buffalo and a smattering from the surrounding area (Toronto, Ithaca, NYC), the balance come from six states (CA, KY, MA, NJ, PA, TX) and four countries (India, Indonesia, South Korea, and Turkey). All the applicants expressed the importance of literacy as a catalyst for education and expressed the importance of public place making as a way of re-engaging the community in education for the betterment of society. Two of the more compelling international designs came from students: “The Scroll” by John Nguyen and Stephen Baik from the University of Toronto and “Round go the Books!” by Mohammed Umar from the Faculty of Architecture and Ekistics, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, Delhi, India.
“The Scroll” is intended to provide a minimally intrusive bookshelf that can reinvigorate non-functional sites, or contribute artistically to functional sites. To attract people, Nguyen and Baik incorporated bold colors with arrangements inspired by the artist Mondrian. The colors are a visually playful engagement, but also provide a refreshing look to the backdrop of concrete and bricks found in many of the low-income neighborhoods. On the other hand, “Round go the Books!” focused on creating a universal solution to all the problems presented. A transparent orb-like design aims to attract audiences of all age-groups due with its aesthetics and is comprised of two hemispherical shells of different sizes which rotate about each other. The shelves are internally illuminated with solar powered motion sensing LEDs and the base incorporates a bicycle rack, dog leash hooks, and a permeable seat to allow greenery to grow below it.
For an article in the UK web magazine, The Architectural Review, BAF was asked why it was hosting an International Design Competition. Courtney Creenan-Chorley, Board President, and, Matthew Etu, BAF LFL Committee Chairperson, explained how Buffalo is gifted with over a century of contributions from notable architects and continue to benefit from contributions by today’s notable designers. BAF’s goals for this project stem from a desire to not just reflect our City’s current condition but to advance it in a way that is unique and engaging. Our city is multi-cultural and international, with many refugee populations assisting in the revitalization of the city, we want to be open to any and all ideas, no matter the source.
Educating our youth in an era of rapid technological advancements and an increasingly competitive workforce is paramount. Creating and maintaining a skilled and talented workforce that will stay in Western New York is critical to maintaining the region’s momentum. BAF endeavors to combine the ambitions of respect for the past and hope for our future by leveraging our renowned architectural heritage to educate our City’s youth and spark their interest and creativity in the building trades; literacy is at the core of any sound educational platform.
BAF intentionally kept their vision vague, preferring words like “distinctive,” “contemporary,” and “reimagined” (along with phrases like “creative and innovative designs are not just encouraged, they’re a must” and “…forms that breaks the mold of convention”), specifically to unshackle the potential designer and encourage outlandish results, but the difficulty now will be to whittle down the submissions. BAF has assembled a distinguished panel of judges including the current President of the AIA Buffalo/WNY Chapter, Michael Anderson, City of Buffalo Deputy Commissioner of Buildings, Rishawn Sonubi, and Library Director, Mary Jean Jakubowski. These judges will be reviewing all the submissions through the month of September and will be notifying the winners on or about October 1st.
In addition to applicants, BAF has been searching for suitable locations for our new libraries and has already begun contacting City officials, Block Clubs, Community Centers, and churches interested in hosting these unique structures. As an extension of BAF’s Building Stories project, a commemorative photo book documenting the evolution of the designs, as well as the unique stories behind them and the neighborhoods they’ll be in, will be assembled. This book will then be available for sale with all proceed benefiting BAF’s other varied programs. Since its inception last Spring, the BAF LFL program has been raising money to cover the costs of this project and has received generous support from private individual donations as well as from the application fees. BAF is proud to announce these uniquely designed Little Free Libraries® will be finding a home in our urban landscape by the Spring of 2018, with the intent of reconnecting city blocks by incorporating safe, walkable, fun and interesting destinations that will captivate the imagination of our citizens.