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Project File: Design concepts

University libraries are still centerpieces of philanthropic support, yet many no longer can afford to maintain all their books on site. While struggling with the larger issues of technology, relevance, information management and access, St. John's University, Jamaica. N.Y., wanted to put the 5,000 square feet of underused space on the first floor of the library building to better use.

Another issue was that there was no place where faculty and students can come together in a common learning environment. The library was a logical choice to provide study, lounge and common spaces.

A series of student commons in this area included a small screening room, student meeting/conference rooms and honors and graduate student areas. The design called for simple floor and wall treatments, with most of the design attention focused on a series of customized, freestanding millwork pieces under a gazebo-like ceiling fixture that runs the length of the main room.

The furniture forms a curvilinear axis in the series of benches, sitting and study spaces, nooks for books, newspapers and work surfaces. The conference rooms have glass walls and doors that allow for privacy, sound isolation and small-group study, but pose no security risks — with transparent walls, everyone can see the group inside.

Architect for the project is Guenther 5 Architects, PLLC (New York).

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