Queens Library’s children center exemplifies city’s new approach to architecture

From left: Department of Design and Construction Commissioner David Burney and the Children’s Library Discovery Center

The 22,000-square-foot sleek glass box the city built for a children’s center next to the main branch of the Queens Public Library in Jamaica is now open, and according to the New York Times architecture critic, it serves as the most recent example of the city’s shifting attitude towards designing public buildings.

Designed by 1100 Architect, the $30 million, two-story Children’s Library Discovery Center takes the place of a nightclub on a corner lot next to the main branch. It is meant to serve children ages three to 12, and encourage them to read, learn and enjoy scientific exploration, according to the library’s website.

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The stylized building is a change in the city’s approach to building public structures, in effect since 2004, when Mayor Bloomberg tapped David Burney as commissioner of the Department of Design and Construction.

Burney launched the Design and Construction Excellence program to set aside money for young architects to bring fresh ideas to city architecture and ensure quality of design. It’s a stark contrast from the days when the city would almost automatically award contracts to the lowest bidder in order to save money.

“All the money the city thought it saved, it lost,” Burney said, “because projects were often left unfinished or in disrepair. People tend to think design means more money. But the truth is that the tighter the budget, the more expertise you need to squeeze something good out of the process.” [NYT]

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