MKCA was honored when a generous donor approached us to design a new children’s library for families transitioning out of homelessness.
Established in 1991, Concourse House is a Bronx-based shelter that serves women with young children, and works to eliminate homelessness by providing families with safe, stable, transitional housing, coupled with a range of social services and programming to help them make successful transitions into permanent housing.
The library is an important new component of the educational resources for the children at Concourse House, and is unique among the other program spaces as a place that is specifically dedicated to books and reading, and a much needed space for volunteer and staff led readings, story times, and other events organized around books. The importance of reading for the cognitive development and emotional health of children is widely recognized, and the library is designed to provide space and opportunity for exploration and imagination for children who more often than not, do not have access to their own books.
Situated in an dark and underused mezzanine space under the vaulted ceiling of the Concourse House multipurpose space, the library is designed to break from the institutional quality of the other program spaces in the building, to engage the children visually through a bright, colorful, and playful environment, and to allow for flexible transitions between individual and organized group readings and story telling.
The design transforms what was once a dimly lit and crowded space into a bright, playful, and warm space for the library, incorporating durable but residential-feeling materials, and soft integrated cove lighting. Curved paneling and shelving introduce a sense of play, against the dark barrel vaulted ceiling of the chapel space.
We were inspired by the vision of the donor and the mission of the library to ask how our service to the project could extend beyond the typical design and coordination of the physical elements of the library, and how our relationships with the design and construction community could be instrumental to providing services, materials, and fabrication for the library, and to resource and support the important work it does with a vulnerable population.
MKCA provided all design and architecture services pro-bono, and led the effort to solicit additional in-kind donations from other designers, suppliers, fabricators, and contractors in service of the project. In addition, we initiated in-person and online fundraising efforts, and organized a benefit auction, hosted by Paddle8 and featuring donated works from some of the leading lights of the contemporary design and art.