Rogers Marvel Architects


During the 1970s, artists transformed light industrial buildings in New York City’s SoHo district into studios and residences. Young professionals and families followed. It’s an archetypal story that’s since been repeated in cities nationwide. Eventually, SoHo residents wanted the same amenities found in other neighborhoods, including their own library. The New York Public Library (NYPL) secured a space and, in a nod to nearby Little Italy, which would share the facility, named it the Mulberry Street Branch.

The scarcity of land in Manhattan often leaves just two directions for growth: up or down. NYPL was obliged to follow the latter course at the former Hawley & Hoops candy factory, constructed in 1886, with a cast-iron column structure and brick walls. It leased a portion of the ground floor and two subterranean levels, then asked Rogers & Marvel Architects to design reading rooms and stacks for children, teens, and adults, as well as a community room and a large area for public computers.

Marta Sanders, project architect, says the design team wanted to reserve as much of the library’s “precious” ground floor as possible for public use. Rather than locate the main entry on Mulberry Street, which would have meant sacrificing window frontage along this east elevation for the circulation desk and staff work areas, they moved it to the north elevation on Jersey Street. This allowed a window-lined reading room, ringed with cushioned benches and containing low shelves for adult paperback fiction and DVDs. The architects removed two wood joists in the center of the ground floor—reusing one to serve as a counter for the card catalog station—and inserted a stair that connects all three levels of the library. Overhead, a band of sheet aluminum painted green serves as a navigation aid and also conceals HVAC conduits, keeping the other ceilings clutter-free.

Elevator pits, a disused boiler room, and mechanical lines divided the subgrade levels into a warren of smaller spaces. The designers moved some of these elements but primarily used the unusually shaped volumes to their advantage. On lower-level one, which features the shortest ceiling heights, they located children’s and toddler’s reading rooms. At the building’s northeast corner, they cut “window” openings and installed lighting to reveal views of a passage that runs underneath the sidewalk. On lower-level two, the architects located the teen reading room in a narrow volume that stretches westward, away from the central stair and the bulk of the library. North of the stair, they located the community room and the public computers. The main adult reading room and stacks occupy the cavernous boiler room, which features a 23-foot ceiling. Working on a tight budget, Rogers & Marvel retained as many of the space’s original details as possible. On the ground floor, they exposed cast-iron columns and wood ceiling joists, while on lower levels they preserved existing masonry walls. For the stair, they chose perforated-aluminum panels and mahogany railings. The floors are a mixture of wood and polished concrete.



The New York Public Library



Roger Marvel Architects

145 Hudson Street, Third Floor

New York, NY 10013

P: 212-9441-6718

F: 212-941-7573


Rob Rogers, RA

Jonathan Marvel, RA

Project manager:

Matthew Peckham

Project architect:

Marta Sanders, RA

Project architect:

Thaddeus Briner, RA

Senior architectural designer:

Mike Pilarski




Robert Silman Associates

Joe Tortorella, PE, Principal

88 University Place

New York, NY 10003-4545

P: (212) 620-7970

Geotechnical engineer:

Langan Engineering and Environmental Services

90 West Street, Suite 1510

New York, NY 10006

T: 212-479-5409

F: 212-479-5444


M/e/p, fire alarm security:

FMC Associates

Edwared McCune PE. Princiapl

261 West 35th Street

New York, NY 10001


Consultant (s):


Bill Armstrong


Acoustical/Vibration Control:

Robert A. Hansen Associates

Robert Lee, PE, Principal

124 East 40th Street

New York, NY 10016

P: 212 687-2672


Building transportation systems:

Van Deusen & Associates

Ahmet Tanyeri, President

5 Regent Street, Suite 524

Livingston, NJ 07039-1617

P: 973-994-9220

Cost estimator:

Atkins HF & G

Jason Quinn, Senior Cost Manager

11 East 26th Street, 18th floor

New York, NY 10010

P: 212 252-7070


Construction Specifications Inc.

Aaron Pine CCS, Principal

22 Tennent Road, P.O. Box 488

Morganville, NJ 07751

P: 732-970-0700


Design 2147

Sergio Ghiano, Principal

52 Diamond Street

Brooklyn, NY

P: 718-383-9340


Certified Alarm Tech Systems

3232 Decatur Avenue

Bronx, New York 10467

BMS Systems:


Richard Eiden & Associates

P: 973-345-4905

cell: 201-259-5971



Reg Hough


Library consultant:

Jay K. Lucker

53 Buckman Drive

Lexington, MA 02421-6019

P: 781-862-4558


General contractor:

Omni Contracting Company, Inc.

3 Alan B. Shepard Place

Yonkers, NY 10705

P: 014-375-5555

F: 914-375-5500

Haleem Zihenni (President)

Mechanical contractor:

Pen Enterprises, Inc.

521 Coney Island Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11218

P: 718-282-4000

F: 718-940-8920

Phillip Ettedgui (President)

Plumbing contractor:

Ace Contracting, Inc.

1990 Coney Island Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11223

P: 718-998-8437

F: 718-627-3585

Emmanuel Tiperakis (President)

Interphase Electrical Contractor Corp.

16 Garfield Place

Brooklyn, NY 11215

P: 718-499-4121

F: 718-965-3934

Edward Lucey (President)


Photographer (s):

David Sundber/Esto

P: 914-698-4060






Lead-coated copper on canopy



Metal doors:

Aluminum storefront


Interior finishes

Acoustical ceilings:


Suspension grid:


Cabinetwork and custom woodwork:

Custom mahogany millwork

Paints and stains:

Benjamin Moore;

Oikos Pallas

Floor and wall tile:

Existing wood boards and slate tile on ground level floor;

pigmented concrete topping slab in sub-cellar level;

Dal-tile in restrooms


Interface in children's reading room



Information desks:



Vecta in staff lounge;

Peter Danko in children's reading room;

Haba in toddle's reading area;

Haba/Gressco Ltd. for children's story hour table;

Vecta/Wilkhan in teen room;

Herman Miller in community room


Herman Miller in adult reading room and in staff work areas;

Peter Danko in children's reading room;

Haba and August Incorporated in Steelcase/Turnstone in staff lounge


Michael Tavano upholstered bench cushions on ground floor;

Nesco cushions in story hour area

Atlas stand:





Linear Lighting Corp;

Edison Price Lighting;

Columbia Lighting






Special equipment that made a significant contribution to this project:

Ceiling ribbons;

made of sheet aluminum laminated;

thick plywood substrate