Children's Library by MKCA

MKCA designs Children's Library for transitional shelter in New York

American studio MKCA has created a small, colourful library for the Concourse House, a shelter for women and kids who are transitioning out of homelessness.

Children's Library by MKCA

Established in 1991, the Concourse House is located in the Bronx – one of New York City's five boroughs. The shelter provides stable, transitional housing and a range of social services for women and their young children. The non-profit organisation's ultimate aim is to help families secure permanent housing.

Children's Library by MKCA

Designed by New York-based MKCA (Michael K Chen Architecture) on a pro bono basis, the Children's Library was constructed on a mezzanine level that was formerly dark and under-utilised. The compact space sits under a timber-lined, barrel-vaulted ceiling and overlooks a multi-purpose hall. The library offers 1,200 books, along with spaces for reading and storytelling.

Children's Library by MKCA

The goal of the design team was to create a comfortable and flexible 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, colourful and playful environment, and to allow for flexible transitions between individual and organised group readings and storytelling," said MKCA in a project description.

Children's Library by MKCA

The showpiece of the library is a large, white oak shelving unit with curved corners. Books are illuminated by an LED strip that wraps the front of the design. The back side is faced with a wooden screen, which serves as a buffer between the quaint library and the open hall below.

Children's Library by MKCA

At the centre of the library is a large rug by Alex Proba that "incorporates the shapes and colours of the room into a playful, soft landscape of varied colours and textures". Kids can take a seat on the floor, or sit on poufs that come in light blue, spring green and peach. The cloth-covered stools can be stored in a shelving unit that lines one side of the room.

The library also features two Corian tables with rounded edges and a glass dry-erase panel that is lined with an LEDs. Two globe-shaped pendants further illuminate the small room.

Children's Library by MKCA

The majority of the decor in the space was donated, with pieces by studios such as Egg Collective and Fernando Mastrangelo. All of the books were sourced from Sisters Uptown Bookstore, a local shop. MKCA led the effort to solicit in-kind donations from designers, suppliers, fabricators and contractors.

Children's Library by MKCA

To help raise money for the Concourse House, an online auction of art, lighting and design objects is being held through 18 December. Items up for bid include table lamps by Lindsey Adelman and Bec Brittain and a large Bubble chandelier by Pelle.

Children's Library by MKCA

Founded in 2011, MKCA has completed a variety of interiors projects in New York. Others include the renovation of an Upper East Side townhouse and the transformation of a dimly lit West Village apartment into a light-filled residence.

Photography is by Alan Tansey.

Project credits:

Design and architecture: MKCA
MKCA team: Braden Caldwell, Michael Chen
General contractor and millwork: Structure Ventures
Major supporters: Julie Yamin and Kate Yamin

More images and plans

Children's Library by MKCA
Floor plan
Children's Library by MKCA
Axonometric plan
Children's Library by MKCA
Diagram
Children's Library by MKCA
Children's Library by MKCA
Children's Library by MKCA
Children's Library by MKCA
Children's Library by MKCA
Children's Library by MKCA