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“More than a building that houses books and data,” former president Barack Obama said back in a 2005 speech, then a freshly appointed senator, “the library has always been a window to a larger world—a place where we’ve always come to discover big ideas and profound concepts.” Libraries are democratizing forces for knowledge, in addition to being places where dreams, memories, and ambitions are formed—and that’s precisely why architect Michael K. Chen’s recent project, a children’s library in the Bronx women’s transitional shelter Concourse House, is so special.

An expansive bookshelf, complete with lit-up edges and a slatted back to allow for maximum natural light, is filled with childhood classics like Horton Hears a Who, in addition to new releases that offer diverse perspectives and stories. A colorful, abstract rug brings a vibrant air to the space, and cylindrical ottomans offer seating for children and their parents alike. All around, the space is welcoming and engaging, associating books and reading with a sense of comfort and joy.

“The space for imagination and for reflection that books afford is such a gift, especially for kids who don’t currently have a permanent home or might not have a space of their own,” Chen told The Architects Newspaper. “It’s a privilege to work with Concourse House to make the library a reality for such a deserving group of children.”


The pro-bono project was completed with the help of generous donations, including a purchase of 1,200 books from Sisters Uptown Bookstore. In addition, a charity auction on Paddle8, running until December 18, will benefit the shelter.

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