Stereotank

The "inhabitable" library looks more like a weird robot or a doughnut on stilts.

The "Little Free Library" that recently appeared in Manhattan's Nolita neighborhood would seem to have a major design issue: Get more than one person inside, and turning a page suddenly becomes a violent ballet of jousting arms and elbow pokes.

But such is the cost of cuteness, which this teeniest of media centers has in spades. The adorable object, which sits outside St. Patrick's Old Cathedral School at 32 Prince Street, looks like a big doughnut on stilts or, if you imagine it with a few flourishes, a peevish robot:

The curious reading hovel is the work of Stereotank, a design collaboration between Venezuelan architects Marcelo Ertorteguy and Sara Valente, who were responsible for last summer's bicycle-powered musical whirligig on Astor Place. The couple built the library at the invitation of the Architectural League of New York and the organizers of the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature. It is one of 10 mini-libraries now scattered in the 'hoods below 8th Street, which will serve printed words to the public until they disappear in September. (See their locations on this map.)

So how wee are we talking? Well, if somebody tried to stock it with the complete Encyclopedia Britannica, it would likely pop at the seams. Avoid eating a garlicky gyro or lox-and-onion bagel before entering, because your face will be inches away from any other occupant as you leaf through the literature.

In the tradition of the Little Free Library movement, started by a pair of Wisconsinites in 2009, the books are provided by members of the community and you're kind of expected to put one in if you take one out. At one point, the banana-colored bookpod housed softcovers by Neil Gaiman and Danielle Steel, Samuel Pepys' 17th-century diary, journalist Neil Strauss' investigation of sleazy pick-up artists and Andri Magnason's LoveStar, a novel about a dystopian future where energy is transmitted through the air. Not a bad selection, considering the library is the size of a tub you'd use to wash your dog.

On their website, the Stereotank partners explain some more about what makes their library unique:

The design consisted in creating an 'inhabitable' Little Free Library, where users could immerse themselves and take the time to browse through books and borrow or exchange them. The structure is built out of an upside down plastic tank and a wooden frame. Perforations around the tank allow visitors to peek inside and preview the interior, which invites them to duck under and discover the book collection while still having a connection with the exterior.

If you want to split hairs, technically this isn't the smallest library around. That distinction might go to the original, birdhouse-sized "Little Free Libraries" that are infesting the planet with knowledge or those guerrilla libraries crammed into New York's payphones.

Photos courtesy of Stereotank, via the submissions forum at Designboom

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: Dominque Walker, founder of Moms 4 Housing, n the kitchen of the vacant house in West Oakland that the group occupied to draw attention to fair housing issues.
    Equity

    A Group of Mothers, a Vacant Home, and a Win for Fair Housing

    The activist group Moms 4 Housing occupied a vacant home in Oakland to draw attention to the city’s affordability crisis. They ended up launching a movement.

  2. photo: A Lyft scooter on the streets of Oakland in July.
    Transportation

    4 Predictions for the Electric Scooter Industry

    Dockless e-scooters swept cities worldwide in 2018 and 2019. In 2020, expect the battery-powered micromobility revolution to take a new direction.

  3. Life

    The Cities Americans Want to Flee, and Where They Want to Go

    An Apartment List report reveals the cities apartment-hunters are targeting for their next move—and shows that tales of a California exodus may be overstated.

  4. photo: a pair of homes in Pittsburgh
    Equity

    The House Flippers of Pittsburgh Try a New Tactic

    As the city’s real estate market heats up, neighborhood groups say that cash investors use building code violations to encourage homeowners to sell.  

  5. Charts

    The Evolution of Urban Planning in 10 Diagrams

    A new exhibit from the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association showcases the simple visualizations of complex ideas that have changed how we live.

×