This is an Open, Two-stage, Design Competition to design, construct, and install a contemporary book shelter in underprivileged neighborhoods in Buffalo, NY.
Children from middle income homes have, on average, 13 books per child. Conversely, it is estimated that there is only 1 book for every 300 children in low income neighborhoods and up to 61% of these families do not have any books for their kids at home [Children’s Literacy Foundation]. Perhaps the most fundamental problem with current literacy campaigns is that they ignore, and even divert attention from, the real problem: a lack of access to books for children of poverty.
The Little Free Libraries® movement places small-scale book shelters in neighborhoods and is based on the premise of “take a book, leave a book.” Established in 2009, there are now over 50,000 Little Free Libraries® in communities worldwide. Initially crafted to resemble miniature one-room schoolhouses mounted on a pole, these libraries have become unique structures, designed and constructed in a wide range of styles, often utilizing recycled, reclaimed, or salvaged materials.
Libraries can be shelters for people, as well as books. Children, especially, rely on libraries as a safe destination outside of home or school. The presence of a neighborhood library gives our smaller residents a destination and means of connection; a gathering place in an urban environment that can be otherwise unfriendly to children. A Little Free Library® should serve as an anchor for the community.
“Ensuring that books are available to any child at any time of the year will be a good ﬁrst step in enhancing the reading achievement of low-income students and an absolutely necessary step in closing the reading achievement gap.”
—Anne McGill Franzen and Richard Allington, 2009
Literacy-friendly neighborhoods is a grassroots initiative started by Little Free Libraries® [littlefreelibrary.org] that aims to promote literacy, expand literary horizons, cultivate generosity, and promote general neighborliness. These libraries will facilitate an informal exchange of books in the city’s public spaces, where residents and visitors may use and contribute to these communal resources. The final locations for these libraries have not been established, but all are planned to be in the urban environment.
Each entry should speak to the goals of the Literacy–friendly neighborhood in an urban setting while simultaneously addressing the basic demands of an outdoor enclosure and providing a form that breaks the mold of what has been deemed typical for a Little Free Library. Creative and innovative designs are encouraged.
Architects, designers, sculptors, carpenters, students, etc. interested in rethinking and fabricating a library as part of this project are invited to submit their qualifications and describe their interest in the project. A conceptual design and brief narrative description of how your concept addresses the points presented in the Competition Brief must accompany each application. Multiple designs concepts are allowed and will require multiple entries.
A jury will select up to ten entrants to design and fabricate a library, hosted on public property or in the domain of a partnering community organization. Once installed, all libraries will be stocked by the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library system, so upon selection, the entrants will be expected to address specific review comments by the jury and constituents to ensure successful long-term use of the installed libraries.
Design and Fabrication Expectations
Design/Build entrants will be responsible for all design, material selection, and fabrication of one Little Free Library® within the defined schedule. Multiple design concepts from a single entrant will first be judged against each other to select the strongest and then against other entries to maintain as diverse an inventory of libraries as possible. This does not preclude a situation wherein a multiple entrant may be asked to make more than one library, however, each entrant with multiple designs should indicate their ability to fabricate more than one library within the timeframe given.
Traditional, custom-built, high quality, prefinished libraries are available for purchase (as a fundraiser) from the Little Free Library® organization within a price range of $300 to $500; unfinished or some assembly required libraries are available for as little as $165. Entrants are asked to include an estimate of the total cost of their designs with a target budget of $300. Buffalo Architecture Foundation is hoping to select and install up to 10 designs, so the more cost efficient the design can be, the more libraries we can afford to install. As additional funding becomes available this value may increase.
AIA MEMBERS: $25
NON-AIA MEMBERS: $35
MULTIPLE ENTRIES: $15/EACH
Entry Fees are non-refundable and tax deductible to the greatest extent allowed by law. All fees will be used to defray the costs of the building materials and any proceeds (less incidental administrative costs) will be donated to the Buffalo Architecture Foundation in support of their Service and Educational Programs. If not submitting online, please make checks or money orders payable to the Buffalo Architecture Foundation.
Each design team will receive $300 to build and install its library.
Ribbon Cutting, Exhibition, and Publication
BAF intends for each library to be a permanent installation.
BAF will publish regular updates on the competition via email, on their website, on Facebook and Twitter, and to local press. Whenever possible, participants will be referenced by name and any provided images will be shared.
Buffalo Architecture Foundation, in conjunction with competition sponsors, will invite entrants to a formal ribbon cutting ceremony at one of the installed libraries. BAF intends to promote this event with local press and will thank all parties involved in its success including all selected entrants.
A commemorative photo book including written descriptions of each library, photos of the design and construction process, along with the installed finished product will be made available for sale during and following the event. Entrants may pre-order a book at a reduced price with entry submission.
Competition Opens: June 5, 2017
Submissions Due: September 1, 2017
Winners Notified: October 1, 2017
Design Duration (3 months): October 2017 thru December 2018
Construction Duration (4 months): January 2017 thru April 2018
Installation: Any time after completion but no later than May 1, 2018
Ribbon Cutting: Late May/early June 2018
For full contest rules, more information, eligibility and submission requirements, and selection criteria, please download a copy of the Competition Brief. An entry form for HARD COPY SUBMISSIONS ONLY is included in the packet, but all participants are encouraged to use the Online Entry Form (available soon).
Frequently Asked Questions
All participants are encouraged to thoroughly read the competition brief for answers, but if you still have any questions regarding the Little Free Library® Design Competition, please contact the Program Chair, Matt Etu at firstname.lastname@example.org. The questions and answers will be posted here as needed.
Little Free Library® is a registered trademark of Little Free Library LTD, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Featured image Courtesy of the Architecture League of New York – archleague.org/2013/07/little-free-library/