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A Maze of Stairs: The Uncompromising Walkways of the Steven Holl Queens Library

By: Ellen Wang

When imagining New York, one typically might think of a glamorous place with sky-high buildings that go against the boundaries of architecture. Easily accessible to all, with and without disabilities. However, the Steven Holl Queens Library contradicts all that with its disastrous interior design.

On the outside, the building is a rectangular block with large glass windows plastered on all sides, and the entrance is quite accessible. However, the interior design is a whole other story. Lined on all sides with rows of stairs, it even got the nickname from Sharon McLennon-Wier, executive director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled, as “a monument to stairs.” The uneven steps on stairs are a challenge for people with wheelchairs and crutches, as their high amplitude makes it a very easy trip for the face to meet the floor.

Along with the non-disability friendly stairs, the oversized atrium only renders itself useful for social media ‘models’ who do oversize photo shoots all over the place. As a result, the walkways surrounding the atrium are usually crammed, and definitely not at all wheelchair or crutch friendly. It is a question as to how librarians get books from one place to another.

Speaking of hard places to get carts across, the top floors are even more of a nightmare. The fact that the curved walls connect to the floor at an awkward degree really doesn't help things either. The floor makes people slip toward the sides, making it impossible to navigate, even without the heavy library carts, with or without books.

The library’s oversized rooms, undersized walkways, makes people question if these architects have ever actually set foot in a library before. Rows of empty bookshelves now sit unattended due the immense difficulty of navigating the book carts around, and books that were supposed to be on the bookshelves now sit in these carts all across this in-navigational nightmare.

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