Blind, But Not Unseen

Carnegie Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

To Project Types

Pittsburgh, PA | 11,700 SF

Hidden away inside a time-worn, former Studebaker factory and showroom on Pittsburgh’s “Automotive Row,” a valuable community resource gets an amplified street presence.
Formerly bricked over windows now hold insulated glass and open up the facility to the community.

The Carnegie Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (CLBPH) is immensely valuable to its community of users. Many who initially come for the library’s services end up volunteering their time to assist in the production of audiobooks for distribution across Pennsylvania, or to help others make use of its resources. As a result, many view it as a second home.

Developed in conversation with CLBPH’s visually impaired and physically disabled users, our design makes that home more comfortable and easier to use while making its value clearer to the larger public. Formerly bricked over windows now hold insulated glass that maintain the building’s character while dampening street noise (for audiobook users). Playful, braille supergraphics on the windows spell out the library’s focus for the larger public.

Moved from midblock to the corner, a recessed entry creates a sheltered place to pause before stepping onto the narrow sidewalks that border the busy street; the bold red that marks the entry also marks perimeters within to help guide partially-sighted patrons and library volunteers through the building’s public zones. Tactile measures—textured paving at the entrance, woven flooring that differentiations navigational pathways from the library’s seating area—reinforce this wayfinding strategy.

The interior aesthetic is simple. Removing visual clutter, the renovation exposes the elegant, board-formed concrete structure underneath. We’ve also inserted roomy, milled-wood booths to soften and warm the largely concrete space while providing plenty of room to accommodate patrons’ service animals and wheelchairs.

...our design makes that home more comfortable and easier to use while making its value clearer to the larger public.