Behind the Screens: Participatory Design at BPL’s Sunset Park Interim Branch

New York, NY

Leroy Street Studio has created a storefront gallery in our studio at 65 Allen Street to exhibit the work of LSS, individual studio members, and our creative collaborators. This is a space where we can share our individual and collective craft, processes and passions, and where we can learn from the knowledge, experience, and perspectives of our community. The exhibition, Behind the Screens, celebrates the participatory design process in capital projects.

By its very nature, architecture is typically designed by a small group of professionals without the public’s direct input. Participatory design opens up the tools of architectural thinking and making by breaking down architecture’s exclusivity, turning the public into collaborators, and bringing voices historically underrepresented by design to the fore.

During the summer of 2018, LSS worked with local teens from Sunset Park’s CFL to create a sculptural window shading system for the new BPL Sunset Park Interim Branch. Working with LSS architects and teaching artist Mauricio Trenard, students created designs to capture their visions for community, the environment, and the importance of life-long learning.

By incorporating the students’ designs into the project, this process higlights this community’s culturally diverse voices through visible, lasting inclusion. This collaboration not only yields far more grounded and situated architecture, but it also elevates the work by challenging assumptions, and bringing more perspectives to the built environment.

Project Team 

Annika Bowker

Piper Cain

Allen Gillers

Todd Higuchi

Tatiana Kalainoff

Joey Rake-Delaney

Shawn Watts


Pankaj Khadka

Tatiana Kalainoff