New York, NY & Boston, MA
Portable library installation
100 sf
Credit List:
Höweler + Yoon Architecture, Eric Höweler, J. Meejin Yoon, Parker Lee

UNI (urban neighborhood institution) is an open-air reading room developed for nonprofit Street Lab Inc. / The Uni Project with the ambition to create a mobile, reconfigurable, public institution in the city.  Designed to take up temporary residency in neighborhoods and communities, the UNI can accommodate vastly different populations, support a variety of social and urban agendas, as well as provide a variety of spaces for public lectures, workshops, and screenings. 

Being portable and flexible in both form and situation, the UNI temporarily transforms almost any available urban space, in particular ones that don’t have access to amenities of traditional institutions like libraries and community centers.

The first UNI iteration consists of 144 repetitive, open-faced cubes that aggregate to form various heights and configurations.  Identical in dimension, each cube can house approximately 10-15 books and is equipped with a “cover element” shaped much like a quill.  Fabricated through roto-molding, these quills fulfill a number of functions.  When the UNI is ‘dormant’, the quills plug into each cube, providing protection from the outdoor elements while appearing to be an anemone of sorts.  Once activated, the quills unplug themselves and can be deployed as a bench, table, podium, or even a display surface depending on the site’s programmatic needs.

The UNI made its first opening in Brooklyn, NY in September of 2011 and is currently planning for future locations in Boston as well as additional sites in New York.