New Yorkers, not to mention architecture critics, have been waiting with bated breath to see the plans for the controversial $300 million overhaul of the New York Public Library’s historic flagship branch on Fifth Avenue. And today, the designs by Foster + Partners, were finally unveiled. The renovation of the Beaux Arts-style library, completed in 1911 by Carrère and Hastings, will remove seven floors of stacks under the grand Rose Main Reading Room to make way for a 300-person workspace with an expansive atrium, balconies, floor-to-ceiling windows, bookshelves, and new areas devoted to classrooms and computer labs. As of now, interior finishes will include a combination of bronze, wood, and stone.
The plan is to transfer approximately 3 million books to new storage spaces beneath Bryant Park, and then send the remaining 1.2 million books to an off-site location in New Jersey. The newly renovated NYPL building on 42nd would then house the collections from the Mid-Manhattan Library and the Innovative Science, Industry, and Business Library.
“We are reasserting the library’s main axis and its very special sequence of spaces, from the main Fifth Avenue entrance and the Astor Hall, through the Gottesman Hall, into the dramatic volume of the new circulating library, with views through to the park,” Foster said in a statement on the firm’s website. “Our design does not seek to alter the character of the building, which will remain unmistakably a library in its feel, in its details, materials, and lighting. It will remain a wonderful place to study. The parts that are currently inaccessible will be opened up, inviting the whole of the community—it is a strategy that reflects the principles of a free institution upon which the library was first founded.”