Posts tagged with "New York Public Library":

Quick Clicks> Babel Books, High Line, Tower Trouble, Twin Lions

Tower of Babel. Argentinian artist Marta Minujin has created an 82-foot tall "Tower of Babel" in Buenos Aires after the city was named UNESCO's World Book Capital for 2011. Readers, libraries, and 50 embassies donated over 30,000 books in a variety of languages to fill the twisting structure. The Guardian has a slideshow and we posted a video of the tower after the jump. High Line Caution. Witold Rybczynski penned an op-ed for the NY Times cautioning the many would-be High Line copy cats that the success of the New York wonder-park (and a Parisian predecessor) aren't because of the parks themselves, but because of their unique situations in dense, thriving cities. Tower Trouble. The Wall Street Journal writes that skyscraper construction has dropped off drastically from decades past to the tune of 14 million fewer square feet per decade than the period between 1950 and 1990. Can New York maintain its global competitiveness without ramping up construction? Twin Lions. Two stone lions, Leo Astor and Leo Lenox, have been standing sentinel at the New York Public Library's main entrance on Fifth Avenue since 1911. Ephemeral New York posted a little more history on the backstory of the big cats.

A Pictorial Description of Broadway in 1899

Last week, we came across illustrator James Gilliver Hancock's series of playful block elevations titled "All the Buildings in New York." It turns out this impulse to sketch block upon block of New York's architecture has been around for quite some time. In 1899, the Mail & Express newspaper company published a graphic journey down Manhattan's Broadway in a book called A Pictorial description of Broadway now archived at the New York Public Library. The stroll down Broadway 112 years ago reveals just how much New York has evolved over the past century. As the NYPL says, "The result, as you can see here, is a 19th century version of Google's Street View, allowing us to flip through the images block by block, passing parks, churches, novelty stores, furriers, glaziers, and other businesses of the city's past." Two of the most dramatic plates in the series show Times Square, above. Quite a striking difference to the neon canyon we know today. Below, you can see the lush Madison Square, also with significantly fewer high rises, and below that is a stunningly underdeveloped 59th Street showing vacant lots and buildings of only a few floors. Click on the thumbnails below to launch a gallery.

Carnegie Turns the Page

At the turn of the last century, the industrialist Andrew Carnegie offered grants for 67 library branches in New York City, a boon for book-lovers across the five boroughs. More than a century later, however, many of these aging buildings are more than a little dog-eared, and the New York Public Library has been working to reclaim them as bright community hubs. The latest of these spaces to be revived, the St. Agnes Library on the Upper West Side, is back in shape after a two-year, $9.5 million restoration that library officials see as a model for the system’s Carnegie legacy. Originally designed by the New York firm Babb, Cook and Willard, the 1906 building had suffered typical alterations: Dropped ceilings occluded architectural details, and skylights were covered over, dimming interior reading rooms. The main goal for Helpern Architects, commissioned for the renovation, was to recreate the original volumes of the nearly 18,000-square-foot structure. According to architect-in-charge Margaret O’Donoghue Castillo, the team found much ornament intact: When restoring the ceilings, original crown moldings were uncovered, while wood flooring and pillars could also be saved. Original windows had been removed, partly replaced by solid aluminum panels, so the architects specified new multipane mahogany windows, based on historic details. Bringing the library into the 21st century also included making the building fully accessible. One of the main challenges was the new entrance ramp, which had to fit within both the landmark district and the Renaissance Revival facade, which fronts on Amsterdam Avenue. Using a reconstructed historic wrought-iron fence on the exterior, the ramp continues inside the building, minimizing its visual impact. To route new infrastructure, the firm took advantage of empty duct shafts that could be used for mechanical systems. And by tucking the elevator in back and inserting a fireproof glass stairwell, the structure’s grand marble stair could be retained as the center of attention. “The whole idea was to make it all feel seamless,” said David Helpern, founder and president of Helpern Architects. “The library had always been as you see it, yet it is new and modern.” Among the new elements, a collection of colorful, egglike seats in the children’s section is illuminated by a new skylight, while a mural fills the entire south wall, inviting visitors within. The genesis of the wall graphic, spelling the word Imagine, was to capture the essence of the neighborhood, with Central Park’s Strawberry Fields and the Dakota Apartments, home to John Lennon, a stone’s throw away. This successful blend of past and present has made St. Agnes a template for future library renovations. “This is the single best renovation of a Carnegie library I have ever seen,” Paul LeClerc, president of the New York Public Library, told AN. “I appreciate the way Helpern Architects have preserved the original aesthetic of these gorgeous, vivid spaces,” LeClerc continued. “You know you are in a historic building­–it’s welcoming and warm­. At the same time, it has the feature of our best contemporary buildings: lots of light coming in.”