Manhattan's Morgan Library & Museum is almost ready to show off its newly renovated McKim, Mead & White facade, the 2019 renovation being the first comprehensive overhaul of the landmarked building since its completion in 1906. But before the scaffolding comes down, principal conservator Glenn Boornazian invited AN to climb the ladders, and see the ceiling and detail work adorning the neoclassical institution up close. The wing under renovation is the historic library itself, originally the mansion of J.P Morgan, which houses the famous Renaissance-inspired loggia, Morgan’s red silk-walled office, and the heart of the museum—the three-tiered reading room that holds rare manuscripts from the original handwritten A Christmas Carol to one of Bob Dylan’s personal notebooks. The museum itself has been evolving rapidly since the 2006 Renzo Piano addition, a glass-box intervention that bridged the annex, library, and brownstone of the Morgan family compound framed by Madison Avenue and 36th and 37th Streets. The addition also created a new entrance for the museum with state-of-the-art amenities for visitors—however, the swap from the original 36th street entrance to the grander ‘museum-grade’ avenue welcome area directed visitors and general street traffic away from the original library's monumental facade. This renovation and cleaning of the Tennessee pink marble exterior is poised to refresh the building’s curb appeal. Up on the scaffolding, it’s impossible to overlook the extraordinary attention to detail in the intricate carving of each stone. One ceiling relief depicts a sailboat, with billowing sails projecting over an inch from its stone base, so prominent that Boornazian was able to wrap his hand around it like a door handle. This craftsmanship was only fully appreciable from where we stood, suspended on a platform two stories high, but granted the same treatment as an eye-level detail. “If there was one crack, the stone was rejected,” said Boornazian, “The contractor almost went bankrupt trying to satisfy the standards of the project.” The joinery was a primary concern of the conservator, as time and settlement had begun to pry some of the expertly set stones in the ceiling program apart. “Today, this amount would have been unacceptable,” he added, pointing to a seam just slightly thicker than a strand of hair. Physical alterations also extend from the facade to the overly-oxidized metal fencing, the prominent lioness sculptures framing the library entrance, the cast-bronze doors, and the lesser-known bluestone public sidewalk pavers. Yet, the marble exterior is only one facet of the regeneration project. When the scaffolding comes down, predicted to occur as early as this week, installation will begin on the landscape and lighting improvements, set to debut in spring 2020. A new garden program by British designer and GSD faculty member Todd Longstaffe-Gowan will enliven the front entrance of the restored structure, and offer a rare strip of green space in the Midtown streetscape. Coming off of commissions like the grounds of Kensington Palace, the scale is relatively modest, but the sensitivity to history is shared. The low-lying planted selections will allow for full viewing of the building from the garden and street, and Renaissance Revival pebble slabs and McKim, Mead & White-inspired parterres will abound throughout the grounds. “This project will reintegrate the monumental facade into the museum’s program,” said Morgan deputy director Jessica Ludwig, “and bring more people closer to the building’s details than ever before.”
Posts tagged with "The Morgan Library & Museum":
Joseph Albers Painting on Paper The Morgan Library & Museum 225 Madison Avenue New York Through October 14 Josef Albers (1888–1976) was both a student and professor at the Bauhaus, one of the most influential art and design schools of the 20th century. Known for his precise use of line and unparalleled sense of color, Albers meticulously worked through his ideas in successive studies on paper. Josef Albers in America: Painting on Paper is an opportunity to see Albers’ process at work. The exhibition features approximately 60 studies spanning most of Albers’ career, from the 1930s through the 70s, many of which include hand written notations, including architectural inspirations. The studies, evidence of his mind and hand working toward final painting, are expressive and moving in their own right. The Morgan exhibition is the only US venue for the show, which will travel to several European cities.
More than four years after opening its Renzo Piano-designed expansion, The Morgan Library & Museum has given its 1906 McKim, Mead & White building a loving restoration, expertly executed by Beyer Blinder Belle. In addition to cleaning the mosaics and marbles, the Museum has opened two new spaces to the public, Pierpont Morgan's vault and the serene North Room, formerly the director's office. The renovation allows more of the museum's permanent collection to be displayed, and allows curators to better display those objects, thanks in large part to the exacting lighting design by Renfro Design Group. The Rotunda (above) glows with new lighting and cleaned surfaces and five new display cases, lit with fiber optics, to show the institution's fascinating collection, including a "life mask" of George Washington, a cast of his face made while he was alive as a study for a sculpture (in the case on the right). The East Room has three tiers of rare books, illuminated with strip LEDs, accessible to staff by secret passageways (no kidding). The new display cases match the walnut of the existing bookshelves, but use a more contemporary design vocabulary. The carpet, though of the period, is also new to the room. The dramatic pendant lamp is original to the room, though it had been in storage for many years. The more intimately scaled North Room served as the office of the collection's first librarian and curator, and later became the directors office. Open to the public for the first time, the room will house rare books above the mezzanine, with a permanent installation of antiquities in new shallow display cases below. The vast West Room served as Morgan's library and displays some of the paintings and majolica he collected, largely in the last 15 years of his life. The vault, visible at left, often held objects Morgan was considering for purchase. The vault now offers more space for display, and gives visitors a glimpse into Morgan's life as a collector. The restored McKim, Mead & White building opens to the public on Saturday, October 30.