Foster + Partners unveils plans for New York Public Library

News: UK firm Foster + Partners has unveiled plans to overhaul New York Public Library's flagship branch on Fifth Avenue by inserting a contemporary lending library into unused reading rooms and stacks at the back of the building.

New York Central Library by Foster + Partners

At present only a third of the the Stephen A Schwarzman Building is accessible to the public, but Foster + Partners plans to insert a new corridor that will connect the main entrance with a new four-level atrium at the rear, where visitors can browse collections whilst enjoying a view of Bryant Park through the existing tall windows.

"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," said Norman Foster.

New York Central Library by Foster + Partners

Located beneath the Rose Reading Room, the new section will replace seven relocated floors of closed stacks, while a 300-person workspace for students and researchers will take the place of several offices and storage areas.

Floorplates will be pulled back from the exterior wall to create a series of tiered balconies and visitors will enter the space via a grand staircase that descends from above.

Proposed materials include bronze, wood and stone, which the architects claims will age gracefully and fit in with the existing beaux-arts building designed by Carrère and Hastings in the early twentieth century.

New York Central Library by Foster + Partners

The New York Public Library launched its £185 million renovation strategy earlier this year, but faced criticism as scholars and writers claimed the plans would comprise the library's existing facilities.

Foster commented: "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."

Construction is scheduled to commence in the summer and is expected to complete in 2018.

Foster + Partners has been working on a number of projects in New York in recent months, including a vision for the future of Grand Central Terminal and a competition-winning design for a Park Avenue skyscraper.

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Images are by dbox, branding & creative for Foster + Partners.

Here's some more information from the architects:

Designs for the New York Public Library revealed

The New York Public Library today unveiled proposals for the integration of the Circulating Library into its flagship Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street – Lord Foster presented the plans at the launch of the public exhibition.

The project aims to safeguard the building’s legacy and precious books for future generations. The existing research library will be retained as it is today, with more space for researchers, as will many of the public spaces – the project will open twice as much of the building to the public and will restore the logic of the Neo-Classical design to improve the experience of the library’s historic halls. The two circulating collections will be housed in a spectacular new space previously occupied by book stacks.

The centrepiece of the 5th Avenue and 42nd Street building is the magnificent Rose Reading Room, below which are seven storeys of book stacks. However, these stacks are inaccessible to the public and no longer meet the needs of the books they contain, in terms of capacity, fire safety or preservation. The books will be moved to a large humidity-controlled chamber under Bryant Park, which was created in 1989 as part of the Bryant Park project, and provides the ideal environment for their conservation. Thus the stack space is freed to create a new ‘library within a library’ comprised of the Mid-Manhattan collections and the Science, Industry and Business Library – reinstating a circulating library to the NYPL main building, as had originally existed until the 1980s.

The 13,000 structural points of the existing stacks will be replaced with an innovative new vaulted stone and steel cradle. This move will free the floors from the west façade, allowing them to be peeled back to form a series of balconies – in the process revealing the full height of the slender windows internally for the first time. New study areas will line the perimeter of the balconies and new reading platforms will sit beneath the vaulted ceilings, which are carefully attuned to ensure excellent acoustic performance. The materials palette and design of the interiors will evolve with further development. The current combination shows bronze, wood and stone, which will age gracefully with the passage of time and use. A new internal atrium runs the full length of the base of the circulation library, connecting the visitor facilities to the building’s accessible entrance on 42nd Street.

Just 30 percent of the library is currently accessible to the public – the project will more than double this, opening 66 percent of the building by utilising unused reading rooms, back of house spaces, offices and book stacks. The design aims to make the building more inviting, more permeable and to bring the books to the fore rather than hide them away. Starting with the circulation strategy, the central axis through the Neo-Classical building will be reasserted. Visitors will be able to walk in a straight line through the grand Fifth Avenue portico and the majestic Astor Hall into Gottesman Hall, where a permanent treasures gallery will display some of the most important pieces from the collection. For the fist time, the westerly doors of the Gottesman Hall will be opened up, restoring a sense of symmetry and intuitive circulation across the building. Visitors will enter the new circulation library on a balcony in the centre of the former book stack space, where they will face elevated views of Bryant Park. From here, a grand staircase will sweep down to the main level, aligned with the park, and further to the state-of-the-art education and business library below.