These Are the Best Architecture Images from the NYPL’s New Public Domain Collection

09:30 - 14 January, 2016
These Are the Best Architecture Images from the NYPL’s New Public Domain Collection, Woolworth Building construction. Image via The New York Public Library
Woolworth Building construction. Image via The New York Public Library

Last week the New York Public Library made over 180,000 images from their digital archives available in the public domain, and free for high-resolution download. Not only are the images available for download, but since they are in the public domain and free of any copyright restrictions, users have the freedom to get creative and alter, modify, and reuse the images in any manner they see fit. Featuring a wide variety of images including drawings, engravings, photographs, maps, postcards, and in some cases, digitized copies of entire books, the collection has been noted for fascinating historical artifacts such as a set of color drawings of Egyptian gods and goddesses, and a digitized book from the 18th century containing over 400 color plates depicting various current and historical fashion trends.

Of course, the archive also includes a significant assortment of captivating architectural images that range from everyday scenes to historic treasures. We've trawled the database to find some of the most unusual and insightful examples - read on to see a selection of the most interesting architectural images from NYPL’s digital archives.

Design Development of the Chrysler Building. Image via The New York Public Library The Bund, Shanghai in the early 1900s. Image via The New York Public Library World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893. Image via The New York Public Library via The New York Public Library +36

Mecanoo Replaces Foster on New York Public Library Overhaul

13:49 - 17 September, 2015
Mecanoo Replaces Foster on New York Public Library Overhaul, NYPL's main building on Fifth Avenue, is a Beaux-Arts masterpiece designed by architects Carrère & Hastings. Image © Flickr User CC wallyg
NYPL's main building on Fifth Avenue, is a Beaux-Arts masterpiece designed by architects Carrère & Hastings. Image © Flickr User CC wallyg

One year after scrapping Norman Foster's controversial redesign, the New York Public Library has commissioned Mecanoo to oversee the planned $300 million overhaul of its Mid-Manhattan branch and flagship Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue. The Dutch practice, who is also renovating Mies van der Rohe's Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington DC, will work with the preservation experts of Beyer Blinder Belle - the project's architect of record. 

"The building should be about the journey of learning," Mecanoo's founding partner and creative director Francine Houben told the New York Times. "Maybe you come in for a book but also take lessons in English." 

Step Back in Time with the New York Public Library's "OldNYC" Archive Project

08:00 - 29 May, 2015
Step Back in Time with the New York Public Library's "OldNYC" Archive Project, "Manhattan: 42nd Street (West) - 6th Avenue", Harold Kaye (1931). Image Courtesy of The New York Public Library http://www.oldnyc.org/
"Manhattan: 42nd Street (West) - 6th Avenue", Harold Kaye (1931). Image Courtesy of The New York Public Library http://www.oldnyc.org/

Discover historic New York with "OldNYC," a digital archive of the New York Public Library's "Photographic Views of New York City, 1870s-1970s" Collection. Bringing together an extensive catalogue of images from the library's Milstein Collection, OldNYC organizes photographs geographically, allowing users to view images specific to individual blocks and streets.

The project is also collaborative, asking visitors on the site to comment on photographs with "what's there now, what's changed, and what's stayed the same." Users can edit or add to captions on the back of each of the photos, creating a personal element in the latest retelling of New York's vibrant history.

Learn more about the project and view selected images after the break.

"Bridges - Brooklyn Bridge - Manhattan Bridge - [New York Steam Corporation.]", Percy Loomis Sperr (1934). Image Courtesy of The New York Public Library http://www.oldnyc.org/ "Celebrations - Parades - Municipal events - The Victory Arch.", Unknown (1918). Image Courtesy of The New York Public Library http://www.oldnyc.org/ "Manhattan: 6th Avenue - 42nd Street (West)", Unknown (1939). Image Courtesy of The New York Public Library http://www.oldnyc.org/ "Manhattan: 5th Avenue - 46th Street", Unknown (1931). Image Courtesy of The New York Public Library http://www.oldnyc.org/ +6

Michael Kimmelman Discusses The Importance Of Advocacy In Architectural Criticism

04:00 - 5 March, 2015
Michael Kimmelman Discusses The Importance Of Advocacy In Architectural Criticism, Michael Kimmelman. Image © Matej Stransky
Michael Kimmelman. Image © Matej Stransky

In an interview with Erika Allen for The New York Times, Michael Kimmelman discusses "architecture criticism and the dangers of demolition." Kimmelman, the NYT's architecture critic, has built a reputation as someone who advocates for buildings under threat, his most well known "fight" being against renovation plans drawn up by Foster + Partners for the New York Public Library in Manhattan. Referencing his latest column, in which he shows support for the threatened Orange County Government Centre, Kimmelman elaborates on his critical position and why he believes that speaking out for buildings at risk is "necessary."

Revised Renovation Plan Released for New York Public Library

00:00 - 2 June, 2014
Revised Renovation Plan Released for New York Public Library, The New York Public Library’s (NYPL) main building on Fifth Avenue, is a Beaux-Arts masterpiece designed by architects Carrère & Hastings. Image via Flickr User CC wallyg.
The New York Public Library’s (NYPL) main building on Fifth Avenue, is a Beaux-Arts masterpiece designed by architects Carrère & Hastings. Image via Flickr User CC wallyg.

Details have been released on the New York Public Library’s (NYPL) plan to renovate its Mid-Manhattan branch, while creating more public space within its flagship Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. The news comes shortly after Foster + Partner’s redesign of the the Beaux-Arts landmark was scrapped due to concerns of a ballooning budget. The revised $300 million overhaul suggests a more affordable option of relocating Schwarzman’s main stacks beneath Bryant Park, while establishing a more campus-like connection with a fully renovated Mid-Manhattan branch. All the details, here

New York Public Library Scraps Foster-Designed Renovation Plans

00:00 - 8 May, 2014
New York Public Library Scraps Foster-Designed Renovation Plans, Foster + Partners renovation scheme. Rendering by dbox. Image © Foster + Partners
Foster + Partners renovation scheme. Rendering by dbox. Image © Foster + Partners

The New York Public Library (NYPL) has abandoned Norman Foster's controversial plans to transform part of its 20th century Carrère and Hastings “masterpiece” into a circulating library. The news doesn’t come as much of a surprise, considering the city’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio expressed skepticism towards the $150 million renovation earlier this year. 

According to a report by the New York Times, Blasio does not intend on reducing the NYPL funding, however the money will now be allocated to other purposes. 

Several library trustees have stated that in order to keep up with the cultural shift from traditional stacks to online resources, they now intend on completing the renovation of the library's mid-Manhattan branch on Fifth Avenue. 

A response from Norman Foster, after the break...

Foster + Partners' New York Public Library Redesign in State of Limbo

00:00 - 10 March, 2014
Foster + Partners' New York Public Library Redesign in State of Limbo, © dbox, Courtesy of Foster + Partners
© dbox, Courtesy of Foster + Partners

Foster + Partner's controversial renovation plans for the New York Public Library (NYPL) are currently in a state of limbo while the city decides their course of action. Foster's proposal for the 20th century Carrère and Hastings "masterpiece" on 5th Avenue is a response to the cultural shift from traditional stacks to online resources, as the library has experienced a 41% decrease in the use of collections over the last 15 years. 

Supertall, Supergreen - Architectural Explorations in Books Series Event

00:00 - 14 January, 2014
Supertall, Supergreen - Architectural Explorations in Books Series Event, Tianfu Proposal, Chengdu, China. PHOTO CREDIT: Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture
Tianfu Proposal, Chengdu, China. PHOTO CREDIT: Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

Join architectural historian Judith Dupré and renowned architects Adrian Smith and Rick Cook to explore the latest environmental innovations in skyscrapers. The look of cities is changing as designers and builders realize that the best tall buildings arise from working, as the ancients did, hand in hand with nature. Tapping into the elemental forces of the sun, wind, and water, today’s green skyscrapers are pushing the extreme frontiers of environmental, structural, and creative possibility. That sensibility is also strengthening bonds between architects and engineers who, more than ever, are joining forces to find aesthetically pleasing, environmentally astute solutions.

Foster Responds to Kimmelman’s “Offensive” Diatribe Regarding the New York Public Library

00:00 - 6 February, 2013
The New York Public Library’s (NYPL) main building on Fifth Avenue, is a Beaux-Arts masterpiece designed by architects Carrère & Hastings. Image via Flickr User CC wallyg.
The New York Public Library’s (NYPL) main building on Fifth Avenue, is a Beaux-Arts masterpiece designed by architects Carrère & Hastings. Image via Flickr User CC wallyg.

When applying “major surgery” to a beloved, 20th century “masterpiece”, you’re going to face some harsh criticism. Such is the case for Norman Foster, as the legendary British architect has been receiving intense backlash from New York’s toughest critics for his proposed renovation to the New York Public Library. First, the late Ada Louise Huxtable exclaimed, “You don’t “update” a masterpiece.” Now, the New York Time’s architecture critic Michael Kimmelman claims the design is “not worthy” of Foster and believes the rising budget to be suspect. 

More on Kimmelman's critique and Foster’s response after the break...

Alda Louis Huxtable Takes On The New York Public Library

00:00 - 17 December, 2012
The New York Public Library's (NYPL) main building on Fifth Avenue, is a Beaux-Arts masterpiece designed by architects Carrère & Hastings. Image via Flickr User CC wallyg.
The New York Public Library's (NYPL) main building on Fifth Avenue, is a Beaux-Arts masterpiece designed by architects Carrère & Hastings. Image via Flickr User CC wallyg.

The New York Public Library has a plan to save millions of dollars, improve efficiency, and reverse the cutbacks that have been plaguing it. How? By sending little-used resources off-site (after all, most people use the library for its online resources these days), the Library will consolidate three libraries into one Mid-Manhattan branch, renovating the building with a streamlined, efficient design - courtesy of Foster + Partners - to create "the largest combined research and circulating library in the country."

It sounds like a wonderful, modern solution. Ms. Alda Louis Huxtable would beg to differ.

The former New York Times architecture critic and current critic for the Wall Street Journal has come out swinging against the plan. First, she builds on the critique that others have made, that by moving volumes off-site (to New Jersey, or "Siberia, as she puts it) to make room for more modern amenities, the library will devalue its primary purpose (making resources readily accessible). To put it another way, as Scott Sherman did in his article for The Nation, it would turn the library into “a glorified internet café.” Then, Huxtable makes her own argument: that removing the current, intricate system of stacks would be an enormously complex, expensive, and hopelessly misguided structural challenge.

But, ultimately Ms. Huxtable’s argument comes down to the intrinsic architectural and cultural value of this Beaux Arts Masterpiece: “You don't "update" a masterpiece.” 

More on the Ms. Huxtable incendiary critique of The New York Public Library’s Central Plan, after the break...