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…
The New York Public Library (NYPL) has unveiled the details of their controversial plan to renovate the 20th century, Carrère and Hastings “masterpiece” on 5th Avenue. Designed Foster + Partners, the $300 million dollar proposal 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.
Sensitive to concerned critics, the renovation promises to preserve the building’s legacy as it integrates a new, state-of-the-art Circulating Library into its flagship Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street. Foster’s “library within a library” will transform seven floors of stacks, currently occupying the back of the building, into an aesthetically, technologically and environmentally advanced public space that meets the needs of our 21st century society.
“We need to be respectful of the beloved, iconic building and to create a new inspiring space,” Anthony W. Marx, the library’s president, said in an interview with the New York Times. “At a time when people wonder about the future of libraries, we’re going to create the greatest library the world has ever seen.”
Learn all the details and see the renderings after the break…
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. Ada Louise 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…