The New York Public Library has revealed the first renderings of Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle’s renovation of the NYPL’s Mid-Manhattan Library at the corner of 5th Avenue and 40th Street, diagonally across from the library’s main branch, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Bryant Park. The $200 million project will increase seats, expand services and add public space to the building, which receives 1.7 million annual visits and constitutes the NYPL’s largest circulating branch.
“New Yorkers will soon have the central circulating library that they need and deserve,” said NYPL President Tony Marx. “This library will transform lives by providing books, classes, and programs for New Yorkers of all ages, and it will transform our city – as it will be a model for how libraries can strengthen communities.”
Founded in the 1970s, the Mid-Manhattan Library occupies a building originally designed to house a department store, resulting in a facility that lacks the combination of open and intimate spaces common to history’s most successful libraries. Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle worked for over a year analyzing library usage data and conducting interviews with the staff and public to determine what changes were necessary to best meet the needs of library patrons and update the facility for the 21st century.
Key to the renovation will be the significant increase in public space – the design will add 35 percent more space for the public by moving multiple floors of back-office staff to adjacent facilities, adding an additional floor on the roof, and opening up the lower level to the public through the introduction of natural light.
The project's signature element will be the “Long Room,” a five-story open structure of book stacks and meeting rooms that will unite the central floors of the building. To further open up the space, shelves have been pulled off the windowed walls of the building, allowing natural light to penetrate further into the space than ever before.
On the building’s top floor, formerly unused space will be redesigned to hold meeting space, a cafe and an outdoor area, which the library claims will be “the only rooftop terrace in midtown that will be free and open to the public.”
Additional facilities will include an adult learning center, a Science, Industry and Business library, a full-floor employment skills center, a new full-floor children’s library, and over 11,000-square-feet of multipurpose space for events and classes, as well as hundreds of new seating options throughout the building.
“The building that was originally designed in 1914 to house the Arnold Constable department store will now really become a library,” said Francine Houben of Mecanoo, the project’s lead architect. “By creating the iconic Long Room for the circulating collection, dedicated spaces for children and teens, an adult learning centre and business library, plus a rooftop destination for multipurpose use, the building will inspire serendipity and the discovery of all functions of a modern library.”
The Mid-Manhattan Library will close for construction in late 2017 and is expected to reopen in 2020.
Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle were selected for the commission last September after ambitious renovation plans of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building by Foster + Partners were scrapped in the face of public controversy.