The New York Public Library has revealed plans for the transformation of their iconic main branch on 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Led by Mecanoo with Beyer Blinder Belle, the $317 million masterplan will increase accessibility to the library as well as increase public space for research, exhibitions and educational programs by 20%.
“For over a century, the Schwarzman Building has been a beacon of open access to information and a tireless preservationist of the world’s knowledge,” said New York Public Library President Tony Marx. “We have a responsibility to preserve its architectural wonder and its role as an important civic space, while also preparing it for the future, and another century of best serving the public. We believe this plan does just that.”
Unlike an earlier scheme by Foster + Partners (scrapped in 2014) that would have significantly altered the library’s existing spaces, the Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle design will approach the renovation with a particular sensitivity, taking advantage of currently underutilized areas.
Former staff and storage spaces will be transformed into public research, exhibition and educational rooms, including a new Center for Research and Learning and the new Lenox and Astor Room, which will contain books and artwork donated to the library by longtime benefactor Brooke Astor. Existing essential program, such as the bathrooms, will be improved and modernized, while a new cafe and expanded library store will be introduced.
To reduce congestion through the library’s main Fifth Avenue entryway, a new entrance will be created along 40th Street along with a new plaza and elevator bank. The library’s historic Gottesman Hall will also receive a revamp as it becomes the home of a new “permanent but rotating exhibition of NYPL treasures.
“We have developed a Master Plan that inherently adheres to the logic of a Beaux-Arts building,” said founding partner of Mecanoo Francine Houben. “Our changes are both subtle and clever—to direct the flow for different user groups, for example, or to improve the quality and function of currently underused spaces.”
These new program elements will ensure the library is prepared for the future while complementing beloved spaces such as the the Maps, Periodicals, and Genealogy reading rooms; Astor Hall; and the recently reopened Rose Main Reading Room.
“The Master Plan builds on the framework of this historic building and icon of New York City architecture,” said Beyer Blinder Belle’s Elizabeth Leber. “We are seeking to instill clarity and ease of circulation, and to support new uses and programs, while only enhancing its significant architectural features.”
Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle are also currently working on the renovation of Mid-Manhattan Library across the street, the NYPL’s largest circulating branch. While renovations are in-progress, the stacks at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building are housing circulating books. Once work on the Mid-Manhattan Library is complete, Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle will complete an additional study examining possibilities for the 175,000-square-foot stacks space.
“The Library, through this study, plans to evaluate as many options as possible, with the primary goal of best serving the researchers who rely on this great institution now and in the future,” said William Kelly, the Library’s Andrew W. Mellon Director of the Research Libraries.
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.
This article was originally published by 6sqft as "PHOTOS: After two-year renovation, NYPL's historic Rose Main Reading Room will reopen October 5th." After being closed for a two-year restoration, the New York Public Library 's historic Rose Main Reading Room and Bill Blass Public Catalog Room will reopen to the public ahead of schedule on Wednesday, October 5th at 10am.