It's been more than four years since the New York Public Library announced that Lord Norman Foster would be redesigning the landmarked main branch, another ten months since things really got moving on the $300 million project, and, now finally?finally!?we know what the renovation will look like. It's a pretty radical change. The Times says "Foster has essentially created a major new contemporary library within Carrère & Hastings's neo-Classical one." How so? Foster is removing seven floors of stacks (which some people are not at all happy about) at the back of the library to open the building's central axis from the Fifth Avenue side to the Bryant Park side. The space occupied by the stacks, currently not open to the public, would be replaced with a four-story atrium lined with bookshelves and seating areas, and floor-to-ceiling windows would look out over Bryant Park.
Work is expected to start in the summer of 2013, and if all goes as planned, it will be complete by 2018. The renovation will also convert offices and storage space on the second floor?"majestic old rooms that have gone dormant for decades"?into a public work space that can fit up to 300 people. There will also be a new children's room, teen center, and below-ground education spaces.
Materials will be within "the vocabulary of materials that already runs throughout the building. Materials that would weather and improve with age evoke an atmosphere of study and contemplation." In layman's terms, that means wood, bronze, and stone.
The library has come under fire for the plan to remove the stacks because the original plan was to send the books to a storage facility in Jersey, but with the help of an $8 million donation, the library figured out how to keep most of the books onsite. People have also been upset that the library took so long to release the designs. The argument, officials say, is that they weren't "refined" until now. City agencies still need to approve the plans. The interior of the building is not landmarked, but Landmarks Preservation Commission needs to grant permission for the library to alter windows on the Bryant Park side, put air conditioning mechanicals on the roof, and add a loading dock on 40th Street.
Already, the design has caused panic, but the important question is what do you think?
· After Criticism, Public Library Offers Peek at Renovation Plans [NYT]
· All the Panic Over the New York Public Library's Renovation Plan Is Overwrought [NYM]
· New York Public Library coverage [Curbed]