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NYPL reveals the spacious, $200M redesign of its Mid-Manhattan branch

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Dutch firm Mecanoo is redesigning the building along with Beyer Blinder Belle

It’s been just over a month since the New York Public Library revealed its stunning renovation of the Rose Main Reading Room at the Main Branch, and now the NYPL is already gearing up for another major project right across the street.

On Wednesday evening, the library unveiled the first rendering for the redesign of its Mid-Manhattan branch, located at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and East 40th Street. In September last year it was revealed that the NYPL had selected Dutch firm Mecanoo to revamp the building. Over the past several months, Mecanoo along with Beyer Blinder Belle have interviewed staff at the library, patrons, and community stakeholders to assess their needs, and have now produced the first rendering for the project.

As part of the redesign, the team of architects has devised a 35 percent increase in public space at the branch by moving the back-office staff from several floors into an adjacent facility, repurposing the lower level as a public space, designed in a way that brings more light from the street level, and using the roof as another public space, thereby increasing the overall accessible area.

The standout feature for the library and the architects is what they’re calling a “Long Room,” which is five floors of open and browsable book stacks (as seen in the rendering), and two floors of meeting rooms.

Other additions include a full-floor dedicated to separate libraries for children and teens, a full-floor business library, which will offer the services currently provided at the Science, Industry and Business Library on Madison Avenue between East 35th and 34th Streets, seating for 1,500 patrons, capacity to hold 400,000 books, and 11,000 square feet of multi-purpose space that can be used for classes, seminars or other public programming.

The redesigned building will also have Midtown’s only free and publicly accessible rooftop terrace, the NYPL says.

"The building that was originally designed in 1914 to house the Arnold Constable department store will now really become a library," Francine Houben of Mecanoo, the project's lead architect, said in a statement. "By creating the iconic Long Room for the circulating collection, dedicated spaces for children and teens, an adult learning center 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 library is being redesigned at a cost of $200 million, and $150 million of that has already been provided by the city. The library is fundraising for the rest of the amount. The Mid-Manhattan branch will temporarily close towards the end of 2017 as it gets ready for the renovation.

While that branch is closed, the services from it will be spread out over four different buildings in Midtown, namely the Schwarzman building across the street, the Grand Central Library, the above-mentioned science library, and the 53rd Street library. Most of the primary functions of the library will move to the Schwarzman Building including circulating collections, computer stations, and its public programs (the NYPL created space at this building over the last three years by repurposing vacant rooms or those used by staff). Renovation work is expected to wrap up sometime in 2020.

“The next phase of New York Public Library’s Midtown branch renovation is a great step toward moving New York’s public library into the 21st century,” Mayor Bill de Blasio, said in a statement.

New York Public Library

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