The New York Public Library revealed schematic designs by Foster + Partners to update its historic Central Library Plan (CLP). One of the proposal’s main features is a new lending library at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street that includes a four-level atrium and floor-to-ceiling windows with views of Bryant Park. Sections of the library’s research collections will be incorporated into the new lending library for first-ever public access.
The design also preserves public areas in the landmark building, such as the Rose Main Reading Room—that will remain as is—and calls for a reopening of historic rooms that have been closed to the public. Second-floor offices will be converted into workspace that can accommodate about 300 writers, scholars, and researchers, and enhanced areas for children and teens are also planned. Combined, these efforts will nearly double the existing public space. Exterior work consists of an updated loading dock, a new emergency exit door, and replica windows.
Services and materials at the Mid-Manhattan Library and the Science, Industry, and Business Library will be merged into the 42nd Street location, as well. Proceeds from the sale of these buildings will go into the library’s endowment, and centralizing services in one location will generate a savings of up to $15 million, which can be reallocated to hire more staff and acquire more books.
“We are reasserting the Library’s main axis and its very special sequence of spaces, from the main Fifth Avenue entrance and the Astor Hall, through the Gottesman Hall, into the dramatic volume of the new circulating library, with views through to the park,” says Norman Foster. “Our design does not seek to alter the character of the building, which will remain unmistakably a library in its feel, in its details, materials, and lighting. It will remain a wonderful place to study. The parts that are currently inaccessible will be opened up, inviting the whole of the community. It is a strategy that reflects the principles of a free institution upon which the library was first founded.”
To make room for the approximately 100,000-square-foot circulating library, seven floors of outdated bookshelves beneath the Rose Main Reading Room will be removed. A number of the Library’s core research collections in the stack area that are currently at risk due to improper climate control will be relocated in modern storage under Bryant Park. Approximately 3 million of these volumes will be accessible to the public with the assistance of library staff, and will be preserved for future generations of researchers and scholars. The remaining 1 million will be stored in a Princeton, New Jersey facility.
An original cost estimate was set at $300 million, though a budget has not been finalized. The Library will submit Foster + Partner’s designs to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for approvals, and hearings are anticipated at Community Board 5 throughout January 2013. Pending these approvals, construction will begin this summer, with completion slated for 2018. All three buildings will remain open throughout construction.
For more information, visit nypl.org