The New York Public Library has unveiled a new master plan for its flagship building on Fifth Avenue, bringing the long-running, contentious saga of that Beaux-Arts landmark’s renovation for the 21st century closer to an end.
The $317 million plan, approved by the board on Wednesday, will be the largest renovation in the history of the building, which opened in 1911 and is now known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. To be completed in 2021, it includes a new entrance on 40th Street, a new learning center, enlarged exhibition space and additional room for researchers.
In total, it will increase the publicly accessible space in the building by about 20 percent, mostly by opening up and restoring empty or underused historic rooms.
Francine Houben, the creative director and founding partner of Mecanoo, who is leading the project, said the plan preserved the “logic” of the 1911 Carrère & Hastings design, while easing congestion and navigation for visitors, who number about three million a year.
“The building’s floor plan is very simple,” Ms. Houben said. “But it’s not easy to find your way around here.”
Over all, there will clearer separation of functions, with the ground floor focused on noisier, more public activities, while the upper floors cater to more serious researchers, who will have roughly 250 more seats available to them.
The most visible changes will be on the ground floor. Inside the grand Fifth Avenue entrance, to the right of Astor Hall, an elegant balconied space now used for map storage will be restored and opened up, most likely for a cafe.
Straight ahead will be what the library calls a “necklace” of exhibition spaces. Gottesman Hall, long used for temporary exhibitions, will house a permanent rotating “treasures” exhibition, drawn from the more than 50 million books, manuscripts, artworks and other items in the research collections.
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