Reimagining the New York Public Library - Before and After. A New-Generation Library reopens in Midtown Manhattan

07.06.2021 - Project updates

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL) is New York’s new central circulating library, designed by Mecanoo in collaboration with Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners.

The 16,722 m2 (180,000 sq. ft.) building was constructed between 1914 and 1915 as the department store Arnold Constable & Co. Architect T. Joseph Bartley designed the limestone-clad building with a granite base and neoclassical commercial expression. The New York Public Library took over the building in 1970 and occupied all floors by 1976.

One of the building's main features is the 'Long Room,' a five-level space for book browsing complete with a 13 meters high (42-foot high) atrium; two connected floors of classrooms, education and programming spaces; meeting rooms and consultation rooms.

Renovations also include the library's first dedicated section geared toward children and teenagers, at 2415 m2 (26,000 sq. ft.). Patrons could use programming spaces, podcasting studios, reading alcoves and a book sorter that uses a conveyor belt to reorganize materials after they're taken off the shelves. And at 1860 m2 (20,000 sq. ft.), the new Pasculano Learning Center is the library's first center for adult education.

The stand-out architectural feature is the 'Wizard's Hat,' a sculpted, painted and perforated metal structure that enshrouds the library's seventh floor.

Francine Houben: 'Libraries are incredibly unique spaces, houses of knowledge and creation that must inspire, welcome, and serve all. In this case, we were entrusted with a historic building in New York City, one that receives millions of visits every year but was never built to be a library. We needed to take the bones of that building and reimagine the ultimate library: certainly beautiful and filled with light, but above all able to meet the ever-changing needs of the institution and the New Yorkers it serves.'

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