Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library

New York, USA

Architecture, Interior, Library, Adaptive/Reuse

Size: 16,722 m2
Status: Completed
Project Design: 2015 - 2018
Project Realisation: 2017 - 2021
Address: 455 5th Ave, New York, NY 10016, USA
Client: New York Public Library

Design Team: Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle Architects

Programme: Renovation of Mid-Manhattan Library to create capacity for 400,000 books and other circulating materials; with children’s library, teens library, business library, adult learning centre, 1,580 m2 of general reading and study space, 1,020 m2 of multipurpose space, and rooftop terrace.

Awards: 1st Prize Competition

Photography: John Bartelstone, Max Touhey.

SNFL is a new-generation library for all New Yorkers, with special facilities for young users, adult learning, and business. It offers the perfect contemporary complement to NYPL’s world-famous Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (SASB), located across Fifth Avenue from SNFL. SASB opened in 1911, designed by architects Carrère & Hastings in a glorious Beaux-Art style, and receives over 1.7 million visits a year as the mothership of NYPL’s reference collections.

New features at SNFL reflect this harmony between the buildings: long tables that recall the impressive scale of those in SASB’s Rose Main Reading Room, ceiling artwork in the Long Room that echoes the neo-classical paintings set in SASB’s ceilings, and the use of classic materials including natural stone, terrazzo, and oak.

SNFL has an annual circulation of two million items, and this sheer volume generates challenges in access, organization, and storage. The design solution offers more space, more books, more seats, and lower shelves. The heart of the library is the Long Room, a new space that truly brings the idea of a library into the old structure, which was originally designed as a department store. This dramatic linear atrium separates three floors of flexible, daylit reading areas on one side and five levels of book stacks on the other, a creative and efficient solution to balancing the need for a browsable collection and the desire for more public reading room space. 

Above the Long Room, the fifth and sixth floors host the Business Center and the Pasculano Learning Center facilities. SNFL now delivers to the Midtown cityscape a sensational new public roof attraction and a striking sculptural addition. Elevators and stairs continue to the seventh floor, which is built at the original building’s roof level. This new floor has pitched wood slat ceilings and contains a flexible 268-occupant conference and event center.

An L-shaped roof terrace runs above the 40th Street and Fifth Avenue facades and includes a roof garden and an adjacent indoor café. It is Manhattan’s only free, publicly-accessible roof terrace and offers staggering Midtown views, including across Fifth Avenue to the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building and surrounding skyscrapers.

Above the seventh floor, a dramatic new roof slopes up to cover mechanical equipment, reaching 56m (184 feet) above street level. Its angled pitches, and a patinated copper-colored aluminum surface, are inspired by Manhattan’s Beaux Art copper-clad mansard roofs, two 1904 examples of which are visible from the terrace. As a new native New Yorker, the form also nods to the tapering spires of New York’s art deco skyscrapers and faceted facades of its newer towers.

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