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Thread: The Morgan Library & Museum Expansion - 29 East 36th Street - by Renzo Piano

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    Default The Morgan Library & Museum Expansion - 29 East 36th Street - by Renzo Piano


    A Plan Unfolds for a $75 Million Morgan Makeover


    The Pierpont Morgan Library, an exquisite cultural treasure chest in Murray Hill, would reorient, expand and draw together its campus of historic buildings with three unmistakably modern steel-and-glass pavilions designed by Renzo Piano. The project is so ambitious it would require the Morgan to close for two years.

    Under a plan presented yesterday to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the Morgan would
    move its entrance from 36th Street to Madison Avenue, create a glass-enclosed piazza in the middle of
    the block, expand its gallery space, build a new auditorium and reading room, replace its office wing,
    sink a new vault deep into bedrock and add a cubic structure in the yard between J. Pierpont Morgan's
    original library and the later annex, both landmarks.

    "Since I became director of the Morgan in 1987, my chief goal has been to provide greater public
    access to both the buildings and the collections," Charles E. Pierce Jr. told the commission. He said Mr.
    Piano's plan achieved the goal with "remarkable subtlety and sensibility."

    The hearing adjourned without a vote by the commission on whether the expansion would be
    appropriate. The commission will take up the matter again next month. It is also expected to restore
    landmark status to the former J. P. Morgan Jr. house at Madison Avenue and 37th Street, which the
    library acquired in 1988. The Lutheran Church in America once had its headquarters there and fought
    successfully to revoke the landmark designation in 1974.

    The Morgan's expansion project is to begin in 2003 and may cost up to $75 million. ("We've just
    started to do serious fund-raising," Mr. Pierce said.) During the two years of construction, the library's
    collection of 350,000 objects rare books, illuminated manuscripts, prints and drawings will be
    stored elsewhere.

    The architects are the Renzo Piano Building Workshop of Paris and Genoa and Beyer Blinder Belle of
    New York.

    Mr. Piano likened his work to microsurgery. "The spirit of the scheme is not really to grow," he said.
    "It's more about rebalancing, rethinking the institution."

    Of the 69,400 square feet of new space, 43,300 will be underground, in an auditorium seating about
    280 people and a vault hewn from bedrock. "There is no better place to preserve books forever than
    Manhattan schist," Mr. Piano told the commission.

    With most of the space underground, the pavilions can be held to the same scale as the older structures
    around them.

    The new entrance, set back from the avenue, would replace a swoop- roofed, glass-enclosed
    courtyard from 1991 by Voorsanger & Mills. Over the entrance would be a windowless facade of
    recessed steel panels in a large-scale grid, behind which would be a reading room and gallery.

    "Symbolically, what this building is about, above everything else, is the protection of art," Mr. Piano
    said, explaining the decision to use steel in the facade. Though no decision has been made yet on color,
    the architect said he was leaning toward the verdigris of weathered copper.

    Beyond the lobby would be an inner courtyard that Mr. Piano likened to a piazza. Standing in this
    space, at the heart of the complex, visitors would be able to orient themselves visually to their

    On 37th Street, a small office building added in 1957 by the Lutheran Church would be replaced by a
    new four-story structure.

    On 36th Street, a faceted steel cube would be inserted between the original library of 1906, by
    McKim, Mead & White, and the annex added 22 years later by Benjamin Wistar Morris after the
    library opened to the public.

    Inside would be a 20-by-20-by-20- foot room whose "magical" proportions would lend themselves to
    the display of "a piece of the treasure house coming up from the vaults," Mr. Piano said.

    But Robert A. M. Stern, a prominent architect and architectural historian, told the commission by letter
    that he was concerned the cube "unnecessarily compromises the gardenesque setting that is key to the
    meaning of the two buildings facing 36th Street."

    Civic groups generally supported the plan, though some expressed reservations about adding the cube
    and moving the entrance. "We will miss the sense of having the privilege of entering a unique private
    space," said Sandra Levine of the Historic Districts Council.

    Earlier in the day, the commission created the Murray Hill Historic District, an irregular five-block
    swath between 34th and 39th Streets, Park and Lexington Avenues, filled with 19th- and early
    20th-century row houses, as well as the Church of the New Jerusalem at 112 East 35th Street.

    Calling it a "remarkably cohesive enclave possessing a distinct sense of place," Sherida E. Paulsen, the
    commission chairwoman, confessed that she was surprised to learn last year that it was not already a
    historic district.

  2. #2

    Default Renzo Piano: A Plan Unfolds for $75 Million Morgan Makeover

  3. #3

    Default Renzo Piano: A Plan Unfolds for $75 Million Morgan Makeover

    Thank you for sharing Stern. I have a magazine somewhere that has an article about this. I forgot about this project. I think it is Archit (ecture Magazine). I'll try to remember to look for it this week end. Thanks Christian for the RP Workshop link.

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    Through a plexiglass window on Madison Ave. It's still a hole in the ground, but a big one.

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  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    The Catskills


    Thanks for the excellent link, Kris (as usual!). It gives a nice tour of the new "campus." I had been unaware of the new 280-seat performance hall, plus a multi-media presentation center suitable for family-oriented education events. (The new campus also includes a restaurant and store, seemingly required these days.) Hopefully with the additions a new generation will discover the "new" Morgan.

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    nice pics...its looking nice

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    That must be the only block in Manhattan where you can dig without chopping into a nest of cables,steam pipes,water mains or subway tunnels.

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    Those utilities usually run under streets.

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    February 12, 2006
    Streetscapes | 36th Street and Madison Avenue
    A Private Library That Became a Public Treasure
    Last edited by Edward; February 15th, 2012 at 06:17 PM. Reason: Full text by Christopher Gray deleted

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