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Thread: New York Public Library Restoration

  1. #16

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    I absolutely love the Library's architecture but absolutely hate their policies.

    I hate how you can no longer browse their selection, you have to tell a librarian what particular book you want and they will go get it for you.

    I hate how you have to be searched when you enter the library and have to be searched twice first when you are leaving the great room and then when leaving the library.

    The policy I hate the most is their internet policy, the great reading rooms have outlets but no wireless internet access, they block it, I can't do research or even listen to my music because the service I use is streaming, the rooms that they allow wireless internet do not have outlets. They directed me to go up to the great room, sit with my laptop until it charges and then come back down. I am not going to sit by my laptop for an hour and do nothing.

    This is NY, my time is money, I can't afford to go to this library with their retarded policies. Although my local branch library is the size of a room, atleast their policies make sense and is where I'll be going from now on.

  2. #17
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    ^ All that will now be changing. Maybe they heard you, Stern?


    A $100 Million Donation to the N.Y. Public Library



    A landmark library will be renamed for Stephen A. Schwarzman, shown above at the West 115th Street
    branch of the New York Public Library.


    By ROBIN POGREBIN
    Published: March 11, 2008

    The project, to be announced on Tuesday, aims to transform the Central Library into a destination for book borrowing as well as research. The Mid-Manhattan branch, on the east side of Fifth Avenue at 40th Street, will be sold and its circulating collection absorbed into the new space.

    The gift from Mr. Schwarzman, a library trustee and buyout guru who made fortunes as the chief executive of the Blackstone Group, is among the largest to any cultural institution in the city’s history. The 1911 Beaux Arts structure on Fifth Avenue will be called the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building after construction is completed around 2014. The building is protected by landmark status, and the library expects the name to be etched on the building should approval be granted by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

    "We hope to incise the name of the building in stone in a subtle, discreet way on either side of the main entrance about three feet off the ground," said Paul LeClerc, president of the library’s board of trustees. "It’s in keeping with the dignity of the building."



    Above, Catherine C. Marron,
    the chairwoman of the New York Public
    Library, with Paul LeClerc, its president.


    In an e-mail message on Monday. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said, “With this donation, Steve is giving back to the city that gave him so much and is helping ensure that New York remains a cultural and intellectual capital of the world.”

    The project reflects a new resolve among library officials to adjust to a shifting information world and become more responsive to city residents. “We’re more focused on what people want from us,” Mr. LeClerc said in an interview. “It’s a mindset change.”

    In an interview, Mr. Schwarzman, 61, said he was impressed by the project when it was presented to the board last June.

    “This was an absolutely first-class, professional, practical strategic plan, and it deserved to be supported,” he said. “The library helps lower- and middle-income people — immigrants — get their shot at the American dream.”

    Mr. Schwarzman said it was the library that proposed renaming the landmark building. “They said, ‘We’d like you to be the lead gift and give us $100 million and we’d like to rename the main branch after you,’ ” he said. “I said, ‘That sounds pretty good.’ ”

    He said his gift would be dispensed over the next few years (he declined to be more specific) and that he had signed a contract governing the donation. “It binds me and my estate, even if I die,” Mr. Schwarzman said.

    The library is hardly the first cultural building to bear a donor’s name. The new six-story building at the Museum of Modern Art was named after David and Peggy Rockefeller, for example, and the Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center is named for Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman.

    Mr. LeClerc said there was no dissension within the library’s board of trustees over the renaming. Still, the change will doubtless invite spirited commentary. Mr. Schwarzman has become something of a lightning rod for critics of Wall Street excess, especially the high-spending ways of private-equity chiefs.

    Many of those financiers have suffered a comeuppance since the credit markets foundered last year. Mr. Schwarzman’s stake in Blackstone has plummeted from about $7.8 billion to about $4 billion since he took his company public last June, and Blackstone’s shares have tumbled about 32 percent in the last two months alone.

    Mr. Schwarzman said his recent losses would have no effect on his gift. “As you have more resources in life, it’s your obligation to deploy those for the benefit of others,” he said.

    The library itself has drawn criticism for some other transactions, like selling the Donnell branch in Midtown Manhattan in November to Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. for $59 million. The branch will be razed to make way for an 11-story hotel, with the library taking over the first floor and an underground level.

    In April 2005, the library decided to sell 19 works from its art collection to bolster its endowment and raise money to buy books. The sales netted $53 million, but critics lamented the loss of canonical pieces including “Kindred Spirits,” a Hudson River School painting by Asher B. Durand.

    Mr. Schwarzman is also the board chairman of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington and a trustee of the Frick Collection, the New York City Ballet, the Asia Society and the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

    The New York Public Library’s venerable lion-guarded building on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street is to be renamed for the Wall Street financier Stephen A. Schwarzman, who has agreed to jump-start a $1 billion expansion of the library system with a guaranteed $100 million of his own.

    The costs of the $1 billion library project are to be covered through the sale of some existing buildings and a $500 million capital campaign that has already brought in $250 million, including the Schwarzman gift.

    The library is also seeking government support. New York City, which owns the Fifth Avenue building, provides about half of the library’s $265 million operating budget. It is also contributing $30 million toward a $50 million renovation of the building’s facades that is already under way.

    The new circulating library will be situated in a vast space that currently houses eight levels of stacks below the Main Reading Room and overlooks Bryant Park through strip windows. The stacks will be moved to an existing three-acre storage area beneath the park, opening the way for the space to be gutted and reconfigured with new rooms for children and teenagers and ample computer work stations. Library officials said they had not yet chosen an architect.

    The plan also calls for a new cafe and information center to enliven Astor Hall just inside the Fifth Avenue entrance, wireless Internet access throughout the building, refurbishment of branch libraries and the creation of two new libraries in Upper Manhattan and Staten Island.

    “We’re not going to set up huge neon signs in Astor Hall,” said Joshua L. Steiner, the library board’s vice chairman. “At the same time, people need to feel welcome.”

    Mr. LeClerc said he wanted the new main branch to serve the needs of teenagers working on term papers, graduate students writing theses, rare book aficionados searching out volumes and children flocking to story hour.
    “You can grow up intellectually, academically and professionally in the building,” he said.

    By making the Fifth Avenue building more accessible and drawing patrons from the shuttered Mid-Manhattan branch, the Central Library hopes to attract as many as four million people per year, up from the current one million.

    Founded as a public institution in 1895, the library has four special research libraries and more than 85 branches. The main library had a small circulating division from 1911 to 1970, when the Mid-Manhattan branch across the street opened.

    Officials said the system was shifting to what they call a “hub and spoke” concept. The idea is to create hub libraries with comprehensive services — literacy training, homework help, job search assistance — and to tailor programs at satellite branches to meet the needs of specific neighborhoods.

    Those hubs would aim to replicate the success of the new Bronx Library Center, which has become a thriving gathering spot since it opened in that borough’s Fordham section in 2006. It has become a magnet for young people in the neighborhood, most of whom are African-American, Caribbean or Latino. (Brooklyn and Queens have their own library systems.)

    “The Bronx library was designed to send signals, both overt and subtle, to the community that use it that this is their space,” Mr. LeClerc said. “It was designed with them in mind.”

    Based on extensive research, the library system learned that 60 percent of its users are members of minority groups and 60 percent are from families with annual incomes of less than $50,000.

    Officials hope that the Central Library at 42nd Street, with its two stone lions named Patience and Fortitude, will become a draw for such residents. “The average user of one of our branch libraries wasn’t coming to 42nd Street,” Mr. Steiner added. “This new plan is the further democratization of that building.”




    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

  3. #18

  4. #19

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    One of the great libraries in the nation - may it long live.

  5. #20

    Default After Big Gift, a New Name for the Library

    After Big Gift, a New Name for the Library
    By MARC SANTORA
    Published: April 23, 2008

    The name will appear five times on the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue: at the base of each of the two center columns leading to the century-old building’s main entrance; on a gold plaque on the marble floor just outside the front door; and in the marble of the pedestals beneath the lamps at the library’s 42nd Street entrance. The letters will range from 1 to 2 ½ inches in height, those cut into stone etched in a new font that gives the patina of age.

    The name will not be as big as some others high atop the facade on Fifth Avenue — like Astor and Tilden — but it will be visible to all who pass by or ascend the steps.


    A landmark library will be renamed for Stephen A. Schwarzman.

    On Tuesday, the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission officially agreed to change the name of the library’s main building to the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, and revealed just how that name would be, if not shouted, then quietly yet firmly spoken to the world.

    The main building of the library is being renamed in his honor after Mr. Schwarzman, a Wall Street financier, contributed $100 million to the institution, one of the largest gifts to a cultural institution in New York City. The gift is going toward a $1 billion overhaul of the library system.

    The commission’s unanimous vote on Tuesday to approve the proposal removed the last hurdle to making the first major changes to the facade of the grand entrance of the building in a century.

    While some opponents of the proposal worried that it could set a dangerous precedent, Paul LeClerc, the library’s president, promised the commission on Tuesday that there would never again be another name carved into the building’s facade.

    “We will not be back again,” he said.


    The New York Public Library’s main building will be renamed for Mr. Schwarzman. His name will appear on it five times.

    Mr. Schwarzman was flying back to New York and could not be reached for comment, said a spokesman at his company, the Blackstone Group. His office referred to his previous statement on the gift and the renaming of the building, noting that it was the library that proposed adding his name to the facade in recognition of the gift. Mr. Schwarzman, 61, a library trustee, said he was impressed by the scope of the overhaul project when it was presented to the board last June.

    Mr. Schwarzman will join a roster of magnates who were instrumental in the creation of the library: Samuel J. Tilden, John Jacob Astor and James Lenox.

    Their family names — which appear only once in foot-tall lettering — adorn the attic of the main facade in larger letters than those in which Mr. Schwarzman’s name will appear, a fact that Mr. LeClerc cited in making his case that it was completely in keeping with the tradition of the library to prominently recognize major gifts from private donors and “the intimate tie between philanthropy and The New York Public Library.”

    Mr. LeClerc repeatedly used the word “staggering” to describe Mr. Schwarzman’s gift, which was given without any conditions. Whereas the original contribution of the library’s founders brought the library into existence in the 20th century, Mr. LeClerc said, Mr. Schwarzman’s largesse will allow it to thrive in the 21st.

    The library is far from the first cultural institution in the city to honor a major donor with the naming of a building. For instance, the new Museum of Modern Art building is named for David and Peggy Rockefeller.

    Critics of the renaming of the library building said that they did not oppose honoring Mr. Schwarzman for his donation, but that they found the library’s approach excessive.

    “The amount of the inscriptions and their proposed language, design and location take away from the restrained classical, austere grandeur of the Carrere and Hastings landmark and overshadows the original gift of the Astor Library, the Lenox Library and the Tilden Trust,” said Nadezhda Williams, an associate at the Historic Districts Council, at Tuesday’s hearing.

    “These organizations and their founders, without whom we would not have this world-famous institution, are mentioned only once on the building’s facades, not five times, as is proposed for this new donation.”

    Mr. LeClerc said that the name would appear twice at each entrance simply because they were trying to keep with the building’s existing symmetry.

    Howard Mendes, the chairman of the Landmarks Committee of Community Board 5, where the library is located, said that his major objection was only to the carving of the name at the base of the pillars at the main entrance of the building off Fifth Avenue.

    “The number of carvings is excessive,” Mr. Mendes said. A better solution, he said, would be to keep the gold plaque and the inscriptions at the more discreet 42nd Street entrance and do away with Mr. Schwarzman’s name out front.

    The commission ultimately found that the proposal would “not overwhelm the monumental size of this building” and was sufficiently modest.

    Mr. LeClerc said that the method used to recognize donors on the inside of the building — where hundreds of names are listed — provided the starting point for considering how the name out front should look.

    Then there was a question of scale.

    The largest letters on the building spell “The New York Public Library,” and are 18 inches tall. The Astor, Lenox and Tilden names are 12 inches tall.

    Mr. Schwarzman’s name is comparatively small, but since it is seen by passers-by almost at eye level, it will have a decidedly different impact.

    Library officials expect that his name will be added some time in 2009 and that the larger restoration of the building’s facade will be completed in 2010.

    “We would not be one of the great libraries in human history without philanthropy,” Mr. LeClerc said. “And this is a magnificent gift.”

    Copyright 2008 New York Times Company

  6. #21
    Forum Veteran TREPYE's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Benniest View Post
    On Tuesday, the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission officially agreed to change the name of the library’s main building to the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building,
    The donation is nice and generous and all but to turn it into a naming rights issue.......Im not too keen on that. What the hell do they think this is, a baseball stadium?

    Was, is, should always be know as the New York Public Library, period.

  7. #22

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    As to utility, it is a toss-up between this library and Boston Public Library for what I tend to need. But when it comes to the Architecture, and expanses within, there is no contest.

    I am accustomed to NYPL's policies because they mirror many research libraries that I have used, including the Library of Congress and Newberry Library in Chicago. They always tell me that without these policies, many valuable books, magazine collections etc, would be vandalised and/or stolen. I have no reason to question them on this score.



    Courtesy Dangerously Irrelevant


    Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

  8. #23
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TREPYE View Post
    The donation is nice and generous and all but to turn it into a naming rights issue.......Im not too keen on that. What the hell do they think this is, a baseball stadium?

    Was, is, should always be know as the New York Public Library, period.
    And it'll still be. It's just the actual building that will be renamed. I think it's fine. $100 million is nothing to sneeze at. That is an incredible amount and he deserves this honor at the very least.

    History is an ongoing process including what is happening now, not just what was done 100 years ago. This will at least acknowledge what is the greatest deed by any individual in the library's entire history.

  9. #24

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    ^^ fully agree, antinimby. there's obviously an impulse among many people to criticize the renaming because of the private equity source of schwarzman's wealth, which the anti-capitalist sentiments of many (especially bureaucrats -- sorry, "public servants," like howard mendes or dan garodnick) instinctively dislike.

    new york has always been about money. the money of the relative few is what creates the libraries, concerts halls and parks the rest of us enjoy. it's wonderful when people like schwarzman take a page out of andrew carnegie's book and use their wealth for the benefit of society, and if naming rights are what inspires them, so be it. the other option is relying on government bodies (such as, ahem, the MTA) to get things done.

  10. #25

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    It's old!!! Reclad it in glass! Reclad the Empire State Building in glass! Reclad the Brooklyn Bridge in glass!

  11. #26

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    Statue of Liberty too?

  12. #27

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    British Architect to Redesign City Library

    By ROBIN POGREBIN
    Published: October 22, 2008

    Norman Foster, the eminent British architect who has made something of a specialty out of inserting contemporary designs into historic buildings, has been selected for a major renovation of the New York Public Library’s landmark 1911 main building, on Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets.

    Mr. Foster and his London firm, Foster & Partners, are to create a new circulation library in a space below the library’s Rose Reading Room and overlooking Bryant Park that now houses seven levels of stacks and a basement.

    “It’s the greatest project ever,” Mr. Foster said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

    The area, which now measures 1.25 million cubic feet, will be completely reconfigured, with new rooms for children and teenagers and numerous computer work stations. The stacks are to move to an existing three-acre storage area beneath Bryant Park that is also to be renovated. Work is expected to be completed by 2013.

    “We had to have someone as good as Carrère & Hastings,” said Paul LeClerc, president of the library, referring to the original architects of the library’s Beaux-Arts building, a city and national historic landmark. “We had to create a second masterpiece.”

    The project, which is expected to cost $250 million, is proceeding despite a steep economic downturn in which the city plans major budget cuts and in which fund-raising is expected to be an enormous challenge.

    The overhaul has been planned in stages, library officials said, so adjustments can be made to the timetable, depending on how the economy fares. “It doesn’t have to be done at once,” said Marshall Rose, the library’s chairman emeritus, who is head of the institution’s building committee. “The way we’ve phased it, if the world got worse, we could proceed without losing our momentum. We may delay parts of it. But the thing is in motion.”

    The project is part of a $1.2 billion plan to update the entire library system through improvements to branch libraries, a larger endowment and the creation of two new libraries in Upper Manhattan and on Staten Island.

    For this larger effort, the library has announced a $500 million private fund-raising campaign that has already brought in $300 million, including a$100 million gift from a trustee, the Wall Street financier Stephen A. Schwarzman, that was announced in March. The renovated main building will be named after Mr. Schwarzman, as will be noted discreetly on its facade.

    The library also plans to raise money from the sale of its properties, including the Mid-Manhattan branch, on the east side of Fifth Avenue at 40th Street, which is in negotiations with a buyer, and the Donnell branch in Midtown, which was sold last year to Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. for $59 million.

    “I’m very optimistic that we’ll be able to do this,” Mr. LeClerc said. He predicted that the renovated central library would “be a huge jolt of energy for the city when it’s done, the biggest comprehensive library open in the world but also in human history.”

    During the selection process, Mr. Foster said he came to understand the New York Public Library’s importance as a social nexus and a place to gain access to information. This made him newly appreciate the role his local library had played for him when he was growing up in Levenshulme, a suburb of Manchester, England. In preparation for his renovation proposal, Mr. Foster had a staff member photograph that branch “to remind myself of the debt I owed.”

    “If it hadn’t been for the library, I probably wouldn’t have gone to university,” he said. “I discovered a whole world of literature — great writers — and also a world of architecture, like the original books of Corbusier.”

    “I remember discovering Frank Lloyd Wright through Henry-Russell Hitchcock,” he added, referring to the architectural historian.

    Mr. Foster’s acclaimed work with prized historic buildings made him a particularly compelling candidate, the library said. He has designed glass-enclosed additions to the Reichstag in Berlin (1999), the British Museum in London (2000) and the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery in Washington (2007).

    This is also not the first time that the architect has tackled a New York City landmark. His 2006 Hearst Tower project on Eighth Avenue at 57th Street in Manhattan involved planting a glass-and-steel tower atop a six-story Art Deco base dating from 1928.

    Because the library is a landmark, its exterior, including its strip windows, will not be altered. “It will be a building within a building,” Mr. Rose said. “We’re not going to encroach on the landmark quality.”

    While the library did not want a design that would overshadow its historic envelope and had considered architects with a more traditional aesthetic, the trustees wanted to commission a distinctive piece of contemporary architecture.

    “This is now 2008, and when this happens, the library building will be 100 years old,” said Catherine Marron, the library’s chairwoman. “One has to embrace one’s time.”

    Starting with about 30 candidates and narrowing the field to 10, the library was particularly impressed by Mr. Foster’s efforts, trustees said, declining to name the other architects considered. Mr. Foster or members of his team visited the library 19 times before offering their proposal, Mr. Rose said. They designed elaborate visual presentations and even a model, which library executives declined to describe, saying that it was strictly hypothetical and that a final design was more than a year away.

    “They did do a knockout proposal,” Mr. LeClerc said. “It wasn’t, ‘This is what you’ve got to do.’ It was something that was indicative of the capacity of the firm to think very, very creatively about how this could be pulled off in a way that was really interesting — indeed, brilliant.”

    The library was also reassured by “the scale and the power” of Mr. Foster’s firm, with 1,300 employees, Mr. LeClerc said. “This is a very, very complicated job,” he added. “We needed a firm that had a lot of breadth and depth.”

    Because the stacks structurally support the reading room, for example, the reading room will have to be braced before the stacks are taken out.

    Mr. Foster’s firm has conducted engineering studies and evaluated the acoustics. Today about 1.2 million people visit the main library annually; when the new circulation library opens, that figure is expected to increase to about 4 million.

    Some are bound to question whether the library can raise the necessary funds, given the current financial crisis. But library officials said they were determined to press on. “We are committed to this program,” Ms. Marron said. “We recognize the world is different than what it was, and it might take a longer time. We’re not going to be foolhardy.”

    “Libraries are needed in times like this,” she added. “More people need to borrow books, to get job information — it’s free. So I think everybody strongly believes the library is needed more than ever.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/23/ar...1&ref=nyregion

    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

  13. #28

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    Architecture

    Treading Carefully but Not Timidly in a Civic Masterpiece

    The New York Public Library Archives
    The New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, shown here in the early 1900s, is soon to be renovated.

    By NICOLAI OUROUSSOFF
    Published: October 22, 2008

    I don’t blame people for being nervous. It takes a certain hubris to mess with the noble Beaux-Arts structure that has dominated the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street for nearly a century. A product of the City Beautiful movement, the New York Public Library is one of the most glorious examples of civic architecture in America, a temple to the city’s highest democratic ideals. Why tinker with it?

    Rainer Jensen/European Pressphoto Agency
    Norman Foster, who will work on the New York Public Library, also renovated the Reichstag.

    Jonathan Player for The New York Times
    Mr. Foster also renovated the British Museum.

    But news that the library has hired Norman Foster and his London firm, Foster & Partners, for the job is one of a string of shrewd decisions by the library that should put our minds at ease. The project, part of the most ambitious expansion in the library system’s history, will update the classical interiors of this Carrère & Hastings building without disturbing the character of its beloved cavernous halls and reading rooms.

    Mr. Foster has a long history of designing thoughtful additions to touchy historical structures, including the British Museum in London and the Reichstag in Berlin.

    The question is how far he is willing to push his vision.

    Known for his high-tech forms, Mr. Foster is not likely to design an interior that will blend quietly into its surroundings. The project’s potential lies in the delicious tension that could be created between new and old. To make it work he must create a structure strong enough to stand on its own while treating the colossal 1911 landmark with the care and tenderness it deserves.

    The renovation will be the centerpiece of a much vaster overhaul of the library system that is philosophical as well as pragmatic. As Internet usage has ballooned, research libraries have seen a steady decline in visitors. Yet this drop has been matched by a surge in traffic at neighborhood libraries, where computer stations have multiplied and the mood is one of bustling communal activity.

    Given that shift, officials have sought to reassert the library’s populist mission, announcing two new hubs, as well as branch renovations that will refocus services on children, teenagers and working-class people. The library also intends to merge its research and branch arms.

    The Fifth Avenue building will become the nerve center of this vast network. Today’s old, noncirculating Rose Reading Room is used mostly by researchers; the planned new library space, tucked under this level and dominated by a new reading room lined with open shelves, is apt to be used by a wider audience, including those who cannot afford Internet service or who compete to share a sole computer with many others at home.

    In combining the research and branch arms, the library is not only forging a more democratic vision but also a more fluid relationship between its collections and those who use them.

    Part of the genius of the plan is its use of existing space. A vault to be built beneath the adjacent Bryant Park will be able to house more than three acres of books and research materials. By moving the stacks there, the library frees 1.25 million cubic feet in the back of the building, roughly the volume of the existing reading room.

    The library showed similar vision in selecting an architect. Some believe that the only way to show respect for an old building is to dress up any new addition in a cute period style. This approach trivializes history by blurring the distinction between old and new. The result is a watered-down vision of history — or worse, kitsch. In choosing Mr. Foster the library is signaling confidence in the ethos of our own era, while nodding to a distinct past.

    Major architectural hurdles lie ahead. One of the biggest challenges is getting visitors in and out of the new reading room. The most obvious entrance point, from Astor Hall on Fifth Avenue, would require slicing through the library’s main exhibition space. A second-floor entrance from the top of the hall’s vaulted staircases might be too small to accommodate crowds; the same problem might arise for an entry point on West 42nd Street.

    Mr. Foster must also find a way to address the project’s functional needs — meeting rooms, Internet stations, abundant shelving — while creating a circulation library that equals the Rose Reading Room in grandeur. Because steel frames in the current stacks now support the floor of this old reading room, he must devise an equally strong structural support without piercing the new reading room with ungainly columns.

    Finally, he must resist timidity. In his design for the British Museum’s Great Court, a two-acre, glass-enclosed square with the circular Reading Room building at its center, he seemed to be striving too hard not to disturb the 19th-century structures. The resulting weblike canopy and ersatz neo-Classical entry have a feeble air, lacking the boldness of Mr. Foster’s best designs.

    Still, anyone with a minimal imagination will realize the dramatic
    possibilities of embedding a contemporary space in the New York Public Library, with its vaulted stone arches and grand staircases. The notion of passing through these magisterial chambers and emerging in one of Mr. Foster’s technological marvels makes the mind reel.

    There is no project today that is more important to the civic identity of New York — or to reasserting a populist ideal that has been dormant for too long.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/23/ar...tml?ref=design

    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

  14. #29

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    This makes immense sense. I've always had a problem with the main branch of the NYPL. It has the most books of any American City library yet I preferred going to other City's main branch libraries as compared to New York's. None of the books were available for circulation and the vast majority you had to ask a librarian to get for you, you couldn't just browse. Once you got the book, if you were doing research you had the wifi internet problem, which I am very glad to report has finally been installed in the greatroom, the fact that it was lacking for so long was simply ridiculous. Usually I just bypass the main library for the one across the street, which is old and crampt but they have books you can browse and books you can actually take out, it doesn't have the vast wealth the main branch has, and its confusing and time consuming going between the two buildings and getting searched 4 times in one crossing. Consolidating all functions into the main branch with the addition of circulation makes so much sense I don't know why they didn't do this years ago.

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    Bigger Woes for Library, as a Buyer Backs Out

    NY TIMES
    By ROBIN POGREBIN
    March 4, 2009

    A decision by Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. to back out of its plans to buy the former Donnell Library building in Midtown Manhattan is likely to deprive the New York Public Library of millions it was counting on. The sum was to help jump-start a $250 million renovation of its central library on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street.

    Orient-Express said on Monday that it wanted to revisit the $59 million agreement because of the global financial crisis and a shortage of credit for construction and real estate development. The Donnell, a five-story building on West 53rd Street, was to be razed to make way for an 11-story hotel, with the library on the first floor and underground.

    The hotel conglomerate said in a statement that it was seeking to “defer or restructure” that project.

    The company’s move is likely to stoke anxiety among cultural organizations with outstanding commitments vital to major capital projects. Many are already reeling from a steep decline in donations and revenue as a result of the economic downturn.

    Leaders of such groups say they are watching the situation warily. “Given the state of the economy, it’s a risk that everyone runs,” said Reynold Levy, president of Lincoln Center, which is currently undergoing a major overhaul of its campus.

    Mr. Levy added that so far Lincoln Center had not had “a single corporation reduce or defer payment” on its rebuilding effort.

    The $59 million sale of the Donnell was to go toward a major renovation by the British architect Norman Foster that would transform the main library on Fifth Avenue into a circulating library. It had received a $7 million deposit from Orient-Express on the Donnell project, according to a person involved in the deal, who requested anonymity because the terms of the deal are confidential; other details remain undisclosed.

    The New York Public Library said through a spokesman that it planned to study various options to get Orient Express to honor its commitment. It declined to comment further, citing possible litigation.

    Legal experts say the library might have no recourse but to seek damages but suggested that it was unlikely to recover the full $59 million purchase price.

    “To require somebody to go through with something, you have to establish how you are damaged,” said Allan G. Sperling, a corporate lawyer at Cleary Gottlieb in New York. For the library, those damages would involve factoring in how much the Donnell site had diminished in value since Orient-Express agreed to buy it in November 2007. What is more, the library has yet to sell its Mid-Manhattan branch, on the east side of Fifth Avenue at 40th Street, whose circulating collection is to be absorbed into the main library across the street. Proceeds from that sale were also to go toward the Foster renovation.

    Given the dire state of the economy, however, the library may have to compromise. “What is happening quite frequently now is the parties are getting together and renegotiating the agreement,” Mr. Sperling said. “It’s in everyone’s interest to do that, because legal fees are expensive.”

    Paul LeClerc, president of the library, and Catherine Marron, its chairwoman, declined to comment. And Melanie Brandman, a spokeswoman for Orient-Express, said the company had no further comment.

    The Orient-Express decision stirred speculation about whether the Wall Street financier Stephen A. Schwarzman would make good on a $100 million pledge to the library announced in March 2008, given recent setbacks for his company, the Blackstone Group. But Peter Rose, a Blackstone spokesman, said on Tuesday that Mr. Schwarzman’s gift was “still going ahead,” unchanged.

    The central library renovation is part of a far broader $1.2 billion plan to update the entire system by improving branches, bolstering the endowment and creating two new libraries, in Upper Manhattan and on Staten Island.

    When the Orient-Express deal to buy the Donnell, a highly trafficked and popular branch, was announced in 2007, some found the project an uncomfortable conflation of art and commerce. But the library system said it had little choice in relocating the Donnell within the proposed hotel because the branch, built in 1955, was in dire need of renovations that it could ill afford.

    The project was to contain 150 hotel rooms costing $750 to $2,000 a night and a restaurant on the top floor. Five floors were to connect to the “21” Club on West 52nd Street, also owned by Orient-Express. Construction was originally scheduled to begin this year and to be completed by early 2011.

    Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

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