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Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

United States Architecture News - Jun 02, 2021 - 13:10   2278 views

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

Mecanoo and New York-based planning firm Beyer Blinder Belle have completed New York's new central circulating library, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL) in the heart of Manhattan, New York.  

Concept designs were revealed in November 2016 by the project’s design team, led by architects Francine Houben of Mecanoo and Elizabeth Leber of Beyer Blinder Belle and the library was temporarily closed due to renovation work in 2017.

After 4-year renovation work, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library has officially opened to the public on June 1, 2021. 

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

Built within the 1914 shell and steel frame of the Mid-Manhattan Library which it replaces, the 16,722-square-metre (180,000 square foot) building is topped with a spectacular angular roof and public rooftop amenities to make a new urban icon on Fifth Avenue. 

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

Creating a library campus in Midtown

Described as "a new-generation library for all New Yorkers", SNFL offers special facilities for young users, adult learning, and business. The library 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. 

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle’s concept was to leverage the synergy of SNFL and SASB and bring them together as NYPL’s Midtown Campus. The team has added new features at SNFL to 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. 

Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle have collaborated on programming and design across both locations from start to finish. Mecanoo led the design stages and Beyer Blinder Belle led the historic preservation, acted as architect of record, and designed the environmental graphics.

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

"Libraries are the most important public buildings of all," said Francine Houben, principal of Mecanoo. 

This is reinforced in SNFL’s open, humanistic design and inclusive program, which resonates with NYPL’s mission "to fight ignorance, and provide New Yorkers with the tools that they need to foster a better understanding of each other across racial and all other divides".

Elizabeth Leber, partner at Beyer Blinder Belle said that "now more than ever, New York City needs its great institutions for support and community. The new SNFL will provide both, in a building that is revitalized to provide 21st century library services.” 

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

A vertical library with a welcoming ‘street’ and an airy atrium

SNFL’s ground floor is arranged around an internal street that runs beneath a floating linear canopy of wood beams, from the Fifth Avenue entrance to the welcome desks. Located on one side are elevators, stairs, and a mezzanine balcony. 

On the other side, a rectangular opening in the floorplate reveals the lower ground floor, which houses a Children’s Library and Teen Center. 

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

The Children’s Library play area enjoys natural light, and the Teen Center has a dedicated staircase and study and media rooms decorated with bold and whimsical commissioned murals by artist Melinda Beck

An internal window in the lower ground floor allows visitors to see SNFL’s book-sorting machine in action. 

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

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. 

"We really wanted to use the columns," added Houben, referring to the building’s steel frame. 

A triple height void has been cut into it, 9 meters (31 feet) wide and rising 26 meters (85 feet) from the second story to a vibrant new abstract ceiling artwork by Hayal Pozanti

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

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. 

Book stacks are a vertical means of storing books dating back to the nineteenth century, and here they are revived to give open access for library users. 

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

Through the library’s 40th Street windows, passers-by will see the northern end of the book stacks, visible as a continuous vertical wall of book spines welcoming New Yorkers into the space to browse.  

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

The Long Room’s atrium wall at the southern end is deep red, and perforated with new windows to bring light from a pocket park to the south. Its distinctive look assists wayfinding. Ramps gently slope to connect the different floor heights of the book stack levels and reading areas. 

The reading areas extend from the atrium to the Fifth Avenue facade, and have bespoke reading tables assembled in situ, many supported by the building’s original steel frame. These oak-surfaced tables stretch up to 20 meters (66 feet) in length. Readers at these tables sit in chairs designed in collaboration with Thos. Moser exclusively for NYPL branch libraries. 

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

Above the Long Room, the fifth and sixth floors host the Business Center and the Pasculano Learning Center facilities. As Houben states, "SNFL’s vertical arrangement of programs improves the user experience and journey of learning". 

The materiality of the library contributes to that user experience, for example in terrazzo flooring and travertine presented in the elevator banks. 

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

A roof terrace and ‘Wizard Hat’ above Fifth Avenue 

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.

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

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. Francine Houben declared this spectacular roof to be ‘a Wizard Hat for all New Yorkers!’.

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

A powerhouse of wisdom

"A central circulating library must empower the community it serves. Here, the community is all New Yorkers. Super-charged with energy, diversity and hope, America’s greatest city deserves the best that a central circulating library can be," said Houben. 

"The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library is a powerhouse of wisdom, and its street presence brings drama and magic to Manhattan, visibly expressed with its Wizard Hat."

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

Image © Max Touhey

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

Image © Max Touhey

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

Image © Max Touhey

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

Image © Max Touhey

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

Image © Max Touhey

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

Cellar floor plan

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

First floor plan

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

Second floor plan

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

Seventh floor plan

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

Penthouse floor plan

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

Longitudinal section

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

West elevation

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

South elevation

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

North elevation

Mecanoo And Beyer Blinder Belle complete Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan

Section

All images © John Bartelstone unless otherwise stated. 

All drawings © Mecanoo & Beyer Blinder Belle 

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