November 18, 2012
by Samuel RocheBeaux-Arts Atelier, Class of 2012-2013
In the one hundred one years since it was finished, The New York Public Library has attained a status rare for even major public buildings. In the words of architectural historian Henry Hope Reed, “one cannot imagine New York without it.” The city will have to get used to a much-altered version if plans to rearrange the library’s interior are carried out. The trustees have proposed removing the stacks that occupy about half the building, and replacing them with a reading room and a multi-media lending library overlooking Bryant Park. At least some of the displaced books will be moved to a storage depot an hour away in New Jersey, whence they can be retrieved by truck with a day’s notice. So far the planners have released a single computer rendering and no actual plans of this rather ambitious proposal.
According to architect and historian Charles Warren, the trustees’ plans will unnecessarily destroy the library’s central architectural idea. Warren, who co-authored the recent monograph on the library’s architects, John Merven Carrère and Thomas Hastings, describes their building as a complex machine for delivering and storing books. Its intricate sequence of public spaces wraps and climbs a hidden honeycomb of books. Removing it will render that sequence meaningless.
Mr. Warren will lecture on the plans for the library at the ICAA on January 30, 2013 at 7:00 pm, following a 6:30 pm reception. Both an editorial he wrote for the New York Daily News and his lecture at the New York Skyscraper Museum in September are available online.
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