On Tuesday, news surfaced that eight architecture firms were being considered for the redesign of the New York Public Library’s main branch, the landmarked Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street, one of whom was starchitect Bjarke Ingels. The list also included Ennead Architects, Studio Gang Architects, and Robert A.M. Stern Architects. One name that wasn’t mentioned, however, was the Dutch firm Mecanoo, but the New York Times is reporting that the architects from the Netherlands have been selected by the library to lead the $300 million renovation, which also includes a complete overhaul of the Mid-Manhattan branch at Fifth Avenue and 40th Street.
It’s been over a year since Norman Foster’s original scheme for the library’s main branch was dropped, but the new architects will still be responsible for a complete interior renovation, which includes adding a modern circulating library, a business library, a large education area, and spaces for public programs and classes. According to Mecanoo’s website, “Construction on the building is expected to start in late 2017 and be complete in 2019. After the Mid-Manhattan renovation has begun, work will begin on expanding public space at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building by approximately 42 percent. Currently vacant or underutilized staff spaces will be transformed into expanded and improved facilities for researchers and writers, public programming space to introduce teens and young adults to the research building and its treasures, and increased exhibition spaces.”
The architects of record will be Beyer Blinder Belle, who have worked on renovations of other historic structures such as Grand Central Terminal, Ellis Island, and City Hall. Mecanoo counts in its portfolio the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. and the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in Boston. This will be their third U.S. project and first in New York. Designs are still forthcoming, but Anthony W. Marx, president of the NYPL, said “We are totally committed to having the expertise of the librarians, the input of the trustees and the input of the public as to what program is necessary driving the design process.”
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