After an eight-month search, the New York Public Library (NYPL) has tapped Dutch architecture firm Mecanoo for the renovation of its main branch in the Stephen A. Schwartzman Building at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue and its Mid-Manhattan Library on 40th Street. New York-based firm Beyer Blinder Belle will be the architect of record.
“With this team...the library can be confident we can realize our ambitious and critically important vision," said Evan Chesler, the chair of NYPL’s Board of Trustees after the group unanimously approved the design team Wednesday. The library issued a request for qualifications to 20 firms in February and later issued a RFP to a smaller selection of firms. While Mecanoo has not created any formal designs, they presented a vision for the midtown campus and their way of working to the selection committee.
The $300 million renovation—funded through a mix of municipal, state, and private funds—will upgrade the dingy Mid-Manhattan Library (the branch receives 1.4 million visitors annually) and add 42 percent more public space, galleries, and research areas to the historic Schwartzman building.
The announcement comes more than a year after the library scrapped its controversial Foster + Partners-designed Central Library Plan, a scheme that would have turned the landmarked Beaux-Arts Schwartzman library’s stacks into a circulating library.
Mecanoo, which has its offices in Delft, is currently renovating the Mies van der Rohe-designed Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington D.C., and has designed the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in Boston (2015), and the Library of Birmingham in England (2013). The firm is preparing to begin the design phase for the NYPL project.
Work on the Mid-Manhattan Library will start at the end of 2017. Shortly after, the library says, the architects will begin renovating the Schwarzman building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. Throughout the process, the library and the design team will conduct extensive public outreach, in addition to drawing from more than 15,000 surveys and the results of public planning sessions conducted last year.
Firm founder Francine Houben said in an email that she aims to produce a “People’s Palace,” with the renovation—a truly public library. “I hope to achieve a Midtown Library Campus that is welcoming to all and capable of changing the course of individual lives through innovative library spaces and services.”