Foster + Partners selected to renovate New York's central library

October 27, 2008 |

New York, NY – Foster + Partners, the acclaimed international architecture firm, has been selected to create the design to transform The New York Public Library's building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street into the world’s largest comprehensive library open to the public.

The new central library will serve users of all ages and will feature expansive new reading rooms with open shelf circulating collections overlooking Bryant Park. After nearly 40 years in which it has served exclusively as a research library, the historic building will feature extensive circulating collections, including those moved from the nearby Mid-Manhattan Branch.

The creation of the central library is the centerpiece of a $1 billion plan announced in March to transform the entire New York Public Library system. Foster + Partners was chosen by a special committee of the Library's Board of Trustees, which considered more than thirty firms before reaching its final selection. Designs for the project are expected to be completed over a two-year period.

“Norman Foster’s understanding of the Library, his personal enthusiasm for the project, the professionalism of his team and the portfolio of striking and innovative designs he has created around the world convinced us that Foster + Partners is exactly the right firm to help us create a new central library for New York City,” said Library President Paul LeClerc. “We were particularly impressed by the work he has completed in other historic buildings where he has been sensitive to tradition while finding brilliant, unexpected ways to use space and unite old and new.”

 “The New York Public Library is a magnificent building with a powerful civic presence, both locally and internationally,” said Lord Foster. “Significantly, it is also the flagship of a network of 89 community libraries throughout Manhattan, and its cultural and intellectual range is extraordinary.

“This project – to remodel the existing building to complement the research facility with a new Circulating Library – is unprecedented at this scale. Our approach to its transformation is led by an enormous respect for the historic building, combined with a clear vision for future change. In particular, we aim to celebrate the Library’s public spaces and strong social agenda. We seek to achieve the right balance between history and technology; between access-for-all and scholarship.

“We are honoured to be involved in this exciting endeavour to reinforce the institution’s mission to be ‘everyone’s university’; and I am personally committed to the challenge of reinventing this great institution for the twenty-first century.”

The New York Public Library's Central Library

The historic library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street opened in 1911 as a grand symbol of the City’s commitment to culture and knowledge. It currently houses the Library’s renowned research collections in Humanities and Social Sciences, including millions of volumes of general reference material as well as unique archives and rare special collections.

The general research collection will be moved from the original 1911 stacks in the main building to the Library’s existing reservoir of high-density shelving beneath Bryant Park. This will enable vast spaces that were formerly inaccessible to the public to be used to create a multi-level, light-filled new library that overlooks the park. The integration of research and lending resources under one roof will allow the library to serve a diverse range of users, including young children, students, scholars, writers, entrepreneurs, and casual readers, among many others. The Library will also offer improved exhibition spaces, hundreds of computers and full wireless access, meeting rooms, program venues, and a café. The creation of the new Central Library is expected to result in a threefold increase in use of the building, to an estimated 3.5 million visitors annually.

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