Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle Architects’ renovation of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library has opened in Manhattan – complete with an aluminium "Wizard’s Hat" adorning its seventh floor.
The library is located in what used to be the neoclassical Arnold Constable department store. It contains a five-storey-high "long room" for book browsing, a 13m-high atrium and a number of two-storey rooms used for teaching, meeting and research.
The development will also house a 2,415 sq m space for children and teenagers and the 1,860 sq m Pasculano Learning Centre for adult education. To bring the range of offerings up to date, there will be podcasting studios, and operational efficiency will be improved with a "book sorter" – a conveyor belt that helps to restack materials after they are taken off the shelves.
The "hat" that tops it all is meant to bring the building to the attention of New Yorkers, and also to blend it in with the mansard roofs of the beaux-arts structures surrounding it.
Francine Houben, Mecanoo’s founder, said: "Libraries are incredibly unique spaces, houses of knowledge and creation that must inspire, welcome, and serve all. In this case, we were entrusted with a historic building in New York City, one that receives millions of visits every year but was never built to be a library.
"We needed to take the bones of that building and reimagine the ultimate library: certainly beautiful and filled with light, but above all able to meet the ever-changing needs of the institution and the New Yorkers it serves."
Mecanoo, which is based in Delft, was responsible for design and local firm Beyer Blinder Belle handled historic preservation.
Image courtesy of Blinder Belle Architects