Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library

  • area / size 180,000 sqft
  • Completed 2021
  • Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle worked together to bring new generation space with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in New York City, New York.

    The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL) is New York’s new central circulating library, designed by Dutch architecture firm Mecanoo in collaboration with Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners. Built within the 1914 shell and steel frame of the Mid-Manhattan Library which it replaces, the 16,722 m2 (180,000 sq. ft.) building is topped with a spectacular angular roof and public rooftop amenities to make a new urban icon on Fifth Avenue.

    NFL is a new-generation library for all New Yorkers, with special facilities for young users, adult learning, and business. It offers the perfect contemporary complement to NYPL’s world-famous Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (SASB), located across Fifth Avenue from SNFL. SASB opened in 1911, designed by architects Carrère & Hastings in a glorious Beaux-Art style, and receives over 1.7 million visits a year as the mothership of NYPL’s reference collections.

    Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle’s concept was to leverage the synergy of SNFL and SASB and bring them together as NYPL’s Midtown Campus. New features at SNFL reflect this harmony between the buildings: long tables that recall the impressive scale of those in SASB’s Rose Main Reading Room, ceiling artwork in the Long Room that echoes the neo-classical paintings set in SASB’s ceilings, and the use of classic materials including natural stone, terrazzo, and oak.

    Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle have collaborated on programming and design across both locations from start to finish. Mecanoo led the design stages and Beyer Blinder Belle led the historic preservation, acted as architect of record, and designed the environmental graphics.

    A vertical library with a welcoming ‘street’ and an airy atrium
    SNFL’s ground floor is arranged around an internal street that runs beneath a floating linear canopy of wood beams, from the Fifth Avenue entrance to the welcome desks. Located on one side are elevators, stairs, and a mezzanine balcony. On the other side, a rectangular opening in the floorplate reveals the lower ground floor, which houses a Children’s Library and Teen Center. The Children’s Library play area enjoys natural light, and the Teen Center has a dedicated staircase and study and media rooms decorated with bold and whimsical commissioned murals by artist Melinda Beck. An internal window in the lower ground floor allows visitors to see SNFL’s book-sorting machine in action.

    This dramatic linear atrium separates three floors of flexible, daylit reading areas on one side and five levels of book stacks on the other, a creative and efficient solution to balancing the need for a browsable collection and the desire for more public reading room space. Book stacks are a vertical means of storing books dating back to the nineteenth century, and here they are revived to give open access for library users. Through the library’s 40th Street windows, passers-by will see the northern end of the book stacks, visible as a continuous vertical wall of book spines welcoming New Yorkers into the space to browse.

    A roof terrace and ‘Wizard Hat’ above Fifth Avenue
    SNFL now delivers to the Midtown cityscape a sensational new public roof attraction and a striking sculptural addition. Elevators and stairs continue to the seventh floor, which is built at the original building’s roof level. This new floor has pitched wood slat ceilings and contains a flexible 268-occupant conference and event center. An L-shaped roof terrace runs above the 40th Street and Fifth Avenue facades and includes a roof garden and an adjacent indoor café. It is Manhattan’s only free, publicly-accessible roof terrace and offers staggering Midtown views, including across Fifth Avenue to the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building and surrounding skyscrapers.

    Design: Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle
    Photography: John Bartelstone, Max Touhey