In a column titled, “Undertaking Its Destruction”, WSJ Architecture Critic, Ada Louise Huxtable, blasts (and that’s being kind about it) the current NYPL renovation plan for the 42nd St. Library.
Here are three paragraphs from Huxtable’s more than 1800-word column.
There is no more important landmark building in New York than the New York Public Library, known to New Yorkers simply as the 42nd Street Library, one of the world’s greatest research institutions. Completed in 1911 by Carrère and Hastings in a lavish classical Beaux Arts style, it is an architectural masterpiece. Yet it is about to undertake its own destruction. The library is on a fast track to demolish the seven floors of stacks just below the magnificent, two-block-long Rose Reading Room for a $300 million restructuring referred to as the Central Library Plan.
Not surprisingly (except to the library), the plan is highly controversial. For most critics it’s about devaluing the primary purpose of a research library by reducing the accessibility of its resources. A letter of protest has been signed by more than a thousand famous writers and distinguished scholars, with a particular outcry about the removal of the books. Indeed, the loss of so many books got so much flak that Abby and Howard Milstein generously donated $8 million in September to complete a second storage level, underneath Bryant Park just behind the library, to keep about 1.5 million of the banished volumes on site, a proposal previously dismissed by the library as unfeasible because of dampness and water seepage. This is clearly meant to mollify critics. But it is also a red herring. The stacks will still be demolished.
This is a plan devised out of a profound ignorance of or willful disregard for not only the library’s original concept and design, but also the folly of altering its meaning and mission and compromising its historical and architectural integrity. You don’t “update” a masterpiece. “Modernization” may be the most dangerously misused word in the English language.
Read the Complete Column