From the New York Times:
Muddling along for four decades in a nondescript former department store, the Mid-Manhattan library, at Fifth Avenue and 40th Street, served a growing swarm of local residents and commuters even as the branch steadily became a dilapidated “embarrassment” to the New York Public Library system, as Anthony W. Marx, its president, put it.
After three years of construction and $200 million, the library system was ready to reopen its largest circulating branch in spring 2020. Instead, the pandemic extended the closure. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, or SNFL, as it is now known (after a $55 million gift), finally threw open its doors to unlimited browsing in June.
Its theatrically expressive heart is a dramatic atrium billowing upward from the second floor, where book lovers will delight in a vista of the vast circulating collection of up to 400,000 volumes.
The architect of the transformed Mid-Manhattan is Francine Houben, founding director of Mecanoo, based in the Dutch city of Delft. Houben is known for such challenging library designs as a largely subterranean facility at the Technical University, Delft, in which a wedge-shaped roof covered in grass erupts from the ground to form a sloping lawn popular for lounging and sunbathing. For the Mid-Manhattan branch, she partnered with Elizabeth Leber, the managing partner of the New York architecture firm Beyer Blinder Belle.
Librarians throughout the system know that many people who need their extensive services don’t know they exist. This library will truly come to life when passers-by can gaze into those monumental windows and see people studying, talking, arguing or simply sitting with a book open, staring dreamily at the city.