New York Public Library Scraps Plans for Norman Foster's Redesign

The New York Public Library has abandoned plans for the $300 million renovation of its Beaux-Arts landmark building on Fifth Avenue amid widespread criticism, lawsuits, and budget concerns. The project, led by Norman Foster, would have consolidated the Mid-Manhattan Library and the Science, Industry, and Business Library into one location.

Foster's initial plans for the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, unveiled in December 2012, called for a new lending library under the Rose Main Reading Room that included a four-level atrium and floor-to-ceiling windows.  

To make room for the circulating library, seven levels of 100-year-old book stacks—which form the structural support of the Rose Main Reading Room—would be demolished. A group of historians and preservationists filed a lawsuit in July 2013 to prevent that. Two more lawsuits were filed over the course of last year. In September 2013, NYPL said it would alter the design to incorporate the stacks as part of the lending library.

In his campaign, Mayor Bill de Blasio questioned the feasibility of the renovation. He reveals his budget on May 8, which is expected to include the $150 million allotted to the NYPL by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The library will earmark those funds for the refurbishment of the Mid-Manhattan branch instead.

Of the decision to abandon the main branch's renovation, Norman Foster told the New York Times that his biggest disappointment "is that the proposals have never been revealed, and there hasn't really been a debate by those involved, including those who would have benefited from an inclusive approach to the library."