The structure on the seventh floor of the library resembles a wizard hat. Photo by John Bartelstone

Mid-Manhattan Library Wearing Wizard Hat
A Mid-Manhattan building is turning heads with its wizard hat roof. Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library has quickly become a pride and joy for New Yorkers.
Bryant Park is a quintessential symbol of New York life. Its Winter Village hosts the Holiday Shops and features an ice skating rink. During summer months, the park holds free outdoor screenings of films, runs yoga lessons and sets up chess battles. There is always something for New Yorkers year-round. And if you’ve ever been to Bryant Park, you may also have noticed a Beaux-Arts building in the background. It’s New York Public Library on 5th Avenue.
If you turn your eyes a little toward 40th Street, one building will really stick out above others. It’s Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL), a renovated structure with a patina top that has joined the ranks of next-generation libraries in the Big Apple.

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library on 5th Avenue. Photo by John Bartelstone

Book stacks are designed so that visitors can browse as many books at once as possible. Photo by Max Touhey

Campus for New Yorkers in the Heart of Manhattan
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library was once called Mid-Manhattan Library, a branch of the New York Public Library. Last summer, it re-emerged as a new landmark for the city by adding the ‘Wizard Hat’ on top. And the new-look library is special for another reason. Along with the main New York Public Library building across the street, it helps create midtown campus vibes.
New York Public Library has 92 locations throughout Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, and it’s a proud institution. Of those branches, Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library is one of the busiest.
The distinctive name of the library comes from ‘Stavros Niarchos Foundation,’ established in honor of the Greek shipping magnate. The foundation provided a $55 million grant for the $200 million renovation. It was the second-largest one-time individual gift in New York Public Library history.

The five levels of bookshelves and the atrium make up the Long Room. To the right is the public reading room. Photo by John Bartelstone

Reading space on the third floor. The oak tables are up to 20 meters long. Photo by John Bartelstone

Steel frames from the original construction can be found at different sections of the building. Photo by John Bartelstone

Bold Transformation, Using Structure of Department Store
The Dutch-based Mecanoo oversaw the design of the library. The architectural firm previously worked on some major libraries, such as Delft University of Technology Library and Library of Birmingham. Mecanoo also renovated Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington D.C., originally designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. A New York-based Beyer Blinder Belle joined forces with Mecanoo to handle historic preservation, record and environmental graphics.
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library is housed in a 1914 structure built as a department store. And as often is the case with department stores and shopping malls, there’s a vertical opening in the middle of the building. Francine Houben, the co-founder and creative director of Mecanoo, built reading areas and book stacks on either side of the linear central atrium. Three levels of reading spaces and five levels of bookshelves face each other. This helps provide a browsable collection while also ensuring more public reading room space. There’s more openness to the library, instead of the typical feeling of being closed in among book stacks.

The roof of the library has been painted so to create harmony with the mansard roof nearby. Photo by Max Touhey

The conference and event center. Wood ceilings create a cozy ambience. Photo by John Bartelstone

Book stacks and reading rooms face each other. The artwork on the ceiling is by Hayal Pozanti. Photo by Max Touhey

Space That Broadens Perspective, Teaches Virtues of Tolerance
The linear structure offers visitors an upgraded library experience. And newly-installed windows and artworks help add a sense of comfort and vibrancy to the building. The deep red wall at the southern end of the atrium brings in natural light. A dazzling abstract ceiling artwork by Turkish artist Hayal Pozanti will grab your attention from above.

The children’s library is located underground but feels connected to spaces above the ground. Photo by John Bartelstone

The Teen Center. Murals on the inside are by Melinda Beck. Photo by John Bartelstone

These vibes continue on to the basement, where you will find Children’s Library and Teen Center. Above the atrium on the fifth and sixth floors are the Business Center and the Pasculano Learning Center.
These are all great features, but the best part of the building is the rooftop terrace on the seventh floor, offering a spectacular view of Midtown Manhattan. The roof at the center also has its function as a conference and event center. The roof terrace has an adjacent café that draws people in. And there’s reasoning behind the unique color and shape of the building. The patinated copper-colored aluminum surface put in place to create harmony with the mansard roof of the Beaux-Arts building next door. The ‘wizard hat’ roof accomplishes a couple of things: it covers up mechanical equipment and pays homage to the tapering spires and faceted facades of New York’s art deco buildings.

Address 455 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10016
Inquiry 1-212-340-0863


Where to Stay n New York: LOTTE NEW YORK PALACE
LOTTE NEW YORK PALACE is housed in the late 19th-century mansion built by the financier Henry Villard, while also featuring a 55-story modern tower. It has appeared in popular U.S. TV show and several other films, and has become a must-stop destination in New York. It has 909 rooms, with a beautiful courtyard inspired by the 15th-century Italian cathedral, restaurant Villard, luxury salon Rarities, and cocktail bar Trouble’s Trust.
Address 455 Madison Avenue at 50th St., New York
Phone +1-800-804-7035
December 2021 Editor:Jung Jaewook
Writer:Yeah Joon Han-Mann

Where to stay?

  • December 2021
  • Editor: Jung Jaewook
    Writer: Yeah Joon Han-Mann
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