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New York Times critic slams Fosters' New York Public Library

Foster + Partners’ New York Public Library scheme has been on the receiving end of a scathing attack by a local critic

The London-based practice won the project to overhaul the Beaux Arts-fronted building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street back in October 2008.

After a long pause in the project, the first images of Fosters’ proposals were released a few days before Christmas 2012 (see AJ 19.12.12).

Now New York Times critic Michael Kimmelman has attacked the designs – saying they have ‘all the elegance and distinction of a suburban mall’.

Just 30 per cent of the library is currently accessible to the public and the Fosters + Partners’ scheme aims to more than double this by vitalising unused reading rooms, back of house spaces, offices and book stacks.

Kimmelman said: ‘The value of an institution isn’t measured in public square feet. But its value can be devalued by bad architecture.

Its value can be devalued by bad architecture

‘And here we get to the schematics Mr Foster finally unveiled last month. They aren’t worthy of him. After more than four years, this hardly seems the best he can do. The designs have all the elegance and distinction of a suburban mall.’

The scheme, which the practice won more than four years ago, is part of a £1 billion programme to ‘reimagine libraries’ throughout the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island.

Norman Foster said when the images were released: ‘Our design does not seek to alter the character of the building, which will remain unmistakably a library in its feel, in its details, materials, and lighting.

‘It will remain a wonderful place to study. The parts that are currently inaccessible will be opened up, inviting the whole of the community — it is a strategy that reflects the principles of a free institution upon which the library was first founded.’

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