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Fosters' contentious New York Public Library plans dropped

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Foster + Partners’ plans for a £208 million revamp of New York Public Library’s flagship building in Fifth Avenue have been dropped in the wake of mounting criticism

The New York Times reports that Foster’s planned new circulating library for the New York Public Library - a replacement for book stacks in its existing premises - has been axed.

The move comes after New York’s mayor Bill de Blasio expressed scepticism regarding the plans, instead favouring proposals to refurbish the library’s nearby Mid-Manhattan Library building instead.

The library is still expected to receive £89 million of redevelopment funds from public coffers, as well as from the sale of other library sites in Manhattan. It is reported Foster + Partners was paid £5.3 million for work on the scheme for the building at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 42d Street.

Proposals for the overhaul of the central building have attracted lawsuits, protests, and have been faced with spiralling costs, according to the newspaper’s report.

However there will be some tweaks to the existing layout in the landmark building – including an increase in public space, which Foster + Partners contributed to.

‘Obviously, I respect the decision of the trustees and whoever’s been involved in the decision,’ Foster told The New York Times. ‘If I have any kind of sadness on the thing — besides obviously not having the project going ahead and having spent a huge amount of passion on the project with colleagues — it 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.’

Foster + Partners declined to comment further.     

Previous story (AJ 10.05.13)

Public protests against Fosters scheme for New York Public Library

A public demonstration has been held against the Foster + Partners scheme to rework New York Public Library

Up to 200 people protested outside the historic building as trustees met inside on Wednesday 8 May.

London-based Foster + Partners, the largest practice in the AJ100, won the scheme to overhaul the library in October 2008 but the first designs were only released in December 2012.

The proposals sparked immediate controversy with New York Times critic Michael Kimmelman saying the designs had ‘all the elegance and distinction of a suburban mall’.

The Committee to Save the NYPL has now called for a halt to the project so an independent agency can conduct a detailed cost analysis.

A spokesperson for the protest group told AJ: ‘The rally was a great success, and sent a strong message to the New York Public Library trustees: Don’t gut the 42nd Street library.

‘About 200 people attended, despite torrential rain in the morning and intermittent rain which continued in the afternoon.’

The Foster + Partners scheme is part of a £1 billion programme to ‘reimagine libraries’ throughout the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island.

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

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

Lord Foster replied in February that the scheme would equip the building for the digital age and create additional spaces for research readers.

He added: ‘The design team continues to work closely with the library, and the scheme will develop significantly over the coming months as this creative exchange develops. Mr. Kimmelman has acknowledged this. Therefore his diatribe about our design is both offensive and premature.’

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