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Public protests against Fosters scheme for New York Public Library

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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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