Mr. Kimmelman has some words on the New York Public Library revamp:
Having looked at it [the interior rendering] and spent a few hours speaking with the library’s president, Anthony W. Marx, and with other library officials, and after further discussions with Mr. Foster, I’m not buying it.
…The parties in charge are earnest in their conversations. While remaining hard to pin down on the dollar amounts, they are eager to demonstrate that every conceivable alternative strategy has been explored, weighed, re-examined and rejected. Proceeding in any other way than by investing in this potential Alamo of engineering, architecture and finance would be irresponsible, they’ve concluded. I have found this to be a not-uncommon phenomenon among cultural boards, a form of architectural Stockholm syndrome.
…The value of an institution isn’t measured in public square feet. But 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.
…Put the plan aside for a moment and ask the big question: What do New Yorkers actually want from the library system today? Circumstances have evolved over the last few years. Technology is changing, and so are reading habits and urban demographics. The public thirst for neighborhood branches has become unquenchable. Financial honchos who cough up big bucks to carve their names on 42nd Street for the sake of posterity might recall that Andrew Carnegie made himself immortal by supporting — and building — the small local branches that now more than ever are anchors of their neighborhoods all across the city. They’re the ones that really need the money. The library should make a case for them, vigorously.