The New York Public Library - Exterior Restoration

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The New York Public Library - Exterior Restoration | Notes of Interest

The New York Public Library, an iconic example of the Beaux-Arts style, was perhaps the most important commission of the firm of Carrère and Hastings. In preparation for the building’s centennial in 2011, the design team was retained to investigate the exterior envelope, recommend treatments, and oversee implementation.

A tablet-based system was used to record the findings of a 100 percent hands-on survey of the building, using boom trucks, suspended scaffolds, and industrial rope access. Specified systemic repairs included cleaning (with soap and water), repointing (using hydraulic lime mortar), and applying various protective treatments. Localized repairs included mortar-based patches, crack repairs, and spot cleaning. More than 2,000 hand-carved marble dutchman repairs were executed.

The sculptures, carved from four types of marble, each had different characteristics that influenced the selection of preservation techniques. The pediment groups, composed of the same marble as the facades, showed the most deterioration and required a range of restorative treatments and repairs. Monumental bronze windows, grilles, and doors were generally sound but many alterations had been made over the years; these elements were restored to original conditions. The roofs, originally built with copper, were replaced with Monel in 1936. While the steep batten seam roofs needed only modest repairs, the low-slope roofs required complete replacement.

Restoration of a building such as the New York Public Library is an implicitly sustainable effort that preserves the aspirations, efforts, resources, and embodied energy of another era. In addition to the fundamentally sustainable nature of this project type, other aspects of the project reflect the team's concern with conservation of resources and integration of sustainability objectives.

Additional Credit

  • Cost Consultant: Slocum Consulting, Inc.
  • Environmental Consultant: GCI Environmental Advisory, Inc.
  • Fine Art Conservation Consultant: Conservation Solutions, Inc.
  • Landscape Architects: RBA Group
  • Lighting Consultant: Claude R. Engle
  • MEP Consultant: Wesler Cohen Associates

Photo Credit

    © Peter Aarron/ESTO
    © Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc

The New York Public Library - Exterior Restoration

Jury Comments

This is the first comprehensive exterior reconstruction effort in the building’s history and it was thoroughly and successfully executed.

There is a high level of professionalism from everyone that worked on this project; everyone was a strong player - from the craftsmen to the design team - and all contributed to the success of this building.

It is a commendable job on a building of National significance.

It is beautifully conserved to its original glory, and to its role as a key element in the Bryant Park Business Incentive District, the first of its kind in the world.

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2013 Institute Honor Awards for Architecture Jury

  • Mary Katherine Lanzillotta, FAIA (Chair)
  • Hartman-Cox Architects, Washington, DC
  • Brian Fitzsimmons, AIA
  • Fitzsimmons Architects, Oklahoma City
  • John Kane, FAIA
  • Architekton, Tempe, Arizona
  • William Leddy, FAIA
  • Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, San Francisco
  • Philip Loheed, AIA
  • BTA Architects, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Robert Maschke, AIA
  • robert maschke ARCHITECTS inc., Cleveland
  • Douglas L. Milburn, Assoc. AIA
  • Isaksen Glerum Wachter LLC, Urbana, Illinois
  • Becky Joyce Yannes, AIAS Representative
  • Drexel University, Philadelphia

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