• The New York Public Library: The Architecture and Decoration of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

    Date posted: September 11, 2011 Author: jolanta

    One of the many reasons we can (proudly, loudly) call our city the greatest in the world are our public libraries. The idea of a library being completely open to the public, and most importantly free, was revolutionary at the inception of the New York Public Library in 1895, when almost all libraries in the 19th century were privately funded with admission and usage fees. The NYPL still represents a profoundly important concept, as evidenced by the city’s connection to the main branch of the library.

    “Reed and Morrone put forth a profound and compelling treatise of sorts on the very nature of classical art, defining the term and crafting a lens through which to view and gain an understanding of almost any classical work.”

     

    Chimney breast and fire place, Trustee’s Room. Recarved marble work on two heads on the arches of the entrance portico done by François Tonetti-Dozzi.

    The New York Public Library: The Architecture and Decoration of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
    Anatole Ashraf

    One of the many reasons we can (proudly, loudly) call our city the greatest in the world are our public libraries. The idea of a library being completely open to the public, and most importantly free, was revolutionary at the inception of the New York Public Library in 1895, when almost all libraries in the 19th century were privately funded with admission and usage fees. The NYPL still represents a profoundly important concept, as evidenced by the city’s connection to the main branch of the library. Officially renamed in 2008 as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building following his donation of $100 million to the library, the main branch opened on May 23, 1911 after 14 years of construction. The Institute of Classical Architecture and Classical America commemorates the library’s centennial with a revised and updated edition of The New York Public Library: The Architecutre and Decoration of the Stephen A. Scwarzman Building by Henry Hope Reed and Francis Morrone with photographs by Anne Day.

    The book is designed as a walking tour of the building, and as such, is rich with anecdotes, turn-of-the-century docume and an outstanding attention to detail. The stories alone make the book worthwhile. Accounts of chief architects John Merven Carrère and Thomas Hastings—also known as the “Paris Men”—document the tremendous challenges to the realization of the Main Branch, while also describing two men who worked “like a big painting studio of the past.” The authors highlight the involvement of scholar Joseph Green Cogswell, a friend of John Jacob Astor, without whom the library would never have become a reality. There is also a humorous reference to the days when Bryant Park was a secluded haven for drug dealers.

    Reed and Morrone put forth a profound and compelling treatise of sorts on the very nature of classical art, defining the term and crafting a lens through which to view and gain an understanding of almost any classical work.

    Essential to the book are the photographs by Anne Day. Beautifully and expertly shot, Day captures the majesty of the building. She illustrates the timelessness of the façade, while bringing to life the myriad masks and engravings that adorn almost every corner of the building.

    Ultimately, this is the definitive book on the main branch of the NYPL. Reed and Morrone’s knowledgeable storytelling and attention to detail, paired with Anne Day’s splendid photographs, make this a beautifully crafted book that elevates it from the coffee table to any respectable bookshelf.

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