NY Times’ Michael Kimmelman: New Donnell Library Represents “the Logic of Real Estate Developers”

NEW CONDO HOTEL TOWER ON THE SITE OF THE OLD DONNELL LIBRARY January 2014

NEW CONDO HOTEL TOWER ON THE SITE OF THE OLD DONNELL LIBRARY
January 2014

In an article slamming the expansion plans of the Museum of Modern Art (another real-estate crazed NYC cultural institution), NY Times’ architecture critic Michael Kimmelman also calls out NYPL on the Donnell Library fiasco.

The Donnell Library appears to be a model for how the NYPL plans to “transform” libraries (including the Mid-Manhattan), selling off the real-estate and shrinking them into much smaller spaces designed for socializing rather than learning.

The much-loved Donnell was an oasis of light and air, and featured an exceptional children’s library along with outstanding foreign language and audio-visual collections.   It was sold to developers for a pittance and demolished in 2009.  As Kimmelman writes,

 

Across West 53rd Street from MoMA, the Donnell Library Center, a long-shuttered branch of the New York Public Library, is scheduled to reopen late next year at the same spot but in the bowels of a new luxury hotel, at a third of its former size, with wide bleacher seating and steps as the main feature.

“More like a cultural space, which is about gathering people, giving people the opportunity to encounter each other,” is how the library’s architect, Enrique Norten, describes the plan.

It’s all the same flimflam: flexible spaces to accommodate to-be-named programming, the logic of real estate developers hiding behind the magical thinking of those who claim cultural foresight. It almost never works.

Read the complete article here.

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