New York Magazine Gets it Right on the New Replacement Donnell Library


New York magazine absolutely nails it on the new Donnell replacement library, “a sleek but shrunken pit fitted out with bleachers, bar stools, and a megascreen, plus a smattering of circulating volumes.”

Aptly titled “The New 53rd Street Library Is Nice, Unless You Like to Read Books,” the article goes on to note:

Neither architects nor librarians shaped this branch; a real-estate deal did, one that reserved the cream of the square footage for the hotel and condo above, and sloughed off the leftovers on the public…

This narrow buried amphitheater gives library patrons a split-level vista: above, a rat’s-eye view of the street and passers-by; below, a wide screen playing a promotional slideshow for New York and its libraries. Architects love choreographing such chance urban spectacles, but this one enjoys a special kind of pointlessness…

…the Donnell was a shabby wonderland, crammed with so many circulating books of so many different varieties, that it felt endless. Its sequel feels limited and spare. An abundance of outlets is a wonderful thing, but it does not replace those free experiences that are unique to a public library: browse, borrow, read, repeat.  

NYPL views this as the library of the future; read the entire article to understand more fully why this is a terrible idea.

UPDATE: Vanishing New York has just published a review of the replacement Donnell, and they are not happy:

Sleek, stark, and only one-third the size of the old Donnell, the new space is true to the architect’s original fantasy rendering, a bizarre scenario in which people sit on designer bleacher seats, staring blankly into space, not reading books.

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