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A Whirlwind Architectural Tour of the New York Public Library–«Hidden Particulars» and All


The New York Public Library opened in 1911, an age of magnificence in American city-building. Eighteen years earlier than that, writes architect-historian Witold Rybczynski, “Chicago’s Columbian Exposition offered an actual and well-publicized demonstration of how the unruly American downtown could possibly be tamed although a partnership of classical structure, city landscaping, and heroic public artwork.” Modeled after Europe’s city civilization, the “White Metropolis” constructed on the bottom of the Columbian Exposition impressed a era of American architects and planners together with John Nolen, Frederick Legislation Olmsted, Jr., and John Carrère, co-designer of the New York Public Library.

Carrère seems in the Architectural Digest tour video of the NYPL constructing above — or no less than his bust does, prominently positioned as it’s on the touchdown of one of many grand staircases main up from the primary entrance. The staircases are marble, as is way of else; when the NYPL opened after 9 years of building, so the tour’s narration informs us, it did in order the biggest marble-clad construction within the nation.

On the soundtrack we have now not only one information, however three: NYPL customer volunteer program supervisor Keith Glutting, design historian Judith Gura, and architectural historian Paul Ranogajec. Collectively they inform the story of this venerable American constructing, and in addition level out the “hidden particulars” {that a} customer won’t in any other case discover.

Take the terrace on which the entire constructing stands, a characteristic of the European villa and palace custom. Or the murals depicting the historical past of the written phrase from Moses’ stone tablets on down. Or the pneumatic tubes, artifacts of the analog information-technology system in use earlier than the NYPL computerized within the nineteen-seventies. Or the rendering of the world within the library’s formidable map room that mistakenly depicts California as an island (not that each New Yorker would disagree). The video additionally consists of different, even lesser-seen wonders each outdated and new, from a 1455 Gutenberg Bible — the primary within the New World — to the automated trolley system that brings books out of the stacks. However it’s the constructing itself that conjures up marvel, its extravagant solidity and element that hark again to a time of consensus, nonetheless temporary, that nothing was too good for atypical folks.

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Based mostly in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and tradition. His tasks embrace the Substack e-newsletter Books on Cities, the ebook The Stateless Metropolis: a Stroll by Twenty first-Century Los Angeles and the video collection The Metropolis in Cinema. Comply with him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Fb, or on Instagram.




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