Helpern Architects’ work on six libraries for the New York Public Library systems was included in Reading Room: A Catalog of New York City's Branch Libraries, a three month-long exhibit at the Center for Architecture in New York City in late 2016. The show was rare because all 210 libraries in the NYPL systems were photographed by the remarkable architectural photographer Elizabeth Felicella.
Projects included were the East 67th Street Branch Library, Aguilar Branch Library (L), New Lots Regional Branch Library, St. George Library, Woodstock Branch Library (L), and, especially, the St. Agnes Branch Library (L) on Amsterdam Avenue and West 81st Street on the Upper West Side (“L” indicates landmarked buildings). That restoration, after decades of decline, earned this comment from then-NYPL President Paul LeClerc: “The single best renovation of a Carnegie library.”
An interview on the photographer was published on the AIANY website. Ms. Felicella points out that the exhibition reveals the evolving, community-centric role of today’s libraries, and stresses the importance of quality design, construction (and renovation), and maintenance of New York’s priceless collection of libraries.
Helpern Architects has worked on two other historic libraries, both icons that required deep knowledge, not just of preservation, but also of how to insert modern technology into century-old structures. The earliest assignment (2001) was Low Memorial Library at Columbia University, now used for the university administration. The second is the highly praised restoration and modernization of the Nave of Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library.
Photos: © Elizabeth Felicella