LIVE from NYPL: Francine Houben & Elizabeth Leber: Designing a 21st-Century Library

Event Details

The architects of NYPL’s all-new Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL) discuss designing physical space to meet the changing needs of libraries and New Yorkers.

Last year, The New York Public Library reopened the doors of its largest circulating branch, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL), after completing a three-year transformation, thanks to a generous gift from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF). Architects Francine Houben, of Mecanoo, and Elizabeth Leber, of Beyer Blinder Belle, took the early 20th-century building, originally designed as a department store, and redesigned it from the inside out to be a dynamic new public space that serves as a house of knowledge, a gateway to inspiration, and a vibrant community center. The result is a new library that is not only beautiful and light-filled but also prepared to meet the ever-changing needs of the institution and the New Yorkers it serves.

Houben and Leber speak with architectural historian and professor Barry Bergdoll about their work on SNFL, and how mission-driven design enhances and empowers public spaces to serve communities now and a hundred years from now.

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  • Assistive listening devices and/or hearing loops are available at the venue.
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  • Captions and a transcript will be provided.
  • Media used over the course of the conversation will be accompanied by alt text and/or audio description.
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Francine Houben is Founding Partner and Creative Director of Mecanoo. Her work ranges from theatres, museums and libraries to neighbourhoods, housing and parks. Each design is founded on the observationsof people, location, culture and climate. This analysis amounts to designs that respond to current needs yetare also prepared for (un)predictable change. She holds Honorary Fellowships of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC). Francinewas granted lifelong membership to the Akademie der Künste in Berlinand received the International Honorary Fellow Award by the Architecture Institute of Taiwan.

Elizabeth Leber is dedicated to advancing mission-based institutions through forward-looking architecture and planning projects. she excels at extracting the core objectives of her clients and their stakeholders and translating the collective needs and mission of institutions into creative architectural solutions. As Managing Partner of Beyer Blinder Belle, Leber is recognized for her ability to approach every challenge with a balance of creativity, pragmatism, and unfailing optimism. Her clients include leading universities such as Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania, as well as not-for-profit institutions including the New York Public Library and the 92nd Street Y. Liz is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (B.A., Art History) and Columbia University (M.Arch.).

Barry Bergdoll is Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History at Columbia University. His interests center on modern architectural history. He has studied questions of the politics of cultural representation in architecture, the larger ideological content of 19th-century architectural theory, and the changing role of both architecture as a profession and architecture as a cultural product in 19th-century Europe. He served as Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art from 2007 to 2013. He has worked on several film productions about architecture, in addition to curating numerous architecture exhibitions. He has written extensively on the history and problematics of exhibiting architecture, and the history of museological practices in relationship to architecture.



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This program is made possible by the generous support of Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos and Adam Bartos.

LIVE from NYPL is made possible by the continuing generosity of Celeste Bartos, Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos and Adam Bartos, the Margaret and Herman Sokol Public Education Endowment Fund, and the support of Library patrons and friends.