Architect and Creative Director
Francine Houben is the Founding Partner and Creative Director of the Netherlands-based firm Mecanoo. Her work ranges from theatres, museums, and libraries to neighbourhoods, housing, and parks. Each design is rooted in her observations of people, location, culture, and climate. Her environmental analyses are the basis of designs that respond to current needs while retaining the flexibility to react to changes both predictable and unpredictable.
Francine has gained international acclaim with her practice. 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). She was granted lifelong membership to the Akademie der Künste in Berlin and received the International Honorary Fellow Award by the Architecture Institute of Taiwan.
She was professor of mobility aesthetics at Delft University of Technology and has also taught at the universities of Harvard, Yale, and Mendrisio. As curator of the First International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (2003), she brought the theme of the aesthetics of mobility to the forefront of international design consciousness.
In 2014, Francine was named Woman Architect of the Year by the Architects’ Journal, and in November 2015, Queen Máxima of the Netherlands presented her with the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds Prize for her wide-ranging career. She has been awarded honorary doctorates from the Université de Mons, Belgium (2017), and Utrecht University (2016). In 2018, Francine received the BNA Kubus Award for her body of work; in 2019, the International Prize, Prix des Femmes Architectes; and in 2020, she was awarded the distinction of the TU Delft Alumnus of the Year (2020). In 2021, Francine was awarded Architect of the Year by the Female Frontier Award by World Architecture News.
Selected works include Delft University of Technology Library, Delft (1998); La Llotja Theatre and Congress Centre, Lleida, Spain (2008); Library of Birmingham, United Kingdom (2013); National Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts, Taiwan (2018); and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, United States (2020). Using Francine’s design, The New York Public Library’s former Mid-Manhattan Library reopened June 1, 2021, as the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL), while renovations continue at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building towards the official completion of the Library’s Midtown Campus.
Elizabeth R. Leber
Beyer Blinder Belle
Elizabeth R. Leber, AIA, LEED AP is dedicated to advancing institutions through forward-looking architecture and planning. Both within and outside the firm, she is recognized for approaching every challenge with a balance of creativity, pragmatism, and unfailing optimism. Expert at facilitating consensus around a cohesive vision, Liz is a recognized national leader in bringing under-appreciated buildings back to life. Her adaptive reuse and renovation projects surpass updating of aging facilities—they are transformed into timeless settings for contemporary learning and engagement. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (BA, Art History) and Columbia University (M.Arch.), Liz’s success lies in creating new spaces that are simultaneously familiar—rooted in the essence and character of a historic building—and unexpected.
Liz’s methodology has been utilized successfully by many iconic museums, campuses, and nonprofit institutions, including Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, and Toledo Museum of Art. In New York City, Liz’s reputation as a leader in mission-driven architecture and planning has led to commissions and relationships with many New York City–based institutions, including The New York Public Library, the 92nd Street Y, and the Henry Street Settlement, among others. Liz’s creative problem-solving is noticed by the profession to which she has contributed generously, including board membership on the Urban Green Council and Columbia University GSAPP Alumni Association. Liz is Managing Partner of Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners.
Co-President and Director
Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF)
Andreas Dracopoulos is Co-President of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), a private, international philanthropic organization that funds organizations and projects worldwide aiming to achieve a broad, lasting, and positive impact for society. Since its establishment in 1996 at the passing of Andreas’s great-uncle, Stavros Niarchos, the Foundation has made over 4,900 grants to nonprofits around the world that exhibit strong leadership and sound management.
Dedicated to the work of philanthropy in both his public and private life, Andreas is a Trustee of The Rockefeller University, Johns Hopkins University (JHU), and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). He serves on the Advisory Board of the Berman Institute of Bioethics at JHU and is an Honorary Trustee of The New York Public Library (NYPL), where he served as a Trustee from 2003 to 2010.
He has also provided long-standing personal support to a variety of projects, including the founding grant to establish the Dracopoulos iDeas Lab at CSIS and support for the creation of the Dracopoulos-Bloomberg Bioethics iDeas Lab at JHU’s Berman Institute of Bioethics.
He has been honored to receive the ranks of the Grand Cross of the Order of Honor and the Grand Commander of the Order of the Phoenix from the Hellenic Republic and the rank of the Officer of the Legion of Honor from the Republic of France. In 2012, he was honored by NYPL for his personal contributions to the Library’s educational programs.
Andreas was born and raised in Athens, Greece, and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He lives in New York City.
Chief Operating Officer & Treasurer
The New York Public Library
Iris Weinshall is The New York Public Library's Chief Operating Officer, responsible for the Library's expense and capital budgets, its $1 billion endowment, and all construction projects across the system's three boroughs. Additionally, she has oversight over the institution's operational departments, including Finance and Investment, Human Resources, Capital Planning and Construction, Facilities Operations, and Government Relations.
Prior to this role, Weinshall served as the vice chancellor of facilities planning, management, and construction for the City University of New York, where she was responsible for overseeing the university's multi-year capital construction program across 24 campuses in the five boroughs. She served as commissioner of New York City's Department of Transportation from 2000 to 2007, and was responsible for all daily operations, including the agency's expense and capital budgets, both totaling well over $100 million. Weinshall also served as first deputy commissioner of the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services, and deputy commissioner of management and budget for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.
Vice President, Capital Planning & Construction
The New York Public Library
Risa Honig was appointed The New York Public Library’s Vice President of Capital Planning and Construction in 2015. Honig manages a robust portfolio of Library design and construction projects for a system consisting of 92 locations throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island.
A member of the American Institute of Architects with over 30 years of architectural experience, Honig has worked primarily in the public sector including 10 years at the City University of New York, as an assistant director in the Department of Design, Construction, and Management, and 13 years for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
She was honored with the AIA New York Chapter Public Architect Award in 2018. Honig received her BA in architecture and a master's of architecture from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and is a licensed architect.
Anthony W. Marx
The New York Public Library
Anthony W. Marx is President of The New York Public Library, the nation's largest library system, with 92 locations, including branch libraries and scholarly research centers, that receive about 17 million physical visits each year. Since joining NYPL in 2011, Marx has strengthened the Library’s role as an essential provider of educational resources and opportunities for all ages.
Under his leadership, the Library has created new early literacy and after-school programs for children and teens, increased free English language classes by 500% and added citizenship support for immigrants, improved services for scholars and students who rely on the Library’s world-renowned research collections, and led several innovative digital initiatives to expand the Library’s reach.
Marx has helped facilitate a series of historic milestones: the largest program of physical renovations, totaling $1 billion; the largest increase in City funding; and the best year of fundraising in the Library’s history. Under Marx, the Library has also become a national leader on bridging the digital divide through its efforts to increase access to e-books, expand computer classes and coding training, and a groundbreaking program that provides home internet access to families of low-income students.
Before joining the Library, Marx served as president of Amherst College from 2003 to 2011, during which time the college nearly tripled enrollment for low-income students. Before Amherst, Marx was a political science professor and director of undergraduate studies at Columbia University and a Guggenheim Fellow. Marx has a BA from Yale, an MPA from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, and a PhD, also from Princeton.
About the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF)
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) is a leading private foundation supporting a global community of partners working to create transformational change whose self-sustaining benefits are widely shared. Over 25 years and through nearly 5,000 grants in over 130 countries, our goal has been to empower humanity to reach our full potential.
We aim to do this by:
- Making grants to nonprofit organizations in the areas of arts and culture, education, health and sports, and social welfare.
- Facilitating projects that form effective public-private partnerships.
- Giving financial support to initiatives that expand access to knowledge and strengthen civic life.
Support for NYPL & Libraries Around the World
We are proud to honor the essential role of public libraries in society as public space dedicated to fostering access to learning, curiosity, and understanding of each other and our world.
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL) underwent a complete renovation and reimagination to serve its role as the central circulating branch designed for all New Yorkers. It includes five levels of browsable book stacks, one of the city’s largest adult learning centers, a terrace that’s one of the only rooftops free and open to the public in Midtown Manhattan, and many more features catering to the large and diverse body of patrons. In addition to helping support its complete renovation, SNF’s grant also endows ongoing public programs there to enable it to grow as a hub for civic life.
This is the culmination of a long relationship with The New York Public Library and other support for libraries around the city, including grants for:
- NYPL’s public programming since 2003, including Out-of-School Learning Time initiatives to keep kids engaged.
- NYPL’s Digital Library Initiative, which involved the digitization of 65,000 items.
- Collaborating with the Revson Foundation on NYC Culture Pass, making one-day passes to cultural institutions available for checkout at branches across all three New York City library systems.
- The NYC Neighborhood Library Awards, in partnership with the Revson and Heckscher Foundations, through which communities nominated their local branches for outstanding service.
- ESOL programs and emergency support after Hurricane Sandy at the Queens Library.
SNF has also partnered with libraries around the world, supporting, among other projects, the construction of a state-of-the-art new home for the National Library of Greece at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) in Athens, designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop.
In addition to SNF’s commitment to supporting libraries globally, our priorities include:
- Aiding in the immediate and long-term response to the health and socioeconomic effects of the pandemic through a $100 million global COVID-19 relief initiative.
- Promoting access to quality health care for all in Greece through the $500 million–plus SNF Health Initiative.
- Encouraging civic engagement and civil discourse through the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University, the SNF Paideia Program at the University of Pennsylvania, and the New-York Historical Society.
- Supporting youth through employment and mentorship programs such as Figure Skating in Harlem and Madison Square Boys & Girls Club.
- Reimagining and reactivating public space for a new era through the SNF-LC Agora Initiative at Lincoln Center.
Each summer, SNF Nostos offers a celebration of bold ideas, classic summer fun, and togetherness that’s free and open to all.
Learn more: SNF.org
Explore the partnerships and projects that have shaped SNF's first 25 years through a special anniversary microsite: 25years.SNF.org
Mecanoo, officially founded in Delft, the Netherlands, in 1984, is made up of a multidisciplinary staff of over 100 creative professionals from 25 countries. The team includes architects, engineers, interior designers, urban planners, landscape architects, and architectural technicians. The company is led by creative director and founding partner Francine Houben. The extensive collective experience, gained over three decades, results in designs that are realized with technical expertise and great attention to detail. Mecanoo’s projects range from single houses to complete neighborhoods, skyscrapers, cities and polders, schools, train stations, theaters and libraries, hotels, museums, and even a chapel.
Discovering unexpected solutions for the specifics of programme and context is the foremost challenge in all of our assignments. Each design is considered in terms of its cultural setting, place, and time. As such, Mecanoo treats each project as a unique design statement embedded within its context and orchestrated specifically for the people who use it. Within the practice are knowledge centers which enable us to stay current on technological and design innovations in sustainability, eco-engineering, technology, education, and learning.
Preoccupied not by a focus on form, but on process, consultation, context, urban scale, and integrated sustainable design strategies, the practice creates culturally significant buildings with a human touch. Selected works include Delft University of Technology Library, Delft (1997), La Llotja Theatre and Congress Centre, Lleida, Spain (2010), Library of Birmingham, United Kingdom (2013), Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building, Boston, United States (2015), Delft City Hall and Train Station (2017), National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts, Taiwan (2018), and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library (MLKL), Washington D.C., United States.
About Beyer Blinder Belle (BBB)
Founded in 1968, Beyer Blinder Belle (BBB) has offices in New York City, Washington D.C., and Boston. Planning, restoration, and the design of new buildings are the fundamental underpinnings of the practice. A persistent exploration of historic, cultural, and civic meaning guides the firm’s work, while its design is contemporary and reflects the materials and technologies of today.
BBB has an extensive portfolio of cultural and institutional projects, including the recently opened Planet Word Museum in Washington, D.C., and the restoration of Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore’s central library. BBB’s work has been recognized with hundreds of awards, including the American Institute of Architects Firm Award, the highest honor given to a practicing firm, as well as three Presidential Design Awards and the Preservation League of New York’s most prestigious commendation, the Pillar Award.
Find our opening hours, free programs, and more information about SNFL’s centers, amenities, and services.