- Project Name
- Morgan Library & Museum McKim Building
- Renzo Piano Building Workshop
- Morgan Library & Museum
- Project Scope
- 14,700 sq. feet
- Year Completed
- Shared by
- Miabelle Salzano
Structural Engineer: Robert Silman Associates,Electrical Engineer: JFK&M Consulting Group,E-J Electric Installation Co.,Lighting Designer: Richard Renfro, Renfro Design Group,Stephen Saitas, Stephen Saitas Designs
- Project Status
This project has been updated with a new project description and new photographs.
FROM THE ARCHITECTS:
BBB’s work at The Morgan Library & Museum preserves, restores, and expands a New York City architectural treasure. In collaboration with the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, BBB designed the expansion and renovation of the Morgan Library & Museum. BBB assumed many roles throughout the project, including executive architect, project management, and design and production architect of the restoration of the landmark structures, office, and support spaces. The existing library was comprised of three historic landmarks: the original, turn-of-the-century McKim Mead & White building; the 1928 library annex; and an 1853 brownstone mansion known as The Morgan House. The expansion knits the campus together through the construction of a 72,000 SF modern, skylit atrium, which extends four stories below grade and required a 50-foot bedrock excavation. Contemporary in its glass and steel vocabulary and elegant, modern detailing, the new structure is sensitive to its classically proportioned surroundings and neighborhood. BBB also designed the renovation of the major exhibition gallery in the 1928 Annex Building and the conversion of the original reading room into a new gallery. In addition, the project features a new café and shop, office space, exhibition preparation spaces, collections storage space, and a 275-seat underground auditorium.
Even in a city chock-full of world-class cultural institutions, the Morgan Library & Museum stands out as an encyclopedic repository of art and artifacts. Its core holdings were amassed by financier John Pierpont Morgan, who collected so many manuscripts, old master drawings, and early printed books that in 1902, construction began on a private library designed by Charles Follen McKim of McKim, Mead & White. In 1924, Morgan’s son turned the collection into a public museum that has expanded steadily over the decades, with several additions to accommodate the ever-growing holdings.
The Morgan’s quiet evolution got noisy in 2006, with the unveiling of a 75,000-square-foot expansion designed by Renzo Piano, in collaboration with Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners (BBB). Three new pavilions rendered in steel and glass integrate the Morgan’s three existing landmark buildings. But as the applause died down, the museum eyed McKim’s Italianate marble palazzo: “Mr. Morgan’s Library” had not benefited from a full interior restoration in its 100-year existence.
Construction began in June (after two years of meticulous planning) on the rotunda, library, study, and librarian’s office. The project included a new lighting strategy; restoration of period furniture, fixtures, applied ornamentation, and murals; new casework for revolving exhibitions; and electrical and mechanical upgrades.
BBB helped determine the scope of work and the process for implementation. The firm’s oversight and design role were key to getting the project reviewed by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. Structural intervention was limited to the rotunda’s oculus, but BBB also oversaw the reinstallation of original chandeliers, which had been in storage for decades.
One thing those chandeliers didn’t need was a retrofit from gas to electric power. Morgan was a patron of Thomas Edison and an early adopter of electric lighting: his home and library used the then-new technology. So it is only fitting that lighting was critical to the centennial restoration. “The goal was to dramatize the architectural features and artwork without being theatrical,” explains museum deputy director Brian Regan. “We were intent on creating a nuanced visual experience in which the artifacts resonate.”
Designed by the Renfro Design Group, a local lighting design firm with specialized knowledge in restoration projects for museums and libraries, the scheme uses incandescents, fiber optics, halogens, fluorescents, and LEDs. Radiosity and ray-tracing techniques were used to calculate and diagram various scenarios, but in the end, physical mock-ups were key to selecting the best solution. Sections of rooms were evaluated with input from the curators, who paid special attention to materials vulnerable to high levels of damaging rays.
Now complete, the restoration showcases the original craftsmanship: details lost to grime and shadow again appear in sharp relief. Mr. Morgan would be pleased.