2520 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10033
“The architects, ROART, fully capitalized on the essential strengths of the original design, by increased transparency, brightening the space and increased illumination. The result suggests an academic library for the 21st Century” — Paul Glassman, Director of University Libraries
Constructed in 1968, the Gottesman Library at Yeshiva University, which carries the name of its benefactor Mendel Gottesman, is a six-story building occupying the length of a block along Amsterdam Avenue between 185th and 186th Streets. In 2014, David Gottesman, committed to his grandfather’s legacy, spearheaded an overall renovation of the building – the first in its history.
The building includes two libraries of a different nature. The Pollack Collection located on the lower floors is a study and research center for the student body of the university. The Mendel Gottesman Library for Hebraica/Judaica on the upper floors is one of the world’s largest collections intended primarily for the use of scholars.
A key to our renovation – and the only intervention to the exterior of the building – was to replace its brick facade with windows in the form of a large four-story high, floor to ceiling window wall on the East facade, and carefully chosen smaller openings on the North and South walls.
The light that poured in was the generating force guiding us to transform and rearrange the program of the building. Expanded informal seating areas and multiple levels of group study rooms were created along the new Eastern wall of light. A new dynamic collaborative social space – an information commons – was created to occupy the entire second floor.
The unique arrangement of the building, with its core of books at the center, allowed us to assemble and organize all the administrative program on the West side of the building. The new arrangement separated the administration from the main activity areas yet allowed for visual connection and clear circulation.
The original interior brick railings, which created a sense of heaviness and blocked light from connecting interior spaces, were replaced by thin airy steel railings to achieve openness and regain sense of orientation. New suspended individual workstations were created on the third floor mezzanine overlooking the main space and providing it with a sense of rhythm.
The fourth floor, an interstitial floor between the two libraries, served as a preserve for quiet study and the location of the rare books. The collection was upgraded and doubled its seating capacity.
The renovation of the upper floors followed the same guidelines with the exception of the sixth floor. While at the Pollack Collection over 50,000 volumes of books were removed to remote locations in order to make room for student activities and informal ways of learning, the nature of the Gottesman library as a unique scholar’s research center demanded all books to remain on site. Thus the sixth floor, which we originally intended for student use, became a new book depository for the reorganized collection.
At the entry level a joyful mural, painted in collaboration with the artist Connie Rose, welcomes the users and follows the path of the cascading stairs. Her words describing the mural echo and reflect the message we asked the new space to deliver. “The mural’s message is positive and upbeat. It depicts bright colorful landscapes emerging from the pages of a book. The viewer becomes a participant of the piece as they journey up the stairs into a parallel universe. It is there to inspire the imagination and enlighten in a same way that books do.”