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A Whirlwind Architectural Tour of the New York Public Library–“Hidden Details” and All

Open Culture: “The New York Public Library opened in 1911, an age of magnificence in American city-building. Eighteen years before that, writes architect-historian Witold Rybczynski, “Chicago’s Columbian Exposition provided a real and well-publicized demonstration of how the unruly American downtown could be tamed though a partnership of classical architecture, urban landscaping, and heroic public art.” Modeled after Europe’s urban civilization, the “White City” built on the ground of the Columbian Exposition inspired a generation of American architects and planners including John Nolen, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., and John Carrère, co-designer of the New York Public Library. Carrère appears in the Architectural Digest tour video of the NYPL building above [24 minutes] — or at least his bust does, prominently placed as it is on the landing of one of the grand staircases leading up from the main entrance. The staircases are marble, as is much of else; when the NYPL opened after nine years of construction, so the tour’s narration informs us, it did so as the largest marble-clad structure in the country…On the soundtrack we have not just one guide, but three: NYPL visitor volunteer program manager Keith Glutting, design historian Judith Gura, and architectural historian Paul Ranogajec. Together they tell the story of this venerable American building, and also point out the “hidden details” that a visitor might not otherwise notice…”

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