The Center for Architecture to present Reading Room: A Catalog of New York City’s Branch Libraries

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The Center for Architecture to present Reading Room: A Catalog of New York City’s Branch Libraries

September 22, 2016 - January 7, 2017


The Center for Architecture will present Reading Room: A Catalog of New York City’s Branch Libraries, opening on Thursday, September 22 at 6:00 pm. The exhibition, designed by LeClair Lucas, features the work of architectural photographer Elizabeth Felicella, documenting all 210 branches of New York City’s extensive public library systems in more than 2,000 photographs. Felicella’s subtle yet clear and technically accomplished photographs depict the libraries from varying vantage points – from full-scope exterior shots to intimate studies of window plants and pencil sharpeners – inviting the viewer to appreciate the intricacy, complexity, and vast scope of these vital and evolving public resources.

As Felicella states:

I began by browsing: in the end, if I have come away with an agenda or a wish, it is that the branch buildings of New York City’s public libraries be understood and maintained as a collection, a rare and living architectural legacy, all the more extraordinary for its mutations, planned and unplanned over the course of the last century. It is a collection that is part and parcel of the evolution of modern public life as we know it; places that reflect and shape our best and changing aspirations as a society and as individuals within it.

Felicella’s unprecedented five-year project has received the support of prestigious organizations, including the New York Council on the Arts and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. Portions of Reading Room have been shown at Art in General and at the Mid-Manhattan library. At the Center for Architecture, the entire collection will be exhibited for the first time, arranged in chronological order according to the date of each library’s construction, thus charting the birth, growth, and ongoing evolution of New York City’s extraordinary library system.

The exhibition is presented as part of the presidential theme of Carol Loewenson, FAIA, 2016 AIANY President, “Authenticity and Innovation,” which explores the tensions and opportunities between new building uses and technologies and traditional materials and construction. According to Loewenson, “Libraries remain one of the most critical public institutions in our cities. Not disappearing with the advent of the digital age, they are, in fact, more important than ever in their support and enhancement of literacy, community, and cultural engagement.”

Reading Room will be complemented by a symposium, “The Reports of my Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated: Libraries for the Future,” to take place at the Center for Architecture on Saturday, October 29, from 1:00-5:00pm. The symposium will explore how libraries remain relevant and fulfill their missions while adapting to evolving needs and changing technologies.

Exhibition Opening

Wednesday, September 22, 6:00 – 8:00 pm

Free and open to the public
Members of the press are invited to the opening reception. Please RSVP to

The Reports of my Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated: Libraries for the Future

Saturday, October 29, 1:00 – 5:00 PM

Confirmed Speakers: Barry Bergdoll, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History, Columbia University; Luis Herrera, City Librarian, San Francisco Public Library; Francine Houben, Founder and Creative Director, Mecanoo, Deborah Jacobs, Director, Global Libraries Initiative, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Chris McVoy, Steven Holl Architects; Inga Saffron, Architecture Critic, Philadelphia Inquirer; Jeffrey Schnapp, Faculty Director, metaLAB (at) Harvard and Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University; Anthony Vidler, Professor, Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, Cooper Union.
Press members RSVP to

Photography: Elizabeth Felicella

Exhibition Design: LeClair Lucas


September 22, 2016
January 7, 2017
Event Category:


Center for Architecture
(212) 683-0023
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Center for Architecture
536 LaGuardia Place
New York, NY 10012 United States
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