Connecting New Generations to NYU's Special Collections

New York University, Bobst Library Renovation, New York City

There are not many places in this world where one can browse both the evolution of the feminist punk youth movement Riot Grrrl in the 1990s and the lives of North American volunteers in the Spanish Civil War. Our design reflected this unique–and often radical–nature of the Special Collections at New York University’s Bobst Library.

The design inspiration for the two floors dedicated to the Special Collections comes directly from the collections’ content, the building’s location in downtown New York City and the strong architectural character of Bobst Library itself. The design respects the symmetry of Bobst library and combines a loft aesthetic with a New York-centric downtown vibe. Uniquely conceived spaces include:

  • A reading room designed to provide a quiet and contemplative space to study the Special Collections vast trove of materials. The floating and curving veils above the study tables reference the scalloped exterior facade and the work of the building’s architect, Philip Johnson.
  • One approaches the Special Collections through a light-filled vestibule into a set of three galleries. The galleries are separated by existing trusses that support the mezzanine below. The team lighted these trusses and incorporated them into the flexible display system for the galleries.
  • A learning space is designed to be flexible and transformable depending on how each curator wishes to teach with the collections varied holdings.
  • Galleries are also equipped with programmable video walls, adjustable lighting systems patterned after the existing building’s north reading room, and an area for researchers to store their belongings and have quiet conversation.