In this lecture of approximately one hour, architect and author Charles Warren discusses the history and construction of the stacks and their integral role in one of New York’s most celebrated civic buildings. The New York Public Library’s plan to remove millions of books from its century-old building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street has elicited a roar from many writers and scholars. But there has been little comment about the historic value of the remarkable book stacks that will be destroyed once the shelves are emptied. This construction of steel and iron, like a skyscraper frame threaded with curtain-walls of books, is the innovation at the core of the Library’s ingenious organizational scheme. The characters involved in its invention and construction include a celebrated surgeon, an unsung engineer, a Southern foundryman, and several of the most important architects of the era.
Charles D. Warren is principal of the Manhattan firm, Charles Warren Architect. He is the co-author of the two-volume monograph, Carrere & Hastings Architects and author of other books and essays on architecture and town planning.