The central branch of the library, more commonly referred to as the 42nd Street Library, "is about to undertake its own destruction" if a plan to replace seven floors of underground stacks with "a state-of-the-art, socially interactive, computer-centered...'People's Palace'" is allowed to proceed, argues Huxtable.
"One of the world's greatest research institutions," the "architectural masterpiece" on the edge of Bryant Park was completed in 1911 by Carrère and Hastings, "in a lavish classical Beaux Arts style." The current plan, which would move two to three million of the five million volumes in the stacks to an offsite location in New Jersey to make space for a $300 million redesign by Foster+Partners, would devalue "the primary purpose of a research library by reducing the accessibility of its resources," say critics.
"[A]fter extensive study of the library's conception and construction I have become convinced that irreversible changes of this magnitude should not be made in this landmark building," writes Huxtable. "This is a plan devised out of a profound ignorance of or willful disregard for not only the library's original concept and design, but also the folly of altering its meaning and mission and compromising its historical and architectural integrity. You don't 'update' a masterpiece. 'Modernization' may be the most dangerously misused word in the English language."