The Morgan Library

Institutions

Morgan Library, Renzo Piano Building Workshop
© Denancé, Michel
 

The Morgan was founded by Pierpont Morgan in 1906 and was declared a public institution in 1924, serving as a scholarly research library as well as a full-service museum.

Af Kirsten Kiser

The historical and architecturally significant buildings of the Morgan were the 1906 American Renaissance building by Charles McKim of McKim, Mead & White; the 1928 annex, designed by Benjamin Wistar Morris; and the nineteenth-century townhouse, known as the Morgan House.

The idea of the central court came to me as I thought about the ways piazzas function in the Renaissance towns of Italy.
— Renzo Piano

The new steel-and-glass structures by Renzo Piano preserve the historic buildings and create three new modestly scaled pavilions. The pavilions are joined to the massive stone buildings by vertical slots of glass.

The new main entrance, facing Madison Avenue, leads to the heart of the design: a 52-foot-high glass-roofed courtyard inserted between the J.P. Morgan house, the original library building and its annex, from which all other museum and library activities radiates.

Located in the largest of the three pavilions, the glass-enclosed courtyard gives visitors a view of the side and back of the McKim building — never before publicly accessible — and of the neighboring prewar apartment buildings through a towering rear window. The other two pavilions, containing a gallery and offices, complete the three sides of the light-filled atrium.

A café and a couple of ficus trees, planted in circular cuts in the wooden floor, give the courtyard a piazza-like feeling. Glass stairs and an enclosed elevator connect to the upstairs landing and the Reading Room, located in a naturally lit space above the main entrance.

Piano placed half the project below ground to gain additional space without eclipsing the historic buildings or compromising the neighborhood’s architectural integrity.

An atrium below ground leads to the 280-seat Gilder Lehrman Hall, clad in panels of burnished red cherry wood, and a three-level subterranean vault that houses the Morgan’s extensive collection. The new exhibition spaces are located in the new structure as well as the 1928 annex.

The small 20 x 20 x 20-foot cube gallery, lodged between the library and the annex, is the only gallery that admits diffused daylight through its glass roof.

New landscaping surrounding the Library enhances the fully enclosed, park-like setting.