NYPL: Excellence Award

The unique wizard’s hat roof design on top of the $200 million renovation of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library is the 2021 Metal Construction News Project Excellence Awards’ Grand Award winner and New Metal Roofs category winner.

The 106-year-old library in Midtown Manhattan—actually first designed as a department store—hadn’t been renovated since 1978. The revamped library boasts hundreds of thousands of books, spaces for programs and classes, new, expansive areas dedicated to children and teens, the Pasculano Learning Center offering career services, English language and literacy classes, media and technology training, a multimedia studio, and a world-class business center.

Adding a new, visually stunning seventh floor to the library’s formerly unused roof, a L-shaped terrace features meeting venues that host the library’s robust suite of public programs. This utilitarian, publicly accessible, wraparound outdoor terrace showcases city views, and includes a roof garden and an adjacent indoor café.

Photo: John Bartelstone, courtesy of New York Public Library
Photo: John Bartelstone, courtesy of New York Public Library

However, its most prominent feature, and the thing the award judges admired and awarded is its sculptural, perforated metal rooftop. This new geometrical aluminum crown slopes up to cover mechanical equipment, reaching 184 feet above street level. Its angled pitches and patinated copper-colored aluminum surface are inspired by midtown Manhattan’s Beaux Art copper-clad mansard roofs, two 1904 examples of which are visible from the terrace.

A Dynamic Architectural Cap

Awards judge Matthew Kruntorád, AIA, LEED AP, dubbed the terrace roof an urban design solution in its form and scale. “It’s really a comprehensive solution all the way down to its detailing needs.”

Judge Steve Dumez, FAIA, was impressed by the variety of functions it serves. “It’s providing a public space, it’s providing a mechanical space, and it’s providing an architectural cap that’s very dynamic. The lighting creates drama at night and all of it adds up to a pretty wonderful piece.”

Photo Max Touhey, courtesy of New York Public Library
Photo: John Bartelstone, courtesy of New York Public Library

The full-scale renovation project, designed by Delft, Netherlands-based Mecanoo and New York City-based Beyer Blinder Belle, expands the building to 180,000 square feet. “Several of the team’s design choices solve the functional needs of the bustling central circulating library with iconic architectural gestures,” says Beyer Blinder Belle marketing manager Bisela Garrett. “Relocating some of the building’s mechanical equipment to the penthouse level above the new seventh floor frees up the valuable rooftop space for public uses. These volumes are wrapped with the painted and perforated metal Wizard’s Hat. [It’s] unique structure creates an expressive ceiling for the rooms below, while also contributing a dynamic and unmistakable form to the Fifth Avenue roofline.”

Metal Roof

Metal played a part in several inventive approaches that allowed the Wizard’s Hat to float over the building below. “The composite-manufactured metal roof panels were designed with their own plywood substrate, insulation and structural studs, the latter of which have a heavier gauge than would be expected,” Garrett says. “As a result, there was no need for additional structural supports to be added on-site. These physically streamlined panels connect to slope structural steel beams, which are spaced with an intentionally rhythmic pattern that seamlessly integrates with the seventh floor’s glass-enclosed spaces.”

Before image. Photo courtesy of New York Public Library

From the beginning of the project, Beyer Blinder Belle considered its many physical and logistical challenges. It collaborated with multiple manufacturers up front to design a composite roof structure, 80% of which was fabricated and assembled off-site to speed up installation. “Instead of a piecemeal approach to framing where there is both structural framing and miscellaneous framing, a prefabricated composite structural framing system by Webster, N.Y.-based Duraframe Solutions was chosen,” says Denis D’Ambreville, senior associate at Beyer Blinder Belle. “This decision alone saved the construction manager two months by eliminating the need to coordinate multiple framing installations on a job site limited in space. This framing system tripled the deflection performance when compared to traditional methods. With enough strength to support both the roof and the mechanical equipment, it solved many of the challenges upfront and allowed for the roof to be closed in much quicker than usual.”

For the metal panels, 6,400 square feet of perforated ZIP-RIB screen wall panels, and 9,500 square feet of solid ZIP-RIB roof and wall panels were supplied by Burlington, N.J.-based Merchant & Evans Co. Inc. (M&E), now Norcross, Ga.-based Innovative Metals Co. Inc. (IMETCO). A 16-inch-wide module matched the spacing of the prefabricated framing system. The perforated panels allow airflow while hiding unsightly rooftop equipment. “The ZIP-RIB panel is a 2 1/2-inch deep mechanically seamed cladding system for roofs and walls that can be factory formed or field formed depending on the demands of the project,” says Josh Younger, marketing manager at IMETCO. “ZIP-RIB panels accommodate complex roof configurations including convex and concave curves and tapers.”

In addition to metal panels and trim, M&E provided tapered stainless steel internal gutters, fall protection, snow guards and custom light brackets painted to match the roof.

Photo: John Bartelstone, courtesy of New York Public Library

“The engineering team at M&E worked closely with the design team and with the metal installer, Hauppauge, N.Y.-based The Jobin Organization Inc., during installation providing demanding engineering needs, excellent client service and panels manufactured to the highest standards,” says Dan McAuliffe, project manager at IMETCO.

A challenge faced on this project was the extra care and collaboration required by all contributors and suppliers to ensure that all products would fit together seamlessly when installed properly in the field. IMETCO engineering technician David Norwood explains Beyer Blinder Belle took this into consideration by designing the roof using BIM modeling and choosing products with the same module size, taking the smallest details into account before the project was even out for bid. Iowa Park, Texas-based S-5! supplied its Colorgard snow retention system for the library and Cleveland-based Sherwin Williams’ Fluropon coating in Patina Green was used.

A Geometrically Inclined Project

“As you can imagine, a geometrically inclined project such as this, coupled with the fact that it needed to be built on the roof of an existing building came with its own set of challenges,” says Nithin Reddy, project manager at The Jobin Organization. “[It was an] aggressive schedule and 100 feet above ground. How do you get materials there, how do you install? A lot of planning, thought, engineering and effort went to overcome these challenges and execute this project.”

Since this project was designed to fit together perfectly, special care was taken by Jobin during installation as the smallest of mistakes would result in the entire roof being off. “During installation, Jobin compared the BIM and our own 3-D modeling of the existing structure to ensure that the desired outcome was on track throughout installation,” Reddy says. “[The] module had to be right on the money during installation; a small mistake would throw everything off.”

On top of the pressure of limiting installation mistakes, the team at Jobin was also challenged to keep its team safe during installation. Jobin says by sequencing the project correctly and providing anchored footing for its workers, it safely navigated the 45-degree slope while installing the roof quickly and without incident.

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library Rooftop Terrace, New York City

Completed: June 2021

Size: 180,000 square feet

Owner: New York Public Library

Architect: Mecanoo, Delft, Netherlands www.mecanoo.nl

Architect: Beyer Blinder Belle, New York City www.beyerblinderbelle.com

General contractor: Tishman Realty & Construction, New York City www.tishman.com

Metal installer: The Jobin Organization Inc., Hauppauge, N.Y. (631) 694-2111

Coatings: Sherwin-Williams Coil Coatings, Minneapolis www.sherwin-williams.com

Framing system: Duraframe Solutions, Webster, N.Y. www.duraframesolutions.com

Metal panels and accessories: Merchant & Evans Co. Inc. (M&E), Burlington, N.J., now InnovativeMetals Co. Inc. (IMETCO), Norcross, Ga. www.imetco.com

Snow retention system: S-5!, Colorado Springs,Colo. www.s-5.com

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