The iconic New York Public Library’s long-awaited redesign by Lord Norman Foster may finally be underway. The designs for the library renovation, four years in the making, were released today, and propose a modernization that will still respect the historic interior. If approved, the transformation would include the somewhat controversial remodel of seven floors that currently house private stacks into an airy four-story public atrium.

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Originally designed by Carrere and Hastings in 1902, the renovation would not alter the library’s neo-Classical façade, but instead modernize its interior. Foster’s plan will utilize unused rooms, offices and storage space, converting them into public space and reading rooms. The second floor offices will become more work space for 300 library patrons.

The most radical change will be the removal of the seven floors of stacks, which were initially slated to be stored off-site in New Jersey. But a recent $8 million donation will allow these stacks, which aren’t accessible to the public, to remain on site. Foster’s plan for the stack space will not only open the floors into the four story atrium, but also line each with book shelves and glass curtain windows that will give patrons stellar views of the adjacent Bryant Park.

The overall redesign will stay within the character of the library’s interior, and utilize classic materials like wood, bronze and stone – which should help the design’s adversaries accept the modernization a bit more easily.

Construction will commence as soon as the city approves the design, and the estimated completion date is in 2018.

+ Foster and Partners

Via Curbed