Earlier this week I was walking around Willa Cather’s old neighborhood in Manhattan, The Village. Cather’s apartment was at 60 Washington Square South. She lived there from 1906-1909. The building is long gone and in its place are modern New York University (NYU) buildings.
When I saw that the building at 70 Washington Square South is a library, of course I couldn’t resist going in. The Elmer Holmes Bobst Library is considered the flagship library of NYU’s 10-library system. It’s a red sandstone building that faces Washington Square Park.
The Bobst Library opened on September 12, 1973. It was designed by Philip Johnson and Richard Foster.
I was pleasantly surprised by the interior’s metal design which creates warmth and an almost magical visual dimension. It also adds a playful light — as you glance around, sometimes it looks like lightening bugs or a rippling creek is in your peripheral vision.
This metal feature was not part of the original design and has tragic origins. It was added after a third student committed suicide by jumping to his death. The metal is a “digitally inspired veil” that was designed to make viewers think of digital pixels (source).
Elmer Holmes Bobst donated $11.5 million towards the library’s building. He made his money primarily in pharmaceuticals.
I didn’t have too much time to browse around as I was meeting a friend for an early dinner, but it was a nice surprise to visit this academic library. This library is not open to the public but I was able to get a temporary pass from the information desk.
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
New York University
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY