With a project brief that demanded no less than unifying three architecturally diverse buildings, strict lighting criteria for priceless artworks and manuscripts, and the creation of new daylit public spaces, the renovation/addition to the Morgan Library is not your average project. But, in the hands of architect Renzo Piano and the team at Renzo Piano Building Workshop along with the expertise of Arup Lighting, this was another museum challenge to add to an already highly successful portfolio of collaboration that includes the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas and the High Museum in Atlanta.

The solution to this architectural puzzle, a glass and steel structure, which forms the museum's new entry (right) and ground floor “piazza,” deftly knits together the diverse surroundings of the original mid-19th century Morgan house, existing galleries, and the McKim, Mead & White-designed Morgan library, without calling attention to itself. To manage the abundance of light entering the space, a custom suncreen is outfitted for the glass and steel enclosure. As the Arup Lighting team describes, “The screen allows partial views out to the sky, blocking direct sun where required.” The open feeling of the piazza is an intentionally created counterpoint to the more monolithic adjacent architecture and its dark interiors. The façade lighting also acknowledges the juxtaposition of old and new—4200K ceramic metal halide asymmetrical adjustable floodlights highlight the architectural details of the existing masonry buildings and the metal panels of the new structure (right).

Throughout the museum, the balance of light—both natural and electric sources—is essential in creating a warm and inviting environment that responds to the scale of the different galleries and public spaces. A family of track and pendant-mounted fixtures, designed by Piano, are used throughout the project, providing visual continuity. In the piazza these fixtures are outfitted with dimmable 35 and 70W T6 ceramic metal halide lamps. Additionally, the piazza's vertical glass surfaces have motorized blinds connected to a building lighting control system (see image gallery).

Because the program brief discouraged a tall structure, several of the new spaces are below grade, including the auditorium, open to the public and the reading room, accessible only to library staff and visiting scholars. To compliment the mahogany wood-paneled auditorium (see image gallery), MR16 lamps are used for the wall sconces and downlights, PAR38 lamps are used for the stage lights, and dimmable LEDs for the steplights.

The signature feature of the double height reading room (see image gallery) is a luminous ceiling. As the Arup team explains, “The daylight is modulated for book conservation by continually adjusting the motorized louvers above the scrim, acoustically isolated from the primary space.” Two separate layers of glass have UV blocking interlayers for additional UV protection. Custom dimmable linear fluorescent fixtures with UV-protecting sleeves are positioned at the top of the perimeter built-in shelving units on both levels of the reading room, and provide an additional source of illumination for the collection. Reading lamps on the desks provide tasklighting.

Throughout the sectionally challenging addition of 77,000 square feet, and the diverse grouping of existing buildings, layers of light unify this museum and library collection into a comprehensive whole. In turn a wonderful sense of light and lightness contribute to create an open and spacious center for the building, and a unique public/private setting amidst the density of Manhattan. A|L

jury comments

Throughout the whole building there is a nice composition with the integration of daylighting and the dimming systems. | Technically challenging solution.


Project Location: New York Architect: Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Genoa, Italy Lighting Designer: Arup Lighting, New York Photographer: Richard Cadan Photography, Brooklyn, New York Project Size: 77,000 square feet Watts Per Square Foot: .9 Project Cost: $67 million Lighting Installation Cost: $1.25 million Manufacturers: Bartco, Elliptipar, Erco, iGuzzini, Louis Poulsen