At Cornell’s New Fine Arts Library, the Book Sets the Standard

The Mui Ho Fine Arts Library at Cornell University opened in late August. Its stacks hold a diverse collection spanning art, architecture, and photography. Courtesy © Lukas Schaller Unlike recent university libraries which are premised on the absence of physical books, Cornell University’s new art and architecture library is an old-school print palace. Here, printed matter sets the standard. “Everything is scaled to the book,” architect Wolfgang Tschapeller explained. “As a human, you are not the main character, you are a guest between the books.” The new fit-out, officially the Mui Ho Fine Arts Library, gestated for five years at Tschapeller’s eponymous Vienna firm before its soft opening in early August. Inside, the expressive 27,000-square-foot structure hints at the intensive work that lifted a much-modified 1911 steel-and-masonry neoclassical building into the 21st century. While the exterior is a spiffier version of its old self, the interior is dramatically reconfigured. Its most prominent feature are the shelves on the main floor, where over 100,000 volumes appear to float midair across staggered honeycomb steel mezzanines. To accommodate all those books (which number le...

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