Sunday, November 6, 2011
The Bobst Atrium
Situated on Washington Square South between LaGuardia Place and Schwartz Pedestrian Plaza stands a 12 story, terra-cotta colored building. Designed by Phillip Johnson and Richard Frost, the Elemer Holmes Bobst Library was completed in 1972. But today, it is one of the largest academic libraries in the US, housing more than 3.3 million volumes.
After making one’s way through the swarm of smokers, six swipe stations greet every Bobst visitor. The library’s atrium is roughly 40 yards by 35 yards. To the right is the granite book return/check-in service desk, and to the left is the Mamdouhas Bobst Gallery, where New York University treasures are on display. Eight elevator doors line the back wall. Above them, are the stairs, which have a very distinct look about them: every two floors make the collar of a v-neck, with a flattened edge that serves as a bridge. In total, there are five doubled layers that make up the second through eleventh floors; the twelfth floor has it’s own balcony.
After two students jumped from the open-air crosswalks inside the library, falling to the stereogram patterned marble floor below, NYU installed plastic, plexiglass on each level to prevent further suicides.
When someone turns their back to the elevators and looks up, six oversized study rooms are above. Wall to wall windows let in the light as students cram for upcoming quizzes.
To see the atrium from a different perspective, one should make their way to the farthest right elevator. Press the up button, and the twelfth floor’s the only stop available. The doors to the elevator open. Look over the edge of the railing. Peer past the metal cross atop each spike, and look towards the atrium’s floor. It creates an optical allusion that resembles the pricks of a fence post.
After one’s had their fill of the dreary scene, they should make their way back to the ground floor. Walk towards either the far left or far right corner, back towards the security desk. A set of stairs will take them to the lower levels. Here, in the Bobst basement, Steven Stanzak lived from September 2003 to April 2004. After finding out that his NYU scholarship, four jobs, and private loans would cover his tuition but not his housing costs, the Bobst Boy (as he’s been nicknamed) refused to drop out or transfer to a cheaper university, choosing instead to live amongst the stacks. Eventually however, the Washington Square News ran a piece on him, and the dean said he could no longer live there. However, he was provided with free NYU housing for the remanding weeks of the semester.
In total, it’s estimated that more than 6,500 people visit the library each day. Whether they’re a student cramming for a midterm or a hopeful high schooler on a tour, it’s impossible to go through the revolving doors at Bobst and not be amazed by its grandiose appearance.