J.P. Morgan Library & Museum Access Design

Disability Access Design New York City, Mobility, J.P. Morgan Library Building, Architects

J.P. Morgan Library & Museum : Access Design

New York City Museum Architecture, NY, USA – article by Joel Solkoff, July 15th, 2013

Jul 15, 2013

J.P. Morgan Library & Museum Disability Access

Disability architecture

J.P. Morgan Library Museum Building : main page with the start of this article on access to the J.P. Morgan Library & Museum building



I love Renzo Piano’s description of the J.P. Morgan Library as “this funny place in the middle of Manhattan.” Before my first April, 2013 visit to the Morgan, I was last at the Library in 1971. In 1971, I worked in a Madison Avenue office close to the Library and escaped there frequently. The illuminated manuscripts were, of course, dazzling.

Not dazzling was the poor maintenance of the Library. It was dark. The walls were, in effect, begging visitors for paint. The guards were bored. Both inside and outside the magnificent Library Charles Morgan built in 1906 was grime and dirt that robbed the building of much of its luster.

The dramatic changes to New York City have caused people to forget that not all that long ago, New York was a City riddled with crime, in risk of going bankrupt. Back in 1971, the Murray Hill neighborhood in Manhattan where the Library is located did not have the restored, well kept, prosperous and friendly look it has today.


I took the following photograph from inside the completed Morgan expansion. I was inside a truly wonderful glass-on-all-sides spacious elevator. Piano asked Otis elevator to build this model according to his specifications.

The view of the neighborhood outside shows that unlike other architects I could name, Piano did not spoil the character of the neighborhood by overwhelming it with a tall building. Instead, Piano built down. Most of Piano’s architecture is below ground.

J.P. Morgan Library and Museum:
J.P. Morgan Library & Museum
photo by Joel Solkoff

Since completion of the Morgan expansion to widespread accolades, Piano’s New York presence has taken a rock-star-like quality in Manhattan. His firm Renzo Piano Building Workshop based in Paris where he lives (and Genoa) has opened an office in New York. He has completed the dramatically beautiful New York Times building.

The New York Times Building, 2000-2007
New York Times Building
© Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Denancé Michel

The prestigious Gagosian Gallery of Art on Madison Avenue in New York sent this photograph to me. The Gagosian is holding an exhibition until August 2nd of more than thirty years of architectural projects by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop.

Piano himself is currently engaged in several New York City projects.


Note to the reader: When next I post, I will tell you of the invaluable role the firm of Bender Beyer Belle played as executive architects in clearing away the many regulatory obstacles so that Piano, as creative architect, could realize his design.

Last month, I was treated to an exclusive architectural tour of the Morgan by Frank J. Prial Jr., Associate Partner, Beyer Blinder Belle.

Prial worked closely with Piano in designing a landmark-friendly window design to comply with the fire code.

J.P. Morgan Library & Museum
photo published by permission Bender Beyer Belle

Since completion of the Morgan expansion project, Prial worked on the restoration of Grand Central Station and the Empire State Building. As you may know, e-architect conducts architectural tours of cities throughout the world eg New York Architecture Walking Tour. e-architect’s introductory tour of New York City lists the 10 most significant buildings to see; Prial worked on restoration for two of the buildings on the list.

The photograph that follows is an example of the work Prial performed on the Empire State Building’s lobby–a vast improvement over the Empire State Building lobby I played in during childhood. My father had a seedy office in the building which had deteriorated badly since its glory days—days that are back again.

Empire State Building lobby
photo published by permission, Empire State Building Company

Ada Louis Huxtable, writing in The Wall Street Journal praised Prial’s work on the Empire State Building:

“What has received less attention than the building’s ‘greening’ is how it returned to its 1930s Art Deco style, much of which had been lost to a misguided 1960’s makeover. [T]he firm of Beyer Blinder Belle [known for its] restoration of Grand Central Station and other landmark structures [was hired]. Using the original drawings of Shreve, Lamb & Harmon and old photographs, it took two years of research by Frank J., Prial Jr., an associate partner, and Richard Metsky, the architect in charge of the project, to identify and replace what was gone. …It took less than two years for the Empire State Building to be completed….”


Personal note: I will be returning to New York on August 8 for an operation at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. I have good feelings about the outcome. My skilled surgeon will remove the tumor surrounding my right kidney while saving the kidney. The outcome is likely to be that kidney cancer will not kill me.

I live in State College, PA. Since I am a paraplegic, it is especially difficult for me to travel the 250 miles to New York City, but very easy for me to get around the City. After the operation, I will remain in New York for two weeks to recover. While in New York, I will be posting for e-architect from the Atrium of Piano’s Morgan.

August will be my third trip to New York since I was diagnosed with cancer in April. During this time, I have visited the Morgan four times. Each time, I felt the Morgan was a refuge and a blessing including the blessing of being contained in an environment designed by Renzo Piano.

Joel Solkoff – regular guest editor at e-architect

Renzo Piano Building Workshop

J.P. Morgan Library Museum Building : main page with the start of this article

Morgan Library and Museum Access
Morgan Library and Museum
photo by Michel Denancé, provided by permission of the Morgan Library and Museum

Architectural Design

Disability Access Design – article by Joel Solkoff : Feb 27, 2013
Stairs and Ramps
photo : Joel Solkoff

California Academy of Sciences, CA, USA
California Academy of Sciences
© Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Tom Fox, SWA Group

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