Architectural light design for the exterior and interior renovation of the Morgan Library and concert hall. Photo credit: Richard Cadan; Architectural light design for the exterior and interior renovation of the Morgan Library and concert hall. Photo credit: Richard Cadan;

Morgan Library, New York, NY

New exhibition and campus space with striking and sensitive lighting scheme

New York’s Morgan Library was founded in 1906, and has served as a research library and museum. It is home to one of the world’s finest collections of artistic, musical and literary works.

The expansion project was set in a constrained site surrounded by three landmark buildings: the original 1906 Library designed by Charles McKim; the 1928 annex by Benjamin Wistar Morris; and the mid-nineteenth century Morgan house.

Renzo Piano’s design skillfully integrates these buildings with three steel and glass pavilions to create a unique public space in the midst of Manhattan.

The new entrance on Madison Avenue leads to the heart of the design. A stunning 52ft glass-roofed piazza seamlessly connects the old and the new to create a dynamic, flexible and memorable space.

Lighting design

Arup’s lighting designers worked closely with Renzo Piano to create a dynamic lighting scheme. The vast public spaces are bathed in natural light, and fragile works are exhibited in underground vaults under suffused electric lighting.

Throughout the museum, this balance of natural and artificial light creates a warm, inviting environment that responds sensitively to the varied scale of the spaces.

Sensitivity to the needs of readers and visitors is evidenced by the balance of light – natural and electric sources are combined throughout the museum.

To manage the abundance of light flooding the piazza, a custom sunscreen was fitted for the glass and steel enclosure. Vertical glass surfaces have motorised blinds connected to a building lighting control system.

Lighting the new galleries

The additional gallery space has allowed the Morgan to exhibit more of its extensive collections and enabled it to host major loan exhibitions of master drawings, rare books and original manuscripts.

These rare exhibits are displayed in rooms suffused with electric light. The superb integration of daylighting and dimming systems both preserve and beautifully present the works.

Track and pendant-mounted fixtures are used throughout the project, creating a warm and inviting environment that responds to the scale of the different galleries and public spaces.

Sensitive lighting for rare collections

Because many of the Morgan’s possessions are highly light-sensitive, daylight is limited to just one gallery – a single, striking top-lit cube. Some of the Morgan's most outstanding decorative arts treasures are displayed under this filtered natural light.

In the double-height reading room with luminous ceiling, daylight is modulated for book conservation with motorised louvers, acoustically isolated from the primary space. Two separate layers of glass have UV blocking interlayers for additional UV protection.

Dimmable fluorescent lights with UV-protecting sleeves are positioned on top of the shelving units on both levels of the reading room, providing additional illumination for the collection.