The National Library of France Wraps Up a Breathtaking Transformation, and Other News

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Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Photography by Takuji Shimmura

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The National Library of France Wraps Up a Breathtaking Transformation 

Perched along Paris’s picturesque rue de Richelieu is the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, one of the world’s most visually arresting libraries and a masterpiece of Beaux-Arts architecture. Adorned with slender steel columns and decorative arches, the library’s soaring skylit reading rooms have for decades captivated bookish Parisians. But the landmark had become obsolete after its major collections were relocated to the library’s François-Mitterrand site amid piecemeal renovations. An extensive overhaul by French practice Bruno Gaudin Architectes, however, is bringing the historic library firmly into today—and peeling the curtain back on some of the structure’s hidden chambers that were previously unseen by the public. 

The renovation, which spanned 15 years, aims to make the building feel more connected while paying homage to its layered history. Gaudin mostly accomplished that by reconfiguring circulation—creating a new entrance and landscaped courtyard along the rue Vivienne, replacing the main staircase with a swooping aluminum substitute, and linking disparate wings with a glass corridor. The centerpiece is the ornate reading room, lovingly nicknamed Oval Paradise, which was updated with modern shelving and mirrored lighting fixtures that reflect the surrounding four-story stacks housing more than 200,000 volumes. —Ryan Waddoups

St. Marks Square in Venice during flooding. Photography by Ihor Serdyukov/Shutterstock

Venetian authorities install glass barriers at St. Mark’s Basilica to prevent flooding.

“The Italian city installed glass barriers around the 900-year-old church to keep the waters out. The decision was made after near-record flooding in Dec. 2022, preventing a repeat of the Nov. 2019 near-catastrophe that aged parts of the building ‘20 years in a day,’ according to Basilica’s Procuratoria governing body. The temporary structure is fixed until the MOSE system fully works by the end of 2025, protecting the city of Venice and the Venetian Lagoon from flooding. The transparent fence protects up to 43 inches and integrates the underground drainage channels below the church and the square to remove floodwaters.” [H/T ArchDaily]

Twitter faces a lawsuit for failing to pay $136,250 in rent on its San Francisco office. 

“California Property Trust, the owner of the building that houses Twitter, is suing Elon Musk’s social media company for failing to pay $136,250 in rent. According to Bloomberg, the firm notified Twitter on Dec. 16 that it would default on its lease for the 30th floor of the Hartford Building, located at 650 California Street in San Francisco, if it didn’t pay its outstanding rent within five days. In a complaint filed this week with the San Francisco County Superior Court, California Property Trust said Twitter failed to comply with the order.” [H/T Engadget]

Japan will start offering financial support to families relocating from greater Tokyo.

“The government is set to offer families relocating from the Tokyo metropolitan area up to ¥1 million ($7,476) per child, up from ¥300,000 ($2,295), as part of efforts to reduce population concentration in the capital. The increase of up to ¥700,000 ($5,355) per child as a fresh incentive will come on top of the maximum ¥3 million ($22,952)  in base financial support already given to relocating families. The new rule will be implemented in the fiscal year starting next April, a source familiar with the matter said. People who reside in the 23 wards of Tokyo that make up the core metropolitan area, as well as those who commute there from surrounding areas, are eligible for the relocation support.” [H/T Japan Times]

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, a theater in Sarasota, FL. Photography by Clyde Robinson/Flickr

More than a dozen firms are shortlisted to design the Sarasota Performing Arts Center.

“Sarasota, FL, and local nonprofit Van Wezel Foundation has announced the selection of more than a dozen firms competing for the opportunity to design a new Sarasota Performing Arts Center in the city’s Bayfront Park. For the selection, city representatives and members of the foundation winnowed down an initial list of 43 respondents to 18 firms: Adjaye Associates, Arquitectonica, Diamond Schmitt, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Foster + Partners, Gehry Partners, Henning Larsen, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, Renzo Piano Building Workshop, REX, Safdie Architects, SANAA, Shigeru Ban Architects, Snøhetta, Steven Holl Architects, Studio Gang, Studios Architecture, and Zaha Hadid Architects.” [H/T The Architect’s Newspaper]

New York City’s first legal marijuana dispensary opens at the nonprofit Housing Works. 

“The first legal dispensary for recreational marijuana in New York rung up its first sales on Thursday, opening up what is expected to be one of the country’s most lucrative markets for cannabis—underscored by the dozens of unauthorized shops that have operated in the open for years. The opening of the first state-sanctioned dispensary, which is operated by Housing Works, paves the way for a string of openings expected in the coming months in New York. The state legalized recreational marijuana use in March 2021. “We’re absolutely thrilled to be the first and hopefully setting a model that other folks will have to follow,” said Charles King, CEO of Housing Works, a minority-controlled social-service agency that serves people with HIV and AIDS, as well as those who are homeless and formerly incarcerated.” [H/T Fortune]

The Universal Hip Hop Museum secures $3 million to help fund its interior buildout. 

“The Universal Hip Hop Museum in the Bronx could be getting some much-needed funding that should help the project move forward. On Wednesday, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced she secured $3 million in funding in the year-end omnibus package to go toward the construction of the Universal Hip Hop Museum. The project, which broke ground in the South Bronx in May 2021, is slated to open in 2024. The Universal Hip Hop Museum aims to become a tourist hub honoring the genre’s influence over art, music, fashion, film, marketing, and entertainment, celebrating the pioneers who built the culture, such as Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, DJ Kool Herc, Run DMC, and the Notorious B.I.G. The funds attained by Senator Gillibrand will go toward helping support the interior fit of the facility, which is currently under construction at Bronx Point in the “Boogie Down” borough.” [H/T NewsOne]

“Avatar: The Way of Water.” Image courtesy 20th Century Studios

Today’s attractive distractions:

This comic stars a dog having an adorable existential crisis over killing a bird.

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Avatar deserves ample praise, but suffers from high frame-rate filmmaking.

New evidence suggests our hominid ancestors sailed half a million years ago.

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