When interior designers at Meccano and Beyer Blinder Belle needed ceiling tiles for the renovation of the New York Public Library’s 180,000-square-foot, eight-story Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, they turned to Rockfon to get the job done.

Today, the state-of-the-art central circulating library, boasting elegant white Rockfon Alaska® acoustic stone wool ceiling tiles, provides a cohesive, timeless appearance and optimized acoustical comfort throughout SNFL’s distinctive programmatic areas.

In addition to providing the best level of sound absorption, the ceiling panels’ bright white surface maximizes daylighting throughout the library’s interior.

The basalt and recycled content and inherent high-performance properties of Rockfon’s stone wool material also support the project’s sustainability goals.

“A central circulating library must empower the community it serves,” said Francine Houben, founding director and creative director for Meccano.

“Here, the community is all New Yorkers. Supercharged with energy, diversity and hope, America’s greatest city deserves the best that a central circulating library can be. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library is a powerhouse of wisdom, and its street presence brings drama and magic to Manhattan.” ¹

Rockfon stone wool ceiling tiles were chosen for SNFL’s renovation to improve indoor air quality and acoustics, creating a healthier environment for library users. Read on to learn how the design took shape.

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library

New York, New York

Creating a Light-Filled Oasis With Stone Wool Ceiling Tiles

The all-new SNFL offers a beautiful, light-filled, inspiring central circulating library with a classic, timeless, functional design complemented by the smooth, modern aesthetics of Rockfon’s acoustic stone wool ceiling panels. Metro Interior Distributors Corp. supplied approximately 60,000 square feet of Rockfon Alaska 2-by-4-foot panels with fully concealed edges and Chicago Metallic® 1200 15/16-inch suspension grid.

Additionally, Jacobson & Company installed Rockfon ceiling systems in various areas within the facility:

  • General collections
  • Business library collection
  • Adult learning center
  • Young adult room
  • Children’s reading room
  • Library’s multipurpose and conference rooms
  • Offices
  • Study spaces
  • Training rooms
  • Computer labs
  • Recording studio suites
  • Book sorting area
  • Connecting corridors
  • Common areas such as the lobby and the “Long Room,” as well as above all book stacks

Inspired by the Long Room in Ireland’s Trinity College library, SNFL’s five-story Long Room is considered the most significant architectural element of the transformed library. It fronts a dramatic, 42-foot-high atrium capped with decorative graphics by artist Hayal Pozanti.

This innovative solution spans both horizontally and vertically to present the library’s hundreds of thousands of books and other materials. Strategically positioned windows enhance the light-filled space with exterior views of a pocket park and vibrant streetscape.²

“We took the bones of the building, filled the building with light and created a ‘Long Room’ to showcase all the books of the library with beautiful artwork on the ceiling,” said Houben. “My dream is that all New Yorkers will love it.” ³

Stone Wool Ceiling Tiles Support Sustainable Goals

According to NYPL, the building was designed and constructed to meet LEED® green building guidelines and is in the process of obtaining certification.

The architectural design and construction team for SNFL focused on selecting building materials with low volatile organic compounds, products made from recycled materials and products that contributed toward the building’s energy conservation goals.⁴

Contributing to these sustainable considerations, Rockfon acoustic stone wool ceiling panels met the project’s selection criteria for material ingredients, performance and durability.

Stone wool is made from abundant basalt stone and recycled content. It resists fire, water and moisture and does not support harmful microorganisms, such as mold and bacteria.

LEED recognizes the benefits of low-emitting products to healthy indoor air quality. Demonstrating their advantage, Rockfon Alaska ceiling panels are UL GREENGUARD Gold low-VOC certified for both office and educational environments, such as those housed within the SNFL building.

Rockfon further supports the design team’s selection and specification with documentation including a UL Certified Environmental Product Declaration, a Health Product Decleration and a Declare label.

Acoustic comfort is also a recognized benefit by LEED as well as by librarians, readers and other visitors. Throughout SNFL, Rockfon Alaska acoustic stone wool ceiling tiles deliver the best level of sound absorption with a noise reduction coefficient of 0.90.

The high-performance acoustic ceiling tiles help optimize interior comfort for the library’s different spaces and functionality. In reading and study rooms, the ceiling panels absorb sound for quiet concentration.

In the learning center and multipurpose space, they reduce noise levels and reverberation time, helping improve speech intelligibility.

“A central circulating library must empower the community it serves. Here, the community is all New Yorkers. Supercharged with energy, diversity and hope, America’s greatest city deserves the best that a central circulating library can be. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library is a powerhouse of wisdom, and its street presence brings drama and magic to Manhattan.” ⁵

Francine Houben

Founding Partner and Creative Director

Just as acoustical comfort is key in a library setting, so is visual comfort, especially when it contributes to energy efficiency. Rockfon Alaska stone wool ceiling panels’ bright white surface reflects 86% of light.

This allows SNFL to maximize daylight and energy-efficient lighting throughout the building’s interior. 

The diffused illumination reduces glare on screens and monitors, promoting library patrons’ comfort, concentration and productivity. Reducing glare also helps reduce eye strain and associated health issues, improves readability and, by extension, enhances comprehension.

“This building has stood the test of time for over 100 years,” said Elizabeth Leber, managing partner at Beyer Blinder Belle. “This building had not seen a renovation since 1978; that’s over 40 years. We wanted to make sure that the life we gave to SNFL was going to last that long, if not longer. This is a durable and a forever renovation, and it was designed with that in mind.” ⁶

Rockfon Elevates Library Facility Design

Supporting the library’s long-term, cost-effective operational efficiency, Rockfon Alaska ceiling panels provide a simple-to-maintain solution.

The ceiling tiles are easily removed to access the plenum for future renovations and upgrades to SNFL’s technology, HVAC, security or other systems.

Reducing labor and material costs with resilient material choices respects the library’s bottom line and the community’s investment.

Honoring its design excellence, SNFL and its team have received many accolades:

  • The Municipal Art Society of New York, MASterworks Award, Best Adaptive Reuse 2021
  • The Architect’s Newspaper, Best of Design Awards, Institutional: Libraries 2021
  • International Design Awards, Silver in Architecture/Institutional, 2021
  • Metal Construction News, Project Excellence Award, Overall Grand Winner, 2021
  • Society of American Registered Architects, New York Council, Design Awards, Special Award for Innovation in Civic Architecture, 2022
  • American Library Association and International Interior Design Association, Library Interior Design Award, Public Libraries: over 30,000 square feet category, 2022
  • Structural Engineers Association of New York, Excellence in Structural Engineering Awards, Winner Renovation/Retrofit/Rehabilitation, 2022
  • The Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design, International Architecture Awards, Library Award, 2022
  • International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers, Finalist, Design Distinction Award for Humanitarian Design, 20227

“This building has dedicated spaces for the adult education center, for the business library; spaces for children, for teenagers; and also event spaces,” said Andreas Dracopoulos, co-president of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. “It’s all about providing access not only to education, not only to learning, but also to free public space where people can actually come together and engage.” ⁸

Building and designing for health and well-being has become increasingly important across various spaces, from schools and libraries to offices and medical facilities.

Looking for an energy-efficient ceiling solution to elevate the health and well-being of your project?

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Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library

Location:New York, New York, United States
Architect:Lead architect: Mecanoo; Delft, The Netherlands; https://www.mecanoo.nl | Architect of record: Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners; New York; https://www.beyerblinderbelle.com
Contractor:Construction manager: Tishman Construction Corporation; New York; https://www.tishman.com
Installer:Jacobson & Co., Inc.; Elizabeth, NJ; https://jacobsoncompany.com
Photographer:Max Touhey
Tiles:Rockfon Alaska®
Grids:Chicago Metallic® 1200 15/16"


¹ Francine Houben, “Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library,” Meccano, accessed September 30, 2023.

² “The New York Public Library Unveils Early Design for the Renovation of Its Central Circulating Branch,” New York Public Library, November 16, 2016; “Francine Houben and Elizabeth Leber: Designing a 21st Century Library,” Beyer Blinder Belle, May 4, 2022.

³ “Welcome to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL)” (video), New York Public Library, accessed September 30, 2023.

⁴ “Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL): Building Features,” New York Public Library, accessed September 30, 2023.

⁵ Houben, “Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library.”

⁶ “The New York Public Library Cuts the Ribbon on Its Completely Transformed Central Circulating Library, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL),” New York Public Library, June 1, 2021.

⁷ “Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library,” Meccano, accessed September 30, 2023; “New York Public Library, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL),” Beyer Blinder Belle, accessed September 30, 2023.

⁸ “Welcome to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL)” (video).