The challenge of solving practical safety issues in the atrium of Bobst Library represents an opportunity to enhance the quality, character and identity of this important NYU institution. Our design is guided by the dual objective of creating an attractive security membrane that is secure yet visually porous while at the same time aesthetically compatible with the existing atrium designed by Philip Johnson in 1968.ComponentsThe Pixel Veil is composed of two layered components —aluminum panels are mechanically attached to vertical aluminum structural supports. The components are painted bronze to match the existing bronze handrail. Each laser-cut panel is inscribed with a perforated pattern--the Pixel Matrix—composed using an underlying 4” grid whose spacing aligns with the vertical stanchions of the original bronze railings while also complying with ADA building codes. At the top level, the perforated veil terminates in a glass clerestory that differentiates the administrative floor from the other library functions below and heightens the impression that the veil floats within the atrium.Secure Yet PorousOur design reconciles opposing demands for security and porosity. On the one hand, the new interior lining of the atrium possesses sufficient surface area to form an effective security barrier that is vandal proof, durable and easy to maintain. On the other hand, it is a porous skin that neither requires overhauling the existing HVAC system, nor altering the building’s occupancy use or fire/life safety infrastructure.Visual Porosity from Two PerspectivesNot only addressing safety and functionality, the new skin is visually porous from the vantage point of visitors located within the atrium and from the perspective of users on the balconies. Perforations not only respond to security but also to context: when seen from the lobby, perforations gradually dissolve along the perimeter from south to north, becoming increasingly open towards the stacks and park.Compatible but ContemporaryIn addition to addressing practical issues, our design respects and is compatible with the interior designed by Philip Johnson in 1968. Our new intervention is sympathetic with the late-Modernist original building while also achieving the project’s mandate to update the interior in a way that reflects NYU’s global identity as a cutting-edge learning institution at the forefront of 21st century education.Pattern DerivationThe Pixel Matrix builds on the affinity between the original building and the structure of contemporary information—both rely on the logic of the square matrix. Johnson expressed the buildings underlying geometric grid in the square coffered ceiling and concentric square readingroom lighting. Today, digital information (words and images) are encoded through the pixel grid of the computer monitor. More recently, Quick Response Codes encript data through a barcode composed of black modules arranged in a square pattern readable by camera telephones.Pixel Matrix bridges Old and New School: it both references Bobst, a late modern building and the printed books it was designed to house as well as the ubiquitous matrix patterns commonly associated with digital communication that readers encounter at Bobst as well as in thespaces of their daily lives.PrecedentAlthough retooled for the 21st century, our patterned screen was inspired by mid-century architectural precedents including Johnson’s bronze metal balcony railings in the atrium at the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center as well as decorative grilles designed by Johnson’s peers like Edward Durrell Stone. Like these designs, our concept is also informed by a compatible design sensibility prevalent from the1950’s to the 1970’s that sought to introduce reinterpretations of traditional ornament to soften the austere forms of Modern Architecture.