Boston Public Library
Strategic Planning

The BPL Compass

Johnson Building Improvement Project: CAC meeting notes

by Gina Perille

At this week’s (Tuesday, February 26) Community Advisory Committee meeting, community members gathered to explore options on how best to improve library services and space utilization of the Johnson Building at the Central Library in Copley Square. The building opened in 1972 and was designed by the late architect Philip Johnson.

Library President Amy E. Ryan reviewed the project goals and stated how important it was to have the community involved in helping the library explore options to make recommendations for the FY14 capital planning initiatives.

Architects William Rawn Associates led a discussion about Philip Johnson’s design principles highlighted by a series of quotes from the late architect. The principles, referred to as “Johnsonian Principles” are:

  • procession: anticipation – sense of event from exterior
  • procession: moment of arrival – coherent experience from front door
  • procession: ascent – celebrated vertical circulation
  • scale: respect and experimentation
  • monumentality in the city – civic urban presence
  • structure and rationality – structural clarity in planning

The architects described the structure of the Johnson Building and identified areas where the natural light was best. They also shared images of other interesting libraries from around the world and the community members discussed how the Johnson Building might have a better, more active relationship with Boylston Street.

Library staff reported on the types of services and functions that under consideration for each floor. Many of the ideas and suggestions came from previous Community Advisory Committee meetings as well as input from library staff members. Highlights included an updated lobby as well as a popular browsing area. (Editor’s note: both of these topics will be discussed further in future posts to this blog.)

Community members offered several suggestions and ideas for the project. Members discussed the attractiveness of a dedicated space for casual book discussion, reading recommendations, and small author talks. They also considered options for relocating the children’s and teen areas.

The meeting concluded with a brief enterprise discussion. Boston Public Library has engaged consultants to study the feasibility of commercial enterprise and the viability of a conference center within the library. Committee members emphasized the importance of identifying an enterprise opportunities that are compatible with the library mission. They also discussed maintaining a “porous” environment to integrate the enterprise with library services and to help energize the building. The next Community Advisory Committee meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 13 at 8:30 a.m. The enterprise discussion will continue at that meeting.

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