Strategic Planning

The BPL Compass

Exterior: Johnson Building Improvement Project

by Gina Perille

When the Johnson Building Improvement Project began last year, the library issued a request for proposals that asked — as one of the project goals — for design assistance in improving visitors’ first impressions of the Johnson Building. As the master plan progressed, much discussion took place about the library’s exterior transparency and engagement along with a vision for a re-energized entrance and lobby connected to site and the streetscape. Today, solid granite screens separate the first floor spaces of the Johnson Building from the vibrant street life along Boylston Street. One of the big ideas to come out of the master planning process is the recommendation to remove the granite plinths from in front of the library. The diagram below depicts the existing set-up of the plinths and what it could look like with out them.

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It is important to note that at the Central Library in Copley Square, both the McKim Building (the one that faces Dartmouth Street) and the Johnson Building (the one that faces Boylston Street) are Boston Landmark Commission landmarks, as of 2000. Any proposed changes to a landmarked facility are carefully reviewed by the Commission, which is the City of Boston’s historic preservation agency. The following areas are landmarked in and around the Johnson Building, specifically:

  1. Exterior facades
  2. Deferrari Hall
  3. Entry lobby
  4. Site and landscape

The talented team at William Rawn Associates Architects also created a series of renderings that represent in full color what the front of the Johnson Building looks like today, what it would look like during the day without the granite screens, and what it would look like in the evening without the granite screens. Scroll down to see these depictions. The images are from a presentation shown to Boston Landmarks Commission on June 25, 2013, during an advisory review. Let us know in the comments section what you think.

BPLWRAJohnsonwithplinthsforBLSJune252013review BPLWRAJohnsonwithoutplinthsforBLSJune252013review-day 




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3 Responses to “Exterior: Johnson Building Improvement Project”

  1. Michael Schmidt says:

    It would be wonderful to open up the library to the street, especially at night. It would make the Johnson building so much more attractive.

  2. Richard Voos says:

    Removing the plinths is a great idea. The Johnson building would become even more of a landmark!

  3. Jason Terrie says:

    Removing those plinths will allow more sound to leak through from the street. But I think perhaps more importantly those stone columns also seem to be a safety block against runaway vehicles and window vandalism. “Attractiveness” shouldn’t come at the expense of safety of library customers.