Boston Public Library
Strategic Planning

The BPL Compass

First Floor Interior: Johnson Building Improvement Project

by Gina Perille

Continuing with the goal of  improving visitors’ first impression of the Johnson Building, as noted in earlier posts, includes the initial experience as one enters the building. Another one of the big ideas that came out of conversations during the master planning process is the recommendation to remove the solid walls along the sides of the existing entrance lobby and to remove the mezzanine floor over what is currently the circulation area and the children’s room on the first floor.

The diagrams below depict a view of the first floor as it exists today and what it could look like should the interior walls be taken down and portions of the mezzanine floor be lifted out. The result would be a double-height space all the way across the front of the Johnson Building facing Boylston Street. What do you think of opening up the lobby in this manner?

The Boylston Lobby would become a place for orientation and where the library could interactively display content and information about programs and services. It might also be a place where an art or lighting installation would be possible. In the open area to the left of the Boylston Lobby would be a New Books area. The New Books area is envisioned as a place for readers, browsers, and visitors, where new and popular books, magazines, and newspapers would be readily available. Bringing books and library activity directly to the street, so to speak, is a tangible way to show what the building is all about and supports the project goal of enriching library services and user experience.

Diagram of Boylston Street side as isDiagram of Boylston Street side without interior walls

 

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2 Responses to “First Floor Interior: Johnson Building Improvement Project”

  1. Bots says:

    What are you doing with what’s on the mezzanine now?

    Seriously, Johnson is not my favorite building in the world, but let’s not gut it. It is, for better or worse, the creation of a renowned architect.

    How about doing something like installing good modern art, to match the art in the McKim building (but in a manner that matches the modern architecture)? It would be expensive, but certainly less so than taking the building apart.

    Also, if you’re thinking about altering the building, pull out those granite plinths! They’re ugly and forbidding. Give them to local artists to turn into statuary for the library. And put in plain glass windows on the second floor, instead of the jail-like barred windows.

    There are definitely more important things you can do with your money than knocking out floor space that can be used for materials and seating. There’s already a lot of wasted space in that building.

  2. libkatt says:

    Why is it necessary to rip out the mezzanine level areas? You could open up the lobby by just removing the walls on level 1. Then you would still have all the valuable space on the Mezzanine level to use for programs, meetings, and other functions. I am not sure that the additional overhead space in the Johnson Building would be that attractive or worth the loss of usable square floor footage. While it would be spacious, it wouldn’t be memorable or inspiring like the barrel vault in Bates Hall is. It doesn’t seem like you would want to showcase huge empty granite walls and a flat boring ceiling. There would still be room in the central area for installations and exhibits. The the areas on the side would be cozier and more comfortable, while still being open to the street view.