Boston Public Library
Strategic Planning

The BPL Compass

Central Library Renovation: Exterior Improvements

by David Leonard

Two of the Central Library Renovation Project’s key goals for master planning were to: “connect the library to the city,” and “to create an inviting first impression.” To put it mildly, these are unquestionably weak spots of the original Philip Johnson design, and goals which set high expectations for the renovations on the exterior of the building.

Components of the exterior renovation, now entering their final design stages include removal of almost all of the defensive granite screens on Boylston, Exeter and Blagden Streets, some of which may have a new but subtler life as paving elements. Additional features will include remodeled entrances, more energy efficient and transparent glass, with a less imposing framing structure, exterior furniture (including bike racks) and signage allowing the library experience to truly start on the outside of the building. Another creative proposal involves the use of high-limbed trees, to add a natural counterpoint to and reduce the severity of the building, all the while retaining appropriate levels of symmetry with the McKim building.

The planning team looks forward to continue its conversations with the Boston Landmarks Commission, who have jurisdiction over certain pieces of the project, and with neighborhood groups such as the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NAAB) and many others. After all, statistics tell us that even today, in addition to users who consider the Central Library their main branch, 47% of all systemwide users also use the Central Library in addition to their neighborhood branch.

Rendering of the Johnson Building landscaping. Inset image: a view of Boylston Street from Exeter Corner.

Renderings of the Johnson Building exterior improvements. Inset image: a view depicting Boylston Street from vantage point of Exeter Street.

 

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