Press Room

A New Entrance: the Boylston & Exeter Streetscapes of the Central Library Renovation

by mschuler

LandscapeThe Central Library Renovation starts at the curb. Guided by a philosophy of welcome, warmth, and engagement, once you set foot on the block your experience of the Boston Public Library begins.

At the Boylston Street entrance of the Central Library there is new space for community gathering that extends the library experience beyond its doors. Once intended for pedestrian movement alone and separated from the building by a series of granite screens or plinths, the sidewalk is now an inviting space that visitors can enjoy, thanks to a redesign by landscape architecture firm Reed Hilderbrand, working under the guidance of Willam Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc. A subtle row of eight Honey Locusts shade the sidewalk on the Boylston Street side, and Autumn Blaze Maples stand on Exeter Street, bringing a welcoming, colorful, and natural presence to the streetscape.

Visitors will now be able to take a seat, perch, or hold informal group meetings inside and outside the library, at an exterior group of benches or at the communal “Civic Table” with its differing heights for children and adults, providing a welcoming area for gathering and hanging out.

After dark, a system of catenary lights interspersing the tree line illuminates this “outdoor room” on Boylston Street. In addition to creating a community space, the Civic Table brings elements of the Library outside, inspired by the large tables inside the Central Library and wired to support digital access. The landscape also helps visually extend the Library onto the street, as the pavers form a pattern that mirrors those inside the new building entrance.

While this new streetscape meets the current needs of today’s Boston, it also preserves the history of the Johnson building by repurposing its materials. The granite plinths that once guarded the windows of the building and enclosed small inaccessible gardens have been reimagined as sidewalk pavers. In a nod to their past, one edge of the plinth pavers aligns with the outside edge of the former gardens. The square pavers that once marked the entrance to the Johnson building on Boylston Street have been re-laid in their original pattern, continuing a type of granite carpet from curb to interior.

Thanks to this new welcoming and warm landscape, the Central Library is now more intimately connected to the streetscape and the city of Boston.