The Adams Street Branch Library is nestled into Adams Village in Dorchester, one of Boston’s great working-class neighborhoods. The library is set at a focal point where Adams Street bends, making its presence a marker for the neighborhood. The completion of the Adams Library represents a long and deep collaboration with the Dorchester community. Launched as a programming study in 2016, the Boston Public Library, the Boston Public Facilities Department, and the design team explored a dozen layouts through a series of iterations, inviting the public for their input and imagination. Many important ideas were discovered through this process, yet some were right before our eyes to be celebrated. Namely, an oak tree that has stood on the north end of the site for many decades has crowned the central vista of Adams Street. The entire team came together around this important natural feature to ensure its centrality into the future, creating a public reading area for many decades to come. Of course, there are many organizational aspects of the library that were born out of the community dialogue as well: the tri-axial layout of adults, teens, and children for their respective areas of interaction; the visual communication between all sections of the library; and the transparency between the library and the street to create a porous accessible threshold. A single pitch monumentalizes the transparent façade on Adams Street, while a breakdown of peaked roofs in the rear matches the scale of the residential neighborhood. The folded roof draws rainwater towards the east, creating a watershed in a new pedestrian landscape. By extracting a wedge out of the southern portion of the site we draw light and air into the center of the building and create a garden of native plants. Another garden in the north framing the heritage oak tree is a featured view from both the community room and the circulation desk at the building’s panoptic center. Quiet reading areas within the library lie tangent to the gardens with views of the neighborhood. Situated on a single floor, the entire building is inclusive and accessible to all, aiming to bring the community into one shared space. This new building doubles the usable spaces for the community compared to its former counterpart on the same site. With a flexible community hall for lectures, films, and other events, the library also contains several lounges in all wings. It also has a music room and conference rooms that can be used for tutoring sessions. On the façade, the use of multiple terra-cotta glazes allows the sides of the building to respond to their immediate contexts and speak to the language of traditional New England Greek Revival and brick-ended public buildings common in the area. Informal in its composition, the color additionally helps to decompose its massing and give it warmth.
NADAAA is a Boston-based architecture and urban design firm led by principal designer Nader Tehrani, winner of the American Academy of Arts and Letter’s 2020 Arnold W. Brunner Prize. Tehrani leads the studio with partner Arthur Chang, AIA who also leads the office’s fabrication workshop NADLAB. NADAAA is a platform for design investigation at a large scale and with a great geographic reach. NADAAA’s projects range in scale from furniture to architecture and urban design, with a focus on craft, construction, and digital fabrication. The firm has received the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award in Architecture, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Architecture Award, the Harleston Parker Award, the Hobson Award, numerous national, state, and local AIA awards, five American Architecture Awards, and eighteen Progressive Architecture awards. NADAAA has consistently ranked as a top design firm in Architect Magazine’s Top 50 Firms in the U.S., ranking as First three years in a row.
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