Leers Weinzapfel Associates - Boston Public Library, a light filled community living room and information hub
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Boston Public Library, a light filled community living room and information hub

Leers Weinzapfel Associates

Culture  /  Completed
Leers Weinzapfel Associates

Roslindale Branch of Boston Public Library beloved by the community since its 1963 opening was in much need of a total renovation. The highly efficient design concept of a semi-circular open reading room anchored by the existing dome with a compact bar housing the sound sensitive, enclosed program spaces not only preserved but strengthened the original building and enhanced its function to 21st century standards. The project began in 2017 with a programming and budget feasibility study and from the start engaged the Roslindale community through a series of community meetings and workshops. The expanded functions for the library, including high-speed digital infrastructure and increased reading and book capacity, revived this vital place of community learning and gathering.

The renovated library represents one of its most important community spaces at the heart of Roslindale Center. A half century of immigration transformed Roslindale to one of the most diverse communities in the city of Boston, and the newly renovated library needed to reflect this diversity and be welcoming and accessible center. The library has become a new hub of community activity and public "living room". Slightly evelated from street level, a landscaped garden provides a pleasant reading area near the site's busy urban intersection. The overall renovation has positively impacted local businesses, many minority owned, with increased activity at the city center. It has been noted by the staff as one of the most successful and welcoming libraries in the Boston Public Library system.

The project design preserves over 90% of the existing building structure and envelope, thereby reducing embodied carbon, as renovation and reuse of existing structure is more sustainable than new construction. The renovated sustainable building envelope included added insulation to existing masonry exterior wall assembly and roof to bring building beyond current energy code compliance. The new urban reading garden helped provide new planting and reduced paved area and along with low albedo roofing significantly reduced urban heat island effect by over 50%. This project has received the 2022 Preservation Massachusetts, Mayor Thomas M. Menino Legacy Award and the DNA Paris Awards, Honorable Mention, an International Award Program, in 2022.

The renovation of Boston’s Roslindale Branch Library transforms an outdated 1960’s building into a welcoming, inclusive, and universally accessible neighborhood hub of learning and gathering for the 21st century’s digital age. Following the circular geometry of the original building, the open reading space is a light filled “community living room” and “information hub” that celebrates Roslindale’s diverse and vibrant community. The design preserves existing features such as the central dome with clerestory lighting and sound attenuating “starburst sculpture” and amplifies it with new features like the starburst lighting array and a central point circulation desk below the dome, providing ease of access between library staff and patrons. The main semi-circular, open reading space provides greater overall visibility while maintaining separate areas for adults, teens, and children. While much of the existing building exterior remains, a new entry highlighted by a canopy and colorful terracotta baguettes, a metaphor for books on shelves and symbolic of Roslindale’s diverse community, provides universal access. The result has been overwhelmingly well received by the Roslindale community. In many ways it exemplifies the Boston Public Library’s motto “Free To All” by transforming the “much loved but in need of a major upgrade” library that welcomes all.

“[The process] was an inclusive […] partnership with the local community and friends […]. The results have been overwhelmingly well received by the Roslindale community. In many ways it exemplifies the Boston Public Library’s motto “Free To All” by transforming the “much loved but in need of a major upgrade” library that welcomes all, with a universally accessible entry and interior that fills the spaces within with warm natural daylight.” – David Leonard, BPL President

Credits

 Boston
 Massachusetts, USA
 City of Boston Public Facilities Department
 Staff & Public
 01/2022
 14855 mq
 Confidential
 Leers Weinzapfel Associates
 Principal-In-Charge: Tom Chung, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C; Project Manager: Ben Wilcox, AIA; Designers: Su Poon, AIA, Laura Patrick
 Northern Contracting Corporation
 Consultant – BVH, HLB Lighting Design, Fuss + O’Neill; Engineer – Civil: Green International; Engineer – MEP: BVH; Engineer – Structural: LeMessurier; General Contractor – Northern Contracting Corporation; Landscape Architect – Leers Weinzapfel Associates, Green International
 Tucker Library Interiors, LLC – Bookshelves; Shildan, INC – Terracotta baguettes
 Jane Messinger

Curriculum

Leers Weinzapfel Associates is a practice recognized for its exceptional quality of design for the public realm in urban and campus contexts. The group’s special strength is a “mission impossible” ability to meet extraordinarily difficult building challenges with uncommon design clarity, elegance, and refinement. We are committed to providing meaningful spaces for human interaction and to promoting social well-being. Our work is diverse, including technically demanding infrastructure installations, advanced learning and living environments for educational institutions, to civic buildings and community recreation centers. In 2007, the American Institute of Architects honored us with the Firm Award, the highest distinction the AIA bestows on an architecture practice, the first and only woman-owned firm to be so honored. ARCHITECT Magazine has included the firm on its list of Top 50 architecture firms in the country, for the past five years in a row.

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