East Boston Branch Library
Architect: William Rawn Associates, Architects Inc.
Owner: City of Boston, Public Facilities Department, Capital Construction Division
Through commitment from the city, library system, and architects, what has emerged is a true collaboration for the betterment of a community.
Responding to the needs of one of Boston’s fastest growing and most diverse neighborhoods—where 50 percent of the population was born outside of the US and under the age of 19—this new library drives educational opportunities and serves as a civic anchor. Through commitment from the city, library system, and architects, what has emerged is a true collaboration for the betterment of a community.
The design team saw two distinct goals emerge from their significant outreach: a library that would be a recognizable welcoming element for the community; and the need to implement a “one-room” concept that would serve readers of all ages. With its glass façades overlooking the 18-acre park that emerged from the city’s Big Dig project, the new library boasts an airy column-free reading room with dedicated areas for adults, teens, and children. The open plan allows families to visit together and not be corralled into separate rooms, while clear sightlines maximize staffing efficiency. Shelving on casters lends extra flexibility, allowing librarians to curate the collections over time and adapt to the evolving needs of a modern library.
Capping the library is an undulating roof that admits ample daylight to fill wood-wrapped common areas. The roof provides an iconic form that anchors the end of the park, and the west-facing glass curtainwall lets passersby look into the warm, inviting interior.
The site was a former brownfield and, beyond its transformation into a civic hub, the library has a number of sustainable features. In addition to high-performance mechanical systems and proximity to mass transit, a stormwater garden greets visitors at the sidewalk, with signage describing its role in promoting the health of Boston Harbor. Overshooting the city’s target of Silver, the new library received LEED Gold certification.