Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

January 9, 2015

Cambridge Public Library Receives National Honor Award in Architecture

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 10:13 am

Jan 9, 2015 – The Cambridge Public Library has received the 2015 National Honor Award for Architecture from the American Institute of Architects (AIA). A jury of nine professionals selected the project as one of 11 buildings nationwide to receive this prestigious award. The AIA Honor Jury states that “the architecture skillfully joins the library to its clearly delighted community,” and describes the “graceful, transparent” new building as “offering great expanses of beautiful sunlit space with vistas of the surrounding park.”

The Cambridge Public Library, which reopened in November 2009, includes a striking new glass building of 76,700 square feet joined to the restored 27,200 square foot landmark, designed in 1887 by Van Brunt & Howe and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building has capacity for over 275,000 books, 90 computer stations, community meeting rooms and a 220-seat auditorium. Over 2,000 patrons visit the building every day. The project also includes an underground parking garage with a 33,000 square foot green roof and the restored Joan Lorentz Park. The building is a model of innovative sustainable design with the first of its kind double-skin curtainwall in the U.S. The front façade has a 3’ deep airspace, multi-story flue, and movable 12” sunshades that create thermally-comfortable and glare-free reading spaces. The library was designed by William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc. (Lead Architect) with Ann Beha Architects (Associate Architect/Historic Building Architect), both of Boston.

This award represents one of the 22 honors and awards that Cambridge Public Library has received since it opened in October 2009, including the 2010 Harleston Parker Medal for “The Most Beautiful Building in Boston” from the Boston Society of Architects (BSA).

Cambridge City Manager Richard C. Rossi noted, “During the library project planning process, Cambridge residents expressed a desire that their new main library serve as the civic heart of our community. The evident delight with which our residents use the library every day is probably the best acknowledgment that we have achieved their goal.

We fully embraced Library Director Susan Flannery’s vision that the building must feel like a library, that you must see books the minute you walk in.” said William L. Rawn, Co-Principal for Design, FAIA, LEED AP. “We think this vision has led to the building becoming a literal Town Common for the City of Cambridge.

Here are a few comments from library users:

“The library is like an oasis in the busy and sometimes callous world. A calm, light-filled, pleasant, clean, and open place to do my work alongside people who look as diverse as Cambridge itself. It feels like home. I love the fact that there are dozens of people waiting to go in when the doors open. And I love the calm, helpful, and friendly staff. Thank you!” – Alice LoCicero

“Every time I walk into this building, I am filled with overflowing gratitude and happiness. It is such a gift to me – and our community!” Liz Salomon

“The library is a beautiful and welcoming place where everyone has access to a vast array of resources for free! At the library, everybody is equal. Knowledge, entertainment, communication, culture, and climate control are all available here to people of all socioeconomic levels. I love the library!” – Janis Navikas

“I think the Cambridge Public Library is a testament to all that is great about Cambridge – it was conceived and built with great thought about every detail, to ensure that everyone would feel welcome and every culture would be represented. It embraces new thinking about what a library and a public space should be, yet pays respect and honor to the past.”

“Cambridge Public Library is a gem. From the friendly customer service provided by library staff, to the light-filled spaces available for reading, working, or just day-dreaming, to the amazing collection of media of all kinds, this library provides a haven of rich resources, available for all, and I, just as one patron, am deeply grateful.”

Cambridge Public Library at Night
Cambridge Public Library at Night – Robert Benson Photography

Cambridge Public Library Interior
Cambridge Public Library Interior – Robert Benson Photography

Cambridge Public Library Exterior
Cambridge Public Library Exterior – Side View – Robert Benson Photography

1 Comment

  1. It’s great to see this incredible facility get recognition. Whenever I go in to it it is full of people reading, using computers, chatting (quietly). etc. Susan Flannery says that circulation numbers have been increasing (rare for libraries these days). THese are true measures of success.

    And I am happy that I was part of the process that got us this building as a member of the Library21 Committee and the Design Advisory Committee (DAC). The DAC was interesting as residents, city staff, and staff from the two architectural firms worked together to shape the plans. Such a fascinating merge of a modern building and a historical building – in many other instances not done very well.

    We are fortunate to live in a city that was committed to doing this project and could afford it as well.

    Comment by John Gintell — January 9, 2015 @ 10:54 am

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