The Cambridge Public Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts received a renovation in recent years which involved blending the existing historic library with a striking modern addition. Architect William Rawn designed the new 76,700 square foot glass building and seamlessly connected it to the original Romanesque-style library built in 1889. Architect Ann Beha worked on the preservation of the original building. With old and new combined, the Cambridge Public Library is now 103,900 square feet. The massive renovation has made it possible for the library to expand its services to the public, which includes approximately two-thousand visitors per day. The project is LEED Silver certified and has received more than twenty design awards, including the 2015 AIA Honor Award for Architecture.
The decision to have the new library be a Green building was the plan from the very beginning of the design process. The building attained LEED Silver certification due to a number of elements, including the double-skin curtain wall, which is the first in the U.S. to incorporate three key ingredients of European double-skin curtainwall technology: 3'-0" deep airspace, multi-story thermal flue, and movable 1'-0" deep sunshades. The large-scale double-skin curtain wall serves as the building's front façade, measuring 180' long by 45' high.
According to William Rawn Associates, "The double-skin facade achieves a remarkable transparency, in spite of its southwest orientation while protecting from excessive heat gain, heat loss, and glare. Automated systems inside the glass wall control heat and glare to make appealing reading spaces year-round. The facade saves energy (50 % reduction compared to conventional curtainwall) and maximizes comfort at the reading spaces. The 3' airspace opens in summer to keep heat from entering the building and closes in the winter to create an insulating 'thermal blanket'."
Some of the other design elements that help make the new library sustainable include the re-use of an historic landmark, the conservation of material resources, the preservation of an important cultural treasure, the maximizing of natural light, the significant natural light introduced through transparent main and north facades and at both ends of the main circulation spine, a skylit atrium, high-efficiency light fixtures that are controlled by sun sensors and zone-specific dimming system, natural ventilation through operable windows in the facade which allow fresh air to flow throughout the year, and a 350,000 gallon stormwater retention tank which provides stormwater management for a 3-square mile section of the city.
With the new addition onto the beautiful old 19th century building, visitors to the library can now choose whether they want to read in the building's original oak-paneled Victorian reading room or in one of the modern glass sunlit reading areas.
The original library, which was designed in 1887 by Van Brunt and Howe and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, had become too small for its collection. The old building was crammed with stacks and historic WPA murals painted in 1934, were obscured. The Reading Room is now properly lit and the murals have been beautifully restored and are visible to library patrons.
"Combined with a newly landscaped park, a 33,000-square-foot green roof and an underground parking garage, the facility has been transformed into one of the country's premier libraries. This project also included open space enhancement and received the largest grant in the history of Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners ($10.7M). The building has capacity for over 275,000 books, 90 computer stations, reservable meeting rooms and a 220 seat auditorium."
William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc. has won numerous awards for the new Cambridge Public Library, including the Parker Medal for the Most Beautiful Building in Boston, BSA; 2012 CNU Charter Award, Congress for the New Urbanism; 2010 Annual Design Review Award, ARCHITECT Magazine (November 2010 Issue); 2010 Honor Award, New England Chapter, AIA; 2010 Honor Award, BSA, among others.