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Old 07-21-2011, 11:25 PM   #1
BostonUrbEx
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East Boston Library Branch

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Plan for new East Boston Branch Library to move forward
Posted by Jeremy C. Fox July 21, 2011 11:58 AM


Christine Schonhart, director of branch libraries, raises the roof so residents can get a look inside a model of the planned design for a new East Boston Branch Library.

By Jeremy C. Fox, Town Correspondent

Boston will push forward with plans for a dramatically modern new public library branch at the northeast tip of East Boston’s Bremen Street Park, despite being waitlisted for state funding.

The decision by Mayor Thomas M. Menino was announced Wednesday night at a public meeting in East Boston. City officials said that though the project was not among the eight municipal library improvement projects awarded grants by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners last Thursday, Menino was committed to seeing the project completed on schedule.

“The mayor said, ‘Under no condition are we going to stop on this project,’” said Joseph I. Mulligan III, deputy director of the city’s Capital Construction Division. “He said, ‘We have to move forward on this.’ The mayor made a full commitment to moving forward on the project without hesitation, and if there’s an issue on reimbursement, we will wait the state out.”

The state board awarded more than $27.4 million to the eight grant recipients, with the largest sum, $6.3 million, going to West Springfield. Boston’s request for $7.3 million for the East Boston Branch is dead-last among the 15 on the wait list. Another six were turned down by the state and will have to resubmit their proposals.

Christine Schonhart, director of branch libraries for the Boston Public Library, said the setback didn’t come as a surprise because the board tends to prioritize funding to main libraries over branch libraries. She said the same thing had happened to the Mattapan branch library several years ago, and it eventually received state funding.

If construction begins on schedule in the spring of 2012, the new branch could open as early as fall of 2013, according to Jim McGaffigan, the city project manager who will oversee the work.

The plan for the new library is worlds away from both the staid, Classical Revival East Boston Branch on Meridian Street and the squat, brick Orient Heights Branch. The design is light and airy, with a glass wall facing Bremen Street Park and the downtown skyline and a roof made up of undulating strips that wouldn’t be out of place on a building designed by Frank Gehry.

Designed to bring the park into the indoor space, the plan features distinct areas for adults, young adults, and children over its 14,870 square feet, but the spaces are delineated by color selections, furniture styles, and roof alignments rather than walls.

The wavelike strands of the roof allow for spaces in between where windows bring more sunlight in, and the side facing south into the park includes a 1,000-square-foot sheltered reading porch with low seating and space intended to be used as an “outdoor classroom” for children.

The entrance is at the southwest corner, with doors leading toward the park and toward Bremen Street itself. The 2,297-square-foot children’s area is positioned on the eastern edge of the space for safety, with clear sightlines across the space to allow librarians and parents to keep an eye on the children. A multipurpose room adjacent to the children’s area will accommodate up to 80 seats for a public meeting but can also be used for performances, children’s crafts, and other community purposes.

The design calls for a new sidewalk and plaza area along Bremen Street next to the library, which will range from around 20–26 feet in width. The sidewalk and plaza will include a continuation of the street trees that line the park, landscaping with native plants, stormwater management features, a book drop, and parking for bicycles. The current plan includes space for about 20 bikes, but at the suggestion of a resident at Wednesday’s meeting, that number may increase.

The planners also hope to include in the plaza’s paving some recycled stones from the Works Progress Administration wall that currently defines the lower edge of the site where the library is to be built. That wall is planned to be torn down so there will be no barriers between the library and the park.

Architects Mark Oldham and Carla Ceruzzi from William Rawn Associates worked closely with a community advisory committee on the design, which is planned to score Silver or better on the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, rating system.

The plan met with a generally warm reception among the three dozen or so residents who braved the heat wave to attend Wedneday’s meeting. But Susan Parker Brauner, owner of local real estate company Parker Associates, raised concerns over plans to display only a rotating selection of a historic set of paintings rather than the entire series.

The 14 paintings from the series “The History of Shipping” by Frederick Leonard King were another WPA project executed during the 1930s. The paintings hung in the Jeffries Point branch until that library was closed and they moved to their current home in the Meridian Street branch.

Mulligan told Brauner that the nature of the new building, with less wall space and more glass, made it difficult to hang every painting in the set and that it was the planners’ intent to also leave some room for new works of art created by East Boston residents and students.

Though Brauner contended that the wishes of the community were not fully taken into account in the planning process, Mary Berninger, a member of the citizens’ advisory committee for the project, commended city officials and the architects for their attention to residents’ goals and desires for the library.

“Every single professional listens to this community,” Berninger said, “and you may think that when we include so much information, how can they possibly retain it? The very next meeting every one of them come back, and it was clear that they listen to us. They listen to all the constituencies. Nobody was left out. And the best thing that happened in the process, everything was done through the consensus of the group.”

Email Jeremy C. Fox at jeremycfox@gmail.com.


The library model seen with the roof in place. In the foreground is the existing community garden at the northwest edge of Bremen Street Park.
- http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/...ton_branc.html
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forget it ever happening, its too great an idea.
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Old 07-21-2011, 11:27 PM   #2
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Re: East Boston Library Branch

I think it looks beautiful, but I can only imagine trying to sit inside while getting blasted with sun. Shadeless libraries are terrible places to spend any length of time.
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Old 07-21-2011, 11:31 PM   #3
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Re: East Boston Library Branch

Bright sun isn't so great for the books, either.
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Old 07-21-2011, 11:49 PM   #4
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Re: East Boston Library Branch

Hopefuly the architech understands about the difference between the sun in say mid January and mid July -- I'm presuming the roof will block the direct sun midday in the summer
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Old 07-22-2011, 12:07 PM   #5
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Re: East Boston Library Branch

I regret missing this meeting. I love the design, the undulating roof an obvious reference to Aalto's Viipuri Library. Rawn's a good architect, and I can only assume there's an environmental control system in the plan to regulate natural light and heat-gain, perhaps something similar to the double-skin curtain wall used in the new wing of Cambridge Library.

That said, I'm fundamentally opposed to this project, mostly due to the fact that the site is in the glide-path of Runway 15/33 (proposed site marker "A"). Isn't quiet the main attribute of a library's atmosphere?

Also worth considering, the existing buildings, though in dire need of upgrade, could still carry out their intended purpose. Both the main branch on Meridian Street, and the smaller satellite in Orient Heights are worthy of preservation efforts. Would the cost of upgrading these buildings exceed the cost of new construction? I've asked a few people close to this project, and have never received a straight answer.

I'm also not particularly enthused with transit access to the proposed site. It's a dispiriting 10 minute walk across a tough intersection from Wood Island Station. The Meridian Street location is on a main bus line, and the Heights location is about a hundred yards from the Blue Line. If we had to go with new construction at an new location, why not Maverick Square? A project of this type would be transformative.
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Old 07-22-2011, 12:16 PM   #6
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Re: East Boston Library Branch

If the library faces Bremen Street Park, Airport station would be closer than Wood Island.
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Old 07-22-2011, 12:30 PM   #7
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Re: East Boston Library Branch

Good point, Ron.

(The heat must be getting to me.)

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Old 07-30-2011, 10:54 PM   #8
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Re: East Boston Library Branch

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If the library faces Bremen Street Park, Airport station would be closer than Wood Island.
It's about as far from Wood Island as it is Airport, although access is best from Airport due to traffic concerns.

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Old 07-30-2011, 11:54 PM   #9
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Re: East Boston Library Branch

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Originally Posted by Beton Brut View Post
I regret missing this meeting. I love the design, the undulating roof an obvious reference to Aalto's Viipuri Library. Rawn's a good architect, and I can only assume there's an environmental control system in the plan to regulate natural light and heat-gain, perhaps something similar to the double-skin curtain wall used in the new wing of Cambridge Library.

That said, I'm fundamentally opposed to this project, mostly due to the fact that the site is in the glide-path of Runway 15/33 (proposed site marker "A"). Isn't quiet the main attribute of a library's atmosphere?

Also worth considering, the existing buildings, though in dire need of upgrade, could still carry out their intended purpose. Both the main branch on Meridian Street, and the smaller satellite in Orient Heights are worthy of preservation efforts. Would the cost of upgrading these buildings exceed the cost of new construction? I've asked a few people close to this project, and have never received a straight answer.

I'm also not particularly enthused with transit access to the proposed site. It's a dispiriting 10 minute walk across a tough intersection from Wood Island Station. The Meridian Street location is on a main bus line, and the Heights location is about a hundred yards from the Blue Line. If we had to go with new construction at an new location, why not Maverick Square? A project of this type would be transformative.
They had studies that included renovating the current East Boston branch, moving next door to the old Seville Theatre, and moving to a space just off Maverick Square. Renovating both the Seville and the current branch were more expensive or yielded less space, the Maverick Square location would have required a public/private agreement to build a new complext that would have been about as expensive as the the Bremen Street location but lacked the needed parking and provided less access for those from Orient Heights and Eagle Hill than the other three options.

Building on the already empty lot next to the park at least provides equal access to those coming from the vast majority of the neighborhood with great transit access from the 120 and Blue Line with decent parking and a kid-friendly space already there.

Noise isn't too bad from the park, you hardly notice planes. The worst noise is from fire/ems/police sirens.

The branch's website has the meeting notes and address the concerns that were raised here...although they don't have the site study online anymore.
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Old 04-19-2012, 05:04 PM   #10
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Re: East Boston Library Branch

Site preparation is under way.



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Old 11-18-2012, 01:40 PM   #11
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Re: East Boston Library Branch

Taking shape:







Bonus: shitty multi-unit infill, directly across the street...

Yay, value engineering!
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Old 11-19-2012, 09:25 AM   #12
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Re: East Boston Library Branch

Wow. They took "respecting context" way too literally there.
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Old 11-19-2012, 10:30 AM   #13
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Re: East Boston Library Branch

The infill project has a second entrance down Bremen Street, but unfavorable lighting conditions made iPhone pics of its awful majesty impossible. It's actually the size of three 3-deckers, probably a dozen units. The exterior is finished in engineered wood siding, of a color similar to the fake turds sold in joke shops. Classy!
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Old 11-19-2012, 11:30 AM   #14
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Re: East Boston Library Branch

Those curves are SEXY. Hot damn.

It's like a poor man's take on Renzo Piano's Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, CH. It also brings to mind Beyer Blinder Belle's Natick Collection addition roof.
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Old 11-19-2012, 11:51 AM   #15
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Re: East Boston Library Branch

Love the design, data, but have my doubts about siting it here, in the glidepath of Logan's longest runway. And until Bill Rawn tells me otherwise, I think the curvy roof is a reference to Viipuri.

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