One of the branches of the Boston Public Library, the original Hyde Park Library was built in 1899 in the Classical Revival style. It was essentially unchanged until the expansion, restoration and renovation program planned and designed by Schwartz/Silver, which more than doubles the size of the facility to over 28,000 square feet.
The challenge was how to enhance the character and integrity of the original historic building, while at the same time making it a functional part of a larger, modern library. Located in a residential neighborhood, it was agreed that the extra space for an addition, required by the program, would be found at the side of the library by blocking off a side street. To maintain the balance and symmetry of the historic structure, the original brick fabric was extended with two small additions on either side, giving the building sufficient extra mass to allow its two story Doric portico entrance to remain the dominant element of the building. As a result, the new steel and glass addition appears much more deferential to the original building. It was also designed to be accepted by the authorities under a single construction classification which eliminated the need for a firewall and other interferences that would be required of a dual structure.
A critical aspect to our strategy was to keep the original portico entry as the main entrance to the facility. The problem was access. In order to not ruin the effect of the entrance with ramps, or create the operational burden and extra staff requirements of two entrances, the solution takes advantage of the sloping topography of the site to create a wheelchair accessible entry in the side of the portico. Operational efficiency is also addressed by providing the majority of library services on a single level across the entire facility.
Situated at the side of the original building, the addition is highly visible, and the option was chosen to create a dramatic stylistic contrast, which would at the same time be as sympathetic as possible in massing and scale. The new structure provides most of the space for new book stacks and areas for reading and audio-visual stations. Extra space in the original building was also reclaimed from the basement by lowering the floor three feet. At the other end of the facility, the topography of the site allowed a separate children's reading room on the lower level of the new addition. This is a bright and airy space looking out onto an enclosed children's garden, which is safe and easy to supervise.
Schwartz/Silver has worked carefully with area residents, with local organizations such as the Friends of Hyde Park Library and the trustees of the Hyde Park Historic Society, with the trustees of the Boston Public Library and members of the Save Boston Landmarks Commission to make sure that the character of the building is preserved and restored to the highest possible standards whilst providing the improvements, utility and comfort that modern technologies offer.
photographs (c) Steve Rosenthal