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New Athenæum

An athenaeum is a type of private library particular to New England. This is a new Athenaeum for youth that seeks to meld Boston’s literary and architectural traditions with the intensity of the modern city. Compelling urban places offer extremes of activity and intimacy, anonymity and personality. Writing and reading thrive on similar dichotomies: seclusion and engagement, plot and tone. The athenaeum tries to produce these extremes within the site. 


The center of the site is a small open space, an urban room. This room is flanked by porticos on each side. A slab tower fronting the north of the space has a bar, dining room, and meeting hall in its lower reaches. The south side is occupied by a small café and lounge. To the east are the reading rooms. The entrance to the library is announced by a copper clad volume. Scotia St. and St. Cecilia’s Street are repaved in granite, creating a unified precinct.

The interior has gradations of privacy, from the porous ground floor to the reading niches above the library. The project attempts to create a productive dissonance between a syncopated column grid and a commitment to local symmetries. The structural value of concrete is respected and copper is used as an accent material, in accordance with tradition. The buildings anticipate the effects of weathering.

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