No. 455 . 09 December 2009 
ArchitectureWeek
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Cambridge Public Library

by James McCown

A stunning new addition has opened at the Cambridge Public Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Using ideas of transparency, inclusiveness, and efficiency as starting points, William Rawn Associates designed the glass-and-steel addition as a modernist foil to the original 1888 library by Van Brunt & Howe.

The older building's Richardsonian Romanesque style is all about ponderous granite and brownstone and circular geometry — arches, cylinders, and cones. The glass addition goes in the opposite direction aesthetically: it is light, transparent, crisp, and orthogonal. The new building is especially alluring at dawn and dusk, when a bright orange stairway shaped like a lightening bolt seems to hover weightlessly in the space behind the glass wall.

The project incorporates a number of sustainable design strategies and features. It has been submitted for LEED certification, and the architects are tracking a Silver rating. Ann Beha Architects served as associate architect, focused primarily on restoring the 27,200-square-foot (2,530-square-meter) historic library building.

Glass Skin from Germany

The most environmentally compelling and visually arresting feature of the 76,700-square-foot (7,130-square-meter) addition is its advanced double-skin curtain wall — the first comprehensive U.S. application of such a system by Gartner Steel and Glass GmbH, based in Würzburg, Germany.

In addition to providing depth and visual interest to the facade, the curtain-wall system transmits daylight deep into the building while maintaining thermal comfort throughout the region's seasonal extremes.   >>>

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