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Adams Street Branch Library


Boston, United States

July 2021


Nader Tehrani



Boston Public Facilities Department


John Horner


The Adams Branch is nestled into one of Boston’s great working-class neighborhoods and is set at a focal point where Adams Street bends, making its presence a marker for the neighborhood. The library's mandate is to make porous connections to the street and ensure accessibility to all. A single pitch monumentalizes the façade on Adams Street, while a breakdown of peaked roofs creates a diminutive scale for the back alley. The folded roof is composed of a series of surfaces that draw rainwater towards the eastern alley, creating a watershed in a new pedestrian landscape. By extracting a wedge out of the southern portion of the site we draw in light and air into the center of the building. In turn, we create three gardens: one in the south planted with a dense foliage of birch trees, one in the north framing an existing heritage oak tree, and one in the east that collects the majority of the rainwater drawn from the roof.
The subdivision of the mat building plan is brutally simple. With a circulation desk located in a panoptic center, the adults, teens, and children are given separate wings. A community room at the north of the building takes advantage of the oak tree reading garden to gain flexible access from the exterior for special events. At the periphery of each age group’s space, we offer a reading area that is tangent to the outdoor gardens.


In 2016 our team began to collaborate with the Boston Public Facilities Department and the Boston Public Library on a feasibility study that evaluated various options of renovating the existing building, expanding the existing building, or creating a new building. The design team worked with the following stakeholders to study options and to develop the program and design:
ADMINISTRATIVE OVERSIGHT: Boston Public Facilities Department, Boston Public Library
ADMINISTRATIVE USERS: Branch Librarians, Friends of the Adams Street Branch Library
COMMUNITY STAKEHOLDERS: Dorchester neighborhood residents and volunteers
Community input was critical in many regards with a strong influence in programming and in the rescue of a heritage oak tree on site.


This neighborhood library project was designed to last with integrated massing, systems, materials, and gardens to support the Dorchester community.

MASSING AND INTEGRATION: The figure of the roof and its ability to control rainwater, the overhangs that shield the building from the harshest summer sun, the rain gardens, and native plants are all integrated into a powerful relationship of massing and systems.

MATERIALS INTEGRATION: Materials including terra cotta, made from natural, recyclable raw materials with low CO2 energy consumption—and glulam beams, made from recyclable wood with a low carbon footprint—make the building a warm and inviting environment for the public.

ENVIRONMENTAL INTEGRATION: Extensive views of the gardens and neighborhood, the diffusion of natural light and integration of automated artificial light, separation of loud and quiet zones, as well as sound absorption strategies integrated into the ceiling provide patrons with a sense of well-being.

SMART SYSTEMS INTEGRATION: The building management system software integrates mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and lighting to fully automate and control the building, allowing facilities to balance the building and provide the best possible comfort to patrons.

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