Olmsted Library

Lane Raffaldini Rubin (website)
Harvard University Graduate School of Design
Core Studio II
Brief: Garden Library for the Museum of Fine Arts
Faculty: Luis Callejas (website)


Perhaps Olmsted would be happy to know that the new library studding his Emerald Necklace let the ground be. Better yet, that it brought with it new gardens that before could not have grown there. Sitting among the trees, soaring above the trees, respecting and protecting the books, respecting the city and the ground—the library establishes a new realm, a new landscape, in a familiar place.

Can a private institution be introduced in a public site of complex historical, cultural, and ecological meaning in such a way that those values are not only protected but also enriched? This library, for the Museum of Fine Arts, is situated on a parkland site of Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace along the Muddy River. Treating the books as valuable and irreplaceable, the library is raised from the ground to distance itself from the threat of damage by flood. Thus it respects the rich ground, topography, and trees that Olmsted laid out, and exists within the canopy of the trees instead. The spaces are considered as corridors, lined with bookshelves that constitute the walls. The thermal inertia of the building mass forms microclimates between these halls where high densities of new plantings may be introduced on the ground, allowing new gardens to grow in these spaces of increased temperature and sunlight. The library establishes a new canopy to be occupied from beneath, from within, and from above.

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