Looking Beyond The Books

OK, I haven’t been in a library for the last 30 years. Ouch. Well there was a jobsite walk through at Newburyport Library, hmmm, that was 20 years ago.

So why am I in the Woburn Public Library? Browsing for a book on horticulture perhaps? Nope. Looking through the National Geographic Magazines? Nope., I’m examining a masterpiece. Not, some artwork on the wall, but the wall itself. And not an ornate painted ceiling, but the ceiling itself.
Woburn Library Exterior
The Woburn Public Library was designed by HH Richardson. Whom, if you read my last blog, is a genius of American Architecture and our first truly American world recognized Architect. The Woburn Library is one of his finest works and we are proudly partnered with Woburn Library in their efforts to renovate the building. When offered the opportunity to walk the building with the Curators (I don’t call them Librarians, can’t do it) I jumped for joy at the chance to see every nook and cranny of the building. This included the attic, crawl spaces, and the balconies. Granted they were filled with dust and I was squinting through dim light, and parading around book stacks on balconies that restrict the walking space to 16” wide in some locations. But I had the time of my life.

Yeah, yeah, yeah – “some life.” Sorry, forget Disney, forget MGM Studios, give me an authentic tour around the inside of a great architectural contribution anytime. I saw how he planned and worked with Norcross on rafters and joists. I saw, up close, the carved panels and trim (each one totally unique from the next). I experienced his still living space that was still visible in the existing structure.
Woburn Library Interior
Perhaps the greatest testimony of a Richardsonian building is how each community has embraced and preserved the building. Not only has this gorgeous library been tenderly maintained, it has also been kept intact so that stacks are where he envisioned them. Some alterations have occurred, understandably, but even these were carefully completed – such as the introduction of the fire protection system (sprinklers) to conceal them or at least install them in manners non-intrusive to the rest of the design.

So yes, “Go to the Library” – go for the books, but also pay attention to the artwork and the architecture while you’re there.

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