City of Boston

Boston Public Library, Johnson Building Improvements

Project at a Glance

Boston, MA


William Rawn Associates

Project Type


Project Overview

  • Scheduled phasing and logistics approaches to minimize impacts within the continually operating Boston Public Library
  • Fast-track procurement within the guidelines of Chapter 149A procedures
  • Integrated new façade components and program areas within existing 1972 library—components of which had designated landmark status, requiring Boston Landmarks Commission approval when altered

Designed by renowned American architect Philip Johnson and opened in 1972, the Johnson Building is considered an iconic modern building that has been designated a Boston Landmark. The improvements for the Johnson Building included realizing the goals of the BPL’s strategic plan with new program areas, improving access to the historic McKim Building and stronger street-level connections to the City. The renovations also addressed building systems upgrades and required scope to meet current codes.

Understanding the importance of the Johnson Building to the community and its service to the 25 City branch libraries, the facility remained open and operational throughout construction. All work was carefully phased to minimize impacts, with the majority of disruptive work performed on off-hours shifts. The revitalized library features a welcoming front lobby and updated program areas including a children’s library, teen area and a reader-friendly collection on the second floor. The granite façade was transformed with the installation of a glass curtain wall façade system to create a stunning front door to the community.