Cambridge Public Library

Illuminating the glass box — transparency celebrates the perfect marriage of old and new.

Using light as a transforming agent, Cambridge Public Library was brought up to date with state-of-the-art technology made for illumination in more ways than one. The original building opened in 1889 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The focal points of renovation consisted of the new glass wing and the existing 1888 Van Brunt and Howe building. Of particular concern was lighting the murals in the main reading room. Originally created in 1934 as part of the Works Progress Administration, the Murals were re-lit with xenon strips to bring out their rich colors.

As a historical landmark, paint colors and other finishes are restricted to those deemed to be accurate and appropriate. The approved interior paint finishes were much darker and required HLB to find creative ways to bring these dark spaces to brighter, contemporary light levels without overwhelming the architecture.

Project Highlights

• LEED Silver Certified
• 2,000 visitors each day


• Ann Beha Architects
• William Rawn Associates


Project Background

• 141,600 square feet
• $69 million


Illuminating Engineering Society (IES)
• Illumination Award of Merit

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