Democracy bestowed : the Boston Public Library and the evolution of the ideal of civic education
Author(s)Fichter, Katherine Sophia, 1973-
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning.
Lawrence J. Vale.
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A critical examination of the architectural and institutional history of the Boston Public Library, this thesis blends primary sources and contemporary architectural theory to develop a thematic argument about the linkages between architecture, urban design, and the institutional mission of the Library. Beginning with a review of the early history of the public library movement in Boston and working through an in-depth analysis of the design and development of the Copley Square Library building (1895) of Charles Follen McKim and its substantial addition (1972) by Philip Johnson, this thesis demonstrates that the tools of architecture and urban design have been used in varying ways throughout the history of the Library to emphasize or de-emphasize different elements of the Library's institutional mission. In particular, the thesis traces the ways in which the use of architecture evolved in the seventy-seven years between the McKim Building and the Johnson addition, arguing that the design of the second structure implicitly and explicitly rejected the cultural agenda of the McKim Building in favor of a design of functionalism, efficiency, and consumerism. Where McKim integrated the aesthetics of personal and social uplift into his design, a design simultaneously elitist and democratic, Johnson produced a structure dedicated primarily to utility. The thesis concludes that, by so doing, Johnson sacrificed an opportunity - important to the core mission of American public libraries - to communicate the pleasure and privilege of reading and self-education. The thesis also includes a discussion of representative branch libraries, applying the same method of architectural and urbanistic analysis to three local facilities in order to provide a sense of the architectural and cultural development of the Boston Public Library outside of Copley Square.
Thesis (M.C.P.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning, 2002.Vita.Includes bibliographical references (leaves 162-177).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Urban Studies and Planning.