In the Neighborhood: Inspiration at the Boston Public Library11.18.2013 | 8:39 am | Posted by Brianna Mannion

Blog Boston Public Library McKim

A truly breathtaking site in the heart of Copley Square is the Boston Public Library’s McKim wing, which showcases beautifully crafted marble, mosaic, and sculpture.  Designed by Charles Follen McKim in 1895, this building was intended to be a “palace for the people”.  It is a primary example of Renaissance Beaux-Arts Classicism and classical marble styling in the United States.

Upon entering the vestibule you are greeted with Tennessee Pink marble on the floors, walls, and vaulted ceiling.  Time has only improved this natural material, enhancing the smooth texture on the floor with the fresh step of every guest.  The entrance hall has a similar neutral hue conveyed through Iowa limestone in a Roman design with White “Creole” Georgian marble covering the floor. Make sure to look up towards the ceiling where you will see an intricate marble mosaic that showcases the true beauty of the material and art form.

The main staircase that leads up to the formal reading room on the second floor is made of ivory gray Echaillon marble which is mottled with fossil shells; a unique and diverse texture.  The walls are covered in richly variegated Yellow Siena as seen in the picture below. If you continue up these stairs you will see book-matched marble on the walls at each landing, which creates a beautifully symmetrical design.  This effect is still popular today with focal walls created through book-matching marble or onyx for a dramatic effect.  A great example of rich, darker marbles is Bates Hall located through the Chavannes Gallery on the second floor.  The doorways and fireplace are made with Rouge Antique and Rosso Levanto marble which is both sumptuous and timeless.  The floors are of particular interest and are made with Istrian and Red Verona marble.

The history and architecture the Boston Public Library has to offer is unparalleled in the country.  It is free to enter and does not require a library card. Next time you find yourself in Copley Square take some time to get inspired at the Boston Public Library.




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