Charlestown Preservation Society to Host Book Talk

Special to the Patriot-Bridge

A Book Talk is happening this week at the Charlestown Public Library.  The talk is called   called Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston. It is a discussion of Boston architecture, particularly the concrete structures built around Boston in the later 20th century of which the Charlestown library is a prime example.

The Charlestown Branch Library (1967-1970) was designed by Eduardo Catalano, an architect and student of Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer at Harvard University. Catalano designed an impressive list of concrete structures during his career that includes the Stratton Student Center and Eastgate Student House at MIT, the Juilliard School in New York (with Pietro Belluschi, 1969) and several United States Embassies. 

Catalano was commissioned by the Boston Public Library to design the Charlestown Branch where he implemented his interests in engineering, and expressed the craft and plastic qualities available with concrete through refined details. 

At the time, Main Street was dominated by the Charlestown Elevated Rail… The Orange Line ran on elevated tracks down Main Street and was scheduled to be dismantled as part of the urban renewal effort (it remained intact until 1975.) Anticipating the removal and the “opening up of Main Street,” Catalano and his associate Frederick Taylor made the building more public and urban with a large glass aperture at the south, orientated towards Main Street, admitting daylight deep into the volume of library space, and broadcasting the functions of the library to the street, inviting the public to enter. On the Green and Wood Street elevations, the walls form an identifiable facade with a cantilevered entrance canopy on Green Street that repeats the roof’s profile at a smaller scale, flipped to catch rain.

“Heavy concrete appears to float above glass panels and lands gently on four wide-flange steel connectors via triangular concrete feet. These are mirrored in the podium below, where the aggregate of the concrete is exposed to intensify the image of structural loads carried to the earth… There is a delicacy to this balancing act, an optical freeing of the weight of the building, with support points positioned toward the center of the long elevation.” Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston, Mark Pasnik, Michael Kubo and Chris Grimley. The Monacelli Press, 2015. Page 217.  

The event takes place this Thursday on  June 6 at  6:30PM  at the Charlestown Branch Library with Mark Pasnik, coauthor of Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston. He is an Architect and founding principal of OverUnder, a multi-disciplined architecture, urban, and experiential design firm with expertise in design and architectural conservation, specifically twentieth century buildings. 

Mark received the AIA Young Architects Award in 2013, the Boston Society of Architects’ Commonwealth Award in 2016, and was named to Out Magazine’s Out100 list in 2020, a nationwide honor recognizing innovators and advocates in the LGBTQ+ community. 

The Charlestown Branch Library, Architect Eduardo Catalano, is prominently featured in this book and will be a topic of the chat on Thursday evening. The book is available in the library prior to the talk.

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