Beautifully Brutal in Lawrence

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Sometimes, Brutalist architecture gets a bad rap. You’ll find a lot of it here in Massachusetts, ranging from the not-so-good (often controversial City Hall and Government Center) to cool places like the modern wing of the BPL, as well as many places in between (including the Brighton Branch of the BPL where I’m writing this post). It’s so monolithic, so dwarfing, so cold.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit the Lawrence Public Library and to see their beautifully brutal building up close and in person. I’m not going to pretend that it’s as complete or near-perfect as fantastic new libraries like Woburn or as historical as Franklin, but I will say it’s a fine spot for getting work done.

As is the case with many urban libraries, Lawrence has some limitations. There are no study rooms, for example, and some of the bathrooms are locked. Some parts are showing their age and the wear and tear that time brings. The Lawrence Library is also, however, an important part of its community and has a helpful and friendly staff.

One of the real highlights of the library is its very cool staircase, a spiraling column that rises from the bottom up to the top. It creates a nice open space you move through as you visit the various floors. On the ground floor, you’ll the children’s room, community rooms and the circulation desk, as well as a miniature version of the Statue of Liberty. On the second floor, there’s the adult collection, reading/co-working areas and a computer area, which was pretty popular. Up on the third floor, is a local history room, along with community meeting rooms and library offices.

Visiting Lawrence was a trip down memory lane as I went to Central Catholic High School (which, come to think about it, also featured Brutalist elements) there from 1980 to 1983. While my memories of Central Catholic aren’t all sunshine and rainbows, I do have positive feelings toward the city itself.

I may be in a minority, but I have positive feelings toward the blank austerity of Brutalism. Lawrence is a great example of it and it’s a library worth a visit if you find yourself in the area. Why not visit their website and learn more about the library?

Some of the sights from Lawrence.