Ann Beha Architects Completes Renovation of Harvard University’s Houghton Library


BOSTON — Ann Beha Architects announced the completed renovation of the Houghton Library, Harvard University’s principal repository for rare books and manuscripts.

In addition to significant changes to the building’s interior, the project included a redesign of the exterior entrance forecourt, enhancing the library’s presence in Harvard Yard and creating an accessible environment for students, faculty, staff, and visitors. A broad, welcoming staircase leads directly to the main entrance, flanked by a pair of graded walkways offering a universally accessible approach to the building.

ABA’s design modified the library’s oval lobby, unaltered since its completion in 1942, to create a new display setting for the library’s unparalleled special collections. Two openings, aligned with exterior windows, were created in the lobby, connecting the interior to the new forecourt and introducing natural but modulated light to the lobby. In this brightened and visually activated area, library ambassadors welcome and assist visitors. Modernized exhibition cases around the lobby perimeter display rotating exhibits drawn from the library’s holdings. A relocated and expanded cloakroom with lockers provides secure storage for patrons’ belongings, and a new visitor elevator now enables direct access to public spaces on all levels of the building, including new ground-floor ADA-compliant restrooms and second-floor exhibition space and classrooms.

A reconfigured, modernized reading room on the first floor supports both individual and collaborative research. Changes include a consultation room for reader check-in and materials requests and an adjacent group study room. These spaces are visually connected to each other and to the main reading room by full-height glazed partitions, which also provide acoustic separation between the three spaces. A new cork floor and acoustically treated ceiling contribute to the quieting of the rooms. Improved lighting, new adjustable-height chairs, and custom-designed tables make research comfortable and accessible for all.

The renovated building pairs heritage spaces with design interventions that meet contemporary needs, creating an inclusive setting that supports diverse approaches to research, learning, and teaching.


Client: Harvard University Faculty of the Arts and Sciences Office of Physical Resource and Planning on behalf of Houghton Library

Architect: Thomas M Hotaling AIA, Principal-in-Charge; Ann M. Beha FAIA, Collaborating Principal; Jonathan Ross AIA, Project Director; Ian Miller AIA, Project Manager/Project Architect; Katherine Ernst, Designer; Stacey Wilson, Designer

Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing Engineer: R. W. Sullivan

Structural Engineer: LeMessurier Consultants, Inc.

Lighting Designer: Sladen Feinstein Integrated Lighting

Acoustics: Acentech

Exhibit Design/Signage/Graphics: IKD

Landscape Architect: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates

Code Consultant: Hastings Consulting Inc.

Specifications: Kalin Associates Inc.

Building Documentation: Existing Conditions Survey, Inc.

Construction Manager: Consigli Construction

Photographer: Peter Vanderwarker.