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Renovated Hayden Library and courtyard open to the MIT community

Transformational projects bring inclusive, welcoming spaces to the MIT campus.
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Photo of the interior of Hayden Library with seating areas and two people standing at a desk in the foreground; in the background is a glass-enclosed room and a staircase.
The entire first floor of Hayden Library is accessible 24/7 for current MIT students, faculty, and staff.
Photo: John Horner
Photo of a person walking by a cafe serving area in the foreground while people are sitting at cafe tables in the background.
The Courtyard Café offers coffee, drinks, sandwiches, and snacks and features a seating area overlooking the courtyard.
Photo: John Horner
Photo of the Building 14 courtyard as seen from a rooftop at dusk with trees, a curving walkway, and illuminated benches. There are about a dozen circular tables with chairs and two people are seated at one of them.
An accessible walkway winds through the Building 14 courtyard with new landscaping and nine Katsura trees.
Photo: John Horner
Photo of people sitting at tables in an area with a wall of windows along one side; a courtyard is visible through the windows.
The porch is a three-season community space featuring accordion-fold doors that open to the courtyard.
Photo: John Horner

The newly renovated Hayden Library and Building 14 courtyard opened to the MIT community Aug. 23. The spaces were re-envisioned to provide areas for collaborative work, exploring collections, a teaching and event space, a new cafe, and areas to unwind, surrounded by greenery and natural light.

“Libraries have a unique role to play at an institution like MIT, especially the physical spaces of the Libraries,” says MIT Libraries Director Chris Bourg. “It was critical that the new Hayden Library and courtyard meet some core needs for the MIT community, including a place for working hands-on with collections, spaces for collaborative group work and community building, and accessible, welcoming spots for working or relaxing in beautiful surroundings.”

A library for our current moment

Construction on the renovation began in January 2020 following a nine-month design phase that incorporated input from the MIT community with the vision for academic libraries outlined in the Institute’s Ad Hoc Task Force on the Future of Libraries. The design by Kennedy & Violich Architecture (KVA) creates flexible spaces that accommodate a range of teaching and learning needs — from focused, quiet study to collaborative work to casual conversation — and supports the important community functions of the libraries at MIT.

Entitled “Research Crossroads,” KVA’s design concept for Hayden reflects the many intersections that define research in today’s academic library — connections between disciplines, community members, and between digital and tangible collections. 

“So much of our vision for libraries has been given new urgency by the pandemic — the need for equitable digital access to information, adapting to hybrid modes of teaching and learning, and the essential role of physical space, including outdoor space, on a campus,” says Bourg. “With this renovation, the design and features of Hayden and the courtyard meet that new urgency with an almost uncanny prescience.”

First floor: Collaboration and community

By exposing the courtyard-facing windows on the first floor of the library, the renovation has created an expansive, double-height space filled with natural light. At the center, two double-height central pavilions clad in translucent glass and ash wood offer views to both the courtyard and the Charles River while providing eight new reservable group study rooms and a loft space for exhibits. A variety of seating areas, punctuated with whiteboards, movable curtains, and curated library displays, face the Boston skyline in the collaborative study area.

The first floor is also home to two brand new community spaces. The Nexus is a flexible teaching and gathering space that can be configured in different ways to host a range of events, from library workshops to MIT Reads author events. The Courtyard Cafe, open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., offers coffee, drinks, sandwiches, and snacks that can be enjoyed in a seating area overlooking the courtyard. The entire first floor, more than 10,000 square feet of space, is accessible 24 hours a day to current students, faculty, and staff.

Second floor: Quiet space and expert help

The second floor features the Quiet Reading Room, with Hayden’s signature window bays overlooking the river. Adjacent to the reading room is an area called the Oasis, envisioned as a technology-minimal zone for meditation, relaxation, and taking a study break.

In the second floor’s Consultation Suite, the community can meet with library experts in a range of subjects, scholarly communications, copyright, and more. Additional flexible study space for the MIT community has been added on the east end of the building on the second floor, including a Research Alcove for using library collections.

A revitalized courtyard

Working in collaboration with Stephen Stimson Associates Landscape Architects, KVA designed a woodland garden at the center of Building 14 with nine new Katsura trees and plantings in a new green topography bordered by paved walkways and seating areas. The renovated courtyard has two accessible entrances and a new, three-season porch extending along the east end of the courtyard. The porch’s accordion doors can open onto the courtyard in warm weather, and a perforated sun screen creates a dappled sunlight effect, extending the atmosphere of the tree canopy into the new space.

“In envisioning different ways that the MIT community could gather, collaborate, and conduct research, it was essential to design an intimate connection with nature in the courtyard,” says Sheila Kennedy, principal at KVA and professor of architecture in the MIT School of Architecture and Planning. “The new porch space minimizes energy loads and maximizes flexible uses on campus. It is a special place where people can enjoy a conversation with each other in the presence of plants and trees.”

Designed for inclusivity and wellness

In addition to targeting LEED Gold certification, the Hayden Library project meets a Fitwel certification goal that supports healthier workplace environments to help improve occupant health and productivity. The library is the first MIT construction project to target “‘Red List Free” materials for all interior finish materials and fabrics to create a healthier space for the community. All-gender restrooms throughout Building 14 provide equitable access for all members of the MIT community, and the second floor also features a lactation room. A new installation of art from the List Visual Arts Center throughout the second floor seeks to both engage the MIT community and reflect its diversity.

“The past year-and-a-half have underscored how important it is to connect with each other in physical spaces at MIT, as well as the need to do that in ways that promote health and well-being,” says Krystyn Van Vliet, associate provost and associate vice president for research. ”From the beginning, these projects have prioritized the needs of the MIT community, the value of green space, and the accessible, inclusive, and health-conscious aspects of campus space.”

Hayden Library and the Building 14 Courtyard are currently open to anyone in Covid Pass and escorted visitors. Please visit MIT Now for the latest information on campus access and Institute policies.

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