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About Rotch

Rotch Library (7-238)

Mailing & street address:
77 Massachusetts Ave., 7-238
Cambridge, MA 02139


photo of Rotch LibraryArchitects: William Welles Bosworth with Harry J. Carlson
Built: 1938
Remodel/Expansion architect:
Remodel/Expansion Date: 1988-1991
Named after: Arthur Rotch (1850-1894), Architect, studied and taught at MIT, member of the Corporation.

Originally built in 1938 as part of the William Barton Rogers Building designed by William Welles Bosworth with Harry J. Carlson.  MIT’s Rotch Library of Architecture and Planning is one of the premier architecture libraries in the United States, supporting the first architecture program in the country. Rotch Library is also home to the Aga Khan Documentation Center, the GIS Lab, the Visual Collection and the Rotch Limited Access collections.

Although the library acquired an additional half floor of space in the mid-1950s, the collection had outgrown its 9,200 square-foot facility by the 1970s. However, its challenging site made plans for expansion difficult. A solution was proposed by Schwartz/Silver Architects – to suspend the floor from roof girders. These support the weight of the books from above, allowing the elimination of floor beams to maximize the narrow site. Six floors fit into the same space as the four of the original building, while still allowing for a 17-foot clearance for a truck turnaround below. A narrow, sky-lit atrium between the old building and the addition allows sunlight to reach offices and studios in the upper floors, mitigating entire elimination of views and natural light. The result is an addition that has been referred to as a ‘glass cage,’ which contains the stacks, limited-access collection, and exhibition gallery, while the renovated Bosworth building holds the main reading room and administrative offices.

photo of Rotch Library study spaceStudy space and technology:


Fun fact:

The Rotch Library supports MIT’s architecture program, which was the first in the country. The first professor was hired in 1865, and the first class was taught in 1868 at the original Boston campus.