The Chinatown Branch of the Chicago Public Library has been honored by the American Institute of Architects and the American Library Association/Library Leadership and Management Association as one of seven recipients of the 2016 AIA/ALA Library Building Awards. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), the Chinatown Branch provides a much-needed public gathering place geared toward inclusive community activities and driven by technology-based learning. The award, juried by distinguished industry professionals, was created to honor excellent library architecture that establishes progressive models for future libraries. “We're so pleased the building has received a widespread, positive reception and become a vibrant and meaningful part of the community's daily life,” said Brian Lee, SOM Design Partner and Design Architect of the library.
Since opening in late August 2015, the library has quickly become a new gathering place in the Chinatown neighborhood. The facility it replaced was the most visited library branch in the Chicago Public Library system, and the new branch is maintaining this distinction. From September through December 2015, over 95,000 visitors checked out nearly 55,500 items, an increase of over 20,000 visitors and 23,000 items compared to the same time period in 2014. Events at the Chinatown library include tai chi, financial advice workshops, U.S. citizenship application assistance, arts and crafts, Chinese-English story time, an engineering club, English and Chinese classes, a writers' workshop, Cantonese opera, and more.
The building’s south-facing entrance, softened triangular shape, and gentle interior circulation reference Feng Shui design principles and resonate with the values held by the community. The community meeting area and children’s zone are placed at the ground level while teen and adult zones are situated on the second level. Like a traditional Chinese courtyard plan, all spaces connect to the central atrium room, providing clear orientation and spatial cohesion. Sustainable design features include radiant cooling and heating, in-ground thermal storage tanks, a green roof and in-ground stormwater retention system, and natural daylighting technologies. A collaboration between SOM and architect of record, Wight & Company, the library is designed to achieve LEED® Gold status.
The 2016 AIA/ALA Library Building Awards jury recognized that the exceptional design of the library responds directly to the civic, educational, and social needs of a diverse community, while meeting crucial sustainability objectives. The building serves as a critical piece of architecture that meets the community’s diverse needs and enhances the neighborhood’s collective vibrancy.
About Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) is one of the leading architecture, interior design, engineering, and urban planning firms in the world, with an 80-year reputation for design excellence and a portfolio that includes some of the most important architectural accomplishments of the 20th and 21st centuries. Since its inception, SOM has been a leader in the research and development of specialized technologies, new processes and innovative ideas, many of which have had a palpable and lasting impact on the design profession and the physical environment. The firm’s longstanding leadership in design and building technology has been honored with more than 1,700 awards for quality, innovation, and management. The American Institute of Architects has recognized SOM twice with its highest honor, the Architecture Firm Award—in 1962 and again in 1996. The firm maintains offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Mumbai, and Abu Dhabi.