Two SOM projects were honored at the 2019 AIA Chicago Design Excellence Awards. The annual program recognizes projects around the world that were designed by local Chicago firms. The West Loop Branch of the Chicago Public Library received a Citation of Merit in Interior Architecture, and the Wild Mile received a Citation of Merit in Urban Design.
The West Loop Branch is the first Chicago Public Library branch in its neighborhood and the 81st in the city. The two-story adaptive reuse project preserves the industrial character of two existing buildings while creating a new cultural and social center for the neighborhood. The buildings, formerly part of the Harpo Studios campus, were donated to the City of Chicago by Sterling Bay as part of the ongoing development and transformation of the West Loop. The renovated interior exposes the previously concealed original bow-truss ceilings and skylights to create a light-filled, loft-like space that reflects the West Loop’s factory-warehouse style. Non-structural walls that divided former TV studios and office spaces were removed throughout the 16,500-square-foot space, while new openings were created in the common wall of the conjoined buildings to create a unified interior. In addition to providing a new library and community center, the West Loop Library joins other city branches in providing free after-school tutoring and learning assistance within a high-quality, modern environment.
The Wild Mile will create a new environment for habitat, education, and recreation on the Chicago River. A collaboration with the City of Chicago, O-H Community Partners, Near North Unity Program, Omni Ecosystems, Tetra Tech, d’Escoto, and local community members, the project offers a vision of renewed urban ecology that will help strengthen connectivity, generate cleaner water, and support more vibrant ecosystems. When completed, the Wild Mile will transform the formerly industrialized, human-made branch of the Chicago River along Goose Island into a 17-acre floating eco-park that serves people, wildlife, and the environment. With a series of floating gardens, forests with public walkways, kayak docks, and other amenities, the project is designed to restore the river as a public trust.