Chicago Public Library – West Loop Branch

Chicago West Loop Library
CPL West Loop Branch
CPL West Loop Branch

The community-centered transformation of two former industrial buildings brings flexible, interactive learning spaces to Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood.

Project Facts
  • Status Construction Complete
  • Completion Year 2018
  • Size Site Area: 10,800 square feet Building Height: 33 feet Number of Stories: 2 Building Gross Area: 16,500 square feet
  • Awards
    2019, Design Excellence Awards, The American Society of Interior Designers, Inc. 2019, Design Excellence, AIA Chicago 2019, Frank Lloyd Wright, AIA – Illinois Chapter 2019, Project of the Year -- Under 60,000 RSQ, CoreNet Chicago 2019, Best of Year Finalist, Interior Design Magazine 2019, A+ Awards, Architizer 2020, AIA 2020 Interior Architecture Awards, American Institute of Architects (AIA)
  • Collaborators Gwen Grossman Lighting Design
Project Facts
  • Status Construction Complete
  • Completion Year 2018
  • Size Site Area: 10,800 square feet Building Height: 33 feet Number of Stories: 2 Building Gross Area: 16,500 square feet
  • Awards
    2019, Design Excellence Awards, The American Society of Interior Designers, Inc. 2019, Design Excellence, AIA Chicago 2019, Frank Lloyd Wright, AIA – Illinois Chapter 2019, Project of the Year -- Under 60,000 RSQ, CoreNet Chicago 2019, Best of Year Finalist, Interior Design Magazine 2019, A+ Awards, Architizer 2020, AIA 2020 Interior Architecture Awards, American Institute of Architects (AIA)
  • Collaborators Gwen Grossman Lighting Design

Adapting historic architecture to serve the community

The new West Loop library is the first-ever Chicago Public Library branch in the community and the 81st for the city. Donated to the City of Chicago by Sterling Bay as part of the ongoing development and transformation of the West Loop, the two-story adaptive reuse project preserves the industrial character of two buildings that were formerly part of the Harpo Studios campus, while creating a new cultural and social center for the neighborhood.

CPL
© Tom Harris

Formed of two existing conjoined buildings, the library features a weathered steel exterior, which develops a protective rust-like patina over time, to unify the facade and guide visitors through the steel-framed entrance. The renovated interior exposes the previously concealed original bow-truss ceilings and skylights to create a light-filled, loft-like space that evokes the historic factory and warehouse buildings that characterize the West Loop. 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 two buildings to create a unified interior. Low, mahogany-topped bookshelves and blackened steel elements throughout establish a sense of visual continuity and create intimate reading, study, play, and staff spaces.

CPL
© Tom Harris

An engaging, interactive learning environment

A series of architectural and graphic interventions throughout the building announces various programmatic areas, including all-ages reading spaces, flexible community and meeting rooms on the second floor, and a YOUmedia teen digital learning space with a recording studio. A “Tinkering Lab” provides a digital space for younger children, who are also served by several early learning spaces. These include existing alcoves transformed into storytelling rooms, featuring interactive play elements and walls with magnetic and writable surfaces for enhanced learning. Throughout the library, wall graphics featuring sound waves woven with excerpts from books selected by librarians convey the power of words and stories.

In addition to providing a new library and community center, the West Loop branch joins other city branches in providing free after-school tutoring and learning assistance within a high-quality, modern environment.

Spiked with splashes of bold color and blocks of stenciled text, the reading room has a raw ambiance as chic as any high-end loft, with comfortable furniture and reading nooks that make it only too easy for library visitors to get lost in a good book.