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.
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.