The glass-domed Grand Reading Room at the University of Chicago opened on Monday to the delight of students looking for a sunny spot to study. Outfitted with Low-E, fritted glass, the energy efficient dome ensures that daylight gets in, but doesn't overheat the space. Joe and Rika Mansueto, alumni of the University of Chicago, donated $25 million to fund construction of the Helmut Jahn-designed facility. The library also features an underground automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) capable of storing 3.5 million books.
A large egg-shaped glass dome blankets the airy 8,000 sq ft reading room, which provides study space for 180 students. Also inside the dome are three glass research cubicles for students to use in solitude while studying large numbers of texts for up to two weeks. A high performance facade of Low-E glass with a ceramic frit dot pattern applied to the interior ensures that daylight gets in but doesn’t overheat. In fact, the glass rejects 73% of the solar heat gain and lets in 50% of the visible light.
While many universities are moving away from physical book collections towards digital libraries, the University of Chicago wanted to maintain their collection and keep it on site. To do this efficiently and maximize their space, the university placed their collection underground and makes use of the same robotic technology that car manufacturers do. The automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) stores the entire collection is a space one-seventh the size of conventional shelving methods. A computer tracks the books’ locations and uses a robot to retrieve them when students request them from the system. The university will finish cataloging their collection next fall.
The reading room sits next to the Regenstein Library and is connected via a covered walkway. To construct the new facility, a number of old growth trees unfortunately had to be removed. Those that could not be transplanted were reclaimed to create one-off pieces of furniture for use in the University’s Regenstein Library.
Images ©Jason Smith, Courtesy of the University of Chicago