SOM recently completed a new LEED Gold-seeking library that’s more than just green—it also incorporates ancient Feng Shui principles. Built by Wight & Co., the recently opened Chinatown Branch Library is a new civic, educational, and social hub that draws design inspiration from the surrounding community. The curved two-story library also boasts many sustainable features, including a green roof and a solar shading screen.
Located in Chicago’s Near South Side, the 16,000-square-foot library replaced one of the Chicago Public Library’s most visited branches. “It was of utmost importance that the community contribute to the design visioning process,” wrote SOM. “The results of the visioning session communicated that today’s urban branch library is not a place solely visited for the purpose of accessing encyclopedic knowledge. Instead, it acts as a community anchor where citizens can connect with global resources and ideas.”
As a result of community input, the architects referred to ancient Feng Shui principles to create the building’s three-sided, pebble-like shape. The soft curves match the existing alignment of the surrounding avenues and avoid sharp corners, while allowing for fluid pedestrian movement, ample landscaping, and viewpoints. Like a traditional Chinese courtyard, the two-story building is organized around a central atrium that brings natural light and ventilation into the library. The colorful interior spaces were created for maximum flexibility and multipurpose use.
Natural light floods the library through a double-glazed glass curtain wall punctuated by solar-shading fins that reduces solar heat gain and glare without compromising views. Designed to meet LEED Gold certification, the library also features a green roof with native grasses; permeable paving; LED lighting; and radiant cooling and heating that help create the library’s comfortable and energy-efficient environment. Passive solar design principles informed the decision to place the building core to the west to minimize solar gain and glare.
“The Chinatown Branch recognizes the critical role that the library plays in uniting the Chinatown community. It creates a key community anchor and an enduring cultural asset that will serve community members of all ages and accommodate diverse activities,” says Brian Lee FAIA, SOM Design Partner. “We hope the building creates a memorable architectural statement that embodies 21st century Chinatown. We are incredibly proud of its design and its position as a library of the future in Chicago’s urban fabric.”
Images via SOM, Jon Miller © Hedrich Blessing