June 6, 2022
Project #6 in our Centennial Year Countdown of our Top 100 Projects is Chicago’s Harold Washington Library Center. As a member of the SEBUS Group -- a joint venture group comprised of Schal Associates Partnership, Epstein, Hammond Beeby and Babka, and U.S. Equities Realty, Inc. -- Epstein helped shape the south loop area of the City of Chicago.
This 10-story, 750,000 square foot library center is one of the largest public libraries in the world. It is significant for the unique design/build aspect of its construction and its location among the historic buildings at the south end of the loop. As Architect of Record, Epstein was responsible for the architecture, structure and building management systems as well as management of 14 primary consultants in supporting disciplines.
The building is concrete frame, flat slab construction for the library floors, which are characterized by broad flexible floor plates. The upper two levels are steel frame and house the winter garden and administrative functions. The classical exterior is clad in brick and granite and is capped at the roof with large-scale decorative sculptural elements.
Typical library floors contain shelving stacks for the 1.5 million-volume collection as well as staff and reading areas. Most areas are served by an under floor cellular system allowing flexible distribution of communication, data and electrical wiring that support a truly state-of-the-art facility. In addition to shelf space, the library contains reader seating for 2,337 patrons, an auditorium that seats 385, multipurpose meeting rooms for 450 individuals, a video theater, an orientation theater, a public restaurant, a library store, and classrooms.
The center received an Award of Excellence for its design from the Urban Land Institute.