Chinatown Branch Library
- Chicago, IL
The design strives to link the outside with the inside, old Chinatown with new Chinatown, and the past with the future. The exterior of the building represents more than a mere building enclosure. The exterior protects the users within the new library, but at the same time, the exterior skin reaches out towards old Chinatown and new Chinatown alike. This perforated; terraced aluminum skin recalls rice fields of China, yet not in a literal way. This reinterpretation provides a contextual beginning that allows the project design to harken back to China’s past, but more importantly, it allows our design to be completely forward looking for Chinatown.
Although different, the interior provides a complimentary language from inside to out. Materials on the interior reinforce the calm and tranquil, yet activate the space within. All programmatic spaces are filled with natural light. This light is filtered by the perforated terraced skin on the building exterior. Entry to the building is from the acute angle created by the intersection of Archer Avenue and Wentworth. This serves as the prime entry into the library and is a focal point of the design, however it can be argued that our design has many foci. A second entrance into the library is from the garden courtyard. This entry is equally inviting and security and visibility is never compromised from either of the two entry points.
What further enriches the design and provides a greater link to the Chinatown neighborhood is the incorporation of a sculpture garden and garden courtyard. The project team worked closely with the Zhou B Art Center to develop a sculpture garden that celebrates Chinese art and bring notoriety and visibility to some of the world’s foremost artists. The garden courtyard provides the key link between the public and private components of the library. It is an inviting space that welcomes all and is along the processional path linking old and new Chinatown.