The 16,000-square-foot Chicago Public Library, Chinatown Branch serves as a new civic, educational, and social hub for Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood, providing a much-needed public gathering place geared toward inclusive community activities and technology-based learning. Its design balances elegant aesthetics, pragmatic programming, and green design solutions.
The library—adjacent to the Cermak-Chinatown CTA Red Line train stop—sits at the intersection of South Archer Avenue and South Wentworth Avenue. The building’s south-facing entrance, softened triangular shape, and flowing interior spaces and circulation reference Feng Shui design principles that resonate with the values held by the community. The community meeting area and children’s zone are placed at the ground level for visibility and accessibility, while teen and adult zones are situated on the second level for views and flexibility. Like a traditional Chinese courtyard, all spaces connect to the central atrium with a daylit oculus above and open stairway providing clear orientation and spatial cohesion. A 60’ long mural was commissioned to illustrate the story of immigration by the community.
Integral to the design, sustainable features such as radiant cooling and heating, in-ground thermal storage tanks, a green roof and in-ground storm water retention system, natural daylighting technologies, and green roof. A solar shading screen is integrated into the glass curtain wall, resulting in a building that consumes 30 percent less energy than a typical library.
Built with off-the-shelf, low-cost components, the Chinatown Branch Library serves as a critical piece of architecture that meets the community’s diverse needs with a context-specific design.