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Chicago Chinatown library night
Photograph: CC/Flickr/Smart Chicago Collaborative

Chicago's Chinatown library receives prestigious architecture design award

Written by
Nick Kotecki
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Chicago's Chinatown branch library received top honors on Tuesday when it was awarded a Library Building Award from the American Institute of Architects and the American Library Association.

Chinatown's library is one of seven recipients of the award in North America, including:

Billings Public Library of Billings, Montana

Hennepin County Walker Library of Minneapolis

Lawrence Public Library Renovation and Expansion of Lawrence, Kanas

Renton Public Library of Renton, Washington

Ryerson University Student Learning Centre of Toronto, Canada

Sawyer Library of Williamstown, Massachusetts

Suffice it to say, the library lands in good company. The Chinatown branch is notable not only for being a marked improvement on its predecessor, but also as a standout example of architecture and design in the heart of one of Chicago's most popular South Side neighborhoods.

The building is wedge-shaped, embracing the corner lot where it sits at the intersection of Wentworth and Archer avenues, and has a reduced footprint that allows for wide sidewalks to seamlessly flow into a public courtyard area planted with trees and grasses. Sharp edges that would normally feature prominently in a wedge-shaped design were eliminated in favor of an inviting round configuration, and its glassy façade bears fins that protect the interior (and library books) from harsh sunlight. 

Chinatown's library was designed by Chicago-based Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and built by Wight & Co., based in nearby Darien, Illinois. The AIA/ALA Library Building Awards are handed out jointly every two years to structures that "distinguish accomplishments in library architecture."

Here's the old Chinatown library

Old Chinatown Public Library

Photograph: Daniel X. O'Neil

Here's more of the new (award-winning) library

Chicago Chinatown library

Photograph: CC/Flickr/Smart Chicago Collaborative

Chicago Chinatown library

Photograph: CC/Flickr/Smart Chicago Collaborative

Chicago Chinatown library

Photograph: CC/Flickr/Smart Chicago Collaborative

Chicago Chinatown library interior

Photograph: CC/Flickr/Smart Chicago Collaborative

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