AIA's Best New Buildings from Chicago
A glass dome rises from a lawn on the University of Chicago campus. The ellipsoidal structure by Murphy/Jahn — a counterpoint in form and materials to the eclectic buildings around it — is a refined tip of the iceberg for the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library.
This new library building was recently honored by the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects in its 2011 Design Excellence Awards. Honorees range from schools and
corporate campuses to a zoo - most in the Chicago area, while
ranging as far as Shanghai and Dubai.
Mansueto Library is primarily a vessel for compact book storage. The University of Chicago had sought to build a container that would house 3.5 million volumes using an automated storage and retrieval system.
Rather than the above-ground box expected by the client, architect Helmut Jahn placed the collections storage underground, where the books can be kept more efficiently at the desired constant temperature of 60 degrees and 30 percent relative humidity. At ground level, the elliptical glass dome houses the building's people-oriented spaces, providing daylight and views while minimizing the building's profile, helping preserve the sense of open space in this part of campus.
The 50,650-square-foot (4,706-square-meter) Mansueto Library contains only materials from other campus libraries, including the neighboring Regenstein Library — a brutalist limestone building designed by SOM's Walter Netsch. Users enter Mansueto through a bridge from Regenstein, leading into the new building's 8,000-square-foot (740-square-foot) reading room, which occupies the south end of the dome.
At the center of the dome is the circulation desk, which serves as the portal for patrons requesting materials from the underground storage. At the north end, the library preservation department divides 6,000 square feet (560 square meters) of space into digitization and conservation laboratories.
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