Three sites sit vacant around a common corner on a developing commercial corridor close to Chicago. In addition to the open lots, an old raised rail line cuts through one site and behind another, while the L train line passes 30 feet overhead. The abandoned rail line is becoming dear to the local residents as a public path for walking and booking and will soon be renovated while the open lots have become a sort of unofficial park during the summer months.
The district library is an excellent opportunity to renovate the park and trail and provide new connections that can combine to make a large public space that can become a new center for activity in this neighborhood. As one looks at closer detail of these neighborhoods that meet at this intersection, the connections aspire for something that is more than just bridging a street. This library has the potential to bridge differences in class, race, and quality of life. Having this central gathering space would provide a potentially diverse and vibrantly active new space for the city.
The driving themes for me in this project were transparency and accessibility; transparency of the public institution and accessibility to information. What that became for me was a public space that acts as a roof to the library and programs below and simultaneously as a park above. The important new experiential quality that this space adds is transparency. Where people might sit or gather the ground would be planted soil, but where various types of circulation occur the floor/roof will be transparent.
The library program below will take advantage of the transparent roof by having a very open plan that terraces upward from a floor below ground to street level. This transition underground is paralleled above by the roof terracing up from ground level to meet the trail which is 15' feet above ground level.