Steel Shots: Cool and Enlightening

(Top construction photo: Andrew Haas/DZSE; Bottom finished photo: Jon Miller/Hedrich Blessing)  

In a Chicago neighborhood known for colorful facades with unique flair, it was only proper for a new library to buck the stylistic trends of its more staid contemporaries.

Led by Wight and Company in collaboration with Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) and Drucker Zajdel Structural Engineers (DZSE), the Chicago Public Library Chinatown Branch design-build team sought to create a modern design that would stand as a new icon in the area. The new $9.6 million, 16,370-sq.-ft branch library serves as a civic, educational and social hub for the Chinatown neighborhood. The exterior glass curtain wall creates an image of a glowing lantern at night while also providing plenty of natural light during the day. In addition, the building is ringed with 16-ft-tall rectangular aluminum panels that provide solar shading.

The team considered both steel and glue-laminated timber beams during the initial design phase of the curving, triangular two-story building that subtly reflects angle of the intersection where it sits. But given the demanding load requirements associated with a library, wood beams would have been heavier and bulkier than steel beams, resulting in a less economical option. Plus, steel was determined to be a more sustainable option when measured on a whole building life-cycle basis. McFarlane Mfg. Company, Inc. (an AISC member) was chosen to fabricate the 98 tons of steel.

For more about the Chicago Public Library Chinatown Branch and our complete list of handpicked projects showcasing the cool use of steel, see the “What’s Cool in Steel” section in the August issue of Modern Steel (available now!).