Southeast Corner Exterior View

Harleigh Brandon's Chicago Library

2017 National DiscoverDesign Competition: Library + Community Space Design


• The neighborhood of Little Italy in Chicago lacks a library in close proximity for proper use of a library • The Chicago Public Library Foundation would like to build a branch library on Taylor Street in the heart of Little Italy in order to service many patrons across the neighborhood • This library needs a design that makes new history • This building will serve the neighborhood of Little Italy • The people going to the library will be those will be people with a variety of reasons

Collect Info

• The library will rest in the neighborhood of Little Italy which contains a rich history beginning with the Italian immigrants who came there • The library will be on the main street of Little Italy in a commercial area where there are many shops and restaurants that will surround the building • The area that the library will be located in will also be near the National Public Housing Museum opening in 2018 • The museum will draw even more traffic to the area surrounding the library • As the library will be a branch of the main Chicago Public Library it will most likely be funded by the Chicago Public Library Foundation • This Foundation has helped to develop the Chicago libraries and has the mission of connecting communities to each other and the world, and giving a way for Chicagoans to read and discover at the many branches that the foundation has built to achieve this goal • The library building should include large windows to allow for natural light to come into the building • The building should include a mix of materials that balance each other • The interior of the building should include large expansive spaces that allow for a logical flow of library traffic to the many areas and services offered by the library • Both the interior and exterior of the building should blend into the neighborhood through the use of materials, windows, and the overall feeling of the neighborhood • The building needs to have easily defined interior spaces that are clearly designated as for the purpose and ages of the people they are serving • Overall the building needs to serve as a not only a nod to the past but a pioneer towards the future of the Little Italy neighborhood

Brainstorm Ideas

During this stage of the design, I began with a site analysis. This helped in discovering what surrounded the building, the kinds of buildings that are already there, the way the sun will shine in the morning, and the way that the building should be oriented on the site. Next was the bubble diagram. The purpose of the diagram was to discover the groupings of the spaces on each floor, the ways that people might move throughout the building, and the size of the spaces compared to one another taking a step towards actually defining the spaces of the building. Last in this step of the design process, was sketching the floor plan for my building. This step is where the building suddenly becomes more realistic as the scale of the spaces and how they are laid out in the building is finally decided. many things from the bubble diagram shifted as I came to a better understanding of how the building spaces were fitting together, and adding the third floor as well as the open areas in the building really defined the space a bit more than in the bubble diagram.

Develop Solutions

This step mainly involved taking the sketches that I had drawn and transferring them into Revit. Truly this is where the building takes its shape, the floor plan of the building in this stage changed. I began to realize better ways of opening up the building and orienting the space to include community areas. This is also the step where many of the design elements were added that I had not thought of when designing the floor plan, things like the roof-line, aluminum details, and materials. The materials are one of the most important refinements that took place during this stage as each was carefully chosen to reflect various aspects of the community. The gray brick of the solid exterior walls was chosen because the majority of the neighborhood of Little Italy is red-brick buildings. The gray brick ties the library into the community as it is an ode to the history of the neighborhood with a modern element involved to represent the future development of the neighborhood. The glass was chosen as another element to join the neighborhood and the building together. The lack of barriers between the neighborhood and the building just exemplifies all that this library will do for its community as well as create an open and inviting appearance. Lastly, the blue aluminum was chosen for the detail items because of its vibrancy. The bright color not only cohesively ties the building together but also showcases the vibrant community where the building resides. This step of the design process finalizes the bones of the structure and adds the design elements that not only make the building itself cohesive but also the building cohesive in its community.

Final Design

During this step, the building truly came to life as the interior furnishings were added, and the landscaping came together. Overall I believe that the finished product represents the community, not only does it represent the neighborhood's style, vibrancy, and sense of community, but also the future of the community in which people can gather and learn in this modern communal space. The design of the building benefits the community as it preserves the rich history of the neighborhood, and helps foster new history and growth in the future. With this library, the community's need for a gathering space where knowledge may be pursued is fulfilled.


Competition Jury 3 years ago
Great use of materials and organization of spaces. I can see how your library would appeal to a variety of people. -SS
Competition Jury 3 years ago
I think the exterior is very dynamic. The interior has more of a hotel feel. There was not as much developing ideas as some other projects but it’s good that you researched other libraries -AR
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