2017 National DiscoverDesign Competition: Library + Community Space Design


There are 79 public libraries in Chicago that serve as community spaces where people can come together for civic and community activities. However, not everyone has access to a library within walking distance of their house. The Chicago Housing Authority and Chicago Public Library have developed a competition in order to look through ideas for a new library design. The Little Italy/University Village area need a communal space in the form of a library.


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Collect Info

Through collecting background information for this project, I learned more about the city of Chicago, specifically the Little Italy/University Village area. This area is historic in that it is home to the National Public Housing Museum. It is also home to many Italian businesses and families, in addition to the college student population. It is a very family/community driven area, that will benefit greatly from the addition of a library and community space. This library will pull the community together more and allow them easy, close access to books, technology, meeting spaces, etcetera. Additionally, I gathered information regarding libraries with qualities I like and will inspire design aspects of my project. This background research will help establish a foundation for the rest of the library project.

Brainstorm Ideas

I want my design to utilize a lot of glass to get some nice city views and natural light. I'd also like a lot of natural wood and geometric touches in my building and landscape. Overall, I'd like to have a fairly open floor plan with a very natural, light, and modern feel.

Develop Solutions

The entrance to my library is surrounded by tables outdoors, for studying and possibly outdoor classes or lectures during nice weather months. The first floor of my library is home to the spacious lobby, with a seating area. The entryway is surrounded by glass. On the first floor in the back are three meeting rooms, with glass entrances to give a modern and open feel to the rooms. There is a staff room centered on the first floor, and a mechanical room to the West. The stairs lead to the second floor, which houses the cafe and deck to the South, the children's area ages 5-12 above that, and the teen/ young adult book section in the Northern corner. There is another staff room to the North with a small kitchen, and a mechanical room on the West side. The second staircase takes you up to the third floor of my library. There is a cut out area on the third floor so that the adult reading tables- positioned at the top of the stairwell - overlooks the floor below. To the North of the third floor is a children's area, with a rug and chair in the Northeastern corner for children's story time. There is another staff room adjacent to the floor cut out overlooking the second floor. Finally, in the Southern portion of this floor is the adult reading shelves.

Final Design

This library design benefits the local community because it serves as a reading oasis, an escape from bustling city life, a place to appreciate nature, a study area, a gathering space, a hangout spot, and so much more. My design is a place that incorporates natural light and wood into it, to give visitors a place away from the city, with a natural design. It gives community members a peaceful space to read and escape their busy lives. It also gives them a closer spot to home than other public libraries to study, gather for meetings in the conference rooms, hangout with friends in the cafe, take their kids to learn, and even for story time. Overall, this library serves as a community place. It is built and designed for the purpose of the community’s desires. I wanted my library to be a place with variety in activity and appeal. My goal was that it would draw in many different kinds of people, interested in the pursuit of knowledge. My design includes a great deal of glass and wood. I did this because the urban garden is placed right behind the lot, and I wanted the library to be an escape from the city into both nature and the world of books. The addition of wood features and glass, which provides a lot of natural light, make the building seem more natural and less like a generic stone/brick city building. Books are a way for people to escape from reality and live a different life for a period, and I wanted this building to reflect that. I mixed the idea of modern architecture with very natural features to give community visitors the positive escape they look for in books. Additionally, I added in a cafe with an outdoor deck, and tables surrounding the entrance to tie the library in with the outdoor city life. My reading areas and bookshelves layout was meant to be fairly fluid and open- with the addition of the floor cut out on the third floor by the reading tables- as I wanted to keep the different areas of the library connected, while still separate in their own spaces.


Competition Jury 3 years ago
This had verticality, soaring feel to it which I thought was very interesting. The long narrow beams are very eye catching. Fantastic graphic communication and elegant design. -AR
Competition Jury 3 years ago
Great job showing the process. Sketches and floor plans were very good. - Competition Jury
Competition Jury 3 years ago
I saw the 45 degree angles in the floor plans but I didn’t see it in the final renderings. I was wondering what happend to make them change their mind? Some interior shots show the 45 degree angles, but I didn’t see them on the exteriors -SS
Competition Jury 3 years ago
You considered how to make the building engaging by adding the plaza and benches. -JE