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2014 MCHAP

Joe and Rika Mansueto Library

Helmut Jahn

Chicago, IL, USA



Helmut Jahn/JAHN


Werner Sobek (Dome Structural Engineer) Halvorson Partners (Below Grade Structural Engineer) Yorgo Lykouria, Lykouria (Interiors) Environmental Systems Design (MEP Engineer) L-Plan Lighting Design (Lighting Engineer) Terra Engineering (Civil Engineer) Barton Malow (General Contractor)


Steve Wiesenthal, University of Chicago Facility Services


Rainer Viertlboeck Tom Rossiter


The OBJECTIVE was to create a Reading Room and Preservation Department above grade while storing 3.5 million books below grade in a temperature and humidity controlled environment and retrieved by an Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS). In an effort to infringe as little as possible with the open space, make the Reading Room and the Preservation Department the most pleasant space to be in and in line with our approach to challenge habitual conventions, we opted to put the books below grade, where their environment can be better controlled to achieve the desired constant temperature and humidity of 60 degrees, 30% RH – at less cost. The people oriented spaces could thus be located at grade in a minimal Elliptical Glass Dome, which fits the context, because it defies conventional relationships. The building has been embraced by the leadership of the University, because it represents the mission of the University of Chicago as catalyst for the advancement of knowledge. It is interesting that this happened at an Institution where the disciplines of Architecture and Engineering are not taught, but a spirit prevails to go beyond where others stop. Science, Physics, the liberal and applied Art start, when others think they are complete.


The SITE in the center of the Campus is surrounded by a variety of different buildings. With a mixture of styles, ranging from the Gothic quadrangle to the south, the Limestone Brutalism of Netsch’s Regenstein Library to the east, the Henry Moore monument and Legorreta’s colorful Student Housing to the north and a building to the west, which will be replaced by a new Science Building.


Once a consensus on the design was reached, the process started to optimize performance: comfort and sustainability, light-control, structure, life-safety, operation and maintenance. The Structural Gridshell of 120 x 240 feet and the insulated fritted glazing represent a very minimal and intelligent system for mediating between the varying exterior conditions and the desired interior comfort. Inside there is a seamless integration between lighting, air supply and furnishings, which were fabricated in solid European White Oak. The Users will benefit from an environment which is pleasant and conductive to study and research. This is not your classical Library, but the Library of the Future.

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