In an old Harpo Productions building in Chicago‘s West Loop, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) has designed a new branch for the Chicago Public Library, the first outpost of the system in the neighborhood. The two-story, 16,500-square-foot building unites two older structures into a single cultural center for the area.

Photo of Chicago Public Library West Loop Branch

The interior design embraces the area’s industrial warehouse history. (Tom Harris)

The interior design takes its cues from the neighborhood’s historic warehouses and stripped back existing partitions and finishes to reveal the brick and timber structure. Shelves were kept low so that spaces could feel and sight lines could be maintained. Brian Lee, design partner at SOM said in a statement: “The unique architecture and scale of the West Loop reflects a vital part of Chicago’s industrial history, while the growing residential and mixed-use character of the neighborhood points to an exciting vision of the city’s future.”

Photo of Chicago Public Library West Loop Branch

The story lines and quotes that run through the building (Tom Harris)

A sweeping graphic runs along the library’s walls representing “story lines” from classic children’s books and novels that visitors are invited to follow. Coloring throughout is golden and warm, playing off the reddish tones in the exposed brick and wood. Wall text highlights the words of global poets and authors that the designers selected.

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