Whitney M. Young Jr. Branch Library
415 E. 79th St.
Chatham / South Shore
bKL Architecture, 2020
Ever since this branch of the Chicago Public Library first opened its doors in 1973, the Chatham community has regularly filled the space with neighborhood activities and meetings. But with its low waffle-slab ceilings and opaque brick walls, the design was constrained from the very beginning, necessitating a 21st-century rethink for how the building could better serve its constituency. That intervention—led by Danielle Tillman, AIA, NOMA and Michael Karlovitz, AIA of bLK Architecture—flips the main entry onto the opposite end of the property, where it now anchors a 2,500-square-foot glazed expansion containing a children's reading area, a community room, and an expanded glass-walled courtyard for events. In the original wing, existing partitions were removed to bring in more daylight, increase comfort, and emphasize the relationship between the library space and the streetscape beyond the building envelope. The result is a both practical and elegant addition to a well-used neighborhood asset.