January 20, 2021

Northtown Affordable Apartments and Public Library: 2020 Best of Year Winner for Social Impact

Photography by James Steinkamp.

Communities across the U.S. need superb branch libraries, and they also need affordable housing for seniors. A twofer project by the Chicago office of Perkins and Will shows how to accomplish both—and add arresting design to the Windy City in the process. The 65,000-square-foot building for a neighborhood north of downtown weaves two forms together in a single composition. On the street level, a community room and a learning lab for teens bookend the double-height glazed library. Perched above, two floors of apartments occupy a sinuous volume, accented with fluorescent green, that curves around an outdoor terrace on the library’s roof. But integration, not segregation, is the goal. To ensure that public housing residents mix with the larger community, the library and apartments share the same lobby, where a mural by a local artist celebrates the neighborhood’s diverse culture.

Photography by James Steinkamp.

Project Team: Ralph Johnson; Doug Smith; Mark Walsh; Julie Michiels; Sally Cathcart; Daniel Robinson; Jeff Saad; Adam Lund; Alan Mui; Andrew Sommerville; Lara Zakhem; Shannon Gedey; Andrew Broderick.

> See the full list of winners and honorees from Best of Year 2020

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