Carter G. Woodson Chicago Public Library wins Distinguished Building Award

December 6, 2021

The Chicago Public Library’s Carter G. Woodson Regional Public Library recently received the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Chicago’s Distinguished Building Award, Citation of Merit. As a repository of the Midwest’s largest collection of African American history and literature, the Woodson Library required renovations. The 1974 uninsulated brick façade was deteriorating and had been netted for years. Dark brick and black glass provided minimal natural light and casted an image residents perceived as closed and uninviting. EXP’s reimaging of the library replaced the failing entryway with a durable, welcoming façade, partnered with two new art installations. The glass installations depict Carter Woodson, the building’s namesake and one of the nation’s first African American History scholars, alongside Vivian Harsh, the Chicago Public Library’s first African American librarian. Other renovations to the building include new ceilings, lighting, and mechanical, electrical and plumbing upgrades.

EXP Design Director Tom Hoepf, FAIA, shared, “The new façade does so much more than just keep the water out. It was an opportunity to completely change its character and re-link it with the Washington Heights neighborhood as a new community hub, and as such, is an example in sustainability as we re-purpose our existing buildings to serve another 50 years.”

The inviting design acts as a link between the neighborhood’s cultural history and the contemporary evolution of libraries as community centers. “The renovated entryway welcomes library patrons into Woodson and connects the community of Washington Heights with all of the cultural and informational resources the library has to offer,” says Director of Woodson Regional Library Veleda Simpson.

Learn more about Carter G. Woodson Chicago Public Library here.