The Competition for the Harold Washington Library Center: 30th Anniversary Commemoration!

Chicago Public Library's Harold Washington Library Center opened to the public on October 7, 1991. Join us as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the opening of the largest municipal library in the U.S. with a program presented by Patrick Steffes of Docomomo/US Chicago.

The Harold Washington Library Center (HWLC) is also one of the largest public Postmodern buildings in the world. By the time HWLC opened in 1991, Postmodernism would be rapidly falling out of favor as an architectural style, leading to its often-maligned and overlooked place in Chicago architectural history and perception.

Unlike the far better known architectural competition for the Chicago Tribune in 1922, the 1988 Chicago central library competition is nearly completely forgotten. This competition, unlike the Tribune, was in no way influential, with none of the losing designs known to have been celebrated, copied, or widely reproduced in books or online in the decades since.

Notably, only six architectural firms including Lohan & Associates, Murphy/Jahn, SOM, Ricardo Legoretta and Arthur Erickson would enter in one of the highest profile and lucrative global architectural competitions of the 1980s.

In addition to the competition and the winning entry, this presentation will discuss in depth the drastic changes
Chicago’s South Loop has experienced since the nineteenth century. We will also discuss how HWLC has revitalized this long struggling area.

Experience many unknown and unpublished images of South State Street and the South Loop, including never-published photographs showing the current HWLC site and the surrounding area going back more than 100 years.

Harold Washington Library Center proposal submitted by The Chicago Library Team (Murphy / Jahn and Paschen Contractors). Photo credit:The Chicago Architectural Journal 7, 1989.
7 October 2021, 18:00
Online Event
Chicago Public Library
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