Text by the architects
The site in the center of the University of Chicago Campus is surrounded by a variety of different buildings. With a mixture of styles, ranging from the gothic quadrangle to the south, the Limestone Brutalism of Netsch’s Regenstein Library to the east, the Henry Moore monument and Legorreta’s colorful Student Housing to the north and a building to the west, which will be replaced by a new Science Building. There is not much to relate to.
The problem was to store 3.5 million books with an Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS). The expectations in the brief suggested to house those in a well designed “Box” above grade. In an effort to infringe as little as possible with the open space, make the Reading Room and the Preservation Department the most pleasant space to be in and in line with our approach to challenge habitual conventions, we opted to put the books below grade, where their environment can be better controlled to achieve the desired constant temperature and humidity of 60 degrees, 30% RH – at less cost. The people oriented spaces could thus be located at grade in a minimal elliptical glass dome, which fits the context, because it defies conventional relationships.