The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

New Independence Library Design Finalists Have Eye-Popping Portfolios

By Patty Wetli | February 24, 2017 5:29am
 Three finalists are vying to design the new Independence Branch library.
Independence Library Architect Finalists
View Full Caption

IRVING PARK — After more than 100 years operating out of rented digs, the Independence Branch library is finally getting a home of its own.

The library, which will replace the Hollerbach Funeral Home at 4022 N. Elston Ave., will occupy the ground floor of a mixed-use complex being developed jointly by the Chicago Housing Authority and Chicago Public Library.

But what will it look like?

Let's peek inside the portfolios of the three architecture firms vying to win the design commission.

• Interactive Design Architects (IDEA), 308 W. Erie St.

By far the showiest credit on the firm's resume is its role as "architect of record" on the Art Institute's Modern Wing, in collaboration with Renzo Piano.

"Architect of record" tends to refer to instances where a high-profile "starchitect" like Piano relies on a local firm to oversee a project.

Such teamwork is a hallmark of Interactive Design, which prides itself on "playing well with others," according to the company's website.

More relevant to the Independence Branch, Interactive Design received the commission for the West Town Branch library, and also oversaw renovations of libraries in Wilmette, Lincolnwood and Skokie.

Other notable projects include renovations to the Regenstein Large Mammal House at the Lincoln Park Zoo and renovations to the facade of Chicago's Anti-Cruelty Society.

"Architect of Record" on the Art Institute's Modern Wing. [Facebook/Art Institute of Chicago]

Renovation of Wilmette Library. [Facebook/Interactive Design Inc.]

Facade renovation Anti-Cruelty Society. [Facebook/Interactive Design Inc.]

• John Ronan Architects, 420 W. Huron St.

John Ronan is perhaps best known for a bid it didn't win — the firm was the only Chicago-based finalist in the running to design the Obama Library, a project that was ultimately awarded to New Yorkers Tod Williams and Billie Tsien.

Yet the relatively young firm, founded in 1999, has already left its mark on Chicago with the Poetry Foundation building, 61 W. Superior St., which opened in 2011.

In his review of the building, Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin wrote: "This is a mature work of architecture, one that, like fine poetry, is about subtle, slowly unfolding pleasures, not facile one-liners. It is, by turns, mysterious, engaging, richly layered and revealing."

Pertinent to the Independence Branch competition, the foundation has a non-circulating library of 30,000 volumes, housed in a 36-foot-tall room that Kamin termed "enthralling," with a children's poetry area "complete with little cork stools."

John Ronan also designed the Gary Comer Youth Center, practice home of the South Shore Drill Team, and was selected to design the Illinois Institute of Technology's first new academic building since the 1970s, an innovation and tech entrepreneurship institute. 

Rendering of planned innovation institute at Illinois Institute of Technology. [Facebook/John Ronan Architects]

Poetry Foundation building's library. [Facebook/John Ronan Architects]

Gary Comer Youth Center. [Facebook/John Ronan Architects]

• Landon Bone Baker, 734 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Of the three finalists, Landon Bone Baker boasts the most experience in designing housing, from market rate to affordable.

The firm was commissioned to build the National Public Housing Museum in University Village, a project that entails the phased conversion of the Jane Addams Housing Project.

The firm also teamed with Holabird & Root on the interior of the Kistle Science Library at Iowa's Grinnell College.

Landon Bone Baker's portfolio also includes small-scale projects such as Spacca Napoli restaurant in Ravenswood.

According to the company's website, the firm's guiding principle is "good design is for everyone."

"We want to provide architecturally-significant, yet affordable options to as many people as possible," the company states.

Pilsen Gateway, a mixed-use market rate development. [Facebook/Landon Bone Baker]

Science library at Iowa's Grinnell College. [Facebook/Landon Bone Baker]

Affordable senior housing. [Facebook/Landon Bone Baker]

According to officials, CHA expects to select the winning design firm by mid-March, based on criteria including: the quality and context of the architecture relative to the site; the sustainability of the building systems and materials; and layout, landscaping and design innovations.

Once the commission is awarded, members of the community will be brought into the process to provide input on the building's final design, a CHA spokeswoman said.

RELATED: New Independence, West Ridge Libraries Inch Forward As Developer Announced

RELATED: Independence Library To Get A Permanent Home, And Some Live-In Patrons

RELATED: Mayor Announces City's Newest Mixed-Use Developments: Libraries & Housing