Chicago Public Library Archives. Harold Washington Library Center, Design Build Competition Records
Scope and Contents
These records include the official Competition Program, the Building Program, submittals from the five finalists, a selection of slides from the finalists’ presentations, a video of the finalists’ presentations and a copy of a Nova television production, Design Wars. In addition, there is a small gathering of files related to the jurying process and a selection of the comment cards that the public were invited to complete and submit. Please note that the public comment cards must be requested 24 hours in advance.
- 1986 - 1991
- Chicago Library Team (Organization)
Conditions Governing Access
Materials open without restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection
Biographical / Historical
In 1970, after over 70 years of continuous operation, with only minimal maintenance and repairs, the Central Library Building of the Chicago Public Library began showing signs of age. Space was inadequate for the large book collection. The mechanical, electrical, communication and heating systems were obsolete and inefficient. There were some calls to demolish the building and move the Library elsewhere, allowing the site to be turned over to commercial use. These ideas were put aside when the Library building was given historic architectural and landmark status in November 1976.
In 1974, the Board of Directors authorized a massive renovation of the aging Central Library building, a process that took three years and cost $11 million. The architectural firm of Holabird & Root developed the renovation plan. When the Chicago Public Library Cultural Center opened in October 1977, it was able to provide free access to not only books and other materials, but also a year-round schedule of free programs, lectures, films, plays, concerts and exhibits.
Although the total renovation of the old Central Library was a great success, there was still a need for more space for the Library’s growing collections. Opinions varied between adding on to the existing building or constructing an entirely new building. After years of debate and discussion between the Library Board and the Chicago City Council, Mayor Harold Washington determined the City should build an entirely new building for the Central Library. Today, the former Chicago Public Library is known as the Chicago Cultural Center and is home to many arts programs as well as the offices of the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.
The designated site for the new Central Library was 400 S. State Street, a one-and-a-half block tract in the South Loop area. On July 29, 1987, Mayor Washington and the City Council authorized a design/build competition and approved a bond issue to finance the project. Under the rules of the competition, architects and builders teamed up to design the new Central Library within the set price of $144 million. The design/build approach assured that the City’s expense was limited to the cost of the bond issue. The design/build team was selected based on both design and cost criteria. The design selection process as well as other building plans included significant input from citizens’ groups, architectural experts and government officials.
The Library Board named the new building after the late Mayor, Harold Washington, and Chicago’s first African American mayor, a great lover of books and advocate of the Chicago Public Library, who had died on November 25, 1987.
The five finalist entries for the competition were:
The SEBUS Group (winner). U.S. Equities, Developers; with Hammond, Beeby & Babka, Inc., Design Architects; Schal Associates, Inc., General Contractors; A. Epstein and Sons, International, Architects of Record and Structural Engineer; Delon Hampton & Associates, Architects and Engineers.
The Chicago Library Team. Tishman Midwest Management Group, Developers; Murphy/Jahn, Architects; Paschen Contractors, Inc., General Contractors.
Metropolitan-Lohan. Metropolitan Structures, Developers and Contractors; Lohan Associates, Architects; Chris P. Stephanos Associates, Structural Engineering.
John Buck Company. John Buck Company, Developers; Vickrey/Ovresat/Awsumb Associates, Inc., Architects; Arthur Erickson Architects Ltd., (Canada), Architects; Turner Construction Company, Contractors.
Library ’88 Partnership. Stein & Company, Developers; Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, Architects, Legoretta Arquitectos, A.C., Architects; Morse/Diesel, Inc., Construction Management.
Norman Ross, Chairman of the Citizen Jury, announced the winner on June 20, 1988. By a vote of 9-2, the winning entry was the proposal put forward by the SEBUS Group.
City officials, including Library Commissioner John B. Duff and Mayor Eugene Sawyer, participated in the groundbreaking for the new Central Library on October 13, 1988. Construction took almost three years. Mayor Richard M. Daley, the Library Board, Commissioner Duff and staff joined with the public and dignitaries for the dedication on Friday, October 4, 1991. An open house to unveil the new Library to Chicagoans was held on Sunday, October 6, 1991, and the following day, on Monday, October 7, 1991, the Chicago Public Library’s Harold Washington Library Center opened to the public.
22.5 Linear Feet (in 19 boxes, includes 471 slides and two VHS video recordings plus 1 oversize folder)
Language of Materials
The Harold Washington Library Center Design Build Records document the process by which the design for Chicago Public Library’s new Central Library was chosen. On July 29, 1987, Mayor Washington and the City Council authorized a design/build competition and approved a bond issue to finance the project. Under the competition rules, architects and builders teamed up to design the new Central Library within the set price of $144 million. Norman Ross, Chairman of the Citizen Jury, announced the winner on June 20, 1988. By a vote of 9-2, the winning entry was a proposal submitted by the SEBUS Group. Records include information about the jurying process, submittals by the five finalists, including slide presentations and public comment cards.
Records are arranged broadly by type into five series:
- Series 1: Office Files, 1986-1991
- Series 2: Official Competition Documents, 1988
- Series 3: Materials Submitted by the Five Finalists, 1988
- Series 4: Audio/Visual Materials, 1988
- Series 5: Public Comment Cards, 1988
Materials are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please request materials at least 24-hours prior to your research visit to coordinate access.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
CPL archivists gathered these records, presumably from around the time of the competition.
- Architecture -- Competitions -- Illinois -- Chicago Subject Source: Local sources
- Chicago Public Library
- Chicago Public Library -- Archives Subject Source: Local sources
- Chicago Public Library -- Buildings -- Designs and Plans Subject Source: Local sources
- Design-build Process (Construction Industry) Subject Source: Local sources
- Guide to the Chicago Public Library Archives. Harold Washington Library Center, Design Build Competition Records
- Morag Walsh, 2019. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Sarah Zimmerman, 2022.
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English
- 2022: Edited by Sarah Zimmerman to include series numbers in preparation for upload into ArchivesSpace.
Part of the Special Collections Unit at Harold Washington Library Center Repository
Harold Washington Library Center, 9th Floor
Chicago Public Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago IL 60605 United States