This public library serves the twin cities of Champaign and Urbana, which also call the University of Illinois home. The old 1970’s modernist, glass and steel library was too small, difficult to maintain, and unpopular in the community. The critical decision to rebuild rather than move to a green grass location was informed by the goal of sparking economic development in Downtown Champaign. To provide sufficient parking without placing the library in a sea of cars, a new street, Clara Lane, was dedicated to create a separate civic block for the library.
In the most basic and traditional sense, a library is a repository of written knowledge. The Champaign Public Library took this pragmatic function further by expanding the building’s role to become a center for the community. The design reflects this aspiration through its physical arrangement and choice of materiality; it is comfortable, known, and a place of civic pride.
Upon entry, a monumental 115-foot tall skylight draws patrons from the lobby and conference center into the main circulation and reading rooms. The building does not shy from light and in fact uses it as a material alongside a palette of limestone, bamboo, brick, and glass. The result is a beloved building that will grow with its community and inspire many generations of studious minds.