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Industry News

18 Oct 2019

Check out John Ronan Architects colorful library and modern affordable housing project in Irving Park.

Check out John Ronan Architects colorful library and modern affordable housing project in Irving Park.

All three of Chicago’s innovate public library and affordable housing projects are open in Irving Park, Little Italy, and West Ridge. Each were designed by three separate local architecture firms that challenged notions of what public housing historically looks, and feels like. Here’s a closer look at John Ronan Architect’s colorful, modern design for the Independence Library and Apartments.

These projects were commissioned during the Emanuel administration with the goal of energizing neighborhoods. Each firm attempted to raise standards for affordable housing, which isn’t commonly design-forward or amenity-rich.

“Chicago is breaking the mold,” then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at the time. “Bringing together world-class libraries together with housing builds strong neighborhoods and provides a place for all community residents to gather, share and succeed.”

Ronan’s firm designed the project at 4024 N. Elston Avenue which replaced a former Irving Park library that was lost after a firm in 2015. The new two-story, 16,000-square-foot library has an open floor plan with graduated staircase seating, a children’s area, and flexible community rooms.

The 44 apartments have their own brightly colored balconies and residents share a large garden that covers the parking lot. There are a total of 44 units for seniors, 30 residences reserved for Chicago Housing Authority, and 14 apartments for low-income individuals.

Each balcony is a different color, like confetti spread across the building’s exterior. The firm said the design “speaks to individuality amidst the collective, enabling residents to identify their house from the street in a conscious attempt to transcend the brutal pragmatism which has characterized Chicago’s past efforts.”

The other two projects—the Little Italy library and apartments by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and the Northtown library and apartments by Perkins+Will—opened in 2019 as well.

An image of a library with high ceilings, concrete columns, white railings. There is lots of light from large windows and pops of colors in cushions and seating areas.The open floor library with exposed concrete and rainbow staircase seating.Stacks of books next to windows and tall concrete columns on white shelves.A view of the library’s first floor.There are pops of color at the door frames of a long white interior hallway. A hallway in the apartment portion of the project.


A black countertop is shown in an unfurnished apartment. There is a glass door out to a balcony with a lime green wall. The inside of a unit has clean lines and a view of the bright wall of the recessed balcony.A mix of windows and recessed balconies. There is red, blue, green, and yellow against a silvery, white exterior.A brightly colored exterior of the library and housing project.


Source: Curbed Chicago

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