CALL FOR PROPOSALS: Chinatown Branch Library

City of Chicago: Chinatown Branch Library



Entry Deadline: 11/6/14
Days remaining to deadline: 18


Images – Minimum: 6, Maximum: 10
Video – Minimum: 0, Maximum: 1
Total Media – Minimum: 6, Maximum: 11

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City of Chicago: Chinatown Branch Library

The City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), working closely with the Chicago Public Library and other project partners and stakeholders in the Chinatown community, invites professional artists who live and/or work in the Chicagoland area to submit their interest in a public art commission for the new Chinatown Branch Library. One artist or artist team will be commissioned to create a high impact, elegant, site-specific artwork that responds to the light-filled, open architecture, as well as the concept of wisdom and the search for knowledge that the function of a library implies. The artwork can be manifest in any media and sited anywhere within the library; it is essential that it have low maintenance requirements. The panel will select semi-finalists in mid- November 2014 who will be paid honoraria to develop proposals by mid-January 2015. Installation by the commissioned finalist is targeted for completion in July 2015.


Total project budget: $20,000.

Application deadline: 10:59pm CST, November 6, 2014.


Please note: If you have previously submitted materials to DCASE’s Artist Registry,  you still need to apply via CAFÉ in order to be considered for the opportunity at Chinatown Branch Library. DCASE’s Public Art Program reserves the right to commission artists who do not apply.



2100 S. Wentworth Avenue

Chicago IL  60616


The new Chinatown Branch Library is located at the intersection of Archer Avenue and Wentworth Avenue in the heart of Chinatown. The 16,000 square foot full-service branch library will replace the current Chinatown Branch Library, located 4 blocks south on Wentworth. The building sits on a key location that links the historic streets of Chinatown to the south, Chinatown Square and Ping Tom Park to the north, and the CTA Red Line Station to the east. It will be at the center of the CTA Wells- Wentworth Connector, a new thoroughfare between Chinatown and the Loop. The site is designed to serve as a civic hub; a learning and social center that promotes better pedestrian movement and open space for Chinatown.



The building is designed by Skidmore Owings Merrill (SOM) to provide maximum flexibility, serve community members of all ages, and accommodate diverse activities—ranging from quiet study to active-based play. It operates as a technology-focused space where patrons can connect with global resources and ideas. The two story library will be LEED-certified platinum, with a flexible open plan that maximizes required program areas while minimizing the total area. Excess circulation and single function rooms are eliminated in order to create efficiencies between spaces and allow for the changing future needs of the increasingly digital library.  SOM designers worked closely with Library officials to identify opportunities for programmatic overlap, thereby increasing the long-term utility of many of the building’s spaces.  It is designed for both present and future flexibility.


A central atrium lit by an oculus provides clear orientation and acts as a “living room” for all patrons. The Children’s area and Community Room are located on the first level to maximize their use and provide flexible active spaces for the neighborhood. The Adult reading area and teen YOUMedia space are on the second level, connected by a grand staircase and elevator, forming a continuous uplifting space. Like a traditional Chinese courtyard plan, all spaces connect to the central atrium room, providing clear orientation and spatial cohesion.  Due to their centrality and visibility, the large wall at the landing of the second floor and the ceiling that surrounds the oculus are likely focal points.



The library’s design is strikingly contemporary. The soft curves of the three-sided structure respond to ancient Feng Shui principles by matching the existing alignment of Archer and Wentworth Avenues without creating sharp aggressive corners. The “pebble” shaped plan form allows a fluid movement of pedestrians, abundant landscaping throughout the site, and opens up views corridors around building. Ginkgo trees, revered in Chinese culture for their longevity and wonderful seasonal color, will shade the corner plaza. A row of flowering Crabapple and native plantings will line the permeable paver pedestrian walkway. Two Chinese guardian lions will flank the library’s entrance, oriented to the southeast for favorable Feng Shui. On its exterior, Ipe wood that will age beautifully is juxtaposed with an ultra- transparent, high performance glass perimeter curtain wall that maximizes transparency, allowing library patrons to see out to the street and outside passersby to see inside. External sun-shading elements will provide visual movement and texture on the façade while maximizing day lighting, minimizing glare, and reducing solar heat gain. At night, the building will become a lantern-like structure and form a symbolic beacon.



In 1978, Chicago City Council unanimously approved a Percent for Art ordinance that requires 1.33 percent of municipal construction or renovation costs be allocated to commission public art at the site. Because the new Chinatown Branch Library is funded with Tax Increment Financing (TIF), the Percent for Art ordinance does not apply. However, due to the important impact of public art and its proven ability to enhance public spaces in meaningful ways, Chicago Public Library allocated bond funds to commission public art at the site. The art budget for this project is $20,000.



DCASE’s Public Art Program staff will oversee the artist selection process. The Selection Panel for this project was developed in consultation with Alderman Daniel Solis’ office and a variety of project stakeholders. The panelists are:


Ed Bark—Project Manager; Public Building Commission

Yuchia Chang—Collaborative Exhibits Manager; Chicago Cultural Alliance

Si Chen—Manager; Chinatown Branch Library

Raymond Chin—Chairman; Chinatown Chamber of Commerce

Holly Gerberding—Coordinating Architect; Fleet & Facility Management

Brian Lee—Partner; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Ruth Lopez—literary artist and arts journalist

Bob McKenna—Asst. Commissioner; Department of Planning and Development

Soo Lon Moy—President; Chinese American Museum of Chicago

Adam Semel—Associate Director; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Andrea Telli—Asst. Commissioner of Neighborhood Services, Chicago Public Library

Ernie Wong—Principal, Site Design Group; Chairman, Chinese American Service League

Zhou Brothers—visual artists and founders of Zhou B Art Center



UPDATE: A Public Art Community Forum is set for Wednesday, October 15, 2014, from 5:00-6:30pm at 2353 S. Wentworth Avenue, in the Community Room of the current Chinatown Branch Library. It will provide an opportunity for interested artists and others to learn more about the project, ask questions, and share ideas.


After the application deadline, submissions will be reviewed by the selection panel. That process will identify a short list of semi-finalists to whom honoraria will be paid to develop formal proposals. Semifinalists will be contacted in late November, and their proposals will be due in mid-January 2015.


After the panel interviews the semifinalists and reviews their proposals, they will recommend a finalist for commission. A second Public Art Community Forum will be held at which the recommended finalist will share their proposal with the community and address questions. The goal is for the commissioned artwork to be complete and installed in July 2015, in time for the Library’s Grand Opening.