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Harold Washington Library Chicago
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© Christine Till
The Harold Washington Library, named after late Mayor Harold Washington, Chicago's first African American mayor, is the jewel in the crown of the Chicago Public Library system, not only in terms of size/scale, but also in terms of the breathtaking architecture, exhibits/installations to peruse, author appearances, and special events - the list just goes on.
The monumental building, occupies an entire city block. At the time of its completion, this was the largest public library in the world. A world class library for a world class city!
The post-modern neo-classical building with its design using elements of ancient Greek and Roman structures, its red-brick facade and axial symmetry, typifies Beaux-Arts style, while its roof is topped with soaring bronze acroteria and a glass and aluminum pedimented attic. On the inside, the lobby's high ceilings, and the glass skylights in the Winter Garden and elsewhere, add to the sense of grandeur and scale.
Seven large sculptures can be seen on the roof, featuring several representations of the bird owl, a bird associated with Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, knowlegde and learning. More specifically, the building's iconography relates to the Midwest and to Chicago. The head of Ceres, Roman goddess of grain, appears in wall medallions together with ears of corn, the pairing symbolic of prairie agriculture, and the meaning of the "Windy City Man" high on the facade is obvious.
Although the 10 stories Harold Washington Library building is pretty young, built from 1989 to 1991, it blends in perfectly with the historical buildings in Chicago's Loop area. It looks like a building from the 19th century.
To the surprise of no one who's seen it, Chicago's majestic Harold Washington Library is the third on the list of The Most Beautiful Libraries In America ... the perfect place to take a break from the rushed life of a traveler to relax with a good book.
November 30th, 2012
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