From Frank Lloyd Wright and Ralph Rapson to Eero Saarinen and Louis Sullivan, the Midwest landscape is dotted with the work of great architects who called this region home.
It’s a legacy that lives on as Midwest firms (think Studio Gang and Snow Kreilich Architects) continue to garner praise and take their place on a national stage. Here are six projects to watch currently underway in the Midwest, many with ties to local architecture firms.
Walker Library – Minneapolis
Minneapolis-based Vincent James Associates Architects (VJAA) is bringing the books back upstairs in its design for a new library in the city’s Uptown neighborhood.
The renovation, set for completion this year, will replace the former underground library with an above ground structure comprised largely of glass. There’s talk that the iconic silver letters that once spelled out “library” on the hill of the former grounds will be repurposed in the new design.
Visual Arts Building, University of Iowa, Iowa City
Missouri-based BNIM joins Steven Holl Architects to create a new visual arts building for the University of Iowa. The new design will replace the original 1936 structure, which suffered significant flood damage in 2008.
The buzzwords here are connection and interaction. Think open floor plans, glass partitions and vertical cutouts that move through different levels. It’s all about encouraging engagement and discussion, and letting the students get creative in 126,000 square feet of space.
Kent State University’s “Design Loft”— Kent, Ohio
The architects at Weiss/Mandredi hope to encourage spontaneous student discussion and foster connection between the city of Kent and the university campus with their design for Kent State’s Design Loft.
Currently partitioned into three separate buildings, the new structure brings the entire design program together under one roof.
Construction is set to begin this fall on plans that include a precession of four stepped, transparent boxes with a “green” roof intended to help insulate and retain rain water.
Writers Theatre—Glencoe, Ill.
Pulling inspiration from England’s greatest theaters, Studio Gang created a design that employs distinct volumes organized in a village-like cluster around a central hub. Despite doubling capacity, the venue will still maintain a feeling of intimacy between the performers and audience.
The design features a rooftop terrace, green roof, lots of wood and will be able to open up to the adjacent public park in good weather. Slated for a 2016 completion, the new Writers Theatre is set to be a world-class destination nestled in this small suburb.
Chicago Chinatown Library — Chicago
One of Chicago’s busiest libraries is finally getting a new home. The Chinatown Library is currently renting space on Wentworth Avenue, but come 2015 it’s getting a redesign guaranteed to set it apart from the packs of average buildings typically charged with housing books.
SOM’s plans include a two-story, round-edged building sheathed in glass and vertical fins that double as sunshades (a nod to traditional Chinese screens). The frame of the building will curve to fit the public space outside, and is sure to be a glowing beacon in Chicago’s cityscape.
Des Moines Community Playhouse — Des Moines
Des Moines’ beloved community theatre is getting a large Broadway makeover from Kansas City architecture firm BNIM. The modern remodel is much needed for the state’s oldest and largest theatre, which has helped performers break a leg since 1919.
The planned remodel and additions will include a new education wing, a 400-seat main stage theatre and updated mechanics to take on-stage theatrics to a whole new level.