Buildings on the Brain

The major project that has consumed much of my past three months is very nearly completed. You can see it (or at least, 12 of its 14 parts) here. It’s a showcase of new and renovated library buildings.

I don’t claim to be an expert on architecture, but I’ve been struck in the four years I’ve been producing the showcase by how intrinsically interesting many of the buildings are. Just this year, there are buildings with green roofs that reduce energy consumption, buildings with on-site walking paths, buildings with geothermal wells that heat and cool the building by pumping fluids through pipes that run in a circuit from the building to deep underground, buildings with early-literacy playgrounds, buildings that started life as roller rinks or barns from the 1860s, and a lot more.

It’s not too hard to use a new building as a selling point. New things naturally attract attention. But even existing buildings may well have tales that can inspire potential visitors.

Thinking about the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, which was built in the late ’90s, I can come up with several:

  • It has a number of green roofs, which reduce energy consumption and water runoff. They were some of the first in Chicago; Mayor Daley made a big push to create green roofs in the early ’00s. In the springtime, there are a few pairs of geese that build nests on one section of the green roof or another.
  • The green roofs are also beneficial for migratory birds, because they help the building blend into the parkland surrounding it.
  • The building is partially solar powered.
  • One side of the building has stone outcroppings, which form a sort of a waterfall area that provides unique habitats for plants and animals. The water that comes off the roof drains into a wetland microhabitat within the prairie restoration, which attracts different plants and animals and also prevents water from running off along streets where it will pick up pollutants.

… and those are just off the top of my head, and from an only semi-insider volunteer perspective.

A lot of thought goes into modern architecture in order to make it serve a function effectively and  to ensure it has as little an impact on the environment as possible. For a museum, this thought is very much worth sharing with the public

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