On Chicago’s Central Library: Sexy Like a Prince Album

I was in Chicago for a six-hour layover and went into total tourist mode, taking pictures of everything.

Public art? *click*

You are here.

Office building lobby art? *click*

A Frank Stella just chillin’ in a federal building off W. Jackson

Building preservation in action? *click clickety click click click*

New York would have torn it down to make a metal and glass monstrosity to house yet another TD Bank and twee bakery.

My only tourist goal, for the brief period I was to be in the city, was to go to the Museum of Science and Industry and see the Pioneer Zephyr, because I like trains and museums are cool. But then I saw this beauty…


It’s the Chicago Public Library’s  Harold Washington Library Center, the system’s Central Library. And it is the sexiest library I have ever seen.  It has shape, color, and texture; sight lines that draw the eye up and down, with stuff going on at the top to bring your gaze back up again. All those windows hint and tease about what’s inside. 

Not sexy in a Playboy Bunny going spread-eagle in a centerfold or a Victoria’s Secret catalog way. It is gorgeous on the outside, absolutely divine on the inside. It is confident and rocks its swag, but when you get past the physical stuff, it’s full of playful brilliance and soul. Layer stacked upon layer of intriguing intellect and sensuously curving escalators that bring you up and take you away.  Strong and bold, but when you get to know it personally, it’s down-to-Earth and humble.

Reading is hot. Books are hot. Learning is hot.

The Central Library is sexy in a Prince album kind of way.


And they have cannons. Actual. Freaking. Canons.


As a native New Yorker and former New York Public Library research card holder who pretty much lived in the Noma reading room before the whole place was gutted for *shrug* whatever purpose, I say this with love: Up your game, NYPL.

And then there’s the Archives. Oh, sweetness. It’s on the 9th floor (an appropriate coda  to the rest of the album, so to speak) and to get there one must ascend a gold-gated escalator; looking up and ahead you only see a lit, bluish-white sky. If the architects wanted us to feel like we were ascending to heaven,  they absolutely succeeded.

(What? No one else’s version of paradise includes tons and tons of books?)




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