Shola Farber: July 2010 Archives

Joe and Rika Mansueto Library Tour

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As a special treat, a few members of the Sustainability Office had the opportunity to tour the construction site of the new Joe and Rika Mansueto Library. Our guide was Mike Natarus, the Senior Project Manager for the Mansueto Library Project. He was incredibly knowledgeable and informative about the project, partly because he has been working on this amazing new structure for more than four years, from the initial planning stages through the present. One of the most impressive aspects of this project is the fact that we will be the only top academic research library in America to house its entire library collection on campus. This is important to the Office of Sustainability because it will help reduce the university's carbon footprint by reducing the cost of transporting books, both monetary and environmental, to nothing.

First, we went down some 50 feet into the depths of the concrete vault where more than 3.5 million volumes of books will one day reside. The enormous space, approximately six stories deep and several football fields long, is more or less empty right now. 

shola looking up at space.jpgWe saw the five massive crane-like machines that will travel up and down the aisles of stacks retrieving and replacing bins of books for users on the ground floor.


We walked through walls more than two feet thick that will help control temperature and humidity in the underground structure. 

katie with the wall.jpgWe stood next to and learned about the massive tendons that will brace the building from excessive rainwater and general implosion.

ignacio with tendons.jpg
These tendons stretch underground all the way across Ellis Ave and Bartlett quad, respectively, to keep the building in place.

Next, Mike brought us back up to street level. We meandered through the base of the scaffolding before climbing the stairs to what will be the roof! The view from the top of the dome was quite astounding, and it is a sight few people will have the opportunity to witness because soon, the glass will be in place, the scaffolding will come down and the ceiling will be rendered inaccessible.

colleen on the roof.jpgWe learned that the dome is comprised of only straight pieces--none of the metal or glass is curved at all.

dome facing max.jpg

It will simply appear curved thanks to the incredible design concepts of Chicago-based architect Helmut Jahn and the beautiful structural engineering of Werner Sobeka German firm that took on this enormous and arduous task.

The library is scheduled to be complete within the next academic year. Having seen the construction site of this library, I definitely encourage you to take advantage of the natural light reading room, the special collections area and, of course, the robots that will bring you books from a concrete vault six stories below the earth. The library is bound to be beautiful and used rigorously by the whole community. Our tour of the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library Project was a great learning experience for all and a fun exploration into the power of human ingenuity.

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