Joseph Regenstein Library

  Photo by Michael Berera

Photo by Michael Berera

1100 E. 57th Street, Chicago
Walter A. Netsch of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), 1970

Of all the modern builidngs the University of Chicago has constructed since it gave up on Collegiate Gothic back in the 1930s, only one – the Regenstein Library -- has the weight and authority of those earlier structures. Constructed on an axis with the original 1912 Harper Library, the Regenstein is a virtuosic display of graduated concrete voids and solids that at times suggets natural rock formations and at others a melting gothic cathedral. (Walter Netsch, the architect, was the inventor of what he called “field theory,” a design method that allowed for almost infinite complexity in the design of floorplans and surfaces and which is reflected in the Regenstein’s ever-shifting voids and solids.) Although often described as Brutalist, the structure has moments of surprising delicacy. The building, which houses 4.5 million volumes, has seven floors, two of which are below grade. Total square footage is 577,085 square feet. The cost was $20,750,000. In 2011, the architect Helmut Jahn completed a $42 million addition on the building’s west side that houses 3.5 million volumes under an elliptical dome.