School of the Art Institute of Chicago Flaxman Library Renovation
School of the Art Institute of Chicago Flaxman Library Renovation / ChicagoIL
Transforming a disconnected, two-level library into a cohesive space in just four months

Mortenson recently completed a renovation of the John M. Flaxman Library at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Located on the 5th and 6th floors of the historic Sharp Building, the renovation transformed the once disconnected two-level library into a cohesive, inviting space. 

The team was on an aggressive schedule to complete the renovation between the Spring and Fall semesters of 2023. The school remained open during the renovation, so the team developed an extensive disruption avoidance plan with careful phasing, temporary walls, and detailed wayfinding signage.

Most of the renovation occurred on the 5th floor of the library, which was divided between office and admin spaces, stacks for non-circulating collections, and space for the SAIC Special Collection. After a complete demolition of the interior, new student gathering areas, classrooms, offices, and admin spaces were added, all with glass storefront windows to allow more light into the library. Acoustic and HVAC considerations were paramount, especially in the Special Collection space where tight temperature and humidity tolerances were required to maintain the integrity of the School’s archives. 

Adding a layer of complexity to the project, the team was challenged with navigating three major events happening near SAIC over the four-month duration. Accommodating a necessary road closure to stage concrete trucks required close coordination with the city of Chicago and work was performed overnight to keep the project on schedule. 

With the ultimate goal of creating a more cohesive two-story library, the team also completed work on the 6th floor, which is the main public area of the library. Five holes were punched into the floor and a stunning steel staircase was added, both visually and literally connecting the two floors into one space. 

Facts And Figures

Completion: September 2023

Size: 10,000 SF

Delivery Methods

Construction Manager at Risk

The Team