Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago, Illinois

Rising amidst the iconic buildings of Chicago, the Harold Washington Library stands 10 stories high and has been noted as one of the largest libraries in the United States. The architects responsible for the building, Hammond, Beeby and Babka are known for producing designs which employ modernism with historical allusion, often described as belonging to the postmodern movement of design.

Zahner's involvement on the project was in regards to the architectural forms and building cornices designed by artists Kent Bloomer and Raymond Kaskey. These works form the iconic figurehead of the building, a modern take on the gargoyle iconography and the flourishes of baroque sculptures in patinated copper tones. However, the sculptures produced were actually manufactured using contemporary materials, plates of aluminum, riveted and finished with a polyester finish in the traditional verdigris tone.

The aluminum leaf forms and steel cornice railing are each powder coated with a green-toned polyester finish. Zahner provided the larger forms of these acroterion, using a foam placeholder for the smaller sculptures welded to these artworks. The animal sculptures were produced by the artist studio, and attached by Zahner.

Harold washington c zahner 1751
Harold Washington Library photographed in 2015, twenty-five years after manufacturing.
Harold washington c zahner 1738
Harold Washington Library photographed in 2015, twenty-five years after manufacturing.
Chicago aluminum shop
Architectural forms for Harold Washington Library in the Zahner shop.
Custom aluminum forms
A shipment of the cornices for Harold Washington Library leaves the Zahner shop.
Harold washington c zahner 1791
Harold Washington Library photographed in 2015, twenty-five years after manufacturing.
Harold chicago aluminum prior to installing sculptures
The aluminum cornices for the Harold Washington Library in Chicago, Illinois.
Harold chicago painted aluminum without sculpture
A foam placeholder stands in for the cast owl acroterion sculpture prior to installation.
Harold washington construction
A single panel of the Harold Library cornices at the painter.