Seminary Co-op Bookstore's new location wins interior design award

The Seminary Co-op Bookstore’s new location has earned a design award for Tigerman McCurry Architects, recognizing an interior space that accommodates the bookstore’s new activities while preserving a sense of immersion in books.

The Illinois chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers gave Tigerman McCurry the Best of Show Design Excellence Award for Contract for the Co-op’s new home at 5751 S. Woodlawn Ave.

“This was a stunning, beautiful project, well-selected materials, very well done space-planning, architecturally interesting, amazing lighting,” said Joan M. Kaufman, Interior Design Director with Interior Planning & Design, Inc., and one of the judges of the competition. “A significant contributing factor is that the bookstore is appealing to many who visit, and is well-integrated into the community and nearby architecture that surrounds it.”           

“The Co-op is an important place at the intellectual heart of the University and our community, and we are delighted that the new space is such a success,” said Steve Wiesenthal, Senior Associate Vice President and University Architect. “Tigerman McCurry pulled off a difficult feat of paying homage to the past while designing thoughtfully for future needs. We are all deeply grateful and congratulate them on this honor.”

The new design was meant to preserve the spirit of the Co-op’s former location in the basement of the building that housed the Chicago Theological Seminary. The space maintains the cherished feeling of being lost in books, in a space that is open to daylight and provides room for book reading events and other community gatherings.

“I wanted to convey the ambience of the old store without replicating it,” said Stanley Tigerman, of Tigerman McCurry, who himself has been a member of the Co-op for 35 years. “I wanted it to be as confusing as the basement space was.”

Some of the bookshelves in the new store are arranged at odd angles to give the browser a sense of the unknown around the corner.  After emerging from the maze, one can enjoy flipping though books in a light-drenched, open space. The front table, a hallmark of the Co-op, still greets patrons with the latest must-read titles.

“I’m very, very pleased that [Tigerman McCurry] won the award. They were an absolute pleasure to work with on this project,” said Jack Cella, who recently retired as general manager of the Co-op. “It’s open, inviting, easy to browse, but you still can get lost in and feel surrounded by books.  The reactions have been very positive from customers.”