Chicago, Illinois, USA
The 10-storey structure for the David Rubenstein Forum at the University of Chicago at 1201 E. 60th St. rises on the south side of the Midway Plaisance, across that swath of green from The University of Chicago’s picturesque palisade of Collegiate Gothic towers.
The new building, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Brininstool + Lynch cost about $100 million, according to university officials.
The forum is a space of discourse and intellectual exchange aimed at fostering the outward engagement of visiting scholars, researchers and dignitaries from around the world.
In that spirit, the architects designed the forum as a place of intellectual, institutional, and educational exchange.
The 97,000 square-foot building is organized around the need for a variety of meeting spaces.
The program for the building—including the number, size and type of rooms—was informed by focus groups and one-on-one consultation with more than 100 faculty and staff from across the University who regularly plan, host and attend meetings, conferences and events.
The design includes a two-story base and a narrower 165-foot tower.
At the base, entrances to the north and south open to the main lobby, a space for informal interactions, a restaurant and the building’s largest meeting space—tentatively named the University Room.
The University Room is flexible enough to be used for a large lecture, a panel discussion or a seated dinner, and can accommodate up to 600 people.
The tower pairs meeting rooms with informal spaces to create interior “neighborhoods” that can be devoted to a small, intimate academic symposium, or combined for larger conferences or meetings.
The tower is organized as a stack of neighborhoods with meeting and communal spaces offering diverse environments—formal and informal, calm and animated, focused and diffused, scheduled and spontaneous. Each neighborhood coalesces around a central private social lounge that offers a sense of community and identity.
The neighborhoods are vertically stacked, rotated and oriented to their own unique perspective of Chicago, creating a panoramic, 360-degree form rather than a front or back face.
The North-South orientation opens the building equally to both the Woodlawn neighborhood and Downtown Chicago, stitching together through view and movement the building’s interior spaces with its community.
The structure utilizes the back and forth cantilvering of the neighborhoods to balance loads on the core fulcrum point; making it self-supporting like a see-saw, allowing the post-tension concrete structure to be thinner and much less expensive than one would assume looking at it.
Glazing for the project comes in the form of a unitized curtain wall. The panels arrived at the site in sets of three and were dead-loaded onto steel anchors bolted into the floor slab at two-foot intervals.
The zinc panels, mitered and chamfered, conceal the curtain wall system and frame the glazing bays.
The building is located adjacent to parkland and is in close proximity to Lake Michigan, and, as a result, in the middle of bird migration routes. The architects worked closely with glass manufacturers to incorporate an inner-lite of bird-safe glass coating, which is largely invisible to the human eye.
“The architecture of the University of Chicago has traditionally sought to inspire, encourage and support the pursuit and exchange of insight and understanding,” said University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer.
“The Rubenstein Forum will build upon this tradition, drawing from and extending the University’s rich legacy of architecture, while enhancing our convening power as a center of scholarship, education and impact.”
Architects: Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Architects of Record: Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Associate Architects: Brininstool + Lynch, Ltd.
Client: University of Chicago
Photographer: Brett Beyer