The University of Chicago campus, in Chicago’s illustrious Hyde Park, boasts an intriguing collection of architectural gems. Studding the grounds are the SSA (School of Social Service Administration) building, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe; several Law School buildings, designed by Eero Saarinen; and, of course, the Robie Robie House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Now, amidst these historic pieces of architecture, a new addition has been erected, and it’s turning heads thanks to its conceptual “nod” to each of the architects whose work appears on campus, and throughout the city.
The Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts (915 East 60th Street), designed by New York-based Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, is an 184,000-square-foot complex that houses a performance hall, exhibition space, two theaters, a screening room, performance penthouse, classrooms, rehearsal studios, a digital media center, a cafe and more. It celebrated its grand opening in October of last year.
At the heart of the center is an 11-story tower, with notched corners cut into the limestone facade and contrasted by elongated panels of glass. Protruding from the tower is an elevated walkway that gives visitors a breathless perspective of the campus and the city.
Regarding the Center’s overall structure, Billie Tsien said, “Tod talked about the vertical building as the silo and the horizontal building as the Plains. But of course the vertical building is a Chicago tradition, so we’re also referring to the city.”
Meanwhile, Tod Williams explained how select materials echoed neighboring designers. “[We used] long bars of stone that are like horizontal bars and also bricklike, so we were definitely thinking about Frank Lloyd Wright when we made the building.”
Also of prime consideration for the designers were views of the city. Tsien and Williams wanted individuals standing inside the tower to feel connected to the city on all sides, with perceived attachments to multiple neighborhoods in Chicago.
“If we’re standing in a space looking north and east, we get to see [Lake Michigan]. But if you go to the other side of the building you’ll also see that we have interesting views to the south, so we’re trying to address both the life of [north] Chicago and the life of [south] Chicago, and make it come together here in the building,” Williams explained. “The building looks very solid on the outside, but as you walk through, you’ll find that really every space has some dramatic window that connects you to the outdoors.”
The Center’s interiors have been kept very minimal, with felt walls, mirrored glass panels, custom lighting and angled skylights.
Jessica Stockholder, chair for the Department of Visual Arts , exclaims: “It’s beautiful; it’s comfortable. It’s transformative for the Department of Visual Arts.”