Columbia College Building Glassy New Student Center In The Loop

You’re probably aware by now that Chicago’s Loop is crammed full of college students.  More than a dozen institutions of varying degrees of higher education call the heart of Chicago home, and draw tens of thousands of young-uns to the area each day.

But if you’re not a Columbia College student, you might not realize that one of the Loop’s fastest growing colleges doesn’t actually have a student center.  That will soon change.

Rendering of the proposed Columbia College Student Center (Courtesy of Columbia College Chicago)

Rendering of the proposed Columbia College Student Center (Courtesy of Columbia College Chicago)

Columbia is going to build a five-story glassy building to serve as a student center, complete with maker lab, event space, dance studios, and all the things that the collegiate set expect to be at their disposal.

The design is by San Francisco’s Gensler, and is expected to be about 114,000 square feet when it’s finished next year.  Details in the press release below.

Rendering of the proposed Columbia College Student Center (Courtesy of Columbia College Chicago)

Rendering of the proposed Columbia College Student Center (Courtesy of Columbia College Chicago)


New Student Center First of its Kind for Columbia College Chicago

Investment in students, innovative design to enhance South Loop economic engine

CHICAGO – Students at Columbia College Chicago will have a student center for the first time in the 127-year history of the college, it was announced today.

“The new center will be a cornerstone of the student experience at Columbia,” said Dr. Kwang- Wu Kim, president of the college. “Our students have always sought out ways to collaborate and study in informal settings outside the classroom. Now, students will have a place designed especially for them—a welcoming space as distinctive as they are.”

After close to a year of planning with participation and input from students in Columbia’s “Dream Out Loud” sessions, the project is in the final stages of design and programming, with groundbreaking slated for October 2017.

As part of Columbia’s strategic vision for the future, the college is partnering with architectural and design firm Gensler to design and program the five-story, 114,000 square-foot facility, which will serve as a distinctive, central hub for the expansive urban campus that spans 20 buildings, serves more than 8,000 students and employs more than 2,000 full-time and part- time faculty and staff, contributing to the economy and vitality of the South Loop.

“As architects and designers, the Gensler team appreciates what Columbia wants to achieve with this new hub for student creativity and collaboration,” said Brian Vitale, principal and design director. “We want the new student center to welcome and inspire every student at Columbia. Interacting in a place of their own will benefit students who can expand their own thinking with new connections, thoughts and ideas.”

The new building is designed as a flexible space where students of all majors and disciplines will have access to integrated spaces for both structured and informal interaction and learning— from individual space, to dance studios, to analog and digital maker labs, to an 800-person event space.

Over the next few months, the Columbia team will host a series of community events to share information and answer questions about plans for the Student Center.

“The new student center will embrace Columbia’s diversity and our unique group of talented students—young people who represent the creative and cultural future of Chicago and beyond,” said Dr. Kim. “The new building is a distinctive, physical expression of the college as a cultural incubator, innovator and hub, set within an exciting, culturally influential city.”
The building is scheduled for completion in late 2018.


Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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