Architect Jeanne Gang tapped to design U of C dormitories

July 24, 2013

Katie Kather

Image courtesy of University of Chicago
Jeanne Gang was tapped to design a complex of three residence halls at the University of Chicago.

Chicago architect Jeanne Gang has been chosen to design a new residence hall and dining commons complex for the University of Chicago.

Gang, a winner of the MacArthur ‘Genius Grant,’ is known for functional buildings that boldly respond to their physical and ecological environments. She’s designed three curving dormitories marked by vertical glass and open space both inside and out.

“This view of campus life can be seen from the street and is no longer hidden away and so there’s really a direct connection between student life and city life,” Gang said.

The three new buildings will have a dining hall for the entire campus, two student lounge areas called community commons and what Gang is calling “house hubs,” which she described as taking a three-story house and intersecting it into a modern building. There’s also a top-floor reading room that overlooks the city’s lake and skyline. The tallest building will be 15 floors.

Gang said it was important for her team and the university to design a space that keeps the existing, vibrant community culture there alive. Another source of inspiration came from U of C’s neo-Gothic architecture: She wanted to include those elements in her design.

But she also had to make sure she met the university’s architecture guidelines, which include making sure new buildings enhance the existing architecture. 

“As a contemporary architect it’s always a challenge. How do you do that with a series of Gothic-style architecture?” Gang asked.

The Gang buildings will replace a dorm by Chicago architect Harry Weese, which university officials said has run its course, and house nearly four times the number of students.

Total construction cost is estimated at $148 million, said Associate Vice President and University Architect Steve Wiesenthal. Funding will come from a variety of sources, including philanthropy and room and board fees.

The project should be complete by fall 2016. In the meantime, students will be relocated to two other residence halls.

Katie Kather is an arts & culture reporting intern at WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter @ktkather.