The three-story "house hubs"

The three-story "house hubs" are linked by cascading stairways on which students are meant to linger.

Campus North, seen from the rear

A view of Campus North from the rear, with the Henry Crown Fieldhouse to the left.

The diagonal is the university's newest "portal."

The diagonal is designed to be a "portal" bringing Hyde Park residents into the university.

Community commons

Outside the hubs, students are encouraged to mix with other houses in a pair of "community commons" lounges.

Portal to Hyde Park

Rather than turning its back to the surrounding neighborhood of Hyde Park, Campus North was designed as a "portal" in and out of campus.

Student rooms

In addition to typical singles and doubles (seen here), upperclassmen will have private apartments as luxurious as anything downtown.

Interior diagonal

The three-building complex is linked by the diagonal as well as interior courtyards, bringing the street into the complex.

Interior diagonal

The three-building complex is linked by the diagonal as well as interior courtyards, bringing the street into the complex.

Interior diagonal

The three-building complex is linked by the diagonal as well as interior courtyards, bringing the street into the complex.

Interior diagonal

The three-building complex is linked by the diagonal as well as interior courtyards, bringing the street into the complex.

Reading Room

The penthouse "reading room" is designed for more than just studying--and has great views of the Loop beyond.

Hogwarts Hall

The Hogwarts theme continues in the dining hall, with long tables reserved for each house.

A single room

The Hogwarts theme continues in the dining hall, with long tables reserved for each house.

Co.Design

Jeanne Gang To Build Dorm That's Googleplex-Meets-Hogwarts

To lure students into campus housing, the University of Chicago commissioned Studio Gang to build a residence based on the entrepreneurial spirit of collaboration.

When your university’s unofficial motto is "where fun comes to die," your upperclassmen might be forgiven for fleeing campus housing in droves. But as the University of Chicago discovered roughly a decade ago, such a dispersal ultimately harms both the campus culture and students’ ability to learn from each other. So, taking a page from Marissa Mayer’s HR manual at Yahoo, the university has commissioned Studio Gang Architects—and its MacArthur-certified "genius" principal and 2011 Fast Company Master of Design, Jeanne Gang—to build a $148 million residence hall designed to lure them back with the promise of pampering and 24/7 collaboration. It’s Hogwarts-meets-the-Googleplex.

The University of Chicago is famous for its Gothic architecture and infamous for its academic intensity. A cornerstone of student life is the house system, which subdivides residence halls into Dunbar’s Number-friendly "houses" of 75 to 100 students, each of which is comprised of an equal mix of first- through fourth-year students, plus a handful of live-in faculty. The resulting tribes have as much tradition (and rivalry) as Slytherin and Gryffindor. Today, barely half of all undergraduates live in houses, and of those, 80% are first- and second-year students, threatening to upset the equilibrium of the system. But the number of upperclassmen returning to campus is slowly increasing, and surveys indicate more would like to return, albeit on their own terms.

Hence Gang’s design for Campus North (as the new complex is colloquially known), which will house 800 students in eight houses, each with its self-contained "house hub," a three-story lounge linked by cascading staircases practically begging residents to linger. "Everyone passes through the house hub," says Gang, "so we literally thought of it as a house. Beyond three floors, you start to lose cohesion. So we’ve added a variety of spaces that all kinds of students can use for collaboration. Sometimes that’s chatting with one person—an upperclassman giving advice to a first-year—and sometimes that’s group study, or even group projects. It’s this entrepreneurial notion of collaboration—that great ideas come from being together."

To lure third- and fourth-years back into the fold, Gang’s layouts include private apartments comparable in quality to her market housing—including her signature Aqua Tower—in addition to more traditional singles and doubles. Public amenities open to all residents include a penthouse "reading room," courtyards, and a pair of "community commons" lounges, while the dining hall extends the Hogwarts theme with long tables devoted to each house.

Signaling another shift in the traditional notion of university campuses as worlds onto themselves, Campus North is meant to double as a "portal" to the surrounding neighborhood of Hyde Park. "I think the goal is how to take this insular, Gothic-style campus and make it more urban and connected," Gang says. The solution was the "diagonal," a boulevard running through the complex to the university’s Smart Art Museum and Henry Crown Field House.

Although known for its Gothic buildings, the university has in recent years commissioned a number of contemporary architects in addition to Gang, including Rafael Viñoly, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, and Helmut Jahn, whose Joe and Rika Mansueto Libarary is named after Mansueto Ventures’ (and Fast Company) owner.

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6 Comments

  • Linds

    Ugh. As a U of C undergrad and current graduate student (I love this place!) this building just does not seem to "get" the culture at all. It's the life of the mind, man. We don't need this pampering, community-encouraging B.S. Unless it's a sign that the culture is changing (continuous with the attempt to attract more "normal" students)...which would be sad and, to the extent that the administration is to blame, stupid. We've got a sizable slice of the nerd niche. Don't f' it up.

  • Fiyaz Khan

    That's really ugly - when UIC's campus was built, it was built to be modern too and now it looks like a prison.  Why would anyone do that to a campus with so much class and character? 

  • DC

    I'd like to see rendering of when it is February and 30 below zero in Chicago - how do these spaces work ?

  • No

    What if the student's don't want Uchicago to turn into yet another glass and steel box? That outdated gothic architecture is part of the soul of the school, and that culture is what makes the school unique. Admin needs to get in touch with their own community before "improving" it. 

  • Bingger

    Gang is ruining Chicago one building at a time. Shes a bad zaha, and zaha is even bad.

    Her buildings are not functional, programatically do not work. Her office as a whole has never undertook something this big and it surely is going to struggle.

  • myccbb

    What?!  Gang and Hadid are from two totally separate paradigms in architecture.  Zaha is all about parametricism.  Jeanne is all about research-based design.  These are two COMPLETELY different design processes/ideologies.  

    Never undertook something this size... What, again?!  The Aqua Tower is a pretty massive structure and I'm pretty sure the biggest thing before doing that was a community center.  I have faith that Studio Gang will make it through.