Over the weekend, Roosevelt University staged a soft opening for its mighty and muscular Vertical Campus at 425 S Wabash Ave. We've been studiously following the building through its stages of planning and construction, and so we rewarded ourselves with a tour and catered festivities. It was not an ideal day to behold the sensational views—the crux of the tower's design and marketing strategies—for a thick fog had rolled in off the lake. So you'll have to be content with our capture of partial views. The building, by VOA Architects, shoots up 469 feet with 32 floors. The top 17 floors are dorm residences, with capacity for up to 633 students. A mix of classroom facilities, offices, and student services fill in the lower 15. As we've mentioned before, the aqua blue glass tower is designed as a series of stacked rhomboids. As playful and eye-catching as the structure is from almost any angle, one detracting aspect is the faceless gray slab that extends halfway up the building's north face. At the base of this, in a small gesture to the past, is the transplanted facade of Andrew Rebori's late Fine Arts Annex.
Through the Wabash entrance awaits a lime green lobby, the only flourish in an otherwise spare setting. Various signage tells you where to go: bookstore at left; bike room at right; elevators to classrooms and dorms; stairs to the Auditorium Building; and so on. The first elevator bank serves the academic floors. We shot up to the 14th for a quick look around. The academic floors have higher ceilings and more diverse floorplans than the dorm floors. However, we found both environments sterile and uninspired. Thankfully the floor plates are such that rooms flank the outer edge, affording almost all a stunning city view. The narrowness of the building is felt particularly acutely in the upper dorm floors. We went to the tippy top to check in on the rooms, and, while the hallway is cramped, the dorm units felt lively and expansive thanks to all the windows.
All told, this is a pretty successful building because of its quizzical form and because it leans so heavily on unobstructed downtown views. We don't doubt its power to attract many an awestruck freshman. Back in February, Deanna Isaacs revealed in a piece for The Reader that RU had some grizzly debt and enrollment realities to face moving forward. That would explain the school's aggressive bid for donors to sponsor building furnishings. But that's a story for another day. When it fully opens this fall, the Vertical Campus will be the second tallest academic building in the country (after Pitt's Tower of Learning) and the sixth tallest in the world. Another proud notch in our skyline.
·Roosevelt University's towering ambition [The Reader]
·Complete Vertical Campus Coverage [Curbed Chicago]