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First Look: Studio Gang Designs U of C Dormitory Cluster

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Harry Weese's Pierce Tower has outlived its usefulness—at least in the eyes University of Chicago trustees—but with much pomp the school today named the architect to build the successor to Pierce. It's Jeanne Gang, and a packed house at the Logan Center for Arts was happy to hear it. Gang wisely framed her design for a three-building dorm complex as an encapsulation of core U of C values of campus-wide interdisciplinary cooperation. Her fly-through slideshow presentation depicted multiple spaces for spontaneous social gatherings, organized into 3-story "house hubs".

The "house" concept of student living is applied across the campus and helps create manageable mixed communities of lower and upperclassmen. Jeanne Gang's concept marries eight houses of 100 students each in three buildings with heights of five, 11, and 15 stories, together composing what Gang hopes will be perceived as a "North Campus quadrangle." The building facades play a role in this, as their tall-windowed neo-Gothic uniformity reflects many older campus buildings including the neighboring Henry Crown Field House. There's "beauty and depth in the facade system", says Gang, with technology employed to generate an "intersecting tracery" that echoes the intricate, labor-intensive masonry work of classic century-old stone buildings.

The buildings loosely enclose a pair of courtyard/plaza spaces that do well to address the Hyde Park community with a diagonally traversing path and openness to the street. Retail will go in along 55th Street and trees and art will adorn the site's University Avenue frontage. One of the better questions that arose during the concluding Q&A session was what lessons, if any, were drawn from Weese's Pierce Tower? Gang answered that her "cascading lounges allow for people watching", a reflection of one of the Pierce Tower's best known traits. Clearly, some remembrance of Pierce is called for but we think this new housing design is potent enough to lead the school's "recapitalization" of housing stock— one of its key long-term goals. U of C intends to see the project completed in time for Fall Semester Quarter 2016. What's the damage, you ask? $148 million, with no hint of TIF raiding.
·Announcing New Residence Hall and Dining Commons [U of C]
·Jeanne Gang Coverage [Curbed Chicago]
·Studio Gang Architects [official]