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University of Chicago's Rubenstein Forum Breaks Cover as School Approves Design

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The towering concept comes from architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro

While the University of Chicago demolished its midcentury Charles Stewart Mott building to make room for the new David M. Rubenstein Forum earlier this spring, the school has just now taken the wraps off a preliminary design for the 90,000-square-foot meeting complex.

Billed as the new campus hub for intellectual collaboration and exchange, the Rubenstein Forum is penned by international architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R). Though a newcomer to Chicago’s architectural scene, the New York-based outfit was responsible for Manhattan’s High Line and is also a finalist in the running to design the Obama Presidential Center slated for Chicago's south side.

Punctuated by a narrow 165-foot tower, the design of the new U of C building will make a bold and modern statement along the Midway Plaisance at the southeast corner of Woodlawn Avenue and 60th Street. Casual meeting spots including a lobby and restaurant will occupy the building’s two-story podium, joined by a 600-person flexible space dubbed the University Room.

Above, in the building’s tower portion, a north-facing 265-seat auditorium dubbed the Presentation Hall will be supplemented by a top-floor, multipurpose space facing east — aptly referred to as the Lake View Room. The upper levels will also contain smaller rooms that can be reconfigured to accommodate the needs to different groups.

Elizabeth Diller, founding partner at DS+R tells UChicagoNews, "We composed the tower as a stack of ‘neighborhoods’ with meeting and communal spaces of all sizes — both formal and informal, calm and animated, focused and diffuse. The building prompts its varied populations to cross paths with one another where possible to enhance intellectual exchange."

It’s worth noting that the names of the University Room, Presentation Hall, Lake View Room are all currently described as "tentative" which likely means the university is hoping to attract some well-heeled benefactors willing to pay for the privilege of naming each meeting space. The school had long planned a new meeting facility but it didn’t announce the forum project until it received a donation of an undisclosed amount from university trustee and Carlyle Group founder David Rubenstein in 2014.

According to DNAinfo, U of C will outline more details regarding the project including its construction timeline at a 6 p.m. meeting slated for tonight at Akarama Community Service Center located at 6220 S. Ingleside Avenue.