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Columbia College cuts the ribbon on Gensler-designed student center

The glassy South Loop project features an unusual “inside-out” design

A modern building with glass wall glows from within at dusk. Taller buildings stand in the background.
The new five-story complex is a place for students to study, create, dine, work-out, and relax.
Images courtesy Columbia College Chicago

On Wednesday, Columbia College Chicago hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new $50 million student center in the heart of its South Loop campus. The five-story, 114,000-square-foot complex is only the second purpose-built structure in the school’s 129-year history and its first dedicated, ground-up student center.

The layout resembles an “atrium turned inside-out,” Architect Scott Hurst of Gensler Chicago tells Curbed. “The multistory student lounges, galleries, and study spaces are pushed to the perimeter, expressing the energy and creativity found within the space outward to the surrounding city and campus.”

The glassy structure replaced a vacant lot at the northwest corner of Wabash Avenue and 8th Street and broke ground last spring. The project aims to embrace Columbia’s creative curriculum and includes visual arts exhibit spaces, dance studios, study areas, maker labs, dining facilities, a fitness center, and a pair of outdoor terraces.

A long white wall above a lobby space with spray painted flowers arranged in a artful pattern. It is opposite a glass wall facing the outdoors.
A colorful mural adorns a wall in the one of the center’s multistory communal spaces.
Tables and seating located below a concrete staircase and floor-to-ceiling glass walls.
Several student lounges and meeting places are found throughout the new center.
A large second-floor workshop overlooking a lobby space. Inside there are tables, stools, sewing machines, and other pieces of equipment.
A maker space with equipment and materials allowing students to pursue creative endeavors such as fashion design.
This balcony, one of two outdoor terraces, provides a view of the nearby Essex on the Park apartment tower.