Dezeen Magazine

Diller Scofidio + Renfro unveils forum building for University of Chicago campus

The University of Chicago has approved a preliminary design by New York architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro for a facility devoted to hosting talks and events.

The David M Rubenstein Forum will provide the institution with 90,000 square feet (8,360 square metres) of meeting and event spaces, described as a "hub for convening and scholarly collaboration".

The building will be located at the southeast corner of Woodlawn Avenue and 60th Street on the university's campus, a few miles south of the downtown area.

Diller Scofidio + Renfro's design includes a two-storey base and a 165-foot (50-metre) tower, made up of a series of irregularly stacked boxes.

On the ground floor, entrances to the north and south will provide access to the main lobby. This leads to an area for informal interactions, a restaurant and the building's largest meeting space — tentatively named the University Room.

Raised a level up and articulated as its own volume, this venue for large lectures, panel discussion or seated dinners will accommodate up to 600 people.

"The lower floors of the Rubenstein Forum are porous and dynamic with connections to the campus and the community in all directions," said studio co-founder Elizabeth Diller.

Two other areas are highlighted in a similar way – housed in boxes offset from the main structure and clad in a different material.

They include a 285-seat auditorium, which projects north from the tower, and a multipurpose space that sits on top and cantilevers out to the east.

DS+R at University of Chicago

The remainder of the facility's taller section will pair meeting rooms with informal spaces.

"We composed the tower as a stack of 'neighbourhoods' with meeting and communal spaces of all sizes," Diller said.

"As one climbs the building, there is a progressive retreat from the everyday to more contemplative spaces with dramatic views of Chicago and Lake Michigan."

According to University of Chicago executive vice president David Fithian, the facility will allow the institution to host its own events on campus rather than hire out venues in the city.

"For those of us involved every day in convening groups on campus and in organising meetings and events for guests from around the world, the Rubenstein Forum fulfils a critical need for the university," he said.

"Too often events hosted by the university are held in other parts of Chicago, and our guests are denied the opportunity to experience the intellectually dynamic and beautiful campus that we have in Hyde Park."

Diller Scofidio + Renfro was founded by Elizabeth Diller, Ricardo Scofidio and Charles Renfro. The firm has recently completed a new home for the Berkeley Art Museum and the Pacific Film Archive, and an art department building at Stanford University.

It is also behind the design of The Broad museum in Los Angeles and the popular High Line park in New York.