with Stanley Collyer
Finalists clockwise from top left: Studio Gang, Perkins and Will, Hopkins Architects, BIG
COMPETITIONS: Based on past and recent history, the University of Chicago seems to be concentrating on exceptional design. Just being in Chicago might be one reason; but you have instituted a competitive design process. How did this come about?
STEVE WIESENTHAL: For every project we undertake, we do an in-depth analysis about the best delivery process, the types of architects we think might be best for those types of projects, and, in the case of the residence hall—which is not just a residence hall, but dining commons, some class rooms, and some other community-type spaces—we had a pretty good idea programmatically what we wanted. The site is on the edge of campus and had on it a 1962 residence hall that was pretty much a fortress up against the surrounding community in Hyde Park. At the primary intersection of campus and community, there was a loading dock and a giant brick wall. We saw this site as an opportunity to dramatically change the relationship between campus and community and thought that what we really wanted to find in the architectural community was ideas that would create the best college housing experience for our students and layer onto that this notion that it would completely change the experience for everybody else on the campus. It’s a big site; we actually expanded it. We incorporated what had been a practice field for our athletic program. The idea was that we create a whole new quadrangle for the campus.
Again, I don’t think I would do a design competition for a high performance physical sciences laboratory building where you want to generate the program and design in parallel. The fact that we had a clear program and high aspirations for the urban plan of this, suggested approaching architects in a competition mode.
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