The University of Chicago’s new satellite campus is part of the university’s mission for international, interdisciplinary education, research, scholarship, and community engagement. Situated on a steep, heritage-protected hillside, the building’s design was inspired by the site’s challenging topography, its magnificent panorama across the sea, and the scattered remnants of its past as a former military facility and, in later years, a detention center. The resulting design carefully weaves the new program around the challenging site, touching down only at points of least intrusion.
Respecting the site’s steep topography and the treehouse concept of the architectural design, a mini pile foundation was adopted for its minimal impact on existing contours. Supporting columns were engineered to a slender diameter, gently “floating” the building over the heritage buildings and surrounding natural landscape. A steel framing system was adopted for use of long span structures to minimize the number of columns in both the interior and exterior areas. The fluid curvilinear form, accentuated by generous glazing, “floats” lightly over the memory laden masses of the heritage buildings and the site’s dense foliage.
Since development of the campus involved changing the land use from “Residential to Educational Institution,” it necessitated extensive public engagement and consultation prior to the application to authorities. Detailed land-use analyses including visual, traffic, landscape, heritage, geotechnical, drainage, sewerage, and environmental “were carried out to ensure to mitigate any adverse impact on site.” With a 28m elevation difference from northeast to southwest, the steep terrain posed an immense challenge to siting and construction of the new facility. The innovative decision to float a single-story bridge above the heritage buildings ensured minimum disruption to the site while enabling ongoing site operation and staging during construction.
Revery Architecture; also ARUP