Like many progressive seats of higher education, the University of Chicago presents visitors with an enviable spread of architecture. Building Ideas is the first dedicated guide to a century’s worth of architectural accumulation since the modern era, a programme that shows no sign of abating. The University began with a template of solid, soaring Gothic, in hopeful imitation of the great European universities, most notably Oxford. Over time, this has given way to tough collegiate Brutalism – usually the most inventive and well cared for examples of pure concrete architecture – and refined American high tech.
The University of Chicago was originally founded via a donation from John D. Rockefeller (he later called it ‘the best investment I ever made in my life’), on a site that was once part of the famed World’s Columbian Exhibition of 1893. Today, the campus extends to include Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, one of the icons of American modernism. The university has always embraced new architecture, commissioning Mies van der Rohe, Eero Saarinen and SOM after the war.
Contemporary architects who have contributed to the campus in the modern era include Cesar Pelli, Ricardo Legorreta, Rafael Vinoly and Murphy/Jahn. Tod Williams Billie Tsien’s Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts is one of the most recent and graceful structures to grace the campus, and a recently announced dorm by Studio Gang Architects looks set to continue a great tradition of innovative educational design.