DS+R: Chicago Midway Plaisance Center

David Rubenstein Forum

Diller Scofidio + Renfro

University of Chicago was originally founded as a scholarly retreat outside of the city, and the Rubenstein Forum will expand on this rich tradition as an intellectual destination on campus noted for its outward engagement of visiting scholars, researchers and dignitaries. It will be a true university building, equally dedicated to all of its many constituent departments and institutes; moreover, the building’s ample social and break-out spaces will constitute a new University living room--a comfortably furnished and energized environment in which chance encounters and impromptu discussions abound.

The charged and serendipitous character of these interior social spaces will spill out into the surrounding landscape, bringing the building into dialogue with a larger ensemble of adjacent existing and future buildings and green spaces. Here, building and landscape will come together along a meandering mid-campus walk. Fundamental to this mission is the building’s height and unique position on the Midway Plaisance, which allow for expansive views toward the campus and surrounding communities as well as downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan.

A most focused place of intellectual and social exchange, the Forum combines spaces that are both formal and informal, calm and animated, focused and diffuse, scheduled and spontaneous. This mixing of attributes constitutes a fundamental unit to building’s organization, which consists of a formal meeting room + an informal social space and ranges in scale from small breakout rooms to a 300 person auditorium. These units collect into a stack of five blocks, each uniquely oriented for views and daylight & feature distinctive cladding both inside and out.

The key to deep focus for the meeting rooms is the control of visual and acoustic noise. As visitors move from the social or pre-function spaces (North) to their respective venues (South), a gradual winding down of distraction occurs-- natural light washes the meeting room in a warm and consistent daylighting scene, acoustic treatments edit out external noise, and views of campus are carefully framed to make the experience of each room distinctive. From this baseline adjustment of the environment, users can fine tune each room to achieve ideal conditions, darkening the room for a media presentation or adjusting the temperature. This experience occurs in reverse upon leaving the meeting room as views open up to campus, noise levels rise, and the smell of espresso wafts though the air of the social spaces.