LOCATION : Chicago, Illinois
MARKET : Education
AREA : >10,000 SQ FT
Adapting a rich architectural heritage

Our work at University of Chicago grew out of our ongoing ADA survey and modification work for a variety of prominent institutions, including all of First Chicago's more than 150 branch banking facilities, and over three million square feet of state office facilities including the State of Illinois Building, and the Thompson Center. For all these institutions, our concern was to incorporate required modifications as seamlessly and invisibly as possible. And where possible, to make the improvements enhance the existing facilities.

The Thompson Center, an award-winning building designed by Helmut Jahn (1979 – 1985), was especially challenging. Our ADA survey of the entire Thompson Center, a building that at the time of our survey had not been approved past its substantial completion phase, was undertaken approximately twelve years after its initial occupancy and identified approximately $1.8 million in required ADA, State of Illinois Code, and other upgrades. These included plaza modifications, slight alterations to the main elevation at the main entrances, auditorium accessibility, and installing audio visual alarms throughout. We respected the architecture, and our many alterations, though in prominent locations, are so carefully integrated they look like they were always there. Here our success was that we brought significant areas of the building up to current code without our changes looking foreign to the building.

Much of our work at University of Chicago measures success in a similar manner. Ours were the first ADA improvements to many of the buildings on campus. Several of the buildings on campus were not ADA accessible prior to these ADA improvements. Our first ADA remodeling on campus was for the Classics Building, a magnificent University Gothic Building designed by Shepley Rutan and Coolidge Architects in 1915. Here we worked hard to reutilize marble for the fully remodeled bathrooms; to have ADA compliant gothic arched doors designed and fabricated to replace very narrow existing doors, while working within the tight constraints of a true loadbearing masonry structure.

Each project at the University of Chicago comes with a new set of clients. We always work directly with the Facilities Management department, the Campus Architect, and sometimes the University President also gets directly involved with a project. The individual Deans of each school are all proud of their buildings and often very directly involved in any alterations.

Our work has progressed from ADA modifications to complete buildouts for new programs or departments and larger renovations of existing buildings. For the International House, donated to the University by John D. Rockefeller in 1932, and designed to house 525 American and foreign men and women, our work included over $2.78 million of ADA upgrades, bathroom remodeling, sprinkler work, and new plumbing for the entire 13 story, 70-year old structure. Due to the construction techniques used in the past, these projects are interesting, and can be challenging. They require great attention to detail: For example, how best to replace the shower basins while leaving surrounding materials intact without leaking; how to replace existing plumbing in narrow wall cavities without removing or damaging existing marble; and how to upgrade lighting and finishes so that they're brighter, more cheerful, without clashing with the existing historic architecture.

These are challenging, important projects: Our research and experience with them directly contributes to and informs all our other work, and our other work and experience in turn contributes to these projects. Following are a few specifics regarding this experience:

International House Renovation:
A $2,787,000 upgrade and replacement of building components that were mostly original to the 70-year old structure. By incorporating existing elements such as marble panels with new materials and a modern layout, we were able to create a brighter, more pleasant space that residents would appreciate daily. We also addressed the University's goal of creating more accessible space by bringing four floors of residential space into ADA compliance with new fully accessible bathroom facilities.

Goodspeed, Ingleside, Gates & Cobb Hall:
The University required an accessible route to provide an interior connection between the West and South Quad buildings. Our goal was to locate a route that required the least amount of modifications to the original structures and that enabled us to retain architectural features such as existing arched doorways, decorative trim and ceremonial stairs. After completing a full ADA compliance survey of the public spaces of the buildings involved, we were able to identify this path, and using innovative opening systems, also preserved the architectural integrity of the Halls.

Blaine Hall High School Art Classroom:
When the high school required more space for its art program, we transformed an existing office area into a new, modernized art studio that provided students with access to movable "sculpting centers", power tools for wood and metal work as well as a new air system to keep the space free of dust and debris. Using a new glass block wall, we captured as much natural and ambient light as possible to make the studio feel spacious and inviting.

Law School:
For this project, located in a landmark building by Eero Saarinen, we worked closely with the University project manager, Law School administration and facilities director, as well as the NSIT Staff to provide an amalgamated well-lit conferencing and working space. We utilized as much natural light as possible and were able to tie into existing building systems without disrupting support to the rest of the building. Up-to-date cabling and data connections were integrated into the space and office furniture, all resulting in a cohesive updated information technology office, in tune with the U of C Law School needs.

Hinds Hall ADA Ramp:
This project was complicated by the fact that the site was constricted and required precise selective demolition of the existing stair to create a ramp that would be structurally integral with the existing building, requiring no additional support from the surrounding soil. The use of similar masonry color and texture as well as attention to the detail of the replacement handrails created an accessible route that integrated seamlessly with the character and aesthetics of the existing building.

Harper Library Renovation:
This 1.1 Million project focused on creating modern classrooms that accommodate the growing needs of the "wireless student". Working closely with staff and the registrar's office, we provided six new classrooms that meet the various needs of several class organization types including modernized AV support, acoustical control, flush power sources and wireless hubs in all new classrooms, as well as a new 100 seat lecture hall with powered, tiered seating, and designed presentation lighting controls. All was accomplished while preserving the architectural style of the main passages so that the venerable Library would not be disrupted.

Fermi Lab Research Institute:
Cordogan, Clark was enlisted to modernize the exhaust system of the existing tool shop with an emphasis on speed through the permit process and preserving the front façade of the building. Aided by the original drawings and a structural survey of the building, we located the new machinery in an inconspicuous place near the existing shop. This allowed for minor changes to the exterior and for a short distance of duct run which in turn kept the permit process time short as well as the costs low.

Studies Abroad Office Renovation:
In this small interior office renovation, we focused on the re-use of existing materials and architectural elements to keep the project within its tight budget and retain an overall coherence with the rest of the office space while complying with new city codes. The new layout was designed to maximize available natural light from the large window bay for the two new offices as well as provide a new location for data and network upgrades that allowed for the removal of all existing exposed conduit to provide a clean aesthetic.