Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-12-13



ARCHITECTURE New UChicago building gets assistance from Theaster Gates
by Ariel Parrella-Aureli

This article shared 3736 times since Sun Jun 16, 2019
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

An open forum with ample natural light, historic exposed quartz beams and polished woodworked benches greet the eye when entering the new Harris Building. The University of Chicago's ( UChicago's ) School of Public Policy has a new home that represents the vision of the school and its students, and professor/artist /educator Theaster Gates served as an advisor and mentor regarding the design process.

Designed by Farr Associates architects, the new building—called the Keller Center—has been 10 years in the making and was completed at the end of 2018. January gave graduate students of the public policy program a new space to call home, one that represents community, collaboration and policy in action. Its grand opening was May 3.

"It's a space where [students] can come together, learn, talk and challenge each other's ideas," Misho Ceko, the chief operating officer of the Harris Building, said.

He said he is impressed with the way the architects maintained the building's integrity and exposed its unique structures.

The old building is a mid-century classic and the city and the university see it as a historic piece of architecture, according to Gabe Wilcox, a senior associate at Farr who worked on the project. Because of the historical relevance, Wilcox said the exterior facade remained the same while the designers focused on an interior renovation.

The building's design is a mix of repurposed materials from the old building down the street, aspects of the new historic home and repurposed trees from Chicago's South and West Side parks that Gates got from the city. The trees, infested by the emerald ash borer beetle, were a hazard and had to be cut down but Gates reclaimed the wood for use in art and building fabrication projects. Through his Dorchester Industries Mill on the South Side, local residents milled the wood and received job training experience.

"It was a business adventure I don't think he's ever done before," Wilcox said of Gates' partnership, citing its large economic impact to the neighborhood.

In addition to repurposed material, the building encompasses sustainability, accessibility and policy laws the firm had to challenge, Wilcox said. With universal counter heights and desks for all types of people and closed-stalled bathrooms to make everyone feel comfortable, the designers were inclusive to the LGBTQ and disabled communities.

The policy on university building bathrooms did now allow the Keller Center to have gender-neutral bathrooms, Wilcox said, which is how the firm had originally designed the bathrooms. Although the architects felt disgruntled after losing the fight against the city's code of standards, the alternative was to add a sliding panel that can be removed between the two bathrooms when the law changes.

"[We] future-proofed [the bathrooms] so that the university doesn't have to tear up all the tiles and replace the bathrooms when the laws change—which they will," he said.

The building also has solar panels and runs on 11 percent solar energy. The other sustainable aspect of the building is its rainwater cistern on the ground floor. Although cisterns are illegal in Illinois, Farr Associates signed a variance with the City of Chicago and Departments of Public Health to get it approved, which is a typical process for building design, Wilcox said. The cistern, which holds 15,000 gallons and could fill the entire atrium, captures rainwater and uses it to flush the building's toilets, diverting rainwater from Chicago's sewer system. It also provides more usable space for the rooftop solar panels.

"It's a good policy story to say there is something so rational about doing this—why can't it be public law?" Wilcox said of the cistern policy. "It's something that needs to change."

Designing the Harris Building has been a learning experience for Wilcox, who said he previously did not think of policy moves in architecture. He said there were so many policy challenges when designing the building that he could not keep count.

"I tried to design beautiful spaces that are sustainable and socially responsible but I never thought I should be challenging code and law in the process," he said. "I will approach every project now with the belief that I could change something—change the law or the code to be a better socially responsible design."

The architect firm is known for this kind of progressive work and is transparent about its business practices to make sure it works with clients who support work that challenges and expands social practices and norms.

"From a policy perspective, it's important for us to make a statement on the importance of sustainability with the building," Ceko said. "Make it raw and let the space be itself."

The space has ample greenery outside, artwork to adorn the exterior corners, bike racks, a small shower room and UV bird-friendly glass to minimize avian deaths—another law that could be standard soon, Wilcox said.

With a laugh, Ceko said former students will think the Harris Building looks like a post-apocalyptic apple store and nothing compared to the "prison" of the old building.

"In many ways, it's this blackboard that we are putting content on—we are thinking about it, adding to it," he said. "The building is going to get banged up and to me that's the beauty of the space. See the space and how [it is] used and give it life."

This article shared 3736 times since Sun Jun 16, 2019
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Out and Aging
Presented By


Gay News

THINGS TO DO Open House Chicago taking place Oct. 15-16 2022-10-14
- The Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) is presenting Open House Chicago (OHC) 2022 presented by Wintrust on Oct. 15-16. The public is encouraged to discover a roster of 150+ sites in 20 community areas over the weekend, ...

Gay News

STAYCATION REVIEW Sofitel Chicago 2022-08-17
- Bonjour! If you're like me, you've walked past the Sofitel Chicago Magnificent Mile (20 E. Chestnut St.; a million times. You've probably also admired the hotel's unique architecture almost ...

Gay News

Wrightwood 659 xhibits explore architecture, aocial engagement, Japanese "Modern Girls" 2022-03-31
-- From a press release - (CHICAGO, IL — March 31, 2022) Wrightwood 659 presents a trio of exhibitions opening May 6, 2022: AMERICAN FRAMING, a reinstallation of the U.S. entry in the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale; Rirkrit Tiravanija: (who's afraid of ...

Gay News

ART Wrightwood 659 exhibits extended into 2022 2021-12-06
- Two exhibitions currently on view at Wrightwood 659—a private, non-collecting institution at 659 W. Wrightwood Ave. devoted to socially engaged art and to architecture—will be extended through Feb. 26, 2022. "Romanticism to Ruin: Two Lost Works ...

Gay News

Month-long Open House Chicago 2021 to feature in-person site visits Oct. 16-17 2021-09-25
--From a press release - (September 20, 2021) CHICAGO — Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) announced that Open House Chicago 2021 will again offer its popular in-person, indoor site visits, providing rare behind-the-scenes access to more ...

Gay News

ARCHITECTURE Thompson Center Idea Competition winners named 2021-09-14
- The Chicago Architecture Center and the Chicago Architectural Club announced the jury's selection of three winning designs for the Thompson Center Design Ideas Competition that represent three distinct, creative visions for the State of Illinois Thomp ...

Gay News

'Two Lost Works of Sullivan and Wright' opens Sept. 24 2021-08-08
- Wrightwood 659, at 659 W. Wrightwood Ave., is presenting "Romanticism to Ruin: Two Lost Works of Sullivan and Wright" a dual exhibition exploring two of these architects' long-demolished masterpieces. Said masterpieces ...

Gay News

ATTRACTIONS Chicago's First Lady offers a premium architectural tour 2021-08-05
- Recently, USA Today selected the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Chicago's First Lady cruise as the best boat tour in the country—and it's easy to see why. (By the way, it also was voted the top boat tour ...

Gay News

Helmut Jahn architecture exhibit has opened 2021-07-24
- The Chicago Architecture Center (CAC), 111 E. Wacker Dr., has opened its first, major limited-run exhibit, "Helmut Jahn: Life + Architecture," the career retrospective of Helmut Jahn's innovative architectural designs. ...

Gay News

ATTRACTIONS Chicago Architecture Center reopens with new exhibits 2021-06-08
- On May 22, the Chicago Architecture Center (CAC), 111 E. Wacker Dr., opened all-new and updated exhibits in its 10,000 square feet of galleries full of scale models of new building designs from Chicago and around ...

Gay News

Chicago Cultural Center historic interiors to be restored for June reopening 2021-04-22
--From a press release - CHICAGO, IL — Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) today announced the historic restoration of the landmark Chicago Cultural Center to reclaim two lost interiors decorated by the ...

Gay News

Chicago Architecture Center announces Spring 2021 reopening schedule 2021-03-12
--From a press release - CHICAGO The Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) announces plans for a safe Spring 2021 reopening of its popular CAC walking tours, CAFC River Cruise and CAC exhibits. Review COVID-19 safety policies for CAC experiences here. CAC ...

Gay News

Preservation Chicago unveils list of most endangered Chicago buildings 2021-02-26
- Preservation Chicago which works with city officials, neighborhood residents, owners and stakeholders to prevent what is often viewed as the wholesale loss of Chicago's important buildings has revealed its 2021 list of ...

Gay News

John Pennycuff Memorial Apartments in Castillo Plaza, LGBTQ housing in Logan Square 2020-12-18
- Last month, The John Pennycuff Memorial Apartments at Castillo Plaza (Pennycuff) opened at the corner of Milwaukee and Campbell Avenues in Logan Square after four years of development and city approval meetings and for the past ...

Gay News

Open House Chicago extended to Nov. 1 2020-10-22
- The Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) is extending its 10th annual Open House Chicago festival (OHC) through Sunday, Nov. 1. Attendees have seven more days to follow 25 trails for self-guided ...


Copyright © 2024 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.

All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.