The University of Chicago News Office
Feb. 22, 2006 Press Contact: Julia Morse
(773) 702-8359

Acclaimed Chicago architect chosen to design University of Chicago’s Joseph Regenstein Library extension

Helmut Jahn, of the Chicago-based Murphy/Jahn firm, was selected this month to design the $42 million extension of Joseph Regenstein Library.

The structure, to be built just west of the library, will be home to approximately 3.5 million volumes of print material, a reading room and a conservation area. Design and construction will account for $35.8 million of the total project cost, while book processing will make up $6.2 million.

A selection committee began the search for an architect last May, initially approaching 27 firms from around the world.

The committee narrowed down their group to five architects for a series of interviews last fall, where they each shared their vision of the project.

“These were all very prominent architects and all extremely impressive,” Library Director Judith Nadler said. “It was interesting to see how differently each envisioned this project. It was highly competitive, but we are confident in our decision.”

Jahn’s accomplishments include the design of the Park Avenue Tower in New York City, the Hitachi Tower in Singapore, Chicago O’Hare International Airport United Airlines Terminal One, the Hyatt Regency Roissy in Paris, and the New European Union Headquarters in Belgium.

But it wasn’t just his resume that impressed the committee — it was his vision.

“How do you create harmony — by sameness or by complement? Jahn sees a way for this structure to relate to the other buildings without being the same,” Nadler said.

Jahn’s passion and confidence also helped him win the support of the committee.

“He truly impressed us as he spoke to this challenge with authority and conveyed a great enthusiasm,” Nadler said.

At a time when many institutions, including Harvard, Yale, Brown and Columbia, are moving print materials into off-campus facilities, the University is thrilled to keep these volumes at Regenstein.

So is Jahn. In a statement to the committee during his October interview, he said, “Design is always a marriage between vision and realities, but without vision there cannot be excellence. Though the building is essentially a storage facility for books, its impact on the campus and the users has to go far beyond this pragmatic purpose.”

In closing, he recognized the challenge of building something new on such a historical campus.

“In a place with this much history, real newness cannot just be physically new, but needs to be so spiritually,” Jahn said. “We believe that this can be achieved through an innovative attitude and ideas about advanced technology and sensibility towards energy and ecology. The result can be the library of the future.”

Groundbreaking is tentatively scheduled for August 2007.
Last modified at 01:49 PM CST on Friday, March 03, 2006.

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