The University of Chicago News Office
Nov. 8, 1999 Press Contact: Julia Morse
(773) 702-8359

University of Chicago builds on master plan: Landscaping team and historic preservation firm selected

The University of Chicago has selected two design firms to augment the campus’ world-renowned architecture and distinctive quadrangle design. Sasaki Associates Inc. has been chosen to design the landscapes for new buildings and quadrangles in conjunction with the University’s campus master plan. Bruner/Cott & Associates, Inc. will design the renovations for historic Bartlett Gymnasium, converting it to a new dining commons. The work of Sasaki Associates and Bruner/Cott will contribute to a campus rich in botanic and architectural history and will join the creations of such visionaries as Frank Lloyd Wright (Robie House), Frederick Law Olmsted (Midway Plaisance), Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (School of Social Service Administration Building) and Eero Saarinen (Laird Bell Law Quadrangle).

“The architects we select for our campus master plan are expected first of all to understand the University’s distinctive focus on teaching and research,” said University President Hugo Sonnenschein. “But they must also be committed to respecting and developing into the next century one of the nation’s most beautiful university campuses. We expect both designers to enhance our University’s historic landscapes––Sasaki for our green space and Bruner/Cott for what will become one of the most beautiful University dining halls in the country.”

Bartlett Dining Hall and additional landscaping are just two of the new projects in a $500 million campus master plan that will substantially improve the University’s facilities. Other projects in progress are the Gerald Ratner Athletics Center and a new parking structure being designed by Cesar Pelli, whose projects include the tallest building in the world, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; new residence halls designed by Ricardo Legorreta, whose most recognized works include the San Antonio Public Library and the Pershing Square city park in Los Angeles; and the University of Chicago Press building.

Sasaki Associates will develop a landscape plan to increase the sense of collegial community in outdoor spaces defined by new buildings. The firm also will enhance pedestrians’ campus experience with visual improvements such as additional plantings and new environmental lighting on the quadrangles, campus edges and gateways. Specific landscaping projects include designs for a new north-campus quadrangle and for the athletics center parking structure and residence halls.

Sasaki Associates has designed master plans, landscape architecture and buildings for more than 200 colleges and universities across the country. Among their landscape architecture are the landscape master plans for Vassar College and Rice University and their update of the visual concepts and historic spaces of Purdue University’s 1924 master plan. The firm also designed 2,770 acres of campus space and a 160-acre arboretum master plan at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Ill. Other institutional examples of their designs include the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., and the Smithsonian Institution’s Enid Haupt Gardens.

In 1997, the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta recognized the University campus as an official botanical garden, the only campus in the Chicago metropolitan area to achieve this distinction. Early campus landscape designers were John Coulter, the first Chair of Chicago’s Botany Department; Ossian Simonds; Beatrix Jones Farrand; and Olmsted and Olmsted. Highlights of the garden include the Washington Elm, which arrived as a seedling from Mt. Vernon and is located on the Main Quadrangle; the oak trees in the Classics and Social Sciences quadrangles, which predate the University; and the aralias adjacent to Botany Pond, a rare variety thought to be Coulter’s legacy dating from the turn of the century.

The University has one of the largest stands of American elm trees in Chicago and is currently working with the Morton Arboretum to test disease resistant elms in hopes of preserving the elm from obsolescence in the United States.

Bruner/Cott, recognized as a full-service architectural and historic-preservation firm, will convert Bartlett Gymnasium into a dining hall and construct a one-story addition that will be adjacent to the new residence halls designed by Legorreta. The new facility will be twice the size of any dining room on campus, will serve more than 1,000 students and will likely be the only dining hall in the country with a stained-glass window including more than 15,000 pieces of glass designed by Edward Sperry, an associate of Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Bruner/Cott has designed a multitude of campus renovations, including renovations of historic dining halls at Harvard University–– a design that won the 1997 American Institute of Architects Honor Award for Architecture––MIT and Vanderbilt University. The firm also designed the unlikely conversion of a gothic chapel into a student center at Williams College. Their other design work ranges from a Marriott Residence Inn hotel to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

The University of Chicago has one of the most distinct and attractive campuses among the world’s universities. Its 203-acre campus stretches along both sides of the Midway Plaisance, which was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1871 and was the site of part of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. Late English Gothic style set the architectural tone for the design and development of the campus.

Buildings are characterized by the use of Blue Bedford limestone, red-tile roofs with gables and gothic towers ornamented with gargoyles and chimeras––all arranged around a series of tree-shaded quadrangles. The quadrangles are anchored by Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, with its 207-foot tower, and the Joseph Regenstein Library, one of the largest academic libraries in the United States.
Last modified at 03:51 PM CST on Wednesday, June 14, 2000.

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