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Tod Williams Billie Tsien selected to design $100 million Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts

June 1, 2007

The University of Chicago announced today that its $100 million Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts will be designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, a critically acclaimed husband and wife team known for innovative modernist designs, creative use of materials, and expertise in creating vibrant spaces for the arts.

The New York-based firm is among the most celebrated and critically acclaimed firms in the world of contemporary architecture. Recently elected as fellows to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, their projects include the American Folk Art Museum in New York City, Johns Hopkins University’s Mattin Student Art Center in Baltimore, the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, Calif, Skirkanich Hall at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Cranbrook Natatorium in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. In 2002, the American Folk Art Museum received the Arup World Architecture Award for “Best Building in the World.” In a feature about their work in Architectural Record, Clifford A. Pearson writes, “They have developed a practice known for its lyrical designs that bring out the humanity in institutional buildings and highlights the poetic in residential ones.”

Their newest project, the Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts, which is slated for opening in 2011 on the southern portion of the University of Chicago campus, will be located on one of the Chicago’s most architecturally significant venues. The building at 60th Street and Ingleside Avenue, alongside Fredrick Law Olmsted’s Midway Plaisance, will be just one block west of Mies van der Rohe’s School of Social Science Administration and two blocks west of the Eero Saarinen-designed Laird Bell Law Quadrangle.

The firm was selected after a design competition that attracted proposals from the world’s leading firms. The other finalists in the design competition were Hans Hollein of Vienna, Austria, Thom Mayne’s firm Morphosis of Santa Monica, Fumihiko Maki and Associates of Tokyo, and Daniel Libeskind of New York.

“We are delighted to call on the extraordinary talents of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects to help design this important new facility on a historic section of our campus,” said University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer. “This arts center is made possible because of the generosity of Reva and David Logan and their family, and we are now poised to realize the Logan’s and the University’s shared vision for a building of lasting significance architecturally, to our academic programs, and to the community.”

While all of the design studies in the competition were impressive, the Williams Tsien proposal stood out, said John Boyer, Dean of the College, and a member of the jury that selected Williams Tsien. “It’s a visually stunning approach, that creates a luminous buildng that will define the South Campus as a core area of the University,” Boyer said. He also credited Williams Tsien with an approach that was sensitive to the vistas of the Midway Plaisance. “Their proposal will help redefine the Midway as a grand boulevard of magnificent arthitecture.”

Perhaps even more crucial in the decision, Williams Tsien responded to the University’s aim to create a “truly distinctive, truly University of Chicago” arts center, said President Robert J. Zimmer. The Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts will provide performance, lecture, and exhibition venues for all areas of artistic expression — visual arts, theater and performance, music and film.

Williams and Tsien, who have been making buildings together since 1977, said they are thrilled to be working on the project. Williams, who shares the Louis I. Kahn chair in architecture at Yale with Tsien, said the pair is especially excited about working on an artistic space. “The University’s commitment to the creative life of the campus, and creating a more vibrant social community in the south campus encourages us to develop an extraordinary work of architecture,” said Williams. “As creative professionals, we are privileged to be able to conceive of space that will advance the creation and experience of artistic work in so many forms.”

Tsien added that the firm is eager to do its first work in Chicago. “Chicago has had such an essential influence on architecture in America,” she said. “With this project we look forward to adding to that legacy.”

Earlier this month, the University of Chicago announced that it received a $35 million cash gift from David and Reva Logan, and their sons and grandchildren, to support the building of the Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts.

The Logan gift is one of the largest single donor gifts to the University in its history, and is also is believed to be both the single largest cash gift to the arts in the city of Chicago and one of the largest gifts to support a university building dedicated to the arts in the United States. Of the selection of Williams Tsien, David Logan, a graduate of the University’s College and its law school and a longtime supporter of the arts, said, "Williams Tsien's competition entry was clearly the best. Their work — which combines simple elegance with the warmth of great materials — represents the best of modern architecture."

Based on a preliminary programming study completed in 2004 — which capped nearly two years of intensive discussions with students, faculty and staff involved in the arts — the David Logan Arts Center is slated to include among its key facilities: studios, classrooms, and exhibition space for the visual arts; rehearsal and shop areas as well as a black-box theater space for theatrical production and performance-related teaching; individual music practice and ensemble rehearsal rooms; multi-purpose performance space; a film vault and a lecture/film screening hall; digital media and editing labs; state-of-the-art media classrooms.

The University has a small but elite arts faculty consisting of visual artists, composers, and creative writing faculty supplemented by more than two dozen scholars in areas like performance studies, contemporary art criticism, and film history. Chicago offers a Ph.D. in Music Composition and in Cinema and Media Studies, an MFA in Visual Arts, an MA in the Humanities with a Creative Writing track, and has BA programs in Visual Arts, Music, Art History, Cinema and Media Studies, and Theater and Performance Studies. Each year, more than 1,600 undergraduate students at the University of Chicago enroll in creative and performing arts classes and studio-based courses that combine theory and practice. In addition to these programs, almost half of the undergraduate College’s 4,500 students participate in over 75 student organizations, including 700 students in musical groups, 500 in visual arts, 500 in theater, and 80 in filmmaking.

“All of these groups and their audiences and viewers will be served by the Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts,” said Larry Norman, Associate Professor in Romance Languages and Literature, who is co-chairing the Center’s planning committee.

For more information on the Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts, please visit

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Last modified at 11:09 AM CST on Monday, July 23, 2007

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