October 4, 2008

As fundraising campaign wraps up, building projects accelerate

The University of Chicago may have wrapped up its $2 billion campaign this August, but the milestone marks only the beginning of a slew of building projects that the campaign will fund and that are poised to transform the University’s campus over the next five years.

In an e-mail sent to students over the summer, President Robert Zimmer announced that the money raised by the Chicago Initiative will supplement a variety of University programs including study abroad and financial aid, as well as the renovation and construction of campus facilities.

Over the next five years, the University plans to renovate Harper Memorial Library and the Searle Chemistry Laboratory, expand the Harris School of Public Policy, and create a new graduate-student residence.

The University also plans to complete the David Logan Arts Center by 2011, on 60th Street between Drexel and Ingleside Avenues. According to University architect Steve Wiesenthal, the Center will have a large auditorium, a black-box theater, and upgraded visual arts studios. This project will follow the construction of the new undergraduate residence hall south of the Midway, another effort that promises to enliven the South Campus.

Another building project in its early stages is a new institute for the physical sciences, which the Board of Trustees approved over the summer.

According to Wiesenthal, the goal of the institute will be to encourage collaboration among the chemical, biological, and physical sciences.

“We want to make new facilities that will meet the current 21st century functional requirements of the physical and computational sciences,” he said.

“More importantly, the center will facilitate cross-disciplinary research.”

Stuart Kurtz, chairman of the computer sciences department, said that the institute’s construction is long overdue. “Most computer science departments have buildings that went up in the ’90s, and ours did too—but it was the 1890s. We need to grow to be competitive, and there’s simply not enough room in Ryerson for us to grow.”

Kurtz added that the old facilities make it difficult for the department to attract post-doctoral candidates.

Rocky Kolb, chair of the department of astronomy and astrophysics and professor in the College, is also looking forward to the institute’s construction.

“We have on campus many people who do astronomy and astrophysics, and we are spread around several buildings on campus. We’re lacking a central location to bring everybody together and foster collaboration,” Kolb said.

The eight-story center will extend to the intersection of 56th Street and Ellis Avenue from the Enrico Fermi Institute. According to Wiesenthal, the Accelerator Building will be torn down, and the Fermi Institute will be renovated and expanded to the spot where Fermi built his sub-atomic particle accelerator.

Wiesenthal is hoping that the construction of this new institute and the addition of the Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery will help define a new sciences quadrangle on campus.

The Knapp Center, a 330,000-square-foot, 10-story building that broke ground in the fall of 2005 on the northeast corner of Drexel Avenue and 57th Street, will house several research programs in pediatrics, genomics, and system biology. The building is slated for completion next year.