the university of chicago has approved a preliminary design by diller scofidio + renfro (DS+R) for the david m. rubenstein forum —  a new facility for collaboration to be located at the southeast corner of woodlawn avenue and 60th street. conceived as a place of intellectual, institutional and educational exchange, the 90,000-square-foot building is organized around a variety of meeting spaces. the program — including the number, size and type of rooms — was informed by focus groups and one-on-one consultation with more than 100 faculty and staff from across the university.


the design includes a two-story podium that supports a narrow 165-foot tower. at the base, entrances to the north and south open to the main lobby, a space for informal interactions, a restaurant and the building’s largest meeting space, which can accommodate up to 600 people — tentatively named the ‘university room’. the tower pairs meeting rooms with informal spaces to create internal neighborhoods that can be devoted to a small, intimate settings or combined for larger conferences or meetings.

the design includes a two-story podium that supports a narrow 165-foot tower
images courtesy of diller scofidio + renfro




two other signature spaces feature prominently in the architectural expression of the building. a 285-seat auditorium projects from the tower facing north. tentatively called the ‘presentation hall’, it provides a tiered-seating option for keynote presentations, panel discussions, film screenings or performances. a top-floor, multipurpose space, tentatively named the ‘lake view room’, offers ample space and amenities to accommodate a large departmental reception, or a multi-day symposium of 50 to 75 scholars.


we composed the tower as a stack of ‘neighborhoods’ with meeting and communal spaces of all sizes — both formal and informal, calm and animated, focused and diffuse,’ explains DS+R founding partner elizabeth diller. ‘the building prompts its varied populations to cross paths with one another where possible to enhance intellectual exchange. the lower floors of the rubenstein forum are porous and dynamic with connections to the campus and the community in all directions. as one climbs the building, there is a progressive retreat from the everyday to more contemplative spaces with dramatic views of chicago and lake michigan.’


the architecture of the university of chicago has traditionally sought to inspire, encourage and support the pursuit and exchange of insight and understanding,’ adds president robert j. zimmer. ‘the rubenstein forum will build upon this tradition, drawing from and extending the university’s rich legacy of architecture, while enhancing our convening power as a center of scholarship, education and impact.’