- Project Name
- Keller Center - Harris School of Public Policy
- Woodhouse Tinucci Architects
- Project Types
- Project Scope
- 124,915 sq. feet
- Shared by
- Project Status
Expanded Coverage of the 2020 COTE Top 10 Awards appeared in the October 2020 issue of ARCHITECT.
This thoughtful renovation at the University of Chicago transformed a dark, insular behemoth into a light-filled space for collaboration that better connects to the community around it.
What were your goals for reinventing the building?
Douglas Farr, FAIA, president, Farr Associates: The existing [Edward Durell Stone–designed] building was a big, dark battleship with low ceilings and limited natural light at the perimeter. It’s the size of a soccer field, so we knew we had to carve into it. We also wanted to create the greenest building on the University of Chicago campus and among public policy schools in the country. We looked at the Living Building Challenge and concluded that we weren’t going to be able to match goals in energy or water. So we pursued the LBC Materials Petal certification.
Kelly Moynihan, AIA, associate principal, Farr Associates: The university wanted to preserve a lot of the existing building’s historic charm—the pieces that it did have. It was about reinvigorating the South campus.
Andy Tinucci, AIA, principal, Woodhouse Tinucci Architects: The idea that a school of public policy should be dealing with transparency both literally and figuratively was a way for them to join a bunch of their programmatic and curricular objectives with architectural ones.
How did daylight become central to the design?
Gabriel Wilcox, AIA, associate principal, Farr Associates: It’s easy to throw skylights on a roof and get light down, but to do it thoughtfully so that you’re not just wasting energy or overheating the space is an art form. In an effort to shade the summer sun, we used custom sunshades. But to allow light to come into the building and provide that sense of warmth during Chicago winters is important.
How does the project forge connections to the surrounding neighborhood?
Wilcox: This building was a big barrier to the greatly underserved South Side communities, where big institutions like UC have been a stronghold. But our design opened a passage through the building; the opportunity for it to serve as a portal is important to us. We also collaborated with artist Theaster Gates on the wood for the atrium. Talk about getting contractors involved from the local area, but to have ties to a new mill that was only a few blocks from the site to supply wood from a salvaged sustainable source [of trees killed by the emerald ash borer] was important.
Percentage of project floor area, if any, that represents adapting existing buildings: 100
Can the project maintain function without utility power? Partial backup power
What type of backup power does the project primarily have? Fossil-fuel generator
Percentage of power needs supportable by onsite power generation: 9
For a full list of metrics, visit aia.org.
Project: Keller Center—Harris School of Public Policy
Client/Owner: University of Chicago
Architect: Farr Associates, Chicago. Doug Farr, FAIA (Principal), Gabriel Wilcox, AIA (Lead Architect/Designer), Kelly Moynihan, AIA (designer),
Collaborating Architect / Interior Designer: Woodhouse Tinucci Architects. David Woodhouse, FAIA (Principal), Andy Tinucci, AIA (Principal), Brian Foote, AIA (Senior Associate)
Structural Engineer: Stearn-Joglekar
M/E/P Engineer: DbHms
Civil Engineer: Terra Engineering
Construction Manager: M.A. Mortenson Co.
Landscape Architect: Site Design Group
Lighting Designer: AKLD Lighting Design
Sustainability Consultant: APMonarch
LBC Red List Consultant: WSP
Daylighting: Seventhwave (now Slipstream Group)
Size in Square Feet: 124,915 sq ft
Materials and Sources
Acoustical System: Navy Island, Soundply Acoustic Baffle (Wood Acoustic Baffles), Ecophon Focus Ceiling Acoustic Panel
Carpet: Milliken & Co., City Proper EC1 Modular
Concrete: Architectural Cast Stone, Custom Precast Architectural Concrete (Precast Concrete Benches and Stairs), Prosoco PolishGuard & Prosoco ColorHard (Colored & Polished Concrete
Exterior Wall Systems: Umicore, VMZinc Corrugated (Zinc Rainscreen)
Fabrics/Finishes: Reclaimed Chalk boards, Pittsburg; Maharam, Tonica by Kvadrat (Custom Fabric wrapped Banquets & cushions on wood Forum)
Furniture: Knoll, Harry Bertoia side chair (Wire Chair); Studio TK, AC Lounge (Grey Couch); Agati, Roland (Coffee Table); Hightower, Happy (Blue Lounge Chair)
Glass: Ornilux Mikado (Bird Safe Glazing)
HVAC: Custom Metal Radiant Heating & Cooling Ceiling System, Steel Ceilings Inc, Perforated Aluminum Custom Color
Lighting: Vessel Pendant by Humanscale, Declare Label.
Metal: Blackened Steel Stair, Custom
Millwork: Custom Reclaimed Ash Wood, Dorchester Industries, Theaster Gates (local artist)
Paints/Finishes: Benjamin Moore Paint
Photovoltaics/Other Renewables: Sun Power
Plumbing/Water System: Rainwater Cistern
Roofing: LiveRoof, Standard Modules (Greenroof), Tectura Designs, Expressions Wausau Tile (Unit Pavers)
Walls: Modernfold, Acousti-Clear (Operable Glass Wall)
Windows/Curtainwalls/Doors: Kawneer 1600 UT (Curtainwall), Velux Skylights, Modular Fiberglass Skylights, Northlight (Skylight)
This project is a winner of a 2020 AIA COTE Top Ten Award.
From the AIA:
Leaders of the Harris School of Public Policy sought preservation and restoration of a midcentury masterpiece for their new home on the University of Chicago’s south campus. The Commission on Chicago Landmarks identified the Edward Durell Stone design in 1963 as contributing to the historic district of the Midway Plaisance—the spine of the 1893 Columbian Exposition. The transformational redesign integrates policy-inspired solutions to better connect with the community, place policy on display, and serve as an exemplar in sustainable design with LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge Petal certifications.
The decorative limestone building with a five-foot tall imposing plinth was in need of full restoration; social repair to the adjacent underserved neighborhood, which the original building turned its back to, was also needed. One north-facing entry was replaced with new welcoming paths that erode the plinth, inviting passage on all sides. Encircling rain gardens soften pedestrian experience with sculptures, seating, and other architecturally significant pieces salvaged from the original building. Patterned bird-safe glazing wraps the rooftop addition and opens the façade at key locations, inviting passage through the building.
The expansive concrete structure had restrictive floor heights and offered little connection to the exterior. Extensive daylight analyses helped balance perimeter windows with daylighting in the east and west two-story atria. A larger central four-story atrium was carved into the building and serves multiple programmatic functions.
Educational in function and composition, the Keller Center serves as a learning laboratory in which policy students and impactful research can witness real-world challenges and solutions through design. Thoughtful material selections led to healthy modifications of global manufacturers’ material ingredients. Partnerships and specification of salvaged ash wood during the design process catalyzed positive economic and social impacts in adjacent neighborhoods, directly showcasing full-circle sustainability and the mission of the Harris School of Public Policy.