The University of Chicago is a world-class institution and architects of an equal caliber fill up its beautiful campus. This private institution, originally created with Marshall Field's land and John D. Rockefeller's money, has hosted an exceptional number of Nobel Prize laureates. The opulent and varied architecture of the buildings on campus reflect the prestige of the University, and a walking tour of the campus may satisfy the curiosities of either the architectural buff or the parent visiting for convocation.
For some, the original campus buildings are the most poetic. Designed in the "Collegiate Gothic" style to align with a long history of academia, the buildings on the quad have quirky faces and creatures all over - you just have to look up. The dark grey stone facades, ivy, and giant trees are reminiscent of another era. Architect Henry Ives Cobb was instructed to mimic the style of Oxford University. For a real gothic treat, enter into the Harper Building and climb up the worn stone steps to the Harper Memorial Library (116 E. 59th St.)for a glimpse into how architectural space can fuel academic inspiration. The cathedral-like vaulted ceilings of this former library, now a study hall, result in a lofty, uplifting effect. Most of the Gothic buildings were designed from the campus's beginnings in the 1890s into the 1930s.
Indeed architect Mies van der Rohe left his mark on the campus with the apt commission of the Social Service Administration Building. You'll find it south of the Midway Plaissance, which is the giant strip of greenery that connects Washington Park and Jackson Park. His steel-framed buildings, while of course responding to major technological developments, also created wide, flexible spaces. Open space means more possibility for people coming together in communal areas - exactly what is needed for these kinds of students.
An intriguing, and often overlooked building on the University of Chicago campus is the Oriental Institute, which houses Near-eastern artifacts. The ancient treasures inside deserve a gander, but also the building itself is an attraction. Take note of the Egypt-meets-West relief over the main entrance and the metalwork on the door handles inside. Constructed in 1933 by a non-local architect who did mostly government buildings, it's a testament to that period's fascination with exotic ancient cultures.
Eero Saarinen's Law School complex of 1960 adds a distinctive note to the variety of architectural styles on campus. With its steel frame and glimmering glass, it is purely modernist, but it's accordion-like facade adds a playful element to an otherwise usually solemn style.
The newest addition to the campus is the Logan Center for the Arts, and for many the coolest angle of this building is from the 10th floor. On the Del Giorno deck you will get a grand view of the architecture of the campus, as well as Washington Park, the lake, and the skyline.
Help us keep the lights on by subscribing to Chicago Like a Local. For your efforts, we'll deliver awesome stories (like this one) to your inbox. Do we have a deal?