Winner announced in University of Illinois’s international hunt for architect

SOURCE: OMA Architects
OMA and KOO LLC were victorious in the international competition to design the UIC Centre for the Arts.

By U2B Staff 

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After an international hunt and facing intense competition, the architectural team of OMA and KOO LLC has come out victorious beating out all other contenders for the prestigious job of designing the new Centre for the Arts at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC).

Teams from around the world submitted concept design proposals for the state-of-the-art performing arts centre. Of the 36 applicants, three were shortlisted for final consideration.

On that list were world-renowned design teams, including JohnstonMarklee and UrbanWorks, based in Los Angeles and Chicago respectively; Morphosis and STL, also based in Los Angeles and Chicago respectively; and OMA and Koo Architecture, from New York and Chicago respectively.


But it was OMA and Koo Architecture who won the day to design the 88,000 sq foot building with 500-seat concert hall. The facility will also house a 270-seat flexible main stage theater, as well as instrumental and choral rehearsal halls and theatre production shops. Also included are supporting facilities, a donor lounge, small café/jazz club, and exhibition space.

“We were fortunate to have three spectacular proposals, but OMA/KOO’s is exemplary in the way it provides physical and visual access to each stage of the dynamic process of creative production, reinforcing UIC’s mission to share knowledge with the broader world,” Interim Dean of the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts, Walter Benn Michaels, said in a statement.

“This design both creates a central space for thinking and making and provides a vivid image of the innovative work of the schools of the college.”

The Centre for the Arts includes a 500-seat concert hall, a 270-seat flexible main stage theater, as well as instrumental and choral rehearsal halls.

The whole project is estimated to cost US$94.5 million, raised by the university through both public and private funds.

According to a statement from the university, the new centre will “serve as a gateway and bridge between UIC and the world and as a destination for innovative arts and cultural production.”

It will be a welcomed step for the university to get the project underway as the new centre has been a long time coming.

The establishment of a centre for the arts was first envisioned in the 1960s by the original architects of the UIC campus, Walter Netsch and his team at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, as a later phase for the new campus on Chicago’s Near West Side, which opened in 1965.

Netsch had grand designs for the project, envisioning it as a rival to New York’s famous Lincoln Centre. The largely unknown project, dubbed “Project Y,” was intended to underscore the importance of the arts to the new university and to the city.


It now seems Netsch’s plans are to become reality as he served as the inspiration behind the winning design.

Shohei Shigematsu, a partner of New York-based OMA, told UIC News the design was inspired by reinterpreting Netsch’s principles to conceive “a unique flexibility” for the concert hall.

The impressive design includes a translucent, tent-like roof with embedded photovoltaics that stretches from and between two towers; a student tower that faces the campus and opens to a performance park along the Peoria Street bridge, and a public tower that looks to the cityscape and opens to a Phase One screening plaza along Halsted Street.

The colours of the performance spaces will shine through the translucent areas, illuminating the building to the outside.

“We are honored to be awarded this project that will serve as a new cultural anchor for the students of UIC and the city of Chicago. Our design focuses on fostering dialogue between performance and the public — the new building will be a connector between the city and UIC’s urban campus,” Shigematsu said.

“In collaboration with the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts and the School of Theatre and Music, we hope to create an openness and extreme accessibility by introducing a new platform for the diverse activities of UIC.”