HYDE PARK — The University of Chicago’s new residence hall opened Monday, marking the fourth major project by star architect Jeanne Gang to open in the neighborhood.
On Monday Gang showed off the $148-million new residence hall’s rooftop gardens, 15th-floor reading room, promenade with a café and other retail and some of the innovative ways her firm tried to increase the energy efficiency of the building at 5500 S. University Ave.
The 800 students in the new dorms are divided into eight houses, a tradition at the university which Gang said reminded her of the Harry Potter books.
She said each house has discrete sections of the four interlocking buildings and will be able to monitor their energy use.
Gang said she hopes their will be a friendly competition between the houses to figure out the best way to open and close windows, use the patterned shades and ceramic-infused windows and the radiant heat from the floors to maximize the energy efficiency.
For all the functionality, the new 400,000-square-foot building is also beautiful, which Gang said students helped with.
She said when trying to figure out where to put the study space and reading room, university students brought in to help come up with ideas pointed to the top of the 15-story building.
“He said, ‘That’s the best spot — it has to be at the top,’” Gang said in the room with 270-degree views of the lake and skyline. “I might be seen studying up here some day.”
Gang, who went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for her undergraduate schooling, said everyone on the design team wanted to improve a little bit on their own experiences in the dorm.
“It was always going through my head, 'I wish I had had a dining hall like this,'” Gang said.
The individual dorm rooms were generously sized, but Gang said they weren’t bigger than her own dorm room.
Rows of dorm rooms extend down curving hallways, gradually getting bigger as they go from doubles to single apartments with kitchenettes, as one walks away from the common area.
Each house has its own “living room,” according to Gang, a three-story common space with a game room, communal dining table and large steps for seating or to watch movies, which can be projected on the wall.
Gang said the idea for the building was to better connect the neighborhood and campus, which lead to the inclusion of 10,000 square feet of retail and a large interior courtyard connecting 55th Street to the Smart Museum of Art, 5500 S. Greenwood Ave., down pathway between a cafe and restaurant through the dorm.
The new residence hall is the fourth major project Gang has now completed in the neighborhood. Studio Gang designed the recently opened City Hyde Park project and also worked on the remodeling of the Shoreland Apartments and Del Prado Apartments for Antheus Capital.
“We’ve been very embedded in Hyde Park for a while,” Gang said. “It feels like home for me now.”
She said she likes how the many parks in the neighborhood make it easy and fun to play with light and green spaces on projects in the neighborhood.
Studio Gang is currently preparing to start a fifth project in the neighborhood, the Solstice on the Park apartment building.
She said she was hoping for a sixth project and had made a bid to design Barack Obama’s presidential library.
Students will get their first real view of the unofficial architect of Hyde Park on Sept. 17 when they return to campus and move into the new residence hall for the first time.
The new residence hall is expected to fully occupied this year, according to university officials.
Jeanne Gang said the new dorm rooms aren't that much bigger than her old room at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana.
Students will move into the dorms on Sept. 17.
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