June 7, 2007
Vol. 26 No. 18

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    Williams-Tsien architect team, acclaimed for their modernist designs, will create arts center

    By Josh Schonwald
    News Office

    The husband-and-wife team of Billie Tsien (left) and Tod Williams will design the new Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts.

    The University announced last week that its $100 million Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts will be designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, a critically acclaimed husband-and-wife team known for innovative modernist designs, creative use of materials and expertise in creating vibrant spaces for the arts.

    The New York-based firm is among the most celebrated firms in the world of contemporary architecture. Recently elected as fellows to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Tsien and Williams’ projects include the American Folk Art Museum in New York City, which received a 2002 Arup World Architecture Award for “Best Building in the World;” Johns Hopkins University’s Mattin Student Art Center in Baltimore; the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, Calif.; Skirkanich Hall at the University of Pennsylvania; and the Cranbrook Natatorium in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

    Their newest project and their first work to be built in the city of Chicago, the Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts, which is slated to open in 2011 on the southern portion of the University campus, will be located on one of Chicago’s most architecturally significant sites. The new building at 60th Street and Ingleside Avenue, alongside Fredrick Law Olmsted’s Midway Plaisance, will be just one block west of Mies van der Rohe’s School of Social Service Administration and two blocks west of the Eero Saarinen-designed Laird Bell Law Quadrangle.

    The firm was selected after a design competition that attracted proposals from the world’s leading firms, including the other finalists, Hans Hollein of Vienna, Austria, Thom Mayne’s firm Morphosis of Santa Monica, Fumihiko Maki and Associates of Tokyo and Daniel Libeskind of New York.

    “We are delighted to call on the extraordinary talents of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects to help design this important new facility on a historic section of our campus,” said President Zimmer. “This arts center is made possible because of the generosity of Reva and David Logan and their family, and we are now poised to realize the Logan’s and the University’s shared vision for a building of lasting significance architecturally, to our academic programs and to the community.”

    While all of the design studies in the competition were impressive, the Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects proposal stood out, said John Boyer, Dean of the College, and a member of the jury that selected the architects.

    “It’s a visually stunning approach, that creates a luminous building that will define the South Campus as a core area of the University,” Boyer said. He also credited the designers with an approach that was sensitive to the vistas of the Midway Plaisance. “Their proposal will help redefine the Midway as a grand boulevard of magnificent architecture.”

    Perhaps even more crucial in the decision, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects responded to the University’s aim to create a “truly distinctive, truly University of Chicago” arts center, said Zimmer. The Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts will provide performance, lecture and exhibition venues for all areas of artistic expression—visual arts, theater and performance, music and film.

    Tsien and Williams, who have been creating buildings together since 1977, said they are thrilled to be working on the project. Williams, who shares with Tsien the Louis I. Kahn chair in architecture at Yale University, said the pair is especially excited about working on an artistic space. “The University’s commitment to the creative life of the campus and creating a more vibrant social community on the South Campus encourages us to develop an extraordinary work of architecture,” said Williams. “As creative professionals, we are privileged to be able to conceive of space that will advance the creation and experience of artistic work in so many forms.”

    Tsien added that the firm is eager to do its first work in Chicago. “Chicago has had such an essential influence on architecture in America,” she said. “With this project we look forward to adding to that legacy.”

    Earlier this month, the University announced a $35 million cash gift from David and Reva Logan, and their sons and grandchildren, to support the building of the arts center. David Logan, a graduate of the College and the Law School, and a longtime supporter of the arts, said of the architect selection: “Williams Tsien’s competition entry was clearly the best. Their work, which combines simple elegance with the warmth of great materials, represents the best of modern architecture.”

    Based on a preliminary programming study completed in 2004—which capped nearly two years of intensive discussions with students, faculty and staff involved in the arts—the new arts center will offer among its key facilities: studios, classrooms and exhibition space for the visual arts; rehearsal and shop areas, as well as a black-box theater space for theatrical production and performance-related teaching; individual music practice and ensemble rehearsal rooms; multipurpose performance space; a film vault and a lecture/film screening hall; digital media and editing labs; and state-of-the-art media classrooms.

    For more information on the arts at Chicago, please visit http://arts.uchicago.edu.