AIA Chicago Design Excellence Awards

South Campus Chiller Plant, University of Chicago

Honor Award

The principal occupants of the building are machines rather than people, the architects noted, so why not house them in a space that celebrates them the way a house celebrates its human inhabitants? While an older utility building nearby shrouded the mechanicals in a grand brick building, this newer generation makes the machinery inside and the envelope outside appear as one organic form. Rising above low-rise housing and academic buildings on the southern edge of the University of Chicago campus, this chiller plant converts electricity and natural gas into chilled water and steam for heating and cooling university buildings. The fašade has two systems: where the mechanicals are, a curtain wall of floor-to-floor ultra clear glass displays all the equipment to street view. In the building's air intake and exhaust areas, the skin changes to continuous sheets of perforated stainless steel held four inches in front of pre-cast concrete planks. The resulting form, while "Ĺginormous,' as my son says, is beautifully and simply done," one judge said. "It's proud of what it is, and that's exceptional," another said. "It complements the older building by having the strength to say that it's a beast inside."

University of Chicago Facilities Services
Burns & McDonnell (building structure plant MEP); Primera Engineers (M/E building systems); Werner Sobek (fašade structure); Terry Guen Design Associates (landscape)
General contractor
Bovis Lend Lease
Chicago, IL